Tronti notes, over “Strategy of Refusal”

Following Nick’s lead, here are my notes from last week.

Tronti – Strategy of Refusal notes (1/17/11)

I’ve tried to pull out and emphasize the aspects of the essay that deal with an emerging biopolitics/state management of reproduction.
Tronti’s biography.  Tronti came out of the Italian Communist Party’s university branch in Rome, long considered an outpost for dissent within the Party.  He was an early figure within Red Notebooks, and then another journal, Classe Operaia.  Tronti was deeply concerned with the confusion of the communist project with social planning, and directed much of the Classe Operaia’s energy against a social democratic (what he saw as pro-planning) turn by the PCI.  Both journals still existed under at least the nominal umbrella of the Party.  The journal split in 1967, with the Northerners emphasizing generalizing struggle within the factories, while the Romans around Tronti reentered the mainstream of the Communist Party to try and prevent its social-democratization.  (From Wikipedia and Steve Wright’s “Storming Heaven”)
Social Capital  –  2nd paragraph
Capital once it’s been elaborated as a network in response to working class struggles.  In this form, it can engage in planning, surpassing the shortsighted greed of the individual capitalist.
Class for itself  –  3rd paragraph
Party form – 3rd paragraph
Tronti’s conception of the Party seems to be at odds with traditional Leninist conceptions.  Perhaps Bologna is helpful:
“Maoist thought has gone further, by conceiving of the class as the party, the party as the majority of the people, the party as social majority, and by moving the ground of insurrection from the brief coup d’etat to long-range war. With Maoism, insurrection has become a spontaneist term.”
General strike and the half-way critique  – 6th paragraph
Development – 8th paragraph
“The seed of operaismo can still be fertile, precisely at a time when – revenge of history! – FIAT collapses, destroyed by an inept and irresponsible management and withered away by a passive and subaltern labour-force, accomplice of a political and union Left that, with the helping hand of centre-left governments that pushed to the extreme the ‘financialisation’ of the economy, settled for small returns with the strategic decisions of the Italian capitalist class. FIAT came out of ten years of class conflict (1969-1980) full of innovative energies. Now, after twenty-two years of social peace (1980-2002), it emerges in pieces. (Did the operaisti not say that working class struggle accelerated capitalist development?”  Sergio Bologna reviews Steve Wright
Role of culture in mediation and organization  —
Organic intellectual, decentralized management and mediation, industrial sociology –   Tronti see Gramsci’s “organic intellectual” as fully incorporated within the apparatuses of management and mediation.  The PCI worker-intellectuals are a forerunner of decentered strategies of democratic debate and incorporation.  Industrial sociology = Taylorism?
Collective worker –  The working class subjected to management processes that, along with continuities of resistance, tend to produce a normalized strata.  Not purely a sociological category, but still reflects a process of homogenization that’s representable and researchable statistically.
(Political vs. economic)
(Workers vs. laborers)
(Factory vs. society)
(Individual vs. social capital)
(Reform and refusal vs. strategy of refusal)
(Management vs. refusal)
Escape of Capital from working class domination – Tronti posits this to be the impossible goal of the capitalist pole in the class struggle.  Technological revolutions, emerging organizational practices, and state-managed social reproduction all contribute to this process.  As it unfolds today, it produces service work (absorbing workers excluded from the production process by automation) and suicide (e.g.
Sovereignty — capitalists have it through development
Capitalist power is always institutional
The proletariat is never institutional
(diffusion of sovereignty, “the State of capitalist society”)
Birth of the managed reproduction of the social:  “At what point does the political State come to manage at least some part of the economic mechanism? When this economic mechanism can begin to use the political State itself as an instrument of production – the State as we nave come to understand it, that is, as a moment of the political reproduction of the working class. The “end of laissez-faire” means, fundamentally, that working class articulation of capitalist development can no longer function on the basis of spontaneous objective mechanisms: it must be subjectively imposed by political initiatives taken by the capitalists themselves, as a class. “
Planning from below:  “When capital reaches a high level of development it no longer limits itself to guaranteeing collaboration of the workers – i.e. the active extraction of living labour within the dead mechanism of its stabilisation – some-thing which it so badly needs. At significant points it now makes a transition, to the point of expressing its objective needs through the subjective demands of the workers.”
Class Consciousness vs. Class Composition (emergence of the collective worker?)– Ambiguity of Tronti’s conception of the role of ‘working class science,’ or theory.  I read through another one of his texts, and found it more explicit in describing the role of this science.

“At this level, the political situation of the working class has never been so clear: wherever in history we find concentrated the social mass of an industrial labour force, we can see at a glance the same collective attitudes, the same basic practices, and the same unified political growth. Planned non-cooperation, organised passivity, polemical expectations, a political refusal, and a permanent continuity of struggles — these are the specific historical forms in which working class struggle today is generalising and developing itself. They are transitory forms of a transitory situation, in which, in social terms, the workers have already gone beyond the old organisations, but have not yet reached a new organisation a vacuum of political organisation, be it reformist or revolutionary. We have reached a period of in-between in working class history: we must examine it deeply and grasp its implications, for its political consequences will be decisive.”

Tronti – from “Lenin in England”


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