A video conversation with Antonio Negri, Florian Schneider and Thomas Atzert. October 2002.

Transcript and Translation by Arianna Bove


…To have the ability to understand that you can’t make politics without a space, and there is this space that cannot be closed and egoistic but must really be a space where development is determined, which is the space of the common. Today we can no longer imagine production if not in terms of the common, which is neither the private nor the public, but rather these spaces of the external economies. The common is knowledge, it is the capacity for social mobility, for labour, it is the ability of integration and the reabsorbtion of what is the new energy that this whole mass of immigrants brings to our countries. These are the really important issues, and they can allow not only Europe but also the American multitudes and surely the Chinese ones and the Brazilian ones, to give meaning back to globalisation. Globalisation in itself is a passage that was imposed by struggles but organised by capital: at this point the question is that of giving it a new push that goes beyond the conservativism and the liberalism of Thatcher and Reagan and Bush or even Brasvin that has been put in place.


The problem is to be able to shake up the dimensions of the general reproduction of the system, it is not sufficient to destabilise them, we need to be able to destructure them and this is a problem of resistance and exodus, of resistance and refusal, of resistance and alternative proposals that must be developed through movements that involve populations, that touch upon and go through the nation states and constitute the practices of the great areas of the metropolis. Naturally, in Lenin's reasoning on civil war and on the transformation of imperialist war into civil war there was also a different and very strong element, which was the moment of the event, of the ability to decide: the moment of the Party; but this is also something that as far as we are concerned is a long way from being actual or from being possible: now it is rather a question of understanding how mobility is capable of proliferating, how networks are capable of getting into motion, how the decisions are capable of communicating through these processes. It is only by starting from these material conditions that organising moments can be invented.


Obviously when we talk about Europe we do so only in so far as we believe that at the European level it is possible somehow to give voice to poverty. The question is not to assist the poor but to involve them as the fundamental basis of an absolute democracy, this is evidently the passage with respect to which we call a European politics eventual, [that is] a European politics that would make of the government of the economy, of the economy of migrations and of internal finance and of monetary government an opportunity for rupture and a break of the capitalist neoliberal block that spreads on the world. It is possible to do this.


Generally we talk of imperial war as an ordering rather than a constituent war. In the concept of constituent power there is always a production of life that war, and imperial war in particular, does not involve. Imperial war is primarily a war of destruction, but this does not mean that imperial war is not so to speak also ordering. It is a bit like a matrioska, a Russian doll, there is this power of war that is posited by empire as an ordering capacity, hence as one of the characteristics of imperial soveregnty. In our book, Empire, we had specified the passage, taking it from Foucault, from discipline to control, from the discipline of individual behaviours to the control of populations, of masses. Sovereignty was presented there as an array of governmental techniques that increasingly extended from individuals to the whole context whithin which life was reproduced, and biopower increasingly intervened on vital/life relations by construing them, articulating them and dominating them not only in their beginning, birth, generation and geneaology, but in their whole development, in all the forms that were constituted. Now war is inserted in this schema, war is a biopolitical machine that sets out from the destruction of the enemy’s weapons and develops in the attempt to completely organise the life of the masses, of the populations and of the multitudes that it relates to.


We always have to remember when speaking of empire that empire is a process that is absolutely not actualised, definitively actualised. Empire is the response to a series of processes that are profoundly contradictory, the process of those struggles which, whilst in countries with high levels of working class struggle, the capitalist countries, the central countries, has developed the impossibility of regulating the market in the national space; in colonial states it has developed the impossibility of maintaining that economic-political regime of subjection; and in the second world countries, the real socialist countries it has created the impossibility of imposing elements of development starting from a lack of freedom. The level of construction of wealth in particular around material goods needs freedom. In the call for a social wage there is not just a request to correspond / respond to what are the external difficulties of the factory, let's call them that, but there is also the necessity of being freer, there isn’t just the fact of being guaranteed in the passage of mobility from full time to part time, from part time to unemployement, or of using the RDC (Reddito di Cittadinanza/Citizenship guaranteed income, tr.) in the periods of continuous training during one’s working life. There is another fundamental concept that is the idea of taking this time. This is very important I think especially when we look at the problem from the point of view of women, of women’s life, where effectively the problem of taking time for the education of children or in general the participation to what are fluxes and relations, in a situation of inferiority for women becomes extremely important.


We are then in a phase where the rules of legitimacy are established on the basis of an overall relation that concerns the mondialisation of economic relations, i.e. the world market, the subordination of nation states to this rational order of commerce and of capitalist organisation of the world market. Legitimacy is that of the great powers, or rather of the great bodies that sustain empire. The world order is the political sovereign order of empire. Today the internal crisis, but I believe above all the accumulation of contradictions at the global level, has opened up the possibility for fundamental change of the political development. We'd better be very careful about this: the political cycle of neoliberalism, the one that started in the 70's with Thatcher and Reagan, was a moment of resistence, of extreme resistence of capitalism, of capitalist interest, a resistance to the attack levelled against it, and this was a resistance but to me it seems one of the paganism of some late Roman emperors such as Giuliano l’Apostata who opposed christianity and the christian social revolution when it was already affirmed. There is a kind of renewal of resistance, of repression and of persecution that has been deeply helped by the phase of internal crisis of the soviet system. There’s been this perverse alliance of the neoliberal will with the internal crisis and stagnation of the soviet system of real socialism. Today this resistance is wearing off. The problem is not one that it is linked to the will of the ruling classes, but that it is linked to the new structuration of development, not just capitalist development but the development of desires, of general behaviours of the multitudes.


A sovereign structure that is in no place, even though obviously the most similar places to this non place are the military power of Washington, the financial power of New York, the power of production of the imaginary and of communications of Los Angeles. But the condition is that of the imperial non place, i.e. of a general restructuring of powers. This restructuring needs at least for the monarchic and aristocratic powers to coincide, and this coincidence would have to be, as it's always been every time a monarchic and aristocratic power confronted one another, a complex moment, of difficult mediations, of mediations that then always have to involve the other aspect, that of democratic struggles, of the opening of these moments of confrontation and of rupture onto the historical field.


We really need a capacity to mobilise poverty. The real subjectivation of the multitude does not make one think of organisational forms that have more or less democratic centralism, more or less centripetal webs towards organisation. The problem is all in the content not in the form. What we must managed to develop is the feeling that poverty is a subject, a power, a capacity to renew the world. It is only when we manage to put into motion this concept of poverty as power that we can also understand what organisasion is. Poverty is indignation against wealth but also the enormous capacity to produce wealth. Poverty is something that is put to the margin of this world of capitalist production but it's also something that runs through it internally and thoroughly. Poverty is not simply the poor miserable polulations who are at the bottom of the third world, poverty is something that is at the centre of our metropolis. Poverty is not something that is outside of the working class or of the normal structure of production. It is something that is inside, that has become more internal to it through the precariat, through the exclusion from the productive function. Rather than strike we should use the word exodus. Strike is the moment of rupture, but here (exodus) it is the moment of rupture but it is also that of a social construction of community. This is what is now in present in consciousness at a very advanced level. We have to interpret this because this strike in the common becomes a fact of a different civilisation. Here there is a whole other issue regarding the anthropology of struggles and behaviours today, of seeing how far for instance in relation to the traditional Fordist worker today the mode of feeling and seeing both work and communal activity has changed, and how it is on this new terrain of anthropological modification and transformation that a new mode of struggle must be conceived. It is a great problem that obviously can only be resolved by practice. The privileged places for this practice are fundamentally the metropolises. It is there that we must try to verify, experiment, take the initiative but especially represent and present things, it would be very interesting on this terrain for instance to make documentaries and movies, to create a physical image of the development of these struggles. In a theatre too…

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