Autonomia Operaia  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Autonomia Operaia was an Italian extra-parliamentary leftist movement particularly active from 1976 to 1978. It emerged in 1972 not as a party but rather as a place of encounter among various extra-parliamentary and revolutionary left-wing tendencies opposed to reformism. It took an important role in the autonomist movement in the 1970s, aside earlier organisations such as Potere Operaio, created after May 1968, and Lotta Continua.

The autonomist movement gathered itself around the free radio movement, such as Onda Rossa in Rome, Radio Alice in Bologna, , Controradio in Firenze, Radio Sherwood in Padova, and other local radios, giving it a diffusion in the whole country.

Autonomia Operaia was divided between a Marxist Leninist tendency and another more anarchist and libertarian tendency.

People such as Oreste Scalzone, Franco Piperno, professor in Calabria University, Toni Negri in Padova or Franco Berardi, aka Bifo, at Radio Alice were the movement's most known figures. The movement became particularly active in 1977, after the police killing of Lotta Continua member Francesco Lo Russo in Bologna in March. This event causes a series of demonstrations all over Italy. Bologna's university and La Sapienza in Rome were occupied by the student movement. On the orders of the Interior Minister Francesco Cossiga carabinieri in armored vehicles surrounded Bologna's university area. The repression met with some international protest, in particular from French philosophers Michel Foucault, Jean-Paul Sartre, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, who also opposed the Italian Communist Party's (PCI) criticisms of the student occupation of Bologna's university. The PCI was supporting at this time Eurocommunism and the historic compromise with the Christian Democracy.

PCI's condemnation of the student movement's activities became visible on the February 17, 1977, when Luciano Lama, secretary of the CGIL, a trade union close to the PCI, gave a speech inside La Sapienza university in Rome, at that moment occupied by the students. During the speech, the autonomi students and the CGIL's security corps had a violent clash, that resulted in Lama being chased away. This confrontation prompted the police occupation of the University and the expulsion of the occupying students.

The clash between the PCI and Autonomia reinforced the more radical current within Autonomia. The creative current, which had participated in the ousting of Luciano Lama in La Sapienza, and included extravagant components, such as the Indiani Metropolitani movement, became a minority. Some of the autonomi decided that the time had come to alzare il livello dello scontro (to raise the level of the fight), in other words to start using firearms.

Autonomia and armed struggle

From then on, many Autonomi activists entered clandestinity, reenforcing groups such as the Red Brigades and in particular the Nuclei Armati Proletari (NAP), a group active mainly in Naples prisons, where many autonomi members had been sentenced to for various crimes (which they legitimized by their doctrine of illegalism). Others groups included the Squadre Proletarie di Combattimento, the Proletari Armati per il Comunismo (PAC) and the better-structured and longer-lived Azione Rivoluzionaria. Others autonomia members joined the Unità Comuniste Combattenti and Prima Linea

However, most of the movement disbanded . In the beginning of the 1980s, a few of them entered the far left movement which was gathering itself in Democrazia Proletaria, a party which in the 70s and 80s ran for local, national and European elections, achieving however little success

See also

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