marxist intellectuals

Riccardo Bellofiore bellofio at
Thu Jul 20 04:12:05 MDT 1995

Paul Cockshott wrote:

>I believe that Italian intellectuals made
>some contributions to the formation of the
>autonomist movement there.

That's true. However, the most important was Raniero Panzieri, who started
all the 'workerism' stuff here, and who was not an academic. Mario Tronti,
Toni Negri, and Sergio Bologna were in the university, but did true
political work. Academic marxists lik e (in the late '60s and early
'70s) Claudio Napoleoni and Lucio Colletti framed theory in a way that was
instrumental to a peculiar reading of the upsurge in class struggle in the
factories after '68 and '69. They stressed that 'alienated' labour in Marx
was the same thing as wage labour - thus the actual form of labour in
capitalist factories had nothing natural. They explained, starting from
here, struggles in production, the profit squeeze, and the realization
crisis (especially Napoleoni).

Others tried to develop their insights going beyond what they actually
said, and read the labour theory of value as a theory of exploitation
where the latter refer to the *whole* amount of labour - I think that all
the talk of surplus labour in marxism d uplicates a distributive view of
capitalism not so distant from the neo-Ricardian one, and akin to a
Smithian view. The real important thing is that in capitalism labour must
be pumped out from labour power, and how this comes out in a monetary
economy. That opened the way to an analysis of how bank finance and
inflation are instrumental in changing the capital structure after a
social crisis to regain profitability.  T his has been of help in
interpreting the Italian industrial restructuring in the late '70s and
early '80s, and in analyzing the collusion and the struggle among
financial and industrial capital.

Thus, it can be said that there are political implications in the work of
academic marxists. The issue is the causality direction. But, at least in
the old capitalist countries one could also ask: are marxists *outside*
universities contributing to class struggle with novel perspectives? As
once Colletti said, in the good times the writings of marxist political
leaders were dialoguing with the best social science of the day. May be
now we have empty academic theory and repetitive political practice of the
remaining marxist groups.  May be this was an unintended result, but it
looks like a good reason to parking harmless marxist intellectuals in the


Riccardo Bellofiore             e-mail: bellofio at
Department of Economics         Tel:    (39) -35- 277505 (direct)
University of Bergamo                   (39) -35- 277501 (dept.)
Piazza Rosate, 2                        (39) -11- 5819619 (home)
I-24129 Bergamo                 Fax:    (39) -35- 249975

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