[Marxism] Giovanni Mazetti on the autonomist/anarchist left

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Mar 27 07:17:37 MST 2004

Social Amnesia in the Movement?
An Interview with Giovanni Mazzetti

Gloves Off editors Claudio Puty and Sara Burke emailed Giovanni Mazzetti 
after learning of a history of polemics between Mazzetti and members of the 
anarchist movement in Italy. We wanted to learn more about his views on the 
political constellations on the Left in Italy today.

Gloves Off
You identify the appeal of the networked structure in the antiglobal 
movement, created by a certain rejection of the hierarchical Left, as a 
manifestation of the low-degree of development of the Left. Could you 
elaborate on that?

Giovanni Mazzetti
I believe that, in order to understand the problem, we should refer to an 
old article of Friedrich Engels, entitled On Authority. In that article 
Engels criticizes the anarchist movements of his time because they just 
pretend to get rid of a hierarchical structure. All forms of human 
institution are based on hierarchical structures.

Have you ever seen a small child produce his own food? Have you ever seen a 
pupil teach to his teachers? Have you ever seen a boy or a girl explain to 
their grandparents what life is? “Rules” are met by everyone of us in the 
very moment we enter in life. This for the very simple reason that we 
“enter” into a culture. The problem is not the existence of a hierarchy, 
but the eventual rigidity of this structure.

If one thinks that hierarchy is a problem in itself, one does not recognize 
the essential conditions of human life and feels free in a way that is not 
rational, because it denies differences—which include a different power. If 
one wants to go beyond the previous forms of socialization, one should not 
expect to be able to do it just by getting rid of them, but rather by 
elaborating new forms.

These forms do not spring from good will, but from the capacity of a part 
of human kind to anticipate a new culture. In other words, development 
necessarily implies more subordination to the conditions which make the 
goals attainable. And these include a form of organization which is not 
spontaneous. The moment in which people subtract themselves from the 
previous form of hierarchy can be a necessary step in creating the need for 
a new organization. But it cannot be considered an end in itself. Of course 
unless you think as an anarchist.

Gloves Off
How do you see the idea that the movement is able to forge alliances in 
practice and does not need a single vertical structure? Could you comment 
on Toni Negri’s ideas about the autonomy of working class organization?

Giovanni Mazzetti
I don't like to refer to “the” movement as an abstract entity. Some 
movements could be able to forge alliances in practice without a vertical 
structure if the need for a change is already socially shared. But in this 
case the movement is expressing a form of passive drive.

Nobody can deny that during the 1960s, the student movement in Europe met 
the workers’ movement without the need of hierarchical structure. But this 
happened only because the needs which were expressed were already ripe: 
that is, they had emerged in the previous decades.

But it seems to me that this situation cannot be generalized. The movement 
today is anticipating needs, and it does not come to life with an existing 
social urge. I would say it is a “resisting” movement, not a “proposing” 
one. It fights for what it should not be done, but knows very little of 
what to do. I’m aware that very few accept this limit, but I’m convinced 
that it exists.

The expression “autonomy” is something that I abhor. I can tolerate it when 
it refers to the need to subtract oneself from a form of dependence which 
makes one impotent. But all forms of nonpathological relationships are 
based on the negations of autonomy.

In truth I believe that all expressions in support of autonomy today—as a 
positive horizon—should be called with the old name of “anarchism.” And in 
fact they refer to no other power than one's own, whereas all sound forms 
of independence refer necessarily to an acceptance of powers others than 
one's own.

full: http://www.glovesoff.org/interviews/mazzetti_iv_2004.html

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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