Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

1968-1977-1999 and Beyond: Bifo's Futural Thought

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

1968-1977-1999 and Beyond: Bifo's Futural Thought

Article excerpt

The thought of Franco Berardi or Bifo defies the conventions of an introduction.1 It's not that Bifo's career doesn't consist of numerous and impressive highlights but rather that his work, both as a thinker and an activist, has always been in relation to a multiplicity of others and completely opposes the cult of the institutional master intellectual-even that of the 'Cattivo Maestro' or 'Wicked Master' applied to Antonio Negri. So, this introduction will highlight some the singular points of Bifo's political and intellectual trajectory, as a background to his most recent and extremely important book Il sapiente, il menante, il guerriero (The Sage, the Merchant, the Warrior), which, moreover, can be seen as a distillation of his political and intellectual activity up till now.2 The trajectory of Bifo's thought and practice contains valuable material not only in relation to cultural studies and contemporary thought but also in relation to political and aesthetic projects seeking alternative futures to those imposed by the contemporary military-economic technostructure.


In a recent interview, Bifo traced his history of political action back to the mid 1960s.3 He identified as a decisive event being thrown out of the Young Italian Communist Federation in 1967 for distributing a pamphlet that concluded with the words 'dare to think, dare to speak, dare to act, dare to make revolution', a slogan from the Maoist Cultural Revolution.4 He then became involved, through the groups Classe Operaio and then Potere Operaio, with a series of autonomous interventions into factories, beginning with the ICO syringe factory, near where he lived in Bologna. Bifo's period of intense involvement with Potere Operaio came to an abrupt end in 1971, after the appearance of his first book Contro il lavoro (Against Work). According to Bifo, he was politely taken aside by Antonio Negri and others for releasing the book without consultation with Potere Operaio, something that had never occurred to him. While this was not a reprimand, it nevertheless indicated a certain organisationalist idea about how a militant should act. This was not, for Bifo, a mere personality disagreement but an immediately political question, in that he did not subscribe to the Leninist organisational model of Potere Operaio, according to which the organisation was meant, in the final analysis, to lead the actions of the movement. Instead, along with many other Potere Operaio militants, he believed in the auto-organisation of the movement itself and that politics is not what takes place at congresses and meetings but more anarchically in all spheres of productive activity and everyday life. These were the beginnings of Bifo's 'creative Autonomia'.

Bifo's conviction that the role of extra-parliamentary groups should not be that of leading and organising the movement but of informational and cultural circulation led in 1976 and 1977 to the formation of Radio Alice; itself more the child of Mayakovsky than of Lenin. Radio Alice attempted to constitute a zone of linguistic self-organisation for the movement in alliance with other areas of auto-organisation such as the factory or the university and especially with non-institutional zones of experimentation with ways of life. This enabled a joyful militancy, 'more hippy than Bolshevik', in which concrete political struggles were inseparable from the emergence of new behaviours and modes of life.5 Bifo summarised the conclusions he drew from this period of political and cultural subversion as follows:

The real problem is a question of creating new cultural, anthropological, everyday, lived, relational, psychic, communicative conditions because a process of auto-organisation of society can free itself from the chains that capitalist command determines.6

This problem remains constant throughout Bifo's work.


Il cielo e finalemente caduto sulla terra (The Sky has Finally Fallen on the Earth) is one of Bifo's better known texts, in part because of its translation into French. …

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