Big Flame

1970-1984

Archive for the ‘Related Political Organisations’ Category

Political organisations in other countries whose politics influenced or were related to those of Big Flame

LOTTA CONTINUA Part 3 (Related Political Organisatons no 2)

Posted by archivearchie on May 24, 2011

I posted on this site a brief review of the history and positions of Lotta Continua. I then followed this up in Lotta Continua Part 2 by making available some articles written by or about Lotta Continua from the Big Flame Internal Bulletin. I now want to conclude this series (unless something more BF/LC related which I don’t know about turns up) with two items I have obtained since the last post. Another internal document and a pamphlet published by West London Big Flame.

Discussion with Lotta Continua members no3

I previously published two sets of notes of conversations between BF and LC members from the BF Internal Bulletin. This discussion predates them. The discussions took place in January 1974 before Big Flame had an Internal Bulletin: Italy 1973.

Sections of the notes set out LC’s views on contemporary developments in Italian politics (the fall of one coalition Government and its replacement by another) and the Oil Crisis. Of more interest today are the Lotta Continua members’ responses to three questions from BF:

–   Changes in its attitude towards factory delegates (equivalent to shop stewards in Britain). With the failure of autonomous assemblies LC members were standing for delegate positions, but not feeling obliged to follow the decisions of delegate committees.

–   Its attitude towards the Italian Communist Party (PCI). The LC members took from developments in Chile the importance of the space created by the Allende Government in supporting the formation of bodies like the cordones obreros. Their strategy was for working class pressure to force the PCI into some form of Popular Unity Government (this was despite the PCI having shifted its position in favour of the “historic compromise” of an alliance with forces to its right).

–   Its attitude towards women’s struggles. This was answered by a women LC comrade who was angry with LC’s lack of a perspective on women. She said it was up to women in LC to change this situation. Her remarks are interesting in the light of developments in Lotta Continua in the years which followed.

Documents from the 1975 Lotta Continua Congress

Libcom has posted a pamphlet produced by West London Big Flame: Fighting for Feminism: The ‘Women Question’ in an Italian Revolutionary Group. The local group also produced another Lotta Continua related pamphlet.

Lotta Continua only ever had two National Congresses. It fell apart after the second in 1976. What happened there is recorded in detail in Il 2. Congresso di Lotta Continua, Rimini, 31 ottobre- 4 novembre (Rome: Edizion Co-op Giornalisti LC, 1976). Extracts in English can be found in the Red Notes pamphlet Italy 1977-9: Living with an Earthquake pp 81-96. The West London BF pamphlet covers the earlier Congress which was held in 1975: Documents from Lotta Continua.

Despite Lotta Continua being formed in 1969, it did not hold its first national meeting to constitute itself as a party until January 1975. Three Big Flame members attended as observers. The pamphlet is in three parts:

–   A brief summary of the Congress by BF.

–   Translations of some of the key Congress documents – on Materialism, on Tactics, on Internationalism and on the LC Newspaper.

–   Notes by a BF member on the Workshop on Women. This shows the diversity of opinions held by LC women members, some fairly critical of the organisation.

Archive Archie

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MOVIMIENTO DE IZQUIERDA REVOLUCIONARIA [MIR] (Related Political Organisations no 3)

Posted by archivearchie on June 26, 2009

Episode 10 in the Big Flame History series mentioned a left group in Chile – the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Left Movement) [MIR]. This post gives some more information about the group. An argument can be made that in terms of left groups outside Britain, the MIR’s influence on the early Big Flame was second only to that of Lotta Continua.    

MIR1Beginnings 

The MIR was founded in August 1965 as an attempt to bring together a variety of revolutionary left anti-electoral forces. It included people who came from the Socialist party, Communist Party, trotskyist and anarchist backgrounds. At a congress in 1967, the General Secretary elected in 1965, Enrique Sepulveda (a veteran Trotskyist), was replaced by Miguel Enriquez (then aged just 23). A group of Enriguez’s friends from university days such as Bautista Van Schouwen and Luciano Cruz (who died in an accident in August 1971) also assumed prominent positions. The personnel changes were accompanied by a clearer political definition of MIR’s positions, with a greater emphasis on armed struggle. Some forces such as the anarchists left.  

A Declaration of Principles gave MIR’s objective as being “the Marxist-Leninist vanguard of the working class and the oppressed and exploited masses of Chile”. It called for “an audacious revolutionary policy capable of opposing this cynical violence with a virile and proud response from the armed masses”. Many commentators have seen a clear connection between MIR and the ideas of the Cuban revolution. However, in a recent interview Andres Pascal Allende, General Secretary from 1974 to 1985, played this connection down.   

In the late 1960s the MIR conducted a series of “expropriations” – bank robberies, bombings, the kidnapping and public humiliation of a right wing journalist – which resulted in its leaders needing to go underground.    

MIR2Under Popular Unity 

In the run up to the September 1970 election, the Popular Unity candidate Salvador Allende met Miguel Enriguez. As a result MIR suspended its armed actions. After the election victory Allende pardoned or waived legal actions against Miristas. MIR remained outside Popular Unity and did not participate in the election.  

During the Popular Unity period the MIR sought every opportunity to push for popular power, encouraging land and factory occupations. It had a wider conception of the revolutionary movement than other groups, sending militants to work amongst the peasants, and with the unemployed and other marginalised sectors in the cities. MIR believed that an armed confrontation with the right was inevitable and the key task was to prepare for this.   

Under the Military Junta   

When the coup occurred in September 1973, the MIR for the most part did not confront the military directly but went underground. It had built up a network of safe houses and arms dumps, and adopting the slogan “The MIR does not exile itself” said it would take way MIR membership from anyone who left the country.    

Miguel Enriguez

Miguel Enriguez

 The secret police DINA (Direccion Nacional de Inteligencia – National Intelligence Directorate) targetted its activities on MIR in the early years after the coup. Through the torture of those captured and a series of so-called “armed confrontations” DINA decimated the organisation.   

–      In December 1973 Bautista Van Schouwen was arrested and “disappeared” (desaparecido).   

–       In October 1974 the General Secretary Miguel Enriquez was shot dead.   

–       In October 1975 some of the remaining MIR leaders were attacked in the village of Molloco, and either killed or, like the new General Secretary Andres Pascal Allende, forced into exile after seeking refuge in a foreign embassy.   

–       In April 1976 Edguardo Enriquez (Miguel’s brother) who went abroad to gather international support was arrested by the Argentinian police and disappeared.After the end of the junta, the Rettig report found that 384 Miristas died or disappeared. That is 16.9% of the membership (a percentage not too different to that for the Communist Party or the Socialist Party). One surviving leading MIR member has estimated that 80% of the leadership cadres were casualties, and 10% of the membership.   

Starting in 1977 Miristas who had fled abroad and received military training started to return to Chile (Oparacion Retorno). A series of small scale attacks took place in both the countryside and the cities. However serious losses of life in 1981-83 (including the deaths of Arturo Villabella and Hugo Ratier) had a severe impact on MIR’s capacity. The last MIR armed action was around January 1988.   

In 1987 differences within the MIR came to the fore, and it split into three factions. These were exacerbated by Pinochet’s defeat in a plebiscite in October 1988 over another 8 years as President, and the formation of a centre-right opposition alliance which won the election in December 1989. Two of the factions MIR-Historico (led by Andres Pascal Allende) and MIR-Militar (led by Hernan Aguilo) retained a belief in armed struggle and a suspicion of electoral activity. The third MIR-Politico (led by Nelson Gutierrez) renounced the armed struggle and campaigned for a “No” vote in the plebiscite and joined the Communist Party and others in an electoral alliance (Izquierda Unida – United Left).   

MIR leaders sought to dissolve the organisation in the early 1990s and only the third variant survives today as a small organisation participating in another electoral alliance formed in 2003 with the Communist Party and others – Junto Podemos Mas por Chile (Together We Can Do More for Chile, Podemos is also an acronym for Poder Democratico Social – Social Democratic Power).   

Archive Archie   

Note:   

I thought it might be helpful to list some of the sources I found on the internet whilst researching this article. They are all in Spanish unless otherwise stated.   

There are many documents both original ones from MIR and contemporary commentaries at Centro de Estudios Miguel Enriquez and Centro de Estudios Públicos (some of the same documents are on both sites). They include a couple of articles in English by Cristián Pérez: A History of the MIR and The Years of Shootings and Torture (1973-1975): The Last Days of Miguel Enriquez.   

As mentioned above the only surviving MIR offshoot comes out of MIR-Politico (founded by Nelson Gutierrez) This has a site: http:/chile-mir.org. The site is currently unavailable, but promises to return. Documents on the site include:   

‘Declaración de Principios’ (Declaration of Principles) from 1974.   

‘La matriz cultural mirista etc…’ (MIR’s cultural matrix…) gives a description of the different splits since 1986 as well as other groups who claim to have been influenced by them.   

‘Porque seguimos siendo MIR’ (why we are still MIR’) explains why the group still uses the name MIR and their current platform.   

‘Entrevista realizado por CEDEMA’ (long interview carried out by CEDEMA (Armed Movements Documentation Centre) also gives a good overview of the history and what they are up to today.   

There is another site about the same group: http://mir-chile.cl/. Unfortunately most of the links are not working.   

There is a 2003 interview with Andrés Pascal Allende, and a 2000 article by Andrés Pascal Allende.   

Also a 2007 interview with Hernán Aguilo.   

Finally In English some memories of the young Miguel Enriquez by Marcelo Ferrada Nodi.   

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LOTTA CONTINUA Part 2 (Related Political Organisations no 2)

Posted by archivearchie on June 14, 2009

What Do We Want? Everything!

What Do We Want? Everything!

This post follows on from the previous one on Lotta Continua. I promised in a comment there to provide some additional publications written by or about Lotta Continua from the Big Flame Internal Bulletin, and here they are.

Discussion with Lotta Continua members no1

This discussion in 1975 ranged across three areas:

–   The current situation in Italy including the relationship of the Italian Communist Party [PCI] to the Christian Democracy/Socialist Party Government; the “auto-reduction movement”; the LC attitude towards workers’ councils in factories; Lotta Continua itself (LC is “not the party of the revolution. We are a revolutionary party but not THE party”).

–   International issues including Portugal and the LC approach to internationalism (LC is “against ‘twin’ organisations” but does have fraternal/sororal links with groups).

–   Lotta Continua’s support for the Communist Party in the Spring 1975 regional elections (on the basis this vote was a defeat for the right wing and Christian Democracy, “voting for the CP is not identifying with the revisionist line, the bureaucracy of the CP”.

Click here on view Report from discussions with comrades of Lotta Continua (Internal Bulletin Oct/Nov 1975)

Discussion with a Lotta Continua member no2

This discussion occurred a year later. It consists of answers to a series of questions, which included these issues:

–   The change from the strategy of supporting the Italian Communist Party [PCI] to becoming part of Democrazia Prolerari [Democratic Proletariat] (over the last year “the political project of the PCI has been clarified”. Participation in PD is part of a strategy of “building unity at the base”).

–   LC’s attitude towards factory councils (there is “no one line” for all workplaces).

Click here on view Interview with Lotta Continua (Internal Bulletin June 1976)

LC4Extract from a Adriano Sofri article

This is quite a short extract from an article by Adriano Sofri in the Lotta Continua newspaper in March 1973 called “On the question of delegates and of organisation”. The introduction to the extract covers the different stages in LC’s development and quotes from the position agreed at the 1975 congress on the necessity of a party. Sofri discusses the meaning of the slogans “mass organisation” and “communist vanguard”. He acknowledges mistakes in the previous position on factory councils.

Click here on view Vanguard, Mass Political Work and Mass Organisation (Internal Bulletin March 1976)

French Trotskyist Critique of Lotta Continua

This is a translation of an article by Daniel Bensaid in the journal of the French section of the USFI (United Secretariat of the Fourth International). Bensaid focuses on the theses agreed at LC’s 1975 congress, and his article is in four parts: (a) Violence and the Army, (b) The International Strategic Line (including the various internationals and China), (c) The Notion of the Prolonged Crisis (including the CP and the unions), (d) Building the Party (LC constitution and internal organisation). The version of the translation I have from the BF IB ends mid sentence in part (c), so this is all I am able to reproduce here.

Click here on view French Trotskyist on Lotta Continua (Internal Bulletin March 1976)

There is one more Big Flame publication with Lotta Continua documents which I know about but have not been able to track down. This was published by West London Big Flame in 1976: Documents from the 1975 Lotta Continua Congress. If anyone out there has a copy, please tell me.

Archive Archie

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LOTTA CONTINUA Part 1 (Related Political Organisations no 2)

Posted by archivearchie on May 30, 2009

 LC1Episode 6 in the Big Flame History series mentioned two Italian political organisations – Lotta Continua [the Struggle Continues) [LC] and Potere Operai  (Workers Power) [Potop]. This post gives more information on the former.

The Beginning

In the mid 1960s a number of activist groups influenced by the Operaismo writers were established in different cities. In 1968 they moved apart following a disagreements over organisation and the importance given to struggles over wages. The Venato and Emilia-Romagna group, which adopted a more Leninist perspective and included Toni Negri, became the basis of the new national Potop. The Pisa branch of the Tuscany group, mainly ex-Italian Communist Party and including future LC General Secretary Adriano Sofri, moved to Turin attracted by the struggles at FIAT. There it linked up with students from Milan, Trento and Turin to become Lotta Continua.

The links from Lotta Continua back to Operaismo are apparent in this quote from Adriano Sofri: “The class struggle is the mainspring of development of every social system. The interest of the ruling class is to make this spring work for the extension and reinforcement of its own power. And so workers’ autonomy occurs when the class struggle stops working as the motor of capitalist development” (quoted in Radical America March-April 1973 issue p5).

LC grew out of interventions at the FIAT Turin plant in April/May 1969. Students and activists got to know workers, started helping them write leaflets, which led on to joint assemblies. The leafleting was a large scale enterprise, with 15,000 to 20,000 handed out per shift.

The phrase “La Lotta Continua” started to appear on the leaflets (taken from “la lutte continue” from the events in France the previous year). In time it became the umbrella name for a loose network of activists. Groups in other cities started adopting the same phrase in their leaflets, and within 3 years LC was a national organisation. The newspaper “Lotta Continua” was launched in Nov 1969. By 1972 it was a daily.

LC2

The End

Lotta Continua crumbled away after its second congress in Oct/Nov 1976. A key event in the runup was when male members of LC used violence to force their way into an all-women abortion demonstration in Rome in December 1975. The congress was characterised by hostility between male workers and women, and between both and the leadership. LC later published the congress speeches as Il 2o Congresso di Lotta Continua, and a selection of these can be found in Red Notes Italy 1977-9: Living with an Earthquake pp81-96 (also available as libcom.org or Class against Class). Within months most of the organisation had dissolved into a looser movement – the area of autonomy.

China 

Some commentators have labelled Lotta Continua “Soft Maoist”. Certainly like much of the “new left” groups in Europe, formed after 1968, the Chinese cultural revolution was an influence. However, despite adopting some Maoist phrases, the influence was not as strong as that of Operaismo.

Examples of overlapping terminology include references to Red Bases – taking areas of control away from the enemy (Organising for Revolution pp10-11, Fighting in the Streets p12). LC also talked of a cultural revolution occurring in the factories in Italy (see Bobbio p48). The frequent references to the masses have parallels with the ideas of the “mass line” and “serving the people”.

Take Over the City

Lotta Continua had taken up housing struggles from the early days. However in 1971 it launched “Take over the City” as its political programme. It argued “the city is merely the network of those instruments of exploitation and domination invented by the bosses for keeping the workers under their thumb and for dividing them at every moment of their existence. …There is beginning to be, today [Nov 1970], something in the social sphere, something comparable to the explosion which rocked Italian factories two years ago” (Fighting in the Streets pp2,5).

Struggles around the programme covered housing (rent strikes, occupation of empty flats), food (pickets of supermarkets, establishing “red markets”), transport (refusing to pay fares, stopping buses running), schools and nurseries.

Within a few years LC abandoned “Take over the City” as a programme (without dropping the ideas behind it), as it found that involvement in community struggles did not lead to the development of political power bases from which it could generalise out of the struggle.

Elections

The early Lotta Continua had little truck with elections, taking up the slogan “Don’t vote – occupy!” during the June 1971 regional elections (Take over the City p22). From 1973 onwards LC began to shift its stance.

In 1975 PdUP (Proletarian Unity Party) and Avanguardia Operaio (Workers Vanguard) established a joint platform – Democrazia Prolerari (Democratic Proletariat) for the regional elections. LC did not support them, advocating a vote for the Italian Communist Party (apparently on the basis that putting them in power would create a better basis for struggles). By the June 1976 national election it had joined DP (although keeping its own separate programme). The result –  550,000 votes or 1.5% of the total, 6 deputies, 1 of them from LC) was a major disappointment. Despite this being the first success at a national level for revolutionary left candidates, LC had hoped for much more.

The Composition of LC

Red Notes claim that Lotta Continua has up to 50,000 militants (Italy 1977-9: Living with an Earthquake p110). Others have challenged this figure. The early LC found it difficult to determine its numbers because of difficulties defining what was a militant. The first census in Lotta Continua’s history, around the time of the 1975 congress produced a figure of 8,000 militants, less than expected (Bobbio p148). This is the only number I have found. What is undoubtedly true is that LC had an influence beyond its size.

Information on the delegates at the two LC conferences provides a breakdown of the leading members of the organisation. At the Jan 1975 congress, delegates were 32% labourers, 7% other proletarians, 11% employees and technicians, 17% teachers, 21% students, and 11% full time militants. 20% were aged 20 or younger, 60% aged 21 to 29, and 205 30 and over. 10% of the delegates were women. These figures can be compared with a sample survey of the general membership which revealed 26% women, 27% labourers and 31% students (all data from Bobbio pp148-49).

By the last congress in Oct/Nov 1976 the percentage of women delegates had risen to 27.5%. 31% were workers, 32.3% were at university or school, and 9.6% employees of various kinds (Il 2o Congresso di Lotta Continua p306).

LC3

Criticisms of Lotta Continua

LC has been criticised for amongst other things:

–  its narrow focus on a certain type of worker

–  a lack of democracy in its internal organisation

–  its response to feminism

–  its attitude to violence

–  Its neglect of theory

A lot of LC’s problems can be part explained (which isn’t the same as justified) by its relatively large size and speed of recruitment. It is significantly easier to deal with some of these issues if your group is small and homogenous, although practice shows this is certainly no guarantee! I will say something about each of the issues listed.

Narrow Focus

Lotta Continua went through many shifts in its campaigns, the social sphere, the unemployed, prisoners, etc. However, it was forever marked by its initial inspiration – workers at Northern factories like FIAT. Places where unions were weak and workers struggles strong. It struggled to generalise this experience- to deal with the lack of an imminent revolutionary upheaval, the continuing role of the Italian Communist party, etc. It did make some changes, participating in Councils of factory delegates from 1972, but never enough.

Internal Organisation

Pre LC Adriano Sofri wrote: “For us, the correctness of revolutionary leadership, strategy, and organization derives neither from past revolutionary experience nor from the consciousness that the party is necessary. Their correctness derives, in the final analysis, from their relationship to the masses, and their capacity to be the conscious and general expression of the revolutionary needs of the oppressed masses. …The problem for revolutionaries is not to “‘place yourself” at the head of the masses, but to be the head of the masses” (Sofri Organising for Workers Power). This position is often repeated e.g. “We choose to be inside the struggles which the masses are waging. …We have tied to organise our forces, rather than to discuss organisation” (Organising for Revolution pp6-7).

Lotta Continua’s organisation prior to 1973 was rudimentary. Apart from decision making at national conventions, it was run by a group of old friends (Sofri in his 1976 congress speech confessed to a “private patrimony”). Then things changed: “The theoretical and political formation of cadres, the election of leaders, the individual responsibilities of the militant in the framework of collective discipline, the division of tasks and specialisation …It is nothing else than the discovery of democratic centralism and the third-internationalist concept of the party” (Bobbio p130, translation Della Porta p88). As a result from 1973 onwards “the possibility of comrades contributing to the formation of the political line was reduced; the responsibility for the major decisions was ever more concentrated at the top of the pyramid” (Bobbio p130, translation Ginsborg p360).

In part this was response to more difficult times, but it is also a product of the way LC began. A need to find a more coherent line from the different positions of those who found themselves in the organisation. From this distance it is hard for me to condemn all the organisational changes introduced. Some must have produced a needed efficiency. However, there was clearly problem with the amount of democracy.

Response to Feminism

LC leaders admitted that they very slowly came to see the struggle against sexism as an important part of the class struggle (e.g. Guido Viale in his introduction to the 2nd congress book). Verbal violence against office workers during factory protests often had a strong sexual content. In fact Lotta Continua probably responded faster than many groups on the Italian left, which led to higher expectations, and the eventual breakup. The divisions between the workers and the women in LC were exascerated by the lack of women workers (which itself stemmed from the nature of the workforce).

Attitude to Violence

The newspaper “Lotta Continua” was known for the violent tone of its language. The death of the Police Commissioner Calabresi in 1972 (see below) was described as “a deed in which the exploited recognise their own yearnings for justice”. This stemmed from a feeling that a civil war was underway, but served to provoke further the police and fascists. The Red Brigades, and similar groups, were criticised by Lotta Continua for the opportunities they gave to the right wing and carrying out the sort of actions which could not be taken up by the masses. After 1974 LC tried to reign in the violent acts of some members e.g. by closing down the Prisons Commission. This simply escalated the departure of some members, many from the “servizio d’ordine” (defence squads initially established for protection at demonstrations) to the armed groups. NAP (Nucleus of the Armed Proletariat) was a split from Naples LC. Prima Linea (Front Line) was formed out of ex-LC members from Milan and elsewhere, plus former Potop members.

Neglect of Theory

It is certainly true that LC was practice orientated, and gave little time to explicit discussions of theory. There was still a theory underlying its actions. Whether more theoretical discussion would have made much difference to the rapid swings in approach, is difficult to judge. Certainly there are plenty of theory heavy groups who have also swung alarmingly in their positions.

After Lotta Continua

LC members went on join a variety of different groups – The Italian Socialist Party, the Radical Party and the current left coalition Rifondazione Communisti (Communist Refoundation). Several went on to work for newspapers and television.

The paper “Lotta Continua” carried on to June 1982. In 1977 it opened up its letters page and debate blossomed – mainly from the former women members and sympathetic men (the former leaders and workers were present to a much lesser extent). Personal politics came to the fore, with many confessing they were desperate and lonely. A selection of letters was published as Care Compagne, Cari Compagni. In 1980 a smaller selction was published in Britain as Dear Comrades. A Big Flame member wrote the introduction and part translated the book.

Within a decade the view of much of the Italian left was to see the former LC leaders as out of date and ridiculous (as reported in Lumley States of Emergency p278) In 1988 the former LC General Secretary Adriano Sofri was arrested on the testimony of a “pentito” (repentant) former LC member and charged with ordering the murder of a Police Commissioner Calabresi in 1972. The legal process dragged on to 2000. Then despite doubts about the testimony of the “pentito” and the lack of any other evidence, Sofri received a 22 year jail sentence. Two other former LC members were convicted at the same time. One has been released on medical grounds, another fled whilst out of jail for an appeal. Sofri is still in prison.

Archive Archie

 

Sources on Lotta Continua

Very little from Lotta Continua is available in English. In the early 1970s two pamphlets were published in a series Documents from the Italian Revolutionary Movement. No 1 was Organising for Revolution a reprint of a speech by Gianni Safri and Franco Caprotti of LC at a Telos conference in 1971. No2 was called Fighting in the Streets. The latter consisted of Lotta Continua documents about its “Take Over the City” programme.

This is complemented by a descriptive account of Take over the City which was published as a pamphlet in England by Rising Free and in the USA in a Radical America article. It is currently available in three places on the internet:

Radical America March-April 1973 issue (pp pp78-112 of the magazine, pp80-114 of the document)

Class Against Class

Libcom.org

The same issue of Radical America also contains an article ”Organizing for Workers  Power” by Adriano Sofri, written in 1968 pre Lotta Continua (pp pp33-45 of the magazine, pp35-47 of the document) and an interview with another LC leader Guido Viale (pp pp113-119 of the magazine, pp115-121 of the document). The former has been republished by Monkraft.

The 1979 Red Notes/CSE Books pamphlet Working Class Autonomy and the Crisis includes two articles by Lotta Continua members “25 Years at FIAT” and “The Worker-Student Assemblies in Turin: 1969”.

Discussions of LC in English, particularly those from left groups, demonstrate little understanding of it. Exceptions are Paul Ginsborg A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics 1943-1988 (Penguin, 1990); Donatella Della Porta Social Movements, Political Violence and the State (CambridgeUniversity Press, 1995) and Sidney Tarrow Democracy and Disorder: Protest and Politics in Italy 1965-75 (Clarendon Press, 1989). All three draw heavily on Bobbio (see below), as indeed do I.

For those who can read Italian there is a considerable literature about LC e.g. Luigi Bobbio Lotta continua: storia di una organizzazione rivoluzionaria (Roma : Savelli, 1979) and Aldo Cazzullo I ragazzi che volevano fare la rivoluzione. 1968-1978: storia di Lotta continua (Milano: Mondadori, 1998).

A fairly complete run of the newspaper Lotta Continua (apart from the early years) can be found in the “Red Notes Italian Archive” at the London School of Economics.

In the early 70s there was a LC branch in London. Around 1971 it issued a leaflet come pamphlet in Italian, English and Spanish in support of a campaign for a guaranteed minimum wage of £35 a week. It was called That’s Enough! Now we want Everything.

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SOJOURNER TRUTH ORGANIZATION (Related Political Organisations no 1)

Posted by archivearchie on May 9, 2009

This post is something of a departure. It’s not strictly about Big Flame. So why is it on this website? Before I come to that issue, I want to introduce the Sojourner Truth Organization.

 The Group

workplacepapers-p1

The  Sojourner Truth Organization was a political group in the USA. It was named after a 19th century African-American campaigner for the abolition of slavery and women’s rights Sojourner Truth. The group started out in Chicago, expanded to some other parts of country. It then shrank back to Chicago before disappearing. Here are a few points about the group:

 –  Its lifespan was almost identical to that of Big Flame. It existed between 1969 and 1985.

–   It started out focused almost exclusively in industrial workplace struggles (at a time when this wasn’t so common in the USA). Their approach was for members to get jobs in targeted factories. Later STO became involved in anti-imperialist struggles and social movements.

–   In part its political ideas were influenced by currents on the Italian left (ideas like autonomy and mass direct action), although there were other influences such as the Facing Reality Group (which was in turn influenced by C.L.R James).

–   It emphasized anti-racism, playing a significant role in spreading amongst the US left the view that white people benefit materially and psychologically from the oppression of black people.

 The Web Sites

There are two websites – run by different individuals – which relate to the STO.

STOfront

The first is called Sojourner Truth Organization 1969-1985 Digital Archive and aims to make available copies of STO’s newspapers (Insurgent Worker), pamphlets, shop leaflets, theoretical journal (Urgent Tasks), collaborative works (Collective Works, Tendency Newsletter), and other publications. The website isn’t set up to allow discussion of  items published.

The second is called The Sojourner Truth Organization: Notes Towards a History. This site has been put together by someone who wasn’t an STO member and comes from an anarchist background. He is working towards writing a book about STO. His site is a blog and allows comments on posts. Posts often focus on themes such as industrial concentration, white skin privilege, extra-union organising, STO’s culture, anti-imperialism and so on. A few posts stray off topic and they have become less frequent over the years (for personal reasons as the author explains).

Why this Post

 That there are some similarities between Big Flame and STO should be clear from what I have said above in introducing the group. However my main reason for attention to the two websites is that they have a parallel purpose to this site. Each represents in relation to STO, an objective I have for this site and Big Flame. Firstly, to inform people about what Big Flame was. Secondly, to try to initiate a discussion about the ideas it represented (although so far we have been less successful in the latter. Hopefully future posts will provoke more of a discussion).

 Here are a few more connections between STO and Big Flame in case you are still not convinced.

 –  A Big Flame member responded to a STO document called ”Reflections on Organizing” after its publication by Radical America in 1972. STO published this in its collection Workplace Papers in 1980. Therefore, it can be found on the STO digital archive as Review of “Reflections on Organizing”.

–  The STO: Notes Towards a History website includes positive references to Big Flame in posts on Feminism and Theory (see second comment at the bottom of the post).

–  A member of BF travelled to Chicago around 1974 and wrote a brief report on STO. The writer is repeatedly critical of the group (I am somewhat surprised that the writer didn’t express greater sympathy in finding group in the USA with at least some similarity in politics). For example STO is criticised for the extent of its focus on production, a neglect of women’s struggles, being unclear on the relationship between spontaneity and organisation, the organisation’s internal life, and passivity in the relationship between members and leaders.

–  Later in 1980 two members of STO traveled to London to hold talks with Big Flame about how much they were part of the same political tendency.

Can anyone add more on the extent of contacts between Big Flame and STO? 

Sites about Other Groups

I would love to hear about any sites on the internet which go back in time to examine any political organisation with related politics to Big Flame. They need not be of exactly the same era. Do you know any sites you would recommend?

 Archive Archie

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