Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Mouvement Communiste and Unicode WildCat Present:
Movements and Political Journeys in Porto Marghera
Manuela Pellarin, 2009, 49 min. In Italian with English subs.
Sunday 28 October at 7.30 pm. 
Pullens Centre, 184 Crampton street, Elephant and Castle, London SE17 3AE

The film will be preceded with an introduction by the translator into French of a book ('Workers’ Power in Porto Marghera') and an open discussion. 

 The 'Suspended Years' is concerned with the intense series of workers’ struggles which took place in and around the chemical production plants of Porto Marghera (close to Venice) in north eastern Italy, starting in the mid-1960s up until the late 1970s. The Porto Marghera workers became one of the emblematic figures of the whole experience of “workers autonomy” in Italy in this period, alongside the Fiat workers. They were part of a movement which began in the factories but which rapidly spread far beyond the factory walls, to encompass and question the whole of social life under capitalism.
A previous film produced about the Porto Marghera workers by the same director was “The last firebrands” (“Die Jetzten Feuer”) distributed by the German group Wildcat.
The film consists of a series of interviews with participants in these momentous events, including workers in the plants, students from Venice and Padua, and activists involved in such things as “self-reduction” in supermarkets… The interviews were made between 2004 and 2008.

A bit of background
The people interviewed in this film are describing an experience of workers autonomy in Italy between 1968 and 1980, that of the Workers Committee of Montedison in Porto Marghera (1968-1972), which was closely related to that of other workers committees in the region, including those of Chatillon, and AMMI. Starting in  November 1972, these committees transformed themselves into a Workers Assembly, which regrouped many other committees in the Venetia region, but it was the Workers’ Committee of Montedison which remained the real point of reference for all the committees of the province.

The committee was born in a big chemical plant which at the time employed 3000 labourers and 1000 technicians. It was formed from young militant workers in the plant, some of whom had been activists in the union and the CP and others who were completely new to politics. The questions that they asked themselves about their condition in the factory led them to establish contact with people from the group Potere Operaio, who had been handing out their leaflets at the gates of the factory since the winter of 1965-66. Many workers in the plant became involved in Potere Operaio, and some of the interviews in the film are directly concerned with the relationship between the workers inside the plant and the students and intellectuals who have a more “external” relation to workers’ struggles.

All this organisation and agitation began to have a profound impact during 1968. In July of that year there was a strike for better pay and conditions launched by the committee which would become known throughout Italy when, on 1 August, a strikers’ demonstration blockaded the Mestre train station and fought with the police.

Like all expressions of workers autonomy at this time, there were certain demands within workplaces which everybody put forwards - uniform increases of wages, reduction of wage differentials between different categories of workers, equalisation of benefits between workers and white-collar employees, reduction of the pace of work, breaking the division between directly employed and subcontracted workers, etc. And the same methods of struggle were always advocated - organisation into assemblies at the workshop and the factory level, marches through the factory to spread and enforce strikes, the refusal of delegation, etc. But they also intervened outside the factory around various issues – transport (refusing to pay fares), housing (occupations, forcing down rent), reducing electricity bills, and the cost of living in general (against price increases in bakeries and supermarkets).

But the struggles of Porto Marghera also had their own specificities. A particularly important factor was the presence of highly skilled technicians who understood the production process. This was combined with a “workers’ enquiry” that the committee had consciously carried out so as to understand the functioning of the plant and how workers could exploit its weak points. As a result of this, the workers could completely shut down the plant during a strike, even though the bosses had told them it was impossible. Just to make sure that we get the importance of this, a worker explains it twice in the film!

Something else which was specific to Porto Marghera (although not that specific) is the “noxiousness” of their work in the chemical factory (particularly in the vinyl chloride section) and their refusal to accept it, by adopting the principle that “if our working environment  is toxic we’ll try to be there as little as possible” and making the boss pay for the treatment which they had to have.

They went on to critique the consequences of production on the surrounding region and so are perhaps the first “ecologists” to refuse the deadly aspect of capital and to call into question wage labour itself. As the film points out at the end, many worker activists died relatively young as a result of cancers caused by exposure to substances such as vinyl chloride monomer.

The title?
The title – Gli anni sospesi - is taken from the name of a conference which was held in Porto Marghera in 2007 entitled “The 1970s – the suspended years”. But why “suspended”?
Well, perhaps we can say that the period of intense struggle that was the 1970s can be seen as “suspended” in time and space, separate from what came before and after, waiting for something new ahead but not yet in focus or determined… Perhaps.

The film was originally intended to be distributed as a DVD with the book Quando il potere è operaio - Autonomia e soggettività politica a Porto Marghera (1960-1980) [“When power is the worker - Autonomy and political subjectivity in Porto Marghera (1960-1980)"], Rome, Manifestolibri, 2009. The book was recently published in French as Pouvoir ouvrier à Porto Marghera - du Comité d’usine à l’Assemblée de territoire (Vénétie – 1960-80) [“Workers’ Power in Porto Marghera – from the Factory Committee to the Territorial Assembly (Venetia – 1960-80)”], Editions Les Nuits Rouges, 2012.
However, the film stands perfectly well on its own, both as a historical document about the workers’ movement in Italy and as a discussion around the more global themes of the relationship between struggles inside and outside workplaces, between militant workers and “external activists” and even “ecological” questions of shutting down poisonous and environmentally destructive workplaces…

Some useful links:
The classic text “The Refusal of Work”, produced by the Workers’ Committee of Porto Marghera in 1970: http://libcom.org/library/refusal-work-workers-committee-porto-marghera-1970

For those of you who read Italian, here are some editions of the magazine Lavoro Zero (“Zero Work”) that some of the interviewees were involved with: http://www.chicago86.org/archivio-storico/lotte-operaie-anni-60-70/lavoro-zero.html

And why not take a look at the “operaismo” section of libcom?:

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Old School of Capitalism

Sunday 14th October 7pm Admission Free

The Old School of Capitalism, 2009
written and directed by: Želimir Žilnik
(Serbia, 122 min, DV + HDV)

The Old School of Capitalism is rooted in the first wave of workers revolts to hit Serbia since the advent of capitalism. Desperate workers bulldoze through factory gates and are devastated to discover the site looted by the bosses. Eccentrically escalating confrontations, including a melee with workers in football shoulder-pads and helmets and boss and his security force in bulletproof vests, prove fruitless. Committed young anarchists offer solidarity, take the bosses hostage. A Russian tycoon, a Wall Street trader and US VP Biden’s visit to Belgrade unexpectedly complicate events that lead toward a final shock. Along the way, the film produces an increasingly complex and yet unfailingly lively account of present-day, in fact, up-to-the-minute struggles under the misery-inducing effects of both local and global capital.

shorts + anti-work discussion

good essay on the film and context by Branka Ćurčic:

Cuts Cafe
1 Stamford St
Email: cutscafe@riseup.net
Phone: 07842 631 370

More info:

Full Unemployment Cinema

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Full Unemployment Cinema 2012-2013 Programme

28 October – Lindsay Anderson – O Lucky Man / The White Bus Double

25 November – Death Laid an Egg / Questi anime shorts - [Venue TBC]

16 December – Losers & Winners / VW Komplex - [Venue TBC]

27 January – Les Prostitutes de Lyon Parlent / Selma James Housework - [Venue TBC]

24 February – Augusto Tretti, Potere / Ugo Gregoretti, Omicron - [Venue TBC]

31 March – Anthony Friedman Bartleby - [Venue TBC]