Mario Tronti: Desperate Hopes

I do not want to know to know, but to overthrow what is, and to the extent that it is possible, into its opposite.

Mario Tronti, Noi operaisti

Mario Tronti is one of the central figures of operaismo/workerism, a theoretical-practical intervention of marxist inspiration in the class wars of the 1950s-60s italy.

The virtue of Tronti’s work was, with others, to develop a non-orthodox reading of Marx’s social theory which placed conflict-social war at the centre of modern politics, that is, that capitalism was a set of social relations which developed through the conflict between the bourgeoisie and workers, that the identities of both were constituted through this conflict, that workers’ resistance and rebellion were the principle agents of change in these relations, and that there was nothing consequently predetermined in the “evolution” of capitalist society.

Where we would differ with Tronti is on his reading of history and politics as the result of class hegemony. His debt to Antonio Gramsci imprisons him in a reading of politics that remains far too beholden to total organisation and myth.

But then, perhaps, it is we who are mistaken. And Tronti is far too perceptive an observer of society to remain confined in any dogmatism and what follows is a reflection on radical politics after the death of the revolutionary working class, a radical politics that can only be utopian.

For this reason, and more, we share a recent essay of his, in translation, entitled Disperate speranze (published with Sinistrainrete – 17/10/2019 and lundi matin, in french – 17/01/2020).

After the ‘fuori e contro’ (‘outside and against’) of the workerist years, the ‘dentro e contro’ (‘inside and against’) of the struggle inside the PCI [Italian Communist Party], Mario Tronti’s compass, from La politica al tramonto (Einaudi, 1998), indicates a new combat position: ‘aldilà e contro’ (‘beyond and against’) and he specifies: “Without identifying myself with the theological forms that this beyond takes, I find with it, and I use, a form of thinking, and a form of speaking, of a political dimension, which metaphorically, or allegorically, alludes to something other than what is here, to something other than that.” (lundi matin)

Desperate Hopes

Our time does not welcome utopias. This is why it is necessary to talk about Utopia again. We are chained to the bars of an eternal present, in a condition which deprives us both of the freedom to look back and to see ahead: because, according to current and dominant opinion, the past must die and the future has no right to live. By reaction, seeking light from the heart of the cave, two highly human faculties, memory and imagination, become subversive. They should be cultivated together and not against each other: this is what I want to try to say. And I add: it is not necessary to refer to yesterday, but indeed to the day before yesterday; not to tomorrow, but to the day after tomorrow. The immediate past is what produced this present: it must be sifted by criticism. The immediate future is entirely in the hands of those who command today: it must be wrested from them. It must never forget that when we think of political concepts, we must tie them securely to struggles. In the journey which takes us to the island of Utopia, we reach its shores after having crossed many stormy seas, and certainly not lulled by the flat calm of the Antilles.

Our time is the time of dystopias. The steamroller of a historical process advances alone, without anyone guiding it, because it does not need a guide, because it has its own autonomous logic of development and crisis, according to perfectly interchangeable laws of the old-and-neo-capitalist movement. After the 20th century, the Leviathan of technology is no longer the subject, it is an instrument, as was the Leviathan of politics in the 17th century. Then, it served in the original accumulation of the wealth of nations, that is to say, of capital as a world; today it is used for the final fragmentation of the earth’s resources. And you do not see the Behemoth of civil wars looming on the horizon. Conflicts exist. They cannot but exist in societies as deeply divided as ours. But these are false conflicts in the action of the subjects, as the information that is transmitted in verbal communication is false. Falsehood consists in the fact that it does not serve – because it does not aim – to bring into crisis the objective mechanism of the permanence of current life forms, in their original specific presence, imposed and at the same time accepted. Utopian discourse today has the task of working to distinguish, to dissociate, to separate, imposition and acceptance. Either utopian thinking manages to be antagonistic, critical thinking of each day, or it risks becoming a consoling Sunday philosophy.

Utopia, for me, is a beyond; an earthly beyond. I hesitate to say “mundane”. Because the world today identifies itself with this world: precisely what repels me and which pushes me to search for a world beyond. I feel close therefore to any transcendent measure or dimension. Without identifying with the theological forms that it takes, I find here, and I use, a form of thinking, and a form of speaking, with a political dimension, which metaphorically, or allegorically, alludes to something other than what is here, to something other than that. Even if only in this choice, there is already an antagonism. While with the opposing choice, that of a rigorous immanentism, there is no way out of subordination to what is and what it is. For the time that we are living, for the contingency which we are currently experiencing, it is not possible to imagine a political utopia; we must think of a theological-political utopia. If, as we will see, following Bloch, what interests us is a “concrete utopia”, then it is the theological-political, more than the political, which is able to assure us of the not-yet realistism that we are looking for. Let us not beat around the bush and focus on this point. In the Magnificat we read: overthrow the powerful, raise the humble. Here is the theological. How to overthrow the powerful and how to raise the humble. Here is the political. And let no one come along and say: it’s too easy. It is the task of political thought to reduce the complexity of history, so that it can be accomplished not only by the one who possesses it intellectually, but also by the one who suffers from it existentially.

This world. This time. For utopian discourse, we must above all agree on the meaning of these expressions. World and time, enemies. One of the difficulties, probably the greatest difficulty, in speaking today of what is “beyond” is the general dependence on the present state of things, a mass resignation, culturally motivated by the impossibility of “changing the world”, as we used to say until recently. Not that the word “change” is missing. And even to affirm this false movement which is the democratic consensus, it suffices to pronounce it and, better still, to proclaim it loud and clear. Which is interesting, because it means that we are not satisfied with the way things are going, or with the way things have gone so far, because of those who have governed them. We then defer to the next rulers, so that things change. This is the deception of our realised, contemporary democracies. Offering the illusion of change is the smartest way so far found to keep things the way they are. Biblical monsters are no longer of any use in governing people. Reassuring domestic animals are absolutely enough, animals which now invest – and it is not by chance -, the rooms of a great many of our houses, rooms formerly occupied by children.

Change is a term of weak thinking: a non-thinking that registers, transfers, reflects a non-society. Margaret Thatcher was not wrong when she said: society does not exist, only people exist. She defined exactly this world, of neoliberalism governed by economics and finance. Someone taught us that you have to know your enemy better than the enemy knows you yourself. It’s the case. It’s always the bosses, and those who represent them, who tell you how things really are. Protesters generously believe in the fable of the naturally sociable human animal, man. But centuries of anarcho-capitalism have deposited another human species among us: namely, this one, the one who inhabits anarcho-capitalism. This is where the talk of utopia stumbles and falls. Thus, you must deploy not a weak idea of change, but a strong concept of transformation; the transvaluation of all forms: of production, of exchange, of consumption, now and always forms of power and, today precisely – a dramatic problem – forms of communication. And, consequently, a questioning of the forms of life, those which are not chosen but which are submitted to, those which one does not enjoy but which one suffers, those which one experiences daily not on oneself, but against oneself.

This world is a world that produces the most technological innovation and at the same time causes the most human decadence. I’m not saying that this last is produced by the first. On this subject, it is better to be neither apocalyptic, nor assimilated. Technique is not the Antichrist that must be stopped before it completely conquers our souls. At most, it is the use of technique that is made by the one who commands, that is to say, the one who owns, manages and manipulates wealth and power. The fate of the post-human arises from the dystopian perspective of intelligent machines and stupid men and women, artificial intelligence and natural idiocy. And let’s be careful that the salutary attention paid to the next and near environmental disaster, as a problem for all, does not hide the discourse of the responsibility of a few. The state of things to be transformed always works in this way: total mobilisation around the general interest serves to keep safe, unseen, not considered, specific responsibilities. Knowing this is the first move for the subject of transformation. The second is to implement a process of unmasking which leads to the denunciation of the consequences and the preparation of remedies. Utopian discourse is caught between these conditions.

Here is the reason why, before venturing into answers concerning the future, it is advisable to ask some questions concerning our present.

Why this desperate condition which sees on one side the ruling classes which are not up to par, and sees on the other side a mass of individuals who are not rebellious? Why all these homunculi who govern States and, at the same time, all these people who follow demagogues? The problem is not the opposition between elites and people, but between disqualified elites and a disoriented people. So the criticism of this world is accompanied by the criticism of this time. I know that this way of stating things will interest very few. Not one of those who matters even a little, is willing to listen, either out of arrogance, or out of subjugation. And yet, it is not a voice that is speaking, it is a fact of reality that increasingly imposes itself. As long as there is no coming to awareness, politically and culturally, collectively, of the devastating nature of the anti-twentieth century reaction, which closed the century prematurely in the 1980s, it is utopian to speak of utopia. Let it be known. Reaction is the right word, because it was a historically reactionary fact, masked only by liberal ideas, democratic forms, and ethical “mush”. The work, political and intellectual, of unmasking this time is just as essential as that which concerns our world.

The Trilateral was the Vienna Congress of our time. It opened the new era of the Restoration. Just as the latter decreed the end of the revolutionary disorder, exported to Europe by the Napoleonic wars, the former decreed the end of the era of the European and world civil wars, which did not end in 1945, but in 1989. The 1980s as a whole, of innovation and liberation, prepared the return of the new old regime, which we are still living today. Today, when everyone is ready to admit that there was no “end of the story”. But the Japanese-American got it right in part. There has been a passage from history to chronicle, with all of the consequences of circumstance, from the big conflict to playground bickering, from ideological narratives to the storytelling by service personnel, from the battle of ideas to media chatter, from culture to communication, from parties to movements, from project politics to the spectacle of politics. The decline of the West no longer projects the glow of fire, it sinks into the dark night of what has been called the globalisation of indifference. If we look at the contrast of opposing points of view in the social relationship between those who are below and those who are above, if we measure the level of thought that this central conflict produced in the two struggling parties, if we assess the degree of subjectivity of the organised forces for the defense of contrary interests, if we consider the market in relation to the State, the private in relation to the public, the individual in relation to society, then we have before us, here and now, the landscape of a small, old, nineteenth century world.

So what kind of intellectual operation can we advise? I would say this: starting from a realistic vision of the world and of time, to prepare a neo-utopian vision capable of concretely making a leap beyond.

It would require a collective commitment, with an internal division of labor, of free spirits, in the sense of thinking people, doubly liberated: liberated from the approval of the current state of things and liberated from the challenge that was made to it over the last decades. We have to find a new way of being “outside and against”. I can only do it as I always knew how to do it: by bending the bow until its arrow can reach the nearest target. A realistic vision, disposed however to correct the aim with other selected archers. A common premise, nevertheless, and which must be: to battle on the ground and not to dance on the path.

Concrete utopia? While waiting, the return of the 20th century. It is easier to reach the island which does not exist, if one knows that the island has already existed. Atlantis, a vanished continent, was said to have existed. No one knows if the regnum hominis of Nova Atlantis, imagined by a visionary scientist, Bacon, and even before, by a philosopher of the world of ideas, Plato, ever existed, but the great earth rendered it possible, it did indeed exist. The ‘already has been’ and the ‘not yet’ do not oppose each other. They are complementary, like conservation and revolution. It is the orbits that revolutionise the planets. And the leap is not to project yourself forward, but to stop the circle at a point: the point where history and politics have gone further than economics and technology and are not so dramatically lagging behind as today. We can no longer invoke Utopia and wait for the Messiah, but, in the footsteps of Benjamin, we must leave open a small window through which he can pass, to return, at every moment, that is, to be ready for the occasion. A primary task for a politics at the ready is to be concerned with maintaining this opening and in any case organising itself to open it when it is closed.

Again the question, or rather the questions: is a realistic messianism possible? Perhaps in the form of the “messianic apostasy” of a Sabbatai Zevi, a figure as controversial as he is little known, of the sixteenth century, through whom Gershom Scholem was able to speak to us of utopia and modernity? The need to enter unexplored sea routes if we are to reach the island of concrete Blochian utopia is beyond doubt.

Ernst Bloch wrote The Spirit of Utopia in the midst of the first great catastrophe of the 20th century, between 1915 and 1917. The first edition appeared in 1918, and a second version in 1923. Contemporary utopian reason was born at the same time as the era of European and world civil wars. This is the reason why utopian discourse which, beginning here and reaching us, can only assume a tragic sign. There is nothing consoling or reassuring in it, nothing progressive. It is a frontal collision with reality, a cry of hopeless hope. In a cautionary note of 1936, Bloch defines his book as “the attempt at a first fundamental, expressive, baroque, religious work”, with, in its heart, all of the cultural atmosphere of the time, from Blaue Reiter to poetry and to expressionist painting, a work woven “into the well of the soul”, as Hegel said, but with “dynamite” in the subject-object relationship, built on the principle: “The world is not true, but it wants to come home thanks to men and to the truth.” Then Bloch reread his text in 1974, during a conversation in Tübingen (evoked in the Italian edition of 1980). When an author rereads himself like this at a distance of several decades, the sparks of thought seem to shine with a new brilliance. The discoveries are reaffirmed and at the same time deepened. Present and future – Bloch says – cannot be looked at and treated in a contemplative way, they need practice with regard to action, and willpower with regard to decision and in the center, the mediation of politics. Thus “utopia becomes in substance a pre-appearance (Vorschein)”. And this much more often than has happened in the theories of ideal states, where the marvelous island of our devouring desire was transferred to a lost island in the South Seas, as with Thomas More or Campanella. Even the great utopians who lived between the 18th and 19th centuries, and especially Fourier and Saint-Simon, only build the seat of a dreamlike image based on our near future. To them, Marxism has attached its practice of a transformation which is ultimately concretely achievable, by criticising the abstract character of the previous utopias and by remaining faithful with all the more force to the orientation towards the future of the utopian function. Hence the sentence: “Marxism is not a utopia, but the novum of a concrete utopia.” Phrase which is not formulated in this form in The Spirit of Utopia, but rather in The Principle of Hope, even if it is already contained in substance in the first work; and the same goes for the seemingly paradoxical concept of “concrete utopia”.

Bloch returned to Germany in 1949, when the German Democratic Republic was established. It was there and at that time that, teaching at the University of Leipzig, he wrote his great work The Principle of Hope. He touched on the extinction of the fire which had been lit by the Marxian “dream of something”, mentioned in the letter to Ruge of September 1843. He concluded his conversation in 1974, inviting us to scrutinize our history and his works “by turning towards utopia, and therefore to what has not been redeemed, to that which awaits us, which has not yet happened and which is also threatened”. The last chapter of The Spirit of Utopia was titled: “Karl Marx. Death and the apocalypse.”

“The war ended, the revolution began, and with it, the doors seemed to open. But almost immediately after they closed.” This is one of the haunting sentences in this chapter. I quote a few more which allude, not just metaphorically, to our present situation. “Everything proceeds gropingly, guided by a strange presentiment, the lack of which marks living beings with a hot iron, it is everywhere to be experienced, to preserve, to refuse, to reuse, to be mistaken, to fall back …” But “man is the only one living being able to transform.” “We learned at least one thing with regard to reality that reached us a hundred years ago (today two hundred!): from socialist programmatic thinking, Marx radically eliminated simple abstract and unrelated fanaticism, pure and simple jacobism… A way of being practical, of cooperating on the constructive horizon of daily life and of judging correctly, of being precisely politically social, is as close to consciousness as possible and constitutes a revolutionary mission of utopia… Thus Marx taught that one must never seek or experiment beyond what is closely possible and that the only problem is always and only the next step… Marx wants to act and change the world through the will and so he does not limit himself to waiting for certain conditions to be verified, but teaches us how to make them emerge, posing the class struggle, analysing the economy taking into account variable elements, suitable for active intervention.”

For our fellow travelers today: “We are still waiting, we have a reduced aspiration and knowledge, but we lack action, as evidenced by the fact that we are completely lacking in scope, the capacity to strike, in having a goal, which we have not crossed, foreseeing, the slightest threshold… ”

And finally, the line of conduct: “History is a difficult and inconvenient journey … As a rule, the circumstances are such that the soul must become guilty in order to annihilate what exists and is harmful, so as not to become even more guilty by withdrawing into the idyllic and tolerating injustice with apparent kindness. In itself, domination and power are harmful, but it is necessary to oppose them with just as much power, almost a categorical imperative that points its gun… ”

Words a century old. I don’t know if they are forgotten, or misunderstood, or rejected. As far as I am concerned, I only know that commenting on them would make them lose the fascination that direct impact can provoke in the reader. Worse, to sum them up with other words would in any case mean to betray them. You have to internalise them and that is it. The subtitle that says “Karl Marx. Death and the Apocalypse” states: “The streets of the world along which the interior can become exterior and the exterior like the interior.” The central part of The Spirit of Utopia develops the theme of Selbstbegegnung, of the Encounter with the Self. It is fair to say “the theme”, because a large part of the chapter composes a “philosophy of music”: an intimately utopian art, a “miraculous and transparent art which goes beyond the tomb and the end of this world”. Music is the thing in itself, which manifests itself in spiritual desire and which thus encourages us to daydream: “and this is what is not yet, the lost, the omen, our encounter with the hidden Self, in the darkness and in the latency of every instant lived, the encounter with ourselves, our utopia which calls itself through the good, through music, metaphysics and which is however not realisable on earth”. Utopia is “to name the name of God quite differently, this name both lost and never found”. Then follows a digression entitled “The Mystery”.

Concrete utopia, political utopia, that is to say, a politics dramatically grappling with the fact of achieving a goal placed beyond the reality in which it struggles, must settle its accounts with the dimension of mystery that marks human life: this is why the history of events is an enigma that each era, in its own way, must decipher. Bloch calls this task: “the form of the problem impossible to construct”.

The Spirit of Utopia has a continuation, as does the last chapter, on Marx, death, the apocalypse. Bloch wrote and published around the same time (1921) perhaps an even more explosive book, Thomas Müntzer as Theologian of Revolution. Any young person, boy or girl, who decides to enter politics on the side of those who want to change the world, is under an ethical obligation to drink from this source, for an originating accumulation of subversive energy. In the re-edition of this book in 1969, Bloch defined it as “an appendix to The Spirit of Utopia” and warned: “His revolutionary romanticism finds its measure and its determination in my book The Principle of Hope“. It is good that the young person of today, reader of the book on Müntzer, grown up, rather than resigning her/himself to become a quiet democratic-progressive, undertakes with seriousness and concern, to give “his measure and his determination” to his original revolutionary romanticism. The peasant war in Reformation Germany is one of the moments in the long and great history of the revolts of the lower classes, whose memory must be preserved and valued as a true human heritage.

Here too, a few pearls extracted from Bloch’s text: “Müntzer saw his work brutally broken, but what he wanted opened up very broad perspectives … him and his work, and all the past that deserves to be told, is there to assign us a task, to inspire us, to support our permanent project more and more broadly ”. “The whole weight of the pyramid corresponding to this new society finally weighed on the peasants, on this central and defenseless mass, also exploited by all the States of the Empire … It is necessary to consider the peasant uprisings at the level of their deepest roots … Because if economic appetites are the most substantial and the most constant, they are not the only ones or, in the long run, the most powerful: they will not constitute the most specific motivations of the human soul , especially in periods where religious emotion dominates … The inclinations, the daydreams, the deepest and more sincere emotions, the enthusiasms directed towards ends nourish a need other than that which immediately jumps to the eyes and are never however a vain ideology: they do not disappear and mark their imprint over a long period; they spring up in the soul from an original point, that which gives birth and which defines values; they survive any empirical catastrophe and keep their full force, prolonging in a constant topicality the millenarianism which deeply guided the XVth century, that of the War of the Peasants and Anabaptism. Thus, at that time, one wanted above all to get rid of all adventitious construction, to regain the state of youth ”. “… We don’t die for a simple, well-planned production budget; and even in the Bolshevik realisation of Marxism, one will find anew precisely the characters of the old radical baptism, of ancient communism conceived as theomachy, that of the Taborites and the Joachimites, with a myth still hidden, still secret, of an ultimate purpose”. “Here the figure and the project of Thomas Müntzer reappear in a radiant light, a very close relative to that of Liebknecht, a tireless organizer, comparable in this respect to Lenin himself and to men of his caliber, capable moreover of illuminating the revolution, not by the simple idea of earthly happiness, but by the most powerful finality”. “Conclusion and half of the Kingdom: it waits for us to listen to her voice, this underground story of the revolution whose movement is already starting in the right direction, but here are the Brothers of the Valley, the Cathars, the Vaudois, the Albigensians, Father Joachim de Flore, the Brothers of the Good Will, of community life, of the Free Spirit, Eckhart, the Hussites, Müntzer and the Baptists, Sebastian Franck, les Illuminés, Rousseau and the mystic humanism of Kant, Weitling, Baader, Tolstoy – here we all join forces, and the moral conscience of this immense tradition knocks again on the door to put an end to fear, the State, disbelief and the something “above” in which man has no part. Here is the fiery spark shining which will no longer linger in any place, obeying the most precise biblical claim: it is not here below that is our home, we are looking for a home to come…. Standing high on the rubble of a ruined civilization, here is the spirit of the ineradicable utopia rising”.

What is the difference between dystopia and utopia? I am not referring to the fictions of the future which denounce the present: yesterday George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, today James G. Ballard. They are welcome. Dystopias are representations of the future of cities, houses, work, and therefore dehumanised relationships. This type of negative utopia changes, while the positive utopia transforms; one innovates, the other revolutionises. The dystopian mechanism is an objective apparatus, in the continuity of the present. The current technological changes follow capitalist development, they accompany it and, to a large extent, stabilise it. It always moves forward, never looking back. Utopian passion is a subjective instance, it breaks with history, turns it upside down, it is against what is, but not against all that has been. It does not walk towards the future; it leaps over the present, but also, in the name of another past. It takes into account the accumulation of uprisings that have occurred, to reinforce what it believes must happen. Today there is a kind of concrete utopia which is imposed in a hegemonic way in production, as well as in thought. It is a technological utopia, with its purposes never fulfilled in themselves, and always new, always different. We oppose it with a sort of concrete anthropological utopia. The measure of judgment is the fate of the human condition. Are we really moving from an inhuman capitalist condition to a post-human technological condition? It would be wise to remind new generations to be concerned not only with the future of the planet in its environmental drift, but also with the future of human beings in their artificial drift. The utopian, political discourse of today is called to a preliminary battle of ideas: it must prevent the permanent closure of the perspective of human redemption inscribed in the struggles of the past, caused by the extinction of a humanity available for this great task.

Redemption is the right word: to redeem those who are at the bottom of society due to their condition of subordination. It was the ideal of the workers’ movement: “The emancipation of the proletariat will emancipate all of humanity”; an unrealised utopia. This passage from Bloch quoted above, saw the return, in the Bolshevik realisation of Marxism, of the old model of divine combat mythically targeting its objective. He wrote this in 1921. The barely born revolution, and although attacked from all sides, spread a hope for the liberation of the oppressed throughout Europe and beyond. Think of the mobilisation in struggles, the enthusiasm for action, the life choices which were aroused by this simple slogan: do as in Russia! A broken dream remains, must remain, in memory, to motivate future uprisings. But it must be cultivated, this dream, and if we erase it or, worse still, if we accept to pass it off as a nightmare, one causes enormous harm to one’s own side. This damage was caused; and irreparably.

And since we are talking about utopia, I will not speak of Marxism, but of communism. Marx gave us the weapons to fight capitalism, but concerning the way out, he left us unarmed. It took Lenin to correct and add something essential. But, precisely, the doors opened, and then immediately closed. Because we “don’t die for a well-planned production budget …”. The Marxist project of carrying socialism from utopia to science is precisely what failed. Wanting to demonstrate scientifically the passage from capitalism to socialism is like wanting to scientifically demonstrate the passage from the hell of this world to the paradise of the next world. Either you believe it, or you cannot do anything about it. Faith is a powerful active virtue. Don’t we say that it moves mountains? All that is consented to you is to pass from an ideal utopia to a utopia as real as possible. Marxism is not a philosophy. A philosophy applies to everyone. And Marxism cannot hold for everyone. Marx’s powerful work is an essential instrument of knowledge and struggle within this specific economic, social and political form, to be used by an alternative and antagonistic camp. There is no philosophy of practice, there is a thought of action: political thought which accompanies, follows, directs, orients social action. A philosophy of Marxism can only be an ideology. And it’s not even that bad for it to be so, a long as you are aware of it. This is not a false consciousness, but a different consciousness, an autonomous ideological narrative, free with regard to the world and time as they are, potentially hegemonic in relation to the dominant narratives.

“Vision” is essential, an imagination that makes you perceive, by those whom you want to involve in the decisive struggle, that your project is in this world, but does not belong to this world. Not diversity, but otherness. A partisan spirit as the true freedom of spirit. I have sometimes said that if, instead of the Theses on Feuerbach, Marx had written “Theses on Kierkegaard”, there would have been another theory of Marxism, and another history of the workers’ movement. The elective affinities between these two contemporary personalities seem to me as remarkable as they are unknown. It would be fascinating research work for a young researcher to deepen their scope.

I can only allude to it here through the explicit reminder that Karl Löwith makes of it in From Hegel to Nietzsche, who in the dissolution of Hegelian mediations, rightly sees the emergence of the two radical positions of Marx and Kierkegaard, the first as a critic of the capitalist world and the second, of worldly Christianity. I quote: “Shortly before the revolution of 1848, Marx and Kierkegaard expressed their will for a new decision, and what they said still has all its value today: Marx did it in the Communist Manifesto (1847) and Kierkegaard in a Literary Review (1846) … in a common desire to destroy the bourgeois-Christian world. For the revolution against the bourgeois-capitalist world, Marx relied on the mass of the proletariat, while Kierkegaard, in his struggle against the bourgeois-Christian world, placed all his hope in the individual. Thus it is agreed that, for Marx, bourgeois society is a society of “isolated individuals”, in which man is torn from his “specific nature”, and that for Kierkegaard current Christianity is reduced to a Christianity popularized for the crowd, where no one is any longer the disciple of Jesus … Marx positions himself against the wrenching from oneself that capitalism represents for man; Kierkegaard against the self-wrenching that Christianity represents for the Christian.” “Marx submits to a radical decision the external relations of existence of the mass, and Kierkegaard does the same with the internal relation of existence of the singular in front of her/himself”. “Existence is no longer for one and the other what it was for Hegel, the simple ex-istere, essence that makes itself existence. On the basis of an equal rejection of the rational world of Hegel, they once again separate what he had gathered. Marx opts for a ‘human’ humanitarian world, and Kierkegaard for a Christianity outside the world, which, ‘from the human point of view’, is ‘inhuman’ … They understand ‘what is’ as a world determined by goods and money and an existence penetrated by irony and ‘its alternative’, boredom. The ‘kingdom of the Spirits’ of Hegelian philosophy becomes a specter in the world of work and despair … The Hegelian task of history represents for both of them the end of previous history, which precedes an intensive revolution and an intensive reform … In place of Hegel’s active mind, there is a theory of social practice in Marx and in Kierkegaard a reflection of inner action; each knowingly refusing to devote themselves to pure theory and to make it the supreme human activity. However far apart these two thinkers are, they are nevertheless closely linked in the common attack on contemporary reality and in detachment from Hegel. What distinguishes them also confirms their affinity…”.

“Theory of social practice”, “reflection of inner action”, two highly human dimensions, closely confused, which constitute the provisional concrete utopia which is the only one conceded to us today. Our time is that of the “in-between”, a long age of restoration, advancing with the seven-league boots of innovation. The sentence: the old world dies and the new is just born, is no longer meaningful. On the contrary, the old world is revived in completely new forms. Thus, democratically the people are pushed aside and the individual liberally no longer attains the status of person. The theological-political utopia is once again pushed back in interiore homine. Enemy exteriority and friendly interiority will shape a criterion of “inactual” politics. Please note that it should only be cultivated as a struggle. Young Hegel already knew this, before reconciling himself, as it is sometimes necessary to do, “with the weight of reality”. When, in August 1796, once all the passions were extinguished, he dedicated to Hölderlin this example of poetic thought that is the poem Eleusis, both had already raised in Tübingen the tree of freedom, in homage to the French Revolution: “Never let go to sleep the laborious breath of mortals … / then the joy of finding stronger and more mature / the faith in the promise of other times … / (der freien Warheit nur zu leben) live only for the free truth / and never compromise with the norm / which reigns over opinions and feelings.”

Work by and about Mario Tronti can be found online at, and Riccardo Bellofiore’s and Massimiliano Tomba’s introduction to italian workerism remains useful, along with the more extensive work Storming Heaven, by Steve Wright.

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