Antonio Negri

fiat::individui radicali – compagni sociali

Excerpts from the video interview*

fiat lux

Fiat boils down to a fundamental principle of existence itself. God didn’t quit on the seventh day. We ourselves have kept on working ever since that seventh day, or else we’ve taken up the role of witnesses, and we continue to construct this world. If things still remained the way God left them on that last and seventh day, that would make for quite a mess! There was much more evil than good, and the world was created in the sign of evil, rather than the sign of good: the little bit of good which we find in the world we have created ourselves.

FIAT: Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino

I'’m not at all sure that fiat is necessarily the Fiat Motor Corporation – the Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino. That Fiat has nothing to do with any fiat lux. It was simply the protagonist of an important moment in the industrial development of Italy. And that moment has in fact remained unresolved and has left a lot of gaps behind it.

Personally, I have no further interest in this sort of industry. Or rather, the important thing is not that I myself have no interest in it, but that it no longer matters to all those people whose work is based on a project aiming for a transformation of industrial structures on terms that go beyond a Ford ideology, or the fundamental premises of the modern age.

Ideology, technology and society

Neither ideology nor technology can be thought of as objective. Ideologies are in fact an attempt to condition or pre-shape reality. Technology is something that humans have created and it incorporates the fact that it can be commanded, as well as the room to allow for self-expression. What we have to do now is a question of pushing back command structures, and of further promoting expression.

I myself grew up at a time when work still was a matter of producing merchandize with essentially physical tools. It used to be said, for example, that workers have calloused hands. So for me it was quite a shock, in the 1970s, to see these things starting to change dramatically.

But the most important thing that began to change was that the new work force, the younger workers that Fiat was starting to hire, were no longer immigrant workers from the south, those workers who had practically been peasant farmers before being sent to look for jobs in the factories. The new work force consisted of the children of that first generation of Fiat workers; all of them had gone to school, they all had high-school diplomas, and many had gone to college. There had been a real anthropological shift, and the change was quite profound. So, yes, this new generation of workers had no other choice but to wage the battle for better salaries – since money is something you have to have, you cannot live without, a perfectly basic survival tool – but they were starting to put up a fight for more than that. They were beginning to understand that machines could be made in different ways; and that money was more than just a question of basic survival. Their need for money was also a question of being able to continue to study, of a continuing process of education. The dreams and desires of these people had changed very profoundly.

In the 1970s workers were asking for pay raises, for better salaries, for a redistribution of profits, for a redistribution of the surplus value extracted from their work, from the time they spent at work. Today it’s clear to everybody that salaries are something that has to do with your training and expectations, with the way you live, with the way you’ll grow old and retire, it's a question of the shape your whole life takes. Everything depends on what you're being paid. And the forms of labour activism take this into account: the struggle grows ever more social, and concerns itself, for example, not only with the problem of pay, the salary problem, but also with the problems of war and peace, of the way we conceive of society, of the ecological future, of everything. All these things become elements of the struggle, and the site of the struggle is no longer the factory, or not simply the factory. You no longer take part in the struggle as a member of a single, smallish group of people. You're also a part, and must be a part, of the struggles of a world-wide multitude.


We, in fact, foresaw the scope of the kind of struggle I’ve been describing: from the Los Angeles battles of 1992 to the Tiananmen revolt, from Chiapas to the France of 1995, and then in general to all the enormous conflicts that came to a head in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and its entire system of command. We took a good deep look at each of these struggles, one right after the next, and were able to grasp a few of the characteristics they had in common. But still we couldn’t see them as only a single thing, even if in fact they all departed from the bottom up, as grass-roots phenomena, and all came about at certain moments in a specifically capitalist development. The revolts of native peoples, the battle against racism, and many other struggles besides, they all seemed directed toward the same goals, and yet didn’t share that consciousness. Their consciousness continued to be fragmentary. But then, in the wake of Seattle, these various movements began to behave as though they were faced with a single adversary, and with a single imperial power. So if you link this awareness to another series of highly important elements, such as the new quality of work and the bio-political dimensions of human activity, that’ll be the point at which we start to grasp the notion of the multitude, and I think this sort of multitude will actually begin to express itself as a true and proper reality. So I was deeply impressed, for example, by what took place on February 15, by those great demonstrations all around the world: that was the very first time since the invention of the 1st of May, which dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, it was the very first time in more than a century that a thing like that had taken place. I mean a small group of friends and colleagues, first in Florence and then in Pôrto Alegre, got together with the idea of some sort of peace demonstration, and the protest spread all around the world, with a hundred and ten million people marching and demonstrating in the streets. The New York Times remarked that public opinion had come of age as the other great superpower, and had found a voice with which to address the Empire. Here was an example of what to expect from the world-wide multitude.

As things grow ever more globalized there’s also more apartheid. The world runs on hierarchies. For as long as there's a system of capitalism, a system of exploitation, it’s clear that the fact that people are ever more equal, or ever more the same – all of us are summoned to production, to the very same degree that we, in fact, exist – and the fact, also, that the social order has become a bio-political order, it’s clear that these things go hand in hand with a system of command that has to function as a hierarchy, with internal hierarchies, global hierarchies, spatial hierarchies, hierarchies of knowledge, of images, of language, of education and finally you’ve got apartheid. We reach levels of exclusion which actually go so far. And that's a paradox. Because all these things are taking place at a time when the world is all-inclusive, and there’s no place anywhere that isn’t a part of it. So inclusion in the world is a life necessity, and any exclusions and hierarchies appear all the more cruel and ferocious.

Politics and the lives we live are by now entirely intertwined. They make up only one great structure. This is the way we live, so we can’t draw distinctions between economics and politics; economics and politics are one and the same thing, and this is the reality in which we have to move.

Radical individuals

I have always tried not to think of myself as a ªradical´, even if the things I have to say are expressions of radical positions; and these, in fact, are the kinds of positions I’ve always tried to promote. I have always tried to be a voice, and thereby to function as an element that acts in accordance with others. So whenever people call me a ªradical´ that makes me a little nervous. Because I’m not at all an anarchist. When you call yourself a ªradical´ you’re connecting up to anarchical traditions which at times assert – in schools of anarchical individualism – that rebellion on the part of the individual is a value in its very own right. I don’t feel that way. Rebellion, for me, can only be collective, and it has to be constructive, or directed toward the building of another world, another reality. If there's something I’m proud of it’s precisely the fact of having always been a radical voice, but not in any individualistic way. I have always wanted to play my part within a group, within the masses, and especially as part of a multitude: these are places where individuality, or singularity, continue to exist, but only by virtue of their being shared by everyone.

Social comrades

It seems to me that there’s something very beautiful in this image of groups of crystals. Because crystals don’t refer back to themselves, since each is a reflection of another. So, there’s a kind of singularity here which has nothing to do with individuality. Individuality is a feature of something that lives on its own, but if I put one crystal next to another, the crystal presents itself as singular only insofar as it reflects its neighbour, and on and on, all the way back to infinity. For instance, when I talk about a multitude I’m talking, in fact, about a group of singularities. These singularities don’t exist in the way that individuals are classically thought to exist, as something with a substance all its own. Here it’s a question of singularities that only exist as parts of relationships, or only insofar as they reflect one another, or place themselves in a mutual relationship. This is what’s absolutely fundamental, the fact that a crystal is also a crystal with an ability to exist in relationships, and not simply to exist for itself alone.

*) Video-DVD fiat::individui radicali – compagni sociali
Interview with Antonio Negri, DV PAL, 16 min, 2003
Recording and editing: Wolfgang Rebernik
Editorial department: Doris Ladstaetter
Production: Thomas Feuerstein
video interview Antonio Negri, ital. Originalfssung (mpeg1 stream, 340Kbit/s)