For a brief explosive period in the mid-1970s, the young and the unemployed of Italy’s cities joined the workers in an unexpectedly militant movement known simply as Autonomy (Autonomia). Its “politics of refusal” united its opponents behind draconian measures more severe than any seen since the war.
Nanni Balestrini, the poet of youth rebellion, himself a victim of that repression, has invented a remarkable fictional form to express the hopes and conflicts of the movement. In spare but vivid prose, The Unseen follows Autonomy’s trajectory through the eyes of a single working-class protagonist—from high-school rebellion, squatting and attempts to set up a free radio station to arrest and the brutalities of imprisonment. This is a powerful and gripping novel: a rare evocation of the intensity of commitment, the passion of politics.
Paperback, 254 pages
$16.95 / £9.99 / $21.00CAN
Ebook, 254 pages
From Antonio Negri's new foreword to The Unseen by Nanni Balestrini
Nanni Balestrini's book tells of unseen actors in the class struggle between the 1970s and '80s, particularly in northern Italy, and inside the jails of the Realm. These subjects are invisible because they are elusive, mutating beings in the act of metamorphosis. But what can we say about them today (and also about this novel) if not that rather than being an old, outdated story this is now very much of the present moment, one caught sight of at that time and followed in the course of its unfolding? The republication of The Unseen therefore has the advantage today of telling us about proletarian subjects whose class nature has finally been revealed: the unseen individual of yesterday is the proletarian of today, the immaterial worker, the cognitive precariat, the new figure of the worker as social labour power in the movements of the multitude. Those poor wretches did it, they managed to get through a revolution in the composition of labour and a ferocious political repression and to struggle on from the factories to society and (still productive) from society to the jail (still fighting back). And now where will they go? The elite of the working-class movement who betrayed and dragged the unseen into prison now look around, fearful and unable to build a politics, afraid of losing out if they do not resume contact with that age-old movement of transformation; but that elite will never win! Indeed, regardless of this betrayal by the working-class movement (which has been so serious, especially in Italy), the unseen have gone forward. In the '80s, they were organizing prison revolts and the first autonomous social centres in the cities; in the '90s they organized the Panther movement; in the late '90s they turned into Zapatistas and tute bianche, the anti-globalization movement and everything else that has happened and will happen.