The Working Class Goes to Heaven

Final Friday Film Series
a continuation of The Anti-Bourgeois Film Series

La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso
Italy, 1971, 125 Min
CAST Gian Maria Volontè, Mariangela Melato, Gino Pernice, Luigi Diberti, Donato Castellaneta, Giuseppe Fortis, Flavio Bucci, Ezio Marano, Adriano Amidei Migliano
MUSIC Ennio Morricone

If this Italian drama were any less well told, it would come off as a pure union propaganda piece. Instead, it is a worthy film for the director who made the acclaimed film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. In any manufacturing situation, it simply doesn’t pay to be the fastest and hardest working person on the assembly line. In the first place, you probably can’t keep up the pace you’ve set. In the second place, you make all your co-workers a) look bad and b) have to work harder; they will not thank you for this.Lulu Massa (Gian Maria Volonte) is a highly productive worker at a factory paying piece work but is disliked by his colleagues as his efficiency is used by management to justify their demands for higher output. While employees are told to care for and rely on their machines, they see radical students outside the factory campaigning for higher pay rates and less work. Lulu lives with Lidia and her son. He puts his lack of interest in sex with her down to the pressures of the job.

Lulu loses a finger in a work accident, which the workers blame on the faster times. Shocked, he adopts the students’ analysis and takes strike action to end piece work, against the unions’ policy, which is for simply an increase in piece work rates.

During that time, he visits a colleague who shows him not only the error of his own ways, but the horror of his whole working situation. When he goes back to work, Massa tries to organize a union.            –adapted from the allmovie guide, 2011is

Tales of the 1%: The Organizer

In turn-of-the-twentieth-century Turin, an accident in a textile factory incites workers to stage a walkout, which becomes a long strike, developing into an occupation. The capitalists summon in the army. The organizer (Marcello Mastrioanni) rallies the workers, converting fear into strength through collective action.

The Organizer is a dramatically political statement from director Mario Monicelli. More commonly known for lighter films like Big Deal on Madonna Street, Monicelli created an expression of the necessity of collective action that is both gritty and entertaining. In making this period piece about a factory strike in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Turin (the rapidly industrializing Italian city that would come to be called “Italy’s Detroit”), Monicelli strove for the utmost realism, casting the film with actual workers and shooting on location in one of the area’s huge textile factories.

“I wanted to show all of that. The truth about what happens in the working world.”
—Mario Monicelli, interviewed in 2006

Discussion with the Capital Studies Organizing Task Force, workers and allies who gather frequently to study the three volumes of Marx’s Capital, in order to be concrete in our analysis of capital and to better inform the class struggles against capitalists and their collaborators.

Reading “Finally Got The News”: 3rd Sessions, Part 4

The 3rd Four-Week Session
A reading group facilitated by Lisa Maya Knauer of The Marxist Education Project and members of Interference Archive

All are welcome to join at any session!

The 70s were a turbulent decade for the left, both in the U.S. and worldwide – from the student protests against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970, through the Nicaraguan and Iranian revolutions.

This reading group, designed to accompany Interference Archives’ exhibit Finally Got The News will explore some of the key liberation movements of the 1970s U.S. through the lens of written documents included in the exhibition, as well as excerpts from publications by the activists and intellectuals who led, chronicled and theorized about them. This is not a nostalgia trip, but an opportunity to critically examine some important and often-overlooked threads of our collective history in order to inform our own politics of liberation in the 21st century.

Our reading will be divided into three four-week sessions, using key protest events as entry points into the larger issues that they embodied.In each session, we will try to put the social movements we examine into dialogue with each other — as they generally were at the time. Often, individuals became politicized through one specific protest or movement, which then opened up an array of questions and issues, so there were a lot of flows of people and ideas between and among movements. Reading sessions will take place at Interference Archive on the Saturdays listed below, from 3-5pm. Please email if you would like to participate, so that we can provide access to reading material. All who pre-register will receive reading materials for the first session in advance.

The reading group is a collective undertaking, and we welcome those whose entry in radical politics came long after the events we are studying as well as veterans of those movements.

Part One: (February 25 remaining session—come join in at any time!)

We’ll start with the Detroit Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM), the role of race in the formation of the U.S. working class, and trade union radicalism as an alternative to business unionism. We will then read about the prisoners’ revolt and brutal put-down at Attica, looking at the naked exercise of militarized state power and the growth of the prison-industrial complex. Saturday, February 25 will be a discussion of the politics, writings and assassination of George Jackson and the aftermath.

Part Two: (March 11, 18, 25, and April 1)

Next, we turn to the American Indian Movement and the 1973 stand-off at Wounded Knee, echoes of which resonated through the encampments at Standing Rock. We’ll then continue to talk about the interaction of social movements and the state while looking at the New York City fiscal crisis, the politics of austerity, grassroots responses, and anti-authoritarianism. The role of finance capital in imposing deep cuts on working people’s lives in 1975 will begin in the second part of the discussion on March 25.

Part Three: (April 15, 22, 29, and May 6)

Thinking broadly about decolonization, we’ll look at how the 1975 Portuguese revolution and the independence struggle Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau provide an opportunity to explore the relationship between colonialism and national liberation. The 1979 Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua opens a window into Latin American revolutionary struggles and the challenges to U.S. imperialism in former client-states. We will then delve into radical feminism and its sometimes uneasy relationship with Marxism and socialism, and we’ll continue our discussion of sexual politics in the gay and lesbian movements.

Lisa Maya Knauer is a lifelong radical who came of age politically in the 1960s and 1970s. She was active in the anti-war, civil rights, women’s, farmworkers support, anti-apartheid and other movements. She moved to New York in 1977 and quickly immersed herself in the New York left. She found the School for Marxist Education in the phone book and joined the Marxist Education Collective, and has been involved with this educational undertaking through its various incarnations, including the Marxist Education Project. In her day job, she is a tenured radical at a public university and does research on indigenous resistance in Guatemala and immigrant worker organizing in the U.S.

The Marxist Education Project (MEP) has been formed as a place to study, and to work to consciously identify what questions we must address and together answer, each bringing to the discussion our diverse locations and experiences within society as a whole. We are confronting great possibilities and great challenges which require that we socially and politically find common ground while embracing not only our own but also each others different needs as our own into one organized emancipatory voice that represents the needs and aspirations of all humanity with social and political programs to begin the remediation of ourselves and our relations to each other and the ecology of our planet. In this first quarter of the 21st Century it has become clear that we as a species have a great challenge and responsibility—to bring together all our different needs and knowledge into an organized and diverse political force that can not only impede the prerogatives of an imperialist capitalism but also start to put in place means for transitioning to different ways of producing while in doing so we take into account all the needs of nature. In the next year we will begin offering classes and events in other boroughs and neighboring cities including Saturday morning sessions in Newark.

Interference Archive: The mission of Interference Archive is to explore the relationship between cultural production and social movements. This work manifests in an open stacks archival collection, publications, a study center, and public programs, all of which encourage critical and creative engagement with the rich history of social movements.

The archive contains many kinds of objects that are created as part of social movements by the participants themselves: posters, flyers, publications, photographs, books, tee shirts and buttons, moving images, audio recordings, and other materials.

Through our programming, we use this cultural ephemera to animate histories of people mobilizing for social transformation. We consider the use of our collection to be a way of preserving and honoring histories and material culture that is often marginalized in mainstream institutions.

As an all-volunteer organization, all members of our community are welcome and encouraged to shape our collection and programming; we are a space for all volunteers to learn from each other and develop new skills. We work in collaboration with like-minded projects, and encourage critical as well as creative engagement with our own histories and current struggles.

As an archive from below, we are a collectively run space that is people powered, with open stacks and accessibility for all. We are supported by the community that believes in what we’re doing.

Admission to the reading group is free to all. Contributions are accepted.