The coda to the activities conducted by Franco Berardi Bifo in the programme Six Contradictions and the End of the Present will feature a screening of the film Comunismo futuro (Future Communism), scripted and narrated by the Italian writer and directed by Andrea Gropplero di Troppenburg. Moreover, both will present the film and subsequently discuss it with the audience.
Bifo says of the film:
“It’s a lopsided film, like the times we live in. Comunismo futuro possesses different centres, making an unsteady, lopsided and off-kilter work, akin to the way contemporary humanity feels without communism.
One centre is 1917, a time in which the communist experiment was attempted under conditions that inevitably led to defeat and tragedy. Another centre is the apocalypse unleashed in recent times with the victory of Trumpian nazism in America and across a significant part of the world. A third centre is, finally, in Berkeley, California, on 2 December 1964, when five thousand students gathered on campus to listen to Mario Savio — leader of a freedom speech movement which grew impulsively — and were supposed to inform the university’s dean about the conversation.
There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels… upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all!
That day was fifty-four years ago. The world has changed, moving in the direction Mario Savio foresaw with horror. The prescience of his words is striking and lucid in the relationship between knowledge and the capitalist economy, the process of submission and the privatisation of the university and research; a premonition in the destiny of the ’68 movement.
Mario Savio showed that the university is now becoming a company, an economic entity built primarily for profit. The relationship between power (military and economic) and knowledge was among the major concerns of students, researchers and intellectuals submerged in the movements around that time. Moreover, this relationship has become absolutely critical in the past three decades of the digital revolution. Mario Savio spoke of the sadness of exploited cognitive workers.
Savio finally invited his colleagues to block the levers, the gears and the wheels of the production apparatus to bring it to a halt. Yet this imagery – levers, wheels, gears, the factory, the old working class – stopped the ’68 movement from seeing the new landscape that was emerging before its eyes: the Net, digital technologies, cognitive and casual labour.
In the crowd that gathered in front of the main university in the Bay Area were thousands of young people listening, participating and breathing together, and indeed, many of them would become advocates for the process that led to the creation of the global network. We can imagine the faces of Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak among the throng of young people. Yet the movement did not see that the most important thing was to take control of cognitive machinery.
The inheritance of 1917 acted as a driving force behind twentieth-century movements, as well as working, in contradiction, as a hindrance to understanding the new aspects which would emerge in the post-industrial age.
Comunismo futuro focuses on past defeat and the present-day apocalypse, where we only see one way out: the advent of communism, future communism”.
Franco Berardi Bifo, November 2017