The difference between the squatters in that lefties program and Autonomia was that the former were mostly members of the International Marxist Group. So their theory didn’t help them much when they tried to conceptualise their practice. At one point someone mentions that many people in the IMG thought of squatting as very peripheral, the ‘workers’ (very narrowly defined) were going to lead the revolution and the IMG were going to lead the workers. To be fair there were some valiant attempts to work out the relationship between the struggles. There was a great anecdote about the squatters road having a representative in the local T&G union branch. And in practice they seemed to be much more flexibility, there were symbolic crossings of the road between the lefty houses and the primal scream therapy house. Where they really fell down was with their mechanical views of what a revolution looks like. So when they are interviewed at the end they’re more or less all anti-capitalist but some say: “well that’s not really on the agenda anymore”. Which means you can look back and see their lives then as failures or as youthful folly. It is great though that none of them disavowed their past. They pretty much all seemed proud of it.
What the Italian Autonomia movement realised was that what seemed peripheral experiences and struggles at the time were actually moving to the centre. So that when we watch Lefties the most anachronistic thing is their faith in the labour movement. It’s the only thing out of time. Just like when you watch the Sex pistol’s film ‘Filth and the fury’ the punks are from our historical period and the conservative councillors aren’t. Which leads me to something else missing from the program. Without that large squatting scene you don’t get punk.
Like Brian say’s the true value of moments like the seventies squatting scene and other such cracks in capital’s edifice is that they provide space for experimenting with the future and that’s a much more productive way to think of revolution. When you look at it like that their revolution really did change the world. The problem is that capital keeps presenting itself as the ultimate limit to those experiments and that’s where the tension lies; between how to live a life and the very real and actually existing need for fundamental systemic change.