Radical media, politics and culture.

Toni Negri, "Postface to <I>Futur Antérieur</i>"

"Postface to the Complete Text of the Journal Futur Antérieur (1989-98)

Toni Negri

[On 4 November 2003 the following text was published in Italian and French
on the Multitudes website, as a preface to the e-published archive of the
journal Futur Antérieur. The original text of this article can be found at
Multitudes. Translated by Ed Emery.]

What was Futur Antérieur? A major undertaking, ten years of hard work every
week in order to produce four issues per year, along with occasional
supplements. An expansive undertaking. An expansivity that was not only
quantitative but also qualitative. A good journal is like an octopus,
continually reaching out and pulling in the theoretical and historical
happenings in the environment in which it lives. This journal had a soul -- a
passionate soul which tried to absorb everything in the world around it
which offered theoretical interest, a political choice, an ethical
dimension, or simply a joy of life. The soul of a journal is its radical
determination to give meaning to everything it touches, to build it into a
theoretical tendency, to embrace it within a mechanism of practical
activity. Futur Antérieur definitely had a soul. Or rather, many souls. In
what follows I shall identify some of them -- but identifying these souls
does not mean that they can be pinned down. They were in movement, they were
multitude; the alliances within the journal were always in flux, always in a
process of continual renewal. A conjuncture which changed, which re-oriented

The journal was born out of the emotion of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in
1989. The question which the founding group posed for themselves was: how to
reconstruct -- not simply how to 'refound' -- an experience of communism. All
the founders of Futur Antérieur came out of the experience of '68 -- some
from the French experience, some from the Italian. For the French the post-'
68 experience had been political and theoretical, within the communist and
Troskyiost organisations, within the universities and within the
organisations of the far Left. For the Italians -- almost all of them
political exiles in France -- the problems posed in establishing the journal
were posed in a continuity with the constructive activity of critical
thought and revolutionary activity of the 1970s. As we know, the French '68
was short, whereas the Italian '68 was long and lasted for at least ten
years. The former was an event, the latter a history. Now we found ourselves
together, with different experiences but with a common need: how to build a
new perspective for radical transformation of the world while at the same
time maintaining a continuity with our hopes for communism.

As I said, the journal was born out of the wave of emotion that followed the
fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It's worth noting that all of us who were
involved in the founding of the journal drank champagne on the night when
the Wall came down. What was showing itself there was a betrayal of
socialism: on the one hand Gorbachev's attempt -- to democratise a regime now
completely detached from its revolutionary origins -- had reached the end
of the road. The communist parties of Europe were converting to social
democracy at a rate proportional to the extent of the Stalinism of which
they had been the bearers: those which had been most Stalinist now became
the most social-democratic. In this conjuncture what was important was to
intervene, to break, to reverse the tendency: theory had to be re-invented,
recognising that, while socialism was dead, communism was possible, and
that, if political mediation had run out of possibilities, the common
constitution of the social was at hand. So in that conjuncture, the
conjuncture that coincided with the fall of the Berlin Wall, theory
re-affirmed not a continuity of ideology, but a continuity of struggles.
Socialism had been defeated in the conjuncture, but it left us a heritage of
organisation, of struggles, of a biopolitical sense of the existing world,
which could -- to the extent that we were able to detach ourselves from it --
be proposed as the basis for a reappropriation and/or a construction of new
political means of transformation.

Later the journal was to live the experience of another major conjuncture.
It analysed and documented the process of constitution of struggles, from
those of the immigrants in the mid-1980s, to the upsurge of the social
proletariat of Paris against the first attempts at privatisation by the city
council. The great importance of this period of movement was that, on the
one hand, it opened a window on the conjuncture that was about to begin,
towards the problems that were to characterise the global era of
neo-liberalism; on the other, it expressed and highlighted the new
characteristics of living labour. The analysis of the conjuncture was
profoundly intertwined with theoretical analysis, so that, beginning with
the crisis which intensified between the 1980s and the 1990s, it was able to
make statements about the new nature of productive labour. This was the
great moment of the history of Futur antérieur. In fact it was through the
analysis of the struggles (and certainly not only through sharpening our
critique of ideology) that the discovery of what was new in value and in
living labour became central to our political analysis.

Today we live in post-modernity. A postmodern analysis of the real does not
mean simply analysing what is happening around us in terms of evanescence
and global alienation; it also (and above all) means identifying, in what is
happening around us, a productive matrix which reveals, with the new nature
of labour, the evanescence, the mobility, the precarious existence of the
ontological experience of postmodernism. The struggles of 1995-6 were the
place in which the new capitalist mode of production (postmodern, precisely)
appeared and simultaneously went into crisis. Futur antérieur charted this
process, and was able to describe it in ways that were original and

In Futur antérieur, our attention to the cultural and political genesis of
postmodernity was accompanied by an analysis of the subjects located within
the changing nature of labour in the regimes of postmodernity. Immaterial
labour, precarious labour, the subsumption of affective labour within and
beneath the productive potential of capitalism, the transformation of social
cooperation into a fundamental element of value creation -- all this became a
crucial element of research and theoretical analysis. When these
considerations were added to our detailed analyses of struggles, and were
articulated with the definition of tendencies, then we were within a change
of paradigm: from modernity to postmodernity, from Fordism to postfordism.
In short, precisely at that point where the analysis of the present opens
the way to an analysis of the future.

In Futur antérieur all this was widely understood and jointly discussed.
Furthermore, the discussions about class struggle went hand in hand with a
deep reappraisal of the latest themes in French philosophy. Once, in the
nineteenth century (says Marx), there was a relation between Germany and
France: in Germany metaphysical thought ruled the roost, and this way of
thinking about transformation was picked up by the struggles of the workers
and the proletariat in France. Futur antérieur represented a similar
relationship, but this time between France and Italy in the late twentieth
century: now it was Italy which came across as the place of struggles, and
France which came across as the place for theory. In Futur antérieur Italian
workerism proved itself on the terrain of a philosophy which was innovative
in European terms and transformed the socialist thinking of totality into a
communist thinking of difference. It was here, in this continuity and in
this synthesis, that we saw the powerful emergence of the theme of
precarious labour, and that of citizen income [reddito di cittadinanza]; it
was here that -- albeit in an atmosphere of major polemic -- that new lines
began to develop for the development and refoundation of a postsocialist

What more can I say? Both in the themes that it put forward and in the
polemics which enlivened the editorial committee, the journal lived, so to
speak, on the outer edge of the possibility of still thinking in terms of
socialism, and of the desire to invent communism. The journal lived in a
space between a distancing from of socialism, and communist excess.

Before ending I should obviously say something about the limitations in the
discourse of Futur antérieur. It was characterised by a certain eclecticism,
on a philosophical terrain located between Althusserianism and
Foucauldianism, between critique of socialism and traditions of communism,
between analysis of struggles and various openings in the critique of
ideology. This led to a rather contradictory atmosphere, perhaps
contradictory in a positive sense, but often aleatory, sometimes unsure of
itself and groping in the dark. The journal was postmodern without wanting
to be so, as a result of the internal polemics and the capacity which its
editors had, of [pulling] the debate towards a common point, a shared
emotion, a utopian projectuality, rather than dissipating the complexity,
the radicality and sometimes the contradictoriness of that experience into
destructive polemic. However, it is true to say that there was a degree of
theoretical eclecticism and a very dispersive philosophical discourse.
Another limitation was that the themes of feminism were touched on but not
assimilated, even though -- for the first time -- they were assuming a central
role in the elaboration of a communist discourse. Certainly, Futur antérieur
did publish in France the writings of Judith Butler, Donna Haraway and many
other feminists. The politicised feminist discourse which concluded in the
simple demand for equality of rights was systematically attacked and
demolished. On the other hand the thematic of female difference found in
Futur antérieur a place for its diffusion and a precise appreciation of its
value as a political programme. However, that said, Futur antérieur was not
capable of embarking on a progressive mechanism of absorption of the
theoretical and practical experience of feminism into the themes of
postmodernity. This was a big limitation, and was not much lessened by our
intellectual and political curiosity.

You, dear readers, cannot imagine the level of polemic, not to mention
psychological and physical tension, around the editorial table at Futur
It was a miracle that this group of comrades was able to work
together, coming as they did from the experiences of French Trotskyism post-
'68 and the Italian workerism of the 1960s. But they were able to work
together, and the results were excellent. The editorial board of Futur
worked by asking questions and by asking questions of each other.
A combined operation of research and theory, conjunctural interventions and
attempts at the elaboration of programmes. Futur antérieur broke with the
literary and journalistic traditions of the labour movement and in a strange
but extremely positive manner renewed many things in the project of