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“A Laughter That Will Bury You All”: Irony as Protest and Language as Struggle in the Italian 1977 Movement

Abstract

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the Italian “1977 Movement” in its conflict with the grey, humourless political system was its use of irony to ridicule its opponents. Irony was central to the identity of the movement and its cultural and political break with the institutional old and vanguardist new lefts. Its use, particularly by the “Metropolitan Indians”, the transversalists and other “creatives”, marked a social revolt by mainly marginalized young people, who invented a new political counter-culture based on linguistic experimentation in circumstances far from the optimism of 1968. The paper, based directly on primary sources from the movement and on interviews with former participants, reassesses a movement usually characterized as “violent” by Italianist social history. It concludes that the movement's “ironic praxis” contributed to a fundamental change in Italian society in the late seventies and has influenced the political style of contemporary alter-globalist and anti-capitalist movements.

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This article is based on a paper, “The End of Politics: The 1977 Movement in Italy”, presented at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Modern Italy, London, in November 1997; and also on ch. 6, “Youth Counter-Cultures and Antagonist Communication: ‘Creative Autonomia’ and the 1977 Movement”, of my unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Autonomia: Movement of Refusal: Social Movements and Conflict in Italy in the 1970s (Middlesex University, 2002). I am indebted to Enrico Palandri and Ferruccio Gambino for sharing their experiences with me and for providing valuable insights through in-depth interviews. I thank Franco Berardi, Bob Lumley, Nick Dyer-Witheford, and Autonomedia for providing permission to quote. I also thank Laura Corradi, Gavin Grindon, Alejandro Suero and Steve Wright for their comments, corrections and additional sources. Finally, all translations of quotations from Italian and Spanish texts are mine, as are any errors. The first part of the title is taken from the title of collected ephemera of Proletarian Youth Circles movement and is a wordplay on an old anarchist slogan, converted into “It will be a risotto that will bury you all”, Circoli proletari giovanili di Milano (eds), Sarà un risotto che vi seppellirà (Milan, 1977).
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International Review of Social History
  • ISSN: 0020-8590
  • EISSN: 1469-512X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-review-of-social-history
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