Within the nationalist scene these days most are well known with the concept of "autonomous nationalists". But what does the concept of "autonomy" really mean? In a series of articles we will try to explain this by getting a better insight in the origin, theory, practice and future of autonomism and its meaning for revolutionary nationalism.
The origin of the autonomous movement can be found in the leftwing Italian movement of the 1960's, in which the unorganized Autonomia Operaia (workersautonomy) developed itself. The basis of the trade union started to rebel against the vanguard pretensions of the Communist Party and its bureaucracy. It was this confrontation between the basis and the leadership that changed the behaviour of the Italian proletariat. To fight the old trade union bureaucracy the workers were forced to organize themselves. But this organisation was not a uniform process, but only accured on incidental moments during concrete events (like for instance the Workers uprise in Turin in 1962).
While this started to develop itself further, the term autonomy got more and more meaning. Not as a symbol for a certain movement, but as a term to indicate a certain form of behavior. There was no concrete organisation, but the organisation took place on a hypodermic level; like circulating forms of struggle within different factories, who got connected with each other again. With this process the trade union basis became a force force to be reckoned with, that on itself was able to force the trade union bureaucracy to take their basis (the proletarians) serious again. Therefore autonomy represents the "mass-vanguard"; a vanguard that is not made up by individuals, but which arises on the basis of specific battle experiences. In this no organisation structure is imposed from above, but it grows "wild" in the process of the struggle itself. Violence and direct, frontal confrontations against the bureaucracy and the State were seen as a necessary means of action.
In the 70's a new phenomena developed within the autonomous movement, the fase of "organized autonomy". In this time the economic crisis had caused several severe confrontations with the capital, that felt itself cornered by the struggle of committed workers and students. This led to a widening of the revolutionary struggle. As an answer to the workersautonomy the politics of capital started to develop a form of democratic-reformism; a system with negotiations, mutual agreement, social partners, etc. This process of social reconstruction had as a goal to increase the production and to neutralize the political strength of the industrial workers. In '73 when the last factory occupation occured, it became clear that the industrial struggle was no longer sufficient enough and that the battle terrain needed a widening. This led towards a renewal of the practice and organisation of autonomy.
To become a factor of interest again the concept of autonomy had to be entirely re-developed. From this a new practice of proletarian struggle arose, which was mainly determined by the movement of young proletarians. These young proletarians came from the poor suburban areas and fully rejected the long-term politics of traditional organisations. They wanted to change their lives here and now and were prepared to fight for this. Their problems were from now on seen as political problems. From this grew a tendency that could be described as "organized autonomy", because it had its own specific struggle perspectives and militant methods of struggle. In this tendency all kind of small movements with their own specific details became connected on a national level, without losing their own specific identity. The cultural sphere became more and more explored and parties, concerts and meetings became the most important places where these autonomous groups crystallized themselves.
At the end of the 1970's different tendencies had developed within the Italian autonomy. On the one hand there was the "organisation project" of autonomy: the idea that autonomy needed an organisational vanguard. On the other hand stood the traditional views about autonomy. They thought that the autonomous movement had to be used as a leverage, to become a new institutional factor which was able to negotiate with the system about new institutional opportunities. Within these two tendencies we find the majority of the autonomous movement, that rejects any attempt to build a Party or institutional movement. These are confronted with the problem of the selforganisation of all movements of all social layers. How do we realize a massive counterforce if the earlier mentioned alternatives are rejected? The answer must be found in the new experiences of the autonomous movement. The autonomous movements counterpractice can be seen as by the movement produced "micro-machines" (free radiostations, free spaces, assemblies), that undermine and destroy the "macro-machine" of the State. The power of the autonomous movement is found in its mobility and dynamics; in the eternal ability to expand its practical, political and cultural power.