Mario Tronti kom från en antifascistisk italiensk familj. Han blev aktivist i det Italienska kommunistiska partiet (PCI) under femtiotalet. Influerad av anti-gramscianska arbetet av Gaetano Della Volpe blev Tronti involverad i den första tidskriften för den italienska operaismen - Quaderni Rossi (Röda häften). När Quaderni Rossi efterföljare - Classe Operaia (Arbetarklass) - las ner så återgick Tronti till PCI och gick således skilda vägar från andra från operaismen som gick vidare och bildade utomparlamentariska grupper så som Potere Operaio.
The work of Mario Tronti in the mid- to late sixties is widely considered to be the backbone of autonomist Marxism. It was no longer tenable, he suggested, to approach a transformative strategy without beginning from the lived realities of the working class itself. Rather than workers being thought of as helpless and invariably subject to the whims of capital, Tronti’s inversion, most fully articulated in Operai e Capitale (1966), meant that as far as the subjects and processes to be examined, it was a matter of “class first, then capital.”
Tronti’s contribution meant that capital’s struggle to subjugate labour was understood as a perpetual attempt to subsume within itself the latter’s creative power, harnessing it in the form of innovation. This in turn led to a methodology bent on understanding the varying historical forms that class composition took, so that the latter could act as a guide for class struggle. Tronti’s perspective is illustrated well by the beginning of his text Lenin in England, where he suggested that a “new era in the class struggle is beginning. The workers have imposed it on the capitalists, through the violent reality of their organised strength in the factories. Capital's power appears to be stable and solid.... the balance of forces appears to be weighted against the workers... and yet precisely at the points where capital's power appears most dominant, we see how deeply it is penetrated by this menace this threat of the working class.” Worker struggles forced capitalists to reorganize production, Tronti claimed, meaning that society itself was being reorganized along the lines of factory life in order to enable the control of workers that had revolted within the factory.
This was the moment that Marx called “real subsumption”, leading to the creation of a “social factory”: …at the highest level of capitalist development, the social relation becomes a moment of the relation of production, the whole of society becomes an articulation of production; in other words the whole of society becomes an extension of the factory and the factory extends its exclusive domination over the whole of society”. Another of the vital contributions Tronti makes to autonomist thought stems from this understanding that “labour is the measure of value because the working class is the condition of capital”. If labour has the power to determine its antagonist in the production process, then it “has only to look at itself in order to understand capital. It has only to combat itself in order to destroy capital. It must recognize itself as a political power, and negate itself as a productive force”.
In an era where the PCI and the main labour unions glamorized the strong, virile, productive worker as the force that would lead the left towards progress and communism, the autonomists began to refuse Stakhanov as a labour model and advocate absenteeism, tardiness, and sabotage in the workplace. According to Tronti, passivity then was a form of “organization without organization”. After making such vital contributions to autonomist theory, Tronti distanced himself from extraparliamentary groups such as Potere Operaio and the diffused collectives of autonomia, suggesting through his notion of the “autonomy of the political” that the state was the key scene of intervention for communist politics.
(1966). Operai e Capitale. Turin: Einaudi
Mario Tronti: Lenin in England http://www.eco.utexas.edu/Homepages/Faculty/Cleaver/trontilenin.html
Mario Tronti: Workers and Capital (post-script of the second Italian edition of Operai e Capitale) http://www.geocities.com/cordobakaf/tronti_workers_capital.html
Mario Tronti: The Struggle Against Labour http://www.geocities.com/cordobakaf/tronti_struggle.html
Mario Tronti: The Strategy of Refusal http://www.geocities.com/cordobakaf/tronti_refusal.html