Autonomist Marxism and Workplace Organizing in Canada in the 1970s

John Huot

Autonomist Marxism, from its headwaters in the early 1960s workers’ struggles and Marxist circles in Italy to multiple, diverse social movement/Marxist/feminist spaces in many count-ries, has developed into a significant current in the global anti-capitalist, anti-oppression project for social transformation.1 During the 1970s, a small stream of workplace and community activists in Canada was influenced by the developing Autonomist Marxist (AM) current that flowed from Italy across Europe to the US and Canada.

The goal of this article is provide an account of this experience, focusing on how AM concepts were used to understand working class struggles in Canada and to orient workplace organizing, specifically in the Post Office. This account is based on my own participation as a political activist and as a postal worker. Although based on documents and memory at a distance of 40 years, this account is relevant to contemporary movements in four areas: first, the importance of grounding theoretical development and anti-capitalist organizing in investigations directly connected to the actual struggles of workers and oppressed groups; second, the relevance of the AM concept of class composition to understand the current stage of capital and the class struggle; third, the importance of putting workers’ and oppressed peoples’ struggles, not unions and social movement organizations, at the centre of analysis and organizing strategies; and fourth, how the concept of power relations within the working class and oppressed groups can contribute to understanding the importance of autonomous movements, as well as intersectional movement-building.

To read this article in full, purchase your copy of Upping the Anti here