Lotta Continua and the Italian housing movement in the 1970s

Ancient history or present challenges?

Keywords: housing occupation, social movements, Italian history, anti-capitalism

The revolutionary group Lotta Continua (LC, Continuous Struggle) was founded in Turin in 1969, following the encounter between student protests and a labour movement fuelled by massive northward migration from southern Italy. One year later LC was growing into a nationwide movement and launched a programme aimed at unifying the proletariat, and the lumpenproletariat, whose protagonists were recent southern Italian immigrants who could hardly find accommodation worthy of the name. In contrast to left-wing organisations that prioritised factory-based struggle, LC made housing occupation the linchpin of its strategy between 1970 and 1971. Housing occupation was tied to the establishment of kindergartens, clinics and “red” markets; these were not intended to provide social services, however, but rather as sites of schooling for the proletariat. By investigating the main housing occupations between 1970 and 1975 through archival materials and the memories of former housing occupation movement tenants and activists, this article focuses on the link between projects of anti-capitalist transformation and concrete practices of solidarity and struggle, as well as how these struggles were repressed. It also reflects on the relationship between past and present housing struggles.

Monica Quirico is a free-standing historian; her main research field is the history of the Swedish and the Italian labour movements as well as anti-capitalist struggles and theories. On these issues she has published several books and articles (forthcoming: Frontier Socialism. Self-Organization and Anti-Capitalism, together with G. Ragona, Palgrave 2021). She has been appointed as Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary History, Södertörn University (Stockholm).

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