Italian philosopher and political theorist Antonio Negri, a key figure in contemporary philosophy, passed away at the age of 90 on Saturday. The news of his death was confirmed by his daughter Anna Negri via her Instagram account, leading to an outpouring of condolences from around the world.
The Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), a Brussels-based umbrella group of Kurdish organisations, expressed its deep sorrow over Negri’s passing, highlighting his commitment to the Kurdish cause. In a statement, the KNK praised Negri as a true friend of the Kurdish people, emphasising his unwavering support for the Kurdish Liberation Movement.
“One of the greatest philosophers of both last and this century, he was an avid reader of Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan’s book. He defined Öcalan the ‘Antonio Gramsci of his land. An example for everyone in the world,’” the KNK said.
Negri’s profound influence extended globally, with his insightful writings reflecting a keen understanding of various socio-political issues. His interest in the Kurdish question and his admiration for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Öcalan were notable aspects of his intellectual journey.
Negri staunchly opposed the Turkey’s military actions against the Kurdish people, particularly in North and East Syria.
A life dedicated to thought and activism
Born on August 1, 1933, in Padua, Italy, Negri’s intellectual journey began with his involvement in the Roman Catholic youth movement. He later joined the Italian Socialist Party and pursued Political Science at the University of Padua. Negri’s academic career saw him become a professor of political theory after serving as an assistant at the University of Padua.
His political activism reached its zenith in the late 1960s and early 1970s when he co-founded ‘Potere Operaio’ (Workers’ Power) and later joined ‘Autonomia Operai’ (Workers’ Autonomy). However, Negri faced legal challenges, including accusations of links to the armed organisation Red Brigades and involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro, former prime minister of Italy.
Sentenced to 30 years in absentia in 1984, Negri spent four years in prison before being released after being elected as a Member of Parliament. He sought refuge in France but returned voluntarily to Italy in 1997 to serve his sentence, which was eventually commuted, leading to his release in 2003.
Negri’s collaboration with Michael Hardt resulted in influential works such as ‘The Labor of Dionysus’ (1994) and the international bestseller ‘Empire’ (2000). In ‘Empire‘, they argued that a new global sovereignty, surpassing nation-states, had emerged after World War II, reshaping the dynamics of class struggle.