More than the horrors of the battle of Aleppo, it was the pressure of thousands of migrants what finally imposed a fragile agreement over the war in Syria. The weeks spent in negotiating, the more or less explicit blackmails, the unspeakable deals concerning the Kurdish people, the money required and the money promised, the announcement of intervention by the NATO, another unacceptable ultimatum to Greece, this time concerning migrants: all of this seems to suggest that the issue of migrants is played on the borders. But this is not the case, and what is happening around us shows it clearly. It is sufficient to look inside the States and the European Union. After the announcement of an emergency break that would restrict access to in-work benefits for new European Union immigrants, the government led by Cameron together with the UN and the German, Kuwaiti and Norwegian governments promoted a «Conference of donors» in order to face the Syrian «refugee crisis». 9bln € will be added to the 12bln € that the European Central Bank promised to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in order to manage the migration flows outside the borders of the EU. This humanitarian outburst and the proposal of suspending for two years the Schengen agreement on free movement are two faces of the same process. It is not simply a return to national sovereignty: even when the decisions of the sovereign States are unilaterally taken, they have global causes and effects insofar as the process triggered by migrants is global. It is not the «end of Schengen», but its continuation by other means: an overall institutionalization of labour hierarchies aiming to govern the real movement that is radically transforming the European material constitution and institutional arrangement. To be up to this real movement means to politicize the refusal of war, of the regime of wage and of the government of mobility that millions of men and women express everyday by challenging the borders. It is necessary to create the conditions for a political centralization that does not simply coordinate the existing experiences of activism, but also turns the massive presence of migrants into a force able to catalyse the refusal of oppression and exploitation experienced by precarious, migrant and industrial workers within the enlarged space of Europe. The global movement of migrants cannot be reduced to a small local toy, much less a local toy for electoral games in which migrants cannot even take part.
The system of Schengen did never build a «fortress» made of insurmountable frontiers protecting a space of free movement. For years, those frontiers worked as a filter – by selecting the migrant labour force and differentiating its status – and established internal borders that only recently have taken the shape of walls. After all, the emergency break boasts glorious precedents. In 2014, for instance, the British government charged non-EU migrants 150% of the cost of National Health Service. The most striking effect of this measure was that migrant women had to pay up to £ 9000 for a birth. This case is not exceptional, even if up to now only Great Britain went as far as threatening a «Brexit» in order to avoid the so-called «welfare tourism». The Danish confiscation of refugees’ valuables follows the very same logic of the emergency break: «they should pay in before claiming benefits». The Netherlands supports this same idea: there refugees are not allowed to work for more than 24 weeks per year, but are forced to hand over the 75% of their income – that must be paid to the reception centres – to cover the cost of food and living expenses. The welcome systems create a stock of quasi-servile labour force which is bounded to a differentiated status that must be accepted in exchange of assistance and «protection». This is only one piece of the «welfare of mobility» through which the process of financialization and contractualization of social services is intensified: following a mercantile logic according to which all benefits must have an equivalent exchange in labour or money, services are increasingly profit-oriented.
Behind the Danish confiscations – and their obscene evocation of Nazis practices –and behind the British suspension of Schengen there is an overall redefinition of the European constitution by virtue of which precarization becomes both general and uneven. On the one hand, (limited) social benefits are reserved for those who are entitled to a «full» citizenship, in order to compensate the effects of the lowering of wages. On the other hand, when internal and external migrants are forced to pay for those benefits, their wage becomes barely sufficient for their «restricted reproduction». In order to understand what does «restricted reproduction» mean, it is sufficient to consider the limitations to family reunifications imposed by all the European States: this is some sort of reproduction of the worker in his or her isolation, without an offspring that qualifies him or her as a proletarian and without the possibility of turning migration into social mobility. The crossing of borders is institutionally used as a way of snatching the social power that migrations as a mass phenomenon accumulate. This is the aim of confiscation, of the cutting of social benefits and, as for the Italian context, of the transformation of European long-term residence permits into short-term labour visa for those migrants who come from another European country.
Many of the finest interpreters of the desires of capitals have seen very well the indissoluble link between the government of mobility and the regime of wage. From the headquarters of the Deutsche Bank to the think-tank of British economic policy to the International Monetary Fund, a clear political recommendation reverberates: it is necessary to abolish the legal minimum wage – which is regarded as an attraction and an encouragement for migration – and to establish legally lower wages for the migrants who are «welcomed» in Europe. The «borders of wage» which have always crisscrossed the European space – even if they have been never traced upon maps – are not enough. It is not enough that in the Eastern countries wages are systematically lower than in the Northern ones. It is not enough because migration always offers the opportunity to refuse this impoverishment of labour and to look for something better elsewhere. Wage-differential must therefore be institutionally reproduced and granted also within each State of the EU. Consequently, a proper European policy is being built starting from the sovereign and protectionist decisions of each State. These decisions do not necessarily impose a closure of the territorial borders of the nation-State, but also differential openings by virtue of which a sovereign decision of Great Britain will have effects over the regimes of social reproduction of Eastern countries such as Poland, whence the great majority of internal migrants who will be affected by the emergency break comes. Furthermore, this policies will have effects also outside the Union’s borders upon the lives of millions men, women and children who will be forced to subdue to the regime of wage in order to escape war. The money allocated for frontier-countries will not only funds the construction of huge detention centres for the containment of massive and unstoppable flows of persons. The scandal raised by the children-refugees exploited by the big brands of fashion in Turkey is also about transnational chains of exploitation that crisscross the borders of wage. By means of international cooperation and humanitarian measures, a huge mass of individuals is coercively put to work, in order to produce profits that will go back to Europe with reduced social costs, since a part of the management and reproduction of labour force is entrusted to third countries.
The ambition of «democratizing Europe» must necessarily face the global consequences of European policies and the «effects of sovereignty» which are caused by single States but go beyond both their borders and the EU borders. This ambition must necessarily assume that a practical movement of democratization of Europe is already taking place. The so-called democratic deficit is nothing but a missed acknowledgement of the political claim of migrant, precarious and industrial workers. To make their pressure present and alive is our democratic dilemma. If this enlarged European Union is planning to turn millions of men and women into work animals, whose lives matters only insofar as they are put to work, then we must systematically oppose the coercion imposed by the borders of territories, of wage and of welfare. The great part of social movements in Europe has finally recognised that today every political initiative must deal with the mass presence of migrants. This presence is seen as an opportunity to energize activism and solidarity, to generalize the claim for better conditions of life and labour for everyone, to connect on a European scale the manifold initiatives existing on a local level. This is all important, but it is not sufficient to fill the gap between the existing social movements and the real movement triggered by migrants. Their mass presence, which is radically transforming the composition of living labour, is not already a political force to exercise against the new European constitution. Furthermore, it is fundamental to question the limits of a rehabilitation of representation which necessarily excludes migrants themselves. Migrants are the practical critique of representative democracy. In order to «democratize Europe» a change in the political and institutional frame of the EU is not enough, but it is urgent to give voice to the real movement under whose pressure that frame is wavering.
This is why it is necessary to create an organizational transnational space where migrants have the chance of speaking not as objects of welcoming activities and solidarity, or of an impossible representation, but as protagonists of a struggle which aims to subvert the hierarchies that Europe is imposing. This is the only way to turn the solidarity which mobilized a part of society in many European countries into one part of a movement able to challenge the borders and hierarchies of this Europe. Also those movements – such as Blockupy – that in the last years connected different experiences and coordinated the European opposition to austerity policies must deal with this perspective. In this sense the mobilization of the 1st of March – which is only the first step of a wider project and process towards a transnational social strike – points to a clear political direction which cannot be accomplished by a single day of action. Mobility, wage, welfare must become fields of common claims, starting from which new – really transnational – processes of struggle should be launched. Bringing the fight for social power on a European scale; refusing the hierarchies imposed by the borders of territories as well as by those of wage and welfare: this should be the lever for questioning the whole institutional arrangement of Europe and its States, for subverting the power relationships expressed by that arrangement and, finally, for opening unexpected spaces of freedom.