The huge Spanish mobilizations in 2011, the coup that broke the dream of the Greek OXI in a night of July, the declaration of the state of emergency in France, the agreement between the EU and Turkey for the management of borders impose democracy as a rallying cry among the European movements. Many invoke it in order to restrain the neoliberal policies of the EU. In different contexts and at different levels – local, regional or national – others maintain that going back to the practices of the electoral competition could be a chance of political initiative, in order to give voice to all those who have undergone the austerity measures and the effects of its normalization. Also on the European level, although elections are far away, DIEM25 wishes to be the representative expression of a wider – and quite generic – aggregate of citizens and social movements to whom it appeals. The Spanish experience recommends to be rightly realistic, though, inducing us to recognize that democracy is not just the occasion to wage a war of movement, but it structurally encompasses also a long trench warfare within or at the threshold of the institutions. It would be a political mistake to quickly get rid of this democratic enthusiasm that intends to draw a continuous line in space and time from Podemos to Bernie Sanders, via Paris and the European borders. We are interested in the fact that this enthusiasm realistically registers the existence of a halt in the political initiative of the movements, and that it stems from the awareness that being tied to usual practices is definitely not the premise to remove that halt. On this ground we do not have any lesson to give, because we face daily these difficulties in our political practices on the transnational level. At the same time the reproduction of practices of daily resistance, no matter how diffuse, on a small scale is not sufficient per se to gain some shares of social power or even to increase the ones that are somehow obtained. Yet, we should ask ourselves: can the rallying cry of democracy give voice to the demand of emancipation of industrial, precarious workers and migrants who inside and outside Europe must face daily exploitation and oppression? Can a democratic struggle engender a political centralization able to solve the actual fragmentation and the lack of communication between the many practices of the movements? Can the promise of a different democracy be the benchmark for the daily practices of the real movement that goes through and overturns the European political space?
In order to answer to these questions we should start from a paradox: democracy as a ground of political mobilization has been actually invoked while global dynamics are determining the crisis of democracy as a government. This crisis, however, does not consist in a democratic deficit as it is reported by many in order to point out the urgency to give greater expression to the will of the people against the authoritarian policies of both national and European institutions. Today in Europe there is certainly a problem of contraction of the democratic forms, but the crisis of democracy is much more profound. Democracy is in crisis because its normal mode of operation does not succeed anymore in «capturing» the subjects that should legitimize it. This capacity reached its functional peak when it could operate at full speed in the nation-State, through the connection between labor and rights, namely through the movement of inclusion, of integration, of citizenship. Democracy was certainly a battleground, thanks to those who have advanced the claim to be democratic against democracy, that is to broaden the scope of inclusion: the labor movement, women’s movements and the black people’s movements, i.e. the movements of all those who had been excluded from democracy or included in subordinate positions. However, it was exactly the inclusion mechanism that made democracy capable of mediating and ruling the conflict without deleting, but just countervailing, the social relations of power. Now this capacity of mediation and compensation has fallen apart: not only because the role of the State is reconfigured within a constellation of powers and institutions that act globally, but also because democratic governments have broken the connection between labor and rights, replacing it with complex hierarchies that can no longer be deciphered through the democratic logic of inclusion and exclusion. Migrants – who bring into being a movement that is external to the structure of the national democratic State – show in the clearest way the crisis of the democratic government. This crisis, however, is unexpectedly overshadowed by those who think that the «refugees emergency» can be resolved at the border: to locate political practices at the border means to endorse again the logic of inclusion and exclusion of citizenship. It means to believe that the gap between the constant occupation of the political scene by migrants and the inability of the movements to act can be filled by the occasional, and once again symbolic, occupation of the media scene. Once more, the European Union and many of its States are desperately trying to present democracy as a government of the borders of inclusion. Those who follow them on this field run the risk of missing the full understanding of the democratic challenge, that, we must repeat it, goes beyond the dialectic between inclusion and exclusion. The privilege of the borders cannot be demolished there, where it appears with all its violence, but rather through the affirmation of its political opposite, the movements of industrial, precarious workers and migrants together. Solidarity itself is sometimes conceived of as a contestation of the internal border, thus running the risk of simply filling the flaws of the institutional intervention without ever showing its anachronistic nature. Similarly, migrants’ welcoming can become a kind of substitution of the social democratic government that works beyond its crisis, assuming the existence of a space full of rights which should only be extended. As the struggles of these days in France show, not only those rights are programmatically denied to everybody, but above all every consistent struggle must go beyond their simply reaffirmation. What is happening at the border is only the extreme expression of a process that is pervasively transforming the whole European political space.
Unless we figure an endless march inside the institutions, to think that a process of rights-based inclusion can be relaunched is at least unrealistic, because it is not clear who would be willing to guarantee these rights. What is even more relevant is the mobility of the individuals who should enjoy these very rights. Today the process of democratic inclusion has been replaced by a transnational government of mobility, that is by a production of differences and hierarchies to regiment the capitalist command. It is no coincidence that welfare – the most formidable democratic mechanism of inclusion and exclusion – is now used in Europe to place men and women who move from one job to another, from one place to another within EU borders and against them, in different positions of precarity and forced exploitability. Any discussion on democracy with the ambition to trigger a process of mass politicization must begin from these material conditions. The exercise of political rights is not only a prerogative of someone while others are excluded, but it is surely a static practice, grounded in the small space in which it is exercised, whatever its scale. Furthermore, the transparency of decision-making processes will never be the condition, not even minimal, of the miraculous political awakening of an otherwise passive citizenry. Unless we intend to speak to a generic «public opinion» of the displeased with the prospect to moralize political institutions in order to ensure their proper functioning, democracy must be thought from the position of the mobility of living labor, so that it becomes a space in which precarious, industrial workers and migrants can speak. Mobility is not only a forced condition. Insofar as it expresses in a practical way the refusal of exploitation and oppression, mobility can become the battle-field for a mass politicization.
To practice the democracy of mobility against the government of democracy it is then necessary to ideate instruments of emancipation that are up to that refusal. Those instruments must allow precarious, industrial workers and migrants to assert their social power against the conditions of exploitation and oppression. Therefore, we should definitively break with the universal perspective of a democratic discourse, which arises also when democracy is considered a «government of the poor», a «bottom-government», or according to the idea of «representing the society». In order to assume a partisan political perspective – even by forcing electoral dynamics –, we must create the conditions for the protagonism of those who are individually practicing mobility as a rejection of the wage regime and of borders. The massive mobilization for the referendum in Greece and the unexpected mass opposition to the labor reform in France have not taken place in the name of a generic democratic lure or of the chance to overcome the frustration with a vote. For those who took part in it, it has been clear that at the stake there were shares of real social power: wages, income, pensions, services, the possibility to refuse the compulsion to accept any job on any terms. Similarly, even when pursuing the democratic dream, migrants crossing the borders of Europe aspire to the concrete possibility of refusing a fate of war and poverty by seizing power, elsewhere denied, and a part of the wealth that Europe still seems to promise.
In order to practice the democracy of mobility against the government of democracy it should be remembered that the fragments of representation that are reproduced locally will inevitably face their randomness. These fragments may serve the necessary accumulation of social power only in a contingent way. The same applies to the supposed constitutions that should rebuild the overall legal framework, a framework that the mobility of migrants, industrial and precarious workers is showing in all its impracticability. Today a democratic struggle must be a struggle for emancipation, one that is able to express – even when it takes place in the perimeter of a municipality – the demands of backing out of exploitation and oppression advanced by migrant, precarious and industrial workers on a transnational level. A really democratic struggle must create the conditions to push these demands forward. Only in this way a democratic struggle can lay the foundations of a hegemonic discourse, which is really hegemonic only when it is recognized even by those who do not participate directly in its practice. A European minimum wage, a European welfare and income, an unconditional European residence permit for all migrants are the contents of an emancipatory program that takes the real movement which is challenging the material constitution of Europe and disrupting its political space as inescapable horizon of meaning. Thus, the struggle for emancipation must be understood literally: a struggle to obtain measures aimed at reducing immediately the level of subordination and exploitation of millions people.
Between this real movement and our present political force there is a gap which requires us to recognize the need for an institutionalization of the social power accumulated by the struggles for emancipation and, then, the need for a political centralization. However, if this attempt of centralization remains deaf to the demands of living labor, if it runs in an electoral race trying in this way to evade the problem of organization on the level of representation, then democracy will remain the name of our present impotence.