From 21 to 23 October the second meeting of the Transnational Social Strike Platform will be held in Paris. The meeting takes place three weeks after the strike of Polish women against the proposed reform of the abortion law and few months after the French great uprising against the loi travail and its world. In both cases the strike went beyond the institutional practice of the trade-union initiative. It was politically more meaningful than the temporary interruption of a relationship of power in the workplaces. The first, great French strikes against the labor bill pour out into the streets and the squares millions of people, giving voice to the refusal of a brutal domination on the present and the future of entire generations. The strike in France was social because it connected segments otherwise hit by the loi travail and the European austerity. Polish women showed that the strike as a watchword keeps its powerful appeal even outside the workplaces. The claim for free abortion did not simply produce great demonstrations and a stretch on the restrictions imposed on the right to strike. It redefined individual positions and challenged sexual and social hierarchies, establishing connections that led so many women and a lot of men to take a stand against a way of governing which doesn’t involve only polish society. The strike in Poland was social not because it defended a less or more universal right, but because the revolt of a part of society asserted a difference against a general order of social and sexual relations. From East to West, in these last months, crossing borders and in radically different contexts, the strike was the condition that allowed men and women, precarious, industrial and migrant workers, to take a stand directly and in mass against the political conditions that establish their oppression and their exploitation.
From more than a year the Transnational Social Strike Platform has been operating in order to turn the strike into an opportunity of political articulation of the differences that characterize contemporary living labor, and therefore a chance to establish a shared perspective for the subjective refusal of the conditions of our oppression. For this aim, the strike must be logistic, industrial and metropolitan. These are the ways in which women and men, precarious, migrant and industrial workers clash with the accumulative wrath of capital and the coercion of social reproduction. These are the three frontlines where every day individual and collective strategies of insubordination clash with the ones enacted by the European governments in order to assure the domination of capital. In this field of tension, in which the mobility of labor faces the mobility of capital, the impact point can always change, as well as the subjective behaviors of precarious, migrant and industrial workers. Therefore, in each one of these junctures the strike can take a different shape, remaining however a practice to escape from the daily coercion and to hit the different faces of the collective master, to widen and deepen the connections with all those who share the same conditions of life and work. The distinction of the strike in three different dimensions (logistical, industrial and metropolitan) is thus directly political, because it highlights several forms of the social labor, grabbing them in their different impact points with capital. This distinction doesn’t involve only the category of waged work, but aims to give expression to specific and essential positions within social production and reproduction as a whole, from that one of women – who, with their domestic work, are forced to bear the contemporary transformations of welfare and its neoliberal reorganization of sexual hierarchies – to the one of migrants, whose work is governed by a political authorization and by an institutional racism that impose them duties that other workers merely don’t have. On the other hand this confirms the practical failure of universal categories that claim to unify works by identifying a more or less diffuse character, as it may be their content of knowledge. Fragmentation and isolation are the fundamental characteristics of contemporary social labor. Knowledge, direct command, the overall organization of labor constantly aim at this result. It is up to us to produce the political force that can oppose this reality.
Logistics, industrial and metropolitan do not refer either to the combination or the coordination of three different sectors (sorting and transport, production of goods, services), or, consequently, to three different types of strike (the interruption of traffic and flows, of the assembly line, of the order of cities). Logistics, industrial and metropolitan are three modes of capitalist organization that we need to be able to attack simultaneously. Logistics is not simply the service infrastructure for sorting raw materials, means of production and goods in the global market. It is the logic that capital assumes in the process of its constant globalization. Capital discovers logistics when it needs to chase profit and when it has to find new labour force to exploit. Its tireless search produces the conditions of exploitation inside hubs and ports. However, carriers, dockworkers, sailors or delivery workers are not the only ones to face and rebel against logistic command. The latter extends its grip on all the organization of labor. What for capital is the spatial extension of its domination, for us is an unceasing intensification of exploitation. It is the constant rating of what we do, it is the bar code that brands us in order to make us compatible with the other commodities, it is the algorithm that fractions our work indefinitely. Logistic is for us an «uberized» work that turns us into seemingly independent entrepreneurs, fractions of labor commanded by the immanent logic of capital. Logistic is for us capital’s claim to detain an absolute command on time in order to ensure the unceasing movement of its global traffics. Against this absolute time, social strike is then logistic because it does not only disrupt the flows, but also because it is the refusal of the unceasing theft of time and of all those procedures that discharge on the single worker the social costs of production. Logistic strike happens in precise places, but above all it happens wherever the rejection of the full and constant availability of one’s own time manifests itself.
The logistic command employs its own strength in a particularly merciless way on the industrial work that for us, and by empirical evidence, is not a leftover. During the Brexit and the struggles against the loi travail someone found out that the working class still exists. The white American working class was held responsible even for the ascent of Donald Trump. Far from the myths of the right and the left, we simply register that the manufacturing work is not disappeared. Someone materially produce commodities not only in the far Chinese or Indian factories, but also in Europe. Not by chance, the former meeting of TSS was held in Poznan with the aim to establish contacts and connections with those places where the industrial work is outsourced or where is coming back after its journeys in the East. What forms of capital do industrial workers have to face? As always, they encounter the harsh law of the factory, in which the logistics command defines the time of profit through the time of the transnational value-chains. They face the reality of relocation, which on one side of the border is used as a threat to constantly worsen the working conditions while, on the other side, leads the way to a new exploitation and to new struggles for the workers. Across and along the borders, the workers’ labor is mobile and precarious, with no certainty and with minimal insurance, if any. On both sides of the border, the mobility of capital requires a systematic intensification of the time of exploitation. Industrial strike, then, means to interrupt this time, challenging the source of profit, but also the social isolation of the factory. For the industrial work – more than ever – the strike means to establish connections that will combat the idea of the industrial workers as a perpetual social surprise.
The industrial workers are not outside of the metropolitan space. Together with the service and the high-tech service workers, they give shape to a conflictual geography, where social production and reproduction – insofar as they do not coincide with the boundaries of the city – establish a systematic and unbalanced connection between different figures of the living labor. In the metropolitan space, a multitude of workers and employees has the opportunity to meet the political face of the capital, one that administratively forces them to suffer their condition. In this space, welfare has no longer the function of producing a relative equality among citizens, but it is solidifying differences between different figures of the work, by assigning them functional positions as much in social reproduction as in the government of mobility. In the metropolitan space, in exchange of wage or rather for free, in schools, in hospitals or at home, women provide the general conditions for the reproduction of a work force that is transnational, even when it can be promptly located. In metropolitan space migrant labor is governed by European, national and local laws, purporting to make it a separate segment of the work force and fully available to exploitation. Metropolitan space is therefore a space of movement in which the precarious in a Spanish call center, the workers of a textile factory in Poland, domestic workers, the porters of a French goods depot, the sailors of a cargo docked in Piraeus, the migrants forced to work for 1€-per-hour wages to pay the price of entrance in Germany can recognize themselves as equals, despite all the differences of their works and their lives, starting from the refusal of the political and administrative conditions that force them to subordination and exploitation. In the metropolitan space the different jobs can go beyond the wage coercion, beyond the hierarchies that accompany them, against the political forms which authorizes them. The strike is metropolitan because it gives voice to the refusal to be the fragments of an order, going over the same differences imposed by work. The metropolitan strike is a strike against labor and the divisions which it imposes. Strike in the metropolitan space means to pay back to capital its fragmentation as a common project.
For all these reasons, the three dimensions of the strike cannot be separated. The logistics, the factory and the metropolis constantly refer to each other. They are tangible signs of the mobility of capital and of the opposite and unruly mobility of millions of men and women as well. It is not sufficient to lock a hub of distribution to sabotage the profit circuits, when the logistics infrastructure is able to adapt in times increasingly rapid reactivating its flows. It is not enough to stop production in a whole industry on a national scale, when a segment of that production will continue to operate across the borders and within each factory figures of labor intertwine, not falling into a single category. You cannot imagine a figure of labor that is hegemonic and able to bring politically together all the others, when the work of an Italian creative or a French engineer depends on the production of microchips in the dorm factories in the Czech Republic or the domestic work of a migrant woman. Therefore, the logistic, industrial and metropolitan strike is social because it turns the global connections of exploitation in a constant and systematic communication among the different segments of social production and reproduction. The social strike is not a general strike, whose aim is to interrupt production in a single moment through the simultaneous and confederate action of different categories of workers and professions. The strike is social because it connects subjective experiences of insubordination against labor that otherwise would not communicate. The strike is social because it creates a level of communication that did not exist before. The social strike connects the different times of the mobility of the living labor. The social strike hunts the apparently quiet dreams of capital and European governments.
We believe that this is the bet of the Transnational Social Strike Platform. It can simply be neither a network nor a coalition, even a European one, of different parts of social movement, or the sum of their different claims. It is a process where the refusal of the logistic, industrial and metropolitan oppression that already crisscrosses Europe in a fragmented and unconnected way, can recognize a common political direction. To find out common claims – that is a European minimum wage, a European welfare and a European unconditioned residence permit – is therefore necessary in order to identify the points of impact against capital, to affect the time and the space where it tries to impose its domination, but also to attack the neoliberal politics of the European Union that systematically establishes the political conditions of that domination. Through these claims, the separation imposed by capital among distinct segments of a value chain that goes from Poland to France, or from Germany to Greece, can be overcome, while single and specific moments of insubordination can be linked in a common process. To demand a European minimum wage means both to clog the logistic strategy of capital, which moves across the borders running behind a cheap labor force and to impede the blackmail imposed in the factory of mobility. To conquer a European welfare means to refuse the hierarchies of the metropolitan space and to oppose the sexual division of labor which supports social reproduction on a transnational scale. To obtain a European unconditioned residence permit means to refuse the full availability to labor which would be otherwise imposed to millions men and women, who are forced to renounce to decide over their own lives in order to have the possibility of remaining in Europe. Against the presumed opposition between an isolationist and renegade East and a West in search of redemption, these claims aim to establish the connections in virtue of which the already existing daily insubordination could be turned into a collective, social and transnational process where we can refuse the oppression that divide us. The European social strike is possible. We can contrast the time of capital and its government with our times. We can have the courage to dare.