The strike of March the 8th has been the first global uprising against neoliberalism. In order to fully understand its meaning it must be seen from the right distance: who looks at it only from its city or from its part of the march doesn’t see what it’s really happened. Its measure, that is actually its political mismeasure, lies in its global character. The political mismeasure stems from the impossibility to reduce it to a ritual celebration. It lies in the several grounds that were invested by a social transnational strike, that redefined the social practice of the strike well beyond the minimal trials that preceded it. The mismeasure is the choice of millions of women that, getting a great number of men involved, mobilize by claiming and practicing the strike. Only starting from this politically and not just geographically global dimension, we can understand the range of claims and practices that take place within it.
Run, run, run Taypp…We’re coming! Tens of thousands of women and men chanted together along the streets of Istanbul, attacking Recep Taypp Erdogan’s «government of just one man». In Turkey women’s March 8 was the rightful heir of Gezi Park, because it became the mass demonstration against a government that is confiscating any kind of liberty. In Plaza de Mayo, more than 200.000 mujeres shouted: Sí se puede! If it is possible to strike against Macri, the women do it! In this way, they catalyzed a protest that so far was fragmented and identity-based. These are two distant episodes but at the same time very close of March 8th. They clearly show that the strike wanted by women produced the first global uprising against neoliberalism. The opposition to this or that government wasn’t reduced to the request of an electoral change or to a protest against the political class. Women know that male violence that oppress them in many forms and that everywhere is brutally institutionalized is part of the neoliberal order and it’s a global fact. Women know that neoliberalism doesn’t invented violence against them, but they also know that it is now time to return that violence to the political conditions of its reproduction, ending to make it an object of generic disapproval. The strike is not just a temporary step back from work, but a political practice that express the radical, full and mass refusal of the conditions in which today life is produced and reproduced. In the light of its mismeasure, it doesn’t aim at local or temporary mediations, but it expresses its power on the immediate plane of the mass uprising. «We don’t wait», the Irish women of strike4repeal claimed, concerning not just to the urgency of abrogate an anti-abortion, patriarchal and murdering law, but also to the fact that the time of the strike, the time of the rupture is now. This is why all over the world March 8th wasn’t just «the first day of the new life of women», but also the first day of a global critique of the existing life that since so long time is with difficulty seeking the ways to express itself.
The strike opened an unprecedented political space where in every part of the world a lot of women and men, precarious, industrial workers and migrants, mobilized themselves to make the strike real and go beyond its evocation, breaking in this way the isolation of their daily insubordination. The huge demonstrations that we saw were strikes. The absence from work were demonstrations of strength and courage. The feminism of thousands of women chose the strike as the chance to express the refusal of their own peculiar condition of subordination, oppression and exploitation, allowing everyone to become protagonist of a global movement. This feminist choice marks and qualifies the tremendous participation in all of the squares of the 8 of March: not just the tide that flooded the metropolis and the big cities, but also the political presence of women and many men in so many different places, where initiatives were unexpected.
There is someone who claimed that this uprising was only able to show the indignation of privileged women, sympathetic with the cause of who can’t strike or freely shout in the streets. There is who repeated again that the struggle against capitalism is something else. Perhaps, something just for men. Instead women, be they precarious, industrial workers or migrants, were in all the squares and take a public stand. They overthrow any victimizing discourse, they proudly transformed their own position of exploitation in the privilege of becoming the subject of insubordination. The strike challenged many borders – those between public and private, productive and reproductive work, workplaces and society – and practically showed that West and East, North and South of the world share a common battleground to be occupied with urgency. The strike spread in every corner of the planet and was able to make clear the tie between the different ways and the different planes in which the neoliberal violence materializes. It also made possible and politically connected a multitude of events, turning upside-down all the rituals of the movement: no staging of the conflict, but a real demonstration of power and of desire to take it.
This strike has showed the possibility to oppose effectively the strategy of segmentation fostered by patriarchal neoliberalism, because it enabled a political synchronization of rather diverse issues. The condition experienced by those women who are supporting popular economy in Argentina is certainly different from the one of migrant women vexed by the residence permit in Europe; of Rojava female combatants; of Spanish precarious women; of those women who are suffering the institutional violence of an authoritarian and patriarchal government in Turkey; of the black women who are fighting against police brutality, sexism and institutional racism in the U.S.A.; of French women hit by loi travail and its world. The women who went on strike were not united by a common and homogenous platform: in Brazil they fell upon a social security reform that rises women’s retirement age, thus extending and intensifying exploitation without taking into account their double workload. In the Philippines women spoke up against the neoliberal agricultural policies and the racist measures of Duterte’s government. In Australia thousands of women educators went on strike in order to oppose a welfare that rests on the systematic cut of their wages. In Poland women and men took to the streets against the alliance of Catholic fundamentalism and progressive neoliberalism forming a common front in promoting daily institutional violence against women. After the huge mobilizations against loi travail, France was filled up with more than 300 actions that the blew over streets of the main cities and saw an unprecedented migrants’ protagonism. Kurdish, Turkish, Chinese, African, French women went on strike against violence, precarization and structural wage disparity affecting them. In Sweden the strike on March the 8th has repoliticized care work, bringing to the streets hundreds of health care workers, from the hospitals and the houses, and inaugurating political initiatives for reproductive health rights and against the precarization of social services. The strike on March the 8th, however, cannot be reduced by any means to the result of the occasional sum of local disputes, of the big coalition of trade unions, political organizations and social movements, of contingent alliances built for a passing deadline. Today we can say that the process that connected crucial political claims globally has been central, giving strength and meaning to each single local initiative. This transnational strike has pointed out the possibility to act on the very scale on which neoliberal and patriarchal violence is deployed daily.
In all the squares where health care, welfare, education, freedom of movement and freedom to stay have been reclaimed, people did not look nostalgically back to the past, to the lost universalism of Nineteenth-century citizenship and Welfare state – something that many countries involved in women’s strike movement had never seen – but demanded something that has never existed. While neoliberalism does not admit any emancipation but the one provided by money, those claims directly attack the political mechanisms of its reproduction. Reclaiming free abortion rights means expecting to overturn the material and symbolic order that wants to make women mere reproductive tools and to oppose the normative regulation of sexuality. Reclaiming care services for kids and elders means to refuse the sexual division of labour that aims to doom women to be the domestic and domesticate servants of the neoliberal order. Reclaiming freedom of movement and asylum to escape from violence against women and men and from the expropriation of their existence means to go against the daily violence of the borders and institutional racism. Reclaiming higher wages means to demand power on our own life. The irreducible partiality of women does not end up in the dream of an indistinct recomposition, but, through the social practice of the strike, it asserts a collective and global force. March 8 delivers a valuable indication of political method: it is not about reclaiming generic universal right or individual emancipation, but aiming at hitting the pillars supporting an entire order of domination and exploitation starting from one’s own partial position, using it as a force rather than as a weakness. This is the lesson of the women of March 8th.
Unsurprisingly, this strike has worried the wardens of order. Well-known columnists, men and women, did lose a chance to shut up and hurried to declare that the strike on March the 8th has damaged women first of all, while the champions of institutional feminism stated severely that work shall never be refused because it gives a chance of social promotion. Nevertheless, after years of oscillation between sensationalist catastrophism and lukewarm receipts of recovery for the world economy, the front pages of all the world’s newspapers had to register the existence of a new demand of «justice». This feminism of the 99%, as the women of March 8 called it in the U.S.A, does not correspond to a generic ideal of grassroots participation or radical citizenship: it allows women who are suffering and had suffered violence and exploitation to rise up and fight back, while it demands to everybody to line up. This feminism makes the strike the political border of this front, while it undermines the remains of a shattered social mediation and mixes up the levels on which it is possible to build paths of organization and struggle. It explodes the alibi of a worthless, usual and ritual strike, as well as of a bargaining strike measurable just in terms of participation, giving to women and men the freedom to back out of an order built against them. The watchword Yo decido launched by Spanish women does not assume the political system as reference, but it asserts itself on the ruins of institutional mediation which neoliberalism has since long blown up with the brutal force of its domination. It is not by chance that trade unions have been the most frightened by women’s strike and – in Argentina as well as in Italy – have tried to limit or even to contrast women’s autonomous initiative to return to the peaceful negotiations on which they are still building their identity and raison d’être. In the meanwhile, women have made the weapon of strike available for those who – from different positions and all over the world – aim to really oppose precarity, institutional racism, and the silence imposed by the neoliberal order.
It is impossible to say to what extent we have actually been able to interrupt every productive and reproductive activity. Yet, in spite of its still experimental dimensions, March 8th points to a fracture, establishes a «before» and «after». It shows the possibility of a process of organization that cannot be reduced to a sum of militant issues and gets rid all at once of every micropolitical hypothesis that is not able to consider the local and global level of the initiative at one and the same time. First of all, the strike has been transnational, and because of that in dozens of countries it has activated a process of widespread organization, where women have been protagonist beyond every political label and militant certification, triggering the action of a multitude of subjects. The political project of the strike has lent and can keep on lending unity to this process of organization, pointing the possibility to go out from the daily impotence in which local movements are fidgeting, and to assert a collective force. This force cannot be reduced to a mere instrument to make deals with this or that government. The same feminist platform against violence that «Non una di meno» is writing in Italy will be able to assert itself only if it clings to the process of global struggle activated under the mark of the strike. After the global March 8 it is no more conceivable to curb the force emanated by the women’s strike in the cage of old languages or in organizational forms that are out of date and showed their own insufficiency. Only a transnational political infrastructure will be able to feed the movement of the strike. As the watchword of «a day without us» keeps on travelling around the world, and it was significantly relaunched by migrants in the U.S.A. as well as in Argentina, after the 8 of March the collective challenge is to consolidate and accelerate the movement of the strike that is haunting the world and that women themselves made a global chance.