lunedì , 15 Luglio 2024

Create and organize counterhegemony in Europe

Controegemonia→ IT

The 11th of July

See you on July 11. For what? Supposedly, the meeting is not an attempt to compensate other demonstrations that have been not properly successful. So, see you on July 11 to «demonstrate» that the social opposition to the regime of wage will not accept another intensification of precarization, expropriation and austerity. A correct description of the situation does not mean that we know what to do against it. After all, the situation is so awful that it is not so hard to describe it. Therefore, the question is who are we going to see on July 11? To acknowledge that the living and working conditions of millions of people in Italy are at the limits of tolerability and subsistence, or even worst, is not enough. Insofar as this situation is not entirely new, we may ask: why thousands people should consider that date as a politically relevant moment that could change their conditions? Why precarious, industrial workers and migrants should trust a movement which is actually not in a so good shape? Why the Italian and European movements should bet on the movement? If, on July 11, we do not want to see just a gathering of activists, perhaps we should think about these questions now.

Austerity is not over, but it seems that nowadays everyone is against austerity. We may expect that also Mrs. Merkel and the unforgotten Herr Schäuble declare that they never liked it. Nowadays everybody can be against austerity, because austerity has already produced its effects. Like a World War, austerity destroyed human and material resources, violently re-established the positions that natural laws of capitalism claim for all and everybody. Renzi understood very well that austerity produced the devastation of a war, since he is speaking the language of reconstruction with all its hope, great expectations and good sentiments. The understandable and deep desire of ending the war of austerity granted him a mass credit. This is the meaning of the elections in Italy. One can celebrate and rely upon the high percentage of people who did not vote, but nonetheless this remains the meaning of the elections in Italy. It is not true that all those who reach the 40% of votes are like the old Italian Christian Democracy (DC). The difference is that no party today can claim either to represent entirely this mobile and global society or to coincide with the State, without trustable internal institutions, priests, unions and parties – also communist parties – granting a social continuity. It would be better to let this comparisons to the politological laziness of newspapers and TV broadcasts.Since we know that political legitimacy cannot be measured only in terms of electoral consent, we should rather ask: what does it mean for the movements the combination of an ideology of reconstruction and a hard and oppressive regime of wage?

What happens if the former produces behaviors and expectations that turn the latter in something that can be accepted as the price of a greater well-being? What if the time of welfare is postponed again and again in favor of profit? What if the security promised and believed is labor, no matter what the price is? If the context is changing – and the context is changing! – our action cannot remain equal or, which would be worst, indifferent. We do not have a class consciousness that we may transmit to the proletariat who voted for Renzi. Perhaps we do not have enough of it, or perhaps the problem is not class consciousness. We do not have a rage so indifferent as to secure the certainty of our action. The benevolent ghost of the two societies periodically hunts the movement assuring that there is a right part, and that it is ours. A laborious debate and many analysis finally pointed out that precarity is not only a generational fact, that it does not concern only someone, but became the generalized and global condition of labor as such. Today, many analysis developed by the movement after the elections distinguish between «granted» and «ungranted» workers, thus bringing back to the past the discourse on precarity and reorganizing it along the obsolete link between labor and rights, or along the opposition between labor and non-labor.

The voting and vowing Europe

Actually, to think «the system» as something rigidly structured in opposing parts simplifies things. It is true that someone still tenderly believes that «grillismo» is an antisystemic movement, different and symmetric to one’s own rage. Locally, the M5s lost because it presumed to go on with its «holy war» against all the existing evil. On a European level, the project of M5s displays its homogeneity with the worst part of the political system. The so-called euroskepticism of European right wing parties is nothing more than the claim to stop the war of austerity by turning Europe into a State order. Each State in its proper place, the proper State for everybody: honest, ordered, productive and fierce against those who break national, local, social, ethnic or sexual borders.

Instead, Europe should be constantly regarded as the assumption of every class initiative and reasoning. This does not mean that it is enough to mention Europe at the beginning of discourses; this means that feasible initiatives should originate from and return to the European context. Better to let aside those who are absolutely against the representation of the movements in Italy, but are enthusiast when it takes place in Spain as a form of democratic radicalism. At least, Tsipras’ coalition clearly pointed at Europe as the proper field of struggle and, though less clearly, at the unsolved problem of the relationship between movements and institutions. Nonetheless, rather than answering the question, this coalition left us in front of the necessity of building processes and structures that can consolidate power and turn single demands into enduring results, that can translate on a higher level the political expression of labor outside factories and territories. After all, the success of Syriza in Greece – which could not be understood without the mobilizations of the last years, especially in Athens and Salonika – took place in a context of wait and downgrade of the initiative of the movements, showing the complexity of these processes just as Podemos in Spain did. The scope and the problem coincide on the European level and cannot be separated. However, since we do not have – like others – any intention of being represented by a couple of good fellows (about the third, it is better to fall silent), we ask why Tsipras’ coalition had an unsatisfactory result and even in the metropolis, that should be the acknowledged beating heart of social conflict, Renzi’s success was so relevant. Talking with precarious and industrial workers, it was clear that they would have never voted left-wing bureaucrats who, during the crisis, did nothing more than managing unemployment insurances, stages and continuing education courses for them. If and when Renzi will strike this amorphous mass of left-wing parties functionaries and union bureaucrats, perhaps precarious, industrial workers and migrants will do nothing to impede it, even though many others will complain that democracy is under attack. This is class struggle, honey. One race, one face: these are those who made the Tsipras’ coalition in Italy and now are fighting for the crumbs of power that it could grant.

Many things changed and perhaps many things will change: Renzi’s victory is not the effect of the illusion of simple-minds bought by 80€ per month. The new phase of European politics with the probable end of austerity as an all-comprehensive ideological project marks a turning point that we must take seriously. Renzi is not the only one who will practice an hegemonic project which claims to close every space of political conflict, moving from a vision of the future based on the promise of putting an end to uncertainty. The State of the European Union, in facts, intends to establish continuously the basic conditions of accumulation, compatibly with a mobile production, always open to requalification, and regards the social effects of this policy as a price that must be paid. If production is mobile, workers must run behind it. This New Deal does not call for a thirty years welfare. Rather, it turns the promise of full employment into the certainty of full employability. This European project is to be realized through concrete and fast actions, such as the dismantling of unions and an activism of the State, and even more probably of the European Union, as a partial mediator in conflict management which runs the risk of becoming an obstacle also for the initiative of «conflictual» unions. Today European Union is a mobile instrument, that can be hardly controlled and is full of contradictions, but can be nonetheless mobilized in a differentiated way in order to impose blitz that could change durably the balances within the member States. Europe is not so much a predatory super-State, as an instrument that matches up with neoliberal politics, where institutions play a decisive, though not exclusive, role in intervening within rapidly changing contexts. The restructuring of Greece and the European activism in eastern States – that in the last years experienced a constant reindustrialization whose features are immediately global – are the two faces of the same transformation: it is impossible to see the one while forgetting the other, though it is less visible and more complex. European policies are not only the enactment of the will of the market. That is why the European Union, and not only Europe, is a mobile and borderline field of struggle, that we cannot claim to shoot down as if it were a paper castle. From this point of view, the diffusion of euroskepticism runs the risk of accelerating, rather than blocking, these tendencies.


In this frame, national geographies are a weak starting point, if the objective is that of producing an expansive organization, articulated on a strategically global scale, beyond the borders of factories and working places, territories and huge events where a heap of ministers is regarded as the counterpart of social movements, no matter how strong the critique of representation has been. European geography and its transformations are the only possible horizon for the articulation of a counterhegemonic politics up to the transformation we are facing. In this frame, it is necessary to empower the European networks, even though also in the most recent experience they show their insufficiency and weakness. This is also true for the Blockupy coordination, of which we are a part and which cannot be the laboratory of partial organizational paths, that of course are legitimate but run the risk of stopping the expansive capacity of the experiment. It is at stake here the capacity of involving those who did not believe it is politically urgent to practice a European struggle. Blockupy will be really able to be present on July 11 only if the level of the struggle it proposes is acknowledged as an opportunity and a problem, not if it will participate as a network among others.

 This is the moment to move across the places of political activism and movement organizations to overcome their limits. In front of a hegemonic project which is being displayed on a European scale, it is necessary to think and practice a counterhegemony that must be structured along time. This should happen first of all at the level of political discourse by renouncing to seemingly secure formulations and references. If the new European logistic is marked by mobility, if Europe uses and undoes the borders of nation States to organize regional corridors and special exploitation zones, then it is urgent to match up with this level of political and institutional complexity. Within this scenery, whatever coalition – also an open one – and whatever ambition to polarize conflict and realize a social recomposition if does not produce a counterhegemonic discourse will remain a reactive way of conflicting, running the risk of acknowledging the existence of the movement only when the clash with the institutions makes the movement possible.

Practicing counterhegemony is not possible without thinking within a process. Counterhegemony means, first of all, producing a powerful and expansive political discourse, that should recognize that – though neither the European nor the national institutions will solve the problem – they are nonetheless determining in producing subjectivity. What we called the regime of wage (#1#2) is redefining overall the way in which labor will be organized in the next years. When we look at it on a truly European level, in some places the regime of wage highlights a forced precarization which corresponds to the loss of a set of acquired rights. In other places, however, it opens up the possibility of working in a condition far from an everyday stable and measured discipline that nobody is missing, as the high turnover in Eastern European production-sites shows. In other places, again, hundreds thousand young workers begin to experience the European labor market without knowing what we regard as a set of protections under attack. In front of all these processes, the simple demand of basic income is a weak one, which will not change the quantity and quality of the time of those who are every day subject to that regime.

Looking at the new direction that welfare-state is taking on a European level, every demand which moves from poverty and needs runs the risk of being nothing more than a certificate of our weakness and of linking the politics of social movements to the poor ambition of reproducing an impoverished life. The new welfare-state is already becoming a way of governing labor and its mobility, since it is granted through a shrewd and profit oriented management of the freedom of movement within and across the Schengen area. The expulsion of EU and non-EU migrants, a new nationalization of European citizenship, is every day the price paid for social security in the virtuous countries of northern Europe. Therefore, the politics of social movements cannot demand crumbs to national government at the price of new hierarchies. Rather, it must accept the challenge of the mobility of labor.

This means that now more than ever it is urgent to match up with migrants’ struggles within and outside Europe. Not only because the management of migrant labor was and still is the pattern of the government of labor as such on a European level. Not only because migrants were able to fight against the exploitation and oppression regimes imposed by that pattern. Match up with migrants’ struggle means thinking at organization starting from the mobility of the working individuals. It means recognizing that a territorial, local or national dimension of organization is necessarily insufficient when precarious, industrial workers and migrants move all the time from one working place to the other, from a territory to the other, while the global chains of exploitation systematically move across the borders. This is why it is necessary to look for a pan-european dimension of struggles: not simply the sum of local occurrences of conflict connected by a single date or week of mobilization, but rather a radically innovative political initiative which could hit simultaneously strategic places of that global exploitation chains.

 A discourse is hegemonic only when it is acknowledged also by those who do not directly practice it. A counterhegemonic discourse cannot be based only on the description of reality, that is on the repeated declaration that austerity is still there and is continuing to produce devastation. Above all, these effects are only a part of what is changing. What are we going to say, on July 11, beyond austerity, that is after the end of a war that we suffered and which destroyed the lives of millions of proletarian men and women? If the discourse simply says that hope is delusive, it will not be heard. The contrary of hope would be only despair. On July 11, how can we demonstrate that we are overcoming this European reality made of a great deal of hope, and a great deal of despair? On July 11 it will be worthwhile to show that we are able to produce hegemonic practices based on the force of our discourse, at least until when we will be really able to trust the discourse of our force.

After the 11th of July: the move

The move of the European summit on youth unemployment from Turin to Brussels, and from the 11th of July to an undefined date in Autumn, questions again social movements about the necessity of thinking their autonomous initiative on a proper European scale. The organizational path established towards the 11th of July, in facts, remained without a target and does not know what to do with the force it supposedly accumulated. Our point, therefore, is to understand how to realize an organization that matches up with the necessity of going beyond great events, factories and working places, neighborhoods and territories, without being confined in political spaces where every opposition, even though momentarily effective, always runs the risk of being nothing more than the symbolic expression of dissent. To assume the necessary European dimension of struggles does not mean that we have to abandon their territorial dimension. In a globalized society where precarious, industrial workers and migrants continuously move from a working place to the other, from a territory to the other, while the global chains of exploitation systematically move across borders, we must recognize that each organizational path, which remains bounded only to a local or national dimension, is condemned to be politically irrelevant. It is therefore necessary to think about a paneuropean dimension of struggles that could cross the existing borders of the European Union. This does not means to sum up the local opportunities of struggle through a common date or week of mobilization, even though this could be useful and even necessary. It is urgent to build up a political initiative that is not radical for the political behaviors practiced on a certain moment, but because of its capacity of striking the strategic points of the global chains of exploitation, by showing the connections of what would be otherwise hidden or would appear disconnected. This means to produce spaces of political discussion and proposal that would be able to point at the field of struggles beyond the imaginary borders imposed by political and financial institutions. This is what we call the process of construction of a counter-hegemony in Europe, which we believe is our task now. In order to realize it, we should take the opportunity provided by the move of the Turin summit in order to produce a radical move of perspective. In present conditions, radical is the capacity of practicing a level of struggle which is not bounded by the subalternity to a single practice. Radical is the problem of communicating with those who live in Europe the global condition of their own exploitation. Radical is the perspective of involving those who do not believe that the European level is the one claimed by the counter-hegemonic discourse.

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