sabato , 24 Ottobre 2020

Rome, Athens and Frankfurt. The insubordination of a continent

Roma Atene FrancoforteItalian

Rome, Athens and Frankfurt are for us parts of the same problem. The three processes that intertwine them are seemingly of different intensity and range, yet the intersections are evident. The terms of the problem are clear. The solution is hard, despite real elements of a counter-hegemony in Europe have eventually showed up. Rome hosted the second Strike Meeting, with the ambitious aim of producing a process of organization able to draw non-random connections between all the forces that on November 14th showed the chance of a political strike, promoted by precarious workers, blue collars and migrants without any institutional mediation. Athens is now the name of Europe, the name that we want to impose on a battleground on which we intend to fight back austerity not only to overcome our past failures, but especially to establish the present and future coordinates of Europe. Frankfurt is the point of arrival of a long path of struggle inside and outside the Europe of austerity and finance and, at the same time, the place of an experiment that can be the beginning of a new and different process.

These three processes are the terms of our problem, due to the different levels of action that they open. The only perspective we are interested in is to carry them on simultaneously, until they become a one and only process. The only program we are interested in is to bring the struggles against debt, impoverishment and the exploitation of labor in the heart of Europe, challenging it in its material constitution. The only solution we are interested in is to take Europe as a chance to face our national and particular problems. Here difficulties start.


The title of the February Strike Meeting report declares an ambition in which we fully recognize ourselves: win the organization. The fact that at the moment it’s less an actual process than a project doesn’t diminish the importance of the challenge. In regard to the possibility of this conquest and thus of what we should gain, the content and the form of this project are still uncertain. For sure, there are some politically relevant campaigns that could help shaping the project of organization. The demand of a European minimum wage of 15 euros per hour, starting from the workers of the social cooperatives, the claim of a fair revenue system, freed from the neoliberal privilege, the entitlement to a minimum residence permit for migrants, independent from their own employment status and income level are the ways to make feasible the slogans we brought in the streets on November:  minimum wage, European income and welfare. They point out an autonomous direction of the struggles, showing the different and specific shapes of precariousness. These three specific segments of work – low-wage workers, autonomous workers, migrants – could orient all the struggles. They don’t cover the whole field of precariousness, but they can point out a direction of the struggles in a phase when the Jobs Act is going to completely erase the distinctions between who is entitled to job security and who is not. There are already thousands of layoffs, and many more there will be, issued by employers that want to enjoy the fruits of the new regime of wage, since it offers the opportunity to cut the cost of work and of its whole exploitation. Thus, we are not dealing anymore with the «organizing the not organizable», neither the appropriation of a space systematically ignored by the big unions. Rather, we are dealing with the involvement of all the workers and the awareness that we are showing a battleground that will encompass all of them both in the public sector and in the private one. Simultaneously, we are dealing with the awareness that the struggles for housing and social services and infrastructures need to connect on this level if they want to have the necessary strength to impose a different model.

This situation shows a clear asymmetry between what we have and what we miss. The ambition to realize a process of organization that doesn’t simply stem from the simple sum of the existing forces and the need to recognize specific differences that cannot be erased, doesn’t mean to accept the stalemate or the cautiousness of the continuing mediations. It means to show courage and clear mind in order to step up and keep up with our bet. There’s apparently a problem of «widespread and mass unionization». Yet, it probably must not be exhausted in the organization of labor disputes, but immediately point to the building of a common framework. We are not dealing with the substitution of a fading union, but with the overcoming of the simple union demands, though we know that at the moment they are necessary. Many times we wrote that for workers the union is a central struggle tactic. Yet, this is a tactic that doesn’t cover the whole problem of organization. This is the reason why it can be a relevant cross-point, but not an overall answer to our organizational ambition of connecting different situations. Despite the evident difficulties of spread and participation, the laboratories for the social strike could be the places where this challenge should be taken. This can be possible if they take charge of carrying on a general plan, avoiding to subordinate any hypothesis of organization to local constraints and to a question of balance between movements and unions, or to resolve it in the continuous mediations between the many and legitimate struggles that everywhere are brought about. We should probably go beyond the division of work between union disputes and political struggles, preventing that the first ones fold their selves up, caught by the very conditions which they should answer. As showed by these last years, if no union dispute and no campaign has been able to generalize itself, we should try to radically rethink what a century ago a Russian revolutionist called the «union-party couple», being aware that, like many others, it’s a couple in crisis because of both partners. Taking simply the side of one of them, considering it the way to overcome the limits of the other one, doesn’t solve the problem.

We shared many of these arguments in the two acts of the Strike Meeting. Yet, when the social strike starts to raise more than a simple interest in Europe, it’s not recommended to reflect on organizational hypothesis completely bound to the Italian current affairs. We must be aware that our ambitions have to cross Europe.


At the moment, Athens is the name we want to give to Europe, because the struggle against the austerity regime forces us to rethink the relationship between movements and institutions. Athens imposes a new phase in which the battle against precariousness is not just a defensive one. This is not anymore about defending spaces, since there is the actual possibility to open spaces and to organize times that run definitely away the financialization of society. Thanks to Athens, a struggle of power has opened and it is something different from simple resistance. To grasp their extent is now more than ever important, since, now that the initial enthusiasm and fear has faded, old discourses reemerge and ancient revenges are on the way. For some days and maybe for much time we still have attended the continuous attempts to erase the social measures promised by the SYRIZA government. What was seemingly granted, it was dismissed. After all, neither the struggle of power is a skirmish nor it seems possible to wage a pitched battle. The stances of who wish to exhibit a fictional force are even more distant, since they presume that the nation-State can do what is not anymore able to do.

The Greek situation doesn’t and couldn’t have just the national dimension which the neoliberal regime wish to impose on it. And the same discourse is valid for the eventual victory of Podemos. In both cases we are facing the evidence that Europe is our minimum battleground. Some have difficulty understanding what the financial and political European institutions understand and fear: Athens as much as Madrid are parts of a struggle that involves all Europe. The Greek aporia engenders a tension that shows the violent actions of the power relations that eventually hit the institutions and not just the lives of millions of people. Today even a term as democratic deficit, for long time neutrally adopted to show the institutional limits of EU, scares because it immediately denounces the gap between the political choices taken in these years and the chance of radically bringing them into question. Inside this political field, neither it is a matter of winning all and now, nor to stay in queue at the poll. We are not fond of the imitating attempts of those forces who usually keep off the movements and think to take revenge after their own failures. Yet, it seems us equally bewildering who doesn’t want in any case to assume the political risk of putting experiences and practices to the test in a shifting scenario. Looking at Athens means to apply also to the relations between movements and institutions the ambition of winning the organization, that cannot be just a regulated way for action but not even its opposite, a chaotic and less or more radical public sphere that, even against its will, would be about to be represented less or more accurately: we are in front of the possibility of a turbulent break-up of rules and borders.


Also for this reason, the 18th and 19th of March are not simply an event, an occasion of visibility, a chance to escape, at least for a while, from the difficulties of conquering our organization.  At least since the assembly of Blockupy in Brussels last September, we are trying to bring to Europe the claims of European minimum wage, minimum residence permit, income and welfare elaborated in the context of the Strike Meeting and the social transnational strike as a perspective able to overthrow the power relationships that keep in check millions of precarious, migrants and industry workers. Our proposals had to face the possibilities and limits of a specific form of organization, that is the coalition: the need to keep together different subjects created at the same time the basis for the only one political space for social movements today in Europe that is truly transnational and the limits of its capability of producing an autonomous political initiative, of establishing political priorities on which the energies of the single components could be strongly directed, with no fear of losing some of them. It is not by chance that the process of organization has focused in these years on the inauguration of the new ECB building: an highly symbolic objective, but also «empty» enough to be filled by whoever with the most diverse meanings. The results of the Greek elections on January 25th changed dramatically this scenario: now we can take the ECB building not simply as a symbol of the lack of democracy of austerity measures, but as the counterpart of a politics of the governed that claims to see the problem of European democracy starting from class struggle. Therefore, beyond the 18th of March, since long expected and prepared, the challenge of organization has to be met on the 19th when not only activists from all over Europe will meet, but also those workers that experience every day the transnational chains of exploitation and that have shown, with their struggles, the need to accumulate force against the daily oppression of austerity and against the precarity that it imposed on millions of men and women as a never ending present. And there is more: in the meeting there will be also the protagonists of the global struggles ‒ in the textiles and logistics sector ‒ that in the last years have shown materially the global scope of European production and the opportunities of organization against them. Frankfurt will be, most of all, a signal launched to Europe, it will indicate the possibility of the insubordination of a whole continent that they tried to subdue to the financial domination of capital.

For us, Frankfurt is the crossroad where the streets departing from Rome, Athen and Madrid meet. We are interested in the European extension of the Social Strike, because we are interested in the possibility of bringing Europe in Italy. This could also allow us to start again to talk about strike ­‒ a world paradoxically absent from the Second Strike Meeting ­‒ not as an empty watchword, but as a concrete possibility of organization for the daily insubordination, currently isolated and fragmented, of labor. To bring Europe in Italy could allow us to open and cross a precarious political communication that claims to be something more that the simple contestation and opposition to the government’s reforms or to fascisms old and new, something more than the deceptive presumption of reproducing what happened in Greece or could happen in Spain by establishing some alliance with a residual political class or with some little party with an uncertain existence. Also when talking about a coalition, it is better first to look inside the black box, knowing that the adjective «social» is not the guarantee of whatsoever. It is not the opposition to an enemy that grants the victory, but the ability of producing an autonomous initiative that steals from the opponent its claimed and practiced centrality. This is true both in Italy and in Europe. To bring Europe in Italy means then to be brave enough to establish political priorities and a common platform that maybe would not keep everyone together, as a lowest common denominator able to grant the existence of the coalition, but that could strongly push on a higher level the initiative of those realities that on a daily basis are engaged in holding back impoverishment and precarity. Our ambition has no borders.

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