The first of May has passed, leaving behind something more than burnt cars, broken windows and black clothes abandoned in the streets. Beyond the triumphal Expo opening, the 1st of May leaves us with the three-dimensional image of a movement that, in spite of its capacity of mobilizing 30.000 people for the Mayday parade, reveals itself politically powerless.
At the end, what happened was something all did expect, even though many said they wanted to avoid it: the logic of the event asserted itself on that of the process, of the construction, of the accumulation and sharing of force. Now, to pretend to discover that the mainstream media behave themselves as mainstream media is at least out of place. Now, the verbal crossfire on the costs of Expo as compared to those of the damages is worthless. Now, solving the riddle by appealing to the reasons of the angry spontaneity is at least insufficient. What happened cannot be faced by means of an aesthetic of the riot unable to cope with the collective limits of political projects. In its current meaning, the riot risks to be all the more close to an uprising, that, though powerful, is doomed to pass after a moment and to be easily absorbed by the objective and despotic military and symbolical supremacy of the State. If the riot exists only in the day when it takes place, what is the riot for?
Anyhow, it would be wrong to measure the limits of political action that manifested themselves in the streets only on the basis of what happened in the streets. Maybe it is worthwhile thinking through again the whole discourse produced around Expo in the last months. To us it is evident that if the answer to the slogan «Feeding the planet» is the forced veganism of some social centres, it is difficult to oppose a global effective discourse to the edifying chatters that are flowing and that will flow around Expo. What is evident is the difficulty of producing a political discourse measured up to the occasion. The Italian movement seems to pay the dues of its specific and presumptuous parochialism, often untouched even by its participation to international networks, like the experience inside Blockupy which involved many of us towards the contestation of the ECB in Frankfurt. It would be necessary to seize the occasion of Expo, to raise and trigger discourses able to publicly oppose to the celebration of food as a global commodity. Instead, we did not even succeed in making visible a precarious, migrant and worker point of view on the exploitation taking place inside Expo and on issues that do not concern only what is eaten in Italy and Europe, but also who eats, how much and when in many parts of the world. It would be lethal to take seriously Renzi’s ranting declarations that aim at making Expo, at any cost, an Italian question.
We witnessed proposals and debates on how Milan should look like in these six months, on how one has to behave in one’s own courtyard, on the diet which is politically more appropriate. The topic of the city is today with no doubts pivotal, but only on its global scale, not in the here and now of the singular urban identities. The big transnational capital builds a world showcase, which is colourful and crowded so to say that yes, it may sometimes have little problems, but it will in short feed us all. We have been unable to address with a realistic discourse the global question of the material reproduction of the existence of millions of poor, precarious, migrants and industrial workers, and now we confuse few shop-windows in Milan with the «symbolically» most important ones. The fact that the chosen windows and the actions realized are since ages always the same is telling of the indifference for an occasion that should be taken, especially for its complexity and for its immediately global character.
Therefore it is not surprising that now, after the Mayday, we are looking for the right balance between conflict and consent, in a way that however runs the risk of separating them. Someone practices conflict, because of a deeper rage or because of a greater political intensity, others don’t. It is not clear whether the latter stay in a kind of waiting-room of the struggles, where they should learn how to behave, or they are simply regarded as an audience who should approve the behaviors of the former. To speak of consent and conflict is meaningful insofar as they overlap every day and are not simply evoked when they concern the behaviors within the squares. To think that conflict consists in clashing with the police, and in smashing shop-windows and cars, does not even remotely express the level of violence and of conflict that daily unfold in working places, along the ways of migrations and in the neighborhoods. That violence and these conflicts are not simply and passively experienced, but they are also actively and smartly practiced with continuity. The idea that a shot of violence in the streets could trigger some kind of collective consciousness-rising, and that insurgence is the only possible form of collective expression for the existing experiences, is not simply childish. The conflict in the streets cannot be the exemplary representation of a conflict conceived of as absent or insufficient. If that was the case, we would be expropriated of the possibility of a mass action and of finding out shared forms of conflicts.
Beside this, it is quite hard to say that those who smash everything are moved by a spontaneous and uncontrollable rage, and that they do not pretend to represent anybody, without losing sight of the fact that this individualization of behaviors is the symmetrical opposite of the absolutely individual behaviors that neoliberalism pretends from all of us. Wouldn’t it be better to put an end to the daily isolation, rather than to represent it during collective demonstrations? A reasoning which moves from this spontaneous individualization, however, cannot grasp the problem: some months ago, before the demonstration and the blockades in Frankfurt, a public document announced that the no-global movement failed, that every attempt to build up a transnational organizational network (reduced to a «network of solidarity») was useless, and that those who are trying to build them up are nothing more than bureaucrats, an infamous «political class» of the movements.
Here lies the difference, and starting from this difference everybody should take his or her own political responsibilities. The point is not to distinguish either between the good and the wicked, or between the angry and the fearful. The point is to highlight – and, eventually, to discuss – a clear difference of political perspectives. We must say loudly that someone thinks that it is necessary to build everyday connections within struggles and among the different figures who struggle, rather than actively replicating the individualization that neoliberalism imposes. We do not have to establish links between our own singular everyday condition and the one-day-riot, but rather among the multiple and inhomogeneous singularities that are everyday forced inside and against precarious, industrial and migrant work. We must repeat that this is not possible on a local level, since the European dimension is the minimum scale of this process. The point is not the immediate expression of a subversive identity, but the absence of any established identity and the daily difficulty to find out collective forms of expression. The point is not to express something that already exists, but to build up the space for something that does not exist yet, just because a form of collective expression has not been found so far. We believe that this effort towards the collectiveness should be the first point in the agenda. Others disagree and act accordingly. Therefore, it would be better to give up the easy critique of newspapers, of the occasional columnists who are good when they agree with you and become reprobate when they say you are wrong, in a crossfire of quotations. Time has come to speak seriously of the political perspective that we want to pursue. All the rest is uninteresting, even indifferent, for the many who share our condition.