giovedì , 23 Maggio 2024

Under the sign of the storm. Migrants, Europe and transnational strike

Nella tempestaItalian

Like a storm, migrants are haunting Europe. With their disordered movements they are crushing borders, institutions, and seemingly consolidated ideologies. Migrants have blown up the European status quo. What the Greek referendum was not able to do, it’s now happening thanks to thousands of men, women, and kids who are putting their lives at stakes in order to get better ones. If the dismay in front of the violent suppression of the OXI by the European institutions seemed to have paralyzed all those who saw an occasion lying in that no, migrants succeeded in provoking a wave of solidarity and a mass mobilization which points at the refusal of border policies and of neoliberal intransigence, a mobilization which not even the champions of austerity can ignore. Many are now severely warning that there is no goodness in the opening of the borders, that those migrants will access the lowest steps of a segmented and hierarchical labor market, that exploitation is their destiny. It is all surely true, but it is also true that this is the common destiny of all those who are subdued to the regime of wage. To say that capitalism is always and by any means exploitation should not impede us to grasp the set of novelties that the migrants are imposing in Europe. All in all we can agree with Angela Merkel: the elements of crisis which have been introduced by migrants are way deeper than those emerged from the Greek affair.

For this very reason we need to understand to which direction points the massive political and ideological operation of welcoming led by Germany: if the iron hand towards Greece was necessary in order to suppress every hope of alternative to austerity, the sudden impulse for «reception» seems now to aim at subjugating that renewed hope to the logic that tightly binds precarity, financial strictness and the government of mobility, at the same time legitimizing a political centralization of the Union. The movements of migrants are practically dislocating the sovereignty of the single States in Europe.

We are not confronting a linear process, but the construction and the management of this emergency are the testbench of a new European constitution. The starting point we have to assume is that in this moment migrants are the true adversaries of sovereignism. They are imposing a polarization between European states who want to secure the borders and those who instead reckon them as political devices that can be used in diversified manners according to different contingencies. We are facing continuous and terrible oscillations. For years we have struggled against the Europe of Schengen and its ties, now we are ending up demanding these ties to be respected when they are suspended and reintroduced in order to play for time, in the attempt of holding a tide of bodies in movement. In every case, it would be wrong to imagine Europe as completely incapable of organizing a response. This does not mean that we like the responses in the making, but still there are some responses.

Already in May, when at the discussion of the first European agenda on migrations they triumphally started to speak about the «relocation system», there was a call to «unity» and «joint efforts», showing that the agenda goes beyond its immediate object and entails an attempt, not a very hidden one, to centralize the policies of the government of mobility. As in front of the sovereign debts crisis, now the project is to impose a transfer of sovereignty from the single States to the Union. For this reason that project encountered and still encounters the opposition of many States of the Union, which are busy in safeguarding their fragile internal balance between debt and welfare, precarization and GDP, commitments towards Europe and nationalist positions. If in may every single State was supposed to accept or reject the refugees quota to be «redistributed» by the Union, now the new European agenda proposes to apply an economic sanction equivalent to a percentage of GDP against the countries who refuse to do their part in the relocation system. The transition from a model based on the «willingness» to a mandatory one would be crucial in defining the new European constitution. The stakes in this challenge, whose outcome is not given at all, is so high that to be recalled is not only the cold observance of treaties, but a principle of humanity. The problem here is not the umpteenth assault shot by supranational governance to democratic procedure that – as the positions taken by the Baltic countries in the case of the Greek affair show – do not in itself guarantee a politics of the governed and a refusal of the financial command of the Union. The problem is, if anything, that the political unity of Europe, pursued recalling its presumed fundamental values, is precisely obtained through the financial command, which comes out of the boundaries of the agreements on economic stability, endowing itself of sanctioning instruments to effectively govern the movements that are questioning the stability of the neoliberal order of the Union. A crisis whose institutional effects are shown by the widespread in-formalization of the operations of «transit» of the migrants arriving in Europe, and by the practical challenge to the Dublin agreements. In many ways, their suspension by the German iron Lady is nothing else than the verification of a question of fact, seen the «liberality» with whom the States of the Union, starting from Italy and Greece, have managed the strict system of registration and fingerprinting that would have otherwise prevent migrants to move from the country of initial reception. In the same way, the sudden suspension of the Schengen agreement and the reintroduction of border controls by Berlin government seems an extreme attempt to show the possibility of governing the continuous challenge migrants are practically posing to the norms of the Union and of each single State. The umpteenth massacre of kids in the Mediterranean Sea this time has been put on the back burner in front of the necessity to influence the Commission of the past 14th September and to push even the more restive States to accept the centralization essential to guarantee the new government of mobility. This forcing operation, for now, did not succeed: the politics of the relocation system and of the rates is pending, while military operations against smugglers and the hypothesis to build new camps inside and outside the borders of Europe seem the extreme attempt to contain and decompress, certainly at human costs, an unstoppable movement. Beyond actual decisions and their timing, the fundamental fact remains, in the storm triggered by migrants, the restructuring of the geography of power inside Europe as a whole.

It is a long time process, which can either fail or suffer a crucial acceleration. For us, this is not about choosing between Merkel’s Europe or Orban’s State. It is about understanding that migrants are imposing Europe as the minimum ground of struggle. It is about understanding that, if we do not limit ourselves to consider the politics of the selfie, migrants are not the victims of this situation, but the active subjects of a struggle within the structures of powers in Europe.

The conclusion of this struggle is not given in any way. As we said, it is certainly true that many are making calculations so as to understand how much profit it is possible to make on migrants, how much is worth a Syrian in comparison with an African, how can migrants contribute to the rescue of the European welfare regimes. If Germany is today still «bad», it is above all because its aim, in opening the borders to Syrians, is to take for itself the more educated and skilled migrants. The virulent run-up to xenophobia involving the continental right-wing movements, often occupying the scene, hides a future of competition to grab fresh labor-force, a labor-force with the adequate qualities and kept under control by a good system of continental institutional racism. Yet, migrants succeeded in producing a significant break also on this field. For decades it has been told that Europe should not be only economy. Now that migrants are welcomed in the stations, now that hundreds of persons go to pick them up with their cars, now that many are saying loud «Refugees welcome», it is not possible to rediscover and affirm only the rules of economy. Until some time ago it was almost unthinkable that the European political environment could manifest such an opening. European environment therefore is improved. The squares from Vienna to London show a Europe in motion not only on the institutional level and of the level of governance, but also on the ideological level that legitimizes the presence and the movements inside Europe. On these squares we have to rely in order to overthrow the meaning of the demands made by the financial government of the Union.

The watchword «refugees welcome» expresses both the claim for a right to escape death and the absolute refusal of every closure of the borders and of every xenophobic rhetoric. This refusal and that claim, however, cannot remain on the threshold of welcome politics, but oblige us to be up to the challenge opened by migrants. We must dismantle the hierarchies imposed by the government of migrations, starting from the distinction between «economic migrants» and «refugees». This distinction – which already divides the «good» and the «bad» migrants, the true victims and the impostors – is to be dismantled first of all because it will be the basis for an expansion of Europe outside its borders. The hierarchy of «safe countries of origins» is what allows both the entrance of migrants coming from Syria and other areas threatened by the Islamic State, and the forgetfulness of the African diasporas. Furthermore, it is also the first step towards the imposition of new wars and new commercial acquisitions of extraterritorial pieces of sovereignty. This is the direction of the initiatives planned by the European agenda of migration for «stabilizing» and «developing» the countries of origin, but also of the economic aids offered by the United States to Europe in order to face the «emergency». Second, the distinction between «economic migrants» and «refugees» is crucial in order to turn the normalization of austerity into the solution for the economic crisis, since it will secure the availability of a labor-force made of men and women employed within that workfare regime called welcome politics, and of workers subdued to the blackmail of the residence permit and of irregular jobs. The proposals of letting the «welcomed migrants» working for free that came from many sides are a clear example of how business and humanity will be accommodated. But the fact is, that thousands of men and women who challenged the European borders, and whose entrance as refugees or as more or less legal economic migrants Europe is arranging,  will be a proletarianized mass obliged to work in order to live. New hierarchies and new divisions will be feed everywhere in order to support the government of mobility.

This is why, when the immense ideological structure which supports this government is tottering under the pressure of migrants, we must be so much brave as to go beyond welcome politics. We know that there is not a «migrants question» to solve, because we know that migrants strongly point out a problem that is ours. The presence of migrants entails a radical transformation of the composition of contemporary living labor, and this transformation concerns behaviors, necessities and the methods of struggle. This is why, today more than ever, it is necessary to declare the political centrality of migrant labor. To speak of the political centrality of migrant labor does not mean to emphasize the different and specific condition of those who work with a residence permit in their pockets. Rather, it means to point out a destination towards which all labor is moving. The presence of migrants in Europe radically changed the way in which labor was provided, and it became a lever for the support of a general process of precarization. Because of the uncertainty, instability and mobility, because of the lack of every national point of reference that characterized mass migrations, it is impossible to fix the general legal frame that formerly regulated labor. In this way, migrant labor becomes a crucial factor of a wider process which makes labor increasingly informal, because it loses all the established forms which resulted from collective bargaining, and is completely subdued to that relationship of dominion that we call the regime of wage. Consequently, the political answer of the social movements must necessarily go beyond humanitarianism and welcome politics, because they paradoxically run the risk of being a support of the financial command of the new united Europe. The politics of openness and empathy towards migrants, such as the proposal of a network of refugees-cities launched by the mayor of Barcelona, may be an immediate answer to the needs of those who arrive, and also a way of pointing out the possibility of sharing common interests and of subverting racism. However, the problem posed by the migrant storm is how to organize migrant labor and how to connect migrant labor with informal labor, knowing that this perspective is increasingly complex because our organizational tools are not yet up to a challenge that cannot be but transnational.

After the important Blockupy mobilization against austerity and the EU financial governance, the meeting that will take place in Poznan at the beginning of October could be a fundamental step to give substance to a wide-ranging project. First of all, because it pushes us to look at East, a central point not only in the ongoing storm of migrants, but also of the struggle for the political centralization of the European constitution. The process of the transnational social strike has just started. Yet, it provides the chance to attack the daily link between monetary strictness and precarity, government of mobility and exploitation, debt and border policies, and to think efficient practices to overthrow the meaning of the new European constitution.

Thinking together the Greek OXI and the storm of migrants is the challenge we face, without denying the weakness of the responses of European movements during the months of negotiation on the new memorandum imposed to Tsipras’ government. Summer events show, much beyond solidarity between peoples divided by divergent interests, the necessity to build a transnational perspective able to gather precarious, migrants and industrial workers around common interests. The process that leads to build a transnational strike could be the opportunity to rethink the paths of class organization. We must remember that Europe is a big machine that, while establishes that someone are bound to be poor, engenders exploitation on one hand and huge prosperity on the other. What we really need is a perspective that doesn’t aim at mere survival, but to an overthrow of the power relations which make this state of things possible.

It’s been some time that, within the Blockupy international coordination and the Italian network of the social strike – we are discussing some claims that we are trying to test on the European level. The selection of shared watchwords and demands, that must circulate and be put on the test between those who daily struggle within and against the regime of wage and the government of mobility, is an unavoidable step that couldn’t be judged from their fitness to different national contexts. In some EU States minimum wage already exists but doesn’t prevent the precarization of labor; in several countries minimum income has taken the form of workfare and, finally, a two-year-long minimum European residence permit doesn’t always meet all the legitimate requirements of migrants. Yet, these demands can gain new strength, provided they are systematically connected: the quest of a minimum income can be productive only if put together to that of minimum wage and the freedom of movement, on the basis of a two-year-long European residence permit. These demands especially gain a fresh political significance in so far as they are finally posed on a European level, with the aim to activate communicational and organizational processes able to cross borders and resist fragmentations, divisions and hierarchies.

No more specular traps of the higher interests of EU and national sovereignties must be used against us. The transnational social strike can make a European OXI real and strong, can give a political meaning to solidarity overcoming the difference between the «We» that provides it and the «They» who benefits from it. The transnational social strike is now nothing, but it can become everything, provided it starts being the sign that addresses European movements in the oppositional process to the neoliberal EU constitution. Every coalition will be measured from its own ability to share this transnational political pattern, from its drive to support organizational paths of class, which recognize the political preeminence of migrant labor. Every coalition will exist only if it will be a tool that allows us to live in the storm, instead of being just enthusiastic but non-paying spectators of the storms raged by migrants. 

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