Together with many others we said again and again that Europe is the minimum field of struggle. In front of the states of emergency, of Daesh’ terrorism, of the declared or directly waged wars, after the recent elections in France it is as if we were captured in an endless European involution. It seems that the same things keep appearing to threaten us with their misery. Yet considering all this, we are more than ever convinced that the only feasible choice is to make Europe a field of conflict different from the Europe they want to dictate to us. The scale of all the processes in which we are involved is at least European: the gloomy oppression lurking on us does not respect national borders, the movements we can rely on cross these borders without rest. No one can approve the really existing Europe, we can just use this mobile space, crisscrossed by deep differences, to build a political project of liberation from the global regime of exploitation, war and terror. Only inside and against this Europe, the call for a day of strikes and coordinated actions starting from the political centrality of migrant labor, that resulted from the Transnational Social Strike meeting in Póznan, acquires its meaning. The 1st of March 2016 has to be the experiment of our strike against fear on a European scale. At stake there is much more than a day of solidarity with migrants. At stake there is our collective power to overturn the misery of the present.
We say it clearly: in the present condition of Europe, migrant labor can make the strike concretely social and transnational and launch a signal of insubordination against a regime made of xenophobia, racism and precarity. Migrants are much more than people to be welcomed and taken care of. They are a mass of men and women that moves to Europe changing it once for all. Their presence has two main characters: an availability to work imposed by the legal and administrative measures that rule their stay and a practical refusal of a governed mobility. The migrants are not just one of the many figures of social production. Their position points concretely at the dynamics around which precarity as a global condition is constructed: migrant labor seems to express a specific condition, but in truth it expresses a general one. Therefore it allows to break the arrangement of today’s labor based on a fragmentation that forces the workers to take a stand always in an isolated way or as members of this or that category. To start from migrant labor today means addressing as a problem the political conditions of exploitation, namely that government of mobility – the set of measures and practices aimed at limiting and exploiting the movements crossing the European space – that increasingly damages also the European citizens; it means acknowledging that precarity lies inside and outside the workplaces, because it is caused both by the regime of wage and by the progressive erosion of social rights; it means to assume as a matter of fact that social reproduction is all the more based on the transnational sexual division of labor and on the monetization of care work; it means passing through the factory not as a place with an homogeneous work-force, but as a space that relies on and produces differences.
The political centrality of migrant labor is evident to the European institutions. After some uncertainties they decided to react to the storm caused by migrants on the borders with the centralization and the stiffening of the government of mobility, widening its scope also outside Europe. In order to avoid the risk of remaining a step back in front of this aggression we have to ask ourselves: how can we offer an organizational perspective that makes clear that the 1st of March is not just about migrants, but about all those who migrate from one job to another, those who are forced to pay no less than the most necessary services, those who are denied even a home, those who feel overwhelmed by a precarious condition that seems without exit? How can we, now, here and everywhere in Europe, make the strike a possibility in the hands of those who experience precarity everyday, inside and outside the workplaces, thus making the strike finally a social and transnational one? How can we overturn the sovereignist, nationalist and identitarian fascination that makes its way as an answer to the crisis and its insecurities?
How to entrench an expansive struggle on the transnational level is a political riddle that has got no given solution. Rootedness and expansiveness find in the territorial dimension, in which all of us necessarily move, a limit that we must succeed in overcoming in order to widen our capability of taking the initiative. We do not need forts in which to defend ourselves, but we need mobile instruments of connection in order to be able to counterattack. It is not just a territorial rootedness that we should seek, but a political one. Practices of social syndicalism grasp the problem of organizing precarity as something that goes out of the workplace and besieges the whole life, but at the same time these practices run the risk of turning into molecular experiences devoted to replicate the segmentation of contemporary labour, or to give for granted that level of labour disputes can substitute political initiative.
To start from the central political questions raised by migrant labour offers the experiences and labour disputes which are underway in the territories a way out from confinement and segmentation. Migrant labour can be, as a matter of fact, the vector that allows to condense the ongoing initiatives and to produce new ones around the project of the strike. It can be the discursive and organizational instrument that let us disclose and overturn the power relations that Europe wants to impose. Then we need to build in every territory the structures charged with realizing this project towards the 1st of March: sites of communication where different figures of labour and different conditions of precarity can effectively recognize themselves in the path towards this first transnational experimentation of social strike.
To build these sites of coordination means to produce processes that must lead us to go beyond the original identities. The laboratories of social strike have been working in Italy in order to make the 14th of November 2014 a shared process of politicization. Today a coalition that wants to bring forward effectively this method should not reduce the challenge of «organizing the unorganizable» to the weaker perspective of «representing the unrepresented», in order to occupy the empty spaces left by the trade unions. Social syndicalism cannot only exist in neglected or abandoned spaces. It must have the audacity of an overall project, one that cannot result in the struggle of a category of workers or in a minor confederalism. Mutualism cannot simply be a benevolent assistance, as much as the syndicalism we need must build on the deep and irreversible crisis of the existing syndicalism, in order to dare something more and something different from the sum of the practices of the social centers and those of the trade union. It cannot be the sum of two traditions, which are more or less effective according to the local contexts, but it must be the break with both of them. Just because we start from this necessary experimentation, we know that the next 1st of March will not realize the project of a transnational social strike in all its entirety.
However, we think that starting from migrants, men and women, and from the central political questions of migrant labour it is possible to restart to imagine and practice forms of connection, organization and coalition inside and outside the workplaces. The strike of the 1st of March 2010 provides us with an expertise, because it showed – for instance – the blue-collars of the big factories blocking the gates not just to defend their own collective labor agreement, but to allow migrants employed in maintenance services and legally hired as «workers associates» of the cooperatives to strike, defying apparently insurmountable limits. We should move toward this way; we have the opportunity to coordinate university researchers with cleaning-workers, showing the tie between a precarious production of knowledge and the daily exploitation of a mobile and likewise precarious job. We have the opportunity to mobilize the workers of the welcome-centers for the migrants and refugees and to connect their struggle with the one of migrants and refugees themselves, being aware that it’s not enough to fight for our own wage if other people would be forced to accept – because of a residence permit or a humanitarian visa – even lower wages or to work as «volunteers». We have the opportunity to call a strike of teachers against the measures of school «integration» based on the subordination and the segregation of the young sons and daughters of migrants. We have the opportunity to connect the logistics workers across borders and to shut down the flow of goods in order to demonstrate their own strength against the residence permit that most of them bring in their pocket, and against the European regime of wage – in the Amazon warehouses in Piacenza as much as in Germany or in Poland. We have the opportunity to push different union structures beyond their logic of association in order to make them identifying in a shared political process that could allow to accumulate the necessary strength to win single labor disputes and to make their struggles expansive. We have eventually the chance to challenge the weaker and weaker advantageous positions, even the trade unions’ ones, that prevent us from seeing Europe as the fundamental ground of struggle against precarity, starting from demands that are both problematic and full of a political potential. This is the challenge we have in front of us: if the 1st of March will succeed in realizing, at least partially, these opportunities, it will be up to the transnational social strike project and it will be able to point out a viable path even after the 1st of March. The real alternative we are facing is the one between a defense of the current situation and of our essential weakness and the recognition of the difficulties of this project. The social strike is not around the corner, but it must be the political problem that should push us to produce organization everywhere.
It is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. This is the only way the social strike could be something more than a random coalition of separate demands and could demonstrate to be again an opportunity up to the present. This is the only way we could turn Europe in a battleground, and stop wasting time with the idea to quit Europe. The French elections show what this exit really would mean and who could gain politically out of this anti-Europeanism. In front of the employers’ arbitrary acts and the advance of the xenophobic rights that spread the fear of this Europe, we have to be able to raise our initiative on a higher level. The 1st of March and the project of a transnational social strike are the only ways we see today for staying in Europe against Europe. In Italy the coalition for the social strike can contribute to all of this if it places the challenge of the strike at the center of the stage, since the strike points to the problem of taking power back so as to fight against the daily exploitation and oppression of millions of precarious workers, industrial workers and migrants everywhere in Europe, breaking the boundaries that divide them and pointing out a common horizon of organization and conflict. The coalition for the social strike can do that if, starting from the 1st of March of migrants, it faces the problem of preventing the same things from coming back with the same burden of oppression.