All quiet on the Eastern front. The opposition of Eastern countries to the migration compact shows that the attempt to solve the crisis through the centralization of political decision-making inside the Union has been nipped in the bud. On the other hand, also in the West austerity continues being asserted as the mile stone of the government of the Union, although the single States are progressively forcing its borders. All quiet here as well, one may say: Eastern and Western borders are continuously violated. European Union is not the unitary Moloch that someone imagines and that it claims to be. The breaches of its disintegration are those that migrants, precarious and industrial workers try to deepen daily in order to ensure themselves a better life. However, the government of austerity and the government of mobility are two sides of the same coin both for Brussels and for the single States. While the Commission is trying to impose a coordinated system for all Europe, the States enact a clash that does not undermine the neoliberal government of the Union. This role-play is by now part and parcel of the material constitution of Europe and its States, and even when sovereignty is cried out for, the despotism of capital is imposed via the undisputed predominance of the executive powers. At this point it is clear that the presumed defence of sovereign prerogatives is nothing but an articulation of austerity policies, the price of which is constantly paid by migrants, precarious and industrial workers. It is therefore misleading to think that, both in Italy and everywhere else, this predominance and that despotism can be overturned by bringing down the government through a referendum, an election or a seasonal demonstration. Europe is the disputed field where there must be asserted the claim for freedom and the insubordination to exploitation practiced by migrants, precarious and industrial workers who daily cross its space with their movements. Europe is the minimum field on which a transnational political perspective should be practiced. However, this leaves open the problem of understanding which is the scale of our political initiative, starting from the awareness that it is not possible to establish an opposition between the transnational level and territorial one: while stopping on the first level would end up being a politically sterile exercise, relying only on the second level would condemn us to impotence.
Let’s start from a fact: the transnational dimension is already present in the local one and reconfigures radically its coordinates, both from the material and the institutional point of view. Therefore, transnational initiative cannot be conceived of as the result of the networking, federation or coalition of different experiences that are rooted in the territories, because each territory is crisscrossed by social powers that move across the borders and continuously produce and reproduce them. As migrants’ struggles in the logistic sector show, even those conflicts that are entrenched in the territory concern transnational lines of command and organization and involve a mobile work force that cannot be identified according to criteria of citizenship. The cities themselves, in which the projects of «new municipalism» are investing, are part of a metropolitan space that does not coincide with the municipal one but determines it.
Metropolitan is the space of social production and reproduction, one that is created by the logistic connection between service hubs and industrial zones which are located even thousand kilometres far, and in which the EU directives are enacted through the State mediation, determining the political conditions of exploitation. The metropolitan space is organized by legal regimes that connect every single local administrative action to European neoliberal policies, to the financial direction established by the Union and to the bottlenecks of its government of mobility in a way that is functional to the domination of global capital. It is sufficient to read how the documents concerning European funding policies speak about the city governance in order to understand that the latter is constituted by structures of government that blend with trading zones and are connected with other «metropolitan regions» or «urban zones», that represent the bases of economic development insofar as they are able to unite all the levels of the production chain: from school to university to factory, passing through the new centres of logistic networks. The metropolis is, in this sense, a post-colonial space: not so much for the persistent effects of a past domination, but rather because it is governed according to global colonial criteria of efficiency, differentiation and hierarchization through administrative measures. This government of the metropolitan space uses the municipal institutions by linking them to a State that does not address all citizens in the same way, but governs and represses their movements with diverse intensities, combining the helpful or coercive intervention of social services with the exercise of the military force in the suburbs. The metropolitan space, then, begins where citizenship is deconstructed, where precarity means mobility, fragmentation and hierarchy, thus putting radically into question the traditional forms of organization and political initiative, from the unions’ disputes to the electoral processes.
This reconfiguration forces us to think anew the way in which the city can be the reference point of a political initiative. For doing this we need to face two different sets of questions. The first one concerns the actual power of the municipal institutions in relation to the State, to the European Union and to the transnational dynamics that crisscross the metropolitan space in which the cities are placed, in ways that differ very much from one city to another. This diversity is something we need to acknowledge in order to avoid the construction of ideal models that, as in the case of Barcelona, seem to describe the originality, but also the specificity of a single experience. The second set of questions relates to the possibility of turning the city into a space of organization without addressing an indeterminate public of «citizens», united by alleged common needs, by being the objects and receivers of the same administration or by a generic will of active participation in the decision processes, that is supposed to be shared also by those who do not detain a citizenship. This way of looking at the city would not be new. Unless it is limited to a pre-electoral lobbying – which could even be useful in the short term, but has an unclear and limited perspective – a politics of the city must offer to the different figures of contemporary living labor the possibility to recognize themselves, not in the name of a generic ethnic or ethical identity, or because of an alleged rebel tradition, but in the name of a common project of insubordination, emancipation and struggle. Municipalism can be something new if it is up to the metropolitan and thus transnational horizon in which the city is placed. Therefore, rebellion can correspond neither to a localized restoration of a shattered community, nor to a networking of the different local experiences on the European scale: the city has to become the hub of a process of living labor’s uprising that, also with the aim of strengthening its power and its conquests on the institutional level, has to be able to interrupt the social production and reproduction that organize the metropolitan space, starting from a political project that recognizes its global dimension and offers to that uprising its logistical infrastructure.
Acknowledging the way in which the transnational dimension influences the local one means therefore to turn upside down the order of priorities: it is not so much a matter of starting from the local to reach the transnational, according to a progressive movement of accumulation of experiences or through the networking or coalition of the existing realities. It is rather a matter of placing each local initiative into that transnational horizon able to bestow it with an expansive force. DIEM25 seems to have understood the necessity of this overturning, in that it assumes Europe as its specific dimension, bypassing at least in words the idea of an international federation of parties and national movements. This explains Varoufakis’ polemic against «sovereignism» and the proposals of a «Left exit» from the EU. Living aside the odd choice of taking Mr. Fassina Stefano as a relevant spokesperson, what counts is the assessment that State sovereignty is by now radically reconfigured by the transnational scale within which it acts. As in the case of the cities, criticizing the idea of a Left sovereignty is not so much a matter of political or theoretical debate, but relates to the practical forms of organizing conflicts and to the subjects that practice those conflicts and find in them expression. Until now, the principal references for DIEM have been the citizens disappointed with the Union. But citizens are citizens just because there is a sovereignty, so that the idea to build a European demos is a prospective of reactivation of sovereignty, rather than its critique. Even taking for granted the feasibility of the campaigns of civil and governmental disobedience of States, regions and municipalities, the problem here seems to be reversed and does not seem to grab what we are insisting on, i.e. that the transnational is not a ground on its own, but it is already inside the local and territorial levels.
To promote the disobedience of the States, or of the region and municipalities to the command of the Union reproduces the idea of an institutional arrangement where these diverse levels are clearly detectable and relatively autonomous, and could be used one against the other depending on the case. Electoral processes can certainly be spaces, even important ones, of mobilization and thus of subjectivation, but they cannot be entrusted with the task of resisting the dynamics of global capital. The problem is not only the obviously limited character of the decisions that can be taken through the elections, which is evident to everyone. Rather, the question is the implicit demarcation of the field of action involved by elections, and also concerns the difficulty to profitably connect the movements of the living labour with the daily handling of electoral results without an organization able to keep alive that connection over the time. It’s been long since elections were a practise of democracy. In the good case, they can be a moment of struggle inside and against the democratic system of dominion. Democracy is certainly an urgent problem: while on the East more and more countries are discarding democratic standards and eroding spaces of formal and substantial freedom, everywhere in Europe the dynamic of inclusion has been replaced by a production of differences and hierarchies useful to enforce the capitalistic command. The answer to this process anyway cannot be a broad agreement of the dissatisfied and a coalition of not aligned militants, recruited for the occasion also among the ranks of phantom «progressive conservatives». In the same way, it is not possible to think that a mass politicization can be obtained with a fetishism of the methods and through virtual platforms where the form of the decision is always more important than the programme. In order to become the space where precarious, migrants and industrial workers can take the floor, the democratic mobilisation has to be thought starting from the mobility of living labour, from its material conditions and from the refuse of exploitation and oppression it is daily expressing. Starting from here, a struggle for democracy, which is neither an artificial plan of reformation of the Europe of austerity, nor a technocratic dream, must be filled with contents and offer instruments to struggle and conquer autonomy in the current conditions. To claim a minimum European wage, income and welfare and a European residence permit means to us to turn the struggle for democracy into a project of emancipation that, affecting the time and conditions of social production and reproduction, and also the metropolitan space where capital exercises its dominion, would be able to hit the cornerstones of the Europe of austerity and the European regime of wage. These claims can connect different levels of political actions on the local and transnational ground. To lay European claims is the only way to demolish the alternative between Europeist and anti-Europeist, which is a false one since they share their favour for the neoliberal project of command over labour. However relevant, the problem today is not the addressee of these claims, but to think who can recognize him/herself in them. These claims are not part of a catalogue of rights, but they identify wage, welfare and mobility as the material ground of the struggle, with the consciousness that every precarious, migrants and industrial worker can assert themselves in every single place only using transnational instruments.
This does not imply denying or avoiding the necessity to deal with the institutional dimension, that is as much relevant as it is urgent to strengthen at all levels what precarious, industrial workers and migrants can conquer through their struggles. These achievements are possible only through an accumulation of strength that is not given, but it’s the real issue at stake of any project that demands to be expansive and to last more than a season. It’s therefore difficult to imagine that this accumulation can succeed in Italy through the «social» mobilization toward the constitutional referendum. What «social» means is not politically given, neither when we organize the opposition to the constitutional reform, nor when we try to organize the transnational social strike. In both cases, social cannot mean the sum of the existing experiences, also because it would be really deceptive to think that the sum of our actual strengths is something meaningful. Both on the local and on the transnational level «social» must be the space of expression of all of those segments of living labor hit by the norms of the constitutional reform and of European governments. The «social» is not a front, but an open space on which no one can claim a superior legitimacy, because no one by now has been able, not even by far, to outline a definition. Only by establishing this problem of the «social» there is the possibility that our «No» would be different and autonomous from the multi-colored caravansary that, through the referendum, wants to bring down Renzi’s government.
We must recognize that the projected constitutional reform in Italy is consistent with the neoliberal policy that tends to strengthen the predominance of the executive powers. This predominance is part of the material constitution both of the EU and of its States and it won’t be the defense of the constitution, the guarantee of the government changeovers and the return to the perfect bicameralism to reverse this trend. Therefore, the chance of referendum can’t be the copy of other attempts to bring down other governments, but it must show everywhere the ties between this reform and the domination that millions of people undergo everyway. Those ties are constantly silenced by the struggle between the «Yes» and the «No». Those ties are not immediately evident. Therefore, more than producing extemporary calls to gather organized segments of the movement and of the unions, being satisfied with a bigger or smaller demonstration, or a bigger or smaller ritual strike, it is necessary to show these ties in all their brutality, being aware that they did not start and will not end with the constitutional reform or Renzi’s government. The autonomy of our «No» cannot be bound to the Italian institutional settlement, as well as it cannot be satisfied with what we already have. Our opposition can be social only if it becomes the space where different segments of class express themselves, by a mass presence that goes beyond the boundaries of the militant area and that therefore aims to impact the transnational relations of power that organize society.
France has shown that even the biggest social strike, and the biggest upheaval of the living labor that Europe has seen in the last years, have not been able to avoid the enactment of the loi travail through the emergency state repeatedly imposed by the government. Yet, this is not about to register a defeat, but to recognize that by now it is impossible to achieve something by eluding the transnational plan on which the match is played. The French groups that were the main actors of the strikes and the mobilization of Nuit Debout, have clearly understood the necessity of this transnational process and are now actively supporting the building of the three-day meeting of the 21-22-23 October in Paris, working in perspective to strengthen the process toward a transnational social strike. After the experience of Poznan, that pointed to Eastern Europe as a central ground for the political initiative, the meeting of Paris must face the problem of how to overcome the limit of national struggles and to build situations for the upheaval of living labor that are able to cross boundaries and to accumulate strength. The platform of the transnational social strike can become our logistic infrastructure to connect local and daily struggles and to oppose the government of austerity and of mobility.