by BERLIN MIGRANT STRIKERS from Berlin Migrant Strikers
This note by Berlin Migrant Strikers discusses the position of some comrades of the network Ums Ganze! concerning the initiative focused on the Hamburg Harbor, that will take place on July 7 during the mobilization against the G20 summit. By stressing the difference between the blockade as an event and the strike as a project and a process, this text also contributes to the discussion of the Transnational Social Strike Platform ‒ that assumes the transnational social strike as the focus of its own discourse and initiative ‒ and raises important questions towards the next meeting in Berlin.
We read with interest the long and in-depth intervention of the comrades of Amici della Conricerca from Leipzig about the block of the Hamburg harbor during the upcoming G20. We must first point out that for the needs of translation and time (we have to answer within a few days) this response will fail to make the many observations, points and questions we would like to put. Nonetheless, the timing of the «counter-event», which squeezes the debate and often makes it superficial or badly interpretable, is exactly the first limit on which we have to reflect collectively. We will try to structure this quick/short reply by following the main critical points proposed in the text of the comrades from Leipzig.
The first criticism concerns/refers to the impossible correlation between the discourse on the Social Strike and the G20. We have been following the transnational platform of the TSS since its beginning and we know that in the last meeting in Ljubljana there was a very lively and interesting debate about this point. We believe that a first difference between social strike and counter-summit is that the first is a social process, way more articulated than a finite moment of political conflict. A process that builds discussions, alliances and daily practices. Unlike the summit (and the counter-summit), the social strike aims to effectively attack the production that in neoliberal societies invests the totality of the life time as well as the individual bodies. Thus, it cannot be considered as limited to a particular event in a specific place. At the same time, this aspect of the social strike, that we consider a strength, could turn to be a limit for the discourse on the social strike. Since it tries to present itself as an alternative strategic horizon, the social strike is forced to confront itself with an increasingly spectacular, fast, mediated political scene, typical of late-capitalist societies in their authoritarian torsion. A political alphabet also imposed on the radical left, which leads to preferring leadership and delegation to the tedious processes of socialization and self-organization. Promoting the paradigm of the social strike in the limited time of a day when the world will look at Hamburg clearly is a contradiction in itself. But the solution of this contradiction, so that it does not become ambiguity, depends on us. To succeed in that, clarifying our goals is crucial and fundamental. On the stage of a militarized city, in front of twenty «leaders», with the eye of the world on it, refusing that stage and moving away from the red zone, it is a political act that marks a discontinuity with the past. Naming this act as «social strike» «metropolitan strike» «blocking of the flow of logistics» means simply saying from that mediatic podium: «ladies and gentlemen, let’s come out of the theater! Let’s build a process of struggle to resume in our hands the strength of production. Don’t fight the player, fight the game!». UG’s merit has been to open up a new perspective in a ritualistic context. In other words, if the G20 is symbolic, symbolic will be also the anti G20. From our point of view, the sole benefit of that moment will be to indicate a non-symbolic plan as a strategic horizon: the social strike, the blockade of capital flows.
As the «Amici della Conricerca» say, if UG has failed to organize, expand and engage, acting as a vanguard, this can only confirm the limit of the «G20 event» form. The need to adapt oneself to a time, to a date, to a place that do not belong to a subjectivity that questions its productive role, but to twenty state leaders and their funeral liturgy of power, is one of the great limits of this event, from 2001 onwards. The political conflict in these cases can only be in the form of a symbolic statement, that is in a form somehow similar and opposite to the one determined by the repressive apparatus. We believe that the merit of those who have taken charge of the proposed blockade of the harbor, consists also in recognizing in/pointing to these difficulties of building a conflict praxis in order to reveal the limits of the summit/counter-summit dynamic. For this reason, we see in the action at the port a possible breakpoint: a look in another direction, one that talks about capital flows, and the role of the work force. This proposal convinces us because it abandons the ground of direct claim to the sovereign, with the related risk to ask for something we despise as “power.” Moreover, it convinces us because it expresses the characteristic of the strike (block the production), a ‘social’ strike (within the real processes of production and extraction of wealth).
The third criticism concerns the choice of target. The block of the harbor is indeed completely different from the management of the harbor workers. But strike and communism are two different things. Unfortunately, we do not live in a society freed from exploitation. Unfortunately, we still have not the power to independently manage a production different from the capitalistic one. Moreover, more than everything in the history of the workers’ movement, the strike is the form of conflict that has given power to subordinate subjectivity through both dissent and the escape from production process. Even in the case the strike was impossible, for example because of an agreement between strikebreakers and the boss, or for the liberticidal legislation that denied this right, the «workers’ knowledge» was able to act, knowing exactly where the wrench had to be drop to stopping the entire factory and, then, impose the strike as inevitable. According to the reading of capital flows, logistic is today the economic sector where capital is most concentrated but also more vulnerable, it is the exact point of the assembly line where to drop our wrench. Thus, the aim is to block the production. Logistics moves vastly from the centrality of the capital to the individuality, from ocean container vessels to the precariousness of Amazon and Deliveroo workers or to the consumer. Blocking an artery such as the Hamburg harbor, so central in this system, means on the one hand understanding the complexity of the current production, but also, on the other hand, denouncing the neo-authoritarian evolutionary process of the capitalisms.
In addition, the text clearly refers to a strict separation between internal workers at the port and we, the “activists”. We don’t want to reconstruct either the forms of union involvement in the struggle, nor the positions of the various trade unions of harbor’s workers from Goteborg to Auckland, nor fail in a late tactical reflection on this. It would also be an avant-garde effort. About this specific point, we want to propose a different approach, that is what drives us to the harbor of Hamburg. We have been questioning much about how we will participate. We decided, as the feminist movement taught us, to start the reflection from our subjectivity. We are a collective of Italian migrants in Berlin. As a collective, we have a political reading of the contemporary phase of the Capitalism, and of its mechanisms of exploitation and domination. We take daily position on precariousness, welfare, and repression. Then, of course, we could have decided to join the action at the port simply by sharing the Ums Ganze’s call and political analysis. Yet this was not enough, because it meant the reproduction of the mechanism of autonomy between political and social, between public and private, which is nothing more than a reproduction of the G20’s summit narration. Thus, we decided to try to read ourselves, our bodies, our desires, our stories, our life forms into logistic. Within the machine of capitalism. What do we get from the port of Hamburg? What passes from there ‒ directly and indirectly ‒ that is connected with us, migrants, precarious, exploited? So, we began to read the migration flows also as flows of capital, flows of human beings, namely the workforce. We have therefore read all the main topics of the G20 summit as a dense network of flows and hubs, capable to producing and reproduction the workforce: the agreements between powers to manage foreign immigration, wars and climate change that generate migration, the sovereign debt crisis in southern Europe and austerity, borders, laws that differentiate the labor market according to refugee, migrant, foreign or indigenous status, welfare laws that detect antisocial behaviors. Furthermore, by reading the composition of the work-side of logistic (from Amazon magazines to Northern Italy logistics, from the Deliveroo and Foodora workers to French post offices), we have been able to see to what extent the workforce created through the «migration management / logistics», that the «Great 20» talks about, is largely used in the same logistics economic sector. This dual reading, logistics of migrations (migration production and sorting) and migrant labor force in logistic sector, made the target of the port the choice most coherent for us, as a social subjectivity. Moreover, this double reading confirmed us the need to overcome the fake worker ‒ activist dichotomy, that is exactly the challenge of the Social Strike.
With this collective contribute, we hope not only to further stimulate the debate, but also to make clear the reason and the form of our presence in Hamburg. The Process towards the Social Strike is slow and complicated, made of successive approximations and repeated verifications. We believe that the long article of Leipzig comrades is a great opportunity to open a debate and going in-depth into new strategies and practices for the radical leftist. By means of the harbor block, we believe we are pointing to a way for new possible political experimentation that will go even further the summit of Hamburg. Let’s think to what is happening in France. In these days, a political alliance called the «Social Front» is born in opposition to the neoliberal policies of Macron. This alliance gets together collectives and unions, individuals and political movements. An alliance that experiences solidarity, mutualism, metropolitan block and the creation of alternative forms of life and economy as forms of radical and autonomous struggle. Probably, a process that lives longer than the ‘clinamen’ of the single days of struggle. But to follow this suggestion on a European level, it is good to meet, to deepen, to widen and make this fundamental «workers’ knowledge» effective in the practice of Strike.
That is the reason why we want to launch a proposal discussed at the last Transnational Social Strike Meeting in Ljubljana. A proposal that goes through the narrow and contradictory passage of the G20, to look beyond Hamburg. We would like to build a Transnational Social Strike meeting in Berlin in the next autumn; a meeting where we can discuss fights, practices, alliances, strategies with everyone. A moment to ask ourselves how to continue the path of Social Strike, but also how-to re-twist our political activity and our daily lives. But now is the moment to meet each other in the streets, at the port of Hamburg, but also in front of the Amazon Magazines, or in front of a Job Center in Berlin.