Blockupy this Europe

by Precarious DiʃConnections

Our space

Together with many others we said again and again that Europe is the minimum field of struggle. But what does Europe mean today? No one can be satisfied with the current state of affairs. However, as the scale of all the processes in which we are involved is at least European, every movement needs an idea of Europe in order to answer this questions: how do we block the functioning of this Europe and how do we – and the people we care about – occupy the European political space? One thing must be clear: neither the oppression lurking on us, nor the ongoing movements of people do respect national borders. The EU enlargement means increased mobility of commodities, capitals, production and workers. Even though many social movements and European trade unions still find it hard to understand it, Europe is a single market located in the global market and what happens in one part of it affects the other parts.

While the national level is still more visible, the transnational one is a matter of fact, and as such is to be treated by the movements. Rather than limiting our action, the European space should push it on a higher level. The territorial dimension is a limit that we must overcome in order to widen our initiative. We do not need forts in which to defend ourselves, but instruments of connection in order to be able to counterattack. At the same time, we do not need a void idea of Europe, but strong tools to face its material constitution. It is not just a territorial or democratic rootedness that we should seek, but a political one.

Our time

After the Greek coup, the summer-tempest of migrants, and the terror in Paris, the EU is trying to present itself as the best possible scenario. A solid growth, jobs, social protection against poverty and exclusion, on the one hand; balance of budget, a governed and flexible mobility, on the other. While the EU produces xenophobia and closure, it fancies detaining the power of controlling the movements of migrants. The consolidation of a crisis regime made of social inequalities, decline in wage and restriction to the freedom of movement, represents itself as the best option, especially against the growth of nationalism and xenophobia. While many, also among radicals and trade-unionists, believe that going back to the sovereign nation-states is the answer, it is clear that national sovereignty is politically valuable only for the far right and for those who overlook the power relations across Europe.

In addition to this tendency of claiming the return to the national territory, the transnational scope of the political initiative has been challenged by some sort of self-complaining about the poor effects of the summer of our discontent. Blockupy should oppose both tendencies, while taking their causes seriously. The institutional crisis raised by the massive movements of migrants shows: what is at stake is the very constitution of Europe, that is the form of Europe in next years and the battlefield on which each movement will have to measure its strength. In this period, the constitution of Europe is being defined by the contradiction between the centralization of the decision-making and a tension to use national interests as a leverage to protect the local balances of debt, labour market and welfare systems.

By protesting against the opening of the new ECB building, Blockupy has been able to point out this contradiction and to highlight the existence of a European political opposition. Yet now it is necessary to rethink our strategy and discourse: if the recent mobilizations leave no political remnants, it might mean that our analysis was not accurate enough. In this framework, localizing our initiative, rooting it in our cities or regions, does not mean necessarily to make it more concrete. What makes our transnational coordination concrete are some clear contents that allow us to take stances in front of the real movements that cross Europe, to make it a field of conflict.

Our movements

Despite a differential inclusion of non-EU migrants and the recent limitations imposed to the mobility of the EU citizens, free circulation is producing a strong mobility among workers. Usually this active use of mobility is perceived as a threat by some trade unions: because of lower wages and employment standards, the employers prefer to hire migrants, thus causing foreign outsourcing and increasing the unemployment levels of the local workforce. Nevertheless, the result is that these movements question the traditional political organisation of both unions and political movements. Like a storm, mobility and migrants are haunting Europe and have blown up the European status quo. What the Greek referendum was not able to do, migrants did, at least for some time. As Angela Merkel said, migrants produced a crisis deeper than the Greek one.

Nonetheless, the «problem» of migration is still isolated from the issues that concern also European citizens, for example in the form of a terrorist threat or as a matter of nationalist and patriarchal pride. This is why we need to declare the political centrality of migrant labour. Internal European mobility and the presence of migrants entail a radical transformation of the composition of contemporary living labour, and sometimes even a negative subjectivization, as in Cologne, and this transformation concerns behaviours, necessities and the methods of struggle. How to stand concretely by the side of migrants and refugees and what it means to put mobility and the «migrant crisis» at the center of our political agenda are still open questions. Yet every coalition will be measured against its own ability to share this transnational political pattern, against its drive to support organizing this new European, mobile and precarious working class. The challenge of the organization is thus unavoidable for Blockupy. Last year we did a European siege of Frankfurt, this year we have the chance to strike and organize political actions on the 1st of March. Blockupy must be up to the challenges of this contradictory period and offer some moments of political centralization, if it does not want to renounce to its transnational vocation.

Our politics

In front of the neo-sovereignist threats, the circulation of right-wing discourses and the enforcement of austerity by the European institutions we face an urgency: the urgency not to isolate the migrants question as a specific one, one that is separated from the emergency experienced by those living the effects of the crisis. Instead of trying to institutionalize, even though from below, the examples of solidarity, we need to connect solidarity movements with other situations involving the workplaces and society in order to gain momentum and to overturn the division between those who need help and those who help. In other words, standing by the migrants means opening a political rift not between «foreigners» and «true citizens» but between a collective «we» and a political «them», between the exploited and exploiters, between the enriched and the impoverished.

This opens the question of a European movement that must tackle its own limits, before proposing a more “democratic democracy” as a solution. We cannot hope to solve the limits of our organization invoking a new institutional framework. In fact, a different institutional setting cannot support our claims if the current power relations are not radically challenged. Before focusing on the institutions, Blockupy needs to discuss the ongoing lack of consensus around even basic European political claims. The political bet should concern how to involve in our struggles those who face the daily normality of precarity, and how to find political tools to support the diverse struggles that are challenging the material constitution of Europe. At the same time, Blockupy should keep on insisting on the relevance of the critical relation between movements and institutions, as the cases of Greece and Spain (and hopefully many others) show. But in order to keep this critical relation alive, Blockupy should be able to identify its political challenges.

It is inside and against this framework that the call for 1st of March coming from the transnational social strike meeting held in Poznan acquires its meaning also for Blockupy. The 1st of March 2016, as a day of strikes and coordinated actions focusing on the centrality of migrant labour, is much more than a day of solidarity with migrants. The following is at the stake here: the possibility to experiment new paths of struggle, new ways to connect the political and the social level, a possible step forward in our common struggle against the financial constitution of Europe that led us in front of the ECB. We have the opportunity to bring together different groups and union structures in a shared political process. The 1st of March can be the first step towards a transnational social strike that makes a European OXI real and strong. It is not a solution; rather it requires a complicated organizational work as well as the investment on a shared political plan like the one that Blockupy can offer. The transnational social strike can be the process and the event which politicizes the European crisis once for all. This transnational movement should be able to point directly to the issues of wage, of welfare and freedom of movement against the dominion of the capital enforced by the EU.

Updating our common discourses and practices, finding clear and communicable claims, grasping the real movements of Europe: this can be the way to enlarge and create political communication and initiative. Moments of discussion as the Blockupy Ratschlag are definitely needed, even more if they can speak to a plurality of subjects outside the usual activists‘ circles and if they actually and radically come to terms with the unevenness of the European and global space and with the existence of real movements exceeding the social movements as we know them.