The Struggle for Peace and the Violence of the Crisis



0. The crisis deepens, accelerates, clutters the horizon and, at the same time, continually changes any frame of reference. It is now clear to all that, despite desperate attempts to reassure us by various actors of governance, exit strategies are nowhere to be found. The new element of the modern crisis is that it has lost its cyclical form and become permanent: in this transformation – as we have said many times before against the illusions of a political left unable to rethink its own reformist function – there are no linear Keynesian solutions. Permanent crisis certainly does not mean that the “fall” of capitalism is near: these are hypotheses better left to theologians of history. However, this doesn’t take away the fact that the crisis demonstrates capital’s clear incapacity to make the common, a common produced by the labor of the multitude, function.

Current constitutional orders, both on the level of European integration as well as individual nation-states, don’t allow this kind of crisis to be contrasted: their unity is definitively broken, proposing their restoration or the defense of single constitutional shreds is simply unproductive. All this did not arise through a sort of conspiracy or betrayal of governmental representatives, as is often sustained, but because social struggles broke constitutional mediation and financialization answered by imposing a new convention. In Europe, the ECB thus assumes a fundamental political role determining every political decision and destroying any opposition from above, indefinitely reproducing the crisis in the meanwhile. Capitalists clearly say that margins of mediation are continually eroded. If ever, it is some subaltern voice of the official left that stops to cry over the old node of “classic” welfare between citizenship and labor, without ever realizing how it has already been defeated, not by capitalists, but by changes in production itself and by a social cooperation that can no longer be held in that binomial. Thus, Marchionne, unafraid, uses the language of retaliation (a worker fired for every one that goes back to work), while Fornero was not just careless with her remark about “choosy” youth, because technocratic rulers – unlike nostalgic and impotent social-democratic ideologies and the traditionally “laborist” left – don’t need to sugar coat how things really are: eat shit and shut up. We are even beyond the mystifying terminologies of meritocracy and freedom of choice: whether you’ve studied or not, whether you have a degree or not, get used to a social mobility that only points downwards. The powerful entrepreneur and economist Warren Buffet already said, without pretenses, some time ago: “naturally class struggle exists, and my class won”. Then Occupy Wall Street started making him understand that he was only half right. He hadn’t taken into account the 99%.

1. It seems to us that 14N must be interpreted in this framework. One of the main protagonists was a generation that has socialized in the crisis, precarity and impoverishment and doesn’t know any different. It is precisely because this generation has never imagined having a future and therefore cannot be anxious about losing it that it is absolutely “choosy” in respect to its present. For this generation, crying over the old citizenship-labor couple doesn’t make any sense: it naturally moves outside and against labor constructions, outside and against the modalities and rhythms of union mediation. The decisive node is rather whether the second-generation precariat can situate itself inside a wide social composition, as it does in Spain, or whether it can become an engine for recomposition, which is the political challenge in Italy today. It seems to us that 14N constitutes a first confirmation of social struggle’s “southern lever”, incarnated in the recent meetings Angora99 in Madrid and Meridional Horizons in Palermo. It is not by chance that a week of struggle started, in Italy, precisely in Naples, with demonstrations against Minister Fornero. However, even more significantly, they took place at an Italian-German summit dedicated to “apprenticeship”: from the South we heard a crystal clear message refusing workfare – a strategy that aims to force people into perpetual availability to work in any condition in exchange for future work insertion – and affirming the demand for universal and unconditional income, already rooted in a long series of struggles for the reappropration of spaces and services. We highlight this Mediterranean barycenter of the contemporary geopolitics of social struggle because, once again, affirming the fully global character of the crisis doesn’t mean affirming a homogeneity of its effects and its developments: clearly asymmetrical spaces and times do exist, both inside Europe as well as on an intercontinental scale. It’s far too banal, for example, to stress how the situation in Latin America and the questions that social movements must deal with are very different and, in some cases, opposite in respect to North America and Europe. Nevertheless, these differences compose and nourish a common dimension on a global level and, if we don’t understand this, we risk political illegibility in the territorial context. It is precisely inside this tension that the “European strike” shows us how social struggles in the P.I.I.G.S. could possibly become an engine of recomposition in this phase, as long as they don’t close up in the trap of identitarian particularism and as long as they know how to widen the process of class struggle toward the south, the north or – in political and not geographical terms – toward the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

The crisis therefore is accelerating both on the northern coasts of the Mediterranean as well as the southern coasts, hitting the point of deflagration in the Middle East. We could say that the search for “technical” solutions in the north corresponds to the “political” solutions of the south that have identified moderate Islam as an element of counter-revolutionary stability: neither of the two evidently grasp the crisis’ structural character. It seems that the economic crisis and the international crisis are accumulating together and risk getting totally out of control. The violence of the crisis and open war risk combining themselves in a catastrophic way. We had a taste of this violence during 14N, in what preceded it and what followed it. Simply saying this means placing the question of repression outside of an erroneous idea of Italian anomaly that is still found in some parts of the social movement: the manhunt for students in Rome is in line with the rubber bullets used in Barcelona or the port worker killed in Athens, just to name the most recent events. And identification numbers on police helmets didn’t stop the complete militarization of the Frankfurt mobilization last May, nor did it stop French or English police from acting like occupying troops in the outskirts of Paris and London. It is the violence of the crisis that follows different lines in the measure in which its effects are different. However, any interpretation that re-proposes the idea of a police state of exception is completely misleading: governance is the articulation of different forms, from soft control to hard repression, from mediation policies to war. When it is not able to govern social cooperation from above, it intervenes below to regain control.

What the current crisis brings with it is a tendency of systems to clash. The emails hacked from the Italian state police servers and released by Anonymous reveal the complaints of many officers and some of their unions about the working conditions of their depraved jobs. This economic discontent takes the shape of a corporative discourse against the political cast, guilty of cuts and putting the agents at risk. In the absence of welfare and the possibility for redistributive mediation, police find themselves obligated to manage a part of their subsidies, adding more to their workload. Nevertheless, this recrimination doesn’t lead to any solidarity with the precariat and the poor (like some people would like to maintain) but, on the contrary, it leads to the claim of having the right to beat them. The system of governance thus shifts the responsibility of managing an evermore explosive situation around with less and less means, using its own partial autonomy as a contractual weapon. But autonomy is decidedly growing on the side of the precariat and the poor too: an autonomy that is now fully gained, as 14N demonstrated, in respect to any representative pretext that some unions would still like to nurture. Moreover, even classic social movement organizations fall behind when facing a composition of struggle that is evidently and radically different from how they used to be structured.

The overt crisis of consolidated representation unmistakably makes traditional systems lose track, generating for example a title – whether it be more ridiculous or more nostalgic – like “unity” against the “violent protestors against the strike”. On the other hand, this peculiar scenario, not to be confused with the constant alarms of a supposed newly rising fascism, cannot be faced with a – clearly necessary but insufficient – denouncement of police violence. Nor can it be thought to create recomposition around narrations of repression that always have the weak flavor of victimization. The opposite is true: it is the “we are not afraid” that, from the Maghreb to Spain, widened conflict and created common spaces. And, all in all, the images of Passera and Barca forced to escape in a helicopter because they were being chased by Sulcis workers remind us that Marchionne, Fornero and Warren Buffet will shut up when they start feeling afraid themselves.

2. In these conditions, it is clear that social movements in the crisis must pick the keyword of moltitudinary struggle for peace back up, a peace that is an immediate problem today and a fundamental condition to build an escape route that fights external war and the internal violence of exploitation and repressive governments at the same time. It is a keyword that was imposed with the barricades of the insurrections in Maghreb and – from Libya to the Middle East – triggered a reaction. The absence of this topic from the European political debate should push social movements to impose the understanding of the fact that the struggle for peace and the struggle against the violence of the crisis are more and more closely tied since the economic-financial crisis and the international crisis tend to converge – in a fundamentally classical way.

The Israeli aggression against Gaza, in all its brutality, should push social movements to reactivate mobilizations for Palestinian independence (like has happened over the past few days a little bit everywhere) in significant continuity with 14N demonstrations and, together, go back to the struggle against war. But a political and revolutionary discourse on peace should also be elaborated and practiced in a new form, outside of any outdated anti-imperialism on one hand and any impotent moral discourse on the other. We mentioned earlier, for example, the role played by “political Islam” in this phase that, even in its obvious and profound internal heterogeneity, is tied to a prospective of conservative stability against the “Arab Spring”. It would be wrong to think of it as a subject of the anti-modern tradition: it is rather the attempt to restore political coordinates (state, representation, sovereignty) that are definitively in crisis. Those who hold the Muslim Brotherhood or Iran’s regime – and the same goes for Syria, beyond Islam – as allies (even only tactical ones) solely because they are anti-American, is the victim of a dangerous delusion, independent of the ambivalences and the opaqueness of the opposition to those regimes. Moreover, the winds of war that are blowing strong across the Mediterranean and toward the Middle East are not the product of American hegemony but the reaction to its end, demonstrating that the crisis doesn’t deterministically lead to linear and progressive development. Mobilizing against American military bases around the world therefore means fighting against the madness of a geopolitical system that isn’t able to come out of its own convulsions. And it must be clear that we can win only by leaving a merely local level: the future of the No Dal Molin movement, for example, depends on the ability to build a common movement with Occupy and North African insurrections.

In the 20th century, wars and mass carnage represented a solution to crises: when the crisis is permanent, this is no longer true. The proliferation of war on different scales of intensity and nature can clutter a horizon marked by the structural incapacity to reconstruct a strategic prospective of capital and a cycle of long-term accumulation. At this level, talking about war means identifying a political asymmetry, i.e. the proof of a structural weakness (the impossibility of governing social cooperation) when facing the potency of the common. In this sense, simple moral disdain is a blunt weapon because the reasons for opposing war are immediately incarnated in the material interests of the composition of living labor. Today, the struggle for peace means the struggle for the common and vice versa. Let’s begin here and let’s try to put this hypothesis at the center of our social movements.

* Translated by Jason Francis Mc Gimsey.




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