The Commune of Europe

Towards the July mobilization to Turin and the autumnal “season of struggle” for European social movements

As Interventionistische Linke (D) and coalition of Social Centers (I) we met in the squares and streets throughout Europe, when – happily with many others – we began to discuss and struggle not only in narrow spaces defined by the boundaries of nation-states, but in and towards a real shared transnational perspective. Of course internationalism is part of our “heritage”, filled with successes and failures from which we must learn.

The role of the left in the movements of the plazas, the fights for democracy, was marked by new relationships. The assemblies of the squares, the solidarity platforms and social networks and the new attempts to destitute centers of power and create a new common existence have breathed life into our struggles. While learning how to translate these experiences into our imaginaries and practices, we ask how to do so with view to the European scale.

The crisis has resulted in a situation in which the left can and must once again act for real social transformation. Since we met in the days of Blockupy Frankfurt 2012, we have felt the pressing need to experiment a new way of acting together socially and politically, assuming constitutively a European perspective for our militant subjectivity. Building on shared experiences in which many others have participated, this is our attempt to synthesize a few points, in order to continue the discussion with many and many more. A transnational perspective as a new way to breathe together.

This leap to the transnational can also be considered one effect of seven years of crisis, or rather of the “becoming crisis” of financial capitalism. Crisis is systemic, but as we have seen this fact does not imply the “collapse” of capitalism. Crisis is economic and ecological. It is about social reproduction: energy sources and supplies, food production and consumption chains, and not least questions of care. We must consider all these aspects if we want to combat the totality of old and new forms of capitalist exploitation.

Crisis is certainly global, but it takes ground in highly differentiated ways around the planet. Crisis is “territorialized” – and for us crisis has exploited and intensified the scale of Europe, in the so-called Euro-crisis. The European scale is complex and controversial. It is not our intention here to analyze it in depth, but rather to name a few of its consequences. As Europe on the whole continues to benefit from exploitation of and in the Global South, the capitalistic management of crisis by European oligarchies amounts to a general restructuring of the social organization of labor and the distribution of socially-produced wealth within Europe, strengthening the extractive character of the current productive and reproductive model, against a social cooperation that continues to reach higher levels of autonomy and self-determination. This attack on sociality is the reality of what they call “austerity policies”.

This happens in a more general framework of attempts to establish “new order” in the unbalanced power relationships between classes, between capital and living labor. The other face of this dynamic is an increasing “world disorder” in the geopolitical balance between old and new imperial powers, as each one tries to carve out spaces of hegemony in a world that no longer recognizes a single-pole of imperium. Instead of a “peaceful multipolar governance”, as they called their proxy-war rule of the past, crisis has brought us to the end of the “American era” and the beginning of a period with new, multiple centers of global capitalism and the return of a muscular “policy of gunners”, settings in which “security” and war, police and army, are blurred, as the Ukranian case so unfortunately shows.

No doubt we are living in an “era of revolutions”. These times are marked by deep, rapid and unexpected transformations of high ambivalence. We must seize this time and turn it into a new time of revolution, a present time for radical social and political change, belonging to all those rejecting the oppression of capitalistic exploitation and command, to all those creating the relations we need to commonly manage our resources, our communities, our cooperation. Our ground is not that of idealistic representations, ideological options or “scientific” solutions, but that of social movements, of learning and teaching each other as we experiment, concretely fighting for better and equal living conditions as we respect singularities and become common in our struggle. This is an immediately political perspective. We call to create simultaneously antagonistic and protagonistic forces in a permanent constituent horizon on a transnational level. Social self-organization and widespread and effective practices of conflict must be able to speak a language that is understandable and shared by multitudes of people across the many kinds of borders that separate us. It remains our further task to indicate with precision the enemies to contend with, the relationships of submission to subvert, but also the perspectives of liberation, the new conditions of equality to conquer, the common alternative to collectively build.

Europe is taking place. And as such, the European scale has become one of our critical social and political spaces of action. We know that the imperial Europe of the ruling order is a slap in the face. That this Europe is destroying the world is a diagnosis from which all politics must depart today. So we must be very careful in defining what we intend as “Europe”. We reject the institutional borders of the European Union: the EU border regime is a violent and deadly means of controlling and disciplining living labor, mobilizing and re-instating sickly racist imaginaries that form an integral part of the historical and cultural construct of Europe, implementing capitalist project of regulation within a new international division of labor. We fight from within against this project, on the side and together with those migrants and refugees who come to Europe from around the world in search of a better life – or simply survival. The struggle for the freedom of movement is not marginal or additional, but central to our task. Our Europe is a permanent battlefield and an opportunity. It is a changing topography of social tensions and conflicts illuminated by the glimmering light of a possible sociality, less than reality but more than a dream. It is oriented towards the South and East, with the attitude to break and to overpass all the given borders by practicing solidarity. It is present but cannot be generalized. Dominant Europe is “our production and our alienation”, our Europe is not only a space of struggle to traverse, but also a critical horizon of a practice of the common: the Commune of Europe!

In this renewed spirit we move together through the European days of action May 15-25th, towards the transnational mobilization against the EU summit in Turin on Youth Unemployment this July 11th. For us Turin is not a point of arrival, but the potential opening from below of a “semester of struggle” of constituent social movements across Europe. Together towards an autumn that, for the first time, could be a season of widespread and multiple social conflicts on a continental scale, focusing again on “Day X”, the convergence to block the inauguration of the new European Central Bank tower in Frankfurt.

Berlin is the new Rome. With its “consensual lack of alternatives” the Grand Coalition government in Germany, in fact exercising hegemony on behalf of capitalist oligarchies, is the de facto leader of EU institutions in a climate shadowed by growing consensus for the most reactionary and nationalist forces. We all know that the role of the European Parliament is minute, compared to the Troika and the dynamics of inter-governmental relations. While we eagerly await the results of attempts to build on social movements in the European elections, the critical factor of the elections does not center on the question of what party sends how many representatives to parliament. The European elections are important as evidence of our political environment – as a kind of social referendum, especially in Greece, through which new political spaces could emerge that allow for a possible alternative to the lack of alternatives.  In saying this, we affirm that a real reversal in the trends dominant in recent years in Europe can only come through building strong and diffused social counter-powers. It is in movement that new forms of social protagonism can emerge.

From this point of view, the Heads of EU Governments will face one of the most pressing issues in Turin. We must be clear about this. We assert that the critical aspect of “unemployment” is not to be found in the two-digit statistics that track the dramatic level of social misery in especially Southern Europe. Instead, we must investigate the relationship between capital and living labor on the European scale with the weapons of criticism and cross it through with a new arsenal of political and organizational proposals. We must arm ourselves with offers that deal with a much more detailed and complex phenomenon of the new social composition of living labor, of its contradictions and potentialities of struggle and of contemporary forms of governance in the capitalist labor market. Our understanding and proposals must speak to us everywhere in Europe. The cold numbers of the statistics hide a more profound and long-term process of precarization, not only with respect to wage relationships and corporatist contracts as well as legal status, used as a tool of governance to control labor. We must tackle the precarization of life forms themselves, invested by command as a pervasive exercise of bio-power, and rooted to a much greater extent in financial credit-debt relations than “factory regulations”. We must investigate and combat all forms of old and new blackmail and constraint to exploited labor: from mini-jobs to intermittency, from temporary contracts to irregular and clandestine work, from undervalued domestic labor to un-valued affective toil and housework. Instead we must demand the guarantee of reddito, an Italian term which in German means social infrastructure and encompasses not only a basic income, but also the right to housing, food and healthcare, mobility and access to communication, universal and unconditional.

As we spread this struggle on the European scale, we need to create social, political, militant and discursive spaces and networks for a new transnational social composition. This requires us to consider how to create a mobile zone of contact beyond “tourism” and “Erasmus” – a community of transnational movements seeking commonality, in motion, creating knowledge and awareness of the simultaneous heterogeneities and commonalities of how crisis grounds itself across Europe, creating different spaces and temporalities that make it difficult for us to join together. We seek an open and committed way of growing, learning and acting in common, across and beyond the different logics of regional and national contexts. We seek to investigate our opportunity. Europe is for the movements not only a problem of different languages, social landscapes and everyday acts, of distance and proximity; it is the vanishing point of the self. What brings us together and what is the direction of our movement?

How to create proposals that are translatable across the heterogeneous space of Europe? Let us briefly consider, as paradigmatic, one of our own local contexts. In Germany we have seen large portions of the population denounce class solidarity, voting with “cynical reason” for those they believe will protect them in their disintegrating social insecurity. In fact Austerity is the new German social model, implemented as Agenda 2010 and now imposed across Europe. Yet German politics also organizes its public endorsement in Germany by distributing minimal wealth along very individualistic specifications, so as to keep people both alienated from one another and minimally dependent on the state machine. Fear of falling into the abyss and the experience of helplessness are contorted into a nationalistic laboratory of fury, chauvinism and reactionary hostility of the “insecured” towards those who are even more insecured. We see this pattern in the mobilization of all “normalized relations” – in racisms, sexisms, heteronormativities, patterns we must also be aware of in our own organizing and practices. How to translate this fear into commonality?

This transnational growing together extends across social sectors, and the summit in Turin is our chance to broaden and enliven our ongoing debate: from the classical question of “unemployment” to all modes of exploitation of the society and the commons. Showing how all the processes of private appropriation of what is common are various articulations of the same contemporary capitalism: from the destruction of public services like health and education, to big infrastructural projects devastating territories and environment, from genetic manipulations to control of knowledge as new frontiers of domination. In developing appropriate pathways of struggle on these grounds we can indicate the foundations of a real systemic alternative.

In the former rubble of a European left movement a puzzle of a new social antagonism is developing, one that sees in every instant of its task the experimental creation of new relations founded in common sociality, the piecing-together of protagonism. It is a composition-in-process, and in transnational terms we need to learn the art of practical synthesis. The heterogeneity of contemporary society is marked by a multiplication of relations. We are sure there is no one right form. We need to discover points of relation and overlap, to create new hybrid spaces that allow us to crisscross through many things, bringing together parts and pieces at many intersections, and build a counter-power that is capable not only of denouncing the ruling order, but taking power to the Commune. In this way, a way we are starting to imagine and experience, but which we still must practice and create with many, we hope to join together with many.

These previous discussion points are a point of departure. Let’s start with ourselves, and with the first steps of our exchange and the common agreement between us to launch a proposal open to all those concerned. We – interventionistische Linke (D) and coalition of Social Centers (I) – invite those interested to build together on these bases and with this spirit a wider coalition that discusses together and practically animates the mobilization towards Turin and into the autumn.

Avanti, comrades! And, for the capitalist élite of Europe: “winter is coming”!
15th of May 2014
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