Gigi Roggero and Francesca Pozzi intervene to a seminar on 'Labour transformation and European Constitutional Process' for the European Social Forum, Paris 2003
For months an obsessive
thought has been circulating in Europe: that a cycle of the movement has
ended, or even that the cycle of the movement has ended. First one ought
to reflect on the very category of movement. In the decade we have left
behind, at least in Italy, it indicated mainly organised components, obliterating
any possibility of a margin between them and, thus, within the movement.
In the meantime, in the ambivalent folds of the behaviour of the multitude,
between cynicism and the construction of new sociality, between individualism
and valorisation of singularities, multiple threads of communication were
being weaved and small practices of survival and resistance could be seen.
Subterranean tunnels were being dug and a chaotic, strong and always plural
transformative tension of the world ran through them. In the meantime,
it became increasingly clear that describing the Nineties’ in terms
of absence of movements was a form of provincialism: in that decade we
find the workers’ struggle that set fire to the large car factories
in Korea; the resistance against multinational corporations in Nigeria;
the struggles of the Sem Terra in Brazil, the one in Los Angeles, or that
in Zapatist Chiapas (and it would be useful to recall that, for the alchemy
that has always characterised the large explosions of workers’ or
proletarian revolt, 1994 was the year of Zapatist insurrection as well
as the year when the highest number of general strikes in the XX Century
was recorded on a world scale).
Out of that contradictory
and difficult decade came the revolt in Seattle: a symbol of global struggles.
From then on, through to Genoa, the movement muddled up the cards to the
point that ‘nothing would ever be the same again’. When it
erupts with force and conquers the global scene, the movement destabilises
the organised components and often places them in crisis. If we don’t
reflect on this issue, we will keep projecting shadows and ghosts from
the past onto the future, or keep being dazzled by an image – the
end of a cycle – that shares with the enemy the same point of perspective.
Crisis of mechanisms of representation, beyond the scheme of cycles: the movement as an open space for politicisation.
Now apparent to everyone is the gap between the organised realities of the movement and the movement itself. We need to start from here without falling into the easy conclusion of organisation played off against social conflict.
Having easily registered the crisis of representative democracy, the global movement has not yet found new organisational alchemies capable of overcoming it. It has criticised the organised components, but has so far not managed to find its own autonomous political representation. We do not believe, as some claim, that organisation had no positive function for instance in the preparation of deadlines, in providing structured channels of communication and facilitating forms of coordination. However, we do not believe that organisations are everything.
crisis in mechanisms of organised representation does not coincide with
the crisis of the movement: the hypothesis of the end of a cycle leads
to oversimplifications of the reality we move within.
These laboratories of conflict are neither separate nor do they only keep track of one another in the classical perspective of internationalist solidarity. On the contrary, they are inevitably interlinked. They communicate and fuel one another, no longer foreseeing the longed for unity of a global space but rather presupposing it as a feature of our present.
The Piqueretos struggles in the Argentinean social factory and the organisation of migrants’ fleeing from detention camps in Woomera do not tell us of distant stories, but speak to us (as the fleeing from the detention centre of Bari Palese that concluded the NoBorder camp in Frassanito last summer, echoed Woomera): they speak about the organisational experimentations of new forms of living labour, of how to attack the materiality of relations of production, of the limit and potentialities of global resistance. In the same way, from the heart to the belly of Empire, we are not getting anticipations or explanations of our future, but hypotheses of research, collective narrations, open problems for the invention of practices that are worth the challenges of the present.
The second dimension on which the hypothesis of the cyclical nature of movements was based, is a linear conception of objectives: the referent was power (embodied in the State), the development was measured from the perspective of a conflictual relation to it, in order to eventually assault it or obtain reforms. A reflux always followed both victories and defeats. This scheme has now come to an end not only because the dislocation of sovereignty makes the locations of power more indefinite, but also because the demands of the movement - war and peace, the free circulation of people, labour, the de-commodification of technologies and scientific research, the protection of the environment- go to the root of problems, they are irreducible to any ‘stagist’ programme.
The most appropriate paradigm to describe this reality is the social movement of migrants, subjects that in their mobile critique put into crisis the international division of labour and national as well as wage borders. Migrants are subjects that can neither be pacified in their places of departure (such as differentialist racism would wish), nor in their places of arrival (as the integrationist logic would like). Fleeing and searching for another possible world, they bring their conflicts and tensions to the places they arrive at (however temporary or permanent). This is exactly like the global movement. Surely what is still open is the node of individuation of referents and counterparts, points – however provisional – to press on to influence the processes. It is desirable that the debate on these themes carries on rather than dwelling on dimensions that once would have been called politicist. In this perspective we think that the thought on Europe needs to be considered still as an ambivalent space and possible terrain of experimentation for transformation.
Since its beginning, the thesis that the movement was the agent of another globalisation - a globalisation of struggles and resistance - provoked an explicit polemic against those who orientated themselves (and still do) first of all towards the recuperation of national spaces and the classical levers of the social state in the last century so as to tame or block ‘neoliberalist’ globalisation. We do not want these aspirations to be transferred from the national to the continental level, pointing to Europe as the strong subject of a renewed anti-Americanism. To be more explicit: for us the point is not to sustain impractical political projects that attempt to use local and/or national frameworks to consolidate experiences of struggle and resistance to global capital. What we are saying is that any political project, irrespective of its territorial scale of application, must be characterised by an open attitude to the global dimension that the very experience of working class and postcolonial struggles materially contributed more to build than capitalist development.
As we did after Genoa, we come back here today to place our stakes on the persistence of the movement intended as an open and complex space of politicisation, where multiple experiences of political agitation and social conflict, experiments in practices and languages, are not reducible to the sum of its components: constituent space where the process of subjectivation is always open.
In this continuous
research, it is obviously not our intention to throw away the inheritance
that the best parts of past radical experiences left us: but in order
to make use of the ‘testament’, the binding clause entails
liberating ourselves from any nostalgia and decline in the here and now
what has been passed on to us that is alive and has a pulse.
Limits and problems must be highlighted first of all, but within the space of politicisation that we call global movement. Outside of this, there is nothing but the return to an ideological and disembodied dispute, to the space-time of self-referential impotence. Though ridden with difficulties and uncertainties, it seems to us more challenging to continue to experiment and jointly research in disquieting ways amongst the finally stormy seas we are sailing through.
The project DeriveApprodi: an open space of plural elaboration
For the first twenty-one issues, from 1992 to 2002, the journal was particularly involved with Italy and in general with the capitalist ‘West’. This was based on the conviction that the solidarity towards movements of the ‘South’ of the world would be short lived unless one could make evident the potential lines of rupture and crisis within the ‘metropolis’. However, things changed when, following the partially different paths from the ones we had initially planned, a great social and political explosion actually occurred: even for our path, the eruption of the global movement in the force of its events signals a periodisation.
After the great and tragic days of Genoa we started a discussion amongst ourselves that concluded with the decision to partly modify the organisation of the journal and to launch a new series. This also meant take the gamble of questioning our identity – however atypical – as a journal with a decennial history behind it, and to put into play, verify and update our working hypotheses under new circumstances.
Firstly, we were struck by the very eruption of the movement that demonstrated in Genoa against the G8, as it had done in the previous large events and as it kept doing afterwards. On the streets and squares of that city, very heterogeneous individual and collective subjects met and found, for the first time in Italy, a common political expression, which had matured, in different directions and though often hardly visible on the surface of politics, a radical critique of the new asset of capitalism. In such a context the concept of multitude –very present in our discussion in the course of the 90’s- turned into body and blood. Far from reducing ourselves to a state of ecstatic contemplation before this multitudinal composition of the movement, we have often highlighted the intrinsic risks of the use of the category of multitude as an already given and constituted subject, ready for the final battle and historically destined to win. We have rather preferred to investigate its great potential, both theoretical and practical –or, let us finally say it correctly, or theoretical practice – as a space of subjectivation irreducible to unity, where the relation between collective and singularity is based on new foundations in comparison to the past, with peculiar differences and subjective potentialities.
It is however an ambivalent
space, always open onto the negative, on ‘evil’. In this sense,
then, what must be investigated and rethought is a new gendered presence,
neither ideological nor disembodied, but active and protagonist, starting
from the differences in gender that sediment in the materiality of movements.
At the same time,
the model of a journal as an expression of a political line or organised
subject used as an instrument of political struggle to build hegemony
has definitely entered a crisis. The gamble we made on the unity of the
movement after Genoa does not have an ecumenical nature for us: the building
of paths of transformation can only occur through critical confrontation
and lively debate. What we definitely try to leave behind is rather the
logic of reductio ad unum that is typical of organisational models
of the last century: not only because all this is part of a questionable
political baggage, but also because, faced with the demands of the subject
– multitudinal, in fact – and the multiplicity of conflictual
experimentations, that logic is no longer working. At the same time, ‘DeriveApprodi’
does not aim to be a container-journal, a place of discussion abstract
from the dynamics of the movement, a ‘borderline’ actor that
places itself at the margins in order to tickle the insufficiencies of
organised components. On the contrary, what we are trying to build with
the new series is an open space of plural elaboration, fully
internal to the dynamics of the movement with strong points of view, but
transversal to the political enclosures, interweaving relations
not only with non organised subjects, but also with frontier zones,
i.e., with those who – without renouncing their belonging to a group
or area – live in it problematically, in a dynamic tendency towards
the distancing and redefinition of their own mechanisms of identity production;
thus assuming identity as a terrain of struggle, rather than pre-given
datum or naturalised frontier.
Translated by Arianna Bove