(en) Everyone to Amsterdam June 14!

Lyn and Shawn (linjin@tao.ca)
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 14:25:01 pst

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Mon, 09 Jun 1997 02:07:58 +0200 To: a-infos-raw From: Hobo <hobo@iol.it> Reply-to: a-infos-work

Marches against unemployment, casualisation, social exclusion


A vast archipelago of workers' rank and file union organisations, collectives and associations of the unemployed and casual workers, of political and social forces have called for Saturday 14 June in Amsterdam, after two months of initiatives across Europe, a large transnational demonstration to coincide with the intergovernmental conference at which the powers of our continent will discuss the rewriting of the Maastricht Treaty.

We know full well what we can expect from that summit: the process of European economic and political integration is today in the hands of political-financial elites, of central banks, of big business; the parameters fixed for each country's adhesion to the "single currency" spell out a steel cage of compatibility which orients economic and social policies directly onto the terrain of the most drastic neo-liberalism. None the less, within the process of market globalisation, Europe is today the capitalist pole most subject to pressures and tensions. Profound social contradictions have been opened and deepened by the attempt of financial and political oligarchies to govern the transition from the fordist to the postfordist model of production. Social struggles, whether "resisting" or "innovative" in nature (from the December 1995 metropolitan strike in France to the conflict of Renault Vilvoorde workers against plant closures, from the struggles of the "sans papiers" to the large-scale mobilisations against social spending cuts in Germany) impact immediately upon global political choices. The conflicts and movements that appear on the continental scene won't even achieve partial successes unless they are able to connect their deep-rootedness in the "local" dimension (that is, in the specific productive and social reality induced by the "global's" process of creating new differentiations and hierarchies). To do this, they must adopt objectives which take European political overdeterminations as their horizon, entering into communication with self-organised social experiences and realities across the continent. In this sense 14 June assumes a further, particular significance: because the before-during-after of this event represents the test case, the first terrain of experimentation of another possible political practice, one that is radical and from the bottom up, which assumes the terrain of Europe as its own. On this point the Italian debate is backward and too often hampered by "ideological" blinkers . . .

Buridano's donkey

Who does not know the celebrated philosphical paradox which states: "placed between two equal bales of hay, the donkey dies of hunger because it doesn't know which to choose or where to start?"

In Italy the current debate on strategic questions such as income-work-employment, a debate which involves broad sectors of the left, often seems like Buridano's donkey! Everyone competes at counterposing the various individual aspects of the principal contradiction between the development of the productive forces and the decrease in employed labour power, instead of seeking out and experimenting with proposals and projects-with broader solutions to the contradiction as such. So, "minimum guaranteed work" is counterposed to guaranteed income, full employment to flexible employment, the old national-welfare State to new possible forms of territorial and trans-territorial cooperation and solidarity from below, while the resistance of "niches" of the factory mass worker is described as an alternative to the new forms of post-fordist social labour.

Those who do not work shall receive no income-so we are told ad nauseum. In order to obtain and justify access to income, a whole range of useless or fictitious working activities need to be invented . . . If the interests of the "guaranteed" are to be defended, they must be opposed to those of the "non-guaranteed", and vica versa. In sum, the Italian debate is made up of binary poles, of mirror images which merely cancel each other out. The only result being: nothing or almost nothing! No massified form of conflict materialised and made visible on the terrain of labour/non-labour/income, and the donkey dies!

But what left?

"Because so long as we remain prisoners of what is collapsing, we will be incapable of grasping the potential of liberation inherent within the change in course, and to profit by giving meaning to such a change" (Andre Gorz).

It's surprising that while a settling of acccounts has come to a head around one of the fundamental nodes of modernity-this being the relationship between technological innovation, increases in productivity and social wealth, and the corresponding decrease in the labour necessary to produce it-very little has occured on the level of contents, of political action, of theoretical reflection and practical initiative. The stalemate in which this problematic finds itself in Italy is due not only to the absence or insufficiences of radical antagonism and class conflict. There are, within the history and tradition of the left as a whole, deep cultural roots which are difficult to eradicate: the work ethic, whether protestant or catholic-communist, and labourist mythology, each of which has stamped itself upon people's minds with almost the same force as a religion, a teleology, a faith.

The official socialist and/or communist movement has never gone beyond the horizon of "Work": this work, work in the society of capital, waged or exploited work! Labour as absolute value, source of all other values-social, cultural, political and human; the emancipation of labour (not liberation from wage labour) as the condition of every other emancipation; the "people of the producers", the "society of workers", the "State of labour" etc., etc. State Socialism and the protestant work ethic walk side by side: Lassalle was one of the first to synthesise them, Marx the first to destroy, with the weapons of critique, every "Gotha Programme" for all time to come!

Only the "other workers' movement" has expressed, in various historical periods and phases, a theoretical-practical radical critique of wage labour, of the commodity form, of exchange value, of the capitalist market, of productivist ideology. But then this movement has never found a place within official history: it has been chastised for its radicalism, and marginalised for its instances of liberation, of autonomous organisation, for its constitution of alternative socialities and communities. If we still want today to find some interesting traces and starting points which prefigure and anticipate the problematics of work/income in all their complexity, we need perhaps to interrogate the heretical thought and struggles of the sixties, of 1968/1977. We will search in vain for anything worthy of note in the gramscian, togliattian or berlinguerian myths, much less amongst the heirs of stalinism and those nostalgic for "real socialism".

Clearly, the encrustations and rigidities which remain within left culture, in the broadest sense of the term, represent an objective obstacle and brake to our ability to grasp, with a new spirit and revolutionary passion, the radical changes occuring to the very concept of work/time/life.

>From the society of work to the society of non-work, or . . . a bit less of
national-popular tradition, a bit more critical marxism! With Marx beyond Marx

Without doubt, the structural contradiction, the spectre which haunts the world-namely the irreversible growth in the area of non-work (understood not as total unemployment, in the classical sense, but as flexible, casualised, intermittent work)-is a process which Marx had already identified with great precision. The very dynamic of "relative surplus value", that is the reduction of necessary labour so as to increase the surplus value extorted within the limits of the working day, creates a growing amount of productivity: it produces more in less time, with less labour power employed. Beyond diminishing the value of commodities, including the labour-commodity itself, this process renders increasing quotients of manual labour superfluous.

"An automatic system of machinery", on the one hand: on the other, a restricted increase in "supervisors, responsible for control and maintenance, no longer directly inserted in the process of production, but standing alongside it . . .". In this manner, for Marx, the capitalist mode of production resolves itself, whilst simultaneously creating the presuppositions for another society, a higher and more evolved phase of human, historical and social development. How ingenuous, linear, and Enlightment-inspired this vision of Marx! And yet, how many fragments of truth, albeit tormented and contradictory, can still be found today in his "Fragment on Machines"!

Technological innovation, the application of science (the principal productive force, according to Marx) to the process of production makes possible, for the first time in history, the freeing of life time from the necessity and obligation to perform commanded labour. Under capitalist domination, these potentialities of liberation translate themselves on a planetary scale into new misery, suffering, oppression and exploitation for the majority of humanity. The liberation of time, the expulsion from the processes of production, is posed as penury, poverty, crisis, catastrophe . . . rather than as the possibility of founding a new world, more just and free, as the presupposition for the collective appropriation not so much of "power" as of potentiality [potenza], of the development of each and all, of wealth and freedom, of the fullness of life.

The crisis of wage society and its mechanisms of political representativeness and regulation, along with its cultural crisis

Within the processes delineated above, that social and political identity which was formed upon the basis of manual and wage labour, of the mass worker of the fordist-taylorist factory and its struggle, collapses: from forms of political and union representativeness to the welfare State . . .With them collapse certainties, habits, behaviours and beliefs which had seemed so well-established as to be self-evident, almost natural. For a long time the crisis of the society of work, as it has been historically determined, has carried within itself the necessity of a "Copernican revolution" in the relation between work and income. While average socially necessary labour tends increasingly to diminish in society, this does not mean, from the capitalist point of view, a decrease in exploitation. On the contrary, there is the maximum extension and extraction of surplus value in every ambit of social, productive and reproductive activities. Given this, it is clear that full employment, a fixed job for life, can no longer represent the unique and exclusive possibility for obtaining an income and a social and political identity. Increasingly, in a new ideal and imaginary constitution-but one which must and can be given life immediately in struggles, in antagonism, in conflict-pride of place must no longer be given to the right to work, but rather to the right to well-being, to existence, to life, to happiness for all! As it was written in the revolutionary constitutions at the origin of modernity!

Towards a new "social contract" and a radical democracy which is neither representative nor delegated!

For some time now the fordist compromise and the pact between labour and capital underlying it-in other words, the virtuous circle between productivity, wages and the redistribution of incomes, mass consumption, the State's role and public spending, full employment-has been in an irreversible, structural crisis. Increasingly, the very geo-political cornerstone within which these processes were determined-the nation-State-is vanishing from the historic horizon, given its inability to deal with the simultaneous processes of economic globalisation and new productive localisations. The difficulties, from the point of view of power, in reshaping the role of the postfordist and post-keynesian State in the government of new productive processes, are the unequivocable sign of the radical changes occuring on the level of work and social reproduction.

The old paradigms are being replaced by new ones: flexibility, mobility, intermittent work, the intertwining of work and non-work within the same subjects, part time, domestic jobs . . . a modular organisation of social labour power which is malleable, in real time, to the shifting needs of the market. In reality this involves an enormous mobilisation of living labour's productive energies, an absolute lengthening of social labour time, even if wage labour in the classical sense tends-here in the North of the planet-to be drastically reshaped and the socially necessary labour time for production diminishes. It is an enormous contradiction, a paradox, a genuine enigma: why does this great human potentiality of liberation from wage slavery, which stands on the threshhold of guaranteeing that all the members of the human consortium live in the enjoyment of the immense wealth produced, transforms itself on the contrary into the greatest inequality and injustice; into wealth, happiness, guarantees and rights for the few, and suffering, poverty, discrimination, bestial exploitation for the majority of humanity? The megalopolises of Asia, the bidonvilles of Latin America, the boundless territories of Africa-but also the metropoles of the North and the richest cities of the West, divided as they are between fortified citadels and ghetto quarters-are infused with a lack of income, of life opportunities, with an existential and social condition worthy of the worst infernal circles . . . a reality evermore segmented, divided by barriers of social, racial and class discrimination, where the gulf between rich and poor, between an increasingly restricted nucleus of the guaranteed and an enormous mass of non-guaranteed deprived of rights, is growing. In this scenario, where chaos reigns, conflicts assume the form of a "war of one against all" along racial, ethnic and religious lines: certainly not the characteristics of liberation, of the construction of a new society! Precisely for these reasons, the problem of income redistribution becomes central today, as the only possible condition for beginning, if nothing else, to speak again of a new "social contract" which can impede the whole of society's collapse and implosion into a new era of barbarism, a new post-industrial middle age. Our approach therefore can only be "global", at the highest levels of the contradiction: for us this means, at a minimum, starting from the dimension of Europe. Redistribution of income and a concept of income disengaged from work, therefore, must be the first act of realisation of the crisis of the "society of work" and the transition currently underway. The "citizenship social income"-a wealth fund, not only in the monetary sense, but as a basket of goods, services, and use values guaranteed to every member of society as their own fundamental right-is today a concrete, material, and no longer utopian possibility. It's possible precisely because of the enormous increase in wealth through productivity growth: why shouldn't this "productivity gain" be redistributed amongst all those who, in different ways, contribute to social cooperation? As Marx once noted, the result of the associated, combined labour of ten workers is no longer equal to the arithmetic sum of their individual labour powers, but is something more, qualitatively superior, a potentiality, a social force derived from cooperation. Why shouldn't this "something more", this potentiality of cooperation be acknowledged in order to guarantee a better quality of life for all? Why must expenditure on health, education, housing and cultural growth be considered the "faux frais of production" and not, on the contrary, the indispensable social conditions which make possible any productive activity and any further development of society as a whole? Which comes first: the interest of the capitalist economy, of exchange and the market, or the collectivity, the political, the community of citizens? The problematic of income therefore is extremely complex, multi-faceted and multi-dimensioned: it cannot be reduced and collapsed into a pure monetary subsistence allowance . . . to many it seems beastly, a heresy to open a conception of disengaging income from work: why-they ask us-do you want to go against the scared and inviolable laws of political economy? How can you possibly violate the law of value and labour time as the measure of what share each receives of the wealth produced? Put more crudely, what we have here is the capitalist/socialist/social democratic chorus of "those who do not work shall not eat!", or have any rights, or be considered a person, much less a citizen! In respone, we'd like to recall what were and are concrete examples of income uncoupled from work: the Italian system of layoff pay (cassa integrazione), for example, has for many been transformed from a "temporary" instrument into a permanent state of affairs; the various forms of indirect unemployment subsidies. We also recall that when the level of class conflict was high, and workers' counterpower was strong, the wage became an "independent variable", that is a form of income uncoupled from capitalist productivity. In this sense struggle is still the most productive form for workers and the most un productive for the bosses! What else does the immense growth of "social spending" represent if not a greater quotient of wealth that the state of Capital in its welfarist version is forced to redistribute under the pressure and demandsof the class struggle: a form of "social income" or "political wage" in exchange for guarantees of "social peace"?

To sum up, we have already seen forms of income uncoupled from work in operation, on the basis of the relations of force and radical antagonism: a sign not so much of a problem of "economic rationality" as one eminently of politics and power.

If we analyse closely many of the forms of income uncoupled from work which, for various motives, have been established, we see something else very clearly: they allrefer, in a hypocritical and mystifying manner, to the "ideology of work" and to the legitimation of the centralised and bureaucratic State, to the insuperability of the statist horizon. Let's look at how this double link State-Work is, in different and opposite terms, also the leitmotiv of the current debate/counterposition between neo-liberals and social-statists:

1) in the neo-liberal logic the "vital minimum"-as in the monetarist prophet Milton Friedman's view of a negative tax-is simply a self-serving institutional charity. The clear aim is, on the one hand, to dismantle the system of public welfare and to shrug off as many of the costs of social reproduction as possible; on the other, to provide incentives and compulsions for people to accept the dirtiest and shittiest jobs and tasks, ones in which the most savage exploitation and deregulation reign, so as to supplement the misery of the "minimum subsidy", which is absolutely insufficient for living with dignity. In this version, income separated from work presents itself as a clearly regressive hypothesis: in reality it simply masks a relationship with the most savage forms of exploitation and legitimates the destruction of any public and collective responsibility for social solidarity. (It resembles, in the phase of original accumulation, the Poor Laws and their realtionship with the Enclosures, and the creation of Workhouses));

2) in the social-statist/neo-keynesian conception, the link between income and work must be maintained in a fictituous manner: "socially useful jobs" are evoked as a substitute and compensation for those jobs expelled from the production process . . . but how, and by whom, will their utility be decided? Isn't this perhaps just the latest version of the keynesian logic og "digging holes and filling them in again", the invention of absolutely useless activities, which serve only to legitimate the distribution of income through work, however fictitious, and the necessity of the State, the insuperability of the statist horizon? Within both the social-statist and neo-liberal logics, for all their talk of the relationship of income to work and of income uncoupled from work, the cardinal points of capitalist society remain substantially unaltered: namely commodified, exploited, commanded labour and a centralised and despotic State which-for better or worse-is lord and master of its subjects' destiny.

Precisely on the basis of these initial reflections, it seems fundamental to us to start from a concept of "citizenship income" as a new universal right and as a general horizon to be realised [far vivere], in the most appropriate and adequate manners and forms, within the multiplicity of material, social and territorial contradictions. In order not to remain an empty abstraction, this slogan must assume specific articulations: it's possible, for example, to link the question of rights to income not so much to forms of waged or "assisted", absurd and useless work, as to a complete redefinition of activities useful to the collectivity, which indicate a path beyond the market: as the production of use values and not of exchange values for profit; as a service to meet the concrete needs of local communities, and not as enslavement to the central bureaucracies of the benevolent-State; as commitment and utilisation of wealth and resources within a territory to improve the quality of life, the relationship of cooperation and solidarity from below with territories and comunities, with poorer populations. Basically, the construction from below of a new Welfare can move from deepening and developing the nexus between citizenship guaranteed income and a new social economy of mutual aid and cooperation, beyond the statist and centralist horizon, in a relationship of mutual aid and free federation between territorial communities, in the appropriation from below of goods, services, quality of life, activities useful to the "common good" and the well-being of the collectivity.

Here the terrain shifts completely: no longer the primacy of "capitalist economic rationality", with its steel cage, its despotism, its centralised and bureaucratic State, but rather the primacy of politics and democracy from below, as the continuous redefinition of "what, how, how muchand for whom". Many expressions of a new social economy of mutual aid and cooperation already exist: obviously enough, their forms are still embryonic, contradictory or even mystified. Nor do we think they are sufficient to mark out the contours of a "new society within the shell of the old", as Marx once put it. What is certain, however, is that they indicate a possible course, a movement of use value counterposed to the logic of profit and capitalist exchange, a radical critique of the commodity-form, a project of an alternative society where the very concept of work is profoundly changed, losing its characteristics of penitude, enslavement and suffering, becoming free and creative activity together and in cooperation with other members of the collectivity, for the betterment and development of all. A final, fundamental task will be to establish a nexus between the right to income-self-organised, self-managed activities, cooperation from below, a social and communitarian economy-the generalised and egalitarian reduction of labour time, of the social working day. Without this latter element there is a real risk of reproducing a dual society, a polarisation between work and non-work, a new if inverted version of the notorious theory of "two societies", the struggle between corporations rather than the beginning of a new, more just and free, all-encompassing and self-organised social dynamic.

- Citizenship income - Social economy, activities useful to the collectivity, communitarian cooperation - generalised reduction of social labour time:

these are three inseparable and linked aspects of a single project of social liberation which finds its political space of organisation and struggle in Europe!

Arsenale Sherwood Associazione Difesa Lavoratori Melting dei centri sociali Nord-Est

Padova, Italy, 30 May 1997

------------------------- collettivo infodiret(t)e ECN - Padova e-mail: hobo@ecn.org http://www.ecn.org/pad/


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