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<nettime> demoradical vs demoliberal regulation in Europe
Alex Foti on Thu, 6 Jul 2006 13:59:10 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> demoradical vs demoliberal regulation in Europe


Dear nettimers, this is my first post on this influential list. I'm a
milano-based activist. I've recently posted the following on the
euromayday.org mailing list, trying to spell out analysis and
prescription for our cross-european (and trans-national) network in
the current macropolitical context. hope you find it worthy of
attention. thanks if you send comments and criticisms.
precarious ciaos, lx

++++++++
People shouldn't fear governments. Governments should fear people."
V for vendetta

An antibushist future for Europe:
DEMORADICAL VS DEMOLIBERAL REGULATION

Premise: the mayday equation of social stratification

fordism: postfordism: industrialism: informationalism: blue/white/pink
collars: service/creative/knowledge workers: (working class + middle
class): (precarious + propertied classes)


Geopolitics and international regulation in the middle 00s

Never a decline of the west has been more apparent. The US and its
European major ally, the UK, supported by minor bushist partners
such as Berlusconi's Italy and Aznar's Spain, have been inflicting
barbarism and worsened ethnic strife to the point of civil war in Irak
and elsewhere. The continuous, structural human rights violations
inflicted by the US and its allies, from kidnappings and secret
prisons in Europe, down to Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Haditha, are a
crying shame for all enlightened westerners: progressives have failed
at stopping the totalitarian forces - namely the salafi brand of sunni
fundamentalism, the neoconservative interpretation of evangelical
protestantism, and shia integralism supported by the islamic republic
of Iran - that are plunging the world in a clash of civilizations,
where reactionary and defensive identities prevail over transnational
movements and global issues of environmental balance and social
justice.

Of course, the early XXI-century twilight of American neoliberal
hegemony and its European ramifications, as framed by the monetarist
and pro-corporate philosophy of the EU single currency and market,
is not without geopolitical consequences. On one side, Indian and
Bolivarian America have possibly dealt a lethal blow to the Monroe
Doctrine of unlimited US power on the Southern Hemisphere. On the
other side, China and India are rising giants beating the westerners
at their own game of globalization. Liberalization of world markets
was set in motion in 1971-1973, when the end of international
Keynesism was officially proclaimed, and incipient energy crises
and financial deregulations started undermining Fordism and the
progressive forces that had developed under its wings. The 1980s
and 1990s opened the gates to a new, more turbulent world, the
world of neoliberal regulation. This was an explicit conservative
counteroffensive against the unintended social (and anti-imperialist)
effects of postkeynesian regulation, reasserting the right to
manage and the economic privileges of financial elites in the new
digital, networked, flexible, postindustrial economy. The world of
high profits, high rents and low wages, of massive labor market and
financial deregulations, of large-scale privatization of public
assets, outsourcing and offshoring of manufacturing and services, and
widespread tightening of social spending.

My contention is that neoliberal regulation is now over: the 1999-2003
international cycle of struggle, 9/11 and 7-7, the bushist rise to
power and the invasions of Afghanistan and Irak, repeated financial
instability and environmental disaster, have all undermined the
political bases of the Washington Consensus that constituted the
essence of western policy and geopolitical projection in the 1980s and
1990s. Globalization is yielding to global regionalism, neoliberal
multiculturalism is leaving the place to bushist occidentalism,
free trade is becoming managed protectionism, while the professed
multilateral internationalism of the Clinton era has turned into a
one-sided and naked (but failed) attempt to unrivalled world hegemomy.

The European bifurcation

The European Peninsula has been shaken like never before by the
age of high neoliberalism. The Fall of the Wall, the implosion of
Soviet-imposed state communism, the resurgence of American militarism
in the Middle East, have all reshaped the politics of the Continent
like anything that had been seen since Versailles, or possibly even
Westphalia. Today, after the French-Dutch no, Europe is larger and
weaker than it's ever been. Pro-market forces of Anglo-American
inspiration did push for EU enlargement in 2004. But welfare cuts
and workfare reforms had already soured public opinion against the
EU and its main institutions, Council, Commission, Bank, Court,
Parliament (in order of decreasing importance), so by the time the
Constitution - which was supposed to provide a new internal and
external governance for the Union of 25 members, grant fundamental
European rights of citizenship, but also freeze the neoliberal status
quo in Europe for ever - was put to vote in France and Holland, it
was resoundingly rejected. To the first serious, possibly crippling,
crisis of the European project, as developed over half a century
by its Christian-Democrat founders, Social-Democrat adepts, and
Liberal-Democrat deregulators, institutional responses have been
startlingly ineffective. Basically the whole thing will be kept frozen
until 2007, when the French presidential elections will have completed
the present European political realignment in Old Europe, started with
Zapatero in Spain, then Merkel in Germany, now Prodi in Italy. In the
meantime major social upheavals have shaken France and Denmark, while
social protest against welfare contraction and labor precarization has
been on the increase in every major country of the old Union of 15
countries.

Most Old European =E9lites want to stick to EU enlargement, but
put the UK and most of Eastern Europe at the margins of the more
political, as opposed to the economic, component of European
integration. Political integration would instead proceed in so-called
Core Europe, basically something like a political Eurozone, give or
take a few countries, governed through a federation or confederation
of nation-states with unified fiscal, monetary, social policies, and a
common foreign policy.

Europe is today facing a fundamental bifurcation for the future
of its political economy. The crisis of the neoliberal agenda,
unpopular in Europe everywhere, is evident also to European elites.
They have responded by tracing what I call a DEMOLIBERAL regulation.
Basically it's neoliberalism lite: it is a bit less pro-American,
because US-EU interests are no longer coinciding in geoeconomic and
geopolitical terms (for instance, Europeans have only to lose from
clashing head-front with Islam) but retains a strong commitment
to NATO; it invests a little more in public infrastructure and
possibly spends on welfare to cushion workers from the vagaries of
the labor market, but only as long as people remain under the control
of workfare provisions aiming at increasing the productivity of
so-called human capital and guarantee social obedience among welfare
recipients. This top-down project, to which social movements and
radical subjectivities must respond with a grassroots mobilization to
shape political Europe as they see fit, has one only, but crucial,
merit. It would constitute antibushist counterbalancing for Europe,
and would put Atlantic relations on a more equal footing, should
bushism be electorally defeated. And muted European neoliberalism
could be still preferable to returning to the nation-state with its
nationalist and militarist pretensions. Demoliberal regulation not
only seeks a new business-friendly social consensus, it opposes
the dangerous xenophobic forces that have become a major factor in
European politics.

A political answer to European moderates which would take an
explicitly multiethnic, egalitarian and ecological road is what I
call DEMORADICAL regulation, i.e. a dramatic change in socioeconomic
policy thanks to a progressive social bargain imposed from the bottom
up (rather than top-down, as in demoliberal regulation) through labor
protest, social conflict, participatory democracy. A progressive front
that would link leftist/democratic organizations, unions, movements
in their common opposition to technocrats, corporations, financial
markets and the liberal regulation these would like to re-assert, in
order to protect the unequal economic status quo they have gained so
much from. But most of all, demoradicalism would be a clarion call
to all emancipatory forces in Europe to mobilize against populist
xenophobia, anti-immigration hysteria, clerical interference.

Movements, with their faith in street-based and conflict-based
democracy, are obvious candidates to be prime actors of demoradical
regulation. Unfortunately, the most effective movements have
developed in Europe at the nation-state level (look at the French
mass mobilization against juvenile precarity), that is, in the
national space of politics with its peculiar political traditions
and identities. For all the efforts of the Mayday Network or the
European Social Forum, both the traditional marxist and/or anarchist
left as well as post-Seattle heretic left are deeply hostile to
Europe, in whatever political incarnation, past, present or future.
Communist parties, now united in the European Left, had traditionally
seen the European Community as a bastion of American dominance
on the Continent. Anarchists of all sorts repudiate all forms of
institutional power with supranational organizations being prime
targets for protest and direct confrontation (the more remote, the
worse they are). Trotskyites, still blooming in spite of (or maybe
because of) their rigid orthodoxy, are committed internationalists,
rejecting political Europe and supporting whoever they consider to be
an anti-imperialist government (such as Chavez's Venezuela).

On the other hand, Syndicalists, Feminists, Environmentalists, Queers,
Precarious have yet to develop a coherent European discourse capable
of rendering obsolete more traditional political references on the
left. At the institutional level, Greens have almost invariably kept a
pro-federal, pro-secular Europe position, but this has been decisively
defeated in the French and Dutch referenda. They have contributed to
their ineffectiveness by being too friendly with business interests
and liberal =E9lites, too much caught into their environmental PR
stunts - something they share with green transnational NGOs - to worry
about mounting social inequality, so they have often lost ground to
neo-old-left parties such as Die Linke in Germany.

Demoradicalism: neither party nor union, but it takes two to tango

How should a radical European discourse look like? In three words, it
should be green, wobbly, pink, in order to be effective. It should
lay out a cogent ecological program to reform society, a creative
wobbly strategy to organize and unionize the weak and the excluded,
a pink emphasis on non-violent action and gender equality, so to
project a queer outlook on the world. It would have to speak to the
young, women, immigrants. It would have to address the grievances
of the service class, and put to good use the networking talents of
the creative class. It would be transnationalist in orientation and
multiethnic in composition, for a truly mongrel and mulatto Europe.
It would be defiant with (but tolerant of) all forms of organized
religion. It would be an obvious antagonist of the securitarian state
favored by bushist tendencies. And it would challenge and confront
without timidity, but also with cold-mindedness, either fascist,
nationalist, xenophobic forces that are resurfacing in many corners of
Europe.

But if these are widespread aspirations, antiprecarity/noborder
movements lack a strong political identity to reroute the existing
European left (with small "l") and provide fresh radical political
perspectives to Europe's dissenting youth, precarized by fat
corporations, regulated by ineffective technocracies, and burdened
by the Continent's rentier gerontocracy that has plunged economy and
society in an acute condition of Eurosclerosis. More to point, the
mayday network lacks a strong strategy to talk to the flexibilized
and the unorganized. The post-cold war generation of the Left shall
overcome the twin stale institutions of the XX century's left:
union and party. But can you down two old pigeons with one stone? I
mean, can a networked movement be an effective substitute for both
the two traditional labor and political functions? I think not. We
need a substitute for a political party, in order to produce new
political identity and ideological discourse, which are at the moment
sorely lacking amid mounting intellectual confusion and political
sectarianism. And we need a complement for the most militant and
innovative sections of labor unionism, so that we can work and
organize conflicts together while advancing the specific demands of
Europe's precarious generation.

Let me start from the second task. Over the last two years, the mayday
network has progressed sufficiently to discuss the founding of a
Paneuropean organization federating all media, labor, social activists
against precarity that are now working together in the mayday network.
On MAYDAY 006, one single, huge yell was heard from Berlin to Los
Angeles: "No borders! Stop persecution! Halt discrimination! Fuck
precarity! Beat inequality!" It is to me self-evident that MONDO
MAYDAY cannot wait any longer. Over the next year, the European
mayday will have to network more deeply with sisters and comrades in
Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los
Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, you name
it.

But if you go mondo on mayday, it does not mean that it is any
less urgent building a cross-european organization defending the
rights of the service class and attacking the privileges of the
corporate class. The mayday network has to found a wobbly-like
european organization federating all the exploited, recruiting from
all gender/ethnic groups and organizing all net/temp/flex workers in
one big SYNDICATE OF PRECARIOUS EUROPE. It would be a card-carrying
organization with its own funds and subsidized agitators, but a very
flat structure, with regional nodes and cross-national hubs. It
would have an explicitly formalized internal democracy, which would
appoint (and remove) people in executive functions. Yes, members
would have to vote on important issues and strategic decisions, with
regular online and face2face consultations. I believe global movements
won't progress until they adopt the democratic criteria of public
discussion and majority voting. If you say liberal democracy is a
fraud, you have to show a radical democracy can actually function.
The first transeuropean syndicate would be open to all jobs ranging
from cleaners and programmers, to documented and undocumented people,
to the flexibly employed and the permanently unemployed, to anybody
believing that the best form of social solidarity is supporting labor
conflict and opposing the interests of employers and the investing
class. It would be unashamedly syndicalist and anticapitalist in
its orientation, by supporting and organizing pickets, blockades,
and wildcat strikes. The recent huge social rebellions in France
and Denmark against precarity and workfare should remind the mayday
network that the time to establish a networked organization is now.

The syndicate would be open to all types of radical identities
provided they agree on the principle of active non-violence. The
syndicate would only endorse non-violent direct action, the kind, for
example, that Clown Army (participate in their July 14 revolutionary
parade in Paris!) and many pink collectives regularly practice
across Europe. Like internal democracy, this principle is crucial
for political effectiveness. Today, a time of pitiless war and
subjugation of the weak, violent protests either are byproducts of
wider non-violent movements or political dead-ends making state
repression and media manipulation easier. Violence against property
can sometimes be understood, although it can too boomerang against
radical movements. But violence against people, if it does not occur
in response to immediate physical aggression, is not only morally
untenable: it is a one-way ticket to political suicide.

On the party front, the issue of producing a recognizable radical
political identity embodying a sense of historical urgency is a lot
more complex and still immature at the moment. But it cannot wait
any longer being discussed. As far as I am concerned, I see the need
for reaping a distinctive political fruit out of the Seattle-Genova
tree. My reasoning is this. If the radical left of 1968 and hippyism
gave rise to modern political environmentalism, then the 1999-2003
ebullience should similarly produce a brand-new political label
in the longer term. Greens were born out the turmoil of the 60s
and 70s. And what new political constellation will soon appear on
the sky, following the travails of the early XXI century? The PINK
CONSPIRACY. In a larger context, women's emancipation and the end
of the patriarchal family with its unequal gender roles, feminist
movements, gay mobilizations, queer politics, full civil rights for
GLBTs, the assertion of reproductive rights against papist reaction,
and equality of access to political representation for women represent
an epochal earthquake for western politics. In a movement context,
the pink carnival of rebellion was the major innovative form of
political expression emerging from the Prague-Goteborg-Genoa cauldron,
next to, but separate from, the white overalls and black blocs, the
two other distinctive youth expressions of the anti-globalization
movement. Pink collars are the present of social work and pink
movements are the future of social progress. Let's do a pink alliance
of heretic dissenters in Europe! Who knows? It could be the answer
to the generalized disaffection with existing political parties and
the institutional representation they're supposed to carry out. In
Copenhagen's municipal elections, a pink list got almost 10 per cent
of the votes. As early political test, it sure is promising.

Summing up, Barroso and Trichet are in bad need of a pink slip: they
must be fired and their policies overhauled in the face of widespread
social opposition and unrest.



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