Geert Lovink on Mon, 3 Mar 2014 11:43:07 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> MoneyLab material #4: Franco Berardi joins Tsipras for the EU elections

(As Franco Berardi aka Bifo will be one of the speakers at MoneyLab in Amsterdam on March 21/22, I was curious to find out that he has associated himself with the Greek leftist Syriza party, lead by Alexis Tsipras. Will I be able to vote for Bifo, here in NL, I wondered. He answered: "Tsipras is running as the candidate of a movement that is taking part in the European election (22-25 May 2014), in various countries, certainly in Greece, Italy and Spain. I don't know if in Holland there is group of people who supports Tsipras. It is not yet sure that I will be the candidate, it i  just a proposal supported by some groups of friends. I'll know for sure next week." I noticed that Tsipras visited NL in January for a meeting of the European left inside the EU Paraliament but the website doesn't mention Syriza as a member. More later. Geert)

With Tsipras, Against Financial Absolutism
By Franco Berardi Bifo

Alexis Tsipras represents the resistance of Greek society against the financial aggression, and for me this would be enough to declare my support to the political list which will have him as their candidate for the next European elections, and to vote for him.

But what are the aims of Tsipras' list? If the outcome of these elections will be merely the expression of an elderly and late-lefty minority (to which I belong) in support of the only young and not yet morally corrupt European politician, it won’t be a great result. Thus, as we take upon ourselves the task of creating the conditions for a success of Tsipras' list, we have to think both about the new horizons which could be opened by a campaign in favour of Tsipras, and about the effects of cultural and social recomposition to which we can aspire.
I don’t have any faith in representative democracy. The void left within democratic institutions by the automatisms of financial capital is now a matter of fact and of common sense. And the European Union is fundamentally a financial autocracy, since the decisions of the European Central Bank are removed from the sphere of influence of the Parliament.

European society is depressed, fragmented, rabidly aggressive. The process of disintegration of the European Union is now too advanced to be arrested. The identitarian egoisms which have been aroused by financial violence are destined to produce their devastating effects. We should have no 

So, what is the point of getting involved, of voting at all?
Tsipras’ list can be the beginning of a process of reconstitution of the Union beyond the present catastrophe. It can reactivate a process of social solidarity and create the conditions for a cultural recomposition which can go beyond the current crisis, towards a strategic redefinition of the European Union. A campaign in support of Tsipras must communicate the possibility of a unitary process of solidarity and revolt, of insolvency and independence of our daily lives from the financial dictatorship. If it will fail at this, it will be of no use.
The problem isn’t the Euro
More and more often, new voices emerge from Italy and other European countries in favour of an exit from the system of the common currency. This is a dangerous illusion, even if it originates from understandable reasons: the monetary European Union has suspended democracy in order to impose measures which the majority of the population rejects, and it has greatly impoverished millions of people. Since the arrival of the Euro, wages have been halved, public spending has been drastically reduced, unemployment has gone up dramatically, while work-time keeps increasing without limits. And this is just the beginning, since the effects of the fiscal compact and of an insatiable austerity are destined to push the greatest part of the population towards  utter poverty. We can already see the political effects: the destruction of democracy, the crumbling of social solidarity, the growth of identitarian, nationalist and racist aggression, and so on.
Only a very myopic vision can lead us to think that the true cause of this catastrophe is the monetary European Union, and that only an exit form the common currency and a return to national currencies can resolve all our problems.

The birth of the Euro and the financial drift of the European Union are only explainable within the context of the mutations of global capitalism. Thus, it is necessary to look back at a series of choices (not only of monetary policy) which were taken before the arrival of the Euro. We have to think back to the radically new conditions which were inaugurated at the end of the 1970s by two converging factors: the long wave of workers’ struggle, which had caused a redistribution of wealth in favour of the workers, and the immense revolution caused by digital technology.

We have to look back to that historical conjunction and to the alternatives which originated at that time, while identifying the steps of the capitalist counter-offensive, all the way to the situation we live in today.
A wasted opportunity
The 1970s witnessed both the closing of the century of the worker, and the opening of a new perspective of total informatisation and of physical and semiotic manipulation of reality: the technical transformation of the productive system was not without connection to the political power of the workers. It was the workers’ refusal to accept exploitation that forced capital to accelerate the processes of work automation, and it was mass-schooling and the libertarian student movements that allowed the explosion of scientific research and of technological innovation.
Such technical transformations opened up alternatives which exceeded the realm of politics and of the trade unions, and which drew two possible, different paths for the evolution of the human race: the first offered a shared management of the power of technology, together with a massive and strategic reduction  of the time of work; the second proposed a one-sided, capitalist management of technical innovation and a global attack against the workers through unemployment, delocalization, lower wages and fewer resources destined to social services.
In other words, on the one hand the constant reduction of the necessary time of work brought about by technological innovation created the conditions for a liberation of human life from work, so to allow humans to destine their life-time to the care of the self, to education, to the pursuit of happiness. On the other hand, it was also possible to use technology to push back the masses into unemployment while blackmailing workers to reduce their wages.
We know which was the path taken by (or better imposed over) society. The workers’ movement remained culturally subaltern to the ideology of work and was unable to understand the emancipatory potential of new technologies (they were both fi8ghtened by them and in awe of them, while never really understanding them), and consequently chose a strategy of defending their workplace and the existing composition of work. Since then, the workers’ movement became a conservative force, unable to resist the technical transformation of which capital became the sole beneficiary.
The aggressiveness of capital and the subalternity of the Left created the conditions for a general ‘deregulation’, which both enhanced the transformative power of technologies and eliminated of the legal and union defences still protecting society.

Technology, not politics, has been the decisive element in the social transformation of the planet over the last decades. Yet politics, which could have chosen to side with technological innovation while manipulating it towards a social redistribution of its effects, abandoned any claims for a reduction of work-time and a redistribution of wealth. By doing so, the Left renounced the only strategy which could allow a shared enjoyment of the wealth deriving from the power of technical and scientific knowledge.
Financial absolutism
The conditions for the current capitalist absolutism emerged during the 1980s: destruction of any regulations protecting workers and their territories, privatisation of social services, globalisation of the work market, precarisation, etc. When the process of globalisation swallowed huge sectors of the work force within the cycle of industrial production, and totalitarian socialism finally collapsed, workers form emerging economies could see in the European model an example of redistribution of wealth and of reduction of exploitation.
The European Left was then faced by an alternative: either taking the lead as a model for workers in countries of recent industrialisation (for example by presenting the issue of reducing work-time as a unifying theme on a global scale), or integrating itself within the neoliberal model and lending its energies to the service of the monetary policies of financialisation. The European Left remained subaltern to the mantra of competition, and chose a destiny of irreversible disintegration.
After the Maastricht treaties and with the creation of the Euro, the global financial class accomplished the destruction of the European model and laid the conditions for the explosion of the political project of the European Union. Global financial capitalism used the monetary architecture of the Euro in order to subjugate social dynamics, and the crisis of 2008 accelerated this submission by using debt as a weapon. But such monetary logic also implied a deeper process: the deterritorialisation of capital made possible by network technologies has modified the very nature of capitalism. The interests of the old industrial bourgeoisie were highly territorialised: their profits depended on a general social growth. The capitalist needed a community of consumers and the enrichment of the ruling class could not be completely disconnected form the welfare of society. The progress of profit economy was at least in part parallel to the general progress of society. This is no longer the case.
The machine of deterritorialised, financial capitalism no longer follows the old progressive logic of industrial capitalism, because the growth of financial profits no longer depends on the general enrichment of society, but on systematically looting social wealth through the privatisation of the public sphere and  the financial capture of the commons. The financial system produces debts, it transfers it to society and then the political machine takes upon itself the task of transferring social wealth to the financial system, thus transformed into the beneficiary of predation.
While the accumulation of industrial capital depended on the extraction of plus-value from the labour of the worker, contemporary financial accumulation appears to depend on a minus-value, that is on a systematic depredation of what is produced by society, without any growth whatsoever of the common wealth. The enrichment of the financial class (which still continues even during these years of recession and crisis) can only happen at the price of a general impoverishment of society.
The recovery from the crisis of 1929 or from stagflation during the 1970s required a reactivation of growth and a distribution (although unequal) of the value which was produced. Workers were part of the economic recovery: employment increased, wages grew, and the amount of wealth destined to labour either remained constant or increased (as it had happened in the 1960s). Now, this is no longer the case. The formula of a ‘jobless recovery’ is nothing but a hypocritical mask: the exit from recession will not lead to a general increase in occupation and certainly not to higher salaries. On the contrary, recovery is now grounded in the intensification of work-time and in a reduction of occupation. More unemployed people, more poverty, more exploitation, ergo more profits.
The disassociation between the destiny of the financial machine and the destiny of society is complete, because the only method of financial accumulation consists in the impoverishment of society.

The Euro has been a tool for the imposition of this predatory system. Yet, the solution is not abandoning the Euro, but rather abandoning a predatory model of financial capitalism. Exiting the Euro would only mean to accelerate the end of the political project of the European Union, while leaving the true causes of social impoverishment completely untouched.
But who is strong enough to stop and reverse this predatory finazist dynamic? A unitary movement of European workers could do it, but precarity has already destroyed much of the international network of solidarity, while the political consensus that until recently surrounded the European project is now crumbling fast. The political dissolution of the European Union looms over the horizon, as it is clearly shown by the growth of nationalist forces across the continent. If the Front National becomes a majoritarian force at the next French elections, the European project is dead.
Starting with Tsipras
Tsipras’ list emerges from this landscape. This list can create the conditions for a long-term reconstruction of social solidarity, while re-opening the debate on the emancipatory potential of technology, on the alliance between cognitive labour and society, on the introduction of a citizenship income and on the reduction of work-time.

A triumph of Tsipras’ list at the European elections in May is the condition for re-starting the collective brain, to connect knowledge with solidarity, and ultimately to melt the depressive fog through which our collective mind is still stumbling.
(The article first appeared in Italian on Micro Mega. Translated by Federico Campagna.)

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