by Sophia Lycouris, RISE Lothians list candidate
As mentioned in a previous Voice, the Transnational Social Strike Platform is a group of European organisations and individuals who seek new methods of resistance against the increasing precarisation of labour in Europe, and the intensified mobility of workers in the European space, who follow any available precarious job opportunities.
The activities of this Platform also draw attention to the role of the refugee crisis, as a context which generates an even more precarious workforce, shockingly desperate and extremely vulnerable. The Platform has planned a mobilisation across Europe for the 1st of March 2016 to address these issues.
The decision for this mobilisation was taken in a transnational meeting in Poznan, Poland, last October, and the catchy title “24 hours without us” was adopted, since this mobilisation was initially conceived as a strike action for groups of precarious workers in Europe. This expression is still used in the publicity of the event, despite the fact that the idea of a traditional strike has been abandoned.
This is because it soon became evident that, although precarisation is a common theme in Europe, the way in which this situation is experienced by workers in concrete material terms differs immensely from country to country, and from one work context to another.
Strike action is normally used as a tool to make claims or protest against unwanted elements in the working conditions. The issue of the European minimum wage was initially discussed as a possible focus for the protest, yet this created a number of unsurmountable difficulties.
The European minimum wage is essentially a concept with different values in different European countries. What can one do with €10 in Germany, as opposed to what one could you do with the same amount of money in Portugal?
Perhaps a mathematical formula should be developed to calculate appropriate equivalents of the European minimum wage concept in Euros and other currencies across Europe. Should this formula take into account inflation and any other factors that determine the state of the economy in each European country? Would our wages get adjusted every month?
In these conditions, what should be the concrete content of our claims during our protests? But the Transnational Social Strike coordination team realised that there was no need to foreground any concrete claims, and that this was not an appropriate step at this stage.
The Transnational Social Strike project is also a project that emphasises the link between labour struggles and political struggles. For those who acknowledge the weaknesses of the capitalist system, it is easy to understand that for every labour-related claim we protest and strike, there is a systemic fault underlining the situation. If it was possible to fix the weaknesses of the political system, we wouldn’t need to pursue labour claims.
We only pursue them to make our current situation more viable, so that we can have more energy to keep fighting against the system. Following this logic, in the Transnational Social Strike project, we should only focus on the concept of a European minimum wage, not its monetary manifestations in different European contexts.
In this way, the European minimum wage becomes a symbol pointing us in the direction of specific political principles, such as the right for Fair Pay. The Transnational Social Strike project thus becomes a perfect example of fully-integrated political activism, offering a context in which a labour claim and the political principle underlying this claim fuse into a single element.
Focusing exclusively on the political principle and abandoning the desire to translate the political principle into concrete claims expressed in financial terms, is a position that help us resolve the tension between those who wish to stay in the EU and those who want to leave. Indeed a large number of British activists are against the EU and are looking forward to a prospective Brexit.
It would be unwise to make them feel excluded by presenting this project as one that is relevant to workers in the EU member states only.
As mentioned in an earlier article, the Transnational Social Strike project relates closely to the German movement Blockupy, a movement focused on concrete claims within the German context. The coordination meeting for the Transnational Social Strike mobilisation on the 1st of March took place in Berlin as part of a Blockupy Consultation meeting, also scheduled in Berlin on 6/7 February.
This meeting was crucial because, during it, Blockupy managed to overcome its recent inertia, a shock effect triggered by the unfortunate developments in Greece after the referendum.
The German Blockupy movement invested an incredible amount of energy and passion in the potential of the fight of the Greek people against capitalism and the European anti-democratic structures. As a German progressive organisation experiencing directly the disastrous effect of German capitalism, Blockupy identified with the Greek struggle in an almost psychological manner, which required visual expression.
The Greek word OXI (which means NO and was used extensively in Greek protests before the Greek referendum last July) was fully integrated in the visual structure of the Blockupy logo.
Blockupy became one with the Greek struggle, and this is why when Greece was defeated by the capitalist EU, Blockupy experienced an internal collapse which was expressed as confusion and numbness, inability to proceed. There was no symbol Blockupy could fight for anymore, and there was no major tangible enemy Blockupy could unite against!
In the Blockupy Consultation meeting mentioned above, a significant amount of time was spent on discussing the problems of the lack of a major visible enemy. Frankfurt, which is Blockupy’s birth place, is also the city where the European Central Bank is located.
In the recent years, the European Central Bank became a central target in the Blockupy mobilisations and direct action projects. Following the collapse of the Greek resistance, the attacks against the European Central Bank became pointless, and Blockupy had to redefine itself.
A major decision was taken just before the Consultation meeting in Berlin ended, to stop looking for obvious enemies personified in buildings, monuments or people.
That’s because there is no major enemy to attack, the enemy is everywhere. The enemy of the alternative Europe and the opponents of the European socialism are embedded in the system, they are part of its fabric, impossible to isolate.
We cannot fight anymore just for the sake of specific labour claims as an end in itself. We can only undertake political fights through temporarily using appropriate labour claims as anchor. But those claims cannot be the ultimate aim of the struggle, they are only disposable tools in the road for deep social and political change.
For this reason, the 1st of March mobilisation project of the Transnational Social Strike project will not be a traditional strike. This is because the left movement in Europe is not yet ready to activate a strike as a way to pursue the principle of Fair Pay.
The 1st of March mobilisation has been refocused as an awareness project, using a series of public, performative and discursive methods to explore the potential of a Transnational Strike as a tool of resistance to an unfair and undemocratic world.
The mobilisation will be materialised through colourful demonstrations, performative direct action events and discussions in different contexts. This will be a form of activism-in-progress, a transnational lab in a series of informal settings where new tactics will be debated and hopefully tested in small-scale controlled environments.
• Follow Sophia on Twitter: @sophia_lyc