From crisis of socialism to financial crisis

Resisting the crisis, take 1: #15o and global dimensions

The starting point for what later became the #15o movement was a huge demonstration in Ljubljana, which finished with a general assembly that decided to encamp the square in front of Ljubljana stock exchange. The occupation lasted for almost half a year. While the demonstration was massive, with around five thousand protestors, and extremely heterogeneous, the occupation and initiatives that derived from it continued in smaller, although still impressive numbers. These initiatives were addressing unfolding social processes connected with crisis management that was built on austerity measures as the only solution for keeping the banks solvent, which inevitably led to the questioning of the system and the forms of political representation that enforces such socially destructive measures. By saying that it led to the questioning of the system and the forms of representation we are indicating that representation was never criticized as such but was always put in the perspective: as Michael Hardt emphasized in his lecture “Subjective Figures of the Crisis” on the 5th September, struggles and representation can never be considered as the opposites; stating that nobody represents peoples’ interests is actually a starting point of a political struggle for more representation from which alternative forms of decision-making arise. In the case of a #15o movement that form was what the occupants called democracy of direct action (DDA). DDA differs itself from an established consensus-oriented form of direct democracy by the emphasis that is being put on the minority voices. For DDA keeping heterogeneity of the movement without seeking consensus is the most important aspect. Or as Razsa and Kurnik (2012, 240) put it: “Of particular importance is the way that democracy of direct action, with its empowerment of decentralized workshops rather than the central assembly, encourages new initiatives, even initiatives that the majority of those at the assembly might not actively support.” This form of direct democracy was invented due to previous experiences of the struggling for minorities’ rights in Slovenia that ended up in referendums on which the majority denied the right and freedoms of those who do not fit the model. Topics of struggle and elaboration in a #15o movement converged into three major fields, which are with no doubt interconnected but still required a separate analysis and interventions. These fields were precarity, citizenship and the question of the commons. The widespread consensus on the topic of precarity was that a new definition of a term which by the time became a guilty party for the world nuisances – this demonic vision of precariousness is what most of the trade unions in Slovenia still rest on – is needed. The perspective of the occupants was that precarity is no longer an “anomaly”, reserved for the lateral spaces of production and citizenship, but a “norm”, a general living and social condition of subjectivities, living and working in Europe, that is increasing within the crisis. Or as Isabell Lorey stated: “Presently, normal labour conditions oriented on a male breadwinner, a situation largely accessible only for the majority society, is losing its hegemony. Precarization is increasingly a part of governmental normalization techniques and as a result, in neo-liberalism it transforms from an inherent contradiction to a hegemonic function.” (Lorey, 2006) Therefore there have been elaborations of demands for an income regardless of a persons’ position in the labour market. In regard to citizenship and democracy the movement worked on the hypothesis that new forms of exploitation and resistance require new rights and forms of citizenship: the need for new rights, which challenge the predominance of national citizenship and the concept of national welfare state were elaborated. By including a small proportion of migrant workers that were on rental strikes at the time[1], the need to define rights that would not be dependent on a citizenship status of a person came about. And third, in its attempts to define a common welfare, based on free access to knowledge, mobility, housing, health et cetera, the movement challenged the divisions between private and public. It has done so by defending mentioned fields of social reproduction from their privatization and critically addressing their organization – or non-existence – in the sphere of public. No matter how differently public functions from private, the fact remains that they both reside in the concept of property, which common is beyond. But that does not mean that we should not defend public from the privatization: the question is, how to defend and change it, how to fight for it so that we can fight against it. As Michael Hardt put it in one of his lectures when talking about struggles for water and gas in Bolivia: “I think what has been set up is a kind of a double combat: like there is what both of these movements – they are really aimed at the common – … There has been a double combat, they fight with the public against the private, against privatization for the public and then against the public for the common. So I guess I would say that the public plays an almost intermediary role in the struggles that are aimed at the common.” (Hardt 2013, 37’40’’) As Greek students showed us on 12th September, the crisis presents an opportunity to legitimize neoliberal policies striving towards privatization of accessible public services and this is what the occupants were fighting against.

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