“Run lines, never plot a point!” December 14th and beyond

27 Dec

Analysis on the Italian edu-struggles taken from: http://www.uniriot.org/uniriotII/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2368:run-lines-never-plot-a-point-december-14th-and-beyond&catid=132:euniriot&Itemid=324

When something important happens, something like the events that took place December 14th , the general tendency is to stop and comment and try and summarize the situation. “Let’s make the point!”. This is usually how it starts, by going over what happened and setting boundaries and limits. The first step, especially among those within the movement or the trade unions, is to make the distinction between right and left: who was there, or who has others recount in detail what happened, focuses on this point, looks for his or her own identity, on the way home. (home sweet home).

It’s a real race to the “roots” where people shout at the top of their voices: “this is me, it was me all along, and thanks to December 14th this is me more than ever! I have found myself, intact, my same self , it’s was me all along!”. The ones who have always boasted about being more to the left than anyone else can say “See? I was right!”. The ones who are generally right wing distance themselves from what has happened, and say they witnessed a different kind of march: they start with the black block, but it soon becomes clear that there was a whole square and not just a small group, so the movement is asked to isolate the violent rioters. Amen.

We are back to the dividing line that was swept away by the movement during these past extraordinary weeks of protest: the border between violence and non-violence. Let’s not forget that before the demonstration lead by Fiom on October 16 two eggs thrown against the trade union Cisl headquarters had sparked a lively debate on terrorism in Italy. After which the student movement (re)exploded: from rooftops to streets, from faculties to the book block, from lessons held in squares to the siege of the headquarters of power. A different kind of conflict has started to take shape with the strength of the movement. I use the word strength (political radicalism and rooting at the same time) and I could also add the word consensus: the rare mixture of the two is the only thing that really makes it possible (if we really want to be honest without lying) to experiment with an experience without making it turn fetish, an experience that literally dissolves the ideological (and moral) dichotomy between violence and non-violence.

What has the movement become after December 14? Is it violent? No: simply because it wasn’t non-violent before. In fact when one starts experimenting, limits and boundaries aren’t there to begin with, there are no rules set beforehand, they must be shaped along the way. Experimenting is something people are afraid of: it is necessary to understand at what point things are, and then set the limits relative to this stage. To say that the 14th sets a new standard in the student protest movement is like saying that this same movement doesn’t share the new set standard, and that its standard has always been a “democratic and peaceful” one. It’s not about finding the centre and being in the middle, it’s about creating a tertium datur. A whole different story.

The challenge in wanting to change things it to understand that change is a “real movement”, a line, not a point. Along this line standards must be continually set, and continually changed. Is this difficult? Of course it is. But what other answer could we have given to Saviano? “Dear Saviano, you act like a preacher (an arrogant one too) and would like to decide what’s good and what’s bad, and to do this you use measures that have nothing to do with what you are trying to measure”.

The protest movement on the other hand, is something real that concerns hundreds of thousands of students and temporary labour workers from all parts of the country, and knows and will know what to chose, and how to understand what’s good and what’s bad, what works and what doesn’t, what makes it strong and what makes it weak, beyond good and evil.

So, we have found out that whoever creates that line really knows nothing about morality and prefers getting lost rather than of finding his true self. We say: “It’s me again! Boring! Come on let’s start moving again!”. This is why when something happens, something like December 14th, we lose sight of the point and try to understand what has happened, which new possibilities have arisen and which problems still have to be tackled.

But let’s take things with order: the 14th marked the end of the first phase in the conflict and the protests against the Gelmini bill. The bill was saved by three votes, which were bought, and despite the opposition’s obstructionism, the majority has the right numbers to approve the reform in the Senate, and they will use this to take home the result. Having said this, the majority is quite dumb, as demonstrated by facts in these last minutes (7:00 pm of December 21st), all it takes is a mistake on an amendment and everything goes back to the Chamber of Deputies. Have we lost? No, and I will try to explain why.

First of all, we have fought till the end, with passion, courage and intelligence. The political maturity that has taken shape during these past two years of battles, from when the Anomalous Wave movement started until today, is an incredible novelty: every interview proves this, every assembly confirms it.

Towards the end of the Anomalous Wave movement there were some internal divisions and disagreements. Without being too ecumenical about it, today we can say that the network and radical forms of democracy have worked like never before. The political discourse has managed to combine different sensibilities, languages and political backgrounds. In particular, the justicialist mood that became very strong when the Anomalous Wave movement died down has been replaced by a new form of indignation, at the same time radical and diverse.

Secondly we overturned a situation when everything seemed to be going against us. I would like to remind everyone that only one year ago the bill was also supported by the left. With the movement’s explosion the political isolation has come to an end. This sets an example for all the social sectors paying the price of the crisis. “get up stand up: stand up for your rights”. This is the leitmotif, an escape from the resignation that has been dominant for too long. This is not everything, but it’s a lot, more than what we perceive at the moment.

Thirdly we have taken part in a massive European movement. From Greece to France, from Great Britain to Italy, an entire generation that was left out of the social pact has started to “dig up the war axe” and to claim its rights. In the stories of what happened on the 14th, of what happened in London, many try to come up with the right definitions. There is a lot of talk about the total lack of hope, of theconflict of this new no future generation.

Mieli and Sartori (two well known Italian journalist) silence the young and remind us that we all must make sacrifices. Saviano pretends he understands and acts as a preacher. But what if it were true, what if this generation were really moving its first steps towards a new and better future?

Isn’t the opposition to the European austerity policies the search, maybe still embryonic, for a way out of the crisis? This opposition is about knowledge, welfare and rights. By defending state Universities, though never confusing the common and the public with the state, aren’t we fighting the ruthless policies that encourage insecurity in the labour market and in our lives? These issues are starting to be addressed even by the most liberal commentators. Neocon lies are still what we get as an answer, but even so it’s clear that these problems can’t be ignored any longer and that the new student and worker movement must be taken seriously.

Many challenger lie ahead, and will be dealt with in the faculty assemblies and in universities. Undoubtedly the continuity and persistence of the movement is at the top of the list. Once the DDL is approved it will still require hundreds of implementing decrees, nothing is over. We may even pick up various suggestions from the Water Forum, things that we can share and learn from. This will have to be discussed together. The European network: this is another decisive point! How to build a network between the real protagonists of this conflict.

It would be easy to put together all the elements that we already dispose of. It is more difficult to listen to those who have built different forms of conflict, to combine diverse experiences. Finally we must address social alliances. United against the crisis is an important step towards this type of cooperation. Now we must consolidate these forms of alliance and be ready for what will happen with the crisis of Fiat, working together with the aim of a general strike. The General Assembly of the knowledge-workers might also be a place, an open and inclusive pace, to experiment and further develop the self-reform that has been at the centre of debates ever since the Anomalous Wave movement swept Italy.

There is much to do, too much to be able to make the point…

Francesco Raparelli, Uniriot Rome

“Speed turns the point into a line! Be quick, even when standing still! Line of chance, line of hips, line of flight. Don’t bring out the General in you! Don’t have just ideas, just have an idea (Godard). Have short-term ideas. Make maps, not photos or drawings. Be the Pink Panther and your loves will be like the wasp and the orchid, the cat and the baboon”.

Deleuze-Guattari, Mille plateaux

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One Response to ““Run lines, never plot a point!” December 14th and beyond”

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  1. Tactics and leadership: A summary of the debate in the student movement | The Great Unrest - December 30, 2010

    [...] space, I’ll only mention briefly: The Really Open University have reproduced an interesting piece from Italy about the student movement there, which concerns itself, among other things, with the question of [...]

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