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Workplace Free movement

Notes from the Life Despite Capitalism workshop "Free movement" - 16/10/04 2-4pm


summary of ideas from plenary apeaker from frassanito:

stress that this wkshop is organised by a colelctive subject - a network of groups and collectives in different european capitals

a general approach tomigration developed in last three years in this network

long time hegemonic discourse in left about migration, much linked to issue of 'commons': stresses importance of new enclosures as cause of migration, new enclosures as destruction of commons, compels people to move: we take into account this analysis we: frassanito network

representation of migrant as mere object of capitalism. Important to stress othre side, importance of a set of subjective behaviours, needs, desires, imaginations which play role in determing migration

impossible to reduce migration to interplay between laws of supply and demand governing labour market. There is something in migration movements which exceeds these market laws. It is this something which is very important for our analysis, particularly in developing new kindsof political practices.

So what are relationships between migration and the idea of the commons. A proposal: freedom of movement is a common. On the one hand freedom of mv. is a common, but on the other is a contested common. Tehre are a certain set of resources without which you cannot put into action freedom of mv. possible as a common despite capitalism, and existence of borders.

we have developed this within context of struggles around migration, particularly in europe.

there is new political discourse on migration in making. Migration is increasingly considered as a force which has given place to something like globalisation from below - by this we don't want to propose any romanticised image of migration, we limit ourselves to stress that migration has been one of the most important means by which life despite capitalism has been organised in the last decades.

another focus: the border. Rita Hagen (?) will speak on this later. What is the function of the border i nthe management of migration? We stress that the border is the site of conflict, a place where battles take place every day. Thousands of people lose their life in the attempt to cross. The border is something like an attempt to limit and privatise freedom of mov. as a common.

a third focus: the idea that commonality must be produced in conjunction with the migrant, that communities are shaped and produced by migration

in migration you see a stratification of citizenship, a transformation of citizenship under the sign of the new precarity and flexibilitly of work, the production of different legal and political positions within citizenship through migration, not just *for* migrants, but also for other citizens. This has to do with the new model of management of the labour force which is taking plae in our age under the new model of flexibility.

The attempt to produce freedom of movement as a new modality of community - ie freedom of movement within the EU, freedom of movement as an ideal for this state, but also somthing which challenges it. Migration as a social movement is capable of opening up new social and political spaces eg new social / poltical space between morocco and spain being built up by migrants - being experienced by activists working on both sides of mediterranean, a suggestive model

new speaker: my names is Nicholas, I'm from ARgentina, living in Malaga, I want to tell you about our projects, share with you our debates, our main question is what are the common place betweenthe different forms of subjectivity of contemporary living labour - what's the link between migrants and european precarious workers - difficult to do this, many forms of living labour. We decided to read some history, research the nature of the process, the role of the 'proletariat' in the c19th.

We looked at physical spaces where different parts of cycle of production meet. There were common conditions, feelings, ways of life, languages. The pubs, the workers pubs were places (in the c19th) were places where you could find a celebration of not being at work, notbeing at the factory, informal labour advice, sharingexperiences, places where you could find nomad militants. And now ... we find what we call the 'post-national' labour force. National identity is in crisis - crisis of welfare, citizenship, of everything which can build identity between people within the state.

We are not calling people to join majority unions, but we must have some elements of this within our movement - people must be able to change their lives, must be able to gain concrete things through our movments. Our duty and challenge is how to make the social centres not just youth oriented places, but places where everyone can share all the things we need - advice, celebration of not being at work. We need the structure and capacity to win concrete things.

The workers centres in California area model - a kind of bio-union, not just about work, but about whole life. We're interested in projects in Italy too.

[new speaker, Ulrika from Naples, Frassanito speaker]

we normally talk about cross border people but we can also think about 'cross people borders' - why do we have to say which of the two is the natural or common condition? This perspective allows us to capture different aspects of borders - the border affects evryday lives of migrants - they have to adapt their behaviour to the social and political space in which they live

A second point: a common as a contested good, and one which we have to construct. We learn much from strategies of self-organisation adopted by migrants. The concrete aspect of freedom of movment as a common is mobility. We normally understand mobility as the outcome of the process of the transformation of labour, but in some cases this is a strategy too. eg sometimes women working in healthcare sector, coming from central and eastern european countries prefer not to be legalised, because they don't need a visa they go from origin to host countries, and build a transnational community in this way. This use of mobility as a strategy to reappropriate political and economic space is becoming more common for other kinds of migrants, from senegal for example. In naples we have a big senegalese community.

So we need to thinkabout citizenship, about community. Migration contests the idea that we can even identify a national community (?) In the case of migrants and precarious workers we need a transational social movement. It's not any more an arena where we can use traditional instruments of politcal representation eg parties, unions. What does it mean to be a european citizen?

new speaker

there's a lot of intellectual exploration. I may sound naive. But I'm concerned with proposal to introduce identity cards. What we understand about our country and our values is being challenged by Belmarsh, media protrayals of asylum seekers, war on Iraq. It's almost as if we are being turned into migrants in our own country, and have to reapply to join. Cards are to be resisted from one perspective, but from another they offer a chance to turn back on country, to resist, to join with migrants. People are beginning to realise we have no security. This is behind the popular scapegoating of economic migrants.

new speaker

this relates to commons. London is historically a commons for migrants. London is contested by different stratified layers of migrants. The way borders are being internalised - there are major clampdowns in stations, ticket collectors and immigration police, and drugs sqaud with dogs (in Camden at least) are present in stations. It's a long time since the majority of Londoners felt that the tube was something they could get for free. With ID cards, the phrase is an 'entitlement card'. This card allows you things which were previously commons.

new speaker

could people talk more about the idea of 'producing the commons'. Is the commons resources? or space? To say we have something 'in common' , somethingwe possess, comes back to questions of identity. Could you clarify the idea of a common subjectivity which isn't about 'having' something.

Nicholas / Argentina

the case of teh social centres is interesting. It's not a place of the state, it's a common place for the new forms of labour.

ulrika: you say we 'have this in common'. I say a common is something you cannot possess. That is the difference. It's not private property, or public property, or common property.

new speaker: borders are discussed in some places on the left as predocnitions for certain rights to be possible. Also fear of opening the border, consequences of that.

new spkr: is money a concrete expression of the transnational ideal? ... we have to say the crisis is transational, and we have to transnationalise.

but what are the conditions which would make this possible?

people *are* creating the conditions. They are saying these borders are artificial. The challenge is to oppose for example union campaigns in germany against black workers. In for example agricultural and cleaning sectors they have a dual approach -first to practice protectionism, denounce foreigners, second to become transnational.

new speaker

call for freedom of movment is a provocation. To call for a debate. Freedom of movment means papers for all, rights for all. It means people have same access to rights, to a dignity of existence. The word is global citizenship. A postnational rights act.

new speaker

the situation for some people is that they have their own country as a safe place because they experience war or genocide. talks about uncertain status of kosovo, will it go back to serbia? this makes people feel precarious When you say why do you need these borders, perhaps a lot of things like insurance, investment, social welfare depend on teh existence of borders. Keeping people behind borders is bad - if they don't have work etc.

ulrika a brief example: do you know what happened int he former yugoslavia - when people who had jugo. citizenship found themselves strangers in their place. To say we need the state to protect minorities is wrong.

response I don't feel that the Balkans are present at the ESf. We're talking about Palestine, Iraq, not about Europe. A lot of people are sending money back tothe Balkans from within the EU.

new speaker I was interested in idea that commons could be something that you own. Migration as 'social strategy' and migration as a situation that people find themselves in. People get used to idea that migration is imposed on some people, others choose it. We need to see a situation as producinganother opportunity. If in this country we see migration as a problem i get landed with because you people land on my doorstep, we should see it as an opportunity. The commons is a very english word - we need to see it as an act - think of the word 'communion' a religious word, but one which originally meant coming together between people - not state - we need to see migration in terms of the ideas we bring with it - I think that's quite a foreign idea to British, because we're an island. We need spaces where it's possible to be communal, to be together, and they're taken away from us all the time.

new spkr - Claudia, germany Caravan organisation

what are reasons people migrate? A question often mentioned by the Right. Mentions the IOM int. organisation of migrants which deals with IMF, which decides who is needed by what country... We need the common, and we need these orthodox structures, we need trade unions too, hwat we are doing to organise migrants, but it's not so well organised. I think a new trade union or something is a good idea.

Finnish guy evident that people who are most mobile - for example us inthe social movements, we are still the mobile elite - I think a lot of people would prefer to stay whre they are - a conflicting logic - we have capitalist globalisation, the imposition of capitalist modernity aaround world- modernity has alwyays meant displacement of people - a lot of people don't want to leave.

If we have an unfettered capitalist globalisation we woud have millions on millions of people displaced intheir home countries, and forced ot move to rich countries. This will produce racism. WE have to fight against ruthless capitalist modernisation, and have somehow to get to a stable situation where peple are not forced to move, but where movement of people and ideas around the world is made as easy as possible. We have to remove coercion. The whole world should be a place yyou can live, where you can make your living.

new spkr

social democrats would say you have to have borders, they protect people from rise in far right. I questionwhether that's true. If you look at London, large numbers of migrants have settled - there hasn't been a rise in far right - there are workplace cultures where commons are created, anotehr commons which is important is the commons of childrens play - the shcool my kids go to they speak 30 or 40 languages, some of most successful anti deportation campaigns in this country (UK) have taken place around schools, we should thnk positively around some of the things which are happening

new speaker

are we going to have an overview of UK situation? It seems to me UK policy and othre policies are different on a national level. In the UK there is emphasis on border control and not so much within country. So if people manage to pass border then theyre free, because they do not have id cards, no registration - they can go to doctor or school if they have no documents. The UK wants to stay paperless. The plan to introduce id cards is precisely to spot illegal migrants or asylum seekers. On the continent the system is run differently. in the last 10 or 15 years UK has engaged more with EU, they started to clamp down immeidately on refugee or asylum laws. BEfore that refugees and asylum seekers could come and live with families, and use family networks to get jobs. A concentration of immigrants fuelled racism. Labour introduced dispersal system, so they're not allowed any more to stay with families. There's a campaign also to fight this dispersal system. It seems many organisations working with refugees are scared of speaking out because their funds will be cut.

berlin speaker

we heard this before that in London there are more checks than before within the city. So why should we say no borders? That's part of the construction of a european identity creation process. To say no border is fighting against this EU identity process. When people cannot exprience the other side of he border, they fantasise about it, they project dreams about it. Moroccans can never get a tourist visa for europe. it's impossible. This impossibility makes them apt to say I want to go there, and accept that they will be working under bad conditions when they get there - so the border makes them apt to accept low conditions. Tourism: europeans go to morocco to be tourists there. They feel they're going somewhere else, somewhere outside. so that helps to construct a european identity. To try to visualise the border is important from an activist point of view - to approach the controls in stations and so on. We have to say sometimes we like borders for ourselves, of respect, personal borders - but these are *open* borders - we need to talk about borders, this isn't something we can delegate to the state or to any authority, we need to do this ourselves.

new spkr

apparently it would take all cultivated land in britain to provide for population of london, to the extent that you are part of the urban london community, this should logically give you the right to expropriate land all over the world?? this is a western phenomenon, we are alienated from the land, in developing world 2/3rds of people are rural, we mustn't forget common is also land - process of enclosure is also happening, people lose land and migrate to cities - we can't rewrite history and go back - though I'd like to see localisation happening - I want to say we're only looking at part of the story when we're talking about social commons. We should question our right as a species to expropriate land that belongs to all species of world

new spkr

people have changed their ideas about where they fit in as activists. Migration has chnaged that. Think about palestine. Activists are saying we have a ri9ght to be here, israeli government saying you have no right, you will be ignored. To campaign on behalf of palestinians from the UK is a form of migration - migration as a strategy

new spkr

what did you mean by relocalisation?

a: If we're to address alienation from land, one way of doing taht would be to get relationship back - to eat food sourced as far as possible from own bioregion,

new spkr

what implications does relocalisation have for people's rights of movement?

a: I would have no borders. Problems are created by the idea that a particular racial or cultural group have rights over a particular bit of land. If removing borders causes problems, let's address them.

sandro m: I think most people who migrate experience a loss. At the same time there is no totally free migration anywhere in the world...

the criticism of borders can develop on a utopian level. It can mean to imagine a world wthout borders, without exploitation, bosses, prison. It's nice. But I don't think the criticism of borders we're talking about has so much to do with this utopianism. We're trying to imagine the world as we'd like to see it, if not a perfect world. We're talking about the world we're experiencing every day, a world criss-crossed by movments of freedom and coercision, we have to analyse the composition of this world. The world we experience is one in which the borders are multiplying, according to the rhetorics of neoliberalism etc, but we are also expriencing a change in the nature of hte border - this is what we're trying to express when we talk about a double movement, of the internalisation, and the externalisation of borders - inside and outside of us - this is a criticism of borders which is linked to concrete social practices. Also we are experiencing at the same time a fundamental crisis of the nation as the basis of rights, as the border as marker of the space where subjects are entitled to have rights. This was the history of two centuries of modern europe, but our point is that this period is over. The traditional left wants to protect the nation, because this is the site of rights etc. and we must say this is over, because there are logics of domination that are no longer circumscribed by the national space, productionprocesses are no longer national, most of the commodities we use every day are not produced on a ntaional basis, people want toimagine the possibility of rights which are analagous to the traditional social rights defined by the nation state -but we have to abandon thee national framework - this is why our cirticism of borders is not utopian but practical

notes by Hari Kunzru

Created by: hari last modification: Saturday 16 of October, 2004 [10:32:06 UTC] by hari

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