And the strike was general, and the strike knew no borders …

 

The general strike of the 14th of November, called in various countries of europe, with parallel protests in other countries, demonstrates the portential of organising across borders and in ways which significantly interrupt or paralise the production and circulation of capital.  And yet it is difficult to share Jerome Roos' enthusiaism of Roarmag

"Southern Europe continues to tremble on its very foundations. As smoke rises from the streets of Madrid, Lisbon, Rome and Athens, one thing is becoming ever more apparent: the question is no longer if but when the social explosion will hit. The outrage is building up, and with unemployment rising, austerity deepening, and a generation of Europeans increasingly disillusioned by state intransigence and outraged by police violence, such an outburst of popular rebellion seems ever more inevitable. All it will take is a spark."

The outrage is there, an increasing desire for change spreads, fear is lost, organisations of political contestation take shape, but many remain passive and more importantly the general strike, like recent strikes before it in southern european countries, remain largely prisoner to and domesticated by the agendas of labour union leadership and poltical party attachments, neither of which have any radical or revolutionary ambition.

Portugal's 14N is revealing in this regard.  Participation in the strike was called by the CGTP, the largest labour organisation in the country, but with very strong ties to the portuguese Communist Party, and with the party, is largely a reformist organisation, with very significant representation among workers, in certain sectors of the economy, covered by collective labour contracts.  But outside of such protected work, they are largely absent.  And thus the strike affected principally large industry, transportation, the civil service, followed by large demonstrations in various cities of the country.  The strike however was never conceived of as encompasing , for example, consumption, or paralising urban spaces, as it was in spain.  In other words, the strike's political imaginary was limited to pressuring government policy, and this only for a day.  The idea of extending the strike in time, and socially beyond the union's membership, the idea of pushing the strike in something resembling a revolutionary moment, was completely absent. (See Kaosenlared for further commentary on the general strike in portugal)

By contrast, 14N spain reflects an open challenge to the monopoly of labour protest by the country's majority unions.  If the memebership of the CCOO and the UGT remains significant, it is nevertheless contested by a number of other labour organisations/unions, as well as numerous social movements, including those affiliated/with affinities to 15M.  This diversity accordingly extended the participation in the strike well beyond more traditional working class groups, covered by collective labour contracts.  Anywhere between 1 to 2 million people took the streets of spain's  cities, and this even before widespread, indiscriminate police violence by uniformed and non-uniformed agents (Kaosenlared 1, 2).  (For news: Periodismo Humano 12, Periodico Diagonal, KaosenlaredElpais 1, 2, Tercera Informacion)

An audiovisual chronicle of 14N spain, from Fotogracción 

… and the police …

 

Photogallery Periodico Diagonal …

 

What has emerged in spain over the course of the last two or three years, but also as something rooted in the country's political history, is an ongoing critical appropriation of the notion of the general strike.  15M related initiatives, Toma la Heulga, Bloque Unitario, and others (e.g. Grupo de trabajo politica a largo plazo), spain's anarchist and other radical unions, the CNT, CGT, Solidaridade Obrera, SAT and numerous other social movements have defended/elaborated much broader notions of a strike than the halting of industrial production.  The general strike is absurd if reduced to a single 24 hour period (greece has witnessed at least 20 such strikes since the beginning of the "crisis", and they have done little to stop the progress of the various greek governments over the same period to change their politics).  It must become indefinite in time, but also in the different segments of the population.  The State-Capital is as much dependent on secure cycles of production, as it is on the circulation of merchandise/consumption of commodities, as well as the production-consumption of symbolic capital.  A strike must therefore touch at least all of these domains, as many in spain tried to do around 14N.  But above all, a general strike must involve putting into question the very production and reproduction of capitalism, which can be nothing more than the creation of autonomous collectivities freed of commodity production-consumption to the greatest degree possible.

A strike should above all be an act of delegitmation of State-Capital, thereby opening up the possibility of new forms of life beyond State-Capital.  "[H]istory demonstrates also that for a strike to fulfil its role of transformation successfully, it must also exceed the factory space, convert itself into a popular movement that drags into the various battles the broadest segments of the proletariat. … In this way, from inside and outside relations of labour, persons who support the general strike with demonstrations consistent with its ends, may do so with a consumers’ strikes, citizens picket lines, surrounding congress, protesting before banks; regardless of whether they are salaried workers or not, they exercise their right to strike, to strike as an exercise of the freedom to protest that condemns/rejects capital-labour relations … ".  ( Adoración Guamán, "El 14N o la mutación de la huelga", Rebelion)

And two days after the strike, a 50 year man in Cordoba leaves his house through his window, putting an end to his life before he is to be evicted from his house (Kaosenlared) … and 20.6 million spaniards (43.74% of the country's population) finds itself in a situation of economic precariousness, with less than 12,000 Euros per year.  (Tercera Información) …

 

 

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