The lines that follow are a short extraction of a lecture I gave at the congress The (re)Birth of Marx(ism): Haunting the Future celebrated in Maynooth University (Dublin, Ireland) on the 4th May 2018. The original title of my lecture went under Precarious Revolutionary agencies in Common: beyond the proletariat and the precariat and revolted around questions such as, can the precariat be recognized as the new revolutionary agency as the proletariat was in Karl Marx’s times? Which forms, methods, revolutionary agencies, or even ideology, should those suffering from precarisation adopt in order to overcome such a condition? These questions did also guide afterwards the content of the text Precarity as an Artistic Laboratory for Counter-Hegemonic Labour Organization published in the Academic journal Frame , biannual journal of literary studies, Fall/Winter issue 2017 Precarious Work Precarious Life
Between Multiplicity – On (Re)Production and Privileges
It is important to note how, imminently, the process of growing precarisation occurs as an effect of the disintegration of different secure class positions, including mostly the middle class. The current precarious labour and living conditions correlates with forms of power based on self-exploitation and market dependency in an empty-state paradigm that affects every aspect of our economical, social, mental and political life. One of the big challenges of our current time is thus to find the tools to shape a collective project able to shake the class system and its diverse sovereign interests, proposing an equal redistribution of productive and reproductive resources. From this last hypothesis, nonetheless, three main points are also urgent to be emphasized.
First, the overthrow of the class system was already, for Marx himself, one of the primary goals of proletariats’ revolution. However, Marx envisioned the substitution of the working class for the old civil society as a consequence of the exclusion of classes and hence their antagonism. Marx, and his partner in crime Friedrich Engels, would coin this transitional phase between capitalism and communism the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx and Engels used the word dictatorship to indicate the process in which the proletariat would take over every mean of production with the aim to transform those into common ownership. However, important to remember, is how in Russia, for example, the dictatorship of the proletariat ended up in a `proletarian dictatorship´ lead by corruption and fueled by the abuse of power. The transition towards what Marx envisioned as the self-government of the communities did not happened in this so-called Communist country. Having we all supposedly learnt a lesson, the exclusion of a class system should in any case be accompanied with the abolition of differences or antagonisms by one particular group or class that takes absolute power. On the contrary, the unification of struggles should avoid sameness and chase multiplicity. In that sense, in order for entrepreneurs to create resistance, they should be able to configure, or be part of, an alliance of organs able to represent equally immigrants, squatters, refugees, industrial workers, unemployed, feminist movements or retired population, to struggle in common against a concrete exploitative system. Here struggle is not represented by one “class” only, the working class -the proletariat- or entrepreneurs -the creative precariat-, but rather by society at large understood in its various diversities and identities.
This idea of struggle introduces the second point, which highlights how Marx himself didn’t include any value-producing work other than in the form of commodity production (Federicci, 2011). In other words, with few exceptions, precarity has played an important terrain for political struggle yet it has tended to revolt around waged industrial work as the main source of human’s emancipation (Garcia Diaz, 2018). Equally, Hardt’s and Negri’s definition of the Multitude introduced above as a diverse assemblage of figures that composes “social production” also avoids to include the agents that sustain the reproduction of that very work-force. In other words, it keeps consolidating the idea that all what the (re)production of labor-power needs come from the commodity production, and thus, again, from the market. This scheme maintains bypassing the unpaid value of reproductive work, mainly done by women, which ultimately has maintained the engine of production and which invisibilization, and now privatization, keeps feeding capital accumulation. Thereafter, new forms of cooperation need to exist outside the logic of capital and the market, reclaiming material and non-material areas of reality and life in which production is not superimposed on reproduction (Benholdt-Thomsen and Mies, 1999, p.153). On that sense, and since the 1960s, feminists’ theories have highlighted the difference between commodity production and the reproduction of the work-force. The incorporation of a feminist perspective into precarious revolutionary forms becomes thus highly relevant if not indispensable. A common goal must be to struggle collectively beyond the commodity form of capitalist production to start shaping the foundation for a whole new mode of production with a completely different alliance of organs that do not hide social relations of subsistence.
Indeed, the incorporation of feminisms in this discussion gives way to the third point. The overthrow of classes, the composition of a Multitude or the configuration of a common struggle against precarisation, cannot occur without the constitutive lost of privileges that have been acquired through an exploitative capitalist system. First world citizens cannot envision the overcome of their own precarious situation by a reiterated exploitation of other societies, mainly third world countries, the enforcement of gender, economic, educational or racial privileges as well as the corrupted extraction of earth resources (Federicci, 2006, 2016). It is necessary to initiate a regression of all the consequences of the violent processes of western imperialism and colonial adventures and bring forward social forms and procedures others to those defined by extractive parameters led by the market. These forms must put the sustainability of life of everyone and everything at the centre rather than keep consolidating the market in the very core (Pérez Orozco, 2014). Overall, one of the biggest challenges of possible precarious revolutionary forms is precisely the urge to understand that this struggle is not about getting, gaining or winning (accumulating) but rather about the opposite: loosing (decreasing) privileges. By doing so, from one side, it will be necessary to deconstruct relations of power and oppression, creating collective decision-making tools in non-sovereign formations. Again, this cannot occur without the lost of privileges in order for others, everyone or everything, to have access to them. Following these 3 points, it has been highlighted how, rather than understanding the Precariat as a ‘class in the making’ (Klass-an-sich), precarity must serve as a point of articulation, a negative moment of insubordination, towards the formation of a more equitable and egalitarian society.