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More about precarity: Mayday Milan Call

transmitter | 30.04.2007 23:56 | Mayday 2007 | Analysis | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements | World

The feature on Mayday speaks of "the precarious". In Milan, the Mayday activists have sent out a Mayday call that explains a bit more about the condition of precarity. Its about Italy, and each Mayday has its own story, but they are connected in many ways, too.

Rollcall Mayday 2007

To all the precarious workers, both natives and migrants, men and women.
To the contortionists of flexibility and the acrobats of everyday life.
To the temporary workers and contractors, the pseudo self-employed, the
long-term precarious and those secure until-who-knows-when. To students
and researchers, precarious workers in education and information. To all
those still looking for income and wage, to all those demanding their

Let's Mayday!

For the seventh time Precarious Milan is yelling Mayday!
The scream that seven years ago broke the embarrassed silence of media
and institutions on the subject of precarity - be they of the right or
the left - has today become a powerful presence, a fundamental point of
reference, an unconcealable element on the national political stage.

As is known, each Mayday has its own story, but over time precarious
workers have increasingly become the protagonists at the center of the
stage, freed from the mediation of trade unions, parties and social
centers. In a year that has demonstrated the unreliability of so called
"radical" parties and the confusion of social movements, the precarious
have found means and moments to organize themselves, both in the streets
and in the ongoing process that links each Mayday to the next.

'''Mayday 007 speaks of conflict'''

We have long been convinced that precarity represents a crisis not only
within society, but also in those social, political and trade-union
movements that attempt to intercept, fashion and corral it. Mayday has
been the proof of this. Those who wish to oppose precarity must reckon
with the mechanisms that generate it. Precarization is a complex
phenomenon; a fatal mix of atomization, blackmail, and consent.

The increasing protagonism of the precarious is the outcome of a process
that began with new collective narratives, and has been able to create a
virtuous cycle substituting the visible - but often transient - action
that characterized many May 1st, with a continuing accumulation of
determination, skills and passions. This has engendered increased
participation. Two years ago we claimed that Mayday's radicality was
born out of creating relationships. Today we reiterate that this
radicality consists in its ability to translate the frustration,
isolation and blackmail experienced daily by precarious workers into
something else, whereby disappointment at the in/civility of business
can be transformed into a complicity between the precarious, and where
conflict can be renewed in order to face the disorientation in which
precarity plunges us.

'''Mayday 007 speaks of demands'''

We believe that the protections of permanent employment for those in
fixed positons still represents an important frame of reference for the
demands of precarious workers. But we also think that the particular
social structure characterized by this form of "security", cannot be
reproduced today. Mayday demands universal rights and uninterrupted
income, as essential elements in disarming the continuous blackmail to
which we are subjected.

But some clarification is required: the centre-left government is weak
and unable to grasp the implications of the wildfire spread of
precarious conditions. Commissions on social shock-absorbers, pensions,
and new rights, point towards a complex set of "solutions" that we find
Electing to manage precarity, rather than create a set of measures,
rights and protections able to strengthen the condition of precarious,
reveals their clear intention: to protect the means by which companies
enrich themselves through precarization, at best softening their most
drastic effects. They want to treat the symptom and not the disease,
hoping the invalid just forgets about it. Continuity of income, demanded
by the thousands of precarious who have taken part in Mayday in recent
years, can be transformed into an opportunity, rather than being merely
the newest type of chains - but only if it provides the precarious with
a choice, to reject the worst jobs, and therefore, implicitly, to fight
and improve their conditions. Any other solution changes the terms of
precarity, but does nothing to diminish its intensity. It matters little
if we are precarious due to blackmail in the labour market, or due to
the coercion of the latter combined with a welfare system that forces us
to work at any cost.

''' From conflict to income through the five axis of precarity '''

We know that precarity starts from employment to then permeate the
social - that is the set of actions, relations and choices that anyone
carries out daily whether out of need, desire, awareness or coercion. In
this sense the five axis of precarity constitute the horizon to focus
on. Housing, a right nowadays denied not only to the precarious;
sociality; education and training; access to knowledge and to free
sustainable transport, still represent fundamental fields of action and
conflict, which have always encountered and encompassed Mayday in a
variety of forms. Likewise anti-prohibitionism and self-determination,
regarding which the government - subjected to a clerical offensive -
lacked the backbone to keep its promises. Individual self-determination,
the right to choose one's personal needs/desires, and the just demand to
control one's own body, are issues that refuse inter/mediation, and must
be demanded and won through the conspiring of individual subjects.

''' Mayday 007 speaks of rights, citizenship and new kinds of
civilization '''

Witch-hunts in the name of 'security', together with refrains of 'order'
and 'legality', the Bossi-Fini law on immigration and CPT (Temporary
Accommodation Centers) represent a crucial tool for blackmailing an
important part of the social fabric: migrants. The binding of
citizenship rights to employment represents a a barbarism that
humiliates and radicalizes difference, making much-vaunted 'integration'
even more difficult. Migrants today epitomize the meaning of the
precarity of life, and show how companies' hunger for profit and their
need for labour is unlimited: migrants' rights to income, housing,
health and education is, by law, under the control of business. And,
following the same insistence on 'legality', they are prevented from
freeing themselves from this yoke, as in the case of foreign
phone-centre operators in Lombardia, who must suddenly lose their only
source of income and go in search of new employment. Precarity doesn't
find one homogenous expression, but is the intentional outcome of
different strategies that affect many parts of the social body by
dividing and segmenting them. Neoliberalism needs the clash of
civilizations. But the only fight we are interested in is that between
two opposing understandings as to how to build a different society: the
path of rights that clashes with the refrain of 'legality'. Everyone
must now choose unambiguously; which of the two paradigms will be the
driving force behind which to mobilize one's commitment and define one's
For us, it's clear that 'legality' is increasingly unjust, and civil
rights are won through conflict. In Milan, where hardship, rage and
exclusion increase day by day, becoming progressively more
uncontrollable, the town council's only response is to demand that
sidewalks of consumption and streets of fashion be unstained and
untouched by this reality. We reject this shameless equivalence. It is
imperative to reassert civil rights, abolish the CPTs, and repeal
Bossi-Fini and all other discriminatory laws.

''' Mayday 007 speaks of Europe'''

This year once again Mayday will encompass many European cities, because
Europe is the public space which must be made into a social and
conflictual sphere where the conditions of precarity can be challenged
and overcome. The Europe we imagine is different from that monetary
Europe born of the hypocrisy of the new millennium. Within it, we want
to propose a new politics of welfare, applying the same criteria to
natives and migrants, to reduce the number of employment types,
stipulate a minimum per-hour wage independent of the type of employment
contract, and guarantee continuity of income for all.

EuroMayDay represents today one constitutive processes for the emerging
idea of a new Europe - radical, free, social and sustainable.

'' Mayday Mayday '''
May 1°, '007
Milano, Porta Ticinese (Piazza XXIV Maggio) - 3pm