The protests in different parts of the world are putting the question of social alternatives on the table, says Christopher Wimmer*. First published in German in neues deutschland.
The political has once again entered the stage. A worldwide class struggle is raging. Barricades are burning in Chile, Ecuador and Hong Kong, people are dying in social unrest in Iraq. In Lebanon people take to the streets and in Syria there is still a barbaric war raging in which the project of a grassroots democratic society in Rojava is trying to assert itself.
Everywhere, behind the clouds of smoke and the clouds of tear gas, young people and dependents come together to practice new connections with women, migrants and the militant parts of the working class in order to bring various forms of protest onto the streets. These protests have rarely been planned and developed in a coordinated manner, but have mostly arisen spontaneously and unexpectedly. At times they took on a progressive, rarely reactionary character.
The common ground of the movements consists precisely in the fact that the existing apparatuses of the parties and trade unions usually lag behind them or have been made completely superfluous. The protesters themselves know what is good for them and do not need leadership. The many revolts of all those excluded and exploited, who have nothing to say and no influence on the course of events, testify to the fact that these people no longer want to come to terms with the given conditions.
In the uprising they found their language and so strikes, revolts, mobilizations against the financial industry, occupations and clashes with the police are on the agenda. Supermarkets are being plundered, the Gilets jaunes have been moving through the luxury districts of Paris, devastating them. Such actions, together with district assemblies or direct actions, bring the question of social alternatives to the table. Activists and workers are becoming increasingly interested in these clashes. They are united by the desire for their own voice and a dignified life.
The protesters come from diverse (sub)proletarian milieus, resistant subcultures and the remains of the old workers’ movement. Thus they do not form a uniformity and uniqueness in the sense of an organization, but are a diverse mosaic. Its ambiguity must be endured, its productive side understood. The participation of all these people leads to the formation of different resistant subjectivities. Thus constructions by the state are being dissolved in the uprisings. For example, the question of citizenship does not count there. What counts is the presence of the people involved.
The protesters are demanding a new constitutional process. But this is not the same as the call for organisations or existing structures. The need of people to govern themselves from below and to build new structures should not be mixed up with a political power that pretends – from the existing or from outside – to implement the contents of the uprisings. For such a perspective remains far from the real class struggles.
Which possibilities there are for emancipatory forces in the uprisings can be found out by trying oneself in it. There is no doubt that political tactics are gaining in importance if one wants to achieve an egalitarian and rational shaping of society. This requires self-organization. Its core is to create the conditions under which people choose the path of collective resistance and radically challenge the ruling order. A political organization can only be “an order in the service of disorder,” as the French philosopher Alain Badiou puts it. For capitalism, this disorder is the class struggle from below, in which the participants ally themselves.
*Christopher Wimmer is a political activist and scientist. He lives in Berlin. At the beginning of next year his anthology “Where have all the Rebels gone?” on concepts of left-wing counter-power will be published by Unrast Verlag.