Firenze, Feminism, Global Resistance...
Some (personal and shared) tips to go to Firenze

by Cristina Vega (november 2002)


1. First of all I think we need to recognize some nodes of conflict in the global order we are confronting.

These nodes present new elements of reconfiguration, intensification or discontinuity with respect to previous situations and positions of the global order.

Some political processes that have been involved in the recent articulation of capitalism-racism-heteropatriarchy are acquiring an ugly and more defined shape. One of them, of course, is the closure of the borders and the many deaths and suffering this is causing all around the world. Evidently, this has everything to do with current forms of exploitation and lack of protection in the labor market which need to be re-connected with changes in the mode of production and our new daily condition: precariousness. We are all in different ways being pushed to the margins of security and certainty, cut through by stress and fragments of a this and that, a here and there, a puzzle that is difficult to make into a progressive personal and collective narrative. This is a new non-homogeneous center arising from old and new sexual and racial technologies. Donna Haraway´s image of the "integrated circuit" and Negri and Hardt´s "empire" recently have offered comprehensive visions of how questions of production-sovereignty-subjectivity-struggle-geopolitics are intertwined. To map these areas of homogeneity and difference in their imposed and autonomous constitution (in migration processes and/or the formation of new family units, for instance) or to understand the connection between them should be part of our collective task. A task that does not grow from an attitude of victimization, a view focused on catastrophism, but rather on grasping the liberatory forces that are always active in these biopolitical bodies and scenarios we inhabit.

Another process I would like to stress is the consolidation of a renewed security discourse that surprisingly is devouring such important experiences as the struggle concerning violence against women which is gaining a new shape in the context of the generation of a diffuse panic (or less diffuse in the case of the Palestinians and many others) and justification of all sorts of reductions of rights. What we are facing is the configuration of an intensified continuum between war as we used to know it and everyday war, the integration of the logic of war as something that does not even need to be explained or rejected (as an spontaneous non-militarist impulse would advise); some people have referred to this as "the permanent global war", we are seeing its manifestations in Palestine, Afghanistan, Genoa and Argentina.

Needless to say the role of mass communication has become central. Central in our daily interpretation of what is happening around us and central in the lack of self-expression; a crystal wall is interfering between cooperation and the sphere of "public discourse". This is certainly paradoxical if we think of communication -human interactions, machine interactions, human-machine interactions...- as an increasingly important aspect of globalization. To think and break this wall and promote the accumulative potential of information away from the flashes of the society of the spectacle becomes urgent. Accumulation here means self-expression (expression away from the overdeterminations of command) and narration in the sense of articulation of past, present and future in a dialogical and threaded way. In this sense, some of our reflections on the last general strike in Spain, on the expressiveness of the strike as a privileged way to make visible a conflict and interrupt production and exchange have to be further thought. Matrix, I think, is not the best way to imagine the rupture of the code, not even Blade Runner, in its final reestablishment of sexual peace.

Recently, in a gathering of a section of the European Laboratory of Disobedience in Madrid, some companions talked about four "points of attack" and four "forms of attack", the first being the border, intellectual property, the reordering of the territory and the tension between work and income and the second, disobedience, the guerrilla warfare of communication, the metropolitan survey and the notion of a public non-statal space. This "double articulation" points to some central nodes that could be approached from many different angles. The Eurohub project (www.inventati.org/hub), born in the meeting of the AGP in Leiden and in some other encounters, in a similar spirit points to coinciding points, stressing the role of communication and knowledge production and circulation. These nodes are still extremely undefined and I am afraid some aspects such as the question of sexuality and reproduction could be lost in the way. I will come back to this issue later on.

2. We need to know where the "movement of movements" is going and therefore where is coming from...

I am not going to extend myself about this type of global encounters, about our recent history from Seattle to Seville, passing through September 11th, or about the big impact of Genoa in our perception of the potential and limitations of the counter-summits, of the increasing fragility of our bodies and desires in the European context. Here, I think we should leave once and for all the unproductive competition for who is really the object of violence these days or the sterile and polarized confrontation between violence and nonviolence as such; the question, instead, should be to think how several degrees and modulations of violence (the NY towers and the war in Palestine) get connected in different parts of the world and how we are going to reassamble our various oppositions (the case of diplomacy from below in Palestine is highly inspiring in this respect).

Some companions have reflected on this itineraries in several publications (see, for instance, (www.sindominio.net/unomada/desglobal). What I want to point out here is some of the debates and forces that will presumably be at work in Firenze.

Seattle, and before that, Lacandona -- or better, the imaginary line that relates these two points in time and space -- has been a moment of confluence of many things that were happening all around the globe but did not have a common consciousness, a feeling that in our differences we were united and able to work together to subvert this order that in its complexities was not so diffused as not to let us see the points in which power is concentrating. A mature thinking about differences and a shift away from old thematizations and strategies from a left that could dissolve itself altogether indicated its timid and tentative emergeance. New ways.

Visibility, commonality, creativity, multiplicity, hybridizations, differences, new subjectivities are some of the positive elements in the construction of something that thinks about itself as part of a common history. Some have thought about this in terms of the "multitude". Bursts of nostalgia would like to transform the emergence of the global resistance movement into a compact body armed with a totalizing theory, with its new hierarchies, centralities and priorities. To this I think we have to respond with the richness, multiplicity and pleasures of the move. When things get tough, we have to remember our true values and knowledges and their convergeance in a non-hierarchical, non-totalizing fashion. This explosion of places, voices, bodies and languages turns the task of translation and codification into a very difficult one. Still, as many of us are constantly noticing not all the voices are heard with the same intensity and this, for some of us, is a central concern!

Genoa was a big blow to this spirit, but also a reminder that a movement cannot be build just by going to countersummits or social forums. That we need to invent local interventions and that these must have a continuity in other spaces, physical and virtual, and networks. The invention, for instance, of "disobedience" as an idea, as a tool-kit that could break the logic of violence of the few, of vanguardism or spectacle, has to be further explored. After Genoa, two issues have become central: the anxiety about the representation/translation of the movement and the very related question of how to think a non-statal public sphere against those sectors that want to impose old solutions upon new modes and aspirations.

The first one refers to the attempts of socialdemocracy to "translate" the global resistance claims into "realpolitik", meaning into something that can be articulated in concrete demands. This, of course, is not a fair explication of the real aim of this translation, which in the last run responds to a struggle over representation and the crisis of that very same realpolitik. The antagonistic force demonstrated by the movement, with its claims to horizontality, creativity, scope, diversity and capacity for interruption are appealing for a stale left that has suffered from the neoliberal touch and the incapacity to generate a new discourse that would cede protagonism to the social movements. Those that say we do not have proposals when we say "no one is illegal", "social income now", "share the global burden", "papers for all" or "no to the privatization of education and public health" want, in fact, to arrive at a intermediary state between the way the world is now and some decreased version of our high pointed goals. To those that have sold again and again our desires we say one more time: we want it all and now. We have been criticized for being utopian and pre-political, for having no alternatives. If we are going to discuss the alternatives in, let´s say, regulations on the sexual identity of transexuals, let´s let transsexuals led the way, let`s involve ourselves in a becoming-transsexual that is not the same as being transsexual, or as giving voice to transsexuals or as expressing punctual solidarity with transsexuals and then getting back to business! We want to decide in each case what is going to be the object of our negotiations and where we set the limits. This will not be possible with the old paradigms of representation and with the parties and unions we have to suffer: some of them incapable of understanding rhythms that are determined externally, others directly responsible for so many repressive laws and measures that it is amazing they can still show their faces at this type of encounter to reenact their spent leftist manners.

The second question, very related to the first one, refers to the non-statal public sphere, something that we need to link to the idea of how to think-talk-conceive Europe away from neocolonial legacies. Here, what is happening in Argentina could help us to reflect on what it is to cooperate without command, something with which in our small metropolitan circles we have been experimenting in great frustration and isolation. At the moment we are putting together our project for a feminist center in the city of Madrid, La Eskalera Karakola, a struggle for the expropiation, rehabilitation and reconfiguration of a women`s occupied house that has multiple branches: from the fight for our feminist history, full of discontinuities and "missing links" to the recuperation of a building that is part of the history of our neighborhood, from confrontation with an urban plan that is designed to favor speculation and expulsions to the practices of self-management as opposed to state semi-privatized management, from social participation in the construction of the city to the despotism of the renewed national and anti-migrant discourses and identities of the right. A new understanding of citizenship (www.eskalerakarakola.org, see also www.e-leusis.net).

3. But what are the spaces we will see in Firenze?

That remains to be seen. The Movement of Disobedience (MD), born from the Tutti Bianchi's ideas, has wisely expressed its impulse to break the dual geometry that has dominated many of the gatherings of the global resistance movement. This means that the creation of an autonomous space, whatever that means, in confrontation with official one would only come to reinforce our own separate fields of intervention. In principle, this does not mean that we, those of us that believe in some of the values I stressed above, have to do things with everybody. We think differently and would like to see in Firenze alliances which are fluid enough to represent a waste of time in terms of discussing the very basics of our politics. It means, rather, that our experiments should be communicated and should be a reference against codification. I send you some recent words from the Italian disobedience movement in order to illustrate this point: "Surfing Firenze" has been a preferred metaphor.

In this way, the space to be surfed will be all over the place (demos, actions, workshops...), although the MD has enabled a space, the sports hall, where the project of a global TV-channel will be based. This is the NO WORK NO SHOP continuous space. I consider this TV idea very interesting as an initiative that is both based in a particular setting and able to trace many possible itineraries and voices around Firenze.

The Hub will also have a space in Firenze, a physical one. I send you some info. They have expressed already their desire to work on the area of communication; intellectual property rights, free circulation of knowledge and people, areas of free access, subversion of everyday life, etc. It seems this will be an important node of performativity in Firenze, something that we can think about in its transversality.

With respect to the SFE, we will see a space similar to the one in Porto Alegre, with all the big apparatuses taking positions. I was not there but the problem of representation, not to mention of access, will be on the first plane.

4. Now, what about feminism, what about queers, anti-racists, migrants´ organizations and their alliances?

Here I send you some stuff about the LGBT movement in Firenze. I am not in favor of adopting a crying self-marginalising strategy of the sort "the movement does not pay attention to our claims", "our claims are not taken seriously". This is the old trick of who is central and to what we concede centrality, a double move that makes us complicit with subalternizing strategies. We, no doubt about it, are central; we have invented much of what I consider the most valuable aspects of these global alliances, but, of course, we do not see it ourselves and we like to decrease our protagonism by situating ourselves at the margins of a supposed centrality that through this move gains the potential to reshape old centralities. And tell me, my sweet friends, who if not feminists and queers of various kinds have put desire and pleasure at the center of politics? Who has transformed the way of taking the street and bring the black block outfits back to their performative potential, who has been responsible for breaking the discontinuities, public-private, work-non work, etc. of traditional politics, who has reflected around the question of autonomy, horizontality and and and - more than the feminist movement? Who has brought the question of hybridity - sexual, ethnic... - into the scene if not the queer and anti-racist movements? Who has put their bodies against social death and invisibility more than that those migrants activist that are locking themselves up in churches all over Europe?

I am not saying that now everything is a product of the feminist movement, not at all. All that I have just mentioned has been the product of some crucial alliances that over the last decade have destabilized irreversibly many of the subjects, concerns, strategies, positions and forms of action of the left. This is a result of our various struggles, that at the present point are experiencing a deep crisis in terms of invention, analysis and networking (I am talking here about feminism). A counteroffensive is at work: we just have to see women's working conditions, burdens and social responsibilities, sexist dominant images and practices in education, fashion, cinema, etc. etc., state policies concerning the family (here they come again with "the" family!), migrant women´s lack of rights in all respects, from work to violence, the impossibility for young women to realize a liberatory horizon given their vulnerability and precariousness of work, prostitutes´ difficulties confronted with new regulatory attempts, queers trapped between classic heteronormativity and the energized market normativity, etc. etc. Here, the question of reproduction in a very wide perspective should be put a the center!

I think we have a real problem articulating our thoughts and claims, as if we could not point out what are the relationships between globalization and women`s lives and women`s freedoms, in this other Europe and beyond. Feminist concerns, less in the case of queers and much less in the case of trans, are sometimes too vague and have not found a precise, rich and passionate expression. At least not in Europe, where the movement is not reinventing itself and is in a deep crisis. This momentum that can only be a product of our exchanges in-after-before Firenze (and of course, beyond global gatherings) is around the corner. I think we need to define some areas of common intervention (NextGenderation has talked about some of them focusing on the educational sphere) and find "words" for them. Nodes-expressions-alliances. Visualizing is alright, but I am also thinking about the problem of sustainability or accumulation, I don't know how to call it.

An example, what are we going to say about all these many state plans of equality that surround us and that have no real effect on the daily lives of women or maybe they do, the have a very reactive effect? Gender has become such a great word to say nothing! Is this a sacred area, are we shooting ourselves in the foot? or will public criticism of this make definitely apparent that, all the beautiful electoral discourses notwithstanding, there is a major regression for women and that there is a perverse connection between the proliferation of the "gender thing", the "mainstreaming" in Europe and the invisibility of a renewed patriarchy that would like to see no contradiction between gender concerns and our material conditions.

We want to talk to you about our project of a feminist center, about the street actions we have been doing around the question of violence and women's exploitation in the "integrated circuit" and about our more recent experiment of "drifts", a collective wandering/representation around women's work (seeing production and manipulation with teachers and translators, self-employment in the service industry, domestic work with and without income and the migrant condition, social services and health, sex work, telemarketing) not as discrete elements but as a whole connected by the continuity of spaces and activities in the metropolis, in the household, in the neighborhood, in the internet...

I know this is quite schematic and incomplete but now I need to finish this, get it done, and at least feel that I have set some ground for our exchanges in Firenze. I send you some documents that I hope will contribute to our discussions. Some of them are in this mail, others I will send in other messages.