derrière les décors des restaurants chics parisiens, ce sont aussi les sans-papiers qui tiennent les coulisses

Piece over at The Commune on the migrant cleaners in Paris, some of whom occupied the chic top-floor restaurant of the Pompidou Center. (Article from Libération here.) This is pretty damn powerful, even in its incipient stage, with real lessons to be learned for us here. Demands like, "We are not on strike just for ourselves, we want papers for all workers, including those working illegally" change the game. It's necessary - for us here, for all - to strive to find that precision of something concrete and comprehensible, yet the fulfillment of which would entirely rupture the ruling order of the day. (In this case, the regularization of sans-papiers would fundamentally alter the class and political composition of France.) The singular demand becomes universal...


James said...

Exactly right. The point is to raise demands that capitalism cannot concede without allowing a fundamental shift in the balance of forces. The struggle for these demands should move the working class to a qualitatively higher level of consciousness and organization, and should point toward a more thorough-going reordering of society.

In other words, these are not simply 'reform' demands--they are transitional demands.

I also think it's likely that the fight for transitional demands will often pose the question of control--control of the workplace, control of the university, and so on. That's why the occupation or sit-in tactic is such a powerful expression of transitional politics.

-- James

socialism and/or barbarism said...

Exactly. The question that remains for us is to determine analogous "transitional" demands for the university situation, for the point remains not how to negate "the university" in a total sense (it isn't a unified enough entity to make such a thing possible). This issue of control becomes all the more necessary for that reason, whether one sees it as the creation of blockages and disruptions to call attention to a situation or (in the direction I am leaning more and more) to treat control as itself transitional, in that longer tradition of moving toward worker/student control in which things keep running. If the point is to make of the university the kind of public zone and crucial site for discourse, we need to think about ways to institute this without relying on the possibility of the institution itself collapsing entirely. As always with my preferred metaphors, one should use, occupy, repurpose, and retrofit what is already available, rather than dream of starting anew in the ruins.