'Flexibility' -- Morion Social Centre

The following is an extract from a longer document written in March 1997 by a social centre based in Venice. Taking as its starting point the spread of casualised working conditions, it argues that those whom the fHuman Committee in London have recently dubbed the 'quasi-employed' are likely in the near future to become a majority within the working class. True or not on a broader front, such a conclusion is certainly far from implausible for a city whose labour market is regulated by the ebbs and flows of the tourist trade.

Having discussed some of the demands which commonly circulate within the social centres -- a shortened social working day, a 'third sector' of self-managed production, and a guaranteed minimum income -- its authors turn to the question of organisation:

How can we begin to experiment, around these programmatic elements, with this new class composition's trajectories of struggle and organisation? How to overturn the flexibility, mobility, and casualisation of social labour against the bosses, as the mass worker once overturned the rigidity of work organisation within the assembly line of the taylorist-fordist factory?

We are still on the level of experimentation, but therein lies an enormous potentiality which is as yet unexpressed. This new class composition based upon flexible, precarious, territorially mobile labour courses through the Social Centres in a material sense; the centres are shot through by that social fissure produced by students who are no longer only students, by unemployed people who are no longer simply unemployed, by workers who are no longer wage labourers in a classical sense; the social centres are produced by this new class composition within which -- amongst other things -- migrant labour power (which is the most disposable, obviously, to the most mobile, flexible and badly paid jobs) holds full citizenship.

In terms of organisational forms, too, everything has yet to be invented and experimented with for this flexible labour power. The classical 'union' form, or the rank and file committee (Cobas) rooted within the workplace, are obsolete organisational formulas, given that this flexible labour power no longer has a classical, fixed, 'place of work'. Some comrades have evoked the epic of the American Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World) at the turn of the century. Perhaps we need our own Wobblies of the dispersed metropoles and the mobile network of sabotage and territorial counterpower, to construct the foundations of the new bill of rights of the postfordist worker.

Rather than a Cobas, we need an organised autonomous subjectivity, one that finds its common identity and aggregation on a territorial basis, around its own independent space of sociality. Territorially mobile, able to intervene with all means necessary, from legal aid (using what still remains of the labour laws from the fordist period) to boycotts against abuses of power, violations of rights, unregulated forms of exploitation, for the real defence of the new class of workers, from the area of casualised social labour to immigrants.

Why not then set up, starting in each social centre, Wobbly agencies -- or better Fobbly agencies (Flexible Workers of the World) -- so as to begin to (self)organise on this terrain of flexible and precarious labour?

Agencies that can begin with an enquiry into all the forms of atypical contracts used in the sphere of flexible employed labour: fixed term, part time, apprenticeships, training, seasonal, temping, off the books etc.

Agencies which above all begin with an enquiry into the flexible jobs existing in the specific territory, mapping out the various flexible forms of work and those who employ them, with questionnaires circulated during each social centre's initiatives, with direct interviews, with the realisation that the comrades of the social centres themselves do the most flexible and absurd jobs, but without ever thinking to organise themsleves on this front . . .