May Day School 2014: Classes on the Periphery

May Day School 2014: Classes on the Periphery

 30 April–3 May 2014
Stara mestna elektrarna – Elektro Ljubljana
Slomškova 18, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Today, the European periphery is a setting of intensive class struggles. A brief overview of these struggles gives us the following polarity. On one side, there is comprador bourgeoisie, a parasitic class acting as the local executor of the instructions of international financial institutions joined by a surge of extreme right movements. On the other side, there is fragmented workforce that is mostly incapable of unified political action despite the ostensibly univocal opposition to neoliberal policies.

It is not enough to show that obvious manifestations of class struggle today include the neoliberal attack on the historical achievements of workers’ struggle, that is, the achievements defended by all the different forms of revolt against neoliberalism. Besides this vertical dimension of class struggle (labour vs. capital), we should also, and first and foremost, consider the horizontal dimension of class struggle, namely the conflicts and oppositions that take place within both the exploiting and the exploited social groupings themselves. For example, policies of central European political and financial institutions appear as a unified and unwavering strategy to destroy the historical achievements of workers’ struggles. And yet there exist conflicts between core European states themselves as well as various agents of capital within individual states. Neoliberal policies have even more contradictory effects in those social groups that suffer the worst consequences of austerity and restrictions of democratic liberties. Such effects include the lack of unity among unionised and non-unionised workforce. Moreover, both in the public and the private sector solidarity is waning even within unionised workforce, leading to the political dissolution of the workforce into various interest groups.

We can thus identify a number of social groups that are equally subordinated to the agents of capital but all too often act independently of one another and do not recognise common interest as a ground for unified action. It is obvious that the basic conflict of contemporary societies, the one between labour and capital, cannot be observed in its pure form; and even less can it be used as a basis for political action. The concepts of historical materialism and the notions of radical politics such as the working class, workers, bourgeoisie and capitalists do not have a fixed meaning – their content is transformed through class struggle. Intentional policies of deindustrialisation are changing the modes of existence of the workforce; the introduction of the logic of capital into public sectors is creating capitalists where they by definition should not exist; the role of organisations that used to represent the interests of the working class is radically changing. At the same time, interclass alliances are being realigned, with new institutional arrangements enabling new compromises between labour and capital. The disunity of the workforce is a clear proof of the ideological hegemony of neoliberalism. Hence the question of how can this hegemony persist despite the obvious catastrophic consequences of austerity measures on the periphery. This question can only be answered by a detailed analysis of the anatomy of the countries of the European periphery; what we need is an analysis of the antagonistic relations between the various social groups and their mobilising potential.

The 2014 May Day School of the Institute of Labour Studies (Ljubljana) will address the following topics: theoretical problems of a definition of classes in contemporary capitalism; ideological notions in public discourse and academic knowledge that mistify the class character of contemporary societies; relations between elites and the subordinated at the level of the EU, and the phenomenon of comprador bourgeoisie; class structures of individual peripheral European countries: relations between politics, economy and the institutions of culture, science, education and media; the fragmentation and the class character of the workforce in various sectors of peripheral European economies (creative industry, agriculture, public sectors, classical industry, etc.).

The 2014 May Day School of the Institute of Labour Studies will be devoted to answering the following key question: Which classes exist on the European periphery today? The answer to this question cannot be purely academic. Its aim will be to identify the strongest and the weakest links of the concrete class alliances that reproduce the status quo at the expense of working people.

Speakers at the conference include: Guglielmo Carchedi, Joseph Choonara, Sašo Furlan, Jane Hardy, Ursula Huws, Andrea Jovanović, Stane Kavčič Ognjen Kojanić, Anej Korsika, Marko Kostanić, Primož Krašovec, Dora Levačić, Marko Lovec, Goran Marković, Domagoj Mihaljević, Madlen Nikolova, Chris O’Kane, Florin Poenaru, Katja Praznik, Tibor Rutar, Anita Tolić, Kire Vasilev, Igor Vobič and Goran Đulić.