Fw: Stop the Clock!

rc-am rcollins at netlink.com.au
Sat Apr 29 07:53:09 PDT 2000

----- Original Message ----- From: "Alf Heben" <aufheben99 at yahoo.co.uk> To: <aut-op-sy at lists.village.virginia.edu> Sent: Wednesday, 26 April 2000 6:52 Subject: AUT: Stop the Clock!

STOP THE CLOCK! Critiques of the new social workhouse

Wildcat (Germany) Mouvement Communiste (France) Aufheben (UK) Precari-Nati (Italy)

In recent years, a number of ex-autonomist and leftist groups have been trying to build a broad European-wide movement around a common programme of radical demands concerning unemployment, working-time reduction and a guaranteed minimum income. In the UK, too, such demands as a 'basic income', seen as a strategy for undermining the relation between work and human needs embodied in the wage, have been taken up not only by (post-)autonomists but also by Greens and more traditional leftists.

The articles in this pamphlet on reforms already taking place in Europe show very clearly how apparently radical demands, such as working-time reduction, have been co-opted as part of the post social democratic project. Each of the articles in this collection contributes to a confrontation with and critique of some of the prevailing currents in the political debate over how to take new working class struggles forward. This collection does not necessarily reflect a common project among the different groups; and nor do we each necessarily endorse every argument expressed here. Nevertheless, you will find some common elements in the groups' perspectives - such as the refusal of work as a basic element of working class struggle, and the conviction that working class emancipation will come from working class self-activity not from mediators such as trade unions which seek accommodation with capital and the state.


1. Preface: Putting the critique of capitalism back on the agenda (Wildcat)

2. Considerations of the agitations of the unemployed and casual workers (Mouvement Communiste) In the winter of 1997-8, new actions in France seemed to indicate the possible emergence of a new movement of the unemployed. In some other countries, including Germany, this appearance was used by leftists to try to stimulate a movement of the unemployed from above, looking for the best demands with which to mobilize the unemployed. The article questions whether there was a 'movement' at all, or merely a political campaign by some groups, and offers a critique of the different ideologies of those involved in this campaign.

3. Unemployed recalcitrance and welfare restructuring in the UK today (Aufheben) The background of new 'make-work' schemes by the state is the subject of the article from Britain, about the Labour government's New Deal programme. It points out that it is a clear attack on the culture of refusal and recalcitrance, which emerged during the 1980s and which Thatcher failed to smash.

4. Reforming the welfare state in order to save capitalism (Wildcat) One of the central demands of these campaigns all over Europe is the 'guaranteed minimum (or basic) income'. The article on this subject explains the role of such a guaranteed income in the restructuring of the welfare state in the face of changed class relations (e.g., the case of Germany). Without an understanding of this context, we risk affirming illusions about the supposed 'improvements' provided by such a minimum income and participating in the fixing of the social workhouse with our demands and campaigns.

5. The thirty-five hour week (Wildcat) Lower incomes and more work. For many people, including those on the radical left, working time reduction in Germany looks like an exemplary success of the working class - beginning with the first agreement in the direction of the 35-hour week in 1984, and up to the spectacular introduction of the 'four-day week' by Volkswagen in 1994. This article demonstrates how the 35-hour week served as a Trojan horse for flexibilization, and how Volkswagen - in co-operation with the trade union bureaucracy - used the 1994 crisis in car production to impose wage cuts and flexible working practices on the workforce from above. In retrospect, the introduction of the so-called 'working time reduction' by many firms marked a historical shift towards the extension of the working day.

6. The awkward question of times (Precari-Nati) The article on working time reduction in Italy explains how working time reduction, whether by local or national bargaining, is part of a strategy for capitalist restructuring anywhere. In the Italian case, this is exemplified by the discrepancy between the negotiated working times and the actual ones.

7. 'Thirty-five hours' against the proletariat (Mouvement Communiste) 'Working time reduction' was introduced in Germany with the help of the trade unions, which are thoroughly integrated within Germany's political system. In France, the same policy in the form of the Aubry Law was imposed by the state, under the auspices of the leftist government. The application of the law, with its provisions for the gradual introduction of the 35-hour week, has to be negotiated in each company. This has given employers the welcome opportunity to intensify exploitation and cut labour costs. Next on the agenda, is our observation of and support for the first stirrings of industrial unrest against these attacks, which are carried out in the name of 'working time reduction'.

8. Further reading and contact details

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'Stop the clock!' available from: Aufheben Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre 4 Crestway Parade, Hollingdean BRIGHTON BN1 7BL UK <aufheben99 at yahoo.co.uk.

2.40 UK (including postage) 2.70 elsewhere (including postage) Sterling or sterling cheques only, please; payable to Aufheben.

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