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Running Along the Disaster: A Conversation with Franco “Bifo” Berardi

Önder Özengi & Pelin Tan (LaborinArt): You wanted to speak about the European crisis, especially its effect on the Mediterranean, the Near East, and the Middle East. What does the collapse of social welfare mean for these territories and countries?

Franco “Bifo” Berardi (FBB): After May 25, we must be able to say that the “European experiment” is over. The impressive result that the National Front will have in the French elections is going to add the word “end” to this expression. The European Union was based on the alliance between France and Germany, after two centuries of war. Now the alliance is over. After incredible suffering and bloodshed, the French won WWI and WWII against the Germans. Why should they accept German domination now? This horrible result has been imposed by financial capitalism, and its politics is the prevailing sentiment of the French people. The majority of the French do not feel Europe to be their home. This is a geopolitical catastrophe and, more importantly, a social catastrophe.

The financial system has pushed the EU into the abyss, provoking the resurgence of French nationalism: the EU is now a dead man walking. The majority of British people have declared that they want to leave the corpse of the EU, and in different ways the Danish, the Greeks, and the Austrians have declared the same thing. Only the Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) Party in Ukraine seems to be enthusiastic about the future of Europe, and this means that the future of Europe is Yugoslavia circa 1992. Did the global financial system consciously plan this unspeakable catastrophe, whose consequences might be misery, fascism, and civil war? Or is this only a by-product, a sort of side effect, of the war against social welfare and workers’ rights? My answer is the following: in the history of the war between workers and capital, the EU was the last bastion of welfare and workers’ power. This was thanks to the legacy of its colonial privilege, but also to the peculiar history of the European workers’ movement. The EU was the last example of democracy for the workers of the world. Destroying the EU was the last act of the worldwide neoliberal aggression against democracy. Now this aggression has fulfilled its goal. The EU is dead.

LiA: Europe is heterogeneously filled with migrant workers and refugee labor economies. Parallel to this phenomenon, local movements and networks focused on commoning in urban areas are increasingly active, especially in the southern Mediterranean. Networks such as Encounter Athens and Mataora, among others in Madrid, Lisbon, and Rome, embody a fundamental criticism of Europe’s ideology and unity.

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