The long African-American tradition of struggle and resistance and the anti-colonial movements’ one against white supremacy and colonialism taught us a lesson. W.E.B. Du Bois was ahead of his time: There is no “black” question, there is only a “white” question. The problem is obvious; Sartre, Césaire and Fanon developed and analyzed Du Bois’ track, Edward Said definitively completed it: the monster is within us, it lives with us. What is happening in these latest weeks in Europe makes it clearer: Ventimiglia, Athens, Mediterranean Sea, Libya. Migrants who are confined and left rotting under the sun; a whole country withi its back up against the wall; austerity or death; warships, helicopters and aircraft carriers mobilized to prevent the right to escape, the simple desire to move (for a wide range of reasons, of which a great deal can be traced back to the capitalist system) expressed by a part of humanity. Different places and events, all united by a common thread: Europe, this Europe. There is not a “migration” question, there is not a “refugee” question, there is not a “Greek” question, there is only a European question. Césaire’s cry strongly echoes today: Europe is indefensible. UE is unreformable, is what he told us already in 1955 in his formidable genealogy of the growing Union, Discourse on colonialism.
Oxi!, therefore. The referendum in Greece concerns all of us closely: it can be the first stone upon this Europe’s grave; a Europe and a Union that no one will mourn. A Europe which took its first steps removing the historic colonial question from its political agenda, repressing the most radical requests of the growing national liberation movements; let us not forget the cruel massacres perpetrated in Algiers (1945-1961), in Madagascar (1947), in Kenya (1952), in Indochina (1953-1954), in Suez (1956) by some of the UE founding fathers’ governments, even belonging to socialist left.
A Europe born as a rib of Us capitalistic project of imperial supremacy, burying the most radical, egalitarian and democratic spirit expressed by European partisan struggles; let us not forget the traditional and ferocious anticommunism of its élites and ruling classes, which allowed the transformation of the continent into a giant American military base during the cold war. A Europe that built its “economic miracle” in large part on migrants’ shoulders – both the internal ones and the ones coming from the former colonies; let us not forget the process of racialization of postwar migrations – the Gastarbeiter system in Germany and in Northern Europe’s countries, whose victims were Greeks, Turkish, Yugoslavs, but also Mediterranean migrants (Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, Moroccans), the confinement in the French banlieues, the institutional racism against black people in the postcolonial Great Britain, the racialization of Southern migrants in Northern Italy’s towns. And let us not forget that the right to move freely and to choose one’s own residence was not gently granted neither by Europe nor by the single European nation-states, but it was the product of the various anti-racist struggles of migrants.
A Europe built between ordoliberalism and neoliberalism; let us not forget that since the beginning it was founded as a device of completely antidemocratic government, where all the power is concentrated in organisms such the Commission or the ECB, out of any democratic control, and where the real power of the European Parliament (even in the sense of formal democracy) is reduced to little more than a farce; let us not forget that it sweats neoliberalism and racism: from the structural funds management to the international cooperation policies, from the social, economic, migration policies to the ones related to education, culture and university. Let us not forget that while Europe imposes fiscal stability and reduction of welfare budget cuts via law, it conveys billions of Euros to the banks in order to save the financial system from bankruptcy; and also that the austerity measures imposed by the troika pushed Greece to default and to the highest levels of unemployment ever reached since the postwar period: widespread poverty, malnutrition and the exponential increase of suicide rate only represent the tip of the iceberg of the human costs of a crisis artificially created by European bureaucrats.
A Europe assailing and racializing “its own” South and “its own” East since its birth, as showed nowadays by the proliferation of migratory borders in the East and the declared war against Ukraine. A Europe that continues to behave in a criminal way in the Maghreb and in Africa. Let us not forget the war of destruction in Libya, the determined and radical sabotage of the most democratic elements in the Arabic Spring and the continuous blackmail of several African countries which are offered concessions and fundings in exchange for the construction of detention centers for migrants. For all these things, it seems really stodgy to call the European structures of government “institutions” (even understanding the necessity of a political mediation).
A lot has been told about Greece in these days, but not so much about what links the latest attempt of European strangulation of Athens to Ventimiglia, the Mediterranean Sea and Libya. We do share the urgency of the struggle against austerity, precariousness and debt, the necessity of an immediate and radical opposition to the violence carried out by a more and more financialized and antidemocratic Europe, but the order of the discourse is not satisfactory for us. For people like us, who work for a real decolonization of knowledge, of culture and politics, for a real call into question of Eurocentrism in all its connotations, for the construction of a radical but not self-referential and obliging anti-racism, it seems necessary to refer to a European question in its wholeness. What we intend to say with this is that Europe is a colonial signifier which determines practices of hierarchization of the existence, referring both to the attempt of the troika to discipline the PIIGS and to the proliferation of borders in order to exclude migrants. The (neo)colonial devices implemented by the West outside its own borders are now threatening Europe itself, creating a perverse system which reveals the contradictions of the global capitalist control. Migrants who arrive in these days to the European shores – as their struggles show – come from countries that for decades were brought to their knees by the false remedies of development made up by the International Monetary Fund, whose plan, not so concealed, was the creation of societies based on inequalities and exploitation. The austerity policies in Greece are the contemporary version of those same remedies that seem now to cause even more scandal because they famish a white European population. Europe therefore is one entity, one material and symbolic space of differential inclusion, through the economic utterances which distinguish “virtuous” states from the “squandering” ones, or through the instrument of the law which divide “good” migrants from the “bad” ones, “bogus” asylum seekers from the “true” ones. From Brussels to Ventimiglia, the Europe signifier builds and reproduces borders created to discipline and to enslave. Behind that same cosmopolitan fiction of a free movement space and of the production of freedom, Schengen and Europe show their violent side which cannot be eliminated, where the cruel neoliberalism and the securitarization of borders constitute the double mechanism of European identity’s formation. We cannot separate Europe as a space for free movements and free circulation from this constant reproduction of an excess excluded by this very idea of Europe: the unproductive excess of the economies non-disciplined by the neoliberist control; the racialized human surplus of migrants locked inside detention centers, exploited by the foremen in the fields, marginalized in the metropolises. Europe is built in Brussels, as well as in Lampedusa, in Ceuta and Melilla, in Evros, in the continuous negotiation of its material and symbolic, economic, social and political borders. Migrants’ arrival in Ventimiglia is a political struggle against this hierarchization of humanity, a struggle by means of producing a space that goes beyond its securitarized and prison forms, a struggle creating its trajectories beyond the ones produced by the movements forced and established by the Dublin system and by the European borders. It is a space of conflict which does not accept to be immobilized into subordinate paths and temporalities – and forms of humanity – but a space that puts Europe in front of the pretences of its violent and racist cosmopolitism. The same conflict that, from Syntagma square, is trying to create a new symbolic space of Europe, beyond the violence that is attempting to condemn it to the idea that neoliberism is a fate without a way out.
Oxi!, therefore. This Europe has already began to cover itself with the pall: it is only from its definitive burial that something different can arise. We must decolonize ourselves from the myth, strengthened by the same European governing elite and become over the years a major element of EU’s self-legitimizing strategy, according to which there is a European social model radically different – since it is progressive, humanitarian, inclusive, based on solidarity – from the one globally widespread by US capitalism. Needless to say, most of European left more and more fall prey to such a myth. Therefore, we need to “dis-identify ourselves” from Europe, from this Europe, in order not to continue to give room to the racist or neo-fascist right parties of Salvini, le Pen, and so forth. “To dis-identify ourselves” from the established Europe does not necessarily mean to give up any politics aimed at building a transnational European space thorough the development of an alternative political movement. With “dis-identification” we rather mean that nothing at all can be saved of these European institutions. Asking this EU to change its policy – to give up neoliberism and austerity, not to wage war on migrants – as easily as a change of clothes, means not to understand what we are coping with. This Europe cannot behave otherwise. Its very historical and material constitution does not tolerate alternatives. The (all-political) way in which UE has shot the Greek government’s proposals down in flames makes it clear: it is impossible to give up on something, no kind of popular democracy is allowed. Spain and Podemos have been warned. It is time to abandon any hesitation: the end of current Europe is a necessary precondition for a different Europe. Nowadays, decolonizing Europe means “debordering” it toward East and the African shore of the Mediterranean. Tomorrow this could be just the first step: a lot is in our hands. And even if it should not be the case, we consider it necessary for the future to assume this as a starting point: today there is only a European question. We need to engage in a more tenacious and daily European No.
*We thank Joachim Südekum for having contributed to the translation of this article