Constituent Nature of Social Turmoil

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(applies to Italy but stimulates general reflection)

Francesco Brancaccio, Alberto De Nicola, Francesco Raparelli:

"A line of reasoning about the political category of the alternative should instead begin from the opposite assumption, from the acknowledgement of the constituent nature of social turmoil. This constituent nature,institutional and regulatory, is clearly visible in movement experiences ranging from Spain to Iceland (the later a case in which the democratic claim to refuse-renegotiate the default develops into a constituent rule), to the fights of workers in the entertainment rewriting the statue of an occupied theatre, and of university students launching a process of auto-reform of the university, to the extraordinary experience of the Italian referendum last June. These and other experiences yet describe a precise need for change that aims at braking the same two phase old politics that attributes an essentially negative and defensive function to conflict and assigns the mandate to translate demands coming from below to representative politics. Setting the political discourse on the level of the alternative has no other meaning than to question the exhaustion of this "double timing", enabling us to convey the creation of experiences of revolt and effective balance of power within a trajectory of transformation.


we must strive to understand how the social movements can fit in the transition. In our opinion there are two fronts that must be open to debate.

The first front regards the current transformation of the Welfare State. It is not enough to note that the austerity policies are contributing to its dismantlement. It is much more interesting to begin with the idea that welfare today is in a totally different relationship with the production system than it was historically at the time of its creation. Some economists (among them Boyer, Marazzi and Vercellone) have applied the term "anthropogenetic model" to an emerging economic system based more and more on services centred around production by man for man, such as healthcare, education, culture, security and so on. If we accept this hypothetical model, which is confirmed by the centrality these sectors have in determining growth, it is immediately clear that the current transformation of welfare does not regard sectors "close to" the productive processes, but defines these sectors as absolutely central. The modification and privatization of welfare is in other terms the grounds for revitalizing capital accumulation. The attention with which the financial markets are dealing with this is no coincidence. Transformation of the welfare system is a result of an accelerated break-up of the so-called wage-based society on the one hand (unpaid work, private debt, the precarious nature of employment are a clear example of this, and have been so for some time), and on the other of the interruption of public funding which is determining the crisis of the public sector (hospitals, universities and schools, cultural sites). Movements seem to have understood this tendency very well, so much that their action is focusing not only on the claim for guaranteed income not linked to employment wages, but is also focusing, at a deeper level, on the democratic repossession of those public institutions. We have previously listed a few examples: all that needs to be said about these struggles is that while defending what has been brought to its knees by austerity policies, they are re-writing the managerial practices in the places they occupy, re-defining the nature of the subjects taking part in the production of public services, increasing and socializing access to them, and promoting a new form of common property, an alternative to privatisation as much as to the old state management. Starting from these local experiences that we believe will continue to prosper, we can start to imagine a Federation of new social institutions.

We think it is crucially important to revive thought and debate on a new post-State federalism, not to be interpreted as a model or form of government, but on the contrary as a horizontal and open process, resulting from pacts capable of involving a plurality of powers, subjects and institutions with a constituent potential ab origine. A form of federalism, to say it in the words of Luciano Ferrari Bravo, conceived as a concentration of non centralized power, cutting across transversally and recombining territorial and social dimensions. Within the Italian context, this topic is an urgent and relevant one in any serious discussion about the alternative, unless federalism is to be considered achieved with the reform of the Title V of the Constitution, or even worse, with the current debate on fiscal federalism. The sphere of local authority, strangled in the grip of government funding cuts, is a good candidate for a first significant passage.

Secondly, we must realistically acknowledge that the next step towards the Third Republic is already marked by an actual constitutional transition. The introduction of the balanced budget "golden rule" in the Constitution, along with the reform of the articles regulating free enterprise, describe a regressive process that affects its substance. The Italian economic constitution will be profoundly changed by this process. Why not enter the process of transition overturning its course?

We are addressing this issue in spite of our awareness concerning the crisis of the democratic constitutions, be they mere interfaces mediating between State and society, or, more materially, the result of a compromise between political, economic and social subjects (the Welfare State). This crisis, like every crisis, has most certainly not produced a void. New institutonalism currents of thought within the field of legal science have observed for some time now that the crisis has been accompanied by the emergence of new constitutional devices, fragmenting and surpassing the state-nation perimeter, and blurring the line that used to separate public from private law. On these premises, a level of discourse that does not directly involve the European and international dimension is clearly unsatisfactory.

Ultimately, we are aware that in Italy the debate around transition has mostly been misleading: the leitmotif of the so-called institutional reforms that has characterized the political debate in our country for the past twenty years, has been used to deny any possible re-opening of a true constituent process at the roots. We are stuck half way: the First Republic seems to have never really ended, and the Second to have never taken shape, if not in a distorted and deviated way. In substance the term transition has been used to block the possibility of real transformation.

This is why we believe that the legitimate and sharable effort to defend the 1948 Constitution is, in this picture, a very weak prospect. If movements today present an institutional and regulatory nature active outside of the known track of representation, it is also true that conflict must create a political process with the aim to acknowledge and elaborate, and not to recover, the decline of political party forms, working in the direction of an institutional restructuring. It is necessary to start with the idea that the material constitution has by now radically changed, with the appearance of new social subjects insisting on a common level which is already political. In the same way, a new Constitution, which would preserve the most advanced aspects in the previous one, could represent the highest meeting point for the re-composition of the multiple demands brought forth by present and future struggles. We intend a new Constitution as lever for the beginning of a political process, not as its final result, and not merely as a formal and procedural matter (maintaining the openness of the political and legal dimension tracing the distinction between constituent power and constitution itself.)

The hegemonic nature of the manifesto contained in the expression Common Goods, ratified by the referendum victory, should be the infrastructure of this new Constituent. During the French Revolution, article 28 in the 1793 Constitution, which was never applied, read: "A people has the right to review, reform and change its Constitution. A generation can not subject future generations to its laws". A few years before, in the United States, Thomas Jefferson, in opposing the proposal for re-election of the Union’s President, expressed the hope that the Constitution be completely revised ‘every twenty years’. In renewing this ‘constituent tension’, we believe that debate on the alternative must be faced, as this is the demand being voiced by the Indignant protests worldwide." (