Turin – Bologna
06:00 Turin – Asti
Valeria, Janna and Kanina set off from Turin in the early hours of the morning to pick up the camper van.
Valeria reported on her conversations the evening before with friends Monica and Cosimo Scarinzi. Monica has recently been made redundant from an administrative job with a curatorial collective. She will be replaced by two interns. Cosimo was Valeria’s secondary school philosophy instructor and is now a trade unionist organizing educational workers in Turin. He is an incredible man, who was involved in the operatisme movement in Italy in the 1970. Among other things, he is now concerned about what strategies might be used to encourage members of the trade union to sit on local school councils.
We discussed the problem of incorporating free labourers – whose desires and circumstances are often quite different from those of precarious workers – into the precarious movement, while acknowledging the absolute contingency of the one on the other.
13:00 Camping Hotel, Bologna
There were three stars on the doormat, but we’re not sure if that was a statement of value or just a decoration.
The cost was higher than we thought as we had to pay for each person.
We will hide members of our party next time.
Driving on a very nice bus from the campsite into Bologna, we passed a train station that was blown up by the right wing in Italy. The blamed it on the Left.
13:30 Bologna City Centr
At a fountain in the Piazza Majore, we re-united with Susan. Over plates of pasta at one of Bologna’s famous delis, we discussed our afternoon’s activities: a quest to find the place where the Bologna Process took place and a meeting with theorist Franco Berardi and his students at the evening school.
14:00 Book Store
Got a book about getting lost.
14:00 Somewhere near the University of Bologna
Slightly lost, we stumbled into an the San Cecilia Oratory, where a young man (a student from an art’s high school in Bologna) told us about the story of the martyr depicted by a series of frescos and the namesake of the Oratory. San Cecilia was the patron saint of music. She waged the promise of lifelong virginity for the image of an angel. Later in her life, she was submerged into boiling water and almost beheaded. Surviving both near-death encounters, she then gave all of her money to the poor and died. The young man seemed uncomfortable with the word ‘virgin’. We noted how frequently people, in their accusations of violence against Islam, forget stories like this.
14:10 University of Bologna
Trying out formats (cheesy television host, poker-faced comrade), we dispatched the question: ‘What can we learn from Free Labour?’ in the arcades of the University, after photographing signs for a ‘workers market’ put up around the campus in preparation for tomorrow’s precarious living demo in Rome.
Recording devices in hand, we began to question.
We approached a woman wearing a PLO scarf. She described herself as a student. She had not heard of the Bologna process, but had engaged in an internship. She felt that internships offer valuable experiences, but wishes that corporations/employers would pay students for them.
Next, a conversation with three students at the university: one of philosophy, one in business, the third said he had to go. The students has also not heard of the Bologna Process, but felt that internships were a good way to get into the workforce. When asked how they supported their internships economically, one student revealed that he had worked in Spain, and that his parents helped. The other had not completed one, as they are not offered to students of philosophy. We wondered what a philosophy internship could be. The former student felt that it would be nice to be paid, but was not particularly bothered. He was, however, concerned about the lack of freedom in the Italian educational system and pronounced that teachers, in the words of Pink Floyd ‘should leave us kids alone!’ We wondered what happens to students whose parents cannot afford to support them while doing an internship.
The third person we spoke to was a medical student who had just completed 7 years of school, but cannot practice medicine. His internship at a hospital was supported by a small grant from the University, though many do this for free. He will likely work in a bar while he studies for his exams and before he can enter a 3-yr program to specialize.
He has applied for a grant, but they are very competitive and he will likely have to work to support this as well. Valeria asked him if this angered him, that he could not practice medicine, and that he would have to work in a bar while possessing the skills to treat people without enough money to pay the 260 euros that is the mandatory fee for a visit with a GP. He said, ‘that’s the way things are’.
17:00 Bus between city centre and evening school
Shuffling in and out of people’s way, we questioned our question and modes of questioning, concerned about performing a neutrality that would be a lie (we are clearly invested in the question), not wanting to conduct aggressive interrogation, frustrated by the apathy we experienced at the University.
Over glasses of campari, bubbly wine and colourful snacks, we discussed approaches to working with students.
Wondering at the level of acceptance expressed about free labour as and educational requirement, we again re-visited the idea that free labour, while often supported by precarious work, is informed by a dramatically different set of desires i.e. for prestige, for accreditation. It is also framed by a different temporality. It economy based in the future. We speculated that the issue with the educational requirement of free labour is not about getting paid/not getting paid – the language of exploitation does not account for the issue of desire. It is more the problem that Paulo Virno describes i.e. when our modes of political participation are fulfilled within the realm of work, making political participation a hollow performance, a going through the motions. This is what is so frightening about the Bologna Process proposals around standards for lifelong and informal learning.
Back to the students questioned today, we wondered what kind of mobilization or form of questioning would emerge from the apathy expressed by people today on the street – all of whom were not particularly happy about the current state of affairs, but accepted internships as a necessary aspect of Education.
We also wondered about the way that EU Commissions create strange geographies of disconnection with the places in which accords are signed and processes launched.
18:30 Evening School Hallway
Met Franco Berardi at the Evening School.
He was holding a set of maps to use in his 20th Century History class.
On the way to his classroom he told us that the school was built in the 1850s for workers in the adjoined factories. The school is now run for students who wish to obtain a secondary school diploma, but work during the day, many of whom are migrants. Students take classes from 7-11, five nights per week for five years.
19:00 Evening School Classroom
Five students were present. Franco introduced the project.
A heated discussion ensued in Italian. Janna, Susan and Kanina understood very little, but heard something about the futility of protest. Valeria relayed that one student suggested that the issue of internships is no different from that of the exploitation of any worker – that the bosses hold all of the power. They wondered why we were going to Rome to attend a protest. They also expressed their appreciation of a recent taxi workers strike, though Franco suggested that it was more possible to stage an effective protest if one owns the means of production themselves. They did not have a specific question for us to take to Rome, apart from why we were going there. We will do our best to provide an answer.
Franco told us that when he asks a question, it sometimes comes across as a lecture.
He asked us to dispatch the following question to the people at the protest in Rome:
(paraphrased) The 1990s were an amazing time for mobilization, for developing formats like the ESF. This changed on the 5th of February, 2003 when millions of people all of over protested the war in Iraq and Bush declared that ‘this is not a focus group’. This was the moment when our faith in participatory democracy was lost. It’s time for us to try something new…like sabotage. What other forms of protest can we use?
22:00 Camping Hotel
Camper van plugged into an electrical socket nearby, we made up our beds and tucked in for the night.
Tomorrow: to Rome for the demonstration of precarious workers, a meeting with a precarious worker’s group from Turin and dinner and a stroll with artists/thinkers/activists Maria Thereza Alvez and Jimmie Durham.