Essential Struggles: Pandemic Fronts.

Edited by the feminist network Essential Autonomous Struggles Transnational (EAST) and the Transnational Social Strike (TSS) platform

The Covid-19 pandemic revealed, more than anything, the deep interconnectedness and mutual dependencies that exist between different countries in Europe and beyond, and between different economic sectors, particularly between production and social reproduction. It showed that in order to maintain and reproduce our lives and society, some of the members of this society, especially women, migrants, Roma and LGBTQI+ people, have long been expected to willingly sacrifice themselves. It was them again who fell under the capitalist imperative to put their lives “on the frontlines” against the pandemic. The so-called “essential” workers – nurses, teachers, care workers, cleaners, logistic workers, grocery store workers, seasonal workers –  were to ‘naturally’ fill the abyss in social protection gazing at us from the ruins of ever more fragile welfare systems.

The pandemic showed that in a hyper globalized world, the struggles against patriarchal and racist capitalism cannot remain at a local level only. This is why we – feminists, (essential) workers, migrants, LGBTQI+ and Roma people – started a network called Essential Autonomous Struggles Transnational (EAST). This network unites organisation and individuals from Eastern and Central Europe and beyond with the goal to connect and amplify the voices of our struggles on the terrain of social reproduction. After more than a year of common work, we have issued “Essential Struggles: Pandemic Fronts” – a bilingual book (Bulgarian and English),that offers valuable insights on the struggles for better labor and welfare conditions, against patriarchal and racist violence and for the freedom of movement that emerged or were intensified during the pandemic.

“Essential Struggles: Pandemic Fronts” confronts the readers with the reality of care workers who migrated from Eastern Europe to the West and their fights for better working conditions. It entails the stories of labor organizing of essential workers – nurses, teachers, kindergarten educators, social workers – in Bulgaria, Greece, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Georgia during the pandemic. It offers a glimpse into the fights against the abortion ban in Poland and the struggles of women and LGBTQI+ people against patriarchal violence in Turkey. The book shows the worsening of the housing situation in Romania and Serbia amidst the Covid-19 outbreak. And it also shows how migrants across the Balkan route are organizing against the racist and restrictive migration regimes in Europe.

However, “Essential Struggles: Pandemic Fronts” is not simply a collection of dispersed voices and struggles. More so it tries to facilitate a common understanding of the pandemic situation and a common political initiative against these conditions that starts from the East, but spreads beyond. What we call “the East” is not a single geographical or geopolitical reality. Rather, it is a historically and politically constructed space defined by antagonisms: pre-1989 and post-1989, capital exploitation and labor struggles, migrating in the search for better opportunities and being pushed back outside of the borders of “Fortress Europe”, feminist emancipation and right wing counterrevolution. The postcommunist  toxic mix of extreme primitive capitalist accumulation and the strengthening grip of (re)emerging (neo)traditional reactionary patriarchal politics that many countries in the region are experiencing influences the living and working conditions of those who stay and those who migrate, affecting production and social reproduction in the whole European space and beyond. EAST acknowledges the distinct developments in East Central Europe and in the different countries within the region, while also trying to connect the experiences and struggles in the “East” with the Western European and global movements. After all, capitalism, patriarchy and racism are global systems that reinforce and feed off extreme forms of inequality and violence, thus we need a global resistance to be able to effectively crush them.

It is because of this reason that we firmly believe that the book “Essential Struggles: Pandemic Fronts” can empower us to share our knowledge and experiences of struggles, and to connect and amplify our voices, while learning from each other and becoming more effective in our struggles. We believe that each one of them offers valuable insights for our path towards a transnational social strike. But most importantly: we believe that the issue gives its readers both hope that a future without capitalist exploitation and patriarchal and racist violence is possible, but also tools to struggle for such a future.

“Essential Struggles: Pandemic Fronts” is distributed free of charge digitally and in hard copies.

Digital (EN): https://www.transnational-strike.info/app/uploads/2021/08/levfem-english-print-1-1-1-3.pdf

Digital (BG): https://levfem.org/pandemiq-feministki-frontove/

Hard copy (EN & BG; free of charge, free shipping all over the world): https://forms.gle/7UtD5V2oTGMWvxuk7

“Essential Struggles: Pandemic Fronts” was realized in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Bulgaria, the feminist network Essential Autonomous Struggles Transnational (EAST) and the Transnational Social Strike (TSS) platform.

Kalina Drenska is part ofE.A.S.T. (Essential Autonomous Struggles Transnational) – a network composed mostly of women, migrants, workers and activists born out of the struggles on social reproduction triggered by the pandemic crisis of Covid-19. E.A.S.T., as the acronym suggests, has Eastern and Central Europe as its main focus but looks at this specific space as a part of a transnational field of struggle. The network wants to ignite new struggles and strikes against exploitation, male violence and institutional racism by connecting existing struggles and building a common space of organization which overcomes the local and national isolation and fragmentation of single social and labor initiatives. https://www.transnational-strike.info/projects/east/

The TSS (Transnational Social Strike) Platform is a political infrastructure to confront these challenges and push forward the movement of strike on a transnational scale. It is a space of organization, communication and encounter where different figures of labour can think together about how to develop a common vision, how to support common claims capable of being instruments of emancipation and how to build the conditions of possibility of the transnational social strike. https://www.transnational-strike.info/

The text of this book presentation is published in cooperation with Black Box East: https://blackboxeast.berlinergazette.de

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