• 1 March 2012: Transnational Migrants’ Strike

  • By Barbara Steiner | 29 Feb 12
  • 1 March has become a symbolic day for transnational migrants’ strike. The activists refer to the term “strike“ not only in its literal meaning connected to work and labour – they also want to strike against the racist normality we have to live in.

    The transnational protests on 1 March were initiated in the USA in 2006 and have encouraged migrants in other countries like France, Italy, Spain and Greece in 2010 to organise and take action on that day. Under the slogan “24 hours without us” migrants made clear how important their contributions are to the functioning of everyday-life in our societies. In Austria the first transnational migrants’ strike took place in March 2011, in the form of common actions, e.g. a manifestation, but also in the form of numerous locally organised actions.

    The activists see themselves as part of a transnational movement. Even though there have been no common actions so far, the protests and claims are inspired by each other globally. The exchange of experiences, the attempt to bring about change from the national level and the connection to the strikers and protests in other countries and towns – also via video wall during the manifestation – is seen as highly important.

    The tightening of migration- and asylum-laws all over Europe brings detentions for refugees and barriers for non-specially-skilled migrants; family reunions are prevented and there are compulsory language-tests as precondition to be allowed to stay and work in a country legally. Instead of recognizing the chances and benefits of a plurality of languages and of first-language-education, politics is imposing strict rules on migrants to learn the official language. Migrants are obliged to use the so-called “native” language (additionally also other “western” languages are welcome) at work and school. Also in the public space the domination of the official language shows, e.g. even if there is a constitutional law in Austria to have bilingual road signs in regions with recognized national minorities, this practice is contested. Therefore this year’s focus of actions on 1 March in Austria will be a language strike. The aim is to express the refusal of obedience to the exclusive one-language-domination. 

    A special character in the political practice of the transnational migrants’ strike is the high value of culture and art. It replaces the ever-same slightly boring propaganda phrases. Another difference to conventional left-wing politics is the attempt to organise together with refugees and migrants, to learn from each others’ experiences, to emphasise self-empowerment and to reject a victimizing view as well as a patronising “speaking for them”. 

    In the call of the Viennese migrants’ strike group this year it says, 1 March will be a day of mobilisation, irritation, raising voices and strike. We invite everybody regardless of and transgressing identities and ethnicities to join this protest and to strike against racism. Let’s use this day to join our differences to find a new common new language. We put an end to the division between We and You. We all are the future!