• transform! europe 2016 at a Glance

  • Γίρι Μάλεκ , Βάλτερ Μπάγερ , Χαϊντελμαρί Άμπρος , Ρομπέρτο Μορέα , Μαξίμ Μπενατούιγ , Katerina Anastasiou , Dagmar Svendová , Angelina Giannopoulou | 08 Mar 17
  • For over fifteen years, transform! has been working as a horizontal network with alternative thinking and political dialogue at its core – always in relation to social and labour movements, as well as in close cooperation with critical researchers. We now are a network of 29 European organisations from 20 countries, active in the field of political education and critical scientific analysis, and are recognised as the political foundation that corresponds to the Party of the European Left (EL).

    The facilitating team of transform!, in charge of implementing the programmes and projects in compliance with the decisions collectively made at the General Assembly, drafted this activity report focusing on the highlights of 2016. It does not claim to be exhaustive, but rather to provide readers with concrete information regarding the activities carried out by our network over the year, the research questions we tried to tackle, as well as on the partnerships we established to this end.

     

    European Integration and the Strategic Perspectives of the Radical Left

    Angelina Giannopoulou

    In 2016 the research programme ‘European Integration and the Strategic Perspectives of the Radical Left’ developed the following focuses:

    • the so-called ‘EU coup’ against the first Syriza government in July 2015;
    • the effects of the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War;
    • the continuing crisis of the eurozone and the EU as well as the proposals for the future coming from various sides; the new economic governance strategy as well as the left alternatives;
    • the development of different political trends in various parts of Europe (the rise of the extreme and populist right in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe and hopeful signs of progressive changes in Southern Europe); 
    • the current state of the traditional political actors in Europe; the state of the social democrats and their interrelation with the radical left.

    The activities carried out involved a significant number of people from a broad spectrum of political views and from various national contexts. We all had the opportunity, through transform! europe’s events, to discuss the crucial issues the European left is facing. Many people who became involved for the first time in transform!’s activities wanted to contribute to an alternative plan and strategy for Europe, against the neoliberal doctrine implemented by the European elites. transform! europe organised or co- organised the following events:

    1) Structure and Strategy Workshop, March 3-4, in Vienna, organised by transform!, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLF), and Der Wandel. In this event organisational and structural coordinators from various left and progressive parties in Europe had occasion to reflect on the practices of their individual organisations and learn from the experience of others. The programme combined plenary presentations, spotlight sessions, peer2peer discussions, and extended strategy workshops. The invited organisations were KPÖ and Der Wandel from Austria, Die LINKE from Germany, Izquierda Unida and Podemos from Spain, Syriza from Greece, Bloco de Esquerda from Portugal, HDP from Turkey, Združena Levica from Slovenia, and Razem from Poland. There were c. 30 to 40 participants during the two days, while in the public event at the end of the second day the audience included about 200 people.

    2) The ‘Building Alliances to Fight Austerity and Reclaim Democracy in Europe’ Conference, March 18-20 in Athens, organised by transform!, Syriza, the Party of the European Left, and the Nicos Poulantzas Institute. The conference aimed, on the one hand, at analysing some of the major problems the EU and its Member States are facing today and, on the other, to contribute to establishing broad political and social alliances to confront these problems in the interest of democracy and of the European peoples and dominated classes. The debates were organised around six thematic axes and two public events where 67 speakers (moderators included) – coming from a broad spectrum of political and social forces – presented talks and interventions. Approximately 200 people attended the various sessions, and Saturday’s public event took place in a crowded hall with more than 600 people. Furthermore, 43,500 individuals watched the conference through live online streaming, with 36,000 watching Saturday’s public event, where Alexis Tsipras, Pierre Laurent, Declan Kearney, Ska Keller, Marisa Matias, and Tania González addressed the attendees.1

    3) The Berlin Seminar ‘State of Affairs in Europe’, July 7-9, in Berlin, organised by transform! europe and the RLF. The seminar aimed to trace the possibilities for common perspectives and action of the left in Europe by bringing together intellectuals, experts, and activists to debate the recent developments in Europe that raised many questions and arguments in Europe’s left. The main points addressed through this event were focused on the state of the EU, the state of the movements, and the state of politics. The discussion was organised in 12 sessions presented by 26 speakers. The organisers intend to publish an electronic or printed edition of the seminar’s contributions.

    4) The ‘New Economic Governance’ Project, April 2016 – January 2017 in Brussels, organised by transform! europe and the economic governance working group based in Brussels. The project intends to collect the diverse left and progressive analyses of the EU’s economic governance with a view to producing a fruitful synthesis. At the same time, the main political goal is to develop ideas and concrete proposals from a radical left perspective in opposition to economic governance. The project, developed through an interdisciplinary team, has two main stages. Firstly, a two-day workshop took place in Brussels in the European Parliament on 13-14 October in which 20 participants presented their contributions. The workshop was co-organised by the delegation of Izquierda Unida in the GUE/NGL. Secondly, a joint written report will be published in January 2017. The report will comprise the outcome of the workshop as well as a comprehensive introduction and a conclusion that will bring together the various aspects.

    5) ‘Analysing European Social Democracy: The Stance of the Left’ workshop, November 14-15 in Helsinki, co-organised by transform! europe, RLF, the Left Forum, and the editors of Sozialismus. European social democracy is currently undergoing the most serious crisis of the postwar era, which is acknowledged by both politicians and political scientists. In this particular context, the radical left appears in many European countries to be the only credible candidate to possibly replace the social democrats and attract their traditional social allies. The significant electoral growth of the radical left in different countries has sparked the debate about the relations between the radical left and social democracy. With a view to inaugurating this dialogue, the event brought together 22 participants who analysed the phenomenon of social democracy, also in the context of the radical left, in order to determine the degree of rivalry or proximity of the two political actors (or trends). In 2017 research on the question of social democracy will continue to be a major component, and a publication is also planned on this topic.

    6) Survey of delegates of the Party of the European Left: In the framework of the Third EL Congress, held in December 2010 in Paris, the first extensive survey was conducted of the demographic makeup and political profile of the EL’s Congress delegates. The survey was repeated in December 2013 in Madrid, which made it possible to draw comparisons and highlight possible shifts such as the degree of renewal of the Congress’s components as well as the level and type of impact the economic and financial crisis has had on the parties. The survey was repeated in the last EL Congress of 16-18 December 2016 in Berlin. It was conducted by transform! europe in cooperation with the Nicos Poulantzas Institute, which were the organisations responsible for the implementation and reporting of both previous surveys.2

     

    Europe’s Productive Transformation – Towards a New Model of Development

    Maxime Benatouil

    Genuine cooperation between progressive social and political forces in Europe is more needed than ever to efficiently meet the challenges we are confronted with. To name but a few: opposing precarious forms of employment, growing social insecurity that puts too many lives at risk, and social dumping between and within EU countries; tackling climate change and making sure that the inevitable energy transition will be socially just vis- à-vis workers; not leaving the field to right-wing populists capitalising on the persistence of the crisis and the legitimate anxiety caused by its management; and giving Europe a chance to overcome for everyone’s sake the so-called core/periphery asymmetries undermining the EU from within.

    We need to find global solutions for a better, fairer Europe. And to do so, an EU-wide industrial strategy, as well as a re-definition of labour rights standards, matter. The very concept of productive transformation not only implies the reconstruction of European productive capacities but also the establishment of a new model of development that meets social needs and ecological imperatives, with economic democracy as a compass.

    This is quite ambitious, but we have no choice but to attempt it. We firmly believe that the work we have undertaken on the alternatives that can be opposed to austerity policies must be deepened and made widely known. It is to be seen as a modest contribution to the struggle against growing right-wing populism, prospering on the ashes of the crisis. transform! europe has underscored its commitment by making the programme on Productive Transformation one of its two pillars. The programme is made up of three autonomous working groups bringing together unionists, academics, movement activists, and political actors from across Europe in order to tackle the following three specific issues: (1) a progressive industrial strategy for Europe; (2) a socially fair energy transition for Europe; and (3) labour and social rights under attack.

    transform! europe Working Group on Industrial Policy

    We initiated the 2016 programme with a workshop in close cooperation with the Nicos Poulantzas Institute in Athens on 17 March. It was the occasion to kick off our work for bringing political and economic solutions to the growing division between the so-called core and periphery of the EU. The key question that framed the discussion was: how can we take advantage of the potentials and complementarities of national and regional productive structures – avoiding, in particular, the imbalances related to the terms of trade and the effects of polarisation – through a left industrial policy? It has raised the question of the very nature of the planning of an EU-wide European industrial strategy, which from a progressive perspective can only be inclusive (multi-level political actors and institutions, trade unions, consumers’ associations).

    The issues of the digitisation of the economy and of Industry 4.0 from a labour perspective were then tackled in Milan on 24 June in a workshop co-organised with Punto Rosso and the Brussels office of the RLF. It allowed for a comprehensive overview of the transformations resulting from digitisation in the Italian productive fabric. Numerous trade union voices shared their experience from the workplaces affected by these processes, warned of the risks for the working classes, and proposed solutions – such as a public investment plan for education and continuous training – to prevent further polarisation between highly skilled and low-skilled workers who always are the first victims of technological changes of such a scope.

    Together with the Brussels office of the RLF, we felt the need to explore the possibility of implementing a progressive European industrial strategy within the current institutional framework of the EU. The discussion held in Paris on 6 and 7 June was based on the study ‘What is to be produced? The making of a new industrial policy in Europe’, edited by Mario Pianta, and brought together progressive economists to discuss with him his key findings: What room for manoeuvre is there for a progressive industrial policy in Europe? How can it be funded, bearing in mind the weaknesses of the Juncker Plan? Can we use the Services of General Interests to protect key sectors of the different national industrial fabrics? The two-day workshop made it clear that there is a wish to go further with partners from other sectors of progressive forces, which then materialised in late October in Brussels.

    For the very first time, we invited representatives from the European Green Party and its corresponding foundation, from the Party of the European Left, as well as from the European Trade Union Confederation, along with national trade unions and heterodox economists to come together and take action for a better, fairer Europe. The two-day workshop ‘Europe deserves better’ held in Brussels on 25 and 26 October was divided into two sessions of equal strategic importance. Time was first needed to openly discuss issues such as an investment package for Europe, the articulation of an ecological, industrial, and energy transition – in a manner respecting the participants’ different political backgrounds. The second session was more political in the sense that we took time to agree on a common set of demands for a progressive model of development for the EU. This work will serve as a basis for a large European Conference to be held in Spring 2017 in Brussels. The politics of European integration is at stake. And it might very well collapse if progressive political and social forces do not come closer together to promote a progressive EU-wide industrial policy. Given the current state of the balance of power in Europe, we cannot afford not to try.

    transform! europe Working Group on Energy

    Under the auspices of MEP Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL), the transform! europe Working Group on Energy presented its e-Dossier ‘A New Energy to Change Europe’3  to representatives of European progressive civil society and members of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research, and Energy (ITRE). Deployment of the energy transition towards a new model of development, energy democracy, citizens’ initiatives, and the crucial role of public research – these issues were at the heart of the discussions held on 14 June.

    It should be noted that our cooperation with MEP Cornelia Ernst (GUE/ NGL) and the Brussels office of the RLF has been strengthened over the year. The most significant outcome of this was the European Conference on Just Transition held in Brussels on 5 December through which we created a unique space where trade unionists and representatives of left and green parties from across Europe exchanged their views on an energy transition that is socially fair to workers with elected officials from European regions undertaking a phasing out of coal and/or nuclear energy. This conference is to be seen as the first step of a collective effort to be carried out throughout 2017.

    transform! europe Working Group on Labour

    The dismantling of labour and social rights within the EU’s political agenda has been intensified ever since the outbreak of the crisis. This phenomenon, if more acute in the so-called EU periphery countries, is nevertheless visible everywhere in Europe – examples of its acceleration are the recent structural reforms in the labour market in France and in Belgium. We therefore felt the need to establish a working group bringing together social researchers and activists from the labour movement in order to undertake an in-depth study of the neoliberal reforms and the challenges trade unions have to deal with.

    The group first gathered in Vienna in May, at the peak of the mobilisation against the so-called Labour Law (loi travail) in France. The workshop ‘European Labour Rights at a Crossroads’ brought together a wide range of researchers, trade unionists, and social activists from across Europe to discuss the then growing opposition to EU-inspired reforms of labour markets, trade-union strategies and alternative proposals, cases of transnational cooperation – with the emblematic example of the Amazon workers’ struggle in Poland gaining support from the German trade union Ver.di –, as well as existing convergences between trade unions and social movements. Increasingly more of these social movements, composed of young people whose only horizon has been precariousness, are focusing on labour-oriented issues, especially in Southern Europe. A paper compiling the outcome of the workshop was published at the end of 2016.

     

    Cooperation with the Party of the European Left

    Roberto Morea

    The increasingly close relationship between investigating the forms through which the multi-level crisis is passing and working out a path for an economic and social alternative remains central to the work being promoted for the near future by transform! europe.

    All of this work is fully in sync with the Party of the European Left (EL) and is being carried out in cooperation with it. There have been many forms of collaboration underway for several years now – such as participation in the international social forums, to which this year in Montreal we contributed topics for discussion, or the co-promotion of the Summer University, which attracted many participants and was rich in material for a constructive debate amongst different analyses and positions. In addition, there is now the Forum of Alternatives, which the EL has decided to maintain as a permanent space of dialogue between the continent’s political and social forces and which will certainly see our involvement, strengthening an interactive relationship that has clearly been positive for both entities.

    The same can be said of our work in the Alter Summit network, where we are deeply involved in facilitating a structural relationship between the social movements and the trade unions for defining strategies and activism around specific issues, and also in the Blockupy network, which after the battle against the role of the European Central Bank, an action that brought tens of thousands of people from all parts of Europe to protest the inauguration of the ECB’s new headquarters in Frankfurt, is mobilising to bring the voice of protests against neoliberal globalisation back into centre-stage.

    The work done by task forces, which we as transform! europe have promoted, such as those around productive transformation, or the commons, as well as the energy and the ‘Change4All’ groups, will involve our interaction with the European Parliament members from the EL around the work of proposing intervention in the EP on issues crucial for European economic and social policies.

    Of particular interest will be the work we are promoting, through our respective working group, on the EU’s role in international conflicts and its relations with neighbouring countries. The discussion about the EU and left strategies for dealing with the profound crisis which this institution’s architecture is going through remains one of the cornerstones of our commitments. For this, transform! europe will continue to keep open for everyone’s benefit all possible spaces for discussion with all the movements that, like us, articulate a radical critique of how a European Union that is continually more removed from the interests and needs of its own citizens could be changed. Through these efforts we hope to contribute to the concretisation of the idea of a re-founded EU, so as not to leave this critique only to the nationalist right organisations.

     

    Commons

    Roberto Morea

    For many years there has been a redefinition of the battle against the policies of privatisation and dismantling of the public system that ranges from water management, transportation, education and training, as well as energy, and against the attack on the environment with the devastation of the territories. It is a battle that has arisen from the ability to shed light on the depredations of neoliberalism and its capacity to erase all that has been collectively built and defended up to now as part of the public interest in our countries.

    Beyond its historical definition and its recognition in pre-modern law, the term ‘commons’ nowadays has a significance which serves to redefine the terrain of political battle that must be considered for a democratic transformation and for the recognition of the subjects, the actors of this transformation. Globalised capitalism goes hand in hand with the dismantling of state control. Democratic control and in fact a defence of some aspects of the collective interest found, in this battle for the common good, a valuable tool for analysis and reconfiguration of these interests.

    We as transform! europe have been following this path from its beginnings and have been present in this discussion in which it has been difficult to harmonise certain disparate views within the left.

    There are many single-issue movements that have been developed at the national and international levels, but it has proven difficult to interpret them as parts of a unified movement, and their many small and big battles are often tied to their local- or single-issue dimensions.

    In this regard we have begun to explore a path that could weave issues and proposals together that can be translated into effective practical activism.

    After the first meeting in Paris of the Working Group on Commons in 2014 we tackled, in Rome in 2016, the issue of the worker-appropriated factories and the social re-appropriation process that has also been evolving in the area of labour in countries affected by de-localisation and the dismantling of productive plants.4

    The proposal for 2017 is to take up this thread that we have laid out in previous seminars and broaden the discussion both geographically and in terms of areas of interest. That is why at the upcoming events in March in Copenhagen and in Barcelona in June, we will collect experiences and specific struggles and will work together so that we can connect with individual strands of analysis that exist in the various networks and together with them develop specific areas of research, which includes strengthening our discussion of the commons with partners such as labour and trade union representatives. We also believe it is necessary to develop and deepen the work in this field with the political representatives as well as to define a strategy involving both the GUE/NGL parliamentary group and the European Parliament Intergroup on the Commons, leading to a meeting in Brussels at the end of 2017.

     

    Feminism-Marxism – A Step Forward

    Heidi Ambrosch

    ‘The Left is feminist or it is not left’ is a slogan of the women’s movement, which caused us to reflect on our own flaws. transform! europe has had too many blind spots in feminist theory and therefore made the preparation of the Second International Conference on Marxism-Feminism in 2016 one of its core activities. It is not only feminist but also Marxist theories – and their combination – that need to be put back on the table of progressive research.

    The conference ‘Building Bridges – Shifting and Strengthening Visions – Exploring Alternatives’ was held in October 2016 in Vienna and brought together over 500 participants – left theorists and activists from 29 countries of all continents. In contrast to the first conference, this time it was possible to also have significant participation from Central and Eastern European Countries and also from southern Europe.

    The event was jointly planned and hosted by a broad alliance of feminist and progressive organisations together with transform! europe, which assumed most of the responsibility for providing the technical conditions.

    The densely packed conference programme was divided into two streams, Marxist-Feminist Theory on the one hand, and organisation on the other. In the streams running parallel to each other, researchers and activists from Europe but also from Argentina, Brazil, the USA, South Africa, and Australia presented their analyses, among them renowned intellectuals such as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, theorist of post-colonialism and professor at Columbia University in New York, and Nira Yuval-Davis, professor at the University of East London.

    The concepts of labour and care-work, questions of intersectionality, new materialism, and ecofeminism were the subjects of debate at the conference as were Marxist-feminist analyses of motherhood, anti-fundamentalism and anti-racism, illegality, education, and sexist Islamophobia. In the stream ‘Feminist Organising Beyond Europe’ in particular, in which activists reported on the feminist struggles in Turkey and women organising in trade unions in Brazil, there was little time to look for cross-national commonalities. Feride Eralp from the Istanbul Feminist Collective, a volunteer in the border town of Suruç during the siege of Kobanê, raised the questions in her talk of how war and masculinities were shaping each other and what women’s resistance could look like in a society marked by an all-pervading ‘cross-border politics of hatred’.

    A manifesto, thoroughly discussed at the Vienna conference, is to be the basis of future co-operation and understanding.

    transform! europe will also further help strengthen this cooperation and will try to bring the feminist viewpoint to bear in all its areas of work.

     

    Far Right

    Walter Baier

    In 2016 transform! europe’s work on the populist, radical right parties was focused on lecturing and publishing. Events took place in New York at the Left Forum, in Berlin in cooperation with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, in Hamburg (in cooperation with the journal Sozialismus), in Klagenfurt, Vienna (in cooperation with transform-at), in Volterra (in an RLF-organised seminar), and Warsaw (together with the newly established foundation Naprzód). Alongside continuous publications in transform!’s media, articles appeared in the US (New Labor Forum), Germany (Luxemburg, Z, and Sozialismus), in the Czech Republic, and in Austria.

    We have focused on those parties of the radical right which by virtue of their ability to modernise to fit in with the political and cultural mainstream are reaching out to constituencies of 25% and even more of the population in particular cases.

    Of the inroads of right-wing radical parties into proletarian, formerly social democratic electorates there is much evidence. However, the data in most of the cases ignore the vote shares for the radical right in other segments of the electorate and thus remain prejudiced and ideologically biased.

    As ‘Eurobarometer’ data has demonstrated for Europe, people in general feel increasingly uncomfortable about their democracies. According to a survey last year, 62% of Europeans believe things are going in the wrong direction; 48% declare that they no longer have trust in their governments, and 43% say that they are dissatisfied with their democracies.

    The causes of this are complex. Alongside crisis, precariousness, and the middle strata’s fear of downward social mobility, there is the decline of social democratic parties; and the disillusionment over this when not compensated by the left with a credible radical alternative all too easily delivers people into the hands of the radical right.

    According to a broadly shared definition, the ideological core of populist right radicalism combines authoritarianism, ethnic nationalism (that is, xenophobia, racism, and anti-Europeanism) with a strong social chauvinism and ‘populism’ that addresses the anti-establishment feeling of large layers of the society.

    The success of this combination should not be regarded as the spontaneous reflection of the crisis. On the contrary, it has been incited and promoted by corporate media outlets and the culture industry.

    Three strategic conclusions can be drawn:

    1. We ought to shift the emphasis in confronting right-wing radical populism from moral condemnation to political struggle. This requires in the first place acknowledging the validity of the social concerns, complaints, and criticisms of people. The decisive battle ground with the far right is the overcoming of mass unemployment and youth unemployment, as well as the new and old discrimination against women.

    2. The claim of populist right organisations to be an ‘anti-systemic’ force is false. Instead, the function of the radical right consists in preventing change from happening. However, the attack against democracy by the radical right cannot be countered in alliance with the ruling forces but in opposition to them.

    3. Defending democracy on the national level is not identical with nationalism. While defending the former the left must not compromise with the latter. The left must design a programme that integrates the establishment of democracy on the European level with respect for democratic self-determination of its national components. The fight against the radical right must also embrace the field of culture and ethics. Without overcoming racism and eurocentrism within the common sense of broad layers of the society neither democratic nor cultural progress will be possible, nor can we avert the looming atavistic regression that is precisely the aim of far-right parties.

     

    transform!’s Strategy Towards the Central and Eastern European Region

    Dagmar Švendová and Jiří Málek

    Generally speaking, we see that there is now a greater awareness in Europe of the role of the Central and Eastern European region (CEE) and its impact on European affairs than in the past.

    Brexit will further increase the CEE countries’ importance as a result of the growth in its relative weight. Currently, the countries of the CEE region comprise 21% of the EU population and account for 26.5% of seats in the EU Parliament. When the United Kingdom leaves, the CEE countries’ share of population will reach 23%, with Poland becoming the fifth most populous country in the EU. Nor should the region’s increasing geostrategic role be overlooked. In today’s world, practically all countries of the CEE are located on the frontline of growing political, and in some cases, military, tensions, while also being members of NATO.

    All these countries went through a so-called transformation that was based on the principles of the Washington Consensus,5 and all of them have remained at the European semi-periphery with minimal chances of moving closer to EU averages within a reasonable timeframe. The history of the region is replete with attempts to find political arrangements.

    Some of the consequences of the region’s societies’ transformation processes have been: the loss of relevant representation of the radical left in politics, significant suppression of left views at all levels, and the loss of popular support from the left. In the CEE region, right-wing governments have been elected in countries such as Hungary and Poland. There is no left party in CEE elected to a national government with the exceptions of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) in the Czech Republic and the United Left (Združena Levica) in Slovenia, which could counterbalance these negative tendencies. It is therefore crucial that we concentrate our efforts in this region.

    The year 2016 was important for further elaborating and implementing transform! europe’s strategy for CEE. We have managed not only to expand our contacts, improve cooperation with the other entities operating in the region, and intensify our presence there but also to enlarge the number of our observer organisations by accepting in our family the new left-wing think- tank Naprzód from Poland. Additionally, we have significantly enlarged the amount of information, analyses, and critical evaluation on CEE affairs available in transform! europe publications and web pages. Finally, a new strategic long-term project of transform! europe focused on mapping the left in CEE has been launched.

    These activities have revealed the will to share information, different experiences, best practices, as well as other aspects of politics amongst left-wing players throughout CEE. We believe that by strengthening the interregional dialogue within CEE and across Europe it should be possible to create good conditions for closer cooperation among left forces in Europe – and through this facilitate a process leading to the formulation of common strategies, for example, in combating right-wing populism, precarious labour conditions, etc.

     

    Marxist-Christian Dialogue

    Walter Baier

    An ongoing and structured dialogue between the Vatican and the left in Europe is gathering momentum.

    In 2014, during a private audience between Alexis Tsipras (then the leader of the opposition in the Greek Parliament), Franz Kronreif (of the international Focolare movement), and Walter Baier with Pope Francis, the intention was voiced to remain ‘in contact’ and, furthermore, to establish an informal dialogue between the Apostolic See, the left in Europe, and the Focolare movement.

    As a result, a symposium took place on 31 March and 1 April 2016 at the Sophia University Institute near Florence. Entitled ‘Shared Challenges in Europe’, the symposium brought together experts from transform! europe, the Apostolic See, the Focolare movement, and the Pontifical University itself. The steering committee triad (Walter Baier, Franz Kronreif, and Bishop Zani) was joined at the round table by 14 reporting experts from Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, and the Vatican.

    One of the most distinguished experts was the renowned French- Brazilian philosopher and sociologist Michael Löwy, Emeritus Research Director at the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS), Paris, who has Viennese roots.

    The election of Pope Francis has created new opportunities and prerequisites for the relationships between the Church and the European left wing. The key themes discussed include the environmental and economic crises, social justice, immigration, and human rights.

    Thanks to the high quality of the exchange and the friendliness and respect shown in interpersonal relationships, the symposium was remarkably successful. Existing differences in the views, notions, emphases, and proposed solutions were discussed openly and with the genuine aim and hope of obtaining a full understanding of the ‘other’ side’s real interests and views.

    The papal diagnosis of the environmental crisis as a result of a ‘structurally perverse system’ was widely shared by the participants, as well as the necessity of an alternative to the absurd and irrational neoliberal politics of austerity. The participants from transform! europe proposed a debate on the socialist – or eco-socialist – alternatives beyond the capitalist mode of production and beyond a capitalist way of life.

    Following the exchange of opinions, Vincenzo Zani broke in to say that he was convinced that ecology and the environment needed to form part of Catholic education worldwide. A further common conclusion was that concrete measures were required to address the issues of climate change and solidarity with the immigrants seeking refuge in Europe.

    The organisers agreed to continue with and expand upon these initiatives and to intensify communication. A further event in the same format is planned for 2017. The debate on an ongoing research and training initiative in the coming years has begun.

     

    transform! europe and the European Social Movements

    Katerina Anastasiou

    Change4all / Re-launch

    Change4all was launched in 2016 in the midst of Europe’s new immigration regime with borders closing down one after the other and human-rights regulations giving way to militarisation. The solidarity networks, including grassroots groups, activists, and volunteers established in autumn 2015 continued their work in assisting newcomers in their journey to safety, and change4all continued participating in this effort, connecting and supporting transnational organisation where possible.

    We participated in and contributed to numerous transnational meetings and conferences of which there is a detailed list below. Our participation always aimed to enhance cooperation and solidarity between groups and to support all efforts towards a strong pan-European resistance to both austerity and the avalanche of reactionary policies (state of emergency, deportations, militarisation, structural racism, etc.) applied in European countries and EU institutions, as well as to contribute to the process of articulating alternatives from below.

    2016 was planned as a year of giving fresh impulse to change4all with a new interactive and inter-connective platform that could respond to the needs of transnational solidarity efforts, taking into consideration the density of political time and the new possibilities of organisation through online and horizontal participation.

    Together with activists from several European countries and after months of intensive work and exchange, we drafted a detailed concept for the next evolutionary step for change4all, while making sure that the new launch of the page will include democratic governance of the platform, maximum security for the users, and content quality.

    The process, that was kick-started in January 2016 was intensified in the three-day working meeting that took place in Vienna in April 2016. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties and problems that could not be foreseen, we could not launch the new platform in 2016, but this will be done in the near future.

    Alter Summit

    Within the Alter Summit network the 2016 Alter Summit Conference took place on 25 and 26 November, focusing on labour with the title ‘Rights4All Now!’. The conference aimed at facilitating a broad discussion on contemporary labour realities in Europe along four axes:

    • Struggles against climate change and austerity: could the ecological transition be the issue that unites us?
    • Resistance 2.0: Digitalisation and technology push are pushing production and the economy into transition. Organising responses for a new labour reality.
    • Defend and promote the commons and public services for all!
    • Towards convergence of struggles, building bridges to unity!

    We contributed intensively to the conceptual, political, and organisational processes leading up to the conference. It brought together 200 activists from the labour movement, social movements, and progressive networks.

    Blockupy

    During the weekend of 6 and 7 February 2016, the Blockupy Consultation meeting, a two-day discussion on the future of the alliance and next steps, took place at the Technical University of Berlin. Under the motto ‘Welcome to the heart of the crisis regime – The summer of migration and the social question’ the discussions addressing a broader public focused on the re- orientation of the alliance to face the challenges of the current European reality.6

    We continue to participate in the Blockupy process, and a follow-up face-to-face meeting of Blockupy International took place on 27 November in Brussels to strategise the mobilisation steps towards next year’s G20 in Germany.

    Diem25

    A new European initiative for the democratisation of Europe was launched in February 2016. The purpose of Diem25 is to ‘put the demos back into Europe’s democracy’ and to facilitate an explorative process around a way to address the various crises of Europe that are leading to its disintegration, approaching the matter directly from a European perspective.

    transform! europe and change4all participated, followed, and co-facilitated the process of Diem25, building consultative and trusting relationships. In addition to our participation in the launch event in Berlin and the event in Rome, we co-organised a Diem25 public event in Vienna, focusing on issuesofimmigrationand Europe’sresponses, whichwasverysuccessful.

    Activities which change4all and transform! (co-)organised:

    Change4all re-write/Towards a democratic tool for activists, 15 and 17 April 2016, Vienna. This workshop with three full working days took place in the premises of the Vienna transform! offices. Eleven activists from eight different countries came together to debate, re-think, and re-design change4all. The result was a detailed concept document for change4all’s next step.

    Sabir Festival of Mediterranean Cultures, Workshop: Democratic transition/ Struggles and Convergences, 12 - 15 May, Pozzalo. A meeting between political representatives and civil society from the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea, aimed at strengthening the democratic movements and political alliances of the region.7

    IPB Congress  Berlin 2016, Workshop: (in-)visible,  (in-)secure, (in-)dependent – The future through the prism of women’s resistance. The so-called ‘European refugee crisis’ is not gender neutral. In this workshop in the framework of the International Peace Bureau World Congress (IPB) 2016 we tried to explore the issue of women refugees and women in solidarity movements as political subjects.8

     

    Notes

    1. The extended report of the event, as well as selected contributions from the participants, can be found at here.

    2. The previous surveys can be accessed here.

    3. See http://www.transform-network.net/en/publications/publications-2016/news/detail/Publications/a-new-energy-to-change-europe.html.

    4. See also our e-book Socialisation and Commons, released in 2016.

    5. Although some countries call this by a different name – e.g. the ‘Ran-Utt Programme’ in Bulgaria.

    6. See https://blockupy.org/en/6280/invitation-to-the-blockupy-consultation-meeting-6-7-2-2016-in-berlin/.

    7. A full report on transform’s workshops can be found here.

    8. For details of the workshop see here.