• Movement initiatives 2016

last modified March 10, 2016 by Tord

Movement initiatives 2016


How are popular movements developing 2016 at the European level in the fight against false solutions in the interest of corporations and for constructive solutions to the multidimensional crisis?


From environmental movement to a justice movement in the Leap Year 2016


In a dialogue between Asad Rehman from Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FOE EWNI), Bill Mc Gibben and Naomi Klein of 350.org and other climate justice activists they see 2016 as a year in which it is possible to build on the momentum after the Paris Climate meeting. Already before the Climate Summit in Copenhagen 2009, Friends of the Earth and the peasant organization Via Campesina had no illusions about the outcome of the conference. 2016 had more and more the same view seeing Paris as a starting point for further action rather than putting hope into world leaders ability to solve the crisis. Although the assessment of the results can vary, there are many today who see that the initiative largely rests with the movements.

The various participants in the video dialogue were from Europe and North America having varying approaches but also demonstrating a willingness for mutual cooperation rather than conflicting approaches. The starting point was the Canadian Leap year manifesto. It strongly emphasizes social movement cooperation which also has succeeded to a large extent not least because of the public sector trade union that support the manifesto, a manifesto that also has broad support among indigenous people and other groups in society.

Most radical was Asad Rehman who believes that it is important to have a power analysis to seriously challenge the system. To change the power a larger social base is needed. Therefore it is important that the message put forward by the environmental movement is something that people in general can recognize and see as something that strengthens them in their everyday lives. Therefore justice must be central to the climate struggle. With such focus it is possible to reach out and get cooperation with the unions, together with people in immigrant areas combat environmental racism and finding common interests for a just transition along with the women, those who oppose the austerity policy and restrictions of rights. Asad went so far as to argue that the environmental movement has to become a justice movement. 

In many place in Europe radical actions are planned in 2016 for climate justice as 9-16 May, when the 6th International Climate and Energy Camp is held in Lusatia in Germany with direct action 13-16 May to block the diggers of coal with a mass action of civil disobedience.


Environmental and peasant movement gathers strength in Eastern Europe


In Europe, the small and medium-sized peasants in Ukraine now carries out the most successful fight against the austerity policies of the IMF and the EU. Austerity policy is a way to make the rich richer and the promotion of a diverse economy in the center giving the periphery a subordinate role as suppliers of cheap raw materials and labor to the center. The Ukrainian peasants protested against in a nationwide campaign with creative street actions and road blockades in many places a new tax law that the IMF demanded. This damaged farmers and gave privileged opportunities for big business. The campaign led to a partial victory when the proposal was postponed late December 2015. 

It is also in Eastern Europe that peasant and environmental movement makes its largest European joint gathering in 2016 in Romania in October. It is part of the Nyeleni process that started globally in Mali in 2007 in the struggle for food sovereignty as an alternative to agroindustrins dependence on fossil fuels and for biodiversity and rural communities harmful short-term profit-hunting. 500 people are expected to attend in delegations from all European countries to unite and organize action on this important issue more than anything else can unite rural and urban interests. It is the second European Nyeleni Forum after the first held in Austria in 2011.

Romania also has seen a successful anti mining movement were radical peasants have been at the forefront of a struggle of international importance against 

Recently also the important environmental organization Social Ecological Union in Russia joined the Friends of the Earth. It represents a major step forward for the opportunity to better cooperate in pan-European mobilization for common interests. It is especially important when the civil society in Russia and Western Europe are being pressured and governments gladly stamps independent voices as enemies controlled by the opposite side of the growing conflict between West and East.

Former NATO chief Rasmussen went so far in 2014 that he accused the environmental movement to not only be supporters of Russia’s interests but also be directly controlled by Putin. The cause was opposition to fracking that is not at least have been strong and successful in Eastern Europe, where movements in Poland and Romania stopped the extraction of shale gas. The opposition to fracking said the NATO chief revealed that the environmental movement worked to have Europe to continue to be dependent on Russian gas. He also claimed that there was evidence that the environmental movement's resistance was directly paid by Russia, evidence that he could not present because of security reasons. In Russia the environmental movement sometimes also is exposed to strong pressure or persecution by state authorities which worries the Social Ecological Union. There is a need to counter the attempt of government to see environmentalism as an agent for a foreign power and solidarity when movements are persecuted.


The peace movement is gathering in Eastern Europe


Even the peace movement gathers strength in Eastern Europe. The European and global peace movement will come to Warsaw in September at the No to War - No to NATO meeting in connection with the NATO summit in the Polish capital. It is to take the bull by the horns. In Poland, all social democratic and leftist parties are wiped out of the Parliament. A neoliberal EU and NATO friendly neoliberal right-wing party was swept away from power by a NATO-friendly and social conservative and right-wing populist party. How the peace movement will be able to organize a meeting and manifestations in a country where many see NATO as the main security and Russia as the enemy is not yet clear. No to War - No to NATO network that gathers peace movement looks wider on the peace issue as one where both the environment and social justice is important. It became explicit when the movement met in Sarajevo in 2014 and Helsinki in 2015.


Social Forum movement gathers strength in Eastern Europe


In Eastern Europe, the networks that aroused in the social forum process is still an important symbol and sometimes still existing force. 2010 the network Prague Spring 2 against right-wing extremism and populism (PS2) was founded in Prague mainly by Central and Eastern European participants as a follow-up of the European Social Forum in Malmö in 2008. PS2 has continued to operate through solidarity actions for jailed activists as in the Khimki forest conflict in Moscow 2010 and in support imprisoned leftists in Donbass and Ukraine in 2015. The network initiated a social forum for Central and Eastern Europe in Vienna in 2013. Primarily, the network has tried to create dialogue between civil society in the Donbass and Ukraine to find peaceful solutions to the Ukrainian conflict. It managed to organize such a dialogue with participants from both sides of the frontline during the World Social Forum in Tunis in 2015. New initiatives were taken in 2016 by the network that has no own resources but coordinating activities through skype chats every week.

The main social forum initiative 2016 is Polish. 11-13 March a Central and Eastern Europe Social Forum will held in Wroclaw. Here the economic, ecological, feminist, trade union and other social issues of the region are addressed above all from a social movement perspective and with exchange of experience from the Mediterranean and Latin American countries.

During the year, there will also be a World Social Forum in Montreal 9-14 August.


Alter Summit unites popular movements


In addition to these three initiatives dominated by party representatives, often in the name of civil society, grassroots and social movements, are popular movements alternatives. A main actor is Alter Summit which developed out of the European Social Forum mainly by trade unions and Attac. Popular movements cooperating with the help of Alter Summit focus on mobilizing for action days together with a wide range of like minded organizations, mainly in continental Western Europe. Unlike the three left initiatives above peasant movements are sometimes a cooperation partner and agriculture is a theme taken up.

April 7th European Day of Action against the commercialization of health and social security has been launched by Alter Summit. In addition, Alter Summit is working with a follow-up of European days of action and Euromarches held in October last year. Then protests were organized against austerity policies, EU migration policy, social dumping, tax heavens and TTIP throughout Europe under the slogans, OXI! - Basta! - Enough! Let's build another Europe! is a call for equality, social and labor rights and real democracy! A call for European solution at the debt challenge! A Call for Climate Justice and peasant agriculture. Actions were taking place in more than 35 cities with the support of a broad range of Blockupy, Attac, Via Campesina, antidebt, trade union, feminist, environmental, housing, international solidarity and other movements.


Blockupy unites refugee and antiausterity struggles

Action on Aopril 7  the days before the Democracy in Europe 25 was launched in the same city. The motto was “Taking the next step together against austerity and authoritarian crisis management“. Some 200 activists from Germany, but also from Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Slovenia, Spain and France participated.


Blockupy started in 2012 by organizing civil disobedience actions against the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. It is according to its web site ”apart of a European wide network of various social movement activists, altermondialists, migrants, jobless, precarious and industry workers, party members and unionists”. The people in the network ”want to connect our struggles and powers beyond nation-state lines. Together we want to create a common European movement, united in diversity, which can break the rule of austerity and will start to build democracy and solidarity from below.” As the other left initiatives it seems when reading the invitation to the Blockupy gathering that the reference point also for Blockupy is Western and Southern Europe not Central and Eastern Europe, ”we know that neither the phase of austerity nor of authoritarian, anti-democratic governance are over – whether in Portugal, Greece, Germany or in Brussels on the EU level.” Rural and environmental issues are of little concern: ”it is time to deliberate on our future strategies and possibilities for intervention with all previous Blockupy activists and future partners in the fight against austerity and for a different Europe of democracy, solidarity and social rights.”

The meeting discussed the backlash in the form of right populist parties and the Pegida movement as well as the rise of neo-Nazi mobilization but also the rightward shift among large parts of the Middle Class. The further hollowing out of democratic rights was also discusses. The demonstrations for climate justice in France was seen as an example outlawed with a finger-snap of the powerful and everything is put into a state of emergency.

A Manifesto was formulated describing both the breaking points of the present regime as well as the needs of another in Europe. ”A Europe of solidarity and true democracy, a Europe from below and one with social infrastructure for all.”

The discussions of the weekend challenged two apparent opposites: Local permanent work as ”city fo all” alliances, defencing actions against the walls now being built around Europe and what is called a transnational social strike vs. Major events European events ”creating moments of self-empowerment”. Such an event was Transnational action against the European Central Bank’s opening gala – Let’s Take Over The Party! 18 March 2015.

The social strike is an action aimed at intervening against a Europe ”criss-crossed by differences and marked by austerity, precarity, transnational chains of exploitation and migrant labour. The idea is to reinvent and to connect the struggles on wage, on welfare and on the freedom of movement.”

In a call for an action day is stated: ”it will be the first experiment of a longer process towards a transnational social strike across Europe and towards the demand of common claims. These claims can be a European minimum wage, a European basic income and welfare system based on residence, a European residence permit independent from labour contract and income levels.” What is going to happen is answered by ”Depending on local conditions, the 1st of March 2016 will be a day of decentralized and coordinated actions and strikes, aimed at disrupting regular production and reproduction, producing communication among different working conditions, making visible hidden situations of exploitation, targeting the border regime and the institutions that govern mobility and precarity.”

The action day is inspired by a call made for 1st of March 2010, from France to organize a migrants’ «24 hours without us». The response in Italy was a nationwide political strike against the immigration law organized by a broad coalition. Social strike is a concept developed for the first time at a workshop held during a Blockupy festival in November 2014.

Contrary to the left wing initiatives like Plan B and DiEM the social strike initiative is also strongly based in Eastern Europe. After the first discussions during Blockupy actions in Germany a meeting in Poznan in 2015  with more than 150 people came together sharing the need of a new strategical perspective in order to connect politically what exploitation and borders divide. 2 out of 9 countries so far involved in doing actions during 1st of March are CEE countries. In the call more than 20 cities in  Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, England, Poland, Scotland, Slovenia had already announced coming actions.

On one of the days Yanis Varoufakis participated and Blockupy also presented their discussions and proposals at the DiEM 25 inauguration at the Volksbühne theatre in the same city. In the Blockupy newsletter after the meeting an activist stated "We are pleased that a new dynamic developed and different actors are active to provide practical resistance to the authoritarian restoration of European capitalism. At the end the street decides and not the back room of power."

The Blockupy meeting concluded: When the European elite support impoverishment programs, promote precariousness, are forcing social division and thus levelling the rights of Europe to the ground, when they close the border again, we will organize the resistance with other hand. Specifically, this also means to accompany the cross-border mobilizations against the new fences and walls in Europe and the decentralized action of the "platform for a transnational social strike" on March 1.