Article compiled by Jason Nardi, Ripess Europe

The European Common Space for Alternatives is a gathering that took place in Marseille, France in April 2024.  It follows the 20 years anniversary of the European Social Forum in Florence, Italy, in November 2022.  Both events are renewed attempts to bring together network and social movements in Europe who are fighting against all forms of discrimination and for social and environmental justice, as well as creating alternatives to the current socio-economic system, such as solidarity economy.  The meeting called for «all social and citizens’ movements to share our experiences and challenges and to develop joint initiatives and mobilisations».

The program of the ECSA2024 included topics around social movement’s criminalisation, the rise of far right in Europe, alter-globalisation and post- capitalist strategies, climate crisis and ecological transition, feminism and care economics, solidarity with Palestine, social inclusion of minorities, commons and transformative economies and many more. It was organised around 4 « containers » : Emancipation & Solidarity, Power to the People, There is no Planet B, Struggle and Win Together.

Ripess Europe promoted and co-organised two workshops, and took part in several others.  The meetings were well attended and participated – here are the short reports.

Workshop 1: Political action through alternative and solidarity economy
Organised by: RIPESS Europe, MES – Mouvement pour l’Economie Solidaire, l’Espace de travail Alternatives concrètes d’ATTAC France.

Three presentations opened  the debate (by Josette Combes, Bruno Lasnier and Hervé Roussel-Dessartre), illustrating how data on the SSE show the existence of formal organisations – mainly associations and cooperatives, that continue to move forward and transform themselves despite a difficult environment – and new informal initiatives, which are growing and spreading. Today the SSE framework sees the cohabitation of at least three binomials:

– reparation vs transformation, with a long term view to exit from capitalism;
– transition – through gradual, far-reaching ecological change – vs bifurcation, a radical, systemic change of direction;
– resistance vs defence: from refusing the status quo to building a different future.

In this context, the central question is how to get out of our niches and become a strong ecosystem without being institutionalised and/or taken over by the state and the market. We discussed two issues that are becoming fundamental:

– fighting against state appropriation by neoliberalism. SSE is changing, but the State is changing too: today it is no longer a neutral space, but increasingly favours corporate capture and criminalises social action;
– preserve and nourish the internal democracy of SSE organisations and popular education in democracy, which are the anti-virus against social washing and taking over mechanisms.

In conclusion, we need to use politics to grow the space outside the State but under our control. Our task is to build a new imagination, a new narrative, to speak to young people.

Workshop 2: Commons, commoning and transformative economy practices: how to network at the European level?
Organised by: RIPESS Europe, Remix the Commons, RIES – Rete Italiana per l’Economia Solidale

This second workshop was introduced by Frederique Sultan (Remix) and Jason Nardi (RIPESS Europe). In an Ostromian reading, commons show the capacity of people to self-organise outside the state and the market, managing a resource in a sustainable way also for future generations. In the European political practice, commons – as devices of self-organisation and ‘doing together’ – have become laboratories of democracy, human rights, and building of new institutions.

After numerous previous attempts to network these experiences, the questions arise: how does the practice of commoning allow us to construct ourselves as commoners and political actors? How do the commons make a system out of their diversity?

There are several themes that unite us and at the same time cause discussion:

  • democracy and the relationship with institutions. Institutions are responsible for managing public spaces as commons and are not fulfilling this duty. Hence, commoners have developed legal tools to hack ownership (e.g., the possibility of building endowment funds to buy land and take it out of speculation, the collective and parcelled out purchase of land, trusts…) and self-organise to respond together to their needs and defend their rights against public policies that are attacking global commons (such as climate);
  • non-violent relationships. In addition to claiming rights to the outside world, the commons need to create solidarity-based anti-fascist communities and constantly apply non-violence to their organisational systems. Central to this are the pedagogies of the commons, based on collaboration and sharing, as an alternative to meritocracy and competition;
  • gift economy and its boundaries. Capitalism began with enclosures. Commons struggle against the latter, but they also need to define boundaries in order to establish spaces where alternative rules are in place against hierarchies and economic exclusion. An issue that is bound to arise again in new forms with intangible goods, which are becoming more and more central over the years.

Starting from these shared grounds, what do we bring to the campaign for the next European elections? How do we defend our common heritage? If the commons is a plural world, we need to say together clearly what is not commons, because everywhere in Europe we see a misappropriation as a crucial risk of the present time.

The presentations made by Bruno Lasnier and Josette Combes can be found here.

Thanks to Maria Francesca De Tullio for the recap of the workshops.