As the New Year begins, we renew our challenges and common goals towards a good economy and a real change in society. Let’s make 2016 a year of convergence for systemic change!

The European Forum on Social and Solidarity Economy is scheduled to take place at the European Parliament in Brussels on 28th January 2016. It is held at the initiative of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group. RIPESS Europe sees this as an opportunity to present how a transformative vision of SSE can lead to a paradigm change and imagining a new economy to the European Institutions, in accordance with what we defend in our networks (cf. the Strategic document adopted at the Solikon meeting in Berlin in September 2015).

RIPESS Europe is not affiliated to any political party, and is open to building political alliances with all those progressive forces that contribute to concrete answers to the societal issues of the moment. These are currently taking very extreme forms. There are ecological, migratory, financial and social emergencies…and the way in which they are being addressed by governments at all levels is rarely satisfactory and fails to address the suffering of people living in Europe (unemployment, poverty, unhappiness, persecution, pollution…).

SSE is supposed to provide answers to this suffering, but is not perceived as an overall positive response. It is not perceived as a concept that mobilises resistance or as one that provides alternatives. This is normal, given that no clear political message has been developed thus far to do so. Yet historically, the SSE structures have been founded as a movement that brings together:

  • Many different initiatives and practice in a highly diverse constellation organised in networks and multiple forms of inter-cooperation

  • The emancipation of workers, the collective organisation of inhabitants, a more just sharing of wealth, democratic management and more recently, solidarity with the unemployed, respect of the environment or North/South equity. They therefore represent a global project of social transformation.

So what is the current situation? Having spent time trying to gain acceptance (“our companies are companies like any other”), some of the SSE structures have weakened the founding political project to become part of the market economy. It is therefore not surprising to see repeated sematic confusion between SSE, social enterprises, social business occur… this is the reflection of our own erroneous ways, and lack of clarity in how we have positioned ourselves. If social enterprises are merely the vector that allows public authorities to withdraw and privatise the social sector that is funded by tax-deductible donations, this is indeed very far from what we stand for!

We have high hopes that the conference on January 28th will identify the social forces of SSE that are indeed the vectors of change in accordance with the networks and histories of the difference countries and movement. We reaffirm our desire to change the economic paradigm that has grown from the 20th century belief in growth and the logic of capital that has generated ecological, social and incalculable injustice.

SSE has a political project that needs to be put to the forefront and supported by suitable public policies. We want to participate at our own level in the democratic citizens’ renewal that is building concrete alternatives that are credible and provide a real future and social cohesion. This is possible if we mobilise collectively and show open-mindedness and mutual respect for one another.

Because if we want to change the world, we can do it, together!

Eric Lavillunière, General Coordinator, RIPESS Europe