Article by Georgia Bekridaki, Dock, Greece

In recent years in Europe there has been a growing trend of violations of basic human, social and political rights. The repeated economic crises caused by neoliberalism leads civil society to organise its collective action through protests, which are now too often prohibited either by law or in fact by the states’ repressive forces’ asymmetrical use of violence, challenging the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest.

The migration of populations from war zones or unsafe areas is also being repressed, since fences are being erected at the entrances of European borders and in the sea the refugees are being pushed back through illegal returns, infringing the basic human right to security and freedom of movement. The housing crisis and the increase in housing prices in European capitals have displaced the local population in favour of real estate speculation and the mass tourist industry. Enclosures of commons and public services (public spaces, education, health services, agricultural land and seeds), especially for the vulnerable and disabled citizens are being intensified and access to the means to secure our food and livelihood has been restricted.

Who is afraid of social and political rights and why are they threatened?

Why are civil society organisations, activists and intellectuals ringing the alarm bell in defence of human rights?

The fact is that as inequalities intensify, social control is legitimized in the name of various “crises” and the creation of human rights exceptions. Democracy, the public space where citizens’ deliberations take place and where people become active citizens, is constantly being reduced: initiatives by social movements and social solidarity economy that primarily “create” spaces of economic democracy and promote multiculturalism and inclusion are trying to act as a barrier to these negative developments.

Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) as a socio-economic movement promotes the deepening and broadening of human rights since, in addition to the production of goods and services to benefit most people, it aims to eliminate social inequalities and to strengthen citizens’ participation in policy decisions. At the same time, however, SSE actors are companions of traditional social movements that fight for civil rights and support their actions and demands.

An example is the Caisse commune de l’alimentation Montpellier in France which fights against food insecurity and supports projects for the access to sustainable and quality food. SSE is a bystander to movements as the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City which, through demonstrations and public actions in several cities all over Europe, self-organize to change the housing policies.It also contributes to the public debate on the danger of privatising basic commons such as public water supply infrastructure. Furthermore, social solidarity economy ventures not only act in a more mutual and equitable way but they give a different perspective to the established perception on social issues. For example, which services are addressed to migrants as individuals with rights, dignity and possibilities or the initiative Cooperativa de Iniciativa Social Gure Sustraiak which introduces people with disabilities to permaculture and trains them to become instructors themselves, thus changing the way people look at disability.

In order to defend their rights, citizens must combine resistance with an explicit rejection of authoritarian measures, while creating examples and demonstrating what can be achieved collectively for the common good.