Transform-Europe Working Group on Commons

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= dedicated "to discuss political strategies for the implementation of „Commons as an new political practice and concept to decommodify and transform society“.


Description

Birgit Daiber:

"Together with Fundació Alternativa (Barcelona) the Working Group organised a preparatory meeting in Barcelona on June 16 to discuss political strategies for the implementation of „Commons as an new political practice and concept to decommodify and transform society“.

The participants decided to concentrate on the political and strategic context of Commons as a complex political vision for the transformation of society. The working group will address two essential dimensions:

1) Politics, institutions and Common

2) Property, right of use and Common

The working group will prepare a paper and present it to the Conference the European Left is organising on Nov. 10/11 in Marseille. The aim is to motivate EL to take a clear standpoint on Commons in their programme for the next European elections. Furthermore a kind of checklist for candidates could be developed to test how far they respond to the needs of the Commons-communities." (CommonGood mailing list, June 2017)

Discussion

In their initial text for the Barcelona-meeting the working group pointed out:


The Commons as Political Subject

By the Transform-Europe Working Group on Commons:

"In recent times, we have been witnessing a redefinition of the battle against privatization and the dismantling of the public sector, ranging from the re-municipalisation of water, transport, education and energy, to the defence of the territory against environmental degradation.

This battle is premised on our ability to shed light on the greed of neoliberalism and on its depredation of everything that has been collectively built or defended up until today and considered of public interest to our countries.

This is the reason why in Italy, just as in Cochabamba and Ireland, the defence of public water has become a symbol of revolt against the interests of multinationals and financial speculation, bringing forward a notion that is becoming increasingly widespread: the notion of the commons.

Over and above its historical definition and the pre-modern laws that recognized its utility and importance, this term’s significance for our day resides in its capacity to redefine the terrain of the political battle for a democratic transformation and bring forward new subjects involved in this transformation.

For this reason, alongside the Marxist analysis of the conflict between capital and labour, which remains valuable insofar as it has production as its focal point, recent historical developments necessitate new tools and approaches, which enable us to interpret the passage of history in order to build effective responses.

Globalized capitalism entails the dismantling of state control, and with it the democratic relations that, to a certain degree, prevailed until a few decades ago. The struggle for democratic control and the protection of collective interest have found in the notion of the commons a valuable tool of analysis for the re-composition of this interest.

As transform! Europe we have been following the evolution of the idea of the commons since its very beginning. Through our participation in relevant debates within the left, we have realised that is very difficult to reach conclusions that are unified and harmonious on this subject matter.

Although many single-issue movements have developed on a national and international level, these rarely see themselves as a unified movement; their many battles, big and small, are, more often than not, conditioned by their local or thematic context.

This is the reason why we have begun to explore ways of weaving theoretical and practical approaches to the commons into a wider struggle for social change. This is a process which aims to rethink the “class composition”, which in the past developed around the workers’ movement, but should now be re-examined in the light of the new forms of production and reproduction that have emerged in the last few decades.

After the first meeting in Paris in 2014, we met again in Rome in 2016 to examine the phenomenon of the recuperated factories (self-management) and the social re-appropriation processes that have been emerging, also in the field of labour, in countries affected by delocalization and the dismantling of the productive infrastructure.”


Status

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.

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." (http://www.transform-network.net/en/publications/yearbook/article//transform-europe-2016-at-a-glance/)


Review of the 2017 conference: Can Commons Challenge Neoliberalism from Below?

By Inger V. Johansen , Gitte Pedersen:

"Following on from our fruitful experience at the 2016 conference, when the issue of Commons was discussed as an integral part of the economic and ecological alternatives we are seeking to develop, we made Commons the focus of this year’s conference. We decided to address the subject from different perspectives, including how to use Commons in transforming society and the limitations involved in doing so.

This was an extremely successful conference. We even managed to incorporate Commons into our general debate on alternatives, linking it to the all-important red and green strategic perspectives of our conferences.

Nevertheless, we have concluded that, here in Denmark, it is still difficult to raise the debate on Commons at conferences. In this country, Commons is almost exclusively discussed in a few closed political and academic circles. The number of participants at this conference was fewer than on previous occasions, with a decrease in young people in particular. We believe that this reflects the problem.

We simply need more time and discussion before we are able to focus specifically on the issue of Commons once again. In the future, we will therefore choose to integrate Commons into the overall themes of the conferences and debate. We strongly feel that we need more debate on privatization and remunicipalization, which is a big issue in Denmark. This is part of a Commons agenda, but not in a straightforward way, as it is often the state and the municipalities that carry out the privatizations.

In addition, we believe that during these times of crisis, we need to raise further discussion on how to challenge and break with the system that represents the root cause of the problems.

Like last year, the way in which we organized the conference received a positive response: a plenary in the morning and two parallel seminars in the afternoon.

Besides Transform!Danmark and transform! europe, the conference was co-organized by Enhedslisten/the Red-Green Alliance, the Danish radical left party, a number of left-wing and environmental organizations, including an educational association, and periodicals." (http://www.transform-network.net/blog/article/building-red-green-alternatives-can-commons-challenge-neo-liberalism-from-below/)