Commons as Political Subject

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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.” (June 16, 2017)