Editorial: Build an effective network

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On the 10th of October, two public service strikes took place simultaneously in France and in Belgium. Several member organizations of the Alter Summit supported this movement.

By Sebastian Franco (Alter Summit coordinator) - February 2018

Among the common demands of these strikes, an increase in pensions in the public service and a rejection of the attacks against the status of public employees but also in general, the lack of jobs in the sector, all in a context of commodification and privatization of public services and common goods. This shows that the contexts of infringement of rights and acquired rights converge, that similar dynamics are happening in the various countries of the European Union and that resistance is organized.

But it has to be said that, even if there were simultaneous movements, very few links were forged on that day, and few common messages were sent out. As for Alter Summit, our ability to echo the movements remains very weak, as is our ability to strengthen a national struggle through international action.

So what can we improve in our network to overcome these difficulties?

An essential first step is the dissemination and analysis of national information among other movements in Europe, together with the decoding of the European stakes and mechanisms at work.

Having access to such information allows us to better anticipate conflicts, to promote coordination and joint planning, and hence to increase the visibility of such movements at European and global level.

It is to achieve this basic and paramount task that we want to dedicate resources from our network to a newsletter and website providing information and critical analyses on the current movements and struggles in our various countries. The more widely this information is shared among the network’s organizations, their members, their contacts and beyond them, the general public, the more meaningful this process will be.

A second step, which we have already undertaken through our various encounters, is the collective elaboration of our message, our demands, and in a more distant but not less important way, our common aspirations, our desire to change our reality. This is a permanent task (as the context changes rapidly and the position of the stakeholders/players with it) still to be formalized and which must be constantly clarified. This is what we could call, to clarify this notion, the "political" work of our network. Our 2013 Manifesto was the first step.

This common vision of an alternative Europe (and world) is based on our concrete proposals in certain areas, such as climate change (just transition, energy, transport, etc.), social and economic rights (strengthening the rights of Europeans, putting an end to a situation in which everyone competes with everyone else), migration, precariousness and common goods and public services (access of all Europeans to high quality services). However it has also been developed through our debates and discussions about power in Europe, European power and its institutions, its strategies, its strengths and weaknesses.

Having a common vision, framework and proposals that are adapted to our time, to the context (s) and that meet the expectations of the European population is a formidable tool for convergence. The challenge, however, lies in its appropriation by all the components of our network and its use in the field...

Finally, and this is perhaps the most difficult of the immediate tasks, it is crucial that we find mechanisms, which, in the event of local/regional struggles/combats, enable us to secure the "effective" support of the other organizations in the network (apart from the dissemination of information or the recalling of our common background).

Actually the fight against the “Loi Travail” (reform of the labour law) in France is the struggle of all Europeans; the struggle of migrants and their supporters for the right to live in Hungary or Greece is the struggle of all of us; the criminalization of trade unionists in Belgium is an attack against all European trade unionists; the fight against fossil fuels in Germany questions our practices throughout Europe.

Messages of solidarity are a simple but appreciated gesture with a strong symbolic charge as they imply at least some engagement in the activities of others. Challenging one’s own authorities or stakeholders, organizing mobilizations of support (via the production chain) are a few examples we could follow. There are certainly many more, more ambitious ones, that we should be working on.

For all these tasks ahead of us, we must succeed in bringing together workers, activists, trade unionists, citizens and researchers from all over Europe around a credible action plan in the short, medium and long term.