On the 8th of March more than a million women were conquering the streets of their hometowns. All over the world women marched to show that they are still fighting for equal rights. These marches started on the 21st of January 2017, the day after the inauguration of Trump and became one of the biggest marches in the history of the US. The success spread fast and globally. As a result of the mobilisation in the United States, emerged a global community of local feminist activists organising all kinds of events, with the highlight on International Women’s Day, the 8th of March.
This has now grown into a global organisation with feminist activities throughout the year all over the world. It has become a highly influential network of modern day feminism where the activists do not only share their experience with one another but also their knowledge on how to make change happen.
The gathering on Women’s Day was not the only one taking place this March. Every week on Thursday and Friday young people organise a school strike to protests for more measurements from the governments against the climate change. A small action started by young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg escalated in worldwide strikes that pledge to not end until their respective governments have found effective solutions and ways to implement them. The peak of this movement was 15th of March under the name #FridaysForFuture. In more than 100 cities, mostly young people took to the streets demanding change. Again this movement is not only about mobilisation of the people on the street, it has become about creating networks where young people can share their narratives, stories and knowledge on how to influence policies on the national and international level. These are just two examples of massive mobilisations across borders that have been successful.
While the mainstream media and news outlets are continuously reporting about the rise of populism, a focus should also be on the rise of transnational progressive movements.
And while the European elections are coming closer, protest groups, activists and NGO’s all over Europe are joining forces to raise awareness of the elections and its importance and the importance of an equal, just, anti-racist, democratic EU. While the mainstream media and news outlets are continuously reporting about the rise of populism, the rise of extreme right wing, the rise of nationalism, a focus should also be on the rise of transnational progressive movements that are successful in reaching ‘the people’ and are too often in the background of advocating for Europe and democracy.
A large coalition of Civil Society Organisations organised a Campaign Lab to synergise the campaigns that all these actors are setting up and to see if it was possible to unite to a certain extent in narrative and messaging. This Campaign Lab is another the foundation of further collaboration between progressive movements in Europe. The idea to actively cross over topics and connect different organisations all on the progressive pro-European side, is a recent phenomenon. This is encouraged by the intersectional theories supporting the anti-discrimination and feminists movements. The idea that all the topics are interrelated, intersectional and that for example one can only move forward with climate justice, if the issue of the lowest incomes is also discussed, brings the possibility to set up a much wider coalition among progressives.
There is a shift from campaigning for one topic towards solidarity on the different fronts and empower each other by connecting.
This connecting happens on three levels. First the sharing of communication and narrative strategies. Secondly the subscribing on Manifesto’s for many diverse organisations where themes are combined and the ‘roots’ of the problem are attacked instead of the result of one issue. And thirdly, joining the fight together as well online as on the streets in broad alliances for demonstrations but also local actions. This movement of connection and solidarity is happening on these three levels of cooperation and coordination and are spreading at the same time from grassroots local activists to big scale international organisations and the other way around.
On small-scale local level, activists and campaigners are also searching for connections with like-minded people on the transnational level. From the 21st till the 24th of March the School of Transnational Activism took place in Warsaw. Around 50 activists, from all over Europe, working on a diverse set of issues, came together to set out their plans for the campaigns and actions running up to the elections. These activist are engaged in among others, the campaign called ‘European May’ supported by partners like European Alternatives, The Citizens Initiative, European Collective and Political Critique.
The campaign of European May sets out to, through creative, disruptive, non-violent local actions online and offline in cities across Europe mobilise people to resist the far-right and the upcoming nationalism. By engaging concerned Europeans, they want to demonstrate that progressives are full of propositions for an open and solidarity Europe. The plan is to combine the struggles, the visions on the local levels and the already existing alternatives to get heard outside of the original national public space. Instead of setting up new organisations, the local activists are combining their forces and want to show solidarity by acting in solidarity.
Local progressive action normally does not have a wide reach outside of national media. Due to the fact that national media is still the main source for information, it is difficult for activists to engage and influence on the international level. The lack of functioning European public space is enforcing the democratic deficit on the EU level. Resulting in uncertainty among people about how to influence European politics outside of their national bubble. Looking at the current mobilisations during the women’s marches, the climate marches, it is clear that at the same time more and more people realise that many issues can’t be solved on the national level. Transnational campaigns like European May, European Democracy Network, TransEuropa Caravans, the SDG Manifesto, hope to jump into this bubble and connect local mobilised citizens in order to get heard and influence on the transnational level.
Because while the traditional media, researchers and politicians focus on the rise of the extreme right wing, there is a ‘movable middle’ of voters who are about to be forgotten. These voters, these people are the ones who are mobilised to make themselves heard. Because in the end, the extreme parties do not hold the majority of the votes. In the end it is the middle majority that will define which direction the EU if going, they are the ones who will define ‘The Future of Europe’. Transnational activists are finding ways to connect and empower these citizens to speak up and let them be heard cross-border and in solidarity.
Cover photo: European Parliament, Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0