The Third International Meeting of Social Ecology – A reflection by Make Rojava Green Again
For four days, starting on the 26th of September, activists, communards and social ecologists gathered and discussed about how to build a free society, on the base of radical democratic self-organisation, against the suppression of nature and human beings by capitalism.
In Liege, Belgium, the Third International Meeting of Social Ecology started on Thursday evening with an introduction on Social Ecology by Annick Stevens. This first gathering was followed by two days of workshops on different aspects of Social Ecology: The Question of Municipalism & Radical Democracy, Self-governance, Autonomy and Jineolojî. In the evening the program included cultural events like theater plays and concerts. A key part of the meeting was the “Conference” on Rojava, in which the history of the Rojava revolution, the current political situation and the democratic system were presented. The ideological basis of this feminist and ecological revolution was presented with the ideas of the woman science – Jineolojî – and Make Rojava Green Again, the ecological campaign of the Internationalist Commune of Rojava.
At the end of the meeting, the participants decided that a Fourth Meeting will take place and that in the following weeks, the discussions and results will be presented to the public as well.
Activists of Make Rojava Green Again participated in the discussions with the experience and the ideological frame of the ecological works in Rojava. ANF spoke to one of the activists about the meeting, their expectations and the results:
What were your impressions from this meeting?
Well, it was the Third International Meeting on Social Ecology in Europe and I expected that people from different countries and projects, collectives, political groups, intellectuals and people that are just interested to learn more about social ecology will participate. And that happened, but mostly from French-speaking regions. So the international character of the meeting was unfortunately not so strong. But nevertheless, the atmosphere was shaped by the will to start new projects that follow the ideas of Social Ecology, and at the same time to connect the existing ones, also, to challenge our ways of thinking. Especially in the workshop about Jineolojî, fundamental ways and methods of our thinking and living where questioned.
How did the campaign Make Rojava Green Again participate in the meeting?
We joined the workshop on the question of Autonomy in the context of Social Ecology. With the experience from the revolution in Rojava, we tried to underline that Autonomy is not just a physical thing, but also a really important, metaphysical one. Do we develop autonomy against the state in our way of thinking and in our approach to history, for example? Or do we reproduce the story about ourselves, that is told by the state? But we also shared concrete experiences, how for example cooperatives are built up in Rojava, and what kind of problems appear and what solutions are found by the self-government. And we presented the campaign and the internationalist works. We tried to share a bit of the spirit of internationalism that exists in Rojava, with the comrades from the meeting… and I think that this was also successful.
What did you miss in this meeting, or even more wide, in the Social Ecological Movement in Europe?
Clearly the discussion about the forms of organization. I mean we, the people that are coming to meetings and conferences like this one, we want to take responsibility in the process of building up the self-governance of the society. But how can we take this responsibility and how do we have to organize ourselves for something like this? Often people in Europe forget how many people for example in Rojava have left their jobs, schools, families in order to commit their whole life for this revolution, in all the different fields and works. And we have to be aware also that this will be necessary, if we – each one of us – decide to take this responsibility. So the discussion in that kind of meetings should not only focus on the practical level in terms of how to build a local, ecological commune, or how to take over the local electricity supply, but also what it needs for an organizational and ideological strength, to bring these different local initiatives, projects, groups and so on together. Besides the spontaneity of social dynamics, there is the need for strong and clear organizational structures.
But maybe there is another obstacle even more fundamental: the difficulty for this meeting to really formulate the will to build a real movement, and to take that responsibility that I have mentioned above. But without stronger organizational frames, these meetings will keep on facing discontinuities, each meeting will feel like the first one. But to change that, people have to make a step back from their individualistic approach, and really set themselves, their thoughts and actions into a bigger frame.
You mentioned the point of the importance of history. What did you mean with that in the context of the meeting?
Without understanding our past, we cannot understand the present and therefore we cannot shape the future. How did we arrive to the situation we are in right now? An important point for the context of Social Ecology is the big uprising in Europe, starting from the 68 movement. One of the consequences of this movement was the ecological movement and the anti-authoritarian movement, for example in the education system and so on. Today we are again talking about the influence the education system has on our personality, how we are integrated into the system that way. And at the same time, also in the Social Ecology Meeting, we are discussing the need for independent education and so on… So what went wrong? Why the revolts of the 68 movement did not manage to really overcome capitalist modernity? What where the mistakes in the building of alternative social structures like schools, kindergartens, housing projects? What kind of strategies of the 68 Movement worked out, and which ones did not? I think its necessary to talk about long term and social alternatives, rather then just focusing on building a new anti-authoritarian kindergarten. Because without understanding the failures and mistakes of the 68 movement, also a new Social Ecology movement will fall into the traps of capitalism and will just remain a fashion and a renewing of capitalist mentality and production.
What were the most important things you learned from the meeting?
Really, to see that the main reason and main motivation for people to participate and to live other forms of life, is the question of the values in this context. With what values are we going to live together? With which set of values my actions are judged by others. And that is really fundamental in my point of view. We have to change the values of the whole society, not only our own. That’s the main point of the thing we call revolution…. And that is true in Rojava, Liege, or in an ecological Commune of LongoMai.
How does the Social Ecology movement connect to Rojava and how can this connection be deepened?
At the moment, Rojava, as well as the Zapatistas, are kind of examples for this Social Ecology frame. Examples that give hope and trust, that another system, based on ecological values and radical democracy, is possible. But we need more than that. We need real common projects, real working together. Common ecological projects in which we cannot just learn theory from Rojava, but also the practice. So we suggested that from the Social Ecology Meeting there will be a delegation to Rojava. This delegation can focus on 3 questions: How is the democratic structure built up in the society of Rojava? What organizational structure and personal commitment is needed for a process like that? And what projects can be realized together?
What were the results from that meeting for you? How will this work continue?
Well, the conclusions and results from the different workshops are going to be presented in the next weeks by the preparation committee of the meeting. So I don’t want to anticipate the results.
But I think it is really important to continue these meetings, although in a clearer frame, with clearer methods and formulated aims. We have to make clear if and when we speak about the technical, ideological or strategical aspects. Otherwise the debates are not fruitful for the future.
I think that we have to be aware that Social Ecology can easily be misunderstood. It is, put into the right practice, a revolutionary change of the world. But put into a wrong practice, it will be a reformist slogan, a new fashion. Our work is to form a revolutionary movement out of it.
Link to the meeting: http://www.ecologiesociale.be/en/third-social-ecology-international-meeting/