15 03 07


A subjective report of a4re meeting in Milano 17.February 2007

Laila Huber

What happened at a4re for someone who didn’t  quite have an idea of what should have been the outcome, someone who went there by curiosity and the explorative spirit of wanting to understand how people manage to create a space of radical alternative/otherness/openness to the dominant reality of oppression or opportunism. Therefore the following report is a subjective reflexion, but anyhow one view from inside-out.

It was the first time I participated in a transnational meeting of Euromayday-network. My former experiences in transnational political activism are limited to participation in manifestations such as Prague 2000 (IMF) or the Anti-Bolkestein-Manifestation in Strasbourg 2006. On a smaller level I sniffed a bit of transnational exchange with Slovenian activists, who invited people of Graz to participate in Spiegel-Festival in September 05 (Gornja Radgona) and Euromayday-Parade in 2006 (Maribor). A more active attempt was a Euromayday-Workshop at Austrian Social Forum in Graz (June 2006) with EMD-Vienna and EMD-Maribor. Because of the feeling of being trapped somewhere in between being spectator and being actor, my interest is directed on the shift from participating to acting and (self-)organizing. One’s personal experience of such a transnational meeting seems only to become significant when communicated to other people in one’s local context. Without this communication the memory of  2 intense days of intellectual and emotional exchange will become with distance more and more surrealistic. But how to transfer the transnational exchange and vision to the local context and create a radical acting-space with people there? Well, these are the questions in my head. At a4re the questions where directed more from the local towards the transnational.

In the announcements on various mailinglists the meeting was meant to be a “brainstorm(ing) for radical Europe”. People came from Copenhagen, Liege, Brussels, London, Paris, Milano, Genova, Bologna, Roma, maybe some other towns I don’t remember and myself from Graz. In the late morning of Saturday 17.02. the participants spread out in smaller groups to discuss on the base of a4re manifesto (“ayforee”/ act for radical Europe) visions and concrete strategies of acting on European level. While the discussions were going on people kept arriving, so that by afternoon we had grown with a large group. 

As I understood a4re is meant as an attempt to facilitate acting on a European level and generate some collective struggle identity. Starting from the identification of a free space on European/transnational level the discussion wanted to clarify, how this free/open space could be filled/appropriated by generating a new kind of political subjectivity, by a radical-democratic position. Questions such as “What is this European struggle?” “What is this European identity for us?” were coming up. And finally who do we address with the manifesto? If it is the creative class, how do we define it? What are we (a4re) going to produce that someone could need out there? One main output of the discussions was that a4re could provide a website as interface to the network, and subnetworks or projects could help deepen this interface. One idea amongst others for such a subnetwork was to provide a database with translations of texts [similar to www.eipcp.net]. The whole structure of a4re could provide political tools for deepening exchange between local&transnational struggle.

A possible way might be to do a mapping of power&struggle-relations [similar to “l’université tangante”]. The mapping through technological tools, facilitating communication would constitute the interface (as one part). The other part would be meetings –as temporary participation in local networks/struggles (local struggle “hopping” as substantial practice instead or complementary to european conference hopping) - which could deepen the  understanding of one another and contemporaneously enhance social/emotional relations. For building alliances both parts seem to be equally important. A4re, for instance, could invite people to join a certain struggle in a certain moment, to participate and better understand local contexts. So the decentralized appropriation of knowledge through experience would -as complementary part to the provision of intellectual knowledge (information on local struggles) through the interface - connect the symbolic collective identity with the actual bodily experience of getting there and being temporarily part of the local struggle.

The a4re-project would connect virtual and material space on diverse levels: (1) abstract knowledge, through text on the interface; (2) communication facilities, through contacts/addresses to local contexts; (3) participative knowledge-acquirement, through local-struggle-hopping; (4) convergence points, through reflexion-meetings and collective action of all of us in one place (like no-border-network in Strasbourg 2002). Providing these network-facilities with the diverse interconnected levels could be understood as a pathway to identity as an “open-source brand” people could use if they wanted to. This open-source brand would provide political analyses of how to move on.

Since the social entities exist on local levels, the conflicts are fragmented. There is this crucial difference between the map of capital, being transnational and the map of labor&life-conditions, being locally defined. So what could the a4re-association realistically be? Probably an interface of opening questions and dealing with answers as open-source, so to start listening instead of pushing forward identity. The a4re-structure could be understood as think&act-tank-function, as valorization of what people like to do. An important role would also be to create a bridge between  “banlieues” and “creative class”.

Concerning the question how to crosslink struggles in symbolic convergence-points one possible acting field in near future would be a defacement campaign for the 50th anniversary of EU: To celebrate an alternative anniversary, without being anti-European, but for another EU/Europe. Another discussion-contribution for instance brought up the idea of participating in gaypride parades in Eastern Europe, as related action field to precarity issue. One related crucial and still open question is the one on how actions on European level should be chosen. It might be a problem always running after the decisions of European policies, for instance taking the 50th anniversary of EU as reason for starting a subvertising campaign. Are we just picking up what is coming? Are we only re-acting instead of acting? How do we choose? And who are “we”? – Those are some of the questions, which couldn’t be deeply discussed at the meeting.

As next steps in a4re project the following points were figured out: (1) manifesto-text: february  on; (2) multimedia campaign 50th EU: march 25.03.; (3) flexicurity green book: june; (4)  association/4areas: In a4re context the registration of  an association seems to be primarily a pragmatic means for raising money.

Concluding this partial report I want to give some personal impressions on the Milano encounter: From my viewpoint the intellectual exchange at a4re meeting was a good starting for the project; especially the perspective of further exchange organised through wiki&mailinglist gives a certain base for equal communication and participation on defining and working out the manifesto/interface/subnetworks. For the emotional/relational exchange the local  organizers provided a really good frame, so that one could feel part of a collectivity not only in intellectual/political discussion, but on a very human everyday base – such as eating all together good pasta in a small restaurant somewhere on the way to Milano centre. Or collective action such as running to reach the tramway, which would take us through half Milano by night, to reach some hidden Centro Sociale with music, people, drinks and books…  and Sunday late morning searching with one or two other “ayforees” for an open bar near Olinda, and after long walking, finally find one and sitting down, drinking coffee and talking… .

Laila Huber