Transnational organizing for dummies

Another Europe is in the Making. Under this motto, within the frame of the European May campaign, a group of citizens and activists organised a transeuropean set of creative, disruptive, non-violent local actions online and offline in cities across Europe on symbolic dates from the 1st until the 9th of May, ahead of the European Elections 2019. These aimed at:

  • sending a strong message to the general public, the media and politicians that Europe is not one of borders, racism, inequality, corruption and division, ruled by the few from above, but one of people, struggles and visions for a better future for all of us, fought for from the bottom-up.
  • calling to get out the vote for progressive candidates and influence the outcome of the European Elections; not calling out to vote for specific parties or candidates.
  • developing synergies with other local and trans local struggles and support their actions when they are in line with the values and narrative of European May.

More than more than 40 direct actions were organized in 12 cities across Europe to engage a diverse audience and raise awareness on issues of workers’ rights and democratization of the workplace (for instance: European blocks at the traditionally national demonstrations of May 1st), free movement and migrants rights (for instance: welcoming actions at train stations or fake control of passports on bridges), shrinking civic space (symbolic closing of universities), remembrance and resurgence of fascism (silent stunts, asking people to draw a redline against fascism), alternative and deliberative forms of democracy (for instance: people’s assemblies). All actions are available on the events section on European May’s Facebook page and additional photos on Instagram account.

How did the group come about?

European May started off as a group of about 30 European activists in Berlin who were keen to connecting people engaged in grassroots initiatives, social movements, and unions across the European continent. The campaign emerged from different self-organized civil society initiatives such as The European Moment, The European Collective and sought synergies with other existing trans-european networks such as European Alternatives, Another Europe is Possible, Krytyka Polityczna and the Transeuropa Caravans. European May was a genuinely transnational, volunteer-led and grassroots-led, working in alliance with organisations that are well connected with local initiatives as well as with larger European NGOs.

What did we achieve?

With very little money and lots of energy, the European May group of activists managed to develop quite a lot of simultaneous actions ahead of the European elections. It did achieve to build a sustainable group of people, trusting each other and willing to work together transnationally for a more progressive, and people-centred Europe in the future.

What did we learn?

We would like to mention three key learnings for running a successful transnational campaign, but that also applies for local campaigns as well:

  1. Organizing people, not actions: one of the key lessons European May is that personal relationships between the members of the transnational group of activists were key to organize successful actions. Co-activists needed to know the intrinsic and external motivations of everyone to participate in (a) direct action and (b) on the transnational level, as engaging in a campaign requires going out of your comfort zone requires trust and courage. Also, it helped gained an intercultural perspective on the topics we wanted to campaign for, and enrich the diversity of actions planned. The transnational mobilising meeting European May organized halfway through the campaign preparation in Warsaw on March 21-25th was key to boost the motivation and feel connected beyond borders, in a way that only online meetings cannot (an album of the training here:
  2. Organizing locally and trans nationally requires training: a second key lesson is that, even in the best motivated group, organizing multiple trainings is key for people to learn how to develop a base of people that can support the campaign and beyond, work towards a common interest or action as well as having the tools to move out of their comfort zone and experiment with new forms of actions. Transnational campaigning requires developing leadership capacities for each member and bring them the tools to develop a base of people that will be and stay motivated to participate in the direct actions when needed. This is only after the campaign that European May organised a series of training has been organized on Many of the European May members have been however able to identify opportunities and partake on Effective Campaigning, on Building Power through Deep Relationships, on Peer 2 Peer fundraising.
  3. Transnational narrative building for organizing: a third key lesson is that transnational movements need to be mindful on how to develop a united narrative about the Europe they want to see. From West to East, from North to South, perspectives are different and have to be taken into account so that the campaign is adapted to the realities of the localities where the actions are taking place. A different agenda locally may influence what needs to be done and when, and this was difficult as part of European May. All issues are important but have very different meanings and reality in different parts of Europe. Certain direct actions cannot be run everywhere or would not have the same media impact. Focusing on only one issue would have helped European May to have more time to work on common grounds and increase the quality of the narrative for the campaign.

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