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Home / Journal / Creating a European Common Space for Alternatives

Seema Syeda on an ongoing translocal initiative converging social movement actors to build
concerted people-power.

The European Common Space for Alternatives (ECSA) is a horizontal initiative co-organised by over 60 social movement organisations. It’s aim is to build people power by fostering the convergence of social movements for more united action. It has an open steering group which anyone can join. 

The ECSA launch event took place in Marseille from 26-28 April 2024 and was based on a simple premise: To challenge the far right and neoliberalism, we need a social, feminist, antiracist, ecological, peaceful and democratic Europe.

Academic and Activist Shahd Hammouri speaks at an ECSA plenary on European complicity with Israel’s genocide.
ECSA co-facilitator Myriam Zekagh hands over to Auror from the ECSA care team.

The programme was organised around four ‘containers’ of convergence, discussed in plenaries: 

  • ‘Emancipation & Solidarity’ was themed around intersectional resistance to the capitalist, colonial and militarised system of exploitation and violence against marginalised populations. 
  • ‘Power to the People’ focused on democracy from the perspective that real democracy is not only a historical, social and political exigence but also a necessary condition to defeat authoritarianism and the far-right forces that are rising across Europe and the globe.
  • ‘There is no Planet B’ explored Europe’s role in the nexus of climate/extractivism and militarism, discussing strategies to collectively dismantle fossil capitalism, colonialism, and countering far-right agendas on war and climate change.
  • ‘Struggle and Win Together’ presented and discussed key lessons from previous attempts at building strong movements and organizing common mobilisations across national borders. We will also go over key political moments for future Europe-wide mobilisations in 2024 and 2025.

The event was organised using a bottom-up approach, giving everyone the possibility to express themselves and to organise discussions and actions. It’s in this spirit that the ECSA will continue and we invite all social movement organisations and actors to join us in the years to come.

ECSA participants.

Why Marseille? La Ville Rebelle

This Spring in Marseille, at the iconic cultural and community hub Friche La Belle De Mai, the ECSA initiative bringing together social movement and civil society actors from across the continent and the Mediterranean began to bud.

Marseille is a unique city on the Mediterranean sea, a porous space open to the land masses we call Africa, Asia and the Americas (or Turtle Island) and whose ancient history has incorporated it into all of these imagined spaces, whilst also now formally being part of the European Union.

Yet it also defies categorisation and embraces its own self-made identity as a fiercely translocal space built on and deeply connected to many different parts of the world. In 1660, the canons of Marseille were turned to face towards the city as authoritarian monarchs and despots feared its independent spirit and potential to rebel. 

Yet Marseille has also been instrumental in France’s colonial project, as a key port through which French settler-colonialism was established in much of the African continent and across other parts of the world. This continuing legacy also roosts in Marseille and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, where many pieds-noirs historically settled after Algerian liberation. In his 1950 Discourse on Colonialism, Aimé Césaire has written of the ideological continuity between colonialism and fascism, and Marseille was also the site of deportation of its Jewish community to German concentration camps in the 1940s. 

It is here that the fascist Rassemblement National launched its 2024 EU election campaign and where Eric Zemmour made his tour for support for his party Reconquête. Thus, the tensions of a rising far right and continuing coloniality in a city that also harbours huge numbers of social movement actors; racialised groups; trade unionists; anti-imperialists; and an over-exploited working class bubble across the city and are even reflected on its walls, where different parties across the political spectrum vie for space on the affiche-libre panels. 

Also reflected in its architecture are the signs of the Europe-wide housing crisis that echo from the scorched tomb of Grenfell Tower in London to the toxic waste dumps of Pata Rat, Cluj, from the collapsed building on Rue D’Aubagne to the apartments destroyed in a gas explosion in Thiers. It is here, too, in the Mediterranean Sea, where Europe’s mass grave and militarised borders begin, its tenacious fingers reaching far south to Sudan, where EU attempts to stem migration have funded the groups now fanning the flames of civil war, genocide and dictatorship.

European Common Space For Alternatives

It is in this context that the European Common Space for Alternatives came to Marseille. The contradictions of Marseille are the contradictions of Europe and the world. How can we deal with Europe’s continuing coloniality, currently brutally exemplified in the continuing genocide in Gaza, funded by and explicitly supported by some of the most powerful states in Europe? What about the global debt structures and continued labour and resource extraction that hoover up and decimate all prosperity for Global South and global majority peoples, concentrating them in the imperial core?

What about the drudgery, exploitation and insecurity of life for millions of workers across Europe, as they are exploited by big capital and the fossil fuel industry – causing huge spikes in energy and housing costs? What about the war in Ukraine and the rising spectre of authoritarianism inside and outside Europe? What about the contradictions of big transnational organisations when they collide with the reality of the local, as when European civil society lands in Marseille?

Many social movement actors have theorised, written and spoken about the solutions to these crises. Many of us have also imagined radical alternatives over the centuries, and many groups around the world are enacting alternatives in their localities. Yet we need something more for our alternatives to win victory: we need to exit our silos and converge our movements to multiply our power. 

This is what the European Common Space for Alternatives seeks to do. Bringing together almost a hundred different social movement actors locally and transnationally, we’ve kick-started a process where we can know and learn our commonalities and differences, identify joint routes forward for action, and build our power to change the world. We are far from perfect, and the process has only just begun – but to give up trying is to give up hope, and to give up faith in the possibility of co-constructing our desired future. So join us as we approach the European Elections 2024 and start the long, challenging and joyous struggle in the years of collaboration and transformation ahead. 

You can sign up and stay updated with the ECSA at  

All Image Credits: Isis Mecheraf

Seema Syeda is Head of Communications at European Alternatives.