Table of Contents
1. Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………….
2. Why an ecosocialist educational convergence? ………………………………..
3. Revolutionary education ………………………………………………………………..
4. Discover, engage, transform …………………………………………………………..
5. Importance of research/relations with the academy …………………………
6. ECOEC and the transition from week 1 to week 2 …………………………..
Report of the Ecosocialist Education Convergence (ECOEC),
2018 – Rostock, Germany
by the 3E Collective
“If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.”
– Murray Bookchin
The 3E Collective held the first Ecosocialist Education Convergence (ECOEC) in May
2018 outside the Baltic city of Rostock, Germany. Events included structured lectures,
discussions, infrastructure projects, excursions to local activist projects, and selfmanaged activities. The ECOEC had two primary goals. First, the programme was
intended to improve the political consciousness of participants, develop new practical
skills (e.g. building a windmill), and raise motivation for the struggles to come through
revolutionary education. Second, this programme was convened to begin developing a
European network based on the principles of ecosocialism. Participants travelled from
many countries, including Germany, Italy, Greece, the United States, Spain, Canada,
Slovenia, Estonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey, Costa Rica and Kurdistan.
This document highlights some of the key points and issues that arose from our collective
thinking over this experience. In the first section, we highlight what ECOEC means. We
then focus on what radical education means to us. The third section explores the
conceptual framing of discovery, engagement, and transformation. Fourth, we discuss the
relationship between social movements, academia and research. And, finally, we highlight
some tensions that arose during ECOEC, especially those regarding the transition from
theory to practice.
2. Why an ecosocialist educational convergence?
“When there are no alternatives, it becomes necessary to make them.”
The common ground for ECOEC was the understanding that today we are facing deep,
intertwined, social and ecological crises that are rooted in the problem of the socialdomination of humanity, and the attempt to dominate nature. In facing these problems, we are called to meet two important challenges. First, we must cope with the symptoms of a society built on domination and the many forms of oppression that characterise it.
Second, we must offer a reconstructive and revolutionary path in order to develop a truly
democratic and ecologically oriented society.
ECOEC was comprised of participants who oppose all forms of domination and are
aiming to construct a world based on freedom. We aim to appeal to people with
backgrounds in various traditions and experiences, but united by a common concern for
the current world situation. This convergence set out with the educational goal of
deepening participants’ understanding of the relationship between society and the natural
world, and expanding their knowledge about the range of possible solutions to the
current ecological crisis. We use ecosocialism(1) to refer to all anti-capitalist schools of
thoughts that, in both theory and practice, link together ecological and social dimensions.
We aim to work from the perspective of commonalities rather than differences, to include
rather than exclude, and to create a positive unity in our diversity through a collective,
Regarding the choice of the term convergence, it describes the tendency for people,
objects, and other phenomena to come together. We see convergence in nature, for
example in locations where airflows or ocean currents meet; when airflows converge, the
result can be anything from a cloudy day to a raging storm. The outcome of a
convergence is greater than the sum of its parts. With this in mind, the individuals who
came together for ECOEC produced more than what they could have on their own,
celebrating a unity in diversity, building new knowledge, creating new experiences and
laying out a common ground for future synergies.
The ECOEC project intends to bring about a convergence of minds – a meeting of people
committed to social change. This idea of convergence is inspired by the Zapatista
practice of encuentro – a place for encounters, talking and questioning. When people
converge, they come to understand themselves and each other, and construct a shared
platform for creativity and resistance. As Subcomandante Marcos, spokesperson for the
Zapatistas, explains, “Encuentro isn’t about constructing a world rebellion. That already
exists. It’s about constructing a space where this rebellion encounters itself, shows itself, begins to know itself.”
This educational convergence seeks to build a culture of resistance – a culture in constant
development, able to overcome the gap/divide between sporadic “activism” and the
ordinary world. The process of building a culture of resistance (or of resistances, in order
to underline the plurality and possibilities of the struggles) can be assisted through the
process of discover–engage–transform. For this reason, all the activities in ECOEC were
shaped around a framework of discovery, engagement, and transformation. The first step
was to discover different kinds of knowledge, including militant knowledge. The second
was to engage with our environment and reflect on existing examples of social change.
The third was to apply and modify this new knowledge to transform our world and
(1) Given the unfortunate past tradition of authoritarian Socialism, the term ecosocialism has created some confusion, especially within certain language and cultural contexts. Discussions have been raised and the less problematic term “eco-social” has emerged as a possible alternative.
3. Revolutionary education
“Learn from life, learn from our people, learn from books, learn from the experience of others. Never stop learning.” – Amilcar Cabral
At the present historical moment, the Left is disorganized and in disarray. We need new
ideas and new tools for social change. Thus, now more than ever, popular, radical and
transformative forms of mutual education are needed to help create elements for a more
powerful future for the Left. As social theorist Murray Bookchin put it, “Every revolutionary project is an educational project.”
Education for revolutionary change requires a particular intentionality; it is a continuous
effort to embody the principles of an ecological society in its form, content, and
institutional structures. The goal is to restore harmony and wellbeing for the creation of
environmentally and socially resilient communities.
A revolutionary education is a never-ending process. It is an individual, as well as
collective, effort and thus aims at both individual and collective transformation.
Educational moments are not limited to structured formal learning moments, but include
everyday activities in which collective moments of talking to each other become moments
of learning from each other. From a revolutionary education perspective, all actions are a
reflection of the transition towards a cyclic, holistic understanding of life, with its different
forms and layers of communication and reflection.
Education is often linked to the concept of authority. Indeed it derives from the Latin root
ducere meaning “to lead” or “to conduct”. For this reason, we feel the necessity to talk
about revolutionary education, with a call for an education that equips people with tools
for revolutionary social change, and which transforms individuals and society as a whole.
The horizontal aspect of revolutionary education aims to create a point of participation
that helps bring the individual’s mind into a collective space, contributing to a
communitarian form of transformation and holistic growth. Horizontal knowledge-sharing
is part of the horizontal organization of society; social movements are a form of struggle
that is valuable both for personal growth and for a balanced and healthy activism.
Based on libertarian ideologies and practices, the self and the collective permit
themselves to be and act according to their own nature, creating safe spaces for the
outgoing and incoming members of the community. The search is for balanced,
As a part of a broader social movement, we have reflected on the necessity for this group
to interact with the local community. A reflection on how the project impacted on the local
community and how it can foster revolutionary actions beyond the participants is needed.
However, as it was designed, ECOEC brings activists together without necessarily linking
with the local German community; thus participants need to connect with their local
communities once they return back home.
We learnt about social movements operating in different locations, such as the Zapatista
and the Kurdish resistances. These presentations brought us ancestral conceptions of
life, gender, education and ways of organization. This supported the opening of wider
points of view related to human collective organic methods of resistance that arose from
backgrounds not culturally colonized by capitalism.
Changes, despite all the limitations, can also be achieved using institutional means, and
social movements need to establish a way to relate to the State that can go beyond a
mere confrontational relation. In a regressive period like this, questioning how to bring
about social change is necessary. We believe that we have to use an approach that
Brazilian researcher Souza called “together with the State, despite the State, against the
State”. If Capitalism is the enemy, we must navigate our opposition to the State, hack the
system and find cracks. Our need as a social movement includes the need to resist – in a
sustainable way – and to identify the kinds of resistance necessary at different levels of
the organization, where the radical aspects of the movement receive support from
different legal entities that can talk with governments. The relationship with formal
systems needs to be one that supports the movement in the struggles to come.
Emma Goldman reminds us that education should insist “upon the free growth and
development of the innate forces and tendencies of the child. In this way alone can we
hope for a free community, which shall make interference and coercion of human growth
impossible.” It is useless to force your people, or even children, into anarchy; the point is
not just to teach something but to educate and provide the tools for people to liberate
themselves. A revolutionary education cannot force people into freedom – that would be a
nonsense. The aim of revolutionary education is to pose the basis for freedom to flourish.
4. Discover, engage, transform
“Discovering, engaging and transforming our reality towards an ecological and democratic future”
The concepts of discover, engage, and transform worked transversally throughout
ECOEC. Although initially presented by the organizers in a more linear didactic sense, the
concepts of these terms evolved organically, weaving in and out of our experience.
The two-week convergence was structured in two chunks. The first half was centred
around the discovery of new terms and concepts, with daily seminars and workshops.
The second half emphasized the communitarian management of the space and the selforganization of thematic talks and workshops. Of course, the concepts of discover,
engage, and transform were there all the time, more or less vivid or undercurrent. Indeed,
at the end it was clear to everyone the organic way in which discover, engage and
transform wove through every moment of our convergence, just as the nomenclature of a
convergence or “encuentro” denoted the heterogeneity that was to be expected and
which was, in the end, fully recognised and accepted.
The fact that this group was formed of activists from different backgrounds of culture,
formation and praxis posed some challenges. But, conversely, this heterogeneity meant
that every moment and every interaction was saturated with a web of discovery and
engagement, which then grew to transformation. Though we recognize the centrality of
the classes and workshops presented in the programme of the convergence, we are also
fascinated by the moments of transformation that occurred in “informal” times. As
expected, the communitarian process of washing dishes or cooking manifested an
intimacy hard to express in a plenary or conference setting. These informal spaces
became thick with meaning and dynamic change, forming a base for the horizontal
community that we were trying to create.
This is a central point in our view of revolutionary education. A revolutionary education is
based neither on pure praxis nor on strict memorization learning. Theory and praxis
cannot be disjunct from each other; we aim for a theory informed by actions and actions
informed by theory.
As Bookchin stressed, in the past “the very psyche of the individual was divided against
itself by establishing the supremacy of mind over body, of hierarchical rationality over
sensuous experience”. We wish to re-appropriate ourselves of the sensuous approaches
to learning and knowledge, reconnect with the mind and develop a holistic way of
learning and seeing reality – a concept divested from the common utilitarian vision of
education, even among radical milieux. By sensuous education we understand it as an
organic, horizontal meeting place of ideas and praxis. To find similar revolutionary value in the communal washing of plates or communitarian conflict resolution as with the
formation and organization of future political activities. This forms the backbone of the
ever fluid concept of discover–engage–transform, something that is not limited to
occasional convergences but that which can be reproduced in a new form of perception
of the world around us.
In discussions about revolutionary education we came to the conclusion that it could be
separated into three interrelated layers: (1) revolutionary education inside the movement;
(2) revolutionary education between social movements and “what is not”; and (3)
revolutionary education for the next generation. In response, the heterogeneous group
that we found ourselves a part of implicitly focused on building trust and horizontality
within our newly constituted group. During ECOEC a community was forged.
Indeed, the approach (discover–engage–transform) resonated not only in the more formal
activities organized like classes, workshops or field trips but throughout ECOEC – in the
kitchen, around the table, and around the fire at night. A coherent group emerged, forged
by theoretically informed actions, daily discovering, engaging and transforming.
These are balances that must be struck in future convergences and our recently
consolidated community must seek ways to create a more inclusive space – one that
maintains a diversity of tactics that are empowering and collective, and not alienating.
This disconnect produced a certain confusion within our fledgling collective with respect
to our aims and praxis. This is not necessarily problematic, or even unwarranted. We
managed to be a basin for ideas, a place to connect with other struggles to encourage
mutual aid and resource-sharing, and to propose a syncretism of knowledge. We
developed a diversity of tactics of pedagogical frameworks in which the unification of
diverse cultures, political struggles and praxes does not mean homogenization. It means
sustaining a base of understanding and empathy, fighting entropy and political burnout to
create horizontal structures based on empathy and respect.
The points of political reference become more blurred, time is shorter, and the difficulties
of re-inventing and updating methods of fighting are increasingly a bet that we fear losing
from the beginning. The repression seems not to leave a margin of re-organization
necessary to be able to respond to the continuous changes that increasingly dominate
and oppress our lives. Fragmentation, alienation, and individualism are just some of the
problems we face on a personal and collective level every day. And yet, even though the
situation in which we collectively find ourselves sometimes seems to leave no way out,
we can still plant seeds and find new paths along the way.
The fate of these seeds is not written; we do not know how many will grow and how many
will remain underground. How can these seeds be left sterile? How can we renew
ourselves? How can we reorganize our struggles effectively? How can we move from a
state of resistance to attack and undermine the roots of the capitalist system? Can we
create a cross-cutting and inclusive struggle by getting out of the self-referencing and
stale rhetoric? These and other reflections have led to the birth of the ECOEC experience
with the idea of trying to trace new paths by putting the focus of revolutionary education
at the centre, and considering it a fundamental component in the transformation
5. Importance of research/relations with the academy
“The goal of research is not the interpretation of the world, but the organization of transformation.” – Antonio Conti
During the conference, we discussed the relationship between knowledge creation,
activism and academic circles. We agreed that research and knowledge production are
fundamental to the advancement of social and political struggles. They need to be free
from the interference of capitalist interests in order to help political groups and
revolutionary social movements. The boundary between activism and research should be
blurred because researchers are first and foremost committed to social change.
However, too often journalists and academics use information obtained while working
with social movements in a distorting or denigratory manner, going so far as to leak
information to the police that is then subsequently used for repression.
Very often researchers “steal” data from social movements, without any political
consideration and without any kind of return for the groups concerned. Research on
social movements is often seen as a quick and viable way in academia to build a
respectful career. However, those practices contribute to the growth of a deep separation
between social movements and researchers, precisely because of the behaviour of the
latter. Social movements increasingly lack trust in the academy, which only grew and
developed thanks to the resources, knowledge and infrastructure of the social
In the Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach from 1845, Marx reminds us that “philosophers have
hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it”. Too often
the academic world perpetuates the current system or remains in its ivory tower
disconnected from the real world. For this reason, different research approaches, such as
participatory action research or militant research, have been developed. Research and
knowledge production are, indeed, key aspects for social movements that aim to change
the social relations in today’s dominant capitalist system.
Through research, a critical reflection is realized, endowing the movement of specific and
general knowledge to understand the society in which we live and, at the same time, to
develop mechanisms that help in its transformation. Research organizes and
systematizes knowledge, allowing new methods and analytic tools to support and
improve the performance of groups and movements. In addition, research allows the
possibility of socializing the knowledge produced.
According to these principles, universities and research should be at the service of social
movements. Research is conducted by people who are willing to spend time and energy,
and then return findings back into the hands of the movement. Research questions
should arise collectively by researchers as activists or by any group or activist who
wishes to participate in this process of knowledge construction.
There is a famous Aboriginal saying from the 1970s: “If you have come here to help me,
you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with
mine, then let us work together.” Regardless of whether you are a citizen, activist,
researcher, or someone from an international background, the common ground for any
collaboration is being on the same side of the barricade for social change.
We reject the traditional way of producing knowledge adopted by the academy and
influenced by the logic of market productivity. The university, its resources and its role in
the transformation and production of knowledge are important. However, the interests of
the academic world today are very subservient to the logic of the market.
We realize the importance of research focused on social struggles and based on their
demands, and we aim to be an alternative that recognizes the importance of the
university and, at the same time, aim to give it another meaning. We believe that a
university should serve the interests of the people and not private demands. Nowadays,
universities are officially recognized as places where knowledge is produced and
reproduced. A twofold mission is necessary: first, fighting inside the university; and,
second, creating alternative spaces for research that builds knowledge free of any
constraints imposed by academia or capital.
To do so, we not only aim to build bridges between academia and social movements, but
to also encourage an autonomous construction of knowledge – the fruit of social
movements and popular struggles.
The recurrent relationship that researchers have with social movements as objects to be
observed, despite lengthy discussions about it in various areas, still produces a constant
segregation between academic knowledge and popular knowledge in a hierarchical way.
Moreover, despite more engaged discussions, academic structures do not permit
overcoming this. Thus the knowledge produced by academia is restricted, often providing
no return or benefit to the people being researched, who are frequently not seen as active
subjects of change.
This knowledge needs to be collectively produced and shared. The research should not
be restricted to the group, and it is not the sole responsibility of technicians or specialists,
despite the importance of technical and specialized study. Social movements themselves
should be the subject of knowledge production, geared to the needs of their struggles.
Research should come from actions, and questions raised by daily struggles. The
research must remain in the hands of social movements. What we learn in the university,
in life, in the street and at work should be used to fight, to help better understand the
world, its conflicts and contradictions and, at the same time, think about and prepare for
the most effective strategies for building a new society.
Research applies not only to achieve new results, but as a dynamic process of education,
training and collective growth. Research is based on the principle of active participation,
which starts with a collective formulation of objectives, developing dynamically, and
involving all participants to produce useful knowledge in daily revolutionary practices.
The time has come for researchers to intervene and begin to think collectively about
which paths to follow to protect their research, their areas of intervention and the actors
involved. Security of informants is key – but not only so. The research topic should be
chosen in accordance with relevance and security in mind. Moreover, the publication of
research is a very crucial aspect in which accessibility, the language of publication, and
the kinds of information presented enter the public domain.
6. ECOEC and the transition from week 1 to week 2
“I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.” – Emma Goldman
In this section, we feel it is important to illustrate the main challenges that ECOEC faced
in its organizational processes. From the outset we experienced three main challenges,
the convergence being a first time in three main aspects.
First, the two organizing collectives were based in Germany and Italy and in their first
experience organizing an event together. Despite the long process of logistical
preparatory work (since September 2017) with online communication and a preparatory
face-to-face meeting in Germany in February 2018, organizers were unsure how they
would react working together on site, fearing different working approaches and
expectations. Understandably, there were some differences as to how to synchronize
these different groups into a collective capable of weathering the many organizational and
relational challenges that such an event may spawn.
Second, it was the first time the space was used for an activity of this magnitude. The
communal space where our convergence was held needed much preparation to host our
50 comrades from all around the world comfortably. Many works on site were required to
make the space liveable. Moreover, despite all the planning, organizers could not have
foreseen certain logistical problems regarding food, accommodation, participants’ needs,
schedules, and so on that invariably arise in events of this scale.
Third, by and large, the participants did not know each other and largely came from
different struggles and cultural backgrounds. Contingencies due to our personal, political
and cultural backgrounds were to be expected and, despite the fact that all participants
were from an activist background, time was needed to build bonds of solidarity. It was to
be expected that due to personal, political and cultural heterogeneity some
misunderstandings or disagreements would arise. Despite diverse activist militant
backgrounds each arrived with their own subjective mental space.
To sum up, given the overall heterogeneity of the convergence, any possible tensions
between organizers’ and participants’ aims and needs were foreseen.
Linked to the discovery phase, the organizers prepared a calendar for the first week with
classes in the morning, and workshops and other events in the afternoon. A schedule full
of activities was designed to make the most of the organization and the time available to
participants. It was important that participants made an authentic discovery of theories
Organizers deliberately decided on a top-down approach. They preferred to organize a
more “traditional” vertical conference the first week, emphasizing didactic learning over
Moreover, a key aspect of effective horizontal organization is for a community to work
with people that know each other and/or share similar aims and visions. However, during
the first week, this was not deemed by the organizers conducive to the aims set for that
week. Participants did not know each other and some were unsure about the programme.
From the beginning, it was clear that everyone needed time to build common ground and
a feeling of trust.
Two documents prepared by the organizers served as laying the foundation for the
community: one document explained the basic assumptions for ECOEC, and another
listed guidelines for the programme, outlining some basic communication on locations
and a set of social and behavioural guidelines for all participants (this last document was
discussed and approved in a plenary the first day of ECOEC).
However, the intense programme consumed participants’ energy very quickly and some
were not committed to fully follow it, instead preferring social activities until the small
hours in the morning. This led to delays of classes and workshops that then provoked a
spiral of negativity, showing a lack of respect to the speakers and organizers whose
practical work made the convergence possible. One or two plenaries in the first week
could have helped to foster a better sense of community and improve communication,
thus reducing some of the burden on organizers.
The organizers fell into the position of holding key information and directing tasks, leading to an unwanted power position. Some organizers had to adopt a position of leadership – sometimes not desirable but necessary – in order to keep the programme running.
The organizers already planned a transition from the discovery to the engage/transform
phases. Self-management was a prominent feature. A plenary was planned every two
days to deal with logistical decisions and problem-solving. This plenary put together
organizers and participants, based on consensus and working towards horizontality. All
the activities of the transform phase were proposed in the plenary and self-managed. In
the first week a cooking collective was on site in order to facilitate participation; in the
second week on-site participants had to deal with food preparation. A new level of
consciousness was needed and people worked together, facing the daily problem of selfmanagement. For participants, on-site life changed drastically and a cohesive horizontal community started to be felt by everyone.
Also in the second week, inspired by the presentation on the Kurdish movement, time
was dedicated to develop and implement some tekmil – moments of collective- and selfreflection and critique. We created safe spaces of voluntary participation where we could share our comments. This implementation helped us to learn from mistakes and improve the experience at ECOEC, especially the transition between week 1 and week 2.
– 2018 –