About the second socialization conference

Last weekend over 300 people gathered north of Berlin for the second „let’s socialize“ conference. The main topic: Socialization (as in: democratic control over the economy instead of competition by privately-owned, for-profit corporations). I was lucky to get a spot as the organizers followed a rather strick diversity guideline which resulted into middle-aged-white-cis-men like myself not dominating for a change. The conference was masterfully organized in other areas as well. Meals, location and moderation worked like a charm. The whole thing had a constructive, active vibe I have not experienced before. It was wonderful.

The conference was basically split into four tracks (care, mobility, energy and food production) coming together only for major exchanges and presentation of results. Seeing so many people from all kinds of backgrounds and initiatives sharing their stories, ideas, successes and struggles was overwhelming, inspiring and humbling. I followed the mobility track as it was most aligned with the areas I work and am active in: data. Socializing mobility platforms were the topic of one of the first input sessions and possibilities of socializing Google Maps were discussed at a later point as well.

Digital politics were not the focus though, neither should they have been. The let’s socialize conference manages to avoid a fundamental mistake many other progressive or (self-acclaimed) transformative conferences walk into, which is: Dealing with tech and data as an issue and a solution in itself. The let’s socialize conference did not even come close to falling into any kind of (techno-) solutionism. Everybody at the conference had a very clear understanding of the fundamental problems behind the collapse of social needs like care, mobility, energy and food. Everybody at the conference had first hand experiences with how the drive for profit ruined local infrastructures of solidarity and replaced it with soulless corporate exploitation. Tech or data were not addressed as an actor in this process but – if at all – as what they are: tools of capitalism. The let’s socialize conference did not make the mistake of addressing the tools, it addressed the masters house directly.

This clarity and sober focus was a delight and an encouragement. I usually attend conferences where some flavor of ethical entrepreneurship or sustainability start-up marks the horizon of imagination. The let’s socialize conference however didn’t even bother with anything else than going beyond for-profit-competition, imagining true alternatives of solidarity, co-operation, public interest and discussing very concrete and very real ways of managing such alternative social structures. There were very tangible projects that tried to turn empty shopping malls into care-centers or bankrupt-car-part-suppliers into a workers-owned-cargobike-production.

The other very impactful experience was to see everybody being worn out and stretched thin. Everybody was hopeful and full of energy, I am not trying to say anything else. It was more a general feeling of how hilariously outnumbered we at the conference were against the thousands of lawyers, corporate employees, economists and lobbyists that push for higher revenues, bigger factories and lower eco-standards. Many of the people I talked to had a day job, families or care responsibilities and were organizing in the little spare time they had. Those few who were paid to be in their specific areas of activism were very aware of the odds there were facing.

This brings me to the reason why I am writing this short blog post. First of all, even this inspiring event was undeniably white, which is a fact the conference addressed heads-on with a wonderful keynote by Fatim Selina Diaby. This keynote was powerful and I wanted to give it attention. I will link to it as soon as I can find a recording. The other reason is to express my gratitude and admiration to all the people behind the conference who even made the sleepless nights that went into realizing the conference look like fun. I admired you from afar and I hope to see you again.

Most of all though I wanted to use the opportunity to encourage everyone who is reading this to become active. The odds are not in favor of the kind of change that was at the heart of the let’s socialize conference. But the odds weren’t in favor of (at least formally) abolishing slavery and the odds weren’t in favor of the women’s right to vote. Both became a reality though due to people caring and doing something. The preface of „Let this radicalize you“ by Mariame Kaba und Kelly Hayes maybe said it best:

„We are each other’s best hope. As organizers, we are builders in an era of collapse. Our work is set against all probability and it is in that space of cherished improbability where our art will be made.“