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Written by Senja Bruetting   
 
Reflection about the 8th Global Justice School at IIRE Manila
 
July 6-25, 2016
 
Like every year, also in 2016 the International School for Research and Education (IIRE) (http://www.iiremanila.org/) organized the Global Justice School for activists and lefties in the capital of the Philippines. IIRE was found in the Netherlands but has its sister organisation based in Manila. 
The aim of this school is to unite different left social and political organizations of different countries, mostly asian, for three weeks. The school provides space for exchange of experiences among all activists and gives the chance to get in touch with or update about left movements in various countries. Struggles and ideas for solutions are always part of discussions. Representatives of different organization from all over the world joined the School this year and shared their impressions and experiences: Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Netherlands, France and Germany were represented.
 
My visit and my participation at the 8th Global Justice School was a great experience. Not only because it was my first time in a school with international left activists but also because it raised a lot of personal questions.
 
I joined this school only for one week but this week was loaded with different topics and a lot of inputs to think of, so I didn’t even have the chance to be bored. The first workshop I joined started on 14th of July and concentrated on a world-relevant issue: “Trends on the National Liberation Movements in Asia: Have Jihadization and Fundamentalization Prevailed over Peaceful Settlements of Conflict in a Nation-State Framework?”. A big and current topic which affects the whole world but which is very interesting to talk about and to consider in the Mindanao Context; especially when it comes to the revolutionary groups in southern Philippines. Different speakers of different countries were invited to give inputs about national liberation movements as well as jihadization and fundamentalism. International representatives of different social organizations also were given the chance to represent the goals of their organization and give glance into the national struggles of the country.
 
Philippine Professor Nathan Quimpo introduced this topic with several definitions of terms like Jihad, Islamists and Jihadists and the comparison of Ethnonationalist movements vs. Jihadism. He also presented five theories that describe, predict, or explain the extent of religious domestic conflicts over the past several decades. Lastly he talked about trends of Jihadization in different countries like Russia, Kashmir, China and Indonesia. Starting this day with an overview and theoretical input was a good start for the listener into this topic. It made it easier to follow up the upcoming themes. The French left activist Pierre Rousset gave a glance into world’s history regarding extremism (also IS/ISIS) in different parts of the world, the rise of the right wing and the need to face the humanitarian crisis. With Atty Romel Bagares we had the opportunity to get to know more about the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines, especially when it came to the Constitutional and International Law. The focus of Atty Romel Bagares was more set on the Mindanao issue in the Philippines. He especially described the difference of national minorities and Indigenous Peoples and addressed the needs, facts and states within the constitution of Bangsamoros and Indigenous Peoples. With the indonesian activist Andre Barahmin the focus switched from the Philippines to another part of South East Asia: We got to know about the freedom struggle and the wish for right to self-determination of West Papua. Sadly to say that even today colonization still exists – in this case through Indonesia. Even Sri Lanka was represented by Thirimadura Anuka de Silva of the lefty’s party. She shared about the long lasting struggle of the Tamil within the civil war among the revolutionary group Tamil Tigers and the governmental military in Sri Lanka.
 
Regarding the topic, the first day was for me the most interesting but also most political and complicated one. The forum gave a theoretical and practical glance of national liberation movements in the world. With the practical examples of the Philippines, West Papua and Sri Lanka it showed some reasons for the establishment of liberation movements in different countries. But it also illustrated the consequences of national liberation movements which mostly end in wars with the governmental military. The ones who suffer the most are unfortunately the civilians (i.e. deaths of innocents). 
 
Personally, I missed a deeper connection of those national liberation movements of different countries to ISIS/ IS which also is one liberation movement. I would have been further interested in the impact of ISIS to the world and to the Philippines. Is there a connection of ISIS/IS to the philippine revolutionary groups like Abu Sayyaf, Mindanao Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) or even Mindanao National Liberation Front (MNLF)? And what is the realistic estimate of the speakers about future terroristic actions of ISIS/IS? Are there methods or theories that could give a solution how to handle (inter-)national liberation movements like ISIS/IS?
 
In the following days the topics were more concentrated on Marxism. Therefore, we discussed eco-socialism related to Marxism as well as the relation of social and ecological crises. The Justice School involved also themes like Gender, Women’s Liberation, LGBT and Immigration – always in relation to Marxism and the communist manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. 
 
Capitalism and the capitalists were always criticized. Capitalism as a source of struggle regarding to feminists, LGBT or migrant workers and a problem that goes along with the political system, they said. Listening to the use of “the capitalists”, I always asked myself who particularly are those capitalists, and are all of them as bad as they were connoted? Is capitalism just the source of evil? I had the feeling that the good part of capitalism was forgotten and it also seemed to be forgotten that we as individuals are always part of capitalism and therefore always supporter of it. Buying food (especially products of big companies like Coca Cola) or clothes is supportive, renting a room for holding workshops is supportive. I definitely missed a clear definition of capitalists and capitalism; and also about the term left what we used quite often.
 
 If the facilitator talked about a movement, they automatically meant the left movement. That was not clear for me first. Because when I generally talk about movements, I talk about social movements, regardless which particular party they are belonging to. Personal questions came up like: What is the difference of Marxist movements and other social/ political movements? Is the left sector different in Asia than in Germany? One facilitator explained, Marxist movements are the same as radical movements – is this true? How are lefties in different cultures?
 
A lot of different questions came up and some of them are still not answered. I guess, I need more time to think about that and make my mind clear about the left and Marxist movement. Especially I need to learn more about Marx’s theories and the goals of the left movement. I also think that there are a lot of differences in different countries when it comes to the left party. The left scene varies from country to country.
 
All in all I really enjoyed the Global School of Justice. Because of the international participants, all presentations were hold in English and therefore I had the opportunity to understand (during my internship in Mindanao, I felt the language barrier quite often), although all topics were highly political and complex. I also had the chance to get to know different struggles from different countries and how people face these problems: discrimination, genocide, colonialism, poverty, inequality among genders, radical religious movements, calamities and its consequences like the example of Fukushima. Next to these insights of different countries in especially South Asia, I could exchange with political activists and gain more glance into their thoughts and thinking. The aim of most of them was the change of the political system into one form of socialism to fight poverty and inequality as well as corruption.
 
Talks with facilitators and participants brought me further. They gave me the opportunity to ask my questions and gain some answers. 
 
A personal output was that I had a deep glance and understanding into an international left thinking. Another output affected me regarding my profession as future International Social Worker and answered my question “What exactly is activism? When can you call me an activist – being a student and at the same time engaged into social issues or is it more the fulltime-fighter for political change?”. Through one great discussion with one of the facilitators, I am clearer about the term activism: Activism is storytelling, making people aware of what is happening around them or even with them. But not in form of teaching them but more in form of telling them what already had happened to people. As a future international social worker, exactly this will be my task: empowering in form of raising the voice of the peoples’ stories by writing down those stories and publishing them. 
 
Of course I already heard of these in my studies but I never really understood what it means in reality. Through the talk with him, I felt it for the first time.
 
 
 
Senja Bruetting.
German Student of International Social Work at Evangelische Hochschule Ludwigsburg, Germany.
Intern at Southern Christian College and Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement, Mindanao, Philippinen.

 

 

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