While discussing the first world meeting of phyles, a simple truth appeared before us: the biggest group of transnational pre-phyle organizations have a common origin… long ago.
Imagine thousands of persons mailing each other on an almost daily basis. Big collective mailing lists involving people in dozens of countries. Everything under the umbrella of a couple of foundations dedicated to conserving and spreading the valuable commons at the center of this huge transnational P2P network. Are we talking about today’s Linux? No. Indeed, we could be talking about fifty, sixty, eighty or more years ago, long before Tim Berners-Lee created the WWW, or even before email or TCP-IP protocol was ever imagined. We are talking about the Esperanto-speaking world.
No ideological current or discussion community ever developed such a transnational culture purely within civil society, on the basis of P2, before the Internet. And the Internet itself seems to have fueled Esperanto in ways that the idealistic Zamenhof’s pacifism couldn’t imagine. Today, the big global associations of the Esperanto world are in crisis, as almost all decentralized structures are. They surely are too 20th century for this time of distributed communications and P2P communities. But the social fabric of Esperantism is exploding. More than 2 million speakers and growing, thanks to free elearning, and surprising growth in new countries as Brazil or China is just part of the story. The most interesting part to us: the new local-transnational economy experiences developed by Esperanto communities. And some transnational Esperanto-speaking groups have taken advantage of their own transnational nature to create firms, co-ops, schools, and even universities to ensure the autonomy of their members and develop their characteristic commons. They are, in fact, prafileoj, pre-phyles. Let’s take a look on some of them.
- Esperanta Civito has more than 200 members and an internal bank for financing projects in countries like Spain or Ghana. This organization, based in half a dozen countries, is seeking recognition under international law of its members as citizens without a territorial state, but with a passport, like the Malta Order, the Vatican, and other already recognized transnational groups.
- E@I. The creators of lernu!, made up of a dozen young developers, language experts and economists from four different European countries, later sold e-learning solutions to the international promotion bodies of Slovakia and Germany, positioning themselves aqmong the most important e-learning providers in the continent.
- Intraespo, an international network of entrepreneurs originally created in Brazil and based now in three countries, dedicated to generating and interconnecting autonomous markets of communities and small business who speaks the neutral language.
- Ideek. With half a dozen members, this worker-owned web development firm based in Belgium has members from Netherlands and Brazil and is a clear example of the new kind of democratic firms that are blooming in “Esperantio,” continuing the tradition of Esperantic cultural firms like Vinilkosmo records.
- Kosmo, the strategic consultancy group focused on gaining sponsors and financial sources for the Esperanto movement. Founded in Scotland, it is is based in Brussels and Ital.
- Universitato. University professors from five continents organizing multi-locale and online postdegree courses.
- And so on, and so on, and so on…
They are not the biggest economic democratic communities in the world, but there is no other environment where transnationality and economic democracy so naturally mix. The result is an increasing number of iniciatives. The Esperanto economy is blooming, and it’s high time to take it seriously.
(Edited by Steve Herrick)