For a World of Freedom
A unique event was held for the second consecutive year in Gummersbach: the European Students for Liberty Top 100 retreat. For four days, in a little town in western Germany, freedom fighters from more than 20 countries came together to discuss the movement’s future. Those who had never been there before were met with awe, which turned to joy and ecstasy after making new friends and meeting old ones. For others, entering Theodor-Heuss Akademie once more brought familiar feelings of safety, happiness, and excitement.
Following LibertyCon, which took place last March, SFL leaders gathered together to chat, attend workshops, network, and build strategic plans for the years to come. It was an opportunity offered to those who, in their own way and local context, demonstrated willingness and resilience in face of ongoing political hostility. To be in direct contact with like-minded individuals boost your hopes, morale and gives you strength to continue to grow and advocate for freedom wherever you are, therefore a retreat like this is of crucial importance.
For example, due to its appeal to collectivism, feminism has been pretty much left out of all libertarian circles in Europe, although women-centered issues are real and something we have to deal with on a day to day basis. To respond to this, the European Women For Liberty was launched, and plans are to start a website where women from all over Europe could contribute by writing and networking.
Beyond these united causes, each country has its own issues, though we came to learn and possibly share solutions. By engaging with each other, we realized our situations and our countries’ affairs have more in common than complaints about the way things are run. As we acknowledged successful results from campaigns such as “No Nanny” and “End the Drug War” through first-hand reports, we learned how new strategies are more likely to work if shared between us and adapted to local circumstances.
In his speech, Kevin Flanagan, ESFL’s Program Manager, said “ideas are sh*t, execution is everything”. From our mistakes we learn to be smarter, to act purposefully, as Mises once wrote. From communicating our successes and failures we develop a critical understanding of our actions and we allow others’ ideas to bloom into beautiful enterprises. Worth highlighting, both the Ukrainian chapter of SFL and the Free Startup Project (an initiative of SFL France) showed us there are ways of living to Mises’ words and putting them into practice in a modern and unorthodox way. And speaking of words, at the retreat language was no everlasting barrier, especially after a few socials, and it was also a cultural enrichment like no other. Liberty may be written differently, yet its meaning is universal and we constitute a unity on principle.
Indispensable to notice, the fact all the workshops were presented by SFL members tells you something: we are taking initiative and assuming responsibilities. The beauty of labour is that it allows one to work according to its own capacities and preferences, gaining feedback and incentives in return. The beauty of decentralized, voluntary education is that it takes into account personal tastes, limitations and skills, therefore it never settles down in time and place. In a span of four days, we learned and presented* about specific subjects through a liberty lens: stocks, cryptocurrencies, social media, rhetoric, leadership, diplomacy, urbanism… you name it. We took the principle of individual liberty to its maximum form.
Jeffrey Tucker was right when he said “it was liberty that built Europe and liberty that will save it from the authoritarians who are grasping to control its political and economic future” because it is palatable and visible how this rescue is already running its course. SFL chapters from Ukraine to Portugal, from Israel to Iceland, are all working toward a freer world, taking reality in their hands and molding it according to their needs. It is not enough to regain freedom, we must reshape it. As people are starting to realise, by creating practical and unprecedented alternatives to common problems we make centralised power outdated and obsolete. All that is needed is someone to light a spark.
Liberty gatherings such as the Gummersbach retreat are vital to reignite our internal fires and to reinforce our beliefs. It’s clear to see, we won’t easily surrender our wills to a world which wants control and authority, we will build our own where respect is a principle and any kind of violence isn’t welcomed. But more importantly, we will always have Gummersbach and we will always have one another.
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, click here to submit a guest post!