Strategic choices of the left in Europe – ELSU Session

These are notes from “Strategic choices of the left in Europe” session at the European Left Summer University in Porto (2013).

Christiana Reymann

Political left is nominally feminist, but are we fighting vigilantly for these rights? Do we struggle for 50% representation for women, do we struggle on the basis of structural equality.

The profit motive is destructive of people and it is wasteful. Production has been historically a male industrial activity. Can we change to a more feminist approach which is less productivist focused?

How do we make our critique of the EU in this way. The right will be the main obstacle to the EU. We have a common interest in knowledge, sympathy and solidarity.

We have fundamental differences on questions such as the European army. Arew we obliged to find ways to stop war in other regions. We have question of what to do with right wing backlashes in places like Hungary. These are essentially strategical questions which depend on deepening and broadending our theory and praxis.

Francisco Louçã

We need strategies and solutions to structural issues. What is strategy in our context. We suffer currently from itinerant concepts. Gramsci took up the approach of adapting military concepts for the left, one of these being a schematic division: tactics versus strategy.

We have an obligation to reconstruct the notion of strategy. Currently there is a very post-modern idea of the need for immediate policy without ideology as if there was nothing beyond simply finding the right policy formula. There is little attention paid to large scale structural features. For the most part, parties have become little more than names and not proper parties.

The party comes first, we need content over form. Political coherence, and ideological coherence to produce a movement. We should critique those who have “ideas without ideas”.

If we want an alternative we need the strength necessary to provide it. Die Linke, PCF and Bloco need to deal with this.

We are currently living in the shadows. Nothing can be done without the Troika. National politics are nearly impossible. The German politicians recommend solutions for the crisis in Portugal.

This is vastly undemocratic. This shadow politics is not merely the Troika. The shadow is being cast by finance. The shadow banking system.

It does not care about politics, they enjoy power over all countries. It does not submit itself to accountability. This is not how the bourgeoisie had to function in the 19th century. They were a perceptable power. Now we have an invisible power which can almost completely determine outcomes.

Now what? How can we fight the power of financial capital? Our experience in Portugal which is not necessarily generalisable. We have a crisis which will resolve itself only to a further crisis because nothing can be done to change the fact that the debt can not be paid. We have a the least latitude to move since 1974.

Lenin said that Social Democracy was the “workers party of the bourgeoisie”, that workers would be content simply with a workers state.

Bloco would like to suggest a strong position of rupture with the present system in a real attack on the finance system. A minimum programme of total public control of finance and we say this publicly. We need a left-wing government to stop neo-liberalism.

Yiannis Bournous (SYRIZA)

It was an extreme gesture of solidarity for Bloco to invite us here on the anniversary of Greece’s triumph in the world cup. Thank you.

We are in a downward spiral from austerity. The crisis is not merely economic. It is a question of where authority lies and a crisis of democracy. We currently quite clearly have very anti-democratic bodies in control. We are seeing the termination of public goods. A decent into social cannibalism.

SYRIZA is a large opposition, force and there have been similar movements in other PIIGS. There has been a rise of the left, of popular mobilisations emerging after 40 years of unbeatable opposition. There emergence of a new antagonism: “the red thread”.

We should be cautious: we may not be the winners, we might influence rupture which we lose. We need a general advance in the level of class conflict. This requires a greater articulation by the left. The left that resembles a religion awaiting the second coming has already departed from historical importance.

Pierre Laurent (PCF)

What choices do we have before us. The world we live in is in a new historical moment. A moment of left reconstruction.

It is easier to see the EU from the world perspective. A global capitalist system, a financial system and a highly competitive world system of labour and production.

Europe is in a serious political crisis, a double crisis of politics and economics. The answer to the crisis by the centre has been highly authoritarian. Indeed the crisis may lead to the solidarity in the EU disappearing. Portugal is a good example. It is subject to both the EU political crisis and the world financial crisis.

We need to create something deeply new. What we see now is not what has happened earlier. We are entering a new period. Social transitions are not linear, there are internal contradictions.

How can we develop strategy? The political and ideological is essential, we need to clarify the crisis. We need to be decisive in the battle of ideas. We need to directly take on the financial fores. We need to articulate our emancipatory desires. We need to explore our common values for social aims.

Need to consider that we need a combined social, industrial and political restructuring. These aspects will need to feed each-other. We need to free the EU from the whims of the financial markets. We need to begin using our control of fiscal policy to reduce inequality, to give back the riches which were taken from the working class.

The soviet system did not give rights to workers, it did not give rights to citizens. Now we need a concept of citizen which applies to the whole world. A globalised world needs a global citizen.

We do not want to simply have a system of “beggar thy neighbour”. We need a solidaristic approach which turns the fights in each country to the EU level. We need a way out nationally, but this comes at the EU level only.

We started this project in 2004 – we started too late, but we are moving ahead quickly. Things are very unequal at the EL level but we see the direction. A new front/social movement against capital.


Yiannis Bournous: Targets in all countries are linked to austerity. Development targets should be discontinued. We do not want a national conflict. The German’s are not at fault – part of Greece’s historical political class is deeply corrupt. They made huge profits in the investments from Germany. It is not simply German capital, it is also Greek capital. The real need is an escalation of class conflict.

Why not get a divorce? The solution can not be realised at the national level. It imagines powers that we do not have. We need to take on capital at the level of the EU, a coordinated approach to the destruction of debt.

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