Publication Social Movements / Organizing Speech of Prof. Dr. Lothar Bisky, Chairman of the PDS

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January 2004

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International Meeting
Initiative for the foundation of the Party of the European Left
Berlin, 10-11 January, 2004

(Arbeitsübersetzung: Nora Schüttpelz)

It depends on the spoken words!

Dear Comrades and Friends,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you at a Berlin meeting of European left parties at the beginning of the New Year. I would like to thank you for following the invitation of the PDS. I believe we are all well prepared for intensive debates during the following two days, and I know we deeply wish to develop common positions.

We are facing the outstanding task to support clear social resistance to the destruction of a social Europe.

Thus our agenda provides many explicit questions that refer to the appeal of several parties to found a European left party. The PDS strongly supports this appeal. For more than 10 years we are working on new forms of cooperation of the Left in Europe and already following comes to mind:

  • The intensive work of the GUE/NGL in the European Parliament,
  • conferences and meetings of the parties,
  • the NELF,
  • new forms of transnational social resistance of the trade unions,
  • the meetings of the European Social Forum and the growing resistance of anti-war movements and movements critical towards globalization.

There are many different initiatives. All of them are looking for answers to the new forms of global capitalism and they will not agree with a Europe being transformed into a continent of neoliberal destruction and militarization.

People say, the enlargement of the European Union means its biggest change. That’s right. But at the same time changes are marked by crises, problems and insecurities – not only following the failed summit of the Heads of State and Government concerning the European constitution. We rejected the draft of the European constitution after intense and controversial debates, because we fight against armament and because we do not want this to be fixed in a constitution. We reject neo-liberalism, free market and free competition as a basis of a European constitution. This position is the distinct result of the discussions within the PDS.

In our view the draft of the constitution contains too little real democracy. But this is not the reason for the failure of the summit of the Heads of State and Government. Neither were these questions controversial nor had they been discussed differentiated. It was not the quarrel for different visions bringing the summit to fail but the struggle for power and influence.

The PDS wants Europe – we want another Europe: A Europe of social justice, a Europe of peace, and a Europe of democracy. A Europe open to the world. We need a Europe emancipating from George Bush’s US-administration. The socialist answer to a unipolar world is not a bipolar alternative, but a world of international law, of equal rights, of development, a world of disarmament, and of peaceful conflict resolutions. Our struggle for such a kind of world already exceeds national borders. Think global – act local that is clearly important. But in the meantime we also have to say: think global and act worldwide. The local struggles always have to be organized as a part of an international movement.

Dear Comrades and Friends,

The time is right for a party of the European left. A Europe of peace, of justice, of cosmopolitanism and democracy is not available without a strongly noticeable and confident left in Europe.

This is our historical challenge.

And we have to face this challenge.

There is no model and no historical predecessor for such a party of the European left. We have to discover new realities and must radically change patterns of thought. Facing reality is not possible without facing history. We remember all innovative, courageous, wilful achievements of socialists, communists and other democrats for Europe’s culture and history. We remember the Resistance, the Partisan movements, the struggle against fascism.

Enlightment, the workers’ movement, Marx and Engels, Antonio Gramsci, the Spanish republic, the downthrown of the Greek junta, of Salazar in Portugal and of Franco in Spain are part of our heritage.

We gain strength in the cultural movements of different European countries against war and suppression. We share the thoughts of Olaf Palme and Willy Brandt concerning the dialogue between the North and the South. We share Adam Rapacki’s vision of a Europe free of nuclear weapons – from the Atlantic to the Urals.

We have to handle the historical failure of left movements in Europe. We are aware of the errors and mistakes, we are aware of the crimes committed in the name of communism. Thus we honour the comrades who did not toe the line, but maintained the traditions of unorthodox thinking and acting. Referring to Karl Marx: Doubt everything! All this is part of us and is our contribution to the manifold cultural heritage and vitality of Europe too.

The Party of the European Left will never support the ongoing deformation of the EU: Democracy, equal rights, transparency and tolerance are consensus and basis of our alternatives.

The basic principles are simple and cognizable for everyone:

  • We are clearly against war, violence and armament – however this might be justified. The European left will not support participation in war.
  • We clearly support equal rights and realisation of a society of solidarity. The European left, however, will strongly resist to the destruction of social welfare.
  • We consequently stand up for democracy, equality, and ecological responsibility and for cosmopolitanism.

We say:

  • No to wars.
  • No to dominance of profit.
  • No to privatization of social welfare.
  • No to authoritarian dominance.

We say:

  • Yes to peace and disarmament.
  • Yes to more social justice.
  • Yes to more democracy.

This is common for the European left.

In the view of PDS members the European left should be more than an informal umbrella organisation, even because a party of the European left has to be open for different and democratic form of cooperation.

We do not want to isolate, but to be open for those in western, eastern, the southern and northern Europe. If we work together, we will gain better results in our analysis of modern capitalism and the alternatives of the left.

The Party of the European Left will exist within the political and social movements – or will not exist.

Not party bureaucracy nor party diplomacy, but engagement in politics, political changes in people’s everyday life – this is our objective. The answer to the question “which kind of Europe we do want” will be more convincing, if we try to live the answer.

Dear Comrades and Friends,

These are the far-reaching decisions we have to discuss – on the basis of the drafts for a manifesto, a statute and an appeal for the foundation of the Party of the European Left.

In this house Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht have founded the Communist Party of Germany on New Years Eve in 1918. Only a few days later both have been murdered by the reaction. Tomorrow tens of thousands people will honour Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, whose political actions were characterised by democratic, European and antimilitaristic values – and so we will. And we will do so articulating our protest against the destruction of the social welfare systems.

Of course, we know about the disputed development of the CP in Germany since then. There have been Stalinist deformations. But at the same time the communist party stood in an outstanding manner for the fierce and upstanding struggle against fascist barbarianism. The German left will never forget this.

Dear Comrades and Friends,

The PDS is determined to contribute to the founding of the Party of the European Left. It makes sense and is wise to push the process of the founding of the Party of the European Left in looking forward to the elections of the European Parliament for which we carefaully prepare – with reason, wit, smart conceptions and actions.

We could support each other in a new way during this electoral campaign.

We propose:

Let us begin just now – but we want and have to keep opened for all those who have not decided, not yet decided or differently decided. We want to discuss our different arguments, listen to each other, take each other serious and be reliable partners.

Dear Comrades and Friends,

The Left in Europe has to face a historical decision.

Let’s make use of this Berlin meeting as for a European place for a new way of cooperation of the left. Thus I would like to call on you: Hic Rhodos – hic salta!