Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
4th European Conference, Warsaw, 29 – 31 October 2003
“The Democratic Left Parties in Europe – a political project for the future in the enlarged European Union?”
The initiative of the “Rosa Luxemburg Foundation” to organize this conference deserves every praise for many obvious reasons. Among them the choice of the venue is one of the most significant as this capital, Warsaw, means a lot for the European history and for the enlargement of the European Union.
Like most of the parties in the New European Left Forum (NELF) and in the GUE/NGL Group of the European Parliament, the Greek party of SYNASPISMOS (Coalition of the Left of Movements and Ecology) supports the enlargement of the EU, despite our strong criticism to the present course of the European integration process and the neoliberal policies associated with it. A question was asked earlier by Mimmo Porcaro whether the enlargement would be more to the benefit of the USA. This question is not unfounded and reflects a recent debate, but instead I would put forward two other questions: First, will the accession countries be more able to resist the American influence inside or outside the EU? Second, will a more favorable ground for the development of the class and social struggles in these countries be inside or outside the EU? Our answer to both of these questions is “inside”.
We support a european integration process with an all-European horizon. A United Europe cannot be limited to Western Europe. We see the European integration process as an important battleground for coordinated and more effective social and political struggles of the left and the social movements. As we say in Greece, we want to be in Europe in order to change it and because we are convinced that our vision for a democratic socialist society can be realistically pursued only on a European scale.
II. Why a European party of the left
In a way I have by this introduction also answered the question “why a party of the European left?”. But there are additional important reasons for the growing necessity of this project.
The present global realities and in particular the post – September 11, 2001 developments have led the international system into a deep crisis, with a sharp increase of insecurity all over the world. Some have described this period as the “post post-cold war period”.
In our view, what is happening is the result of the neoliberal capitalist globalization under the hegemony of the USA. The Bush leadership does not hesitate to impose at all costs the american imperial model as well as the American economic model. This aim is served by the “war on terror”, as it is conceived by the US “hawks”, accompanied by the “pre-emptive strikes” doctrine.
At the same time the neoliberal globalization means sharp increase of inequalities, both internationally and within nations. In addition, the link between the social and environmental problems becomes stronger, - as for example this is clearly manifested in the two-way relationship between increasing poverty and environmental degradation – and so the ecological dimension reinforces a left perspective.
The recent war on Iraq was the most manifest and dangerous expression of the above-mentioned policies of the US government. Characteristically, this war was compared to a “multiple warhead missile”, which was not targeted only against Iraq but also against Europe, the UN and humanity as a whole. Let us remind ourselves that when the war was launched, the well-known American “hawk” Richard Perle said: “Thank God for the death of the United Nations” (The Guardian, 21 March 2003).
But this policy meets growing resistance on a global scale. Globalization is faced with a globalized movement, the “movement of the movements”, which has developed rapidly over the last few years. This movement created a fertile ground for the global anti-war popular outburst of last February 15, which attracted and inspired young people in particular to the benefit of the regeneration of politics internationally.
Above all, it produced a strong message for an alternative to the neoliberal globalization, as was epitomized in the Porto Alegre slogan: “Another world is possible”.
In this situation, a united Europe is needed more than ever before. During the cold war the European integration was more or less viewed by many people as a project against bipolarism and the two superpowers rivalry, which posed great dangers for Europe, such as the danger of a “limited nuclear war”. Today, the European integration process is strongly linked not only with the future of the whole of Europe, but also of the whole world.
So, Europe has special responsibilities in a world which is at a crucial crossroads. But Europe is also at a crossroads and the required new momentum for its integration process cannot be provided by the dominant political forces, both right wing and socialdemocratic. See, for example, the current Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) for the European Constitution. Think of who can or is willing to defend the “European social model”, which is at the heart of a European identity? How, the European integration process can be freed from “Euro – atlanticism” and can avoid what President Bush prescribed in his first European tour: “a united Europe under an expanded NATO”?
III. A project in motion
All the above demand from the forces of the European left to act more decisively and be more effective politically. This requires a new quality in their cooperation, which can be achieved by the creation a new European political subject, a European party of the left.
There is also a need for the forces of the European Left to operate in common vis – a – vis the current European institutions and the institutions that will be created in connection with the advance of a “European Constitution”.
All the above dictate to us and to all the forces of the left to move ahead rapidly in order to intervene more effectively to the realignments taking place, in order to designate our basic characteristics and our policy, so that we can exist as a distinct political current as regards the existing political parties as well as those that will be formed later. Possible delays will lead us to the formation of circumstantial electoral lists that will hinder the expression of the true need for an alternative political proposal to neoliberalism, which in spite of its contradictions and failures will retain its domination as long as the left lags behind.
The existing co-operation structures of the left parties of Europe – the New European Left Forum and the GUE/NGL Group in the European Parliament – have, in their present form, accomplished considerable work and undoubtedly continue to do so. The NELF has decided that it should retain its original character and will continue to constitute a framework for dialogue and cooperation among the forces that participate in it. The GUE/NGL, has activities of a certain range as a parliamentary group. The contribution of both these structures, which remain useful, does not contradict the need for the creation of a new party of the European Left able to live up to today´s requirements for an upgraded, more effective intervention that will cover the whole spectrum of developments.
So, the process towards a European party of the left was set in motion last March with a meeting in Athens on the initiative of SYNASPISMOS, where six parties established an “initiative group” completely open to other parties which might be interested to participate. In the second meeting, held in Athens again in May, ten parties participated. The process went ahead with a third meeting in Thessaloniki in June and a fourth meeting in Madrid in September 2003.
The aim is to conclude the preparatory process by the end of 2003 or early 2004 and establish the European party of the left officially before the European Parliament elections of June 2004.
Significant progress has been made on the collective elaboration of a political declaration and a draft of the statutes of the new political subject has been submitted for discussion.
We conceive the European party of the left as “a party of parties”. A party which will fully respect the authonomy and sovereignty of the national participants. Also, a party with a close relationship with the social movements.
We are conscious of the fact that the new European political entity will not be able from the outset to have common policies on a comprehensive scale. At the same time it is necessary to stress that its policies cannot be an aggregate of the policies of its national components. A new quality of cooperation also means a new quality in working out new ideas and alternative proposals towards a different Europe.
Europe, the field in which the left forces choose to form a common strategy, common policies and a common political subject, does not only have a particular historical interest. It constitutes a privileged area for the left to promote its aims for the present and future. And it is only the left forces and the left ideas that can lead the European construction towards an autonomous role in world affairs in favor of a new balance of peace, democracy, development and cooperation that can question the capitalist one-way path and reconcile countries and nations, man and nature.
It is obvious that we do not conceive Europe as a closed “fortress”. That the future of Europe cannot be left to the European capitalists or the European Central Bank or the conservative and socialdemocratic forces. It is necessary for the citizens, the working people, the social movements, the peace , feminist and ecological forces to intervene and promote their vision for a new Europe in a new world.
So, the European party of the left must be built as a force:
· - That opposes nationalism and national isolation
· - That seeks a new role for Europe in the world and puts forward the need for a new, democratic world order.
· - - That fights against expansionism and the painful consequences caused by neoliberal globalisation
· - That struggles for new, egalitarian relations between the center and the regions
- That promotes a concept of employment which will protect the working people from technological downgrading, social exclusion and unemployment
´ - That aspires to return to the citizens what capitalism is depriving them of, which means the product of human labour and human intelligence.
· - That redefines the relationship between man and nature in order to guarantee sustainability and deal with the imbalance of the ecosystem caused by the over-exploitation and wasting of natural resources promoted by neoliberal expansionism
· - That sees the European Union not as an expanding market, but as a society that needs to broaden and deepen democracy. A society that needs new institutions in order to build the characteristics of a democratic, multicultural society.
Despite the difficulties there are many possibilities for the European left to make this important step forward soon.
* Panos Trigazis is International Secretary of the Greek party of SYNASPISMOS (Coalition of the Left of Movements and Ecology).