Build a European Socialist Alliance

Unity is strength. That maxim of the workers' movement should inform all our discussions, debates and activities at the European Social Forum - being held from November 6-10 in Florence. The past three decades has seen the increased globalisation of capital accumulation. The ruling classes of Europe are uniting around not only a neoliberal agenda, but proto-state forms for enforcing that agenda. The past three decades have also seen the final degeneration of 'official communism' and a string of defeats for the working class. The years of Reagan and Thatcher, followed by Blair, Berlusconi and Aznar, have set back the prospects for working class liberation, socialism and a world without exploitation and war. Working class consciousness is perhaps the lowest for at least a century. Alongside that slump in class consciousness has been the rise in nationalism, the re-emergence of the far right in parts of Europe and a retreat into the politics of identity by many oppressed sections. While the working class has been relatively placid, the ruling classes of Europe have pushed through European unity from above - not through war, as was attempted by different European ruling classes of the past 200 years - but through economic and political merger. Yet our rejection of the capitalistic impulses pushing our rulers to unite Europe should not drive us into separate, national socialist dead ends. The working classes of Europe need to become more internationalist in response to the drive to build a capitalist Europe from above. We need a democratic Europe from below. We have a long way to go. The European ruling classes are way ahead of us. They have their financial cabals and the European Central Bank. They have the undemocratic European Commission and the quasi-democratic European parliament. They have the European rapid reaction force and a battery of immigration laws to criminalise worst paid labour. Yet the spectre of a united European working class movement haunts them. But that threat cannot become reality without political organisation. The European Social Forum provides an opportunity to begin the difficult yet necessary fight for working class political unity against the European ruling classes. The ruling classes have told us there is no alternative to capitalism. Some have said so with glee, others with wringing hands and a heavy heart. But in openly celebrating the triumph of capitalism they have produced an unintended response from below. The growing anti-capitalist sentiment is a reaction to the 'end of history' garbage peddled by the paid mouthpieces of imperialism. We have seen that sentiment reach its highest form in Italy. That is why communists welcome the ESF in Florence. Yet if anti-capitalism is not be dissipated or channelled safely into one or another pink or green reformist project, it must merge with the working class movement and take up the political fight for democracy. As the capitalist class becomes primarily organised at the level of the European Union, so must the working class organise at the level of the Europe too. The need for an all-European movement is recognised by Rifondazione Comunista - the ESF's main moving spirit. The World Social Forum movement officially eschews political parties and thus unintentionally encourages both dishonesty and backwardness. Political parties simply don different hats and the task of cementing unity at the highest level is put off in favour of currying favour with the reformist wing of imperialism - charities, NGOs, do-gooders, localists and unaccountable intellectuals. The Communist Party of Great Britain welcomes the meeting of the parties of the European left being hosted by Rifondazione this week in Florence, to which the Socialist Alliance has been invited. As well as discussing the themes of the ESF, the two-day meeting will finish with "a proposal towards a European political party - an intervention by Rifondazione Comunista national secretary Fausto Bertinotti". This initiative is a tremendous step forward. Rifondazione Comunista has the prestige of being the largest leftwing party in Europe - and it has been moving to the left. It has taken the lead in giving form to the anti-capitalist sentiment and - crucially - it is putting all-European political demands at the forefront of its agenda. With just 19 months to go before the European parliament elections in 2004, the European left must grasp this opportunity to forge the highest possible unity. The experience of communists and revolutionary socialists in Britain could not be more instructive. The Socialist Alliance movement in Britain - by which is meant not only the Socialist Alliance in England and Wales but the Scottish Socialist Party - has its undoubted weaknesses. Yet the fact that trends and factions of the left have been able to unite to stand together in elections and other campaigns shows that with the political will such an exercise at an all-European level is more than possible. The achievement of a Socialist Alliance of the EU contesting the European elections in 2004 is a realistic and necessary goal for the parties and groups of the left. We should agree a joint political manifesto for Europe. The parties of the bourgeoisie stand common platforms in the EU - that should be a minimum for the parties of the working class too. Ultimately, of course, the process of unity should lead us to a single revolutionary working class party in Europe: a Communist Party of the European Union. With such a party, the vistas of working class liberation on a continental and world scale come within reach. Marcus Ström