End the left's disunity
Tina Becker highlights the main issues facing the ESF in Paris
The second European Social Forum is a great opportunity for the left in Europe. We have achieved a lot in the last two years. The international anti-war demonstrations on February 15 were organised by groups involved in the ESF movement. A string of international networks have been established. And the present generation of communists and socialists in Europe have at last got to know each other.
But much more is needed if we want to overcome the left’s debilitating division along national lines. Then the ESF movement could start to effectively challenge the European Union of bankers, bosses and bureaucrats. It could then help transform the working class in Europe into a conscious, internationalist class - a class that not only fights for its own vital interests, but for those of humanity as a whole. But will it?
Our enemies are uniting against us. The ruling classes of Europe are turning the EU into a superstate, complete with its own flag, currency and perhaps in the not too distant future an army. They are debating an EU constitution and more and more functions of individual states are being taken on by the EU.
So how are the existing organisations of the working class responding? So far all have failed the test. There is next to no coordination across Europe: only hopeless attempts to produce clones from the parental confessional sect - a mockery of genuine internationalism.
In this respect, the ESF is a step forward. Its preparatory meetings have already drawn together the serious organisations of the left across Europe. There were hardly any NGOs present, and no environmentalists, no anarchists. The organisation for the event is all down to Europe’s revolutionary groups - in the main Italy’s Rifondazione Comunista, but also the Communist Party of France and the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire - although both of them are hiding behind the lobby group Attac. The ESF has also attracted a range of trade unions, many of whom have officially affiliated.
This is a start, but it is not enough. In its current manifestation, the ESF is neither fish nor fowl - it unites revolutionary organisations, but discusses mainly sub-reformist ideas. It helps organise tremendous anti-war demonstrations - but does not want to organise the European left on a far higher level. It wants to challenge the European Union - but does not want to even talk about the possibility of fielding joint candidates in the European elections.
As a matter of urgency we need to start to work towards a Socialist Alliance of the European Union as a step towards a Communist Party of the EU. It has yet to be seen if the ESF will be part of this long overdue process.
The unity of Europe is - even under capitalism - progressive. To say this is not to foster illusions in Blair, Berlusconi or Prodi - they intend to create a bureaucratic, undemocratic Europe in the interests of capital. We, on the contrary, fight for extreme democracy and the greatest influence of the working class upon every aspect of the EU.
A united Europe brings the working class together, objectively and - if we revolutionaries do our work properly - subjectively through a common political programme. Capitalism creates its own gravedigger in the form of the proletariat. European integration also creates a hugely powerful potential enemy for capital - the working class organised into a revolutionary party across Europe. Our job is to cement a united core capable of making that a reality.
A Socialist Alliance of the European Union could unite us all on a higher organisational level. Despite the current grave problems of the Socialist Alliance in England and Wales, the SA has demonstrated that groups with very different political backgrounds can work closely together. Democracy, transparency and the right to publish minority viewpoints are crucial for this. Unfortunately, there will again be no official Socialist Alliance presence at the forums in Paris.
If the ESF and the project of European left unity are to succeed, a bold lead is called for. At present, there are few organisations that have the influence, cadre and political strength to spark the process of left unity. Comrades in Rifondazione Comunista have shown that they take the question seriously, but more is needed:
- A democratically elected and accountable leadership of the ESF that can take decisions and act. All meetings at all levels to be open to observers.
- No ban on political parties. For the open clash of ideas in front of the whole movement.
- An end to the ‘consensus principle’. It is undemocratic, inflexible and holds us back. For the right of the majority to decide.
- Structures that allow us to debate a joint programme to challenge the Europe of capital and its bureaucrats, as well as our own national ruling classes.
- The recognition that coordinating our campaigns and activities is not just a nice idea, but vital. We need continent-wide campaigns, strikes and demonstrations against cuts, privatisations, war and all attacks on our class and the democratic rights it has won.
- Urgent, public debate on a joint programme for the EU parliamentary elections in 2004.