About the EL
About the EL
Some remarks concerning the creation of the Party of European Left
In June 1998, representatives from a number of left socialist, communist, and red-green parties in the European Union met in Berlin on the eve of the 1999 elections to the European Parliament to think about new forms and ways of cooperation.
Many parties of the transforming European Left, after a phase of difficult political reorientation as a result of the upheavals of 1989/1990, had reached the conclusion that it was high time to build up a more concrete collaboration, to convey a common profile of the European Left.
As a result of this meeting, thirteen European left-wing parties gathered in Paris in January 1999 and for the first time elaborated and passed a common request concerning the European elections, addressing all people living in the EU. In it the participating left parties formulated common aims and key ideas for a social, ecological, democratic, peaceful, and solidarity-based Europe as well as an outline of common goals for their cooperation within the EU. Based on the elections in June 1999, the Confederated Group of the United European Left/Nordic Green Left (Gauche Unifiée Européenne/Nordic Green Left, abbr. GUE/NGL) was formed in the European Parliament.
At the above mentioned meeting the Chairman of the PDS Lothar Bisky expressed the need to think beyond the pre-existing forms of parliamentary cooperation within the European Parliament and the Forum of the New European Left (NELF), and to conceive and integrate new steps for common political work, independent of the way in which individual parties determined their relationship to the European Union and the integration steps developed for them. Taking into account the very different concrete historical experiences in connection with the Left that could be used today, there was no reason why the European Left should not have formed a common European party.
1. Upon invitation from SYNASPISMOS - the Greek Coalition of the Left, the Movements and Ecology - instructions were carried out in mid-March 2003 to actively strive for the creation of a European left-wing party, after being passed and agreed upon during the NELF meetings in Copenhagen and Paris in 2002. In 2003 further meetings were arranged by the initial European Left group, at which debates took place on the Basic Political Document (programme) as well as on the necessary structure and basis for transactions (statute).
Finally, on January 10th and 11th 2004, a meeting of the parties took place in Berlin, which, by calling on all interested left parties in Europe, triggered the initiative for the founding of the Party of the European Left. Eleven parties answered that call; other party representatives present in Berlin declared they would actively observe the process.
The follow-up meeting in the beginning of February of the initial group in Athens (all parties having signed the Berlin initiative, which was also open to the interested observer parties) resulted in an agreement to arrange the founding Congress for May 8th and 9th 2004 in Rome. An international preparatory group was formed, in which representatives of all parties from the initial group adhered.
2. From the beginning on, all parties agreed that further work on the creation of a left party had to take place openly and transparently, and that a main issue would be to involve the membership of the parties and to discuss concrete political steps together with them and with their sympathisers. At the same time, this would confront the very sensitive topic concerning the sovereignty and independence of the parties, which, especially at the European level, has a lot to do with past "patronising" from Moscow and other centres of ruling state parties during the time of the Cold War with attempts at independent paths of development (keyword: Euro-Communism) including the events in Hungary (1956), Prague (1968) and Afghanistan (1978), as well as the resulting controversies in the international Left. On the other hand, it takes into account the process around the emergence of new emancipative democratic left parties that have earned themselves a respected place in society due to their struggle for alternatives in their respective countries.
3. The dynamics of the Berlin meeting promoted the discussion within the left parties in Europe as a result of the decisions they faced. These decisions combined approval and contradictions among the heterogeneous left parties and movements. All of them sensed that the Left in Europe had to make a historical choice.
There are many debates in the European Left based on the following central questions: Who can and should be a member, how concrete does their profile have to be, and how can the national member parties guarantee democratic opinion formation in their party and independence in such a unified European organisation, which should be more than just an umbrella organisation? In fact, the structure of the organisation consciously leans on the famous historical model defined through the association of European left parties composed of member and of observer parties. The time was ripe to discuss whether and if this initiative could contribute to the cooperation between the left parties.
The Left in Europe consists of diverse, and in part opposing, political and social formations, programs and worldviews, which differ in their backgrounds and regional origins, experiences, and attitudes toward the EU.
Precisely for this reason, the Left, if it wants to channel its resistance against the demolition of the social state and of democracy into political alternatives, has to express itself as united at the European level and develop necessary concrete and alternative proposals for a different EU, and a different Europe together. Why should it not find and determine the common political denominator - not the smallest, but in face of neo-liberal social destruction the largest - in order to successfully exist as an independent political force, and, at the same time, as a partner to social movements, in order to be recognised as an actor capable of influencing and changing European politics? In the light of the strength and tradition as well as the expectations of the feminist, ecological, and peace movements, it is high time for the political Left to live up to its responsibility. We want to contribute to the creation and realisation of new political strategies. This is, without any doubt, the central challenge to left parties in the EU and in Europe, in a situation where neo-liberal thought is occupying ever more space in the minds of the people, a situation of apparent absence of alternatives to capitalist market logic, cost reductions, rigid and outrageous social demolition, and even the economic market sale of the whole society.
Although the Left in Europe is still acting out of strategic defense in a situation where neo-liberal policies dominate, a situation in which many countries have to accept heavy losses in elections - regardless of whether the left parties participate in the government or act in the role of the opposition – it is also a situation where the centre-right, right and right-wing populist governments in various countries of Europe have won the day, and in which new movements are rising from the bases of society, multiplying and establishing common initiatives. For many leftists an important upcoming date is the European elections, which for the left forces also raises the challenge of defending their place as an influential force in their respective countries.
In different European countries - probably in most of them - different forces are competing with one another in the European elections. This was also felt in the founding process of the European Left. Therefore, work takes place in different forms and structures in a very constructive manner. Aside from the process of creation of the European Left Party, member parties of the GUE/NGL, consisting of a very wide circle of left parties, are working on a common election request for the elections to the European Parliament on June 13 of this year, to prolong the positive experiences of the present collaboration in a confederated fraction. Not all the parties will sign this request, and nobody is being forced to. A process that is also included in these multiple options, founded during the European Social Forum in Florence by the European Anti-Capitalist Left, is one that excludes parties that do not carry out the structural restrictions of their social alternatives to capitalism by society (keyword: participation in governments). The continuation of the cooperation in NELF also belongs in this context.
4. The Party of the European Left demands another Europe,
a Europe that says no to war and militarization. The European Left is an anti-war Left;
a Europe that defends the social states, and renews it, as well as redistributes wealth, power, and influence;
a Europe of diverse cultures, of freedom of spirit, and open to the world. The European Left is a cultural Left, which refuses historical revisionism, because it is capable of dealing with its own history critically and respectfully;
a Europe open to a world that resists capitalist globalisation. The European Left is critical of capitalism: It is anti-capitalist and aims at a transformation of societies beyond the rule of capitalism;
a democratic Europe. The European Left wants to get politics out of the backrooms of power and back into society, onto the squares and streets, into the debates of citizens, men and women of all ages. Politics is a part of movements and it forms parties; the parties act in parliaments and in governments, in initiatives and in extra-parliamentary protests; it is counter-power and a designing force. It is ready to be held accountable, which is what distinguishes parties in the broad social discourse.
We have to work seriously and honestly with all of the people who want to walk this path with us. In the sense of "Carpe diem!" we say: The social, peaceful and solidarity-based Europe needs our intervention! It is just the beginning!