An Alternative Takes Shape

Report on the Workshop of transform! europe and the European Left

While the heads of the EU member states were gathering in Brussels for another emergency summit, transform! europe and the European Left Party had called experts, politicians and activists on 8-9 December for a workshop on the current state of affairs regarding the European crisis.
About fifty people from a dozen countries accepted the invitation. After the opening speeches by EL vice-president Maité Mola (ELP) and Elisabeth Gautier (transform! europe) the first panel referred to the present state of the crisis in the EU, the flaws of democracy and the “oligarchisation” of the EU governing system; the second panel tried to answer the question of how a new system of credit could function in order to finance the real economy and to serve public interest; in the third panel speakers tried to spot the convergences and the common bases for solidarity and political struggles in Europe. Introductory speeches were delivered by Trevor Evans (EuroMemo Group, Germany), Johannes Jäger (University of Applied Sciences, Vienna), Xavier Dupret (GRESEA, Belgium), Peter Wahl (WEED, Germany), Nikos Chountis (GUE/NGL, Greece), Henri Ster­dyniak (Economistes Atterrés, France) and Jacques Rigaudiat (Fondation Copernic, France).
The major line of an alternative policy of the Left which breaks with the oligarchic and increasingly authoritarian methods employed by the elites of the EU bureaucracies and of the member states is taking an ever clearer shape. It comprises: de-privatising the creation of money; holding the financial markets in a pincher movement by very restrictive regulations on the one hand and the renewal of the real economy and decent wages on the other; de-privatising the banking sector; reducing the powers of the major shareholders over the economy; reforming taxation according to criteria of social justice and in accordance with the needs of societies; developing economic democracy.
The analysis of the nature of the current public debt and the best ways of coping with it continue to be subject to debate, as is the question what the most suitable concept could be of a banking sector that is at the service of the real economy and of society. While the context of the crisis, the aggressiveness of the markets and the contradictions within Europe require intensified cooperation at the level of European institutions, solutions must be conceived on the basis of the interests of peoples, both as regards contents and methods. What is needed is political determination as opposed to austerity and authoritarian governance.
Neither the situation of the EU nor the decisions of the summit, held at the same time as our workshop, leave any room for optimism as to the capacity of its leaders to conceive of any positive way-out. A chaotic scenario can in no way be excluded. Regarding strategies of transformation, it seems necessary to analyse better the developments taking place regarding the exercise of economic and political powers in Europe with a focus on the balance of power between the new “oligarchy” and the great majority of the populations whose living conditions are being increasingly devastated. Following these avenues of research is necessary for a better understanding as to how the divisions that undermine societies and generate a sense of powerlessness can be overcome and the bases on which new alliances at both national and European levels can be created.
It is a striking fact that the multitude of struggles, resistances and protests and the creation of alternative platforms and political initiatives still, at the moment fail to result in a converging social and political momentum sufficiently strong to alter the balance of forces and change the course of events. Perfecting the analyses and proposals, encouraging processes that could articulate resistances and alternatives, were identified as the challenges by those taking part in the workshop, who will not fail to make new appointments for working together. In this perspective, transform! europe will take the initiative of setting up a network of academics and research workers whose contributions could fuel these processes.
In the evening a public event was organised with representatives of the Belgian Trade Unions (CSC, FTGB), the Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt and transform! europe on the subject of the debt in Europe.