The Party of the European Left (EL) celebrated its 10th birthday last 9 May in Rome, the city where the project emerged from the imperative need to join forces in order to build a big Left at European level, beyond the Eurozone. The aim was to enhance the voice and to unify the power and the strategy of those who were fighting, from different countries, against the same neoliberalism.
The principle, the same as it is today: unity makes strength. Or as Barbara Spinelli said that evening, in an election rally, in the Roman square Campo de Fiori: “We speak different languages but we have the same dream and the same strategy”.
In 2004 there were only half a dozen parties which took the initiative to meet to discuss and develop a project of work. It was not easy. Neither was easy to advance from the concept of relationships between different parties to the creation of a party of parties, as today reminds the Greek Stelios Papas, one of the progenitors of the idea. Ten years after that foundational Congress organized on 9 May 2004, the EL is already composed by 33 parties (26 members and 7 observers) with Syriza, Izquierda Unida, Front de Gauche, Die Linke and the Bloco de Esquerda Portuguese among them.
The EL origins, the work done and the challenges of the moment and of the future was debated in a round table, followed by a press conference, which assembled some of the founders along with those who took the relief and run the EL nowadays. Among all recalled the beginning, but also the process of development and consolidation of the party and the economic, political and social changes of this decade.
The Italian party of EL, Rifondazione Comunista, hosted the commemoration of the tenth anniversary. Its General Secretary, Paolo Ferrero, analysed the crossroads where Europe is currently “in which international politics become national politics”. He spoke of the confrontation of classes and also about the dichotomy that lives Europe between Europeism and the nationalistic right. Regarding the foundation of the EL, he said: “We did a necessary thing that today allows us the strengthening of the left and the power to work at European level”. That rise of the left, he added, “will give us force to be decisive in making decisions and important to change the balance of forces and build a different dialectic” in which, among other things “the priority of the creation of employment will centralise the speech moving away the discourse on the payment of the debt”.
Ferrero also profited the opportunity to alert to the danger of the transatlantic agreement TTIP, with the “domination of the market as we have never seen (…) an agreement that will work as the only law on top of Courts and governments”. He defined it as “the economic expression of the political-military alliance of NATO”. The Italian leader argued that the crisis in Ukraine, beyond the economic reasons, it is a matter of geostrategy struggle with the purpose “to build a wall to separate Europe from Russia”.
Rifondazione was also represented at the round table – and in the press conference – by Fabio Amato, candidate of L’Altra Europe with Tsipras for the European elections, and member of the Executive of the EL. Amato, who was in charge of presenting the event, stood up for the refoundation of Europe as the only solution and introduced economic proposals to achieve it, such as the request for an International Convention to discuss the problem of debt, or a ‘New Deal’ to overcome the crisis.
But it was Pierre Laurent, President of EL, who delved into the alternative proposals of the European Left, “to turn around to the brutal and violent crisis launched in the whole Europe, which has led to the destruction of the productive bases in many countries and to the precariousness and the impoverishment of the peoples”. These measures include the creation of a European Fund for social and ecological development that would be used to finance public services and the creation of employment; also the change of the role of the European Central Bank, so that, among other things, it could buy a part of the debt and make loans directly to the States.
The only problem with this Europe “which has become authoritarian” is not only the economic one but the weakness of democracy and the growing danger of war, “with a Europe that plays a very worrying role in the conflict in Ukraine”. In this situation Laurent emphasised the fundamental role of the peace in the project of the European Left, as well as the need “to combat both the liberal consensus and the rise of the populism, which has led to situations as the one in Hungary where the Ministry of culture in run by the far right under the indifference of Europe”.
The president of the EL, re-elected in the last Congress in December, argued that the work of unification of the European Left and the presentation of Alexis Tsipras as candidate for the presidency of the European Commission has been only possible thanks to these 10 years of work. “We are in a moment of maturation and have many proposals and ambitions ahead. One of them, to build a strong group of lefts in the European Parliament, which could become the 3rd or 4th force, a decisive force”.
In these ten years, as expressed the vice-president of the EL, Maite Mola, “the Party of the European Left has gone from being a small thing to an important thing, from an interesting thing to an essential one”. And on the process it has been accumulating forces, not only in the sum of parties from North, South, Centre, East and West of Europe, but opening doors with the social and trade union movement. “Three years ago no one would have imagined that unions sit with us to talk about Europe”.
Another important leg of this coalition of antineoliberal forces has been the work undertaken with the social movements. In fact, the EL has an electoral program to the elections of 25 May which is the result of the work done by the programmatic platform of the EL and the social movements. Toni Barbara, who coordinated the platform, explained the 6 axs on which stands the program. Barbara put the emphasis not only on the result of the job with the social movements but in the process of consensus: “Today we have the confidence of the movements and the transformative and antineoliberal Left”. He concluded by saying that “we are a hope that is tangible, as is Tsipras, the hope for the people who are suffering this criminal austerity”.
Maite Mola also spoke of the alliances established with friend forces in other continents such as the excellent relationship forged between the EL and the Forum of São Paulo, which brings together a wide variety of left-wing forces and has the Party of the European Left as its reference in Europe.
In fact, Walter Pomar, who served as Executive Secretary of the Forum of São Paulo since 2005 until last year, was one of the guests to participate in the commemoration of the 10th anniversary. Pomar, which also is responsible for international politics in the Party of the Work of Brazil, described the relationship with the EL of “very fruitful and constructive” both for the joint work on important issues, such as migration, as for the European Left support to the processes of change in Latin America. But above all, he said “by sharing the common battle against neoliberalism”.
At this point he underlined the very different relationship the Forum of São Paulo maintains with the European social democracy party “that assumed the principles of the ruling classes which collide with the interests of Latin America”.
The Brazilian leader, who has been the strongest voice of the Sao Paolo Forum for 8 years, expressed its desire to strengthening of the EL in the upcoming elections. He spoke of the danger of the counter-offensive of the right in Latin America and the counterweight that the old continent is able to be exercise: “If the European Left is stronger, we will be more protected”.
If Walter Pomar provided the successful experience that the change of the system is possible, the Greek Stelios Papas, shared the confidence that an earthquake anti-neoliberal, with its epicentre in Greece, could soon shake Europe, and asked the EL parties to be ready for that moment, because Syriza will need them. Papas, who was one of the parents of the project of the EL, is responsible for Syriza for Europe. In his analysis of the situation said that we are not in an economic crisis but in a strategic one; that is the Europe of Merkel that is in crisis. For him, the only possible option is the victory, “that will be the victory for all the people of Europe”.
Although Fausto Bertinotti, the first president of the EL, was unable to participate in the anniversary, he sent a letter in which remembered the creation of the European Left in a moment of great impetus of the alterglobalization movement and an anti-capitalist revolution, which finally failed to change things. He remembered what Maastricht means and blamed the socialistic governments of having joined with the right for the construction of this Europe “in which class struggle the ruling class is wining”.
The journey of the EL 10th anniversary concluded in the evening in an election rally in the square Campo de Fiori, a meeting of support for the candidacy of the communist comrades of Rifondazione Comunista and the Italian Left for the European Parliament with the participation of Pierre Laurent, Maite Mola, Stelios Papas, Toni Barbara, Paolo Ferrero, Walter Pomar, and the candidates Fabio Amato and Barbara Spinelli. The rally concluded with a video of Alexis Tsipras, recorded for the occasion.