The European Left to become a truly European political party

Speech by Yiannis Bournous, Delegate of SYRIZA, MP in the Hellenic Parliament, at the 6th Congress of the Party of the European Left

Dear comrades,

I heard something during this congress’s debate that I tend to disagree with: The European Left is not a “baby party” anymore. She is 15 years old today. She is a teenager. And as all teenagers, she might still need her parents for some advise in difficult moments, but -most of all- she needs to get out of her small, childhood room and take her own decisions, make her own, new mistakes, take her own initiatives.

The European Left must breathe fresh air and not get suffocated by the same pathologies of the past. If we fail to realize that in the European elections the Left became the smallest group in the European Parliament and If we fail to realize that in many national elections the Left is getting marginalized or remains incapable of influencing the political agenda, then we will quickly become irrelevant in European politics.

In a period when the world is regressing, where Trump-style Right wing is winning elections and Brexit signals a historical, conservative and nationalist regression for Europe, we need to analyze why the truly radical program of the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn suffered a historical defeat; why they were unable to respond to the current social polarization in the UK.

The European Left will either decide to make a courageous and sincere political and organizational opening and finally become – after 15 years of existence – a truly European political party, or it will enter a phase of regression. Because the European Left is still – 15 years after –  facing the same identity problem with the EU: It is rather a hybrid umbrella of gathering ethnocentric agendas, instead of gradually moving into a difficult but necessary process of political unification. We are still in the phase of having disagreements as national political parties. 15 years after our foundation, I would dare to say that today we should have been able to form our political disagreements through European tendencies inside a European party and not through antagonisms among national parties. This is not an easy process, it needs time, but most of all it needs political determination to begin with.

I don’t want to be just pessimist concerning the current state of affairs in Europe and the world. We have examples that give us hope for the next steps:

Despite the defeat of the Labour party that I already mentioned, what Corbyn has achieved is a legacy for the discussion we are having for the unity of progressive forces. Because we have the No1 example of the radicalization of one of the most historical social-democratic parties and we should examine that, analyze that and try to work on that.

We also have the example of Spain – the country that is hosting us – and we should congratulate our comrades of Unidas Podemos for their courageous effort and mainly for their decision to dynamically influence the agenda by achieving a governmental pact.

We should congratulate our comrades in Finland for having a government of this image: Five women leading a 5-party democratic and progressive governmental coalition.

We should study the successes of the example of Portugal; and we should say that in Greece, even in a time of defeat, we have a base of 32% and we are now opening more, in order to regain power.

We do have positive examples to build on and work on and discuss on, in order to move to the future with a better fate.