transform! yearbook 2019

This volume, the fifth in the series of yearbooks published by transform! europe, is appearing in the year of the European Parliament elections. Few people in Europe have heard of the Manifesto of Ventotene, and most who were aware of the summit that Hollande, Merkel, and Renzi held on the island of Ventotene in the summer of 2016 in honour of the Manifesto do not know that it was written by anti-fascists imprisoned on the island, notably by Altiero Spinelli, a member of the Italian Communist Party. And fewer still realise that Spinelli and his Federalists protested at the 1957 founding event of the European Economic Community, calling it a ‘monster’ having nothing to do with their ideas. Gabi Zimmer, chair of the GUE/NGL group of the European Parliament, introduces the project calling for the left in Europe to critically reappropriate the Manifesto, and Luciana Castellina argues that a vision of European unity compatible with Spinelli’s original idea is still worth fighting for. At the same time, she proposes a reconfiguration of  the notion of European citizenship as a ‘multiple citizenship’ adequate to the realities of migration, much in the spirit of Otto Bauer’s ‘personality principle’.Unfortunately, at the time of this volume’s release it is nearly certain that the extreme, nationalist, and racist right will substantially increase its presence in the new European Parliament, mainly at the expense of social democratic parties, in line with what has already happened in a number of EU Member States. Gavin Rae, in his article on political developments in Poland and Hungary, two countries governed by coalitions of the extreme and populist right, concludes that the only conceivable barrier to the forces of darkness in Central and Eastern European countries is the radical left, something which can be said of Europe as a whole. However, the necessary but insufficient condition for the efficacy of the transformative left is its self- reinvention, for which it needs to look back to its past and recent history, reestablishing the hegemony of class discourse, and improving its theoretical and ideological tools. The transform!2019 yearbook offers contributions to this process.Both Frigga Haug and Eva Brenner consider the kind of poetic catharsis needed to pierce through the present reality, to see it and situate oneself in it in order to emerge from passive common-sense acceptance of that reality and its illusory assumptions – in order to become active subjects of history, of change and self-change.

Haug argues that for women to become a transformative force – that   is, agents changing the social totality – they must consciously master the contradiction of entering the realm of wage labour, leaving behind precisely the realm ‘outside’ it that gave them the moral status of being beyond and above the competitive aggression of capitalist society, which is what bestowed on them the quality of being a transformative force in the first place. This will require new mixes of apparently irreconcilable emotions, selflessness and deep desire for emancipation, aggression and softness, a contradiction addressed by Brecht.

Whether or not in traditional female roles, women produce and reproduce their lives, the society, and the world, and thus their own oppression, an insight which is incompatible with the ‘victim-perpetrator’ thesis.

In a similar aim, in this case with a view to activate theatre audiences, the Viennese theatre director and theorist, Eva Brenner, chronicles the process of reviving and dramatising Thus Died a Party, Jura Soyfer’s1 novel fragment about the collapse of the Austrian Social Democratic Party. Brenner and her experimental-political theatre group Fleischerei have been developing this work since 2006, bringing it to a great number of sites, above all district town halls, involving large numbers of local residents, with the notable participation of Vienna’s immigrant population, in a context of appropriating twentieth- century cultural and political traditions – especially the achievements of Red Vienna and the culture of early political avant-garde artists who were largely ostracised by postmodernism. Through the techniques of ‘transformance’, the performances aim, in a way similar to Brecht’s alienation effect, especially in his teaching plays, to draw the audience out of passivity and make them active, thinking subjects of history.

The Hungarian historian Tamás Krausz develops Lukács’s concept of a third way beyond Stalinism and capitalist restoration, working with Lukács’s and Mészáros’s theory of the possibility of development alternative to the status quo – of a tertium datur. He explores the reasons for the rise of Stalinism and tracks the history of proposals in the ex-socialist countries of Eastern Europe to socialise state property – that is, to pose the question of real ownership – and reconstitute the communist movement’s original unity of democracy and the economy, thus reconnecting radical democratic demands with the working class. In so doing he sketches the attempts at reviving social

self-organisation in Hungary and Czechoslovakia as well as the development of a Marxist theory of social formations alternative to mechanistic Stalinist theory in various centres within the eastern bloc countries.

On the basis of the historic discussions by Luxemburg, Lenin, Bauer, and Renner of nation-states, nationalism, autonomy, and federations Walter Baier provides a framework for understanding false and unnecessary contradictions between the restoration (or construction) of democracy on the national level and the European level today. Analogously to Lukács’s tertium datur, Austro-Marxism’s development of the principle of ‘national- cultural autonomy’ and the ‘personality principle’ offers an alternative to the polarity of ethnic secession, on the one hand, and denial of the ongoing importance of nationalities and nation-states, on the other.

Klaus Busch chronicles the frustration of various attempts, from Barroso to Macron, to establish a substantial EU budget, pointing out the current dim prospects of this due to widespread suspicion of the EU among Europe’s populations and the influence right-wing populism now has over many European governments. On the other hand, even if there were no epidemic of right-wing populism, it is unrealistic, as Baier indicates, to expect Europe’s populations to favour expanding the EU’s powers before it is transformed from being a largely technocratic apparatus with very limited democracy into a functioning democracy.

Clearly, social transformation will require modernised, inclusive forms of class struggle and trade-unionism. This need – along with recent examples in which such new approaches have been successfully implemented – is laid out by Bernd Riexinger and Jane McAlevey.

Bernd Riexinger, co-chair of Germany’s Die LINKE party, presents his concept of ‘connective class politics’ – based on an inclusive class-wide approach opposed to a guild conception. The concept indicates a politics of worksite-wide cross-group solidarity in which core staff and subcontracted workers call for everyone to be on permanent staff, in which industrial workers support the struggles of educational workers or hospital employees, workers prevent the deportation of their work colleagues or neighbours who are immigrants and refugees, and in which organisations of the unemployed work with trade unions. Class, Riexinger insists, matters. Workers need   to understand that the owning class wields enormous class power over the state, the media, etc. Knowing whose power they really have to deal with helps workers see that their opponents are  not  immigrants. Moreover, this kind of solidarity has already produced successes. It is a solidarity that also applies across national borders – the opponent is the firm paying low wages, not the co-worker from another country. Riexinger proposes as a

key demand that can galvanise this kind of politics the struggle for a new Standard Employment Model, one that overcomes the gender pay gap and discrimination against immigrants, that more highly values work in the care professions – and that utilises the greatly increased productivity of labour for a better life. Key concrete demands would be a short fulltime of 30 hours a week, with no blurring of worktime – and the extension of democracy into the factory and office. The understanding is that this can only be achieved by a combination of workplace and non-workplace struggles, that is, by political pressure, and it requires the legalisation of political strikes.

Jane McAlevey points out that the Occupy and Indignados protests or anti-austerity protests in the US and across Europe in 2011 did not succeed in breaking austerity. But something positive has been learned from past efforts, as the participants in this volume’s roundtable on the legacy of   the Social Forum movements attest. McAlevey makes the case that ‘super majority strikes’ – exactly in Riexinger’s sense of connective class politics – that is, strikes that organise all workers in a workplace, for instance teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers in schools, along with the residential communities that workplace serves – rebuild working-class power in a way that is demonstrably more sustainable than the results of even very large protests . This does not mean that major popular protest waves cannot wrest concessions, as recently witnessed by the French gilets jaunes. Still, it can be argued, union organisation tied to worksites including permanent staff can preserve accumulated militancy for longer periods. The flagship example of a galvanising super-majority strike, even from a European perspective, is the West Virginia educational workers’ strike, and for this reason we have decided to publish McAlevey’s extensive and dramatic narrative of this process of self-learning. In recent years there has been an accumulation of organising successes in sectors where primarily women do work in areas that involve ‘care’, for instance education and nursing, for these sectors have a high potential for connecting to communities outside the workplace.

In this context, Rossana Rossanda’s reflections on Italy’s Hot Autumn

of 1969 – and the accompanying document of a discussion that year among Fiat workers – provide a window onto what can be seen as the most spectacular attempt in a core capitalist country after the Second World War to politicise workers and transcend the limited corporatist character of much of the labour movement. From the vantage point of the West Virginia education workers’ strike, the innovations in Turin in 1969 – among them the breaking down of the barriers between blue- and white-collar workers as well as the neighbourhood councils, with their housing and healthcare activism – have taken on even more relevance for today’s labour movement.

The organising of precarious workers in the higher-education sector is  a special problem. While they are wage workers, they are also compelled to meritocratically and competitively advance their careers. Peter Ullrich deals with the problem of the academic precariat in Germany, the subjective and objective barriers to organising but also the attempts made between nationwide unions and precarious teaching staff to connect to each other. As consciousness spreads of the plight of teaching staff in institutions of higher learning the same connections are being made across Europe and the US.

Given the level of labour and social mobilisations, a party connected to them can, in certain circumstances and under certain conditions, also advance these struggles when participating in government. How to participate, and when and how not to, is considered by Adriano Campos and Alda Sousa, as they draw lessons from the experience of Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal, which has helped the movements to grow rather than muffling them. Importantly, the mobilisation of Portuguese teachers has been a part of this success. Bloco’s experience shows that a realistic assessment of the balance of forces can make it possible to push through some government policies benefitting working people.

Social transformation can today no longer be conceived outside the context of the enormous movement, wide variety of projects, considerable body of theory, and, most dramatically at the local level (the ‘new municipalism’), impressive impact of the new appreciation of the commons, which is an ongoing interest of our yearbook.

Alexandros Kioupkiolis and Theodora Kotsaka propose that the commons be the core of a radical left strategy, but beyond this their analyses and proposals differ. Kioupkiolis believes that a commons politics, especially at municipal level, based on bottom up participation, offers a way to overcome what he sees as ‘the political frailty, the vertical hierarchies, the personalism, and the impoverished imagination of leftist populist parties in Europe’. He stresses participatory democracy and collective governance as a collective common and proposes various ‘institutional devices such as lot, rotation, limited tenure, increased accountability, and the casual alternation of participants in collective assemblies’ in order to eliminate ‘the divide between rulers and ruled, experts and the lay people’. Viewing cities as potential ‘incubators of anti-hegemonic change’, he refers to the promising examples of several initiatives mainly in Spanish municipalities, chiefly in Barcelona.

Kotsaka also looks to the municipal level in her hopes for Western societies’ transition towards the commons, citing citizens’ participation experiences in various European cities (Ghent, Bologna, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Naples, Lille, Madrid, and Bristol) and in Montreal, Canada. However, she stresses

the importance of the state as a ‘regulator in productive transformation towards commons’ and promotes the idea of ‘Public Commons Partnerships’ instead of the overused Public Private Partnerships, which have been applied even to public goods like water or health, causing unconscionable damage to societies. To enforce commons-based policies she advocates achieving hegemony in part through political alliances like that of the Progressive Caucus in the European Parliament, which consists of MEPs from left, green, and social democratic parties.

2018 and 2019 have marked the anniversaries of very significant historical events – 1968 and 1969 throughout the world, the 1999 ‘Battle of Seattle’ symbolically signalling the beginning of the ‘anti-globalisation’ movement, and two events of great importance for the Greek left, the origins of the Greek Communist Party in 1918 and its internal split in 1968. Krausz, Castellina, and Jiří Málek address the ambivalent heritage of 1968 and counter the many myths that have grown around it. In Krausz’s view, the large Italian and French communist parties could not react to the events of 1968 because their theory was disconnected from practice and they had no real alternative for a non-hierarchical anti-capitalist economic programme beyond neo-Keynesianism; similarly, in the East, neither the new left nor the old communist parties had an economic programme that could have provided a real alternative to capitalism. In his view, 1968 collapsed in the West because the students’ demands were not conceptually connected to an alternative economic system.

As Castellina points out, neoliberalism could absorb many of the students’ cultural demands. Nevertheless, contrary to the current mainstream conception of the student rebellion, its demands were understood by its protagonists, especially in France and Italy, but also in Germany and the US, as expansions of the critique of capitalism. The unprecedented, though very partial, prosperity created by the post-war boom and social contract, with much greater possibilities for higher education, produced a large stratum of proletarianised intellectuals, who contemplated an unalienated, fulfilled life, that is, the fundamental aspects of human emancipation such as Marx and Marcuse imagined, which material development made possible but which was still blocked by capitalist social relations. But, Castellina explains, it was difficult for the student rebels in the West to feel much enthusiasm for their counterparts in Prague, partly because they were under the spell of the Chinese criticism of the Soviet bloc, which they saw as pacifying Third- World anti-neocolonial rebellions, and in part because they suspected that economic liberalism was behind the Eastern European rebellions.

In his contribution, Jiří Málek contends that the Prague Spring,

an alternative non-capitalist project that ended with the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact troops in August 1968, was part of a process underway in his country already by the early 1960s. Although in fact some of the reform ideas developed by Eastern European economists at this time did ultimately go in the direction of increased marketisation, ‘anti- communist or markedly anti-socialist concepts were marginal and lacked any major resonance in society’; what the people wanted was ‘socialism with a human face’. As in Western Europe, in Czechoslovakia the unprecedented prosperity and availability of higher education raised the horizon of demands to include a vision of happiness similar to that being expressed in the West; the demand was essentially liberation from Brezhnevite state socialism and a revival of socialism in the way Lukács intended.

1968 was also the year of the split in the Greek Communist Party (KKE). In his article on the history of the party, the centenary of whose founding also occurs in 2018, Tasos Trikkas finds similarities between the invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and the stance of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) during the split in the Greek communist movement in February of the same year. The CPSU stood against one side of the split: the renewal communists who founded the KKE-Interior, a short lived Eurocommunist party, which, by way of various political formations deriving from it, is considered one of Syriza’s predecessors. The position the CPSU took against a communist party having ‘socialism with democracy and freedom’ as its vision – one of the many ‘friendly interventions’ of the CPSU and its allies in the internal affairs of the KKE – was made within the context of Brezhnev’s policy of ‘limited sovereignty’ that led to the Prague invasion.

In a roundtable moderated by Haris Golems, veterans of the World and European Social Forums – Yiannis Almpanis, Mátyás Benyik, Raffaella Bolini, Judith Dellheim, and Chistophe Ventura – agreed that the anti- globalisation movement launched in 1999 with the ‘Battle of Seattle’ was one of the most important turns in the radical social left’s 21st-century history. Yannis Almpanis in part bears out McAlevey’s point about protest movements, in that ‘everything we fought against has been imposed even more aggressively because of the crisis’; it ‘was born as a cry’ but ‘perished without a word’ because it could not convey a political perspective. As a result people are now facing a choice between globalised financial power and nationalist populism. However, all participants in the roundtable agree that the process provided an invaluable experience in learning to cooperate and strike a compromise between those who thought of the Forums as merely an ‘open space’ and those who saw them as decision-making bodies

that could also plan action, despite differences; as a result, lasting political ties were created, which in some cases, notably in Greece and Germany, led to the founding of radical left parties with real weight in national politics. Moreover, as Christophe Ventura emphasises, the experience played a crucial role in refreshing the critique of neoliberalism, articulating social and environmental issues with democracy, as well as leading to Occupy, the Arab Spring, Podemos, etc., although the WSF and the ESF did not become political subjects that could challenge capitalism globally and in Europe. Connecting past anti-globalisation experience with the present, Ventura believes that what is needed today is ‘a mass democratic movement at the national level’, at the same time trying to ‘build international connections and permanent spaces and tools, [since] nothing progressive can happen in Europe without a rupture in one or more countries.’

From its very beginnings, capitalist society has always presented emancipatory movements of labour with the dilemma of a two-tiered working class divided between a core and a relatively precarious under- stratum. In colonial settler states the line of division could be articulated along ethnic lines, which also is generally the case in contemporary Europe and North America, where one of the lines has run between a comparatively ‘indigenous’ group and more recent arrivals, that is, ‘immigrants’. At the core of the left’s identity is domestic and internationalist solidarity among the oppressed and the goal of unity of action. In the era of neoliberal globalisation, the hyper-marketisation of all areas of life, the whittling away of the welfare state, the dismantling of protections for labour, the ‘empire of chaos’ to which the Third World has been subjected, and the resulting mass migratory waves – all this has occurred contemporaneously with the transformation of the mass social democratic parties of Europe’s labour movements to become vehicles of the neoliberal transformation. Thus an increasingly insecure and fearful European working class has been without the benefit of mass internationalist parties of labour. The vacuum has, in part, been filled by the radical, chauvinist right. The problem has in addition been complicated in Europe because of the ‘post-democratic’ ‘technical’ financial governance of the EU, which enforces neoliberal policy under the banner of international values opposed to nationalism, whose effects produce increasing inequality that feeds nationalist impulses. The radical left has reacted to this in a variety of ways, certainly in the overwhelming majority of cases with strong solidarity for the immigrants, though with varying degrees of strategic acumen and connection to a social base. In extreme cases, this results in a moralistic position without strategic mediation and without connection to a base beyond a left milieu; the other extreme is a narrow orientation to

one’s own national welfare state. But these extremes are minoritarian, and the great majority of the radical left does not fall into them. In addition, the impact of immigration also has to be considered in terms of the specifics of Eastern and Western Europe; but however that may be, these specifics cannot be an excuse for the left not to fight the right, adopting its discourse and politics against immigrants and refugees.

In our series of country reports Ľuboš Blaha, a leading figure in Slovakia’s SMER party, criticises Western ‘neoliberal progressives’ for their ‘globalism’ and focus on post-material issues, which he believes can only alienate the still existing left electorate in his country. Gavin Rae, for his part, writing from Poland and analysing the right-wing developments in Poland and Hungary, counters the standard liberal argument that a putatively normative liberal democracy there is being threatened by authoritarianism from the left and right; the cause cannot be the decline of a liberal centre that hardly ever existed but is rather the decline of the left. Rather than seeing an immanent nationalism and anti-immigrant racism in these countries’ working populations – as a sensibility that might be thought to require the muting of anti-racist internationalism in trying to reach them – Rae demonstrates that the policies of the right-wing governments have created and fomented a great deal of the current chauvinism and that only a revitalised internationalist left can challenge it.

Hans-Jürgen Urban, Executive Member of the Steering Committee of the German metal-workers’ union, IG Metall, attempts to distil the essence of the debate inside Die LINKE and within Europe’s radical ‘mosaic left’ and social movements, between proponents of ‘open borders’ for immigrants and those whose primary concern is the protection of the indigenous European working classes and their welfare states. In searching for common ground between the two positions, he sketches what an inclusive and internationalist kind of class politics might be, much in the spirit of Bernd Riexinger’s connective class politics.

Social Democracy in Europe and the world has paid a high price for its adherence to neoliberalism. It is an irony of history that precisely the leading Anglo-Saxon countries, which were long considered the most backward in terms of large system-critical parties of the working classes, have recently presented the most hopeful developments on the horizon. With the return of the social question in the US and Bernie Sanders’s immense popularity as an open socialist, there is a progressive and democratic socialist left with electoral strength within the Democratic Party that is exerting serious pressure on the leadership. And in Britain, Europe’s largest party, the Labour Party, is now led by Jeremy Corbyn who comes from the Bennite Labour

Left and is supported by a stunningly rejuvenated and radical base. It has therefore become a social democratic party that has sharply distanced itself from neoliberalism. This has created, for the first time, real possibilities for the continent’s radical-left parliamentary and extra-parliamentary forces to talk with a large radical-left parliamentary partner organisation in Britain, which now has a new interest in working out alternatives to the current neoliberal makeup of Europe together with other left forces on the continent, a development strongly supported by transform!europe. Jon Trickett, Labour MP from West Yorkshire, is closely involved in this new networking. He speaks with Stelios Foteinopoulos of the Labour Party’s previous policies that led to major losses of its working-class electoral base and discusses current thinking in the party about how to activate its mass base and incorporate it in decision-making processes, how to ‘turn it outwards’ to build links to the communities, and how to operate a major structural, cultural change in the party, such that it can defend itself from the tremendous counterattack the elites are sure to mount against Labour in the event of its electoral victory. Its programme and its benefits to the working population must be discussed and understood by millions of people if they are to understand and vote for these radical transformative changes and rally to the party when it is attacked. Heinz Bierbaum provides an overview of the state of Europe’s radical left, particularly with a view to this year’s European Parliament elections, in which it will largely present itself in the form of three, most probably competing, Europe-wide electoral alliances. Although there are vast areas of programmatic agreement between the three main Europe-wide electoral contestants of the radical left, the Party of the European Left (EL), European Spring, and Maintenant le Peuple, there is unfortunately friction between them. Moreover, trade unions are not active at the European level, and the European Trade Union Confederation has next to no organisational impact. Still, the sum of the radical left’s parts is not unimpressive, and the electorate in general has by no means penalised it until now in the way it has Europe’s

social democrats, with the exception of course of Britain’s Labour Party.

Another new source of hope in Europe is the Christian-Marxist  dialogue proposed by Pope Francis to Walter Baier, the coordinator of transform!europe, and Alexis Tsipras five years ago at a meeting in the Vatican, and intended to bring together all who would resist capitalism’s dehumanising processes and become politicised subjects of history. This has led to the ongoing DIALOP project, whose summer university held   its first session at Hermoupolis, the capital of the Greek island of Syros. The common ground arrived at has been formulated in the Manifesto of Hermoupolis, which we are publishing here along with contributions by

Michael Löwy, who discusses the origins of and rationale of the project, and Nikos Xydakis, who points to the parallels between Marxist and Christian orientations towards a better world and between left dissidents and historic Christian heretics.

When all is said and done, we can, despite all problems and setbacks, only concur – looking at the increasing social misery caused by the present social order and the existing resistance mounted under the most adverse conditions – with Czech Marxist philosopher Josef Heller’s words cited by Jiří Málek, that ‘even if it is temporarily in abeyance, the project of socialism and communism is neither criminal nor definitively finished; it still has huge potential for development’.

Finally, Joachim Bischoff, in his ongoing annual economic surveys for our yearbook, analyses the economic slowdown and return of the economic and financial crisis.

The transform! europe network was established in 2001 during the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre by a small group of intellectuals from six different European countries, representing left research institutions or journals, who wanted to coordinate their research and educational work. Today transform! consists of 34 member organisations and  observers from 22 countries.

The network is coordinated by a board of nine members, and its office is located in Vienna. transform! maintains a multilingual website and publishes a continuously growing number of reports, analyses, and discussion papers on issues related to the process of European integration.

We would like to thank all those who have collaborated in producing this volume: our authors, the members of our editorial board, our translators, our coordinators for the various language editions, Luciana Castellina and Eva Himmelstoss for their extensive facilitation in several aspects of this issue, and finally our publishers, especially The Merlin Press for the English edition.

Walter Baier, Eric Canepa, and Haris Golemis




1 Soyfer, the most notable literary representative of Red Vienna, remains  largely  unknown outside Austria but has in the last twenty years become firmly established as the leading literary figure of the period. He was born in 1912 in Kharkov, Russian Empire, and died in 1939 in Buchenwald concentration camp. His remains were sent to the United States where he is buried at the Hebrew Free Burial Association’s Mount Richmond Cemetery, New York. His Dachau Song, with music by Herbert Zipper, is internationally famous.

Becoming Subjects of History – Art, Theory, and Politics

  • Contradictions in Marxist Feminism(1)
  • By Frigga Haug
  • My title does not indicate an intention to find errors in Marxist Feminism but rather to understand contradictions as making change possible. The approach is a dialectical one that does not involve…

Challenges for Left Strategy

Labour, Precarity, and Organisation

The Left and the Question of Europe


  • Remembering 1968
  • By Luciana Castellina
  • When people remember ’68 it always seems that they are not celebrating the same event. Memory is dominated either by nostalgia or repression, both having a distorting effect. But this is not always…

Country Reports

The Marxist-Christian Dialogue

  • The Manifesto of Hermoupolis
  • ‘Politics is one of the highest forms of charity, of love’, Pope Francis We the participants of the Christian-Marxist DIALOP Summer School, considering the cultural complexity of Europe and its…

  • Why a Marxist-Christian Dialogue?
  • By Michael Löwy
  • During the last few years transform!europe has been participating in a process of dialogue with Christians, more precisely, Catholics. The idea for this dialogue originated in a meeting in 2013…

Economic Update