To build a pan-european Forum which can unite the whole continent’s communists and…

1st Congress of the European Left Party (Athens, 29-30 October 2005)

To build a pan-european Forum which can unite the whole continent’s communists and anti-capitalist left

A document by “Essere comunisti”(To be communists),
a political wing of the “Partito della Rifondazione Comunista” (Italy)

The first Congress of the European Left Party (EL) will be held in Athens from 29 to30 October 2005, a year and a half after the constituent Congress was held in Rome (8-9 May 2004).
At that time we were critical of the choices made. And since we feel that, based on what has happened in the meantime, the fundamental reasons for that criticism are still valid, we wish to update and re-present them.

1) We agreed with the political position of the 5th National Congress of the PRC (2001) where the need was expressed for the “creation of a new political entity in Europe (a “party” was not mentioned – Ed.) to unite on a continental scale … the forces of the left – communist, antagonistic and alternative …in their political and organizational diversity ” and without thinking “either of an organizational merger or an ideological amalgamation”. On the other hand, the project which was actually put in place, its political profile, its program and identity, not only did not unite, but divided those forces; in scope, they were not continental, that is pan-European (including all the major areas of the continent, from Portugal to the Urals, from Scandinavia to the Balkans), but basically just involved the countries of the European Union.

2) Thus, divisions were created among the main European communist parties and parties of the alternative left, undermining reciprocal trust; and relations have certainly not been repaired during this last year. If anything, the differences have tended to crystallize.
For different reasons, criticism at the way the EL was formed has been levelled by the Portuguese Communist Party, the Greek KKE, Cyprus’s Akel, practically all the communist parties in Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet regions of Europe, the ‘Nordic Green Left’ parties, and others. Today, they reiterate their criticisms. We observe that the greater part of the political forces on the left wing of the Socialist International are either outside the EL or are highly critical of it.

3) This politically and ideologically selective approach has produced and crystallized a process which is the opposite of the unitary and unifying one which we saw in Europe, and particularly in the EU countries, after the great crisis of 1989 and the collapse of the socialist camp in Europe. After the ‘89 upheaval, a laborious process to put the pieces together again finally resulted in 1994 in the formation of the GUE, or United European Left group in the European parliament. It should be food for thought that of the 41 MEPs who today make up the GUE, only 17 belong to parties which are full members of the EL (and here we are speaking only of parties in the EU Member States, which of course is not all of Europe).
In fact, of over 40 communist and alternative left parties which are active in the EU countries (there are about 60 if we consider the whole of Europe), only 16 have fully joined the EL. All the others, to a greater or lesser degree, have distanced themselves from it, choosing to participate as observers (9 parties) or remaining outside it. Nor, over the last 18 months, have there been moves to bring the parties back together.

(4) While the European social-democratic and conservative parties work together across the whole continent, including Russia, the leaders of the main EL parties (most of them) act as if the Berlin Wall were still standing, ignoring the other part of Europe and excluding from the process of aggregation of the European left – based on ideological vetoes and preclusions – some of the continent’s major communist and anti-capitalist left parties.
In the Council of Europe (an organ embracing delegations of the national Parliaments of all European countries, not only those of the EU) there is a parliamentary group which also calls itself GUE and which includes not only representatives of parties belonging to the GUE in the European Parliament, but also communists and leftists from non-EU countries (such as Norway, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova). A sort of pan-European GUE that is never mentioned. It would be sufficient to have this second GUE work together with the European Parliament GUE (both are based in Strasbourg) and a political and institutional headquarters would already exist in which to work on a pan-European plan, without precluding anyone.

5) It is hard to deny that, whatever the good intentions, the EL’s activities in the last year and a half have hardly made a ripple on the surface of political events at a European level or even of political life at a national level in the individual countries, a fact which is freely admitted even by many of the founding parties themselves.
The EL is supposed to have had a leading role in the campaign for a NO-vote on the European Constitution in the referendums in France and the Netherlands: but in the Netherlands the Socialist Party (which was the heart and soul of the leftist NO movement in that country) does not even have observer status in the EL; and in France the key players in the NO victory consider EL’s role to have been marginal.
Even in Italy, which is the country where EL has been most spoken of – at least in Liberazione – the matter has been basically overlooked in the political debate on the left and in grassroots activities. Only a few days before the Athens Congress, the militant body in our party not only is not involved in the discussions, but in most cases doesn’t even know about the event.

6) In the politics and programs underlying the Athens Congress there are certainly a number of themes on which it is possible and desirable to bring about a convergence of all the communist and progressive forces, both inside and outside the EL. It was a positive sign that support was expressed for the battle for a NO vote in the referendums on the European Constitution, even though every pan-European reference to a Europe stretching “from the Atlantic to the Urals” –that was expressed in the documents presented last year in Rome – had been omitted. Exception is rightly taken to the hypothesis of a “European army under the control of NATO – which means under the control of the USA – as a threat to the independence and autonomy of the EU” and any hypotheses of rearming Europe are contested; but there is no contestation of the idea itself of a super-national EU army, with its own rapid intervention force (already operational). On the other hand, there is a rejection of any hypothesis of a pan-European security system based on cooperation between sovereign States (a sort of European UN) including Russia. And while Russia is ignored, support is given to the “entry of Turkey into the EU”, that is to say the entry of one of the region’s main bastions of US imperialism and of NATO, which is destined to swing the balance in the EU ever further in favour of US influence on the continent. There is a demand for the withdrawal of occupying troops from Iraq, but not from Afghanistan, where troops from EU countries are operating under NATO command. And there is no reference to the grave involvement of so many EU countries in NATO’s war against ex-Yugoslavia, where occupation troops remain stationed.
These positions are incompatible and/or self-contradictory, and underline the need for unequivocal clarification, in particular on the crucial subject of military relations between Europe and the United States.

– We judge positively the “proposal to cut military spending, close US bases and dissolve NATO”. Also the choice to “oppose every form of military cooperation with NATO and to prevent the deployment of armed forces such as those in support of US interventions”; and, worldwide, “the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction”. But on all these questions, EL has done very little in terms of mobilizing and organizing (not even a working group…); while in Italy, PRC and PdCI have signed a document of intent with Prodi for a possible center-left government which confirms “maintenance of commitments resulting from international Treaties and Conventions signed of our own free will” by Italy (which naturally include NATO!).

-The overall political profile, program and identity recall those of a leftist social-democratic movement which differentiates itself both from the prevailing liberalism and pro-NATO orientation of the majority of European social-democratic parties, as well as from the declaredly anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist communist or left-wing positions. They recall a modern version of approaches similar to Willy Brandt’s social democracy in Germany (at any rate within the Bad Godesberg movement). There is the prospect of “alternatives and proposals for the necessary transformation of contemporary capitalist societies”, which is vastly different from the prospect of progressing beyond capitalism. There is the very vague prospect of “a new social contract for the twenty-first century to further the interests of all the world’s peoples, the environment, democratic values, peace, social justice, and the coexistence of peoples”. There is no mention of a strategic anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist aim reflecting socialism’s historic objective or the construction of a society representing an alternative to capitalism. Any “anti-imperial” notion is also conspicuous by its absence even though the concept had enjoyed a certain favour in the lexicon of the no global movement. The term “communist” and all references to “communists” disappear, however defined: and this is no small thing for a European movement which arose as a point of reference for the whole of the alternative left in Europe, of which communists and communist parties are a significant part. Nor is there a single word of support for the struggle of the Iraqi people against military occupation.

– The strategic project delineated seems to be that of regulated capitalism, reformed and toned down in its liberalist and militaristic tendencies, with the revival of the welfare state and a “public space” in the economy and the provision of services, allowing capitalism’s most dangerous impulses to be contained and counterbalanced, as in the traditional social-democratic model. Some might say: that’s no small thing, in the times in which we live. And it’s true. But can this be the strategic, political and identity profile of a movement that desires to keep alive, in Europe and the rest of the world, socialism’s historic aim of a “possible new world”?

7) So as not to crystallize irreparable divisions among communist and alternative left forces in Europe and in order to keep alive a unitary and unifying process, it is therefore necessary to begin discussions again from the basics with the aim of building a European coordination on a unitary and equitable basis, putting aside vetoes, prejudicial positions and exclusions of all kinds: opening up to all the continent’s communist and alternative left forces, in order to move together toward unitary solutions. It is our awareness of the importance of the European theatre and the need to involve all the movements to the left of social democracy which leads us to reiterate the need to set up a permanent, structured Forum or Coordinating Body (of the kind created in Sao Paulo in Brazil), which is able to embrace the continent’s entire communist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist left. If the EL makes a move in this direction (as even some of its own member and observer parties wish) the whole debate could evolve in the right way.