Panelists (in order of presentations):
Neil Davenport - Institute of Ideas / Spiked
Mike Macnair - Communist Party of Great Britain / Weekly Worker
Gerry Downing - Socialist Fight
A united and peaceful Europe seemed to be a distant dream for a generation which went through the experience of war and destruction. In the latter part of the 20th century, this hope gained shape in the new realities of the European Union. Despite its official proclamation of peace, social well being and an “alternative to capitalism and communism”, today the project finds itself in a prolonged crisis with uncertain expectations. The refugee crisis, the Euro-crisis, massive austerity and the increasing interference into democratic principles, a growing division between powerful and weak economies, and Germany's new hegemony appear in stark contrast to the official slogans of “European values and solidarity”. The desperate struggle of SYRIZA demonstrated the necessity and seeming impossibility of the Left across Europe to answer with a politics that would be truly international and go beyond “resisting austerity.”Despite growing social unrest, the deep ambivalence towards the EU expresses itself in the inability of the Left to formulate a coherent vision of a political alternative. Should it be overcome on the basis of the EU itself, or against the EU? The clarification of its nature and appropriate responses seem to be one of the most pressing issues for the Left on the continent and beyond.
1. The EU ideologically relies on defining itself as a project of pacifism (peace in Europe) and a “third way” politics of a “social market economy”. What do you make of these claims? Should the Left be fighting for the fulfillment of the promise of the EU? How would you characterize the evolution and realization of the EU project in light of its foundational claims?
2. How can the project of the EU be described in political and economic terms? Is it an “imperialist” project? If so, who are the “Imperialists”? Is the EU a “neoliberal” project? If so, to what end? What do these terms clarify? What would an anti-neoliberal or anti-imperialist politics entail?
3. What are the driving forces behind the EU and what are the implications for a Left politics in Europe? Can the EU be ‘pushed to the Left’ or is it a project against the Left?
4. Today, the Left’s response to the Euro-crisis has mostly confined itself to nation states. Yet, the EU represents a “transnational” project. How does this affect the nature of internationalism for the Left? Is this an opportunity yet to be realized, or does the EU represent an obstacle to a true international?
5. SYRIZA was seen as an indicator of shifting political and economic forces in the EU, yet the Left in stronger economies has remained weak. What did its election reveal? What has the Brexit question revealed about the European Left and its tasks? How do both of these affect the dynamic of the EU and how do they task the greater Left?