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Panelists (in order of presentations):

Neil Davenport - Institute of Ideas / Spiked

Mike Macnair - Communist Party of Great Britain / Weekly Worker

Gerry Downing - Socialist Fight


Panel Description:

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.

Questions:


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?

A panel event held on April 5th, 2014 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at the Sixth Annual Platypus International Convention.

Panelists:

Bill Barclay 
James Heartfield (audacity.org)
Mel Rothenberg (Chicago Political Economy Group)

Moderator:
Alex Gonopolskiy (Platypus London)

Description:

With the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Communist states the world has witnessed the unchallenged restoration of capitalism. This new configuration seems to radically alter the conditions in which the Left thinks and acts. Economically the collapse gave the European Union an unprecedented upwind and allowed it to integrate the markets of many countries that were formerly part of the Soviet hemisphere. The EU set out with the aim to be a competitive economic entity on global markets and on the international political arena. The EU project was to guarantee for a lasting peace and prosperity in Europe – a “lesson learned” from war and destruction that shaped the first half of the 20th century. And yet there is no grand idea, no ideological driving force accompanying the close economic ties and dependencies that have developed throughout the continent.

After two decades of economic expansion Europe hit a severe crisis in 2009 that was neither foreseen nor properly resolved. The attempt to solve this problem, five years on, has resulted in the wholesale unravelling of the gains brought about by Social Democracy over the past 150 years. And yet, there does not seem to be any clear answer and not even a vague direction proposed by the Left to tackle it. While on the streets of Greece, Spain and Italy – the countries directly affected by austerity programs – there is popular unrest against the remedies imposed by “the Troika” there is no course of action by the Left that would be adequate to the international character of the problem. In the powerhouses of the EU the quiet and – at best – sporadic protests seem to aim at reproducing the politics of anti-austerity from their southern neighbors. From the Social Democratic suggestion of a “European New Deal” to the slogan of “Blockupy” the Left response speaks to the lack of imagination and possibilities through which to seriously challenge the course of events. The European Left seems to have lost its inspirational character for world politics, not to speak of any real organizational capacities.

This panel will focus on the meaning and potential effect of the crisis in Europe for the Left internationally. What are the conditions that created the crisis, what can it tell us about the world we currently live in and what lessons does it provide for the project of reconstituting an international Left?

Questions:

1. What is the European Union in light of the historical reconfiguration of international geopolitics after the Cold War? Does it have an impact on or is it a sign of a change of how capitalism operates today and in the future? Does thinking about the EU help us to understand the world of today or is it a merely retarded duplicate of changes that the US has undergone a long time ago?

2. What does the Euro-crisis signify for world economy and politics? Does it have a global or a merely “local” character? Is it just a more complicated instantiation of the global economic crisis of 2008 or does it have a “life of its own”, pointing to deeper problems either with the EU itself or global capitalism more generally? What caused the crisis and how can it be resolved – and what does “resolve” mean in this context?

3. What political answers are out there suggested by the Left? Are their regional, European or international in nature? Are they equipped to tackle the problems analyzed above? Is the Left equipped to politically answer or even understand the current crisis? Can you suggest any answers and a path to achieve it? What would need to happen to change the current deadlock?

4. Do the austerity programs mean an end of European Social Democracy? Does the dismantling of the welfare state mean an end of Europe's “third way between Capitalism and Communism”? What implications does this have for the global Left?

Eine Veranstaltung der Platypus Affiliated Society Deutschland. Mit freundlicher Unterstützung der Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

Mit:
Pablo Graubner (SDAJ)
Thomas Lohmeier (Die Linke/prager frühling)
Karin (Interventionistische Linke/No Troika)
Stefan Torak (campusantifa/ M31)

Mittwoch, 5. Juni
19-22h

Festsaal, Studierendenhaus (über KOZ)
Campus Bockenheim
Frankfurt am Main

Mit der Einführung des Euro im Jahr 2002 als gemeinsamer Währung der Europäischen Union und dem damit einhergehenden Integrationsprozess der EU wurde eine weitgehende politische Stabilisierung Europas angestrebt. Gleichzeitig wurde durch den Euro jedoch auch eine Freihandelszone geschaffen, von der in erster Linie die starke Exportwirtschaft Deutschlands profitierte. Besonders seit der Einführung der Hartz-Reformen unter Gerhard Schröder und der extremen Ausweitung des Niedriglohnsektors auf dem deutschen Arbeitsmarkt begannen strukturell schwächere Ökonomien wie Griechenland, Spanien und Italien, aber auch Frankreich und Belgien, zu stagnieren oder drifteten gar in eine große Rezession ab. Aus dieser Perspektive betrachtet, hatte der Prozess der Europäischen Integration einen gegenteiligen Effekt als ursprünglich intendiert: Unter der gegenwärtigen Wirtschaftskrise hat es den Anschein, als ob Europa zerfällt, und in vielen Ländern befinden sich nationalistische Separationsbewegungen im Aufwind, wie in Norditalien, Flandern oder im Elsass.

Die Krise drückt sich also nicht nur in einem ökonomischen, sondern auch in einem politischen Zerfallsprozess aus: Statt einer transnationalen europäischen Föderation kehrt in Europa das alte Gespenst des Nationalismus wieder ein. Daneben fühlen sich viele Menschen innerhalb der EU ohnmächtig und entmündigt in Anbetracht der Entdemokratisierung im Zuge der Austeritätspolitik. Dies geht einher mit einem Vertrauensverlust in klassische politische Institutionen wie Parteien und Parlamente. Selbst der Erfolg von SYRIZA in Griechenland lässt sich nicht erklären ohne Berücksichtigung der sozialen Bewegungen, die der Partei starken Aufwind verschafften. Auch in anderen Ländern der EU drückt sich der Protest gegen die sog. „Troika“ im Erstarken außerparlamentarischer Bewegungen aus, wie der „Indignados“ in Spanien oder „Blockupy“ in Deutschland.

Laut Eigendarstellung von „Blockupy“ ist es Ziel des Bündnisses, „gegen das autoritäre Krisenmanagement und die Troika-Politik Widerstand zu leisten, um die demokratischen und sozialen Rechte der Beschäftigten, Prekarisierten und Erwerbslosen in Europa zu verteidigen.“ Doch wogegen genau richtet sich dieser Widerstand? Gegen ökonomische Institutionen wie die Europäische Zentralbank und den Internationalen Währungsfond? Oder gegen die neoliberale Ideologie als solche? In welche Richtung weist so ein Widerstand? Zurück zum Wohlfahrtsstaatsmodell des Fordismus? Oder können die Proteste gar der Beginn einer neuen anti-kapitalistischen Ausrichtung der europäischen Linken bedeuten? Wäre die EU dabei als transnationale Föderation erhaltenswert oder gehört sie abgeschafft? Was würde an ihre Stelle treten? Wie würde ein demokratisches Europa aussehen und welche Verantwortung kommt dabei Parteien und Parlamenten zu? Wie also sieht die Zukunft linker Politik in Europa aus? Welche Möglichkeiten auf Erfolg bestehen für die neuen Protestbewegungen? Und wie würde ein solcher Erfolg überhaupt definiert werden?