• The European Left needs to understand left-wing self-determination movements

  • By Marco Siddi | 10 Feb 15
  • transform! hereby publishes a contribution to a necessary discussion.

    So far, the European Left has had serious problems distinguishing left-oriented self-determination movements from violent, nationalist or right-wing secessionist forces. When the question of sub-state, autonomist or independentist political movements is approached, some intellectual and political leaders of the European Left immediately associate it with phenomena such as the Northern League in Italy. This is all the more surprising if we bear in mind that, in 2014, self-determination movements have formulated some of the most interesting leftist political ideas and projects in Europe.

    For instance, in 2014 the Scottish National Party (SNP) has succeeded in challenging the established order in the United Kingdom by focusing its pro-independence campaign around the topics of public health care, free education, the integration of immigrants and a more egalitarian society – topics that are dear to the European Left. They did this in a country, the United Kingdom, where no national party affiliated to the European Left exists. The Scottish national question was intertwined with key social questions that no other political force in the country has been willing or able to address. Why, then, should the default position of the European Left invariably be “we are against sub-state, self-determination movements”?

    Political parties such as the SNP are not nationalist or chauvinist; in fact, they are no less internationalist than the parties of the European Left. They represent a solid majority within a nation (i.e. Scotland) and simply seek to detach themselves from polities dominated by a larger nation (such as the UK), where their interests are highly unlikely to be given sufficient representation due to the predominance of conservative (Cameron’s Tories) and inadequate social democratic forces (the Labour Party). The European Left should not take such polities for granted and consider them unchangeable – particularly if (as in the case of the UK) they are governed by political forces that cherish an abominable past of colonialism and conservatism.

    The European Left should be able to imagine and support different political constructions that give better political representation to the peoples of Europe and that are functional to left-wing projects. It should seek cooperation with left-wing forces that challenge the centralized power of conservative state structures, be they in Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Ireland or Sardinia. The Irish party Sinn Féin and the Basque coalition Euskal Herria Bildu are already members of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament. Comparable political forces are emerging in Sardinia, where the coalition Sardegna Possibile received over 10% of the votes at the last regional elections (February 2014) and could now consolidate its position through an alliance with new, young left-wing formations. At a time when old state borders within the European Union matter less and less, the European Left should be open to similar self-determination movements that pursue a democratic, left-wing political project. And, if the political project is sound, it should endorse their struggle.

    Marco Siddi, on behalf of Associazione Comuna