• Challenges of a Historic Moment

  • Elisabeth Gauthier , Walter Baier , Haris Golemis | 14 May 12 | Posted under: Elections
  • 6 May 2012 is marked by two election results with historical consequences: With the election of socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, to become France’s new president to which the Front de Gauche has quantitatively and qualitatively contributed through its campaign in the first round of the presidential election, a period of long years of conservative rule will find an end in France. But this is not all there is: For all of Europe the fatal axis Merkel-Sarkozy has also become history. If this will be true as well for the politics forced upon Europe only the future will show. This is particularly essential for questions to be immediately asked in terms of European politics towards Greece, as well as the fiscal pact whose goal is centralist control of national budgets and a highly authoritarian course of austerity for its implementation by the European Commission, by means of which the final destruction of the social welfare state, of labour laws, of public services, of parliamentary sovereignty, as well as a dramatic lowering of living standards of the people of Europe will become reality.

    The parliamentary elections in Greece amount to an earthquake in the political landscape of Europe, a small but important member-state of the EU in the South of the continent which is suffering most deeply from the brutal austerity-politics. Hitherto incumbent parties such as the conservative New Democracy and the Social-Democratic PASOK which have both turned themselves over to become executors of the banks and barbaric savings politics decided by the EU following the dictates of Merkel and Sarkozy can rally no more than a bit more than a third of the vote. At the same time, with 17% of the vote for the left party-alliance SYRIZA, an anti-capitalist and simultaneously pro-European party became second strongest force in parliament.

    Similarly to the French Front de Gauche, whose candidate of could rally the “Left of the Left” and attained 11% of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections, SYRIZA is an alliance of diverse forces of the Left.   Two of its components, Synaspismos-the strongest party of the alliance- and AKOA are members of the European Left Party.

    The strategies of these alliances which are fiercely opposed to the rules of financial market-capitalism and Neoliberalism seem to have been approved under varied circumstances in this past election process. Attempts by the mainstream media to denounce SYRIZA and the Front de Gauche alike as “extremist”, “populist” or “nationalist” were not only shown as weak, they are also indicative of the ruthlessness come upon political and ideological confrontations on the future of European integration.

    In this context the expanding growth of right-wing electorates throughout Europe must be especially registered. Experiences of Greek and French election campaigns demonstrate that only the Left has openly taken a clear stance of opposition and that the right-wing growth can only be impeded under the condition that in these confrontations the system-immanent character of the Right can be made visible.

    The successes of the Left in France and in Greece which combat the dominant logic of financial market-capitalism and Neoliberalism on a national as well as a European level seems to affirm a change in the political dynamic in Europe which had already been alluded to in several elections throughout the year. Europe seems to enter into a political period in which the dominant and unilateral strengthening of xenophobic, nationalist, and authoritarian right-wing forces, evident since the beginning of the crisis in 2007 and 2008, is being replaced by a new polarization between Right and Left for which the strengthening of a radical Left is a condition precedent.

    Indeed, the election results of 6 May have shifted the balance of power in part to the Left. But at the same time the situation is complex and not without dangers. In her first comments, Angela Merkel and senior officials of the European Central Bank have signalled without ambiguity that they are unimpressed by losses of representatives of anti-democratic and anti-social political forces in these past elections, and that they intend to uphold the current course in spite of the fact that it threatens to destroy European integration and democracy. Obviously the elites believe that they are able to intimidate the population with menaces to exclude Greece from the Euro-zone. By contrast, the solidarity of the European Left as well as of all forces opting for a new foundation of Europe, and especially their demands for cancellation of the Memoranda and the “loan agreement” are an absolute necessity.

    Yet, something else has changed in Europe. With large union and social struggles in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Belgium and Greece during the last 12 months many new activists have been mobilized and raised their voices. Simultaneously, new appeals by critical intellectuals, representatives of unions, of social movements, and of politics have been made. The necessary responds of the Left to the existential crisis in Europe and the accelerated destruction of the social welfare model and of democracy as such lie in an enforced struggle for a new social and democratic foundation of Europe.

    There are new possibilities for such a social and political dynamic. Today we can detect significant new debates taking place all over Europe. In many European countries people are taking to the streets, they go on strike and embark on new and varied activist forms in order to defend their social and political rights. In front of this development the need to build a political alternative, a European alliance, or a European movement is an urgent necessity. Thus, the elections of this past weekend at once demonstrate the necessities and the possibilities of acting on a political plane.

    The Joint Social Conference and the Alternative Summit which took place at the end of March 2012 have shown that a multiplicity of forces are now ready to open up for a process hitherto unheard of – a process in which unions, social movements, intellectuals, and political forces are able to cooperate with the explicit goal to change the balance of powers in Europe. The elections of this past weekend have pointed out the necessity and the options to enact a new political agenda. In contrasts to the oligarchy ruling over singular countries and in Europe we are dealing with the question of a radical change of power structures. With it there arises the challenge to create new alliances which would enable social and political players alike to mobilize in order to act up on a united and equitable way in immediate confrontations, as well as to work on an equal footing on the crystallization of a new hegemony in Europe.

    In this feat lie the challenges of this historical moment.


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