I will try to tackle the issue of the need for an enhanced cooperation between social movements and political actors for a progressive way out of the crisis in Europe, starting from the national level.
This choice is based on the belief, which was cemented by the developments in Greece during the last three years, that taking political power in one European country – preferably of the Euro-zone – is a necessary, but certainly not sufficient condition for the refoundation of Europe, which is the only way to stop social catastrophe, undemocratic authoritarianism and the rise of nationalism, right wing extremism and even fascism.
A victory of SYRIZA in the Greek elections of June 2012 and the formation of a radical left government determined to disobey the neoliberal dictates of the Troika, would have marked a real political breakthrough, a rupture to the neoliberal edifice of the EU. A possible contamination of other EU countries by the success of a small political force in a small country of the European South (which unfortunately did not come) could have signalled the start of a real change in Europe and the world.
Following these first statements, some friends and comrades might think that, by stressing the importance of the “national” and the “political”, I have turned to an “anti-European party bureaucrat” and in any case that my intervention has nothing to do with the title and the aim of this discussion, with our meeting here in Florence and the Alter Summit process.
Of course, this is not so. My intention is to use the Greek case as an interesting example of a successful “meeting” between social and political actors, which could and should be made also at European level. I put the word “meeting” in inverted commas, so that there is no misunderstanding that any kind of “dialogue” took place around a table among representatives of parties, labour unions and the indignados.
What really happened was that the actions of resistance to the policies of various governments and the Troika, coming from people in general, as well as from the social and political forces, although either spontaneous or independent and autonomous, converged towards some more or less common targets, as if they were guided by the “invisible hand of history”. This common march was certainly facilitated by the fact that a considerable number of political activists were either closely connected with the trade-unionists or actively participating in social movements, following the tradition of a certain part of the Greek radical political Left, including SYRIZA.
To be more specific, the spectacular 27 % of SYRIZA in the June 2012 election was not an automatic result of the crisis and the policies of extreme austerity. It was the end of a process, very condensed in time, which started with a wave of spontaneous social unrest across the country and especially in Athens and the big cities, but also of general strikes, occupations of factories and public buildings, demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience like the “don’t pay” (the tolls, the increased transport tickets, the electricity bills etc.) ad hoc movements. It was these actions, which involved trade-unionists, parties’ and social movements’ activists and simple people which in fact forced Papandreou to give his place to the unelected technocrat Papademos, who was himself forced to resign and proclaim the elections of May 2012. During that period, the “social” played a crucial role in political developments.
The fact that after these elections, SYRIZA denied to enter a government of “national unity” (taking into consideration past, bad experiences of other radical left parties in other countries) and comply with the Troika orders, was responsible for having new elections in June which, as I said before, could have changed the course of history in Europe. At that time, it was the “political” which was possibly more important.
My reference to the Greek experience was made only in order to show the importance of the “meeting” and cooperation of social and political actors and it was not, of course, intended to be used as a model for other European countries or as a European model of cooperation between social and political actors. The ways we should consciously and carefully prepare the ground for a wide convergence at European level are the issues which we have started discussing here in Florence and which will be at the centre of our efforts in the immediate future.
At this point, I would like to return to my initial thesis regarding the importance of the “national” and the “political” for a change in Europe, by stating clearly what I hinted at the beginning regarding necessary and sufficient conditions. No political success in a single European country can be sustainable if it is not followed, within a short time, by similar successes in other countries. A progressive island in a reactionary archipelago is a thing of the past. Finally and in order to avoid any misunderstandings, I must say that for some of us the main purpose is to build a European radical subjectivity, which will be complementary and not antagonistic to the corresponding national ones in our struggle for social transformation. It is for this reason why a broad alliance and cooperation of social and political actors at European level are absolutely necessary during the present crisis. It is for this reason why we wholeheartedly support the Alter Summit Process. And it is for this reason why we would be happy if a big event was organized in Athens next summer.
This speech was held in Florence at the Firenze10+10 Forum.