On the 15th of February 2019, Scientific and Strategic Consultant of transform! europe, was invited to participate in a panel discussion organised by the Foundation of Marxist Research (FIM) to commemorate its former president and member of the Communist Party of Madrid, Javier Navascués who died a year ago at the age of 61.
The other speakers in the panel were:
Eddy Sánchez, professor at the Complutense University of Madrid and current Director of FIM,
Joaquín Recio, editor of the publishing house “Atrapasueños”, where Javier was publishing his works,
Manuel Bueno, member of the History section of FIM and close friend of Javier,
Virginia Gutiérrez, professor at Universidad Pablo de Olvaide (Seville) and one of the promoters of the participatory budget process in Seville,
Javier Moreno, professor at Complutense University of Madrid and current secretary of the ideological area of PCE and member of the Culture and Communication section of FIM,
Present in the room among many others were Manuel Mariscal, close friend of Javier, Director of PCE's official newspaper Mundo Obrero, who also took the floor to speak about his late comrade as well as Javier’s partner Paula Garvin, former Deputy Mayor of Sevilla and his daughter, Paula;
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I am here today, in this commemoration event for Javier Navascués, representing the European network of transform! However, my presence is not a formal obligation to pay tribute to a cofounder of our network and a member of its Board from 2000 until 2008. I have travelled from Athens to Madrid mainly in order to share with you my memories of a dear comrade and friend and explain in public why I consider myself lucky to have met him.
The first question I asked myself, when I received the kind invitation from FIM to speak today, was why I had felt so deeply sad when I was informed about Javier’s death. Certainly, I had good feelings for him since our first encounter in the past century, but still, he was living in a country far away from my own and we were rarely seeing each other or even communicating between ourselves, especially after 2008 when he left the transform! Board. Preparing the present speech, I discovered through memories and reflection the reasons behind my grief for the loss of my precious comrade.
I first met Javier in 1999 in a dark bar, opposite to a hotel at the Eastern part of Berlin, where we were both staying. He, as President of FIM, I as Acting Director of NPI, together with Marco Berlinguer, Head of the Research Department of PRC, Elisabeth Gauthier, Director of Espaces Marx - another beloved comrade who passed away in 2016 - and some other persons whom I don’t remember now, were invited by Michael Brie, Director of the Department of Political Analysis of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, in a meeting to examine the possibility of forming a network of European political foundations connected to European radical left parties. The music in the bar was bad and loud, but this did not prevent us, the only customers, unknown until then to each other, to introduce ourselves and then start immediately a long discussion on ideological and political issues, but also on matters related to our personal trajectories in politics and life, as if we were old friends, drinking several bottles of beer and smoking tens of cigarettes.
When I returned to my room late that night, I was really happy for having made this acquaintance. Did I have this feeling because of Javier’s willingness to answer, sincerely and not at all as a party official - which he was - all my questions regarding the political situation in Spain, the Communist Party and the old and new social movements, showing at the same time a genuine - and not a bourgeois pretentious - interest about my views on similar issues regarding Greece? Was my satisfaction from our discussion due to the discovery that we both hated racism and nationalism and abhorred terrorism? Or was my pleasure derived simply from Javier’s lively personality, the aura of a tall, handsome Andalucian communist, with a shy smile, a penetrating glance and a frequently raised eyebrow, a person with a great sense of humor, honest, gentle and discreet with his interlocutor?
My strong positive feelings towards Javier from our first encounter were vindicated during the next day’s meeting with the colleagues from the other political foundations, which was the kick-off for the establishment of transform! europe, and in which we were in agreement in almost all issues. This affinity of views continued in the next years when we both were in the Board of our network, in the meetings of which Javier was very active and cooperative, without however mincing his words when he disagreed with somebody.
Apart from our ideological and political agreement on most issues - despite the difference in age (Javier was ten years younger than me) and in our political traditions (he from anarchism, I from Eurocommunism, but both having a reference to Rosa Luxemburg and Nicos Poulantzas especially on issues related to the strategy of the Left) - we were also connected by our studies in economics. Reading again some of his writings in English, published in the newsletters and the Yearbooks of transform! europe, the British journal Red Pepper or elsewhere, I confirmed the view I always had about Javier from our discussions: that he was a distinguished Marxist political economist who, although trained initially as an engineer, he never adopted positivist or structuralist positions. In his analyses of the conjuncture, he was using a non-dogmatic class analysis trying to put economic facts in the wider perspective of class struggle. Despite his very good knowledge of monetary and international economics, when he tried to understand social formations and the gradual transformation of the world capitalist system he was not confined by the appearances of money and finance and insisted on the concept of the productive model. He strongly believed that the radical left should concentrate its efforts in changing this model, insisting that this was a basic precondition of social transformation.
Javier was against actually existing European integration, but not from a nationalist, classless perspective. He believed that the European radical left should not make superficial, institutional proposals for changing Europe, without analyzing the core ideology of integration and the power relations within it. He explained convincingly that the bourgeois classes in all EU countries had a common interest in implementing neoliberal policies, which was above any sovereignist concern from their side. Javier was a fervent supporter of the coordination and common action of European left political and social actors, but he was clear that there were substantial differences between the EU core and its Southern and Eastern peripheries in terms of capitalist models, ways of life, trade-union traditions (social partnership in the “centre”, confrontational relations in the South) and political cultures and traditions. Unfortunately, he is not with us in transform! during this period when, based on these differentiations, we try to formulate a radical left strategy for Southern Europe. But personally, I still refer to his writings.
Trusting and respecting the intelligence and ingenuity of the simple people and believing that social transformation wouldn’t be possible without their direct involvement, Javier was a fierce supporter - and a theoretician - of participatory democracy. His and Paula’s role in the process of participatory budgeting in Seville is well known throughout Europe and certainly in my country, especially since NPI[Nicos Poulantzas Institut], following his advice, invited Paula to give lectures in Athens and other municipalities of the Attica region in 2005 and 2007.
Javier’s ties with NPI and the Greek radical Left were strong and enduring. He followed the SYRIZA of the unity of the Left with the genuine interest of an internationalist communist, who believed that the struggles and the possible rise to power of the radical Left in one country could, under certain conditions, be the spark for a progressive change of Europe as a whole. In June 2012, he was one of the 93 Spanish personalities who signed an Open Letter to Alexis Tsipras, congratulating him for SYRIZA’s achievement to take the second place in the Greek general elections of that year that was a moment of inspiration and hope for the radical Left throughout Europe and the world. At the same year,transform! published the book “The Political Economy of Public Debt and Austerity”, edited by Elena Papadopoulou and Gabriel Sakellaridis, that was based on the most interesting presentations of a big Conference on the Debt Crisis in Europe that was held in Athens in March 2011, organized by transform!, NPI, EL and SYNASPISMOS. Javier was one of the participants of this event, where he gave an excellent - as usual - speech presenting the economic and political situation in Spain, putting in the framework of the crisis especially in Southern Europe, that is included as an article in the above mentioned book.
Our infrequent contacts after 2013 did not allow me to know his attitude towards the eventual development of this experiment, SYRIZA’s victory in the January 2015 elections and the crashing defeat of the Tsipras’ government in July of the same year. However, I am sure that he had felt the same disappointment and frustration as I and many others for the cancellation of the, under the circumstances utopian, hope that the government of a small, highly indebted, peripheral EU country could succeed its targets for an adjustment of public debt and the implementation of a non-austerity policy within the Eurozone and the EU, by defeating the Troika and the conservative and socialdemocratic governments of the big European states. Javier was a realist and he knew very well how difficult it is to change the balance of forces at national and European level, especially when the European radical left forces didn’t (and don’t) have a credible alternative to the actually existing European integration. During a chance meeting I had with him and Paula at an interval of the Conference for a Plan B for Europe, held in April 2016 in Madrid, he showed a genuine interest to participate in a serious search for these alternatives, to be undertaken bytransform! This was the last time I saw him.
In his article “Notes on Productive Reconstruction in the Southern Periphery of the European Union”, published in the transform! Newsletter in March 2016, he says that one of the lessons learned from the Greek episode is that “there can be no change in external relations if it is not accompanied by a change in internal relations”. Therefore, he continues,
“in terms of productive transformation, the Left needs to develop strategies that take stock of past failures. There are enough guidelines on the table as to what should be done in terms of specialisation, but the problem is how and by whom. Experiments in economic democracy, alternative currencies, and financial institutions, participatory and social economy, public-employment schemes, social auditing, fair trading, and all kinds of practices aimed at creating spaces partially free from the euro rules are needed. This is the only way to break the dependencies imposed by the social structures of consumption and production. Of course, democratic central planning together with socialisation of basic branches is a central part of a productive transformation strategy, along with some form of collective self-reliance among countries, but if the agents of change are to be the people, an active response on their part is indispensable, and this can be only achieved through practice”.
University people throughout the world in their majority are socially passive, they are not involved in politics, they do not usually take part in strikes and demonstrations - most of them believe that their task is confined to routinely teaching students and writing articles in scientific journals. Javier was not that kind of academic. As an “organic” left-wing intellectual, he was a regular contributor to a communist journal, he was directly involved in the old and new social movements, participating in their struggles and protests, having full respect of their autonomy but also being critical to their actions or their complacency, especially that of trade-unions during the crisis period.
As a true internationalist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist, Javier took part in the anti-globalization movement of the decade 2000-2010, the WSF and the ESF. In June 2002, at an EU Summit held in Seville, I and my partner, Kalliope, had the pleasure to be kindly hosted by him and Paula at their wonderful house, for an unforgettable week. We went to Seville as members of a Greek delegation of over 100 persons to take part in a European demonstration against austerity and participate in the counter-summit of the Seville Social Forum, wheretransform! and FIM had organized two public events. Time has not erased from my memory the warm reception he had by trade-unionists in the eve of the big general strike of the 20th of June, when we two visited various spots in the town where militants of UGT and Commissiones Obreras were gathered preparing next day’s huge demonstration.
Javier was a libertarian communist, faithful to his party but never in a non-critical way, not a fan of leaders even of those he liked and respected, always in a clear distance from social democrats, not only on the grounds of deep ideological differences but also because he considered them equally responsible with conservatives for the authoritarian, neoliberal policies implemented in Spain and in the EU as a whole. He was a highly intelligent and honest man, a passionate lover of life, not so close to religion and Churches, humorous and sometimes sarcastic, solidary and empathetic, a caring partner and a tender father, a gifted person, an old rocker of the Left as he described himself in his last interview to Mundo Obrero. His family, friends and comrades should be happy to have shared a part of their lives with him. As far as I am concerned, I remember him with love.