Under the unfortunately red-hot slogan: “Stand up for Peace – In Solidarity” about 300 participants and numerous day guests from Berlin and Brandenburg came together from 23 to 27 July for the 9th Summer University of the European Left.
Constructive, concentrated, and communicative, people of different ages from at least 32 countries worked together during this unique annual basic event of the Party of the European Left (EL) and transform! europe.
The EL Summer University is an increasingly important network gathering – also regarding the growing European relevance of the EL. There are only few similar opportunities for officals from the different EL member parties to interchange with each other and with interested militants, with affiliated parties and organisations in such an open atmosphere. For five days, there was time for common analyses, debates and action plans – right in the middle of the tranquillity and scenic beauty of Werbellinsee. There was an especially intensive debate on the topic of Ukraine and the challenges of government participation during and in between seminars. A welcome substantial addition was supplied by numerous events of the feminist network of the EL (EL-FEM). Beside the offical programme a number of self organised network gatherings took place. The meeting of the different youth and student party organisations shall be cited as an example.
A well-attended plenary debate with Pierre Laurent, president of the EL, was undisputedly the highlight of the event, at the same time providing a programmatical starting point for the future work of the EL and its member parties. Pierre Laurent pointed to several central political developments and challenges after European Elections: He recalled that many people have a negative opinion of EU institutions and that there was reasonable doubt of any chance of finding a way out of the crisis with the help of these institutions. During the common evaluation of the elections it was stated that this insecurity was a dangerous breeding ground for right wing extremist and populist powers. Their strengthening could be prevented or at least contained in every country where strong and reliable left powers succeeded in gaining political (and cultural) hegemony in the public debates. The candidacy of Alexis Tsipras for President of the European Commission and the common campaign for him helped bringing together left European forces.
Currently, many parties and movements knock on EL’s door and want to cooperate with her. This was reflected in the participation of representatives of left parties (e.g. from Slovenia and Ireland) that are so far not organised within the EL. As a further result of European Elections the EL is an increasingly visible and accepted actor on European level. Pierre Laurent emphasized that the task of left forces was on the one hand to respect internal plurality and to integrate and on the other hand to bring all forces together. To make this possible he suggested five axes for pooling the activities of different left parties:
1. European-wide fight against austerity.
2. Fight against TTIP and other free trade agreements.
3. Fight for democracy and against the increasingly undemocratic EU structures. This includes also the defence of the rights and freedoms of the people and especially migrants as well as resistance against extreme and populist right-wing forces.
4. Strengthened fight for peace and against military build-up, including the mobilisation against the NATO summit in Wales on September 4 to 5.
5. The realisation of a "Forum of Alternatives" in May 2015 in France to gather left parties and movements (as well as trade unions) even beyond the EL.
Numerous seminars and workshops at the Summer University deepened the substantial focal points, with analysis as well as concrete cross-linking of the future work playing a vital role. Under the title "Reclaim Economy" debates on consequences of the crisis in different countries, the fight against precarious living conditions, economic democracy as well as cooperation between parties, movements and trade unions took place. The majority considered it important to root left parties in movements and consistently reactivate this during joint campaign work. Therefore, it was self-evident that the campaign against TTIP and the support of the corresponding European Citizen’s Inititiative would play a vital role in the future activities of the EL.
The exchange about the situation in Ukraine was already in advance included in the Summer University programme since there was great demand by the EL chairs. Furthermore, some people from Ukraine and other East European countries were present. Additionally the topic Gaza/Israel had a strong presence in light of current events.
During the Ukraine seminar an action proposal came up and was positively taken up by the participants: The EL calls for a joint European action day on 4 September against the NATO summit in Wales. A corresponding declaration directed against the wars in Ukraine, Gaza, and Israel as well as the wave of military build-up planned by NATO was already forwarded to the member parties. Thus, corresponding to the motto of the day "Reclaim Peace" a first step was done towards joint peace political activities.
The great success of the Summer University was due not only to the relentless work of the head offices of the EL, DIE LINKE and transform! europe but also to the regional hosts of the Barnim district and Land Brandenburg. Despite the Land electoral campaign the comrades from the region were constantly present during the Summer University. Their experience with left government participation, in exchange with comparable experiences from other countries, was an important contribution to the debate and the development of left strategies.
Both the joint work as well as the common celebrations – including a punk rock concert in nearby village Eberswalde – revealed: Europe is growing from below. Only when the left forces are regionally rooted they can permanently develop into an effective force of protest and change.
Claudia Haydt, member of the Executive Board of the Party of the European Left and member of DIE LINKE Executive Board
Working day focussing on defence of peace and internationalism
Peace was the motto of this year’s Summer University, and peace is also one of the six axes of the programmatic platform adopted at the IV EL Congress last December. In that Congress, the Party of the European Left reaffirmed its compromise with the defence of peace and political dialogue against violence and military coercion: “We defend internationalism, contrary to imperialism, which creates divisions between countries and peoples in an artificial way”.
In that line of work the seminar “1914-2014: 100 years after World War I: Challenges for internationalism” took place in the second day of the Summer University. The deputy of DIE LINKE, Heike Hänsel, stated that Germany, which started two world wars, should defend peace more actively. But instead of that, what the German Government is doing is to increase its military intervention and now, with the social democracy in the Great Coalition, is doing it more than ever, said the German, who explained that her country now has more than 5.000 troops participating in 30 missions around the world.
Today the world is full of conflicts and there is an escalation of militarism which threatens with the possibility of a Third World War. And the way to prevent this, explained Heinz Hillebrand, head of training in DIE LINKE, is Internationalism, “to avoid what happened in 1914, when there was a division of the Left and nationalism imposed against internationalism”.
The globalization of capitalism
The German leader argued that along with the danger of nationalism, is the pitfall of the globalized capitalism and the growing military role the European Union is playing, “which is most evident in the crisis in Ukraine, where capitalism collaborates with fascism, when they believe they have to do so in order to achieve their interests”. He also denounced that Israel is using land, sea and air attacks over Gaza to test new weapons.
The Vice President of DIE LINKE, Tobias Pflüger, said that the globalization of capitalism knows no boundaries at all and acts with a policy of destabilization in Latin America, recalling the coup in Honduras and Paraguay and the attempt to put an end to the Bolivarian process in Venezuela. He also suggested that rather than analyze the conflict itself, “we must analyze the actors in the conflict”.
The serious problem, as all the participants agreed, is that in this context the European Union plays a more and more imperialist roll and a position of subordination to the United States, while at the same time NATO launches a new expansionist politics of rearming and wants to raise up to 2 % of the GDP the quota that every single member country must pay to the organization (now Germany is providing a 1,3 %). In this situation, Pflüger emphatically criticized “the error of being equidistant in conflicts” and at the same time the German deputy stressed that the anti-Semitism discussions has become “counter-productive when prevents us to take a position” in issues such as Gaza.
The world’s largest terrorist organization
Maite Mola, Vice President of the Party of the European Left, harshly lashed out at NATO, which she described as being “the world’s largest terrorist organization” and complained that Spain, with 6 million unemployed and 32% of children under 16 with problems to feed because they are in poverty, is handing over to NATO 1% of its GDP.
She also charged against the absolute impunity of capitalism and imperialism that attack wherever they have economic and financial interests, a kind of capitalism, which, according to Maite Mola, “would have no qualms about going into a Third World War to improve their profits”. The scenario would be different if the European Union had its own foreign policy “rather than do what United States tells us to do and seeking to rearm it-self with the purchase of more military equipment”, argued Mola.
The defence for the peace must materialize
In the propositional part, the vice-president of the EL called for peace to become the number 1 point on the agenda of the EL, “but it should be more developed and specified, because if it is not so, it will be no useful”. And as an example of that called for creation of a platform for peace at the European, national and world levels. She also raised the need “of discussing if we’re up for the dissolution of NATO”.
To explain the conflict in Ukraine, the EL Summer University invited Sergej Kiritschuk, leader of the Ukrainian movement Borotba. The activist denounced that “Ukraine is been used as a battlefield for the confrontation of the imperialist forces”. He added that United States are interfering and breaking all attempts to resolve the conflict, and Russia, on the other side, also has its own interests in the conflict.
The activist of Borotba explained that Maidan was an anti-communist movement from the beginning, which had no democratic elements, and that the people who were there did not want a Social Europe. What was behind was the interest of the oligarchs to sign the treaty with the European Union. But 50% of the population were against that treaty. They have seen that countries such as Romania impoverished, losing their industry, among other things, since the moment its entry into the European Union began.
The Ukrainians from the East and South are peaceful, explained Sergej. What is happening is that “we cannot return to being a colony by our integration in the European Union”. He said that the Treaty was made to satisfy the interests of EU and the aggressive expansion of NATO, but not for the Ukrainians, who fear losing their industry and its high-tech. And after all the explanation, he made a demand for ending the conflict: “We need to tell the United States to stop its aggression and also that we want peace.”
The debate on Ukraine continued in the afternoon, focusing on the role of the left forces in the country and the opportunity of international solidarity. The University also discussed on imperialism attack in Latin America and alternative policies with new ways to govern themselves without the influence of the United States. The third focus of big international conflicts was the revolutions and counter-revolutions of the so-called “Arab Springs”, and the left answers for the conflict in Gaza and Israel.
Source: European Left Party
See furthermore the report by Dick Nichols: Ukraine dominates discussion at Party of the European Left’s summer university, published in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on 4 August.
Find the Blog of the Summer University here.
Final programme here.