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  • The Role of the Left in Elaborating a New European Détente

  • By Walter Baier | 01 Jul 22 | Posted under: European Union , Peace and War
  • Walter Baier calls for a new balanced European security including international treaties on arms control and reduction, reestablishing trust and the reconstructing economic and cultural ties.

    In the past decades, there was not a single day without war occurring somewhere in the world. But never since the end of the Cold War were the two main nuclear powers, the Russian Federation and the United States so close to confront one another by armed force. We stand today vis-à-vis the ruins of the entire political capital accumulated since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    There were ominous signs though, such as the cancellation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty by the US and Russia, accompanied by reciprocal accusations, the extension of NATO, the refusal of the majority of EU member countries including Sweden and Finland to ratify the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons etc... Perhaps we did not pay enough attention to all this. 

    However, even in this situation, we have a real chance to change course.

    Particularly we agree to the emphasis laid upon the ecological reconstruction and the struggle for social justice, against precarisation and for women’s equality, all of them being marginalized due to the war, as the Secretary General of the UN remarked recently. 

    What can or should the Left do?

    transform! europe deems important, to hammer out specifically four strategic ideas:

    1. The strive for peace should be put even more explicitly center stage. However, even if the weapons were silent, something which we all are hoping and fighting for, there will be at best a truce, introducing a freezing of the conflict, because the fundamental contradictions which charge the European and global security structures will persist. Differently said, whatever provisional political solution for the Russian-Ukrainian war would be found, a durable peace must be integrated in a new European, perhaps even global security architecture. This also requires a new vision of Europe and the role of the EU, which is, most assumingly the role of the European pillar of NATO.

    2. If this is true, we need a profound debate between our parties, other progressive forces, and like-minded social movements about quite a few new and difficult political problems.
      E.g., once the war will be over, and hopefully this will be the case soon, the Ukrainian people will still exist, Russia will continue to be a major European power and Europe will have to deal with it. Do we want the EU balancing on the edge of war and if not, what a crisis-proof, autonomous system of collective security in Europe may look like, provided the complete loss of trust between the relevant forces?
      Today is not 1975, when 35 heads of states met in Helsinki – today is 1968, when the tanks of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. From today’s perspective, a new, balanced European security order hardly seems achievable. On the other hand, there were only seven years between the invasion of Prague and the Helsinki-conference.
      It seems that the European Commission and the governments have lost completely sight of a long-term perspective of European security in adopting Joe Biden’s confrontative strategy.
      Therefore, it is on the Left to elaborate a realistic strategy towards a new European détente, a re-print of the Eastern policy of the 1970ies, including international treaties on arms control and reduction, for reestablishing trust and the reconstructing economic and cultural ties. The effort for nuclear weapon free zones and their gradual extending to the entire continent from the Atlantic to the Urals may be an instrument in this struggle.
      Irrespectively of to whom and to which extent we attribute the main responsibility for the actual situation, we are in the state of a global economic war, fragmenting the world economy, dismembering the value chains, and interrupting food and energy supply, all of it having tremendous repercussions on the global economy and the European societies. We must be prepared to defend the social rights of our people in these dire circumstances. And above all, most frightening is the fact that the severance of dependencies clears the field for war, which otherwise under conditions developed over decades of mutual economic and cultural interrelation would be unthinkable. Designing steps towards a new détente is not a short-time job; it will also require research and debate.

    3. We must give prominence to the fact that radical Left and progressive parties of several countries take part in governmental coalitions. This potentially may create new possibilities but at the same also constitutes a responsibility we should explicitly address at the European Forum of Left, Green and Progressive forces, which will be taking place from 21 to 23 October 2022 in Athens.

    4. We should deepen the dialectics between social movements and our political parties, which is one of the core competences of transform! Europe anyway. Movements sometimes have better possibilities to raise radical demands. We should grant them space to express themselves autonomously and listen to them.

    On the other hand, our job as parties is to adopt strategies aiming at the political balance of forces, necessary to implement change. Nobody will dispense us of this. Consequently, there will three dialogues, one amongst the movements for which we should provide the space, one amongst progressive and radical left parties and a third one between parties and movements. Organizing this will certainly be not easy.

    At the same time, it is also a test and a political challenge which we must accept. 

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