• Editorial

  • By Walter Baier | 27 May 09
  • The first issue of transform!, centring on the theme “Re-founding the European Union?” presented diverse left positions for debate and discussion. In the last months, with the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty, this debate has intensified. Two contributions to the current issue deal with the contradictory course of this process (see Raquel Garrido, The Irish Campaign – A New Version of the French “No” Victory? and José Cordon, Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty: How it is Playing Out in Different Countries). The thematic focus of the current issue is on left conceptions of emancipatory theories (“Reform of the Revolution”), which was also the subject of last November’s conference organised by transform.italia and tansform!europe.

    The first issue of our journal appeared in English, Greek and German editions. A Spanish edition is making its appearance with the current issue. The fall will see the addition of a French and Italian edition, and further languages will follow in the future. Multilingualism is one of the pre-conditions for the development of a common political culture within the European left, and that is why it is one of the characteristic features of the journal transform!


    The journal and its website are means of communication of the European transform! network which at present consists of 13 organisations and journals in 9 European countries. All these institutions are active in the area of political research and education. In contrast to most organisations of the radical left, transform!europe comprises organisations of widely varying type. Some of them are, in their national contexts, close to parties which have combined forces on the European level within the European Left Party; others are closely related to parties belonging to the Nordic Green-Left Alliance; and a third group of transform! members is independent of parties. This pluralism of actors represents the second decisive characteristic of the renewal of political culture to which the transform! network feels itself committed.

    Cutting across all differences, the partner organisations of transform! are united in their resistance to neoliberal ideological and cultural hegemony and in the struggle for alternatives which can increase the left’s emancipatory potential. In this way, the network sees itself as a part of the European left in the broadest sense. With this understanding, it was recognised last year by the European Left Party as a partner organisation in the context of the creation of a political foundation, which will make possible access to European Union funding as well as the network’s capacity to support concrete forms of cooperation. At the centre of this common research work is the “European Social Model and Left Protagonists” project. One of the contributions to the current issue introduces the Seminar on the European Welfare and Social State, which is part of this framework, and which will take place in Stockholm this June (see Stefan Sjöberg, The European Welfare Models: Changes, Prospects and Strategies).


    The great Austrian left sculptor, draughtsman and print artist, Alfred Hrdlicka, celebrated his 80th birthday in February. On this occasion we are printing, with the kind permission of the artist and of Wiener Galerie Ernst Hilger, 14 etchings from his 1998 cycle “1848” along with his text of the same year on the 150th anniversary of the 1848 Revolution.

    Hrdlicka studied painting from 1946 to 1952 with Gütersloh and Dobrowski at the Academy of Visual Arts in Vienna. After receiving his degree in painting he went on to study sculpture with Wotruba, which he completed in 1957. Hrdlicka’s credo has been “back to reality”. In following this orientation, he was in those days in the shadow of the great avant-garde artists, although as an outstanding maverick. Hrdlicka is to this day an artist with an intimate relation to the classic figures of Western sculpture – from Michelangelo to Rodin. His torsos are, however, in no way seen as symbols for what is historically specific in ancient sculpture; they stand rather as a form of expression of the tortured, oppressed body, with the atrocities of the Second World War and fascism as a background. Hrdlicka sees truth in ugliness, in pain, not in beauty. His best-known work of sculpture dealing with corporeal violence is the multi-part memorial on war and fascism in Vienna, intended as a warning to future generations, unveiled in 1988 after fierce domestic political controversies and completed in 1991.


    In his work, sculpture and drawing or etchings cross-fertilise each other and are on an equal footing. They exhibit their own different qualities, from a chamber-music-like etching to a monumental orchestral study in marble. All are products of one of the great classic peintregraveur of our time. Hrdlicka, who left the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) in 1956 after the events in Hungary, has continuously intervened in political conflicts with his typical verve, for example in 1986 in the context of the controversy around the later Austrian Federal President Kurt Waldheim, whose membership in the SA Reiterstaffel became known during his electoral campaign. The sculptor dedicated a 3-metre high wooden horse which became a symbol against forgetting the past. In 1999 he became a top candidate of the KPÖ in Carinthia, the adopted home of the Austrian right populist Jörg Haider. Last but not least Alfred Hrdlicka could be called the godfather of the new German party, Die LINKE, in that in 2000 he brought Oskar Lafontaine and Gregor Gysi together on the occasion of a dinner in Saarbrücken.

    With our birthday greetings to him, we join in with the legions of other well-wishers.