With the appearance of this issue transform! magazine completes its fifth year of existence and its tenth issue. This anniversary is an occasion for an assessment. In their editorial for the first edition, Michael Brie and Walter Baier outlined the coalescence of left forces shaped by diversity with the following words:
“transform! europe was founded in 2001 to initiate and promote alternative thinking and political dialogue aimed at transforming contemporary society according to social, feminist, ecological, democratic and pacifist values. During the complicated though necessary processes of 'Europeanisation' of the Left taking place within a neoliberal dominated European Union and capitalist globalisation, transform! was established as a network of mainly European organisations working in political education and critical research. From its inception transform! europe has worked toward a new and common political culture of the Left in Europe.
One of the most active European networks within the European Social Forum and the World Social Forum, it became a partner of various European initiatives on social, economic and political issues and at the same time is working within social movements and networks. With considerable flexibility and diversity of forms, partners and structures transform! europe provides a space to generate left synergy, in part by initiating projects or supporting those of other innovative left forces.
In comparison with most European organisations of the radical Left transform! europe comprises organisations of a very diverse character. Some of its participants define themselves in relation to parties of the European Left (EL), others feel close to parties of the Nordic Green Left Alliance, and others in turn belong to neither of these groupings and maintain a completely independent position. Despite their diversity, all of transform!’s partners are united by their determination to resist neoliberal hegemony in the domain of ideas and culture and in their endeavour to develop political alternatives aimed at enhancing the left’s emancipatory capacity.“
The two authors also explained the reasons for the publication of the magazine as a supplementary activity of the organisation:
“With the journal transform! we hope to open up a new space for political-intellectual debate and dialogue within the European Left. It is true that the internet has significantly intensified cross-border communication between people, and we believe that the Left has still not fully exploited its possibilities. Nevertheless, the printed word, the print media,is still enormously important for intellectual discussion as well as for simple communication.
Any attempt at founding a transnational medium represents, to some extent, an experiment and an adventure. It involves not only trying out new ways of working and starting to communicate in a language which for most participants is not their mother tongue, but also at the same time creating a basis for people of different political cultures to work together. Through this journal, therefore, we would like not just to initiate and support common left political projects, but also to contribute to the genesis of a new common political culture of the left. In so doing our journal is committed to a renewal of the European Left.“
Since then, editions of transform! magazine have appeared regularly in English, German, French and Greek, and occassionally in Portuguese, Hungarian, Turkish and Italian. In addition, Spanish and Czech editions are planned for the fall. Since multi-lingual communication is a precondition for a common political culture of the Left in Europe, transform! pays a great deal of attention to multilingual media. The monthly Newsletter now appears in four languages, and Spanish and Czech versions are on the way. The website – currently being redesigned – will also be available in several languages.
The goal of the project was and is to work out alternatives to the neoliberal course of the EU leaders. This purpose could be largely realised by the cooperation of many well-known left social scientists and journalists as well as leading politicians of left-oriented parties. In this the analysis of the crisis processes and the consequences aggravated by it, such as the growth of the right, xenophobia and problems of migration, form a distinct focus of the individual issues of the magazine.
Already the first issue, in autumn 2007, had as its focus “Re-founding the European Union”, which demonstrated a capacity for anticipation. transform! can claim to be one of the first media to have already pointed in spring 2008 to the dramatic and long-term character of the systematic crisis triggered by the subprime crisis in the USA (Jörg Huffschmid et al., “Financial Markets: New Actors and Strategies and their Meaning for the European Social Model” in 3/2008 or Joachim Bischoff/Richard Detje, “Europe in the Crisis. The Path to Division” in 5/2009).
Three years later the crisis symptoms have intensified, and in the meanwhile the construction of European integration facing the abyss. Under these conditions a fundamental discussion is developing on alternative to neoliberal capitalism in Europe. In trade unions, social movements and in the new sectors of the political left the conviction is gaining ground that the systemic character of the crisis requires a systemic answer, and that in addition a change of the polticial relation of forces in Europe is necessary.
Our journal has contributed to this “repoliticisation” of the left. Since its beginnings five years ago the discussion of political strategy in Europe has change in breadth and depth. This can be seen, for example, in Jean Luc Mélenchon’s contribution – written just a few days before he left the Parti Socialiste – in transform!: “Social Democracy is Over – We Need to Build the ‘Left That Comes After’”.
Contributions by Pierre Laurent, Lothar Bisky, Harris Golemis, Elena Papadapoulou, Francis Wurtz, Gerassimos Moschonas as well as MEPs – Pervenche Beres, Liam Huang Ngoc, Marie Christine Vergiat, Jürgen Klute – and many others illuminated these questions from the European perspective. The European social movement was the subject of articles by trade unionists like Hans-Jürgen Urban, Maryse Dumas, Pierre Khalfa. And the social forums were analysed, among others, by Francine Mestrum, Judith Dellheim, Christoph Ventura, Franco Russo and Raffaella Bolini. In addition, in issues 6/2010 and 7/2010 there were articles by Euclid Tsakalotos (“Radicalising the Agenda: the Left’s response to the Crisis”; 4/2009) and Elisabeth Gauthier (“The Crisis of Europe: Elements of a Political Strategy”; 9/2011).
In its five years, our journal developed into a kind of observatory and thus an archive of important political developments in a great number of European and some non-European countries. Reportage and assessments were published from the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Ireland, Finland, France, Greece, Honduras, India, Iran, Iceland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Hungary and the USA.
Worthy of mention in the sense of the connection between analysis and strategy is the print publication in several languages of the EuroMemorandum 2009/2010 and 2011, which was entrusted to us by the independent coalition of “European Economists for an Alternative Economic Policy in Europe” (EuroMemorandum Group).
If, on the occasion of an anniversary edition, one is to cite authors who have published in transform!, the choice is difficult. We could name Elmar Altvater, Judith Butler, Luciana Castellina, Francisco Louçã, Gus Massiah, Pedro Páez Pérez, Moishe Postone, Giani Rinaldini, Saskia Sassen, Marlene Streeruwitz, Immanuel Wallerstein and Francisco “Chico” Whitaker, Frances Fox Piven, Armando F. Steinko, Gaspar M. Tamás and Michael Löwy. In the next issue we will publish a complete list of our authors, as well as of the artists who have contributed to the shaping of our journal.
The number and variety of the published authors does not only speak for itself but also for the concern that we have in publishing our journal: namely to provide space for exchange of experiences, for amicably conducted debate and the convergence of diverse approaches. The Left in Europe and beyond can become a creative social force if it succeeds in organising broad, democratic processes characterised by diversity. In transform! magazine we intend to continue to work at developing this process.
P.S.: The Swedish siblings Malin and Freddy Wallin – our illustrators – from the city of Gothenburg have not only a shared penchant for Country Music and raunchy saxophone solos. They also share workplace and both invest a great lot of time in setting up Honky Tonk Illegal – a refugees solidarity arrangement. But above all, they share an interest in doodling Indian ink, and sometimes they even share paper. The cover of this issue of transform! is a good example of the two of them working together. Absurd and humorous but never just plain funny.