With the death of Eric Hobsbawm the left has suffered a heavy loss. Transform! is honouring him in this issue by publishing a text that makes immediately evident the famous hallmarks of this great historian – a universal historical culture, the capacity for systematic and bold analysis as well as his accessible style free of all academic jargon. If, at the end of his deliberations Hobsbawm points to the alternative of “socialism or barbarism” that the 21st century must confront, he provides a clear indication of the direction in which the left should attempt to go.
That we are obviously far from being in a revolutionary period is clear from the comprehensive analysis of social development since the Second World War which Erik Olin Wright presents. In it he examines various types of class compromise and identifies the factors that can lead to positive results from the point of view of workers.
The essential focus of this issue is constituted by a series of analyses aiming at deepening our understanding of the causes and consequences of the crisis that continues to affect the European Union and the Eurozone. Among other things, the flaws in the fundamental conception of the Community and the problems created by Germany’s dominant role in the shaping of EU policies are examined.
Despite the stable and peaceful post-war development of Europe, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize cannot distract our attention from a fundamental fact: Europe’s economic and social condition has become aggravated in 2012. An end to the crisis is not in sight. The austerity process imposed by the Troika has – far from showing a way out – unleashed a process of social destruction in Europe’s south, which threatens to drag the whole Eurozone into a recession. While some countries are facing a humanitarian catastrophe, Europe’s power centres, the European Commission and the European Council as well as the European Central Bank, have imposed a quantum leap in the integration of Europe on a centralist and authoritarian basis. However, this can only further sharpen the contradictions of the Eurozone and the European Union.
On the other hand, 2012 can also go down in history as the year in Europe’s post-war history in which the populations, the workers, youth and the precarious, spoke up with hitherto unseen resolve. This has been expressed in the reinvigoration of a consistent political left in elections in a series of countries, among them Denmark, Spain, France, Greece and the Czech Republic. As this issue of transform! appears the first cross-border general strike in the history of the European Union is taking place on November 14. The Spanish, Portuguese and Greek unions have taken the initiative in this, and the European Trade Union Confederation has extended it with a EU-wide Action and Solidarity Day for a European Social Pact.
This, however, is not the only novelty. An important new element in the effort to make resistance to austerity policies and the authoritarian turn more effective is represented by the project of an “Alter-Summit” in the first half of the coming year. The project – which is being sponsored by more than 80 organisations, among them the biggest European trade unions (CGT, CGIL, CCOO and CGT-P) and important social movements like ATTAC and also NGOs, and which also enjoys the support of ETUC and is supported by important political personalities of the Party of the European Left, among them its chair Pierre Laurent – represents a two-fold ambition: on the one hand, turning the rejection of the prevailing policies into a broad struggle for an alternative and, on the other hand, translating this alternative into a politics for changing the relation of forces in Europe. Transform! Europe is an active part of this process, which can connect the social, cultural and political left to the struggle for a new, common hegemony.
In her article, Elisabeth Gauthier looks at the existing strategic possibilities for the left in the present conjuncture.
In addition to this focus, the condition of the left is addressed by articles touching on various issues ranging from a detailed analysis of the Greek elections to left formations in Russia.
PS: We are fortunate to have the Austrian photographer Mario Lang as illustrator of this issue. Mario Lang was born in 1968 in Vienna, was trained as an optician but since 2000 has worked as a photographer and editor of Vienna’s street newspaper Augustin. He was the photographer for several books of reportage and also directs the Stimmgewitter Augustin Choir. He is active in the local music scene as a music (lover) worker, has a penchant for rivers, including the Danube, and the East and lives and works in Vienna.