Report from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, 22-25 September 2018
The World Transformed is a four days political festival that takes place for the last three years alongside with the Labour Party Conference aiming to provide a space for political education and debates among the labour movement’s friends and activists who contributed to the renaissance of the Labor Party in the UK after the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership of the party.
transform! europe was there as an official partner, actively participating and staging also a panel discussion. Being involved in The World Transformed (TWT) was a political decision of our network taking into consideration the political relevance of such an event for the British radical left politics, especially during a period of political turmoil marked by the milestone of Brexit. Our relations with the comrades and friends of the TWT team is part of our engagement with the efforts undertaken by the radical left in the UK to reboot the labour movement and re-imagine left politics for the many. In this short article we are only reporting on the events that we were actively involved in, however please do read the long version of our report (on the right of the page) which also does not claim to be complete or exhaustive, since the festival, attended by 6000 people, was structured through 250 hours of sessions and 350 international speakers.
Kate Shea Baird, member of the Executive of Barcelona En Comú, described this local political and electoral platform and the work being done there. In 2015, platforms like this one won pretty much all municipalities in the local elections. For her, defending globalization or going back to the nation state is a profound false dichotomy.
Municipalism is all about organizing locally, from the bottom. No one started being already a convinced municipalist, she said. You became one. Municipalism can win elections, while in the national level it cannot. Municipalism acknowledges the limits of institutions. SYRIZA did not manage to deliver, Corbyn will also face the whole establishment against him. In municipalities it’s possible to make changes that directly affect peoples’ lives, such as intervening to the housing problems etc. If we had direct democracy, then we could see politics is actually transformative, we could see communities being built. Considering the importance of small victories that show to people material changes, the municipality can be a place of collective identity and belonging beyond nation/ethnicity questions. Municipalism is from its very core progressive. It should not perceived only as localism and many critiques have been heard, like “Municipalism can’t overthrow capitalism!” Who is exactly overthrowing capitalism right now, she questioned.
Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, Minister of State & the Government Spokesperson of the Hellenic Republic, presented shortly the challenges the SYRIZA-lead government faces. SYRIZA’s problem and the Greek government’s problem was not that it would not be “anti-institutional” enough. The barriers and limits resulted from the overall balance of power. The 2008 crisis was the catalyst that lead to a new period of transition. After conflicts, a new political equilibrium was formulated. Who is the left within this equilibrium and how does the political elite read this period? For them, the division is quite simplistic: On the one hand, there are the “realists”, so basically themselves. On the other hand, the populists, roughly, anyone who questions the status quo, from Trump to Podemos, “the melting pot of populists”. Such a division, closes people’s minds to any alternative while actually the real existing political powers are three distinct parts: 1) The traditional political elite. The conservatives and the social democrats that have been for years surrendered to neoliberalism. Then, the forces that struggle for the representation of peoples’ social discontent. 2) The Far Right and 3) The Left. The landscape is clear. It will either be the Far Right or a radical alliance of the Left that will break the neoliberal consensus and transform Europe and we can already see some first signs of such an alliance in Southern Europe. There, the social discontent is mostly expressed by the left and not by the right.
Niccolo Milanese, the Director of European Alternatives, focused on the far right and the necessary international alliances of the Labour Party. The far right is interested in taking over the EU, not taking it down. However, we do also experience in Europe the emergence of civil society movements. On the Brexit process, there will be a vote in the EU parliament and the Council. Afterwards, the discussions upon the deal and the specific shape of the relations between the UK and the EU will again have to be decided, there will be future votes. Therefore, alliances with forces and parties are necessary to influence this process. That is why the Labor Party has such a strong interest in showing solidarity across Europe.
For Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary and MP, the Labour Party wants to transform Britain, but there is also the necessity to transform Europe and the whole world. In the last elections, the party achieved to gain more votes than the SPD in Germany, the PSF in France and the Dutch Socialist Party together. In Spain, they are trying to make some progress with the alliance between PSOE and Unidos Podemos. Even in the USA, despite Trump’s rule, we are witnessing many progressive candidates for the Senate to come up. Labour should be a party for the many, not the few, on a worldwide basis.
To Luke Cooper, Coordinator of Another Europe is Possible, the crucial question is how to confront financial globalization on a world stage. Therefore, fighting financial globalization demands building politics for the many in an internationalist perspective. It is not a matter of how we respond to Brexit, but to be aware that we will not be able to achieve what we advocate for without having European alliances and without supporting each other. Luke Cooper referred also to the European Far Right. The majority of the far right parties do not advocate for an exit from the EU. They wish to radically reconstitute the EU as a Europe of reactionary nation states and that is why they are more dangerous.
Christine Berry, Fellow of the Next System Project and a Trustee of Rethinking Economics and the Finance Innovation Lab
Joe Guinan, Senior Fellow at “Democracy Collaborative” and Executive Director of the Next System Project
Laura Parker, National Coordinator of Momentum
The discussion kicked off with a quite to the point observation that what the Troika was for SYRIZA and the Greek government could easily be the City of London for the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn. And indeed, the Labour Party, or more correctly, a future Labour government should work on developing a strategy towards the neoliberal elites of the UK that are part of the most powerful actors of the global capital. A Labour government in the fifth biggest economy of the world, the center of finance, will disrupt the neoliberal order. In parallel, Labour party’s member are the ones able to take the party outside, not close it in branch meetings and discussions upon discussions. The way towards an ambitious Labour government should be marked with innovation and imagination when it comes to everyday politics. Is it hard to put four people who know economics in a pub and start a discussion with the patrons there in a simple and grounded way? Why don’t we start debating on how we can create new media?
If we wish to re-imagine politics, to create a new model for the people to be engaged in politics again, then we do desperately need to get out of our comfort zones and see political possibilities in a time and space that we had never thought before.
All the recordings of the sessions, workshops and rallies of The World Transformed can be found on their webpage together with accompanying materials such as articles, reports in magazines and newspapers and interviews.
The long version of our report on the right side of this page includes some of the sessions staged in the festival and the selection does not intend to prioritize any of them against others.