Three major events prompted us eventually to modify the focus of the long-planned third issue of our journal dedicated to the “European Social Model”. One of these is the global financial crisis, which not only affects the financial markets and cannot even fully be characterised by its coincidence with the emerging global recession. In his contribution, Joachim Bischoff sums up the explosiveness of the economic crisis thus, “It can no longer be denied that unfettered capitalism has discredited itself through its inherent logic”.
The left will no doubt be intensively involved in the ramifications of this change in the near future. In November transform! europe and several of its partner organisations held a series of seminars on the topic which will also be one of our priorities in the year to come. Bischoff’s text on “The Capitalist Crisis of the Century” anticipates our spring issue (number 4, scheduled to appear in March) in so far as it is dedicated to the financial and economic crises and their consequences.
“We have had enough!”, the declaration published by Jean-Luc Melenchon and Marc Dolez, in Paris which announced, at the beginning of November their defection from the French Socialist Party. While the English and German issues of our magazine are at press, the consequences of this step for the French Left cannot yet be gauged in all its implications. Jean-Luc Melenchon’s article “Social Democracy Is Over – We Need to Build the Left That Comes After” comments on the fundamental and strategic aspects of this process.
The third important event which we want to reflect upon at rather short notice is the election of the new US president. Even though there are still many open questions concerning the new US-Administration headed by Barack Obama, a spotlight deserves to be turned on the coalition helping him to victory. In it the liberally-minded voters with a traditional affinity to the Democratic Party joined forces with the underprivileged social classes. The extent and depth of the process of politicisation prompted by the Obama campaign become apparent from the voting decision of women. Harriet Fraad, psychologist, psychotherapist and left feminist, analyses these aspects of the election from a feminist perspective.
The Austro-Irish artist Gottfried Helnwein is responsible for the illustrations in this issue. With his hyper-realistic pictures, whose most common subjects are pain, injury and violence, Helnwein (born in 1948) is certainly one of the best-known and at the same time most controversial of German-speaking artists.
Frankfurt art historian Peter Gorsen spoke of the “maltreated child” as the core conception in Helnwein’s imagery which conveys the physical and psychic suffering afflicted by one man on the other. This is closely connected with the central aspect of his work, his engagement against authoritarian education, the arms race, environmental pollution and psychiatry.
Although Helnwein’s works are rooted in an Austrian tradition going back to the 18th century, elements of American pop-culture have also been integrated from the very beginning. In doing so, Helnwein uses motifs and forms of popular culture in part with a caricaturing, in part a grotesquely alienating intention. Brecht and Benjamin’s maxim of “not picking up the old and good, but the new and bad” has been determining his by now work since the 1970s which is world-famous by now.
In this context it is impossible to present a cross section of his numerous exhibitions on all continents, his stage designs, books and prizes that could be called representative.
The focus of this issue of transform! is the debate on the European social model. In twelve contributions by authors from seven countries the subject is explored from different perspectives.
With this issue, the magazine is appearing in six languages (English, Greek, German, French, Portuguese and Italian). We are currently working on improving the presentation of the magazine on the internet.
Beginning in 2007 the transform! europe network was officially acknowledged by the Party of the European Left as the political foundation associated with it. At present, it consists of 16 member organisations from 13 countries. Some of its constituent organisations are close to national parties which are not members of the Party of the European Left. This is the case, among others, for the partner organisations in Scandinavia. Other members or observers of transform! Europe define themselves as independent of parties.
This specific feature of inner diversity makes it possible for our network to maintain working relations to extremely diverse forces within the social, political and cultural left and thus to contribute to the development of a common political culture of the European left. In this spirit, transform! took part in the European Social Forum in Malmö and is involved in the preparation of the World Social Forum in Belém (Brazil).
From 2009, and on the basis of the official acknowledgement by the Party of the European Left, transform! will receive an annual budget from the European Union which will allow us to establish and maintain a small staff.
Its new status, and the continuous enlargement of the network as well as the increasing complexity of its tasks required the development of a new working structure. In the place of Michael Brie who directed the founding process of transform! europe as the Legal Representative, a three-person Management Board was elected consisting of Ruurik Holm (Left Forum, Finland) as the new Legal Representative, Elisabeth Gauthier (Espaces Marx, France) and Haris Golemis (Nicos Poulantzas Institute, Greece), who, together with its coordinator the writer of these lines, will facilitate the work of the network.
We hope you find our journal rewarding and useful.