• Preface

  • By Eric Canepa , Walter Baier | 03 Feb 16
  • Never before in the history of our network and journal has there been a year like 2015 in which the radical left – along with many unpoliticised people – has learned so much about what its possibilities and limits are within the European Union’s neoliberal architecture.

    Syriza’s electoral victory in January and the victory of the OXI vote in July’s referendum demonstrate that radical left parties can build electoral majorities around a platform for political change. But, at the same time, it became clear what the limits are of what can be achieved with the current balance of forces within the European institutions and amongst Member States and to what extent a single country can resist when going it almost alone, with social movements, militant trade unions, and political parties of the European left still too small to defend it. People are thinking about strategy more intensely than ever before during the neoliberal era. Assessing the experience of the clash between Greece’s left government and the Troika, Yanis Varoufakis offers detailed proposals for an investment-led recovery and currency, banking, and debt policy as part of a feasible programme for the immediate future in the context of a new European network or platform now being put together. Without reducing the inner-party conflicts in Syriza to one between a ‘radical’ and ‘conservative’ wing, Michalis Spourdalakis draws a balance sheet of the first months of the left-led government and the loosening of contact with the party’s social base, maintaining that Syriza needs both to return to the social arena and stay in government.

    The question of the kind of Europe that has to be fought for, and the national/international dialectic the left needs to master in resisting the governance of a globalised financial market are addressed by Étienne Balibar and Walter Baier. The left has always been internationalist, but it cannot afford to be in any way identified, by dint of its internationalism, with the actual neoliberal European project; this will necessarily allow a large part of the oppositional space to be claimed by the radical right and its nationalism. The post-democratic and neoliberal nature of the EU institutions is documented by Riccardo Petrella, the nexus of financialisation and austerity by Joachim Bischoff, and the labour regime the EU enforces is laid out by Karola Boger, while Adoración Guamán and Raúl Lorente show how EU policies have affected labour legislation in Spain and what attempts have been made to resist them. The question of how much can be changed within the framework of the Treaties, how much flexibility there can be for different national approaches, along with specific policy proposals, is debated by Axel Troost and Peter Wahl. But despite differing viewpoints one thing is certain: for the left, the labour movement, and other social movements, there can be no return to organisation on a purely national basis.

    Michael Brie addresses the question of transformation on a general level – the origins of the idea in the French Revolution, gradual changes and rupture, changes within the system and pointing beyond it, the problem of absorbing the positive achievements of capitalist society while transcending them – of which the European dilemma is a specific case. Uta von Winterfeld addresses the crisis of the regenerative capacity of society and nature in her résumé of her studies on the structures of masculine bourgeois rationality which would have to be overcome in an ecological social transformation. Along with Winterfeld, Gabriele Winker’s thesis on transformation strategy via the care revolution addresses the crisis of social reproduction, and, as with the contributions on the commons, Winker offers readers the opportunity to become familiar with a considerable body of new theory and practice. Reproductive and care work, like the commons, are an integral aspect of any contemporary concept of social transformation.

    In recent decades the radical left has devoted too little attention to concrete alternative industrial policies. However, the financial crisis and more especially the showdown with Greece within the crisis of the EU have begun to bring this kind of thinking into the foreground. Jürgen Klute documents in detail the continuing market orientation of the European Commission but also the small but significant shift towards recognising the need for investment in industry and of greater social and ecological protection as seen in recent communications and initiative reports of the European Parliament. Maxime Benatouil indicates the recent work organised by transform! Europe on productive reconstruction, and Javier Navascués discusses it in the context of Spain and other countries of Europe’s south.

    Transformation and productive reconstruction cannot be conceived outside the context of the enormous movement, wide variety of projects, considerable body of theory, and, most dramatically at the local level, impressive impact of the new appreciation of common goods and the commons. Michel Bauwens, Vasilis Kostakis, and Alex Pazaitis, Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, Wolfgang Hofkirchner, Theodora Kotsaka, Alfonso Gianni, and Roberto Musacchio offer an excellent opportunity to get abreast of the present state of theory and practice of the commons. Gianni and Musacchio, in particular, provide important information on the history of mutualism and cooperativism in Italy.

    Last but not least, Transform continues to provide reports on the state of the left and the challenges it faces in the context of particular countries. Michalis Spourdalakis, Ilona Švihlíková, Anna Ochkina, Felicity Dowling and Kate Hudson, Murray Smith, and Leo Panitch and Hilary Wainwright’s interview with Jeremy Corbyn, help bring us up to date on developments in Greece, the Czech Republic, Russia, Great Britain, and Scotland in particular.

    The volume closes with Maxime Benatouil’s report on activities and events organised by transform! europe network in 2015.

    The transform! europe network was established in 2001 during the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre by a small group of intellectuals from six different European countries, representing left research institutions or journals, who wanted to coordinate their research and educational work. Today transform! consists of 28 member organisations and observers from 19 countries.

    The network is coordinated by a board of eight members, and its office is located in Vienna. transform! maintains a multilingual website and publishes a continuously growing number of reports, analyses, and discussion papers on issues related to the process of European integration.

    Just like the biannual journal which transform! published from 2007 to 2013, the yearbook is simultaneously published in several languages; it now appears in English, French, German, Greek, and Italian. Expanding our audience and broadening the horizon of the experiences reflected in transform! are not the only reasons why we publish our yearbook in several languages. We do not see translation as a mere linguistic challenge but consider it a way to bridge political cultures that find their expression in different languages and in the varied use of seemingly identical political concepts. This kind of political translation is of particular importance when set against the current historical backdrop of the left in Europe, and it focuses on finding unity in diversity by combining different experiences, traditions, and cultures. It is at the heart of transform! europe’s work.

    We would like to thank all those who have collaborated in producing this volume: our authors, our coordinators for the various language editions, and finally our publishers, Merlin Press.

    Walter Baier, Eric Canepa, and Eva Himmelstoss