Under the unfortunately red-hot slogan: “Stand up for Peace — In Solidarity”, about 300 participants and many day guests from nearby Berlin and Brandenburg came together from July 23 to 27 for the Ninth Summer University of the European Left.
Constructive, concentrated, and communicative, people from at least 32 countries worked together during this unique annual event of the Party of the European Left and Transform! Europe.
The EL Summer University is an increasingly important network gathering — and marks the growing relevance of the European Left across Europe. There are few similar opportunities for officials from the different EL member parties to discuss with each other and other militants, affiliated parties and groups in such an open atmosphere.
For five days, there was time for common analyses, debates and action plans — right in the middle of the tranquillity and scenic beauty of Werbellinsee in Brandenburg, Germany.
There were especially intensive debates on Ukraine and the challenges of left participation in government. A welcome addition to the school was supplied by the many events of the EL-FEM, the European Left’s feminist network.
A well-attended plenary debate with Pierre Laurent, president of the European Left, was the highlight of the event. It provided a programmatical starting point for the European Left’s future work.
Laurent pointed to several central political developments and challenges after the May European elections. He said many people had a negative view of EU institutions and many doubted that there was any chance of finding a way out of the crisis through these institutions.
This insecurity was a dangerous breeding ground for right wing extremists. However, their strengthening could be prevented or at least contained in countries where strong left forces succeeded in gaining hegemony in the public debates.
Europe-wide campaign for Alexis Tsipras, from Greece’s SYRIZA, for president of the European Commission helped bring together left European forces.
Many parties and movements are now knocking on the European Left’s door wanting to cooperate. This was reflected in the participation of representatives of left parties (such as from Slovenia and Ireland) that are not yet organised within the European Left.
The European Left is an increasingly visible actor on European level. Laurent emphasised that the task of left forces was to bring left forces together.
To make this possible he suggested five axes for pooling the activities of different left parties:
1. A European-wide fight against austerity.
2. Fight against free trade agreements.
3. Fight for democracy and against the increasingly undemocratic EU structures. This includes also the defence of the rights and freedoms of the people and especially migrants as well as resistance against extreme and populist right-wing forces.
4. Strengthened fight for peace and against military build-up, including the mobilisation against the NATO summit in Wales on September 4 to 5.
5. Host a “Forum of Alternatives” in May next year in France to gather left parties and movements (as well as trade unions) beyond the European Left.
Seminars and workshops featured analysis as well as concrete cross-linking of future work. Under the title “Reclaim Economy”, there were debates on the consequences of the crisis in different countries, the fight against precarious living conditions, economic democracy as well as cooperation between parties, movements and trade unions.
Most considered it important to root left parties in movements and consistently reactivate this during joint campaign work.
The topic of Palestine and Israel also featured strongly in light of current events.
During the Ukraine seminar, an action proposal was taken up. The European Left called for a joint European action day on September 4 against the NATO summit in Wales.
A declaration was adopted against the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as the wave of military build-up planned by NATO. Thus, a first step was taken towards joint peace political activities.
The joint work as well as the common celebrations — including a punk rock concert in nearby village Eberswalde — revealed that Europe is growing from below. Only when the left forces are regionally rooted can they permanently develop into an effective force of protest and change.
[Abridged from Transform! Network. Claudia Haydt is a member of the executive board of the Party of the European Left and a leader of the German Left Party (Die Linke) Executive Board.]