News from the European Left Forum

Thelma Walker reports: Having attended the recent European Forum of the Left as a delegate, backed by Left Unity and representing the Progressive Alliance of the Left, I departed feeling more optimistic and more determined than ever to join with progressives internationally to work towards a shared agenda, tackling the economic, environmental, and social challenges facing us all.It is clear that a theoretical and practical strategy is needed to combat the rhetoric of the Far Right. In Britain, we need to make the case for constitutional reform, to break with the broken and undemocratic Westminster system.

The Forum was opened by Pierre Laurent, Vice-President of the European Left Party. He emphasised the need for a new environmental and social pact and no return to austerity economics. He spoke of peace, brotherhood and humanity.

His words resonated with everyone in the audience, as their minds were drawn to the tragedy of the 27 people who had, the previous week, drowned in the Channel, the human cost of government policies lacking in humanity and devoid of any empathy or compassion. Refugee deaths resulting directly from the creation of the “hostile environment”.

The politicians, activists and campaigners from across Europe and the wider world contributed to the plenary sessions some of which, had previously occurred on-line. These covered the key concerns of the Left.

Themes for the plenary discussions included:

The big challenges facing Europe

Economic and social issues after the pandemic

Strategies for democracy and peace in dangerous times

One decade to save the planet. What now following COP 26?

The Social question at the heart of culture.

Post-covid democracy (Youth Assembly event)

The rise of the Far Right and women’s rights.

Reflecting on the future of Europe: a new social contract for the 21st Century.

Final declaration and action plan.

Heinz Bierbaum, the President of the European Left Party, spoke of a common struggle against the Far Right, the fight against creeping militarism in Europe and the post-COP26 disappointment regarding the lack of decisive action to address the climate crisis.

Chloe Meulewaeter, from the International Peace Bureau, spoke passionately about the need for disarmament and reducing the ballooning level of military spending. She pointed out a 1% world-wide cut in military spending would fund covid vaccination for the whole world. A 10% cut would fund universal education.

Our own Jeremy Corbyn received such a warm welcome from the audience. His knowledge and understanding of international politics shone out. He made special mention of the victory, through effective mobilization, of the Indian farmers in the fight against the Modi Government’s oppressive neo-liberal agriculture bill. Jeremy also spoke about a European youth manifesto which would include economic, social and creative policy measures. “We can have bread and roses as well”, he declared to rapturous applause.

Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade union Confederation (EUTC), praised the commitment and sacrifice of frontline workers across the world, who have continued to work throughout the pandemic. Health and safety for these workers should be paramount but has too often been neglected by governments and employers. She stressed that workers and their families in all countries should have universal access to vaccination. She spoke of the need for a more just economic model for Europe that would use public funding to create quality green jobs, provide greater social justice in the distribution of income and wealth. Globally we need a just transition to a green, sustainable economy that meets people’s needs. She argued that trade unions, “Must come together to mobilise, to defend democracy and workers’ rights”.

Natalie Bennett, former leader of the English Green Party and representative of the Green European Foundation, talked of the problems of the Westminster system. She outlined the grim reality that we now have a Far Right government that poses a threat to democracy with legislation such as the Policing Bill which threatens to curtail dramatically the right to protest, electoral legislation that seeks further central control of the electoral system, and a Nationality and Borders Bill that contravenes international law. These measures do not reflect the views of the majority of people but are lapped up by the minority of Tory voters and much of the media.

She spoke of the need for greater economic equality as well as properly functioning political democracy. Bennett spoke of her disappointment at the outcome of COP26, contrasting the Good Cop of the wider discussions and coming together of campaigners with the Bad Cop of the official negotiations, dominated by neo-liberal politicians and big business interests. The fringe had the real conversations. They provided the message of hope and the possibility of a change in politics and economics.

I left the forum feeling more hopeful and inspired, knowing that across borders we share the same struggles and can work together through mobilisation and collective action. With grassroots movements and campaigns, we can, if we are united, bring about change. We need to bring safety and security to people facing an uncertain future. I was reminded of the old slogan – “Don’t mourn organise.”

The forum left me with the feeling that positive things are happening. As Rosa Luxembourg said, “The most revolutionary thing that one can do is to proclaim loudly what is happening.”

Let’s do that: Solidarity!

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