One more important step for the alignment of the progressive forces at a time when Europe finds itself at a historic crossroads and its future is at stake was made during the Progressive Forum in Athens, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Saturday night, during a keynote speech concluding the two-day international meeting “Joining Forces for Another Europe” held in the Greek capital. There was now a historic opportunity to organise the end of an era for Europe and lay the foundations for the era to follow, the prime minister said; in this effort, the only path forward was for the European left, the Greens and European social democracy to join forces and present a “realistic political plan for a Europe that serves its citizens, reconnecting European integration with the fundamental principles of democracy, equality and solidarity.”
“Founding Europe anew, democratically, socially and environmentally is the only way forward. We have to fight this battle in order to proceed to economic and social deepening,” Tsipras said.
The economic crisis of 2008 brought to the surface problems that progressive forces on every continent had pointed out for many years, Tsipras said, such as the democratic deficit, timidity on the level of institutional integration, and a lack of solidarity and shared responsibility among the European member states.
“We of the radical left and progressive forces of Europe must offer our own explanations for the causes of the crisis and the priorities of the next day if we want to dominate,” Tsipras said.
Regarding the causes of the crisis, he blamed “specific policy choices that created the conditions allowing the capitalist crisis to take on the specific form it took in Europe. Choices bearing the ideological and class stamp of neoliberal conservative forces, which were already dominant on a European level at the end of the 90s.
In addition to the European right, European social democrats were also responsible for this outcome, Tsipras said, since the overwhelmingly greater part of European social democracy chose to walk a one-way neoliberal path, undermining the power of the progressive bloc throughout the continent. In many cases, he pointed out, this section took upon itself to adopt policies that deregulated the labour market, especially in the 2000s, before the crisis began.
“Now that Europe is cautiously making its way toward the ‘post-crisis’ era, throughout its territory it sees the consequences of the actions of its conservative political leadership,” Tsipras said.
It sees the supporters of national isolationism not only gaining ground but striking severe blows against the European idea, such as in the departure of the United Kingdom, while demagogues exploit the EU’s structural weaknesses and gain unprecedented political and electoral influence. It also sees EU member-states, especially those of Central and Eastern Europe, ignore its principles and agreements and raise walls and fences to keep out those fleeing war and terror, who are seeking refuge and a new life in Europe, Tsipras said.
It sees the far right constantly expand its electoral base and operational action, targeting the most vulnerable, migrants, gays, trade unionists and anyone classed as an ‘enemy of the nation.’
It is crucial and essential that we begin a discussion today on the need for a new left in Europe, a new European left that will be born out of the contradictions but also a joining together of the progressive forces of Europe,” the prime minister said.
This new European left must be more radical and fight harder for the rights of the social majority, be more pro-European, anti-nationalist, more rights conscious and more ecological than the average for European social democracy or the European left, he added.
Tsipras also stressed the need to end the fragmentation of the leftist political field in Europe, noting that this played into the hands of those wanting the historic defeat of leftist Europeanism and the founding values of European unification.
The European left, the Greens and European social-democracy are the three poles that must come together in the effort to for the progressive forces together to join together, and for the battles ahead to be won, Tsipras told the forum, stressing that the most crucial parameter was that of creating prospects for the young: “The neoliberal plan brought unemployment among the young to historic heights. The plan of the far right promises only fear, hatred and division. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the progressive forces to fight for a Europe that has room for the dreams and goals of the younger generations.”