Opinion: Progressives and alliances

Mina Kostopoulou

Political forces from different political ”families” in Europe are for long in search of alliances, realising that the current correlations will change the day after the European elections. Obviously, it is not one voting day, which by itself can change the political spectrum in Europe -correlations that have been formed and are still being formed through events and set goals for years. However, for sure this voting day depicts in numbers -and governing ability- the powers of the winners and of the losers. After all, in an era when positivism is dominating, we cannot ignore the numbers. The alliances that are being sought begin from the traditional “popular” right and the neo-liberals -who, years ago, joined euroscepticism when they were defeated in the economy’s field and, now, approach openly the far right and the nationalists. However, these alliances also concern the so-called progressive forces: Left parties, the Greens and a progressive part of the Social Democracy (which seems to be the biggest loser of the forthcoming European elections). Everyone is seeking those alliances for their own reasons -and fortunately, the progressives are doing so by realizing not only the dangers austerity and inequalities pose, but also the risks from the far right discourse and practices for the future of the EU.

Indeed, the need for progressive policies is larger in front of the biggest existential question about Europe itself. Attempts inside the European Parliament, as is the ”Progressive Caucus” of MEPs from the Left, the S&D and the Greens, and the ”Progressive Society” inside the gulps of S&D, are examples of successful dialogues and common action.  These forces foresaw that the anti-democratic clouds above the European people (and the member-states, and the institutions, and also those refugees and immigrants who seek safety in our continent) is getting darker. A lot of us are afraid that this cloud will stay -and we have all the reasons of the world to feel so. As long as conservative, non-democratic, racist voices in our European neighbourhood are getting stronger (from Lepen and the alliance of Kurz and Salvini, to Orban and the Visegrad Group, from the rise of xenophobia and racism, to the voices of the once populist right-wing forces and their inclination towards nationalism and the far right; from the racist outbreak at Kemnitz in Germany, to the credits given to Hitler by a representative of the Ukrainian Parliament), the social and political clustering of the left, ecological and democratic voices becomes more urgently needed.

The upcoming European elections in May, and their result, will decide which voices will dominate in EU and the next five years’ aroma. Fortunately, in front of and opposite the nationalistic approaches there have being growing movements against austerity and Memorandums, solidarity pro-refugee and social movements, forums and alliances -also inside the EP as mentioned above. In front of and opposite this logic in favour of the many there have been growing smaller or bigger wins of progressive forces: these are the electoral wins which SYRIZA achieved, the ”Grexit” from the Memorandums (and the positive social agenda which is being adopted in the country -to name few, the abolition of the minimum wage and the restoration of collective agreements), the new governments in Spain and Portugal…

Nevertheless, we cannot ignore another existential question regarding exactly these progressive forces -a question correlated with the existential question for Europe. And based on that we should proceed towards the elections. Will their discussions be ”imprinted” socially and bring tangible results to the needs of the many? Institutionally? In strong forces that will win against the extreme reactionary forces? Will the progressives manage to overcome what separates them, build alliances -and maintain them- so as to give answers convincing to the social majority? And if necessary, based on simple liberal values, if thus we can overcome the far right dangers?

European Progressive Forum

In the footsteps of the Sao Paulo Forum held in the Brazilian city in 1990 -which continues to date by bringing together hundreds of forces and progressive parties in Latin America- the European Progressive Forum has been organized for two years. Dealing with dilemmas that stem from the European integration in the 21st century, and follow up tp the questions of globalization, environmental concerns, the women’s movement.

The forum will be held this year in Bilbao, Spain. The upcoming November (9-11/ 11), left, ecological and socialist voices will meet to negotiate collective solutions to austerity, to the democratic retreat, and conservatism. The choice of Spain as a point of intersection of these voices is not accidental.

In Spain, the society and the working class especially are experiencing the effects of the harsh fiscal austerity imposed by previous governments, and today the Sanchez government is struggling to reintroduce social policies and to face other challenges, such as the refugee crisis, based on solidarity. In Spain, the labor movement can provide considerable experience of their collective struggles, while political forces such as Podemos can convey the experience of “bottom-up” constitution of political subjects with a socially progressive, radical agenda -albeit their own contradictions and problems.

*Mina Kostopoulou is coordinating the  ‘Progressive Caucus’ in the EP