[Below is an intervention made by Francine Menstrum of Global Social Justice, on the open email list created for discussion on the successful convergence and collaboration towards and within Firenze 10+10 space that will take place between November 8-11, 2012]
Firenze10+10 is an important event. The organizers have to be congratulated for their initiative and for the wonderful way in which they have been preparing the event, with amazing organizational capacity and with a political awareness of the urgency of convergence and alternatives.
Whether the event will be a success, no one knows. Whether one will succeed in avoiding an a-political consensus-seeking and/or a total absence of any convergence remains to be seen.
Let me explain what I mean.
Could it be that the dividing line of ‘Europe’ within the left has all of a sudden disappeared? Has a miracle happened? Are we now all unanimously ‘in favour of European policies’ or ‘against the European Union’? Obviously, we are not.
But how will our differences be tackled in Firenze? Will we do as if they did not exist? Will we acknowledge them and look for ways to nevertheless walk part of the way together?
Let me first of all, in order to avoid all misunderstandings, state that according to me, all positions are legitimate. This note is not meant to convince anyone of anything, but to state the obvious. Because our divergences are, I think, up to a certain point, incompatible. And in Firenze, we want concrete results.
Second, allow me to clarify my own position: I have always been very critical of the neoliberal policies of the European Union, but I have also always believed we need European institutions and European integration to better regulate our economies and organize our societies.
Today, we all want ‘another Europe’, this is what we have unquestionably in common.
We all reject, at least I think so, the crisis measures and treaties of the past two or three years, the Semester, the Euro Plus Pact, the Sixpack and Twopack, the ESM Treaty, the TSCG treaty and the emerging fiscal union.
But what do we want?
Do we want to prepare and criticize/amend the coming treaty changes (fiscal union). Do we want to get involved in a future European convention? Some of us will say and have already said no.
Do we want a common currency? I do not think there is any agreement among us.
Do we want a European Union? Even if we probably all agree that treaties and institutions need changes in order to restore and improve democracy, some of us will say ‘yes’, other will say ‘no, thank you’, and still others will say ‘yes, but an intergovernmental Europe’.
These are not minor differences which can easily be ignored, because they lead to differences in some major policy debates of today. What kind of budget do we want for the EU? Do we want a European Commission with executive powers?
This dividing line remains present within the Firenze group of movements and within the AlterSummit Group that forgets to blame the European Council – and thus de-responsibilizes our own governments for what is happening – and puts all the blame on the EU. Again, I think all positions are legitimate, but if we want to work efficiently in the future, these unspoken differences will not allow us to develop a common strategic vision. Maybe we do not need a real common vision? There is no problem, I think, in finishing with two or three clear but different lines of reasoning. I see no reason to silence our differences. Rather, we should use them in order to make progress.
Because it is not that we agree on the broad common objectives and differ on the details for implementation, it is the other way round, and that makes it so difficult. But there are solutions.
First, I think it is necessary to clarify the positions and the objectives, and from there look for the way we can walk together, till where. This will not weaken our arguments, but will liberate new energies for fighting together where we can, and fighting for our specific objectives, at different levels, where we have to.
Second, I think it is important to remember that what this is all about is a neoliberal attack on workers and on poor people. It is a class conflict that cannot be solved with ‘another Europe’. As long as we are unable to break the ideological wall we are faced with, we should not pretend the solutions can be found in institutional arrangements. Our governments are as neoliberal as is the Commission and as are the global financial and trade organizations. Thisideological struggle should be our first priority, and therefore it is important to look for allies at the political level.
Third, we should never forget that our struggles have to be organized and articulated at different levels. Firenze10+10 is extremely important because it may be the beginning of a real European opposition, even if it exists of two or three different alternatives. At the same time, our struggles at the national level will have to continue, because fundamentally, it is still the European Council with our national governments which takes all the important decisions. And simultaneously, we have to continue our global struggles, because it is at the global level, formally and informally, that political and financial/economic leaders coordinate their actions.
Is this possible? Of course it is. We just have to do it.
Global Social Justice