By Walter Baier
On 7-8 June the Alter Summit of the European peoples will be taking place at the Velodrome in Athens. An alliance of more than 150 organisations – including trade unions, social movements, NGOs and political actors – from all parts of Europe will present to the public a manifesto for the struggle for a democratic and social Europe.
Already today, six weeks before the beginning of the Alter Summit, the alliance turns out to be one of a new kind in its breadth: For the first time, big, militant trade unions with a rich tradition such as the CGT, CSC, FTGB, CGIL, the CCOO, TUC, CGT-P, Ver.di and many others I cannot list here for the sake of brevity (see website: www.altersummit.eu) and the European Federations of Transport Workers (ETF), of teachers (ETUC-E) and the employees in the public sector will stand side by side with the social movements, ranging from ATTAC, Greenpeace, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), the Transnational Institute, the Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt (CADTM), the League for Human Rights, the World March of Women to the movements of precarious people, Blockupy and the Indignants. Among the callers and supporters of the summit there are networks of academics, the EuroMemoGroup, the Économistes Atterrés, but also many artists. In eight countries national preparatory committees have been formed for the purpose of mobilisation. transform! europe and, in particular, its member organisations from Greece, France, Portugal and Italy have from the moment of its initiation been among those taking on responsibility in the movement.
That Athens was chosen as the venue of the Alter Summit is in itself a political message which is widely understood. Not only is Greece the country where the austerity programmes were for the first time applied in their entire brutality, it is also the country where resistance against the policy of the Troika reached a special extent and a new political quality which was given expression to in the last elections. This can be seen from the breadth and plurality of the forces integrated in the preparation of the Alter Summit on the Greek side, forces including not only the two major trade unions but also the entire range of civil society and solidarity work.
Another new aspect is that the initiators of the Alter Summit direct a request towards the political actors not to lead the movement or to represent it, but to support it with the means at their disposal and to the best of their abilities. This request was so far mainly responded to by the Party of the European Left, whose president, Pierre Laurent, and vice-presidents, among them Alexis Tsipras, are among the signatories of the call for the Alter Summit. Further support comes from individual representatives of social democratic and green parties opposed to the austerity policy.
At the moment this report is being written, preparations for Athens will be nearly finished. The programme and venue were decided upon at a meeting of the coordinating committee in mid-April. Details regarding the assemblies, the list of speakers during the major event and the text of the manifesto will be the subject of discussion during the final preparatory conference in May.
The presentation in Athens of the Manifesto of the European Peoples, which was discussed for months, will hopefully be a milestone on the road to a pan-European movement against the neoliberal destruction of social welfare states and democracy, that is, in the struggle for a democratic, social, feminist and ecological Europe. But it is no end in itself. In more than a dozen of assemblies before and after its presentation the link between this manifesto with the social and political struggles is to take place which today are unfolding in numerous countries, most of all but not only, in the European South, but also in the East and North. (For the programme see the website: www.altersummit.eu).
Among the initiators of the Alter Summit the question is also being discussed how Athens could be more than a singular event, that is, how it could initiate a process, not only of a debate, but of a common struggle in solidarity of left and alternative forces for another Europe.