(By Claudia Haydt, member of the Executive Board of the Party of the European Left and member of DIE LINKE Executive Board)
Under the unfortunately red-hot slogan: „Stand up for Peace – In Solidarity“ about 300 participants and numerous day guests from Berlin and Brandenburg came together for the 9th summer university of the European left. Constructive, concentrated, and communicative, people of different ages from at least 32 countries worked together during this unique annual basic event of the Party of the European Left (EL).
The summer university of the EL is an increasingly important network gathering – also regarding the growing European relevance of the EL. There are only few similar opportunities for officals from the different EL member parties to interchange with each other and with interested militants, with affiliated parties and organisations in such an open atmosphere. For five days, there was time for common analyses, debates and action plans – right in the middle of the tranquillity and scenic beauty of Werbellinsee. There was an especially intensive debate on the topic of Ukraine and the challenges of government participation during and in between seminars. A welcome substantial addition was supplied by numerous events of the feminist network of the EL (EL-FEM). Beside the offical programme a number of self organised network gatherings took place. The meeting of the different youth and student party organisations shall be cited as an example.
A well-attended plenary debate with Pierre Laurent, president of the EL, was undisputedly the highlight of the event, at the same time providing a programmatical starting point for the future work of the EL and its member parties. Pierre Laurent pointed to several central political developments and challenges after European Elections: He recalled that many people have a negative opinion of EU institutions and that there was reasonable doubt of any chance of finding a way out of the crisis with the help of these institutions. During the common evaluation of the elections it was stated that this insecurity was a dangerous breeding ground for right wing extremist and populist powers. Their strengthening could be prevented or at least contained in every country where strong and reliable left powers succeeded in gaining political (and cultural) hegemony in the public debates. The candidacy of Alexis Tsipras for President of the European Commission and the common campaign for him helped bringing together left European forces.
Currently, many parties and movements knock on EL’s door and want to cooperate with her. This was reflected in the participation of representatives of left parties (e.g. from Slovenia and Ireland) that are so far not organised within the EL. As a further result of European Elections the EL is an increasingly visible and accepted actor on European level. Pierre Laurent emphasized that the task of left forces was on the one hand to respect internal plurality and to integrate and on the other hand to bring all forces together. To make this possible he suggested five axes for pooling the activities of different left parties:
European-wide fight against austerity.
Fight against TTIP and other free trade agreements.
Fight for democracy and against the increasingly undemocratic EU structures. This includes also the defence of the rights and freedoms of the people and especially migrants as well as resistance against extreme and populist right wing forces.
Strengthened fight for peace and against military build-up, including the mobilisation against the NATO summit in Wales on September 4 to 5.
The realisation of a „Forum of Alternatives“ in May 2015 in France to gather left parties and movements (as well as trade unions) even beyond the EL.
Numerous seminars and workshops at the summer university deepened the substantial focal points, with analysis as well as concrete cross-linking of the future work playing a vital role. Under the title „Reclaim Economy“ debates on consequences of the crisis in different countries, the fight against precarious living conditions, economic democracy as well as cooperation between parties, movements and trade unions took place. The majority considered it important to root left parties in movements and consistently reactivate this during joint campaign work. Therefore, it was self-evident that the campaign against TTIP and the support of the corresponding European Citizen’s Inititiative would play a vital role in the future activities of the EL.
The exchange about the situation in Ukraine was already in advance included in the summer university programme since there was great demand by the EL chairs. Furthermore, some people from Ukraine and other East European countries were present. Additionally the topic Gaza/Israel had a strong presence in light of current events.
During the Ukraine seminar an action proposal came up and was positively taken up by the participants: The EL calls for a joint European action day on 4th September against the NATO summit in Wales. A corresponding declaration directed against the wars in Ukraine, Gaza, and Israel as well as the wave of military build-up planned by NATO was already forwarded to the member parties. Thus, corresponding to the motto of the day „Reclaim Peace“ a first step was done towards joint peace political activities.
The great success of the summer university was due not only to the relentless work of the head offices of the EL and DIE LINKE but also to the regional hosts of the Barnim district and Land Brandenburg. Despite the Land electoral campaign the comrades from the region were constantly present during the summer university. Their experience with left government participation, in exchange with comparable experiences from other countries, was an important contribution to the debate and the development of left strategies.
Both the joint work as well as the common celebrations – including a punk rock concert in nearby village Eberswalde – revealed: Europe is growing from below. Only when the left forces are regionally rooted they can permanently develop into an effective force of protest and change.