Commentary. Is there a real alternative in thought and action to the dominant clash nowadays between the old EU elites of the neoliberal order and the rampant nationalisms, imbued with neo-fascism and racism?

Between nationalists and elites, the European left must offer a third way

The worst thing we could do at this point—and, unfortunately, when it comes to the “worst things,” there’s always one more right around the corner—would be to take the coming European elections in late May as yet another opportunity to try to piece together an alternative left. Not that this is not necessary—quite the opposite. If anything, the boundaries within which the current left seems to have lost its vitality are still far too narrow. But it would be the worst thing we could do, because in that way we would neither manage to clear the bar of the electoral quorum nor give continuity to a constructive project.

The question should be turned around: what is actually at stake in the European elections? Is the radical left able to offer something, and, if so, what? Is there a real alternative in thought and action to the dominant clash nowadays between the old EU elites of the neoliberal order and the rampant nationalisms, imbued with neo-fascism and racism? If we look outside the confines of each particular country, the answer is undoubtedly affirmative—although this is not sufficient.

There is a Party of the European Left, although highly diverse, which is set to launch its manifesto in the next few days. There is a European parliamentary group, the GUE/NGL (European United Left–Nordic Green Left), experienced from many battles. There are also experiences of government, from Greece to Portugal, which, despite compromises, isolation and difficulties, demonstrate that alternative political lines can be pursued in practice. Movements are rising up, more and more politicized and radicalized. The left has tipped the balance of power within historic socialist parties, like Labour in the UK.

But all this will not be enough to topple the powers-that-be and the dominant political tendencies in the EU. Especially not if we will be faced with a tightening of the new noose that the Franco-German axis wants to put around the neck of European economic governance, the very fabric of the EU. Financial leaders are on edge now from the reappearance of new financial bubbles other indications of economic recession. Meanwhile, NATO’s eastern border now coincides with that of the EU and could end up dragging the whole continent into a war. This would be absurd, but not impossible: one only needs to look at the winds of war now blowing in the Black Sea.

To keep a line of resistance and struggle alive in the EU would already be a great result. What remains of the radical left in our country cannot shirk from this task, and this is even more so for what is emerging out of the women’s movements, the youth movements—a diffuse left, without representation but still there. In this very stubborn world, the prospect of civil disobedience—while it is indeed necessary and useful, especially if practiced in an organized way—is not enough against the cruel and hyper-authoritarian twists and turns of the Salvini-Di Maio government. But it would be much worse if some kind of grand-coalition-type logic were to spread on the European scale, which would try to fight the neo-fascist and racist nationalisms in the name of the Maastricht Treaty, which is itself one of the causes of their spread.

There is no salvation to be found without setting in motion a process of transformation. If the EU remains encapsulated in the clash between the neoliberal order and nationalism, its days are numbered. And it will not be replaced by any idealized ancient homelands, but will rather leave behind weak and impoverished peoples, armed with hatred and resentment against one another. Thus, it is not a solution to throw up one’s hands and anticipate the end by promoting a voluntary and lonely detachment.

There is no escaping it then: what is necessary is the elaboration of an essential program and a path for struggle, centered on rewriting the European treaties, starting with avoiding suicidal provisions such as the fiscal compact; on the redefinition of the social and ecological objectives of European economic policy, doing away with the addresses by the ECB; on the start of a process of democratization that would put forward, in a grounded way, the issue of a constitution for the European process, starting with the rights of the person, from being open to and welcoming towards that part of humanity that Etienne Balibar has called the “roamers”; and on the overcoming of NATO’s hegemony to ensure that Europe would be the land of peace, not only inside but also outside its formal borders, which are, as always, movable backwards or forwards according to convenience.

The mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, has called for a national assembly in Rome. Its contents and its shape still require a great deal of further definition. Two errors of reflection should be avoided: either conceiving this as an opportunity for a last-moment push in an electoral contest that is not, after all, coming as a surprise, or pretending that in a few months we will already have created a unified force that would clear a path forward not only for the May elections but also afterwards. This is something we all want, but not something we are in control of. “Better fewer, but better,” as one might say—not for the mere pleasure of quoting, but in the belief that only the power of the ideas and consistency in action can have standing today over what has degenerated into risible and crumbling unearned monopolies.

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