New European Left party launched

BERLIN – Eleven left-wing and communist parties, meeting in Berlin on Jan. 11, agreed to found a party called the European Left. The parties adopted a common program, but plan further discussions on the new party’s rules and leadership structure.

The most active initiators of the new party included the host, the German Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), Italy’s Party of the Communist Refoundation and the Greek Coalition of Left, Political Movements and Ecology (SYNASPISMOS). Also joining from the start were the Communist Parties of France, Austria, Slovakia and left-wing parties of Luxembourg and Spain.

The 11 parties, with a combined membership of about a half million, decided to act now to allow the new party to compete in the June elections to the European Parliament.

According to Lothar Bisky, chair of the PDS, “The time is ripe for a party of European leftists. A Europe of peace, of justice, of openness and democracy is impossible without a strong visible and self-assured left.” He said the new party should become something more than simply a loose umbrella organization.

The new party’s program stresses eight demands:

• No weapons of mass destruction from the Atlantic to the Urals, no NATO, no military alliance of the European Union.

• A redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, solidarity, and social policies promoting jobs, job training, the environment, and the taxation of capital speculation. People, not profits, must become central.

• No attacks on human rights in the name of fighting terrorism, but an open Europe with human rights and asylum for refugees.

• No trade war at the expense of the less developed countries.

• Opposition to the concentration of the media in fewer and fewer hands; education and culture for all.

• Ecological goals against carbon dioxide emission, export of garbage, the exploitation of energy resources and forests.

• A rollback of growing sexist discrimination caused by globalization; for equal rights for women.

• A fight against the domination by capital and the rule of capitalism.

Their joint statement said, “We orient ourselves toward the fight for peace, for anti-fascism, anti-racism, democracy, social justice, feminism and ecology. … We remain open to all who cannot yet or do not wish to join us. We deeply respect varied forms of cooperation and practice them so our continent becomes more democratic, social and peaceful.”

The meeting did not hide sharp differences of opinion on the left in some countries. One of these is Germany, where the PDS faces sharp controversy in its ranks about its present course, especially its participation in a coalition with the Social Democratic Party in the Berlin government. That government has made sharp cuts in social programs in order to stave off bankruptcy.

Among those present at the meeting, but not immediately joining, were the AKEL of Cyprus and the Socialist Party of the Netherlands. Delegates from the Norwegian Socialist Left Party and the Finnish Left Alliance expressed their desire to cooperate, but also decided to keep their observer status for now. Also undecided or waiting were the Greek Communist Party, the Czech Communist Party and two Catalonian left-wing parties.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.