On the weekend of April 10/11 we organised an international seminar in Rome in partnership with EuroNomade and Esc. Here you can find a brief report, pictures, and the video-stream from the day.
We put two questions on the table:
- The traditional horizontal approach of grassroots mobilisations is increasingly merged with a drive to compete for vertical political power, as evidenced by the experiences of Syriza and Podemos. What are the key elements of these new social formations?
- The negotiations over the restructuring of Greek debt have highlighted all the political limitations of current EU structures. Can Europe change from within? Or has the EU become structurally unfit for change?
The event saw a wide participation from activists, organisations, social movements, political parties and trade unions. Several international participants, including representatives of Podemos, Syriza, and Blockupy, guaranteed a genuinely transnational debate.
The experience of Podemos, as told by member of the national committee Rita Maestre, immediately brought to the fore the necessity of crafting a language capable of addressing a wider social block than that of organised social forces. Often, as EA board member Catherine Fieschi put it, the political story we tell is not accessible to people.
Collective actions and experiences sometimes create new languages. As Raul Sanchez from the Fundacion de los Comunes stressed, the 15M mobilisations in Spain created a new political scenario influencing the media and creating a new language that in turn created new political identities.
Questions immediately followed: How can a social majority be created in other European countries? How do we address the different temporalities that different countries find themselves in? Can we go beyond the classical tools of the demonstration, and work towards the creation of a Syriza in other countries?
The debate then connected to the second question of the seminar. Even assuming success in changing the relative balance of forces in Europe, how can European policies be changed?
Loukia Kotronaki of Dyktio placed the emphasis on the current negotiations between Greece and the Institutions. She argued that this process should be democratized, that a European coalition against austerity and debt should be set up, and that a European alliance, including Syriza and Podemos, should lead that coalition. The sense of urgency was shared by many, with the current EU-Greece negotiations seen as a make it or break it moment.
The debate turned to the effectiveness of political action. Sandro Mezzadra argued that the negotiations over Greece highlight the limits that the structure of the European Union places on political action, limits that Syriza is facing now, and argued that a new constitutive process for Europe needs to start. EA advisory board member, Engin Isin stressed that the EU is not designed primarily to be a democratic space, and pointed to the importance of other institutions which act in the European arena, including the Council of Europe and the European Courts.
Can the institutions of the EU be changed then? Piervirgilio Dastoli stressed that Europe has already changed during the crisis: the change is going on continuously, the question is to influence the change in the right direction. He also agreed with the suggestion that the European Union itself may not be the best institution to push for positive change, and maybe the Euro-Med is a more fertile institutional setting now.
A continual stress was placed during the debate to avoid conflating Europe and the European Union. Indeed, there was large consensus that the dimension of the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, the Balkans and even looking to Europe’s relationships with South America should be looked at. Pursuing current negotiations for a debt-resolution mechanism at the UN level, currently led by Argentina and blocked by some of the largest European countries, was mentioned as a possible avenue for action.