A new opportunity for internationalism

This was published before the stunning results won by Podemos in the recent elections, but it is still of great relevance. It is by Miguel Urbán, who is on the editorial board of the Viento Sur magazine (and also, as I understand it, a participant in Podemos, though the article was not written in that capacity).

PodemosandSyriza

A new opportunity for internationalism (Público, 20th May)

The forthcoming elections to the European parliament are a good opportunity for the construction of an internationalist discourse and practice, which are urgent for setting out a credible alternative to policies of cuts and austerity.

Setting out emancipatory politics from an internationalist point of view has become a necessity for those of us who aspire to change things. It is not merely an ethical stance, though we should not let go of the moral strength provided by solidarity with other peoples who appear far away but who are confronting problems that are more and more similar to our own. Feeling that there are other people who are struggling for the same cause as us is a good antidote against hatreds and the temptation to get confused as to who the enemy is.

Internationalism, as an ethical construction, is a strategic weapon that places struggles in terms of exploiters and the exploited. It is a great remedy for xenophobia and oppresive nationalisms. The loss of this horizon has led to major tragedies throughout history. This year will mark 100 years since the start of World War I and it is worth recalling one of the facts that allowed that horrible butchery to take place: the fact that social democracy abandoned internationalist stances, placing fidelity to the national ruling classes over alliances between the different peoples of Europe. Now, at the moment when the powerful have unleashed a war of the economic kind against the public, based on social devastation, we must bear in mind where forgetting our common interests leads.

I mention that it is not simply an ethical option to highlight that it is also a material necessity. The process of European integration has generated structural relations, both on an economic and a political level, that mean that the struggle in one isolated country against these policies of impoverishment is destined to fail. Syriza lays this out well when it speaks of breaking with the Troika without giving up on expanding change throughout Europe. Is it not the case that the current model of European institutions drives a process whereby the countries of the centre plunder those of the south whilst pushing all workers into precarity, independent of their nationality? This anti-democratic Europe, governed by what Perry Anderson in his magnificent book The Old New World calls regulationist institutions (no-one elected them but they set the limits on what can and cannot be done) has become a battlefield, a battle that takes place in different spheres and at many levels, a battle between those below and those on top.

What is clear is that it will fall to one country to be the first to break with the policies imposed by the EU. Let’s take a very likely example: the case of Greece. If Syriza wins the elections and can opt to govern, it will confront two challenges. On the one hand, winning elections does not mean holding power. Syriza would confront internal pressure, from sectors of the State apparatus and the ruling classes, who would resist any change. The only solution that would resolve this problem is a self-organised and conscious people that actively supports the government. So a businessman closes a factory? Then workers will have to take charge of it with the support of the State. In fact, similar cases have already occurred in Greece, but lamentably, the Troika government prefers businesses to be to providing support for workers.

The other problem would be the attempts by the European institutions and neoliberal governments to suffocate the Greek economy from the outside. The Troika and the EU would do all in their power to show that no other kind of politics can take place in Europe, that we are condemned to austerity and impoverishment. The government of Greece would no longer be an exclusively Greek phenomenon, but would rather be another European battlefield. If such a government were defeated, the idea that another model is possible would suffer a heavy defeat, but if a government along these lines were to resist, it would be an example to be followed by other peoples, opening up a real alternative for other kinds of policies. Syriza moreover has the historic responsibility of not betraying the expectations for change that its arrival in government would bring. Another disappointment would dramatically open the doors to the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn.

The only solution would be to show solidarity with a government of this kind from all corners of Europe, by exerting pressure upon the different countries and different institutions of Europe. If we want to win, it is urgent for us to start building links between the different resistances that are coming to the fore in Europe. The European elections are a good opportunity for this, because “if you can’t do it alone, you can do it with friends”.

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