Several hundred people gathered in Athens last weekend for the second Congress of the European Left Party. This unites a number of socialist and communist parties — including Respect — which oppose the European Union’s neo-liberal agenda and support participation in the broad movements that have gathered strength in recent years.
The party is chaired by Fausto Bertinotti of Rifondazione Comunista in Italy. Together with Germany’s PDS — now part of the Linkspartei bloc — these were the driving force in the creation of the new party in Rome last year.
The participation of representatives of the new Linkspartei in Germany who have come over from the Social Democratic Party and of members of Respect represents a new shift, as the European Left Party begins to engage with a wider realignment of the left.
The main driving forces in the French no vote which rejected the EU constitution were present — the Communist Party, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire and those from the left of the Socialist Party.
There was wide agreement on the sort of policies we should champion. Rather than join the race to the bottom where each European country competes as to who has the lowest wages and taxes and is most open to the free market, we should campaign to extend the best social and economic measures available — the best minimum wage and maternity provision for example.
Concretely, opposition is building across Europe to the Bolkenstein Directive (which is being driven through once more) whereby, for example, Polish workers in Britain would be paid Polish rates and work according to Polish standards, creating a multi-tiered workforce.
The Portuguese Left Bloc has proposed that the European Left should select one campaign to concentrate its forces on. The suggested focus was in defence of asylum seekers. The party needs to take to the streets and to build its profile.
One issue not discussed was participation in centre left governments, which could face the left in Italy and after regional elections in Germany.
But the second congress was an important step in creating left unity across Europe.
The left in Britain needs to be fully part of those striving for a better Europe of peace and justice. Across the EU we face the same attacks on pensions, education, welfare and working rights.
That is already feeding a fight back which needs to spread across the EU.