The European left comes to London
US politicians struggle to cope with their trillion-dollar debt, it is clearer than ever that we are facing a global economic crisis of mammoth proportions. These are not problems that are national in the making, nor problems that can simply be blamed on the bankers. This is a systemic crisis on a global scale that requires answers on a global scale.
As the crisis has escalated it has become clear that those who run the capitalist system are prepared to do anything to protect their interests and to avoid paying for their crisis. It is also clear that governments are prepared to wreak havoc on their own populations on the instructions of international financial institutions.
In Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland, governments have bowed to the injunctions of the so-called "troika" - the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. This has meant the imposition of brutal and ineffective austerity measures, privatisation - the plundering of the collective wealth of the people - and the destruction of social rights. These measures have attacked the very democratic foundations of these societies.
This anti-people offensive is now being extended to all EU countries through the Euro Pact and the "new economic governance." This aims to deconstruct what little remains of the social state and public services, while cutting back on salaries and social rights. Countries would be invited to apply these destructive policies and would be automatically sanctioned if they refused.
This will be far worse even than the Maastricht Treaty in the early 1990s which imposed huge government spending cuts, causing massive unemployment and cuts to wages and pensions. Those attacks on working people led to enormous demonstrations. Millions mobilised across Europe in response to the onslaught and the movement won many victories.
Today too, we have seen significant protest taking place across Europe and elsewhere in opposition to the austerity packages - aka swingeing cuts - which are depriving people across society and hitting young people particularly hard, depriving them of education and employment.
We have been inspired by the protests taking place in Greece, in Spain, and elsewhere - the new mass movements challenging the very legitimacy of the failing political systems that are trying to prop up the failing economic system.
In Britain we have seen significant protest - the half-million-strong demonstration on March 26, the pensions strikes and protests in June and the many local campaigns which are springing up. Protest so far has tended to be nationally based. Such protest is essential and is the bedrock of what is needed. But many people are now recognising the limitations of solely national protest. Voices from across Europe are calling for a convergence of struggles, for fronts of resistance everywhere which will assert the primacy of human need over the demands of finance.
The Coalition of Resistance (CoR) here in Britain has recognised this need and is in strong agreement that resistance needs to be international and it needs to be co-ordinated. As a top priority CoR is now working with movements and organisations across Europe and beyond to organise an international conference in London on October 1 - Europe Against Austerity.
Germany's Die Linke, Europe's most successful left party, is the latest organisation to back the conference. In fact, supporters from Europe are coming in thick and fast as the economic crisis facing the continent widens and deepens. But the addition of Germany's left party indicates the significance that the conference is now taking on. Serious left forces will be gathering in London to debate and analyse what is taking place Europe-wide and internationally. But crucially, participants will be discussing how to co-operate and co-ordinate action and how to extend solidarity to each other's protests. A vital aim of the London conference is to draw together activists and organisations from different parts of the left across Europe. The economic onslaught on the working class of Europe requires left unity as never before and many are attending the conference in the hope that a new unity will prevail, to meet the challenges that we face collectively.
And Die Linke is very significant indeed when it comes to left unity. Indeed, it is an example that many in Europe look to. The party started life as the direct successor to the ruling communist party in the former German Democratic Republic. It then went through a significant political transformation, first as the Party of Democratic Socialism, embracing the democratic red, green, feminist and pacifist politics typical of the new European left in the 1990s. In its first decade it established itself as a significant political force in the eastern states of Germany, often in coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in regional government. But in 2005 it overcame its regional profile when it joined with a left split from the SPD under the leadership of Oskar Lafontaine.
The alliance won 8.7 per cent of the vote and 54 seats in the Bundestag, emerging as the fourth-largest party in Germany, with electoral support across east and west. In 2007, Die Linke was founded as a new party from the two traditions. But it rapidly became more than the sum of its parts as activists from other left traditions joined up in significant numbers. Now communists, Trotskyists and left social democrats - and others - have found a common political home in the new party. Not surprisingly, Die Linke's share of the vote across Germany has risen to almost 12 per cent.
So it is great news that Sevim Dagdelen, one of Die Linke's 76 MPs, will be joining the conference in London on October 1. Born in West Germany in 1975, Sevim, who is of Turkish origin, was elected to the Bundestag in 2005 and she serves on the party's international commission.
This will be a fantastic opportunity to hear the perspective of a party that has inspired many across Europe that unity is possible and achievable. Another key supporter of the conference is the European Left Party (ELP), a Europe-wide organisation that includes 26 communist and left parties from across the continent - both east and west. Its delegation will be led by ELP president Pierre Laurent, who is also head of the French Communist Party and former editor of the popular French newspaper L'Humanite.
Our emphasis is on working together, with respect and openness, to maximise our strengths and agree common direction and action. Too often the movement in Europe has been divided between countries and within countries. If we are to be effective, that has to stop. Now is the time to build on the positive aspects of the European Social Forum movement and of the powerful anti-war mobilisations of the last decade and let us take our international work to a new level.
The crisis is too serious for us to be divided in the face of the challenges confronting the people. The crisis is global and the solution will have to be global. Make sure you're part of it.
Kate Hudson is general secretary of the (UK) Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Register for the conference now.
The photo, supplied by Die Linke’s parliamentary group, shows several of the party’s MPs on a demonstration in November 2010. Sevim Dagdelen is on the right of the photo .