President of the Party of the European Left: 'Long live the common struggle against war and fascism!'

Walter Baier

First published at Transform! Europe.

I am very glad that I can take part in your meeting today – in Barcelona where in 1936, only a few hours after Franco’s coup, the first international brigades assembled for the first great struggle against fascism on European soil. The idea then as now was that growing fascism needed to be opposed by the resolute unity of the democratic and socialist forces. It is in this spirit that I would like to bring you solidary and militant greetings of my party, your and our party, the Party of the European Left, which unites 43 parties from 25 countries within and outside the EU.

The year 2023 will be a decisive one. Not just because of the many important elections, among them the elections in your country. 2023 will above all be characterised by the manifold crises with which people living in Europe have to contend. The pandemic has exposed the deficiencies in the healthcare systems, reduced as they have been by austerity policies. The explosion of the cost of living, of housing costs, energy costs, which force people into poverty, the menace of recession, and climate change with its catastrophic effects – all this requires a social response that the capitalist system cannot give.

The crises have a gender dimension. And therefore, the European Left is a feminist party. To be feminist does not mean being less a party of the working class but rather more so; it means addressing the working class in its concreteness as women and men, as migrants, as skilled workers, as technicians and the unemployed. 

In all of Europe and worldwide we are witnessing an upswing of the extreme neofascist right. In France, Sweden, Italy, Austria, Portugal, and in Spain. Many people believe the demagoguery of the neofascists because they are disillusioned with the political establishment, because they have been let down by the welfare state, because they have been humiliated and not listened to.

And so the question arises: What Europe are we living in? The neoliberal Europe, that is, the Europe of individual egoism is in crisis. The answer from the radical right is collective egoism, which channels frustration into violence against women and minorities. All of us and especially the people of Spain know what crimes fascism is capable of. We have to help people understand the social nature of fascism. It is not an alternative to the existing system; rather it is its most malignant and dangerous excrescence.

But there is also the other Europe of wage workers, of feminist movements, of ecological movements, which is being expressed in the magnificent battle waged by the French workers and employees against the degradation of the pension system, a struggle which the brothers and sisters are waging not only in their own interest but in the interest of all working people in Europe.

We are now at a crossroad. It is hard to identify a path towards a transition that connects ecological necessities and social needs: we support the social movements and trade unions in the struggle for a ‘just transition’, that is, a social and ecological transformation.

We demand the expansion and improvement of public services. Conversion is feasible once the fetish is overcome that it is first of all the profits of real-estate speculation, of the corporations and financial industries that have to be protected.

In order to accomplish this, the neoliberal austerity policy must be abandoned and the Growth and Stability Pact eliminated in favour of an economic policy in the public interest.

The basic question is: who should be the active subject of this transformation? We know that the only kind of transformation that can succeed is one that is implemented by wage-earning men and women. And so democracy is the decisive criterion of the transformation.

People must have the right to freely decide how they want to live – at the workplace, in the municipalities, in the nation, and in the state. The Party of the European Left supports the right of nations to self-determination everywhere: in the Ukraine, in Kurdistan, in Ireland, in Cyprus, in Palestine – and, of course, also in Spain and Catalonia.

But we also know that we are living in a capitalist society in which – with the inequality of economic opportunities for people – democracy is a façade for the exploitation and oppression of wage workers, the precariously employed, and unemployed men and women.

Their self-determination will only become real to the extent that it is tied to material rights that create social equality. Housing, energy, education, and medical care are Commons. They must be neither a privilege of the wealthy nor at the mercy of the profit interests and moods of the market.

The aggression of the Russian Federation in the Ukraine is a criminal act, a violation of international law and the UN Charter, which was clearly condemned by the UN General Assembly. 200,000 people have fallen victim to the aggression and subsequent war. 300 to 500 Ukrainian soldiers are being killed at the front every day. Five children are dying daily in the barrage of rockets and mortars; 14 million people are fleeing. This must stop!

At our Party Congress in December 2022, we agreed on three demands:

  • The opening of negotiations
  • A ceasefire!
  • The withdrawal of Russian troops

Each day in which this war is continued confirms the rightness of these demands.

Two weeks ago Germany’s Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, said ‘we are at war with Russia.’ I don’t know if she is aware of the ramifications of her statement. But the fact is that with the delivery of continuously heavier weapons the danger of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, and thus of nuclear war in Europe, is growing. We can still halt this tragic turn of events. The window for a diplomatic solution has still not closed. But to use the opportunity diplomacy and politics has to be activated. One of the last open, multilateral avenues of communication is the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe whose next meeting of parliamentarians will be held in Vienna at the end of February. We demand that the parliamentarians who are meeting in Vienna seize this opportunity to clear a path to peace negotiations.

However, the war in Ukraine also demonstrates the need for a new European security system that does not rest on the threat of mutual annihilation. Such a system cannot consist of the existing military alliances, including NATO, because security does not exist against one another but only with one another. Therefore, European governments should sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that has been decreed by the UN, which for a year now has become recognised international law, and so liberate Europe from the danger of the nuclear weapons stationed here.

We are living in a time that is full of risks and challenges. The Party of the European Left knows that there is no single political force that can cope with these problems. Cooperation and dialogue that respects our diversity and plurality are therefore the most important strategic guidelines for our Party.

In this sense we are also preparing for the next edition of the European Forum of Progressive Forces, which this year will, for the seventh year now, bring together diverse political orientations, and we hope to see you once again at the Forum.

Peace, Bread, and Roses was the motto of our party congress. In this spirit, dear comrades:

Long live the common struggle against war and fascism! For social justice and democracy, for peace and socialism!

The above address was given at the #8ANEUiA Congress of EUiA - Esquerra Unida i Alternativa.