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Inaki Irazabalbeitia

Former MEP, Aralar

The Delphi Initiative

Jun 25, 2015

Last week-end a bunch of intellectuals, journalists and politicians met at the Greek town of Delphi with the aim of discussing alternatives to global neoliberasim.

'Europe of nations; fighting neoliberalism from the periphery '.


First I want to thank the organisers for the invitation they made me to participate in this conference.

In a talk I gave a couple of months ago at a conference on the future of the Left in Europe, I pointed out that Europe has three possibilities to position in front of the paradigm shift that represents the rise of economic and political power of emerging countries:

  • to submerge in a 'laisser faire, laisser passer' attitude assuming the economic and political decline of our continent,

  • to align with the strategies of tension and war built up by the financial oligarchy,

  • or to collaborate with emerging countries from a constructive strategy, based on the willingness of our countries to a self-criticism on their past attitudes.

I pointed out that the latter was the only option to secure the future of European citizens.

I added that that self-criticism shows us a complicated path. A path leading to a restructuring of the banking system and the Western monetary system, in order to ensure that the banking system as a whole is at the service of the productive economy and not vice versa, as it happened in last decades. A path that leads us to revive our productive economy and restore scientific and technological passion and the values of freedom and solidarity witch are the keys to progress. A path that demands a truly democratic revolution in order to address the submission of both, the media and Western politicians, to the financial power. The path must lead to reformulate the current European Union towards a model that deepens the democracy and that is to serve the citizens. A path that allows citizens, peoples and nations of Europe regain control of their future through advanced democracy systems that only a broad anti-oligarchic front can make possible now. Definitely, that path implies the need of fighting neoliberalism and its economic and political practices.

This strategy can be constructed up from different bases. The anti-oligarchic front that I mentioned can be arranged in various ways. Anyway, I think that in order to build up that front, we must overcome certain preconceptions of the traditional left, which exclude or obviate different realities other than state realities. For example, when in Europe, in the media and even in fora, there are comments or analysis on Spain and its political evolution Podemos is the only actor mentioned. The traditional left and the media are delighted with Podemos. However, the reality is much more complex.

There are in Spain other political movements as radical as Podemos, witch have had important electoral and social bases for decades. But these movements are not in Madrid, nor are statewide movements. They are movements born and located in stateless nations that make up Spain. They are movements located in the periphery. Looking at Spain through the lens of Madrid distorts reality.

For that reason I have titled this talk 'Europe of nations; fighting neoliberalism from the periphery '. In my speech, the concept ‘Europe of nations’ doesn’t refer to nation-states that formed the European Union, but to the peoples of Europe that have their own cultural and linguistic background like Basques, Scotts or Sami. I use that concept in the same sense that the European Free Alliance European party uses it. As you probably know the European Free Alliance share parliamentary group with the European Greens in the EP.

From my point of way, any strategy or movement wanting to change the current European reality, to combat neoliberalism, to build a more democratic and just society and to defend the rights of the popular class, must take into account the multinational and multicultural reality of current European states. In that case, democratic and social rights are necessarily tied to the right of self-determination.

Can we build that anti-oligarchic front excluding the vision of the citizens of Scotland, Catalonia or the Basque Country? I sincerely believe not.

Let’s analyse the situation!

The British case is a clear example. Which is the political panorama? A clearly neoliberal conservative party with an absolute majority that in practice has become an only-English party: it has only one MP in Scotland and 6 of the 40 in Wales. A Labour Party that has lost touch with its traditional bases and society; which is unable to propose initiatives for political and social change. A Eurosceptic right-wing movement deeply rooted in society. A green movement that hasn’t taken off, though they have three MEPs and one MP in Westminster.

 So, is there someone on the left of the Labour Party with the ability to articulate a political alternative? From the viewpoint of the traditional left, it seems that it isn’t. But there is. In Scotland the Scottish National Party and the Plaid Cymru to lesser extent in Wales.

In the last elections to the parliament of Westminster, the SNP had outstanding results: 56 of the 59 deputies elected in Scotland. The Labour Party lost one of its great fiefs. These results can not be explained only because a very important part of Scottish society wants the independence for Scotland, or because it is deeply suspicious of the English Euro-skepticism. The explanation is clear. The policies of SNP government in Scotland with progressive and social policies and the hard work of SNP activists in social movements have managed to convince the trade-unionist and the social basis of Labour that SNP is the only barrier to confront English neoliberalism and the only political movement capable of developing advanced social policies and to uphold the welfare state.

Something similar to that happened in Scotland in this last decade could happen in a few years in Wales. The Plaid Cymru, the party of Wales, which has a social and political profile very similar to the SNP can play the role of driving the now prominent Labour party to a secondary level in Wales.

Let’s go back to the Iberian peninsula; to Spain. There were local and regional elections last May 24th. I have read many analyses of the international press about the outcome of them. They great majority remarked the success of popular lists such as Ahora Madrid, Barcelona en Comú or Galician Mareas. All identified those lists with Podemos. All presented Podemos as the only alternative for political change.

The reality is not so simple. These popular lists that will govern cities like Barcelona, Madrid or Santiago de Compostela are pretty more than Podemos. In fact, Podemos performed rather well for an emerging political force, but it scored lest than 15% of the votes in the regional elections where it use their its own name.

Barcelona en Comú won the municipal elections in Barcelona. Many identify Barcelona en Comú as the trademark of Podemos in Barcelona. But Barcelona en Comú is much more than Podemos. Independent figures, like Ana Colau the new major, social and popular movements and several political parties formed Barcelona en Comú. For instance, one of them, Iniciativa per Catalunya – Els Verts, is a historic player of Catalan radical left and it has a remarkable institutional representation at all levels. It was one of the three legs of tripartite leftist government of Catalonia with Esquerra Republica de Catalunya and the Catalan Socialist Party. So identifying Podemos with Barcelona in Comú is not adequate.

Moreover, surveys conducted this past May on the parliamentary elections in Catalonia next September 29th placed Podemos as the eighth force in parliament with 6 or 8 deputies of 135. The traditional forces of Catalan left would be ahead: ERC (second), PSC (fourth), CUP (fifth) and ICV (seventh). Of these four forces only PSC is s statewide one.

Obviously if we seek allies in Catalonia for the anti-oligarchic front, we should talk to these peripheral forces that shape the reality of the left in Catalonia: the social-democrats of ERC, the ecosocialist of ICV and the alternative and radical left of the CUP.

The Galician Mareas are also a phenomenon broader than Podemos. For example, the elected major of Santiago de Compostela is the leader of the Galician radical left party 'Anova Irmandade Nationalista', which emerged in 2012 as a split from the Bloque Nacionalista Galego, the traditional Galician nationalist left party. Anova has two deputies in the Galician parliament and one MEP.

As a consequence of that reality in Galicia also the peripheral left, BNG and Anova, is a key element to the formation of anti-oligarchic front.

Let’s now return to the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian peninsula. In Valencia and the Balearic Islands, the Popular Party has been removed from the main institutions after decades of rule. The engine of this change has been the rise of the left nationalist forces, not the appearance of Podemos. Compromis is that force in Valencia and MES in the Balearic Islands.

In Valencia Podemos obtained 11% in elections to the regional parliament, for 18% of Compromis. In the capital city, Valencia, Compromis obtained 23% of the votes far exceeding both the PSOE and the list of Podemos. Joan Ribo, member of Compromis will be the major of Valencia for the next four years.

In the Balearic Islands MES surpassed Podemos in both Mallorca and Minorca. Furthermore, as a consequence of the governance agreement reached with the Socialists Party, the major of Palma de Mallorca, the capital city, will be a member of MES starting from 2017.

Let’s end this analysis of the situation in Spain talking about my nation, the Basque Country. I won’t go into details, but in my country the construction of an alternative to neoliberal globalisation goes also through the right to self-determination. Euskal Herria Bildu, the coalition to which my party belongs, is the second political force in the country and the first on the left.

One thing to note: in the regions or nations I mentioned live more than 40% of the Spanish population.

Perhaps some think at this point that the purpose of my talk is to discredit Podemos or to minimise its strength. It is not my intention. Podemos has promoted the biggest political quake since the end of Franco’s dictatorship. I think that Podemos will have a very important role in Spanish political renewal. Podemos is a key force in establishing any strategy against neoliberal globalisation in Spain, but not the only one.

Probably the situation and the political strength of the movements for self-determination in Spain and the United Kingdom are not comparable to what happens in other European states, with the exception of Belgium. By the way, I didn’t mentioned Belgium in this talk for the simple fact that Flanders self-determination forces are very conservative and I don’t think that could be partners of an anti-oligarchic front. This fact does not take away weight to the argument that I wanted to develop along these minutes: the need to change the focus in designing strategies against neoliberal globalisation exceeding the state vision and bringing as well the focus to the local and regional realities of our societies. Any strategy should take into account the forces that fight at the same time for the national and social rights of their citizens. Consequently the right to self-determination, the right to decide, and the defence of cultural and linguistic diversity should be as well one of the pillars of that strategy.

I’m aware that this is not the music that certain European lefts would like to listen to, since disguised with a false internationalism they are the most state nationalist than the right of their own states. I think, for example in the French left. I could understand the distrust of those forces towards ‘regionalism’ because off the ideological trench. But the world has changed greatly in recent decades, and if it is true that some of the liberation movements of European national minorities were conservative, exclusionary and xenophobic, that time has passed. Today the vast majority of those forces are clearly inclusive, progressive and social. You only have to go through the list of organisations mentioned in this talk, most of which are more to the left than the state left of their states.

I finish, the Europe of nations can be a major player of the struggle against neoliberal globalisation. Let’s take them into account!

Thank you very much.

The Delphi Initiative

Delphi Oracle