Eric Toussaint: In any case, in my opinion, revolutionary political organizations and all radical social movements must come together. We must break down the wall between political organizations and social movements. Political organizations need to understand that they do not have a monopoly on developing programmatic proposals. Social movements can also help.
We need to design campaigns that bring people together, people who are organized at different levels, including those who, until recently, were not organized. A good example is what happened in France with the yellow vests movement, many of whom were people who had virtually no experience of organizing and who took a huge leap forward in their political consciousness and their mode of self-organization, and including forms of action aimed at paralyzing the normal functioning of society. We must therefore adopt forms of action and gathering from which all elitist or Pharisaic behavior, even sectarianism, is excluded. I know how difficult it is, and you in Greece know a lot about it. As I have extensive knowledge of the situation in Greece, I know how it works. So this is the first step. If everyone or much of the radical left takes a doctrinal approach and decides to build or strengthen their own faction or engage in some kind of competition with other groups, we court failure. Thus, the question of unity and the removal of walls between the different types of movements is the most important.
Next, we need emergency proposals that are very radical and far-reaching because people, at least some, want solutions that break with the system. And if the radical left sets limits on its proposals, the racist, macho, fanatic extreme right, including religious obscurantists, will gain the upper hand with its own radical responses. The radical left must therefore be really radical, which was not sufficient in its proposals. It’s far too shy.
As you know, I find it an extremely serious failure that the radical left, apart from saying that the banks should be nationalized, not be able to really take into account the urgency of setting up a campaign to expropriate the bankers. and capitalists. In addition to repeating that banks are important; but if you look further, you quickly realize that, as my comrade Patrick Saurin also says, in the radical left, the banks are an issue that is not really thought out, they are simply perceived as enemies, but not analyzed.
Now, if you don’t think and analyze, you can’t really know what to do, you can’t convince people to expropriate the capitalists, because an offensive is about to happen. be launched, and it will be huge.
European central bank
Institution which in a given state is responsible for issuing banknotes and for controlling the volume of money and credit. In France, it is the Bank of France which assumes this role under the aegis of the European Central Bank (see ECB) while in the United Kingdom it is the Bank of England.
ECB: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/Pages/home.aspx and governments are using private banks as a tool to act against the economic crisis; it all depends on the banks. While various aids should come directly from public bodies and not go through banks. Or we should socialize the banks and turn them into a public service. Everything currently depends on private banks, with the exception of a few allowances such as unemployment benefits etc. But usually by going through bank accounts, people have to open with private banks.
I must add here that an interesting characteristic of unions in Belgium, I don’t know if you know it, is that they pay unemployment benefits. Thus, in a city like Liège, 40,000 additional people had to receive benefits overnight at the end of March. And everything was managed by the unions and not by the banks. Thus, all union staff had to organize themselves to be in contact with the newly unemployed and pay the allowances allocated.
But it also creates a bind
A bond is an equity interest in debt issued by a business or government agency. The holder of the obligation, the obligee, is entitled to interest and repayment of the principal. If the company is listed, the holder can also sell the bond on the stock exchange.
, obviously. If when paying for benefits, you can explain “something else has to be done” etc. and you don’t have to use a bank account, you can make other suggestions. It is the most important. I think we must be able to relaunch a mobilizing international initiative.
The last big event we had planned was the first European Social Forum in 2002: it was a great success.
In January 2002, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, we met for the second edition of the World Social Forum, and some of us thought: “Why not convene a first European Social Forum? And we asked a number of organizations and with the Italian Social Forum we had a first meeting in Florence in November 2002. When we did this we had no idea if it would work.
A month before Florence we were really worried because we had sixty thousand registrations from all over Europe and we were wondering how they could be accommodated. Now, of course, the circumstances are different and the main players have changed. But will we be able to relaunch a similar initiative at European or global level? Who can do it? Because, in the meantime, there have been enormous mobilizations. The Arab Spring, the Indignadx in Spain, the movement for the occupation of squares in Greece, “Night standing” in France, the yellow vests, Occupy Wall Street. But none of these movements resulted in an international organization.
It’s impressive. These movements took place at about the same time: Arab Spring, Indignadxs, soon followed by the square occupations in Greece in June-July 2011 and Occupy Wall Street, but no international, continental or global structure emerged. And the World Social Forum was becoming obsolete. Is it possible for actors like Attac, CADTM, political organizations and trade unions to convene a real global or European international process?
I am ready to get involved and say: this time political and social organizations must participate with a common platform or call that should be more radical than that of Porto Alegre, so can we do it?
There are old people, like me, we have contacts. But I am convinced that if only the older generation that convened the World Social Forum is involved, it will not work. We must bring the older generation closer to the generations who have experienced new forms of action. But the problem is that among the new generation, there has not necessarily been a process of accumulation and consolidation. So who should we contact among the Yellow Vests?
There are a lot of squatter movements all over Europe; many young radicals,
but they are not federated in a movement of European squatters. There is a housing movement and CADTM activists are involved in it. There are movements around social centers, dispensaries and polyclinics, especially in Greece. But there is no European network. Five or six years ago there was a network for health professionals, but it no longer has any importance at European level. There are contacts between campaigns for asylum seekers’ rights, but there is no single network that connects them. Could the Greek campaign, the one you are involved in, provide the energy to unite other campaigns starting in other countries and connect with other networks such as Via Campesina, the peasants, the World March? women, the CADTM, the Attac network, etc. and build a new project and convene a new global or / and European meeting?
We must think about it, anticipate, it is clear that spontaneous actions like those which took place in 2011 have their limits. We have to have political organizations on board, because here again we have to mention Greece. It’s startling to think that I had met lots of people who became ministers in the Tsipras government, and Tsipras himself, at the European Social Forum, and before at the G7 counter-summit in Genoa in 2001, then at the Forum. in Florence and the last time I saw them was in 2006 at the old Athens airport, Hellinikon, in May 2006. I saw people who were going to become ministers or senior executives at Syriza and cut off or even betray the social movement and the popular classes. So for me one of the lessons is that if we are rebuilding an initiative, political movements must be part of it. They must be there so that they are empowered by social mobilization.
Of course, this will not prevent betrayals, compromises, on the part of a lot of people, but we have to demand a lot more responsibility. Because why was the European Social Forum founded? Because the Italian Social Forum supported the Prodi government because the friends of the Italian Social Forum supported the Communist Refoundation (and I also had friends there) who supported the Prodi government. And the Social Forum in Brazil sank when the CUT and the Sin Tierra movement supported the Lula government as it implemented liberal social policies, and when the Indian movements, which were really strong and had succeeded in bringing together 120,000 people at the Mumbai Social Forum, supported the government of the Congress Party. This means that we have had a number of anti-globalization social movements that have aligned themselves with governments that implement social-liberal policies. We must learn from it. It wasn’t just Tsipras’ betrayal in 2015. It was exactly the same kind of mistake as the Communist Refoundation in 2004-2005, if I remember correctly. There is a kind of continuity, and we must therefore contribute through this kind of debate to reconstruct the memory of what happened over the past twenty years to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Alexis Cukier: I suggest ending with this call for critical thinking and internationalist action. We’ve been talking for a little over an hour.
Thank you very much Eric.
Thank you everyone. The debate continues in many other contexts.
Eric Toussaint: Absolutely.
Eric Toussaint interviewed by Alexis Cukier.
Translation: Snake Arbusto and Christine Pagnoulle