A successful Green Academy Winter Seminar

During three days at Plitvice Lake, more than 50 participants of the Green Academy Winter Seminar on degrowth discussed degrowth and debt, degrowth and municipalism, and degrowth and labour in working groups run by Ajda Pistotnik, Andro Rilović, and Clara Dallaire-Fortier and Nikolina Rajković.

Along with the working groups, the participants listened to lectures by Petr Jehlička and Tiziano Distefano, as well as a panel on degrowth and the Green New Deal.

Especially important for IPE’s work was the first public presentation of our Degrowth Donut. IPE’s big reseach project on sustainability indicators was presented by Mladen Domazet, Marija Brajdić Vuković, Clara Dallaire Fortier and Jenny Ufer. You will soon be able to explore and make your own Degrowth Donuts on the web console we are developing.

We’ve finished the 6th Green Academy!

The 6th Green Academy entitled “Moving Beyond Fragments” took place from the 25th to the 30th of August 2018.

In the five days of the Academy and within three Academy modules we listened to 30 lectures and 3 debates, participated in workshops and self-organised sessions, watched movies in cooperation with Human Rights Film Festival, took a Komiža walking tour and wrapped it all up with a beach party.

IPE is now preparing a publication about the Academy that will give you a more in-depth view of the topics we discussed.

Until then, have a taste of Komiža’s atmosphere in our gallery:

[foogallery id=”2938″]

First version of the Green Academy 2018 program!

Here’s the first, tentative version of the Green Academy 2018 program!

TENTATIVE AGENDA

Green Academy 2018 selection results!

We are very happy to announce that we have finished the selection process for our Call for Participation/Call for Ideas for the 6th edition of Green Academy, taking place on the island of Vis, Croatia from the 25th to the 30th of August 2018. Applications have been evaluated by a minimum of three persons per application.

Please note that every applicant will be individually contacted via e-mail for further details during the following week.

Only successful applicants will be notified, as announced in the Call.

We hereby remind you that the Green Academy is an open and free program which can be attended by anyone. As organizers, we would like not to introduce fees, so the Call for Participation relates mainly to ensuring co-funding of travel and accommodation costs, offered by IPE and our partners.

 

Green Academy 2018: Moving Beyond Fragments

Apply now for the sixth edition of Green Academy: Moving Beyond Fragments!

MOVING BEYOND FRAGMENTS

If there ever was a time that required a coherent and comprehensive progressive political program in Europe – it is now. The economic crisis in 2008 has not weakened the grip of neoliberal extractivism; to the contrary, inequalities across Europe have soared, introducing authoritarian responses with rapidly shrinking space for democratic action. In response, left, green and other progressive forces have taken a markedly defensive stand, undergoing fragmentation with devastating effects for their political relevance and visibility.

The challenges we are facing will not be waiting for us to regroup. We need to act, both in the short-term, in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament in 2019, but also bearing in mind long-term trends such as growing populist responses, climate change, privatisation of the commons and the devastating impacts of the growth orientation. Progressive forces need to put aside internal differences and eliminate competition among themselves that benefits primarily the neoliberal establishment and right-wing populists. We need to come up with a political program based on cooperation, outlining bold political and assertive social actions, and planning struggles for fighting both through institutions and outside of them.

In its 6th edition, the Green Academy aims to identify our convergences and draw on positive experiences of social movements and political actors across Europe. We want to foster transnational European exchange on ways of moving beyond the fragments, with a particular focus on Eastern Europe and the European South, where obstacles to enact progressive politics seem most vivid. The emergence of far-right authoritarianism and the exposure to austerity should challenge us to formulate a sharp and coherent political strategy, homegrown to the European semi-periphery.

Since its establishment in 2010, the Green Academy was designed as an intensive knowledge-building and discussion program for left, green and other progressive political forces. So far, almost 1000 people from civil society, politics, academia, movements and media have participated in its work. The 6th edition of the Green Academy, grounded in intersectionality and transdisciplinary approach, encourages in-depth knowledge building, combining academic modules with political debate and activist exchanges.

Continuing its focus on three education modules, namely degrowth/sustainability, municipalism/commons and climate change/just transition, it will aim to break with disciplinary divisions and limitations, using methodologies such as critical pedagogy etc. We will also experiment with new formats that encourage self-organisation, cultural expression and learning of practical political skills. We hope that you will be able to join us and help us build alliances that move beyond the fragments.

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John Clarke: “We shouldn’t take failures as the definitive statements that it cannot be done”

The conversation took place during the 2016 Green Academy and is a part of the series of interviews conducted by Bartul Čović. John Clarke is an Emeritus Professor at the UK’s Open University and has recently been working on the politics and policies of austerity. At the Academy he gave the lecture “Welfare State and the Commons: Conflicts and Contradictions” as part of the Commons module. 

BARTUL ČOVIĆ: In the last year and a half, we have experienced two referendums in Europe, Oxi and the famous Brexit, and there is definitely a big amount of dissatisfaction with the way Europe is working as articulated by people, and many studies of referendum results showed that both Oxi and Leave were very much supported by lower social classes. So, given the fact that you talk about austerity, what do you think is the main reason behind this dissatisfaction and this loss of trust in Europe and is the European dream turning slowly into a nightmare?

JOHN CLARKE: What a wonderful question. I am going to do two things in reply. The first thing is to say that the dissatisfactions are multiple. So, some of them are certainly about the European Union; some of them are certainly about domestic politics and political parties. Referendums are strange moments, because people are positioned differently from their old political habits. And that’s important for being able to voice dissatisfaction. They become the possibility of a protest vote. Then I think people are also dissatisfied with a much longer history of, the usual way to call it is the neo-liberal restructuring of the world, and their world and their places of work and life. So, I think all those things compress certainly into Brexit, which is the one I know best obviously, but it’s visible even in places there are no referendums going on. That distancing is what my friend Jeremy Gilbert calls ‘disaffected consent’. You can see the gaps growing and that crystallisation of multiple dissatisfactions is what’s really important and really of interest, because certainly in the British case there is now a question of what happens when nothing happens. So, if Brexit doesn’t make the world better, for the people who voted to leave, what’s the next political moment? And the danger is that it’s turning to a more authoritarian moment, creating the possibility of the figure of the strong leader, which Europe has been tempted by in the past, in these difficult moments, and in a moment of anti-politics and distrust of politicians. Because, even the referendum, even Brexit proves that politics is a bad thing. And that scares me, because I think that we collectively, progressively need to find ways of engaging people with politics. And the danger is that they withdraw, and that’s the ground of at least totalitarianism if not Fascism. For an old person like myself, that’s scary.

But I want to go back to just one word that you used, which is the word ‘articulate’. It’s a really important word in the field I grew up in, in cultural studies, because it was the concept that my teacher (Stuart Hall) used most regularly, most powerfully. I want to pick out two things about it. Because it’s both ‘articulate’ as in the sense of coming to voice, saying things, but it’s also about articulation as a specific set of connections. And referendums are really interesting for two things. One is the possibility of new connections. New mobilisations, a new sense that people might have to be able to say something. But in the British case that leaves the question of whose voice it is. Because it’s certain that the vote was a disaffected, angry, disenfranchised people’s vote, but in Britain the voices were all the voices of the political elite being ventriloquists for popular sentiments. And I think that’s worth political attention and I think the capacity of people who are rich, come from elite backgrounds, educated in private schools, speaking as populists is a really peculiar moment in British politics, a really peculiar moment.

So when you say that the future frightens in this British case, in the context where you have a Conservative pro-austerity government, would you say that the fact that you might lose the supervision and the command of Brussels and the Union might create an even worse and chaotic situation, in terms of Greece where there was a Left government whose promises probably excited us all?

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the experience of a Left government whose promises excited me. So, there’s always a moment of transnational envy about such possibilities. Syriza’s promises excited me because it was the first moment in which the normative, hegemonic model of European austerity was challenged and made clear that political alternatives are possible. The strange combination of authoritarian and technocratic European and British austerity… just having that broken up was massively important. My problem in Britain is that the Left is currently, if I say the word ‘disorganised’ that’s a very gentle and polite version of the problems with left politics, and precisely in the moment when the Conservative party threatened to split over Brexit, there were massive internal disputes, a moment that might have been, a moment of possibility for the Left did not materialise. The Conservative party is regrouping, the populist-nationalist party, the United Kingdom Independence Party, has been massively successful, but they are now fragmenting too. But there is this crisis of politics it seems to me. And that’s about the crisis of the party form, and a crisis of representation, a crisis of attachment. But that’s both a moment of possibility and a moment of great danger. Those moments tend, historically in Britain, to be resolved in more conservative, more authoritarian terms. And when the long drawn-out failures and crises of neo-liberalism, the detachment from Europe, the disaffection from political parties, and the global flows of migration which my country tries to resist furiously… that looks like what my teacher used to call ‘a conjuncture’, in which many different forces, contradictions, antagonisms come together and they are moments of possibility and moments of great danger. I’m a pessimist about the United Kingdom.

Photo: Mirela Šavrljuga

I heard some news saying that the popularity of the Labour party is on the rise. Do you think they are capitalising on this situation?

I think it’s why one of the elements of the crisis is the crisis of the party form. So, I do think the Left in and around the Labour party has mobilised, has expanded, has successfully engaged young people in particular in organised politics possibly for the first time. And I think Corbyn has been a powerful symbol. I think then there are two different problems. One is that we are now stuck with a massive struggle within the party, for the control over the party. And in past moments of crisis the Labour party split, and it confused British politics for a long time and I think there is a risk of the same happening. But there’s a question about how to translate mobilisation into the larger field of representative politics. And that’s always the problem for activist politics, which is if you are going to contest parliamentary how do you manage to keep both your feet on the ground, how do you maintain an activist, progressive, leftist politics, and mobilise a much broader base of popular forces. One of the reasons why Syriza was so interesting was because they did manage to for a while – for a while – to keep both feet on the ground.

The last thing you said reminds me of two other statements made by others two days ago. One of the speakers, I think from Catalonia, said that the state of mind of the Left is Fukuyamistic, that they accept this post-historical, post-political, post-ideological consensus and they do not dare to think or talk about alternatives. And one of the members of the Initiative for democratic socialism from Slovenia, Lev Centrih, said that until the moment in which we don’t dare to question some basic elements which make up capitalist political-economical system we will just have one Tsipras after another. In terms of Syriza’s failure, do you think that the battle can be won on the field of parliamentarism or with movements like DiEM25?

I wish I knew. And I hope that I’m not sufficiently arrogant to think that I’ve never been wrong. And one of the things that scare me within Left politics is that most of us believe that sounding certain is the most important thing we can do. Because there is a long history of viewing ambiguity, ambivalence, uncertainty as forms of weakness. I have an old Trotskyite friend who every time I said the word ‘ambivalence’ in his presence used to hit me on the head. And I think that’s a strain in Left politics. And so I think that certainly social-democratic parties across Europe have for the last 25-30 years mostly bought into the idea that you could be a nice version of neo-liberalism. A gentler, kinder, more sociable version of neo-liberalism. And that’s the long betrayal of the possibilities of the Left. And that’s why I think lots of Left parties have struggled to find an alternative footing, an alternative critical relationship and then it’s difficult to bring into the parliamentary popular politics questions about ‘realism’. Because for 30 or nearly 40 years neo-liberalism has defined realism. What is politically realistic means going with the global, going with global capital, becoming an investment-friendly place, lowering corporate taxation, all of those things. Do I think it’s challengeable on the terrain of popular politics? Yes, I do. I do because Syriza indicated a possibility. We often fail but we shouldn’t take failures as the definitive statements that it cannot be done. Podemos has been interesting in trying to build popular foundations for such things. The Labour party in Britain might, but it is so consumed by internal struggles that we won’t know for a long time. I think other places have versions of such possibilities. So, I won’t give up on possibilities because I am scared of the definitive statement which says ‘popular politics is not possible, we cannot win there’. But if we can’t win there what do we do? We become insurrectionary? It’s not such a great history in European politics, either. I mean, I don’t mean social-democracy does not have problems, but insurrectionary risings have not gone well. So, I remain open, if not optimistic.

Photo: Mirela Šavrljuga

During the breakfast you mentioned there are important parts of history which should not be lost. What are the things we need to keep reminding ourselves and others of in order to help our contemporary political struggles?

What a difficult question. If I could have three or four things, one would be the real significance of anti-fascist struggles through the 20th century for the formation of European politics and for the survival of European societies. And I think not just in as it were official revisionisms, of which there have been many, but in terms of keeping popular sensibilities and popular memories alive of what the alternative was and what it might have been without those struggles. It’s critically important. The second would be a history that shaped much of the middle of the 20th century, which is a history of market failure and why we developed public powers and capacities, public institutions, however compromised, however contradictory. There were reasons why we built welfare states, why we built public health systems, why we built public education, all those things were, in part, the consequences of market failure. The market could not deliver. And as we come back into a period of increasingly visible market failure, we should be telling that longer history about why the struggle to find collective, progressive alternatives has always been important for protecting people from the ravages, the viciousness of the market. For making better lives, for providing possibilities of – oh, this sounds grandly liberal – the possibilities of human development, rather than the narrow stunted growth that we currently have. All those things and one of them would be then the rich mixture of political inheritances that went into making those things up.

So we tend now, I think, to tell histories of the Left in terms of political parties and in terms of big ideologies. But actually, in the places I know, and in the places that people created alternatives, there are many, many currents that go to make up progressive movements that brought about progressive changes. And one of the histories that’s important is to remember all those little bits instead of thinking in big blocks. There’s a famous English, British historian called Edward Thompson, who talks about rescuing. He talks about it in terms of particular types of worker, about rescuing them from the massive condescension of history. The fact that we forget how these things were made up and we treat them as if they are the results of singular forces, singular blocks, and actually they were made up. And one of my favourite phrases for anything is that things are made up. Made up, both imagined, they are made up in your head, but they are also assembled, put together, brought together out of bits and pieces. And I guess remembering the past in that more complicated way would be good.

When you talk about these little pieces the first thing that comes to my mind is sort of a left critique of the Socialist culture of memory during Yugoslavia which argued that all of the state museums were ignoring the subject and the figure of the people, of the mass, and were stuck in the narrative of individual heroism, big ideologies, party and also the grand leader while failing to show the participation and mobilisation of the mass.

Yes, those exclusions matter and histories that don’t have the people in them are always disappointing, institutionalised, exclusive types of history. And they are glorifications in different ways. But then, we need to think about the categories of the people and the mass. Because I think the people are complicated and not simple. So, it’s a collective identity which is itself made up. If we talk about, what would the French say, the popular classes, the popular forces, you already get to a plural. So not the people in its singular, pure state. Britain is always more messy, multiple, plural, heterogenic, complicated and always socially and politically requiring the political work of joining together, making up. So, it’s not that the people sit there waiting to be found and discovered. The political work is to mobilise them together, together, and hope that they don’t just break apart into their different constituencies, fractions. And that looks like serious, difficult, hard political work and I am sure that the younger political generation will be more capable than mine was.

 

John Clarke

John Clarke

John Clarke is an Emeritus Professor at the UK’s Open University, where he worked for over 35 years before retiring. He undertook postgraduate work at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in the 1970s before teaching and researching around a range of topics including welfare states, citizenship, public service reform and the impacts of managerialism and consumerism. He has recently been working on the politics and policies of Austerity.
Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović was born in Zagreb in 1996. He assisted in the organization of the past two Green Academies. His work has been featured in several non-profit media from ex-Yugoslav countries. He's a Sociology student at the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Philosophy.
Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović rođen je 1996. godine u Zagrebu. Sudjelovao je u organizaciji prethodna dva izdanja Zelene akademije. Surađuje sa nekoliko neprofitnih medija na području bivše Jugoslavije. Student je sociologije na Filozofskom fakultetu Univerziteta u Beogradu.

Derek Wall: “This is to be the Machiavelli moment in politics”

The conversation took place during the 2016 Green Academy and is a part of the series of interviews conducted by Bartul Čović. Derek Wall teaches economics at Goldsmiths College and is a member of the Green Party of England and Wales. At the Academy he gave the introductory lecture on “Commons and Green Politics”. 

BARTUL ČOVIĆ: In the last year and a half we’ve had two interesting referendums, the failed Grexit and now Brexit, and general statistical study of the referendum results shows that mainly lower social classes expressed their lack of confidence in the European Union. Of course, in the Greek example there are many different readings of the referendum questions and in the end the will of the majority was not respected, but how do you think the British Left will do in this really specific and dynamic political context? Do you think it will be able to mobilise and capitalise on this growing anger?

DEREK WALL: Jeremy Corbyn has become a phenomenon, he is like a symbol. He has emerged purely by accident. But that has captured a lot of popular discontent. In turn, the referendum was an imaginary solution to a real problem. You have real problems in the sense that there’s austerity and there’s democratic deficit. So for example Britain has never been a truly democratic country. It struggles to be formally liberal democratic, but we have an unelected head of state, the royal family can still intervene in politics, we have an unelected House of Lords, we have an electoral system which means representation from smaller parties isn’t generally taken into account. Both in terms of economics and austerity and lack of democracy, Britain is in crisis. And then that crisis was expressed during the Brexit referendum as purely racism. Right wing populists like the UKIP Party argued that all of Britain’s crisis was because of foreigners. This xenophobia was used to turn discontent about austerity and frustrations about democratic participation into a campaign to leave the European Union. This was a British manifestation of a world wide trend, think Trump in the USA or Orban in Hungary. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party’s first truly left-wing leader in its history, is a much more positive product of the real problems Britain has.  As I say nobody on the Left including Jeremy expected him to be elected as Labour leader.

Now that you mentioned the rising of extreme right, not just movements, but governments in Europe, that we have all followed for the last 10 or even 30 years in Balkan terms, do you think that anti-fascism as an old political platform, designed by the Left in order to defeat the fascist threat 70 years ago, could be revitalized and be one of the mobilising policies and platforms for the new Left?

I think anti-fascism is essential, I think that the anti-fascist struggles from the Second World War and since have been heroic and important struggles. Physically confronting fascism is only part of the solution. There has got to be a kind of cultural politics. The politics of figures like Chantal Mouffe, she talks about populism, post-Marxism, post-structuralism, is part of this. However, this form of analysis has been academically obscure, has tended to be anti-Marxist. In Britain precisely it helped people like Tony Blair. But nonetheless you need a cultural politics. It’s not just meeting fascism as a physical force. It is understanding how culture is used to construct fascism. So what we have to do is intervene culturally, in terms of the symbols we mobilise, the discourse we mobilise, and in Britain it’s very much challenging the media, because you have the right-wing tabloid populist media that basically takes people’s fears and crystalises them around the image of the other. Our tabloid media takes people’s real fears, racialises them and you then have to come up with ways of challenging the media. So for example, in Britain there’s a lot of discourse around progressive alliance, Greens working with Corbyn, I think that’s good. But not enough on its own. A powerful right wing media can fix its meanings and in doing so it helps construct a racist populism.

So what I’m interested in is cultural politics that comes from Marxism, because there’s a cultural moment of ideology within Marxism. So we go back to Althusser and how to construct alternative identities and mobilise them. And what you articulate with that is the idea of radical democracy. Because lack of real democracy where people get to make decisions and participate is vital, lack of real democratic choice fuels a discontent that is transformed by the right. So to fight fascism, one of the elements of that is to fight it in cultural way and another element is to recognise the authoritarianism is increasingly populist and you have to find ways to turn that into Left populism in the sense of actually constructing democratic societies.

Photo: Mirela Šavrljuga

You mentioned the elimination of Marxism in academic circles. This is common in Croatia since the dissolution of Yugoslavia. As a scientific methodology Marxism was completely wiped out until maybe five or six years ago, when a new generation of professors showed up, and it seems to me that the representation of anti-fascism also lost its clear political and class connotations and became kind of middle-class civic values narrative. Is that among the things you had in mind when you said that we have to change our strategy to show that fascism was actually born in order to crush the workers’ struggle?

To an extent it’s much easier to work within the Marxist problematic, partly because the post-Marxist politics of Blair is utterly collapsed. So it’s easier on the Left in Britain to use terms from Marxism. I also feel you need to have an element of pluralism, there is not one correct universal answer or analysis. I would agree that fascism is something that was constructed to oppose socialism and kind of stop working class self-confidence, I think that’s part of the picture, but I think it’s too simplistic. What we go back to is basic political themes. Spinoza in his Theological political treatise poses an essential question: why the human beings fight this hard for their oppression, as if it were their liberation. And then Wilhelm Reich kind of repeated this question when he talked about the mass psychology of fascism. I’m not really into psychoanalysis, but people sometimes celebrate fascism. Within us there are drives to obedience, so there’s that layer of analysis as well. I am not saying humanity is doomed to obey but I do think an analysis of our motivations is part of the picture. Lacan has something to say about this but it is very difficult to grasp, or at least I find him difficult to understand. I did find that Yannis Stavrakakis’s book The Lacanian Left: Psychoanalysis, Theory, and Politics quite useful on all this.

In talks with people at the Green Academy about various experiences of the Left in the last couple of decades they all mention the similar problem – a shift of the Left movements towards representative politics when they arrive to electoral success. We have experiences of Syriza and of the Initiative for democratic socialism in Slovenia, in which there is a complete alienation of parliamentary representatives and the base of the party. Do you think that after the failure of Syriza the Left should think about other forms of struggle other than the parliament? Can the Left even win a battle through parliamentary politics?

There is not a straightforward strategy. We are in situations of unequal power that means that any strategy from the Left is likely to fail. The non-state option used by the Zapatistas failed and yes, Syrizia failed too. There is not a clear easy road map. All we can do is think more clearly about how to achieve social and political change. This is to be the Machiavelli moment in politics. Incidentally, while he wrote The Prince, it should not be forgotten that he was a radical democrat, an official in Florence which was a city state, a Republic in a Europe of monarchs. So from the sociology of the repertoires of direct action used by social movements to the experience of the left in government, we need to keep learning. I’m lucky enough to have spent time with Hugo Blanco, the great Peruvian ecosocialist revolutionary, who led an uprising for land rights in the 1960s, but is still active today, publishing Lucha Indigena. His faith has been in the social movements and direct action but he was also for a time a Senator. I think the question of change is often posed in a sectarian way, it needs to be open and well explored.

I also think that different as they, are both Althusser and Ostrom have much to say. Althusser noted that communism failed partly because it failed to build genuinely democratic institutions, the revolutionary moment is not enough, you need institutions that empower people and build a culture of the commons.  While in the USA on the other side of the Cold War, Elinor Ostrom and her husband Vincent had a similar critique, noting that institutions designed with care were part of the process of transformation.

To me politics has a Machivelli moment, of strategy.  But strategy is difficult, open and constantly demands more work. It also has an Ostrom moment, where societies need to respect plurality and build, again difficult as this is, institutions to promote cooperation.

 

Derek Wall

Derek Wall

Derek Wall is the International Coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales. He joined the Green Party in 1980, when it was known as the Ecology Party. He was Principal Speaker of the Green Party between 2005-2007 and is a local councillor in Winkfeld, Berkshire. He has had eleven books on green politics published. Derek teaches New Radical Political Economy at Goldsmiths College, University of London. His main academic interest is in the work of Elinor Ostrom, the only woman so far to win a Nobel Prize for economics, for her work on commons. His books on commons include The Commons in History (MIT 2014) and The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom (Routledge 2014). He is also a founder member of Green Left and the Ecosocialist International Network. As a patron of Peace in Kurdistan and works closely with Kurdish activists in the UK.
Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović was born in Zagreb in 1996. He assisted in the organization of the past two Green Academies. His work has been featured in several non-profit media from ex-Yugoslav countries. He's a Sociology student at the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Philosophy.
Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović rođen je 1996. godine u Zagrebu. Sudjelovao je u organizaciji prethodna dva izdanja Zelene akademije. Surađuje sa nekoliko neprofitnih medija na području bivše Jugoslavije. Student je sociologije na Filozofskom fakultetu Univerziteta u Beogradu.

Carlos Delclós: “This is a good time for social movements to be anarchist in practice”

The conversation took place during the 2016 Green Academy and is a part of the series of interviews conducted by Bartul Čović. Carlos Delclós is a Spanish sociologist and activist, and he participated in the Academy’s opening debate “Tipping points: what, where, when and who?”.

BARTUL ČOVIĆ: Can you explain to us the context of the Left in Barcelona which came on our radar after the electoral win of Barcelona En Comú? What kind of social groups does this platform try to represent and how do you comment on it from the perspective of social stratification, one of your areas of study?

CARLOS DELCLÓS: If you look at the areas of Barcelona that Barcelona En Comú won, they were working class areas where the consequences of the crisis were most dramatic. Those areas also have a rich history of worker organization. They were literally built by Andalucian, Galician and Valencian migrant workers.

For the most part, Barcelona En Comú seek to govern in the interest of those classes. They do have some trouble, though, particularly with people who generally do not fit in neatly with the broad, universalist discourse of citizenship. Migrants, for instance. For the most part, migrants are denied the right to vote, excluding them from electoral discourse. Then there is the issue of the “criminalized poor”, what some sociologists refer to as the underclass. Of course, Barcelona En Comú are not the only ones who do not know how to work on this topic—it is a problem of Left and society in general—but the challenges emerging in Barcelona are interesting and revealing. I recently wrote an article in Roar Magazine about a union that was started by the city’s street vendors. In Barcelona, the Right always tries to use street work as a lever against new Left governments. This time, however, the workers responded by empowering themselves. But when the Right attacks the vendors, they do so with a populist discourse about paying taxes that the Left doesn’t seem to know how to deal with. But in reality, the vendors are too poor to be taxed and in any case, their administrative status provides no formal channels for doing so.

The right wing is demanding fiscalization of their sector?

No, they are demanding violent repression. They just try to justify it by referring to fiscalization. The Right loves taxes when they’re forcing black and brown people to pay them. En Comú have tried to counter this with some tentative gestures, like trying to bring the union to a negotiating table. But then, predictably, the police and local businesses refused to negotiate with what they called an “illegal” union. It’s a tricky issue, but an important one because it provides a map of real power in a capitalist property regime and shows us the deficiencies of the Left in dealing with issues like social exclusion and the criminalization of poverty.

That said, I suppose one of the nice things about Barcelona right now is that we do have a nominally left-wing government facing a substantial amount of pressure from the Left. It is a good problem to have in Europe today, where what we are seeing is a proliferation of fucking fascists.

What kind of pressure are you talking about?

Pressure from the more radical social movements. There is also another radical left party in the institutions called the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), Catalan independentists who act almost as a sort of anarchist political party, if that makes any sense. They have their own contradictions as well, but they are not particularly interested in governing. They can, however, threaten Barcelona En Comú’s electoral space from the Left which, again, can be a good problem if it is approached the right way. The question, of course, is how to pressure from the Left without providing space for the Right. After a year and a half with the new government, we can’t quite tell if this is working.

Photo: Mirela Šavrljuga

A common problem for all New Left parties which managed to become a parliamentary force (or to form a government) is the alienation of the party base and its leadership. How big of a challenge is this for the Left in Spain? Do you think parties will manage to continue the struggles of the movements from which they were born?

In case of Barcelona En Comú, movement pressure does not come from inside the party so much as from actors outside the party. Specifically, it comes from those who cannot form a representative party. We are talking about people who are formally excluded from participation in the institutions, like migrants, or those who are ideologically opposed to representation, like anarchists. They’ve had some trouble with squatters and unions, in particular the anarcho-syndicalist CGT union, which controls public transportation services. They carried out a wave of strikes that Barcelona En Comú did not handle particularly well.

In any case, my point here is simply that pressure comes from organizations that are external to the party, and I think this is good. Look at Greece. There, the system is still perfectly intact even though Syriza won. This is because what they “won” was something that was organized precisely against their project. It is a paradoxical situation. The new Left parties reach the government riding an unprecedented wave of momentum and then they have to govern from a very defensive position. I think this is a good time for social movements to be anarchist in practice. They should work towards being fully autonomous, being independent from whoever is in power, being independent of the party and the state to the extent possible, antagonizing markets, the private sector, establishment powers and so on. Otherwise, they risk simply being an arm of the government, making it impossible to claim the popular legitimacy needed to successfully pressure for emancipatory change.

The big risk when social movements jump into the electoral arena is contributing to the mythology of representative democracy. I used to never vote. When the indignados movement occupied the squares in 2011, we chanted “They don’t represent us”. In Catalonia, we were more specific. We said, “No one represents us.” But recently I have voted for En Comú or Podemos, and I am fairly comfortable with the choice. Many abstentionists take voting way too seriously, as if they bought into the silly belief that who you vote for actually represents you. They don’t. When you vote, you’re just pushing for a different context in which to operate. It seemed to me that a vote for Podemos, for instance, would create a more favorable set of conditions for us to work in, with less repression towards movements, more willingness to respond to demands, more willingness to challenge the rule of the markets, and so on. I might be wrong, though, and end up being one of those alienated people you describe.

Franco’s politics of history was based around the idea of national reconciliation. That idea is alive today not only in Spain, but also in post-Yugoslav space. In Spain this was symbolically confirmed by erecting monuments such as “El valle de los caídos”. How important is it for us Leftists to attack this idea and other aspects of the third path narrative?

There are many parts of Spanish history that I’m proud of. For instance it was the workers’ movement that provided most of the resistance against Franco, whose support came from the land owners, the Church and the military. Even before the 1930s, Barcelona had a rich revolutionary history. They used to say that the cannons on the city walls were always pointed into the city and not outwards. This suggests the story of a city that is always rebelling. In their discourse, Barcelona En Comú quite explicitly try to connect with this tradition and with the concept of class struggle.

The Spanish Right would rather we didn’t talk about Franco today. They are obsessed with preventing what they refer to as the “Balkanization” of Spain. “Both sides did terrible things during the Civil War,” they say. “Look towards the future and don’t dwell on the past.” But we simply cannot. The only country in the world with more mass graves on record is Cambodia. What we call Spain today is the result of genocidal violence against the indigenous nations of the Americas, against Muslims and Jews, and against anyone believed to be a “red” following the Civil War. That is what we are being told to simply forget.

 

Carlos Delclós

Carlos Delclós

Carlos Delclós sociolog je i aktivist. Diplomirao je sociologiju na Sveučilištu Pompeu Fabra u Barceloni, a njegovi istraživački interesi uključuju društvenu stratifikaciju, urbanističke studije, migracije, demografiju i društvene promjene. Objavljivao je u medijima kao što su Cadena SER, Radio Nacional de España, ElDiario.es i openDemocracy. Delclós surađuje s Grupom za istraživanje nejednakosti u zdravstvu na Sveučilištu Pompeu Fabra i urednik je Roar Magazinea.
Carlos Delclós

Carlos Delclós

Carlos Delclós is a sociologist and activist. He received his PhD in sociology from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, and his research interests include social stratification, urban studies, migration, demography, and social change. His work has appeared in media outlets such as Cadena SER, Radio Nacional de España, ElDiario.es, and openDemocracy. Delclós collaborates with the Health Inequalities Research Group at Pompeu Fabra University and is an editor at Roar Magazine.
Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović was born in Zagreb in 1996. He assisted in the organization of the past two Green Academies. His work has been featured in several non-profit media from ex-Yugoslav countries. He's a Sociology student at the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Philosophy.
Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović

Bartul Čović rođen je 1996. godine u Zagrebu. Sudjelovao je u organizaciji prethodna dva izdanja Zelene akademije. Surađuje sa nekoliko neprofitnih medija na području bivše Jugoslavije. Student je sociologije na Filozofskom fakultetu Univerziteta u Beogradu.

Green Academy “Good city for all”

From the 24th to the 26th of March IPE will organize the Green Academy winter seminar “Good city for all” at Plitvice lakes. During these three days, IPE will host a number of speakers from Barcelona, Rome, Bilbao, Bruxelles, Budapest, Sarajevo, Athens, Belgrade and Zagreb, who will present various political strategies, practices, experiences and policies occuring at the municipal level accross Europe.

Click here to see the program

Green Academy 2020: Tipping Points

The Institute for Political Ecology and its partners are opening a Call for applications for the 5th edition of Green Academy 2020, which will be held on the island of Vis (Croatia) from the 20th to the 26th of August 2016.

With the topic ”Tipping points”, the 5th edition will continue with modulary work in three thematic blocks (commons/degrowth/climate justice), but large parts of the program will be focus on issues like suspension of democracy, strengthening of social movements and development of new economic alternatives, all aimed to identify the terrain, topics and strategies for systemic change and bold political action.

We are please to announce today the participation of lecturers and speakers such as Joan Martinez Allier, Michael Bauwens, Derek Wall, Ulrich Brand, Barb Jacobson, Hillary Wainwright, Zoltana Pogatsa, Renata Avila etc. Many others will join soon!

The first draft of the program and the details will be available before the end of June at www.ipe.hr and the Facebook page of Green Academy.

*Accomodation capacities on the island of Vis are limited so we’d prefer early announcement of your arrival/participation.

More information about the Call for applications: Download PDF

Final Agenda

Green Academy’s Winter Seminar 2016: panel “New Politics for the Left”

The third panel of Green Academy’s Winter Seminar 2016 had “New Politics for the Left” as its subject.

With Vedran Horvat’s moderation, the speakers were Daniel Chavez (Uruguay/Holland), Lyda Fernanda Forero (Colombia), Hilary Wainwright (UK), Mislav Žitko (Croatia) and Jagoda Munić (Croatia).

Green Academy’s Winter Seminar 2016: panel “Political Action: Examples from the EU Periphery”

“Political Action: Examples from the EU Periphery”, the second panel of Winter Seminar 2016, was moderated by Tomislav Tomašević. The speakers were Yiannis Bournous (Greece), Pablo Sanchez Centellas (Spain), John Barry (Ireland) and Eugenia Pires (Portugal).

Green Academy’s Winter Seminar 2016: panel “Avenues of Alternative Economic Thought/Policy in Europe”

The first panel of this year’s Green Academy’s Winter Seminar was “Avenues of Alternative Economic Thought/Policy in Europe”. The panel was moderated by Vladimir Cvijanović, and the speakers were Andreas Novy (Austria), Zoltan Pogatsa (Hungary), Vincent Liegey (Hungary/France) and Dražen Šimleša (Croatia).

Green Academy’s Winter Seminar 2016: introductory notes

Green Academy’s 2016 Winter Seminar, “New Economic Thought, Policies and Practices for Green-Left Alliances”, was opened with introductory notes by Vedran Horvat, Danijela Dolenec i Jagoda Munić.