The 4th Emergency Euro-Mediterranean Conference, which gathered on 26-28 May 2017 in Athens, Greece, achieved a qualitative leap forward, both with respect to the level of participation and the results achieved. The conference was, as the name makes clear, the fourth in a row of conferences of the same name, but this year added the additional determiner “Emergency” to its title. This was due to the opinion of the organisers, the Balkan Socialist Centre Christian Rakovsky and the RedMed web network, that, in addition to all the grave developments of the past few years, the election of Donald Trump to the most powerful political post in the world implied that the political crisis of capitalism had reached a new level that threatened the future of humanity and the planet in a most palpable manner. The qualifying adjective “Emergency” was a powerful signal of alarm and a forceful plea to all the militant socialist and revolutionary forces of the European and Mediterranean regions, including the former Soviet space, to come together to discuss and analyze the objective situation and the organisational forces of the exploited and the oppressed and unify the struggles against the capitalist ruling class.
The plea was heard. The participation was wider and better-entrenched than previous years. An organisation as significant as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was present during the deliberations and participated actively especially in the discussion of questions pertaining to its own region. The participation from the former Soviet space was remarkable, in particular the various forces form that key country that is Ukraine. The conference also received direct organised support from Transcaucasia for the first time, an Azerbaijani group displaying full support. The conference was able, for the first time, to reach out to France, which has emerged as of central importance to the Western European situation. And in the Balkans the number of participating countries increased and was consolidated: in addition to Greece and Turkey, which have acted over the years as the organisers of the conference, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia, and Cyprus were present.
The qualitative leap was even more marked in the area of the results attained. Here the main achievement was surely the unanimous adoption, on the basis of a proposal advanced by the PFLP, of a resolution that committed those present to the formation of a united, anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist initiative on the scale of the Middle East and possibly the Balkans.
Solidarity across continents
The opening session on Friday 26 May was devoted to a report by the organisers plus greetings from not only the major participants from the Euro-Mediterranean region but also from organisations around the world that expressed their solidarity. Among the participants, the European Union was represented by delegations from France, Italy, Finland, Poland, Hungary and Greece.
From the former Soviet space, the Russian Federation participated with delegates from three different parties and movements, the RPK (Russian Party of Communists), the OKP (Untied Communist Party) and the Alternativyi, a social movement mostly composed of intellectuals. From the troubled country of Ukraine there was a representative in person of the Marxist organisation Against the Current. However, others addressed the conference through Skype: a leader of the Donbass movement, responsible for the expropriation of big capitalist groups in the province that aspires to independence; a representative of Borotba, a Marxist movement, from Odessa; and a speaker from the minority of the Ukrainian Communist Party. Azerbaijan was also one of the supporters, with the message of the group Sosialist Elm (Socialist Science) giving whole-hearted support to the conference. The Azerbaijani delegation was not able to come only because they were not able to receive Schengen visas, which was also the lot of many delegates that meant to come but were barred from coming. A Palestinian woman militant from Ramallah, West Bank, a journalist from inside Iran, two Iranians living in Turkey, two Turkish militants of DIP, (some other prospective delegates of the party were prevented from coming because they had been the subject of repression under the terms of the state of emergency in effect in the country since the failed coup of 15 July 2016) were among delegates obstructed, as well as the Azerbaijani delegates.
The list of Balkan countries supporting the conference has already been covered. There was finally support and participation by organisations and intellectuals from other continents. From Latin America the Partido Obrero, the biggest left-wing party of Argentina, was present. The Revolutionary Communist Party of Japan sent a long message of solidarity. South Africa was represented by two Marxist intellectuals. And a Marxist web site from the United States sent its greetings of solidarity. Overall some 20 countries were either present or expressed solidarity with the conference in absentia.
100 years of Palestinian oppression
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in the name of British imperialism, which was the first document to promise the Zionists “a Jewish home in Palestine”. It is on this occasion that the conference organisers decided to devote a special session to the Palestinian question. This session was held on the second day of the conference. After an extensive presentation on the Palestinian question by the representative for Europe of the Movement of Support for Palestinian Political Prisoners, the Samidoun, a resolution prepared jointly by the organisers and the PFLP, characterising the historic question of the enslavement of Palestine but also the ways to fight it, was adopted unanimously.
Then came a more concrete proposal by the PFLP, a proposal for a joint struggle against imperialism, Zionism and all kinds of reaction first and foremost in the Middle East but also in the Balkans and the rest of Europe. After some deliberation, this is the text of the resolution adopted:
The 4th Emergency Euro-Mediterranean Conference welcomes the proposal by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to start working towards a united anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist international initiative that will also fight all other kinds of reaction that are on the rise in the Middle East, in the Balkans and in the Mediterranean region at large. The Conference declares its intention to engage in discussions with the PFLP and other appropriate organizations, left political parties and workers’ and mass movements to establish the terms, the composition and the tasks of such an international initiative.
Hence, a first step was taken towards the unitary struggle on the scale of the region of all forces that can join hands against imperialism, Zionism, takfirism and all other kinds of reactionary politics. This is an immensely needed move and, if further success can be attained, creates great opportunities for the workers’ and popular movements and a great threat to imperialism, Zionism and reaction. If this initiative proves to be successful, the 4th Euro-Mediterranean conference will go down in history as the milieu in which such a momentous move has originated.
The ordeal of Ukraine
Since the events of 2014, Ukraine has been a major centre of convulsions in Europe. Presented as a quest for democracy and liberation from Russian yoke, Maidan was in fact the result of the policy of expansion towards the flank of Russia on the part of European imperialism and NATO and included out and out fascist movements in the coalition of forces that led the struggle. These then were countered by the choice made by the Russian speaking population of industrial Ukraine, with Crimea seceding and later joining Russia and the Donbass region giving way to two aspirant independent republics, Donetsk and Lugansk. Meanwhile, all left-wing and communist forces in this former Soviet republic were singled out for repression by the regime in Kiev.
The immense majority of the European left fell in for the explanation of the Kiev regime in alliance with the EU. The 2nd and 3rd Euro-Mediterranean Conferences, on the contrary, saw through the duplicity and hypocrisy of the EU and the men (and women) they put in power. For this reason it was of extreme significance that all the diverse forces resisting the onslaught of the fascist-supported Kiev regime were present, physically or through Skype connection at the conference. This creates hope for a further deepening of relations between the organisers, the Balkan Socialist Centre Christian Rakovsky and RedMed, and the Ukrainian workers’ and popular movements.
The cross-currents in Europe
On the advanced capitalist world and in particular Europe, the conference reached certain conclusions after deliberation. First, Brexit, the victory of Donald Trump, the success of outright fascist parties (Hungary, Greece, Ukraine etc.) and the rise of Marine Le Pen and her Front National in France are all diverse manifestations of one and the same phenomenon on the world scale : the search for a new path alternative to so-called “globalisation”, an alternative which, in order to overcome the difficulties faced by the bourgeoisie, relies on commercial wars or wars in general (see Trump’s warmongering vis-a-vis North Korea and increasingly Iran) and sows divisions within the working class between native and immigrant, black and white, Christian and Muslim, man and woman etc. This set of ideas clearly sets the stage for the advent of fascism.
Secondly, it is the neoliberal and globalist policies of the most traditional leaderships of the bourgeoisie that pushes the downtrodden towards these reactionary movements. It is the liberals of the right and of the left who, by condemning more and more extended sections of the working class to unemployment and misery, are responsible for driving these strata into the arms of Le Pen and company. That is why to call for a vote for Macron in the second round of elections in France is a crime for the future of the class struggle, disarming and disorienting the working class. Fascism cannot be fought but in the factories and the schools and universities and in the slums where working class families from all races and nations lead a miserable life.
Third, there is no place for pessimism and defeatism. The rise of the fascist or proto-fascist right is not the only powerful tendency in Europe. As against this, a wave of class struggles, revolts, even revolutions have also taken front stage from 2011 on, almost everywhere around the world, but in particular in the Euro-Mediterranean region. From the Arab revolution, in particular in Egypt and Tunisia, to the general strikes and the movement of the squares in Greece and Spain in 2011 (Greece has continued on until today), from the people’s revolt in Turkey in 2013 to the successive waves of popular rebellions in various Balkan countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Macedonia, and most strikingly the workers revolt of Bosnia-Herzegovina), Europe and the Mediterranean region have been shaken by workers’ and popular struggles. France became the last link of this chain in 2016: the general strikes, the huge demonstrations, the factory occupations of last year stood out as one of the most proletarian and focused instance of the wave of struggles occurring since 2011. One has to underline the fact that if Marine Le Pen was not as successful as expected, not only, as is evident, on the second round of the elections, but also in the first round, this owes a great deal to the experience of the fight against the Labour Law of 2016. The French working class fought for its rights and Marine Le Pen and her Front national were not there to support it. Thus her deceptive discourse as to her being the defender of the working class was disproved in practice.
In the light of all of this, France contains within its mode of development all the necessary elements for a showdown between the contending political tendencies in Europe: rising fascism (Le Pen), moribund globalism (Macron), but working class struggles as well. This is precisely why the 4th Euro-Mediterranean Conference concluded that France was the country of central importance for the future of the struggle in Europe. That is also why the presence of a newly-founded nucleus of militants, the Renaissance Ouvrière Révolutionnaire, at the conference was of considerable importance, despite its modest size.
Reviving the tradition of the Great October Revolution
This year is also the centenary of the Great October Revolution. The conference attributed great importance to this fact and devoted one of the major sessions to the significance of that historic event and the actuality of world revolution at this beginning of the 21st century. The speakers concurred that the October revolution of 1917 was not solely a Russian revolution but had a universal meaning as it brought about the first durable rule, after the fleeting experience of the glorious but tragic Paris Commune of 1871, of the working class and set the pace and trend of events internationally throughout the 20th century. They also emphasized that given the decline of capitalism as a mode of production, most visibly expressed through the deep economic crisis since 2008, the tendency to create wars, even bordering on a third world war, and the environmental catastrophe it has brought the planet earth face to face with, a world socialist revolution is called for by objective factors, since the alternative appears, more and more, to be barbarism.
That is why the conference calls, in its Final Resolution as well as the resolution on the Great October Revolution, for all living forces fighting capitalism and imperialism not only to join their effort in action, but also to recreate an International of proletarian vanguard parties in the classical revolutionary Marxist fashion to march forward to world revolution.