During the Social Forum of Central and Eastern Europe which took place in Wroclaw, Poland between 11 and 13 March, the voice of Marxism was heard again in this region where bureaucratic workers’ states had been in power for nearly five decades. But this time Marxism was represented not by Stalinism, but by revolutionary Marxism.
In Wroclaw, the fourth biggest city of Poland, the forum started with the opening event on 11 March. Along with Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland, Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary, various Balkan countries, Hong Kong, USA and even Cameroon were represented. The Revolutionary Workers’ Party (DIP) and our sister party, the EEK (The Workers’ Revolutionary Party), Greek section of the CRFI (the Coordination Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International) were also amongst the participants.
The opening event
At the opening event the first speech was delivered by Egyptian-French Marxist economist and the director of “Third World Forum” Samir Amin via Skype. He talked about the importance of the struggle of social movements. After Amin, Konstantina Kouneva, MEP, took the floor. Years back, Kuneva had been attacked by an assailant under the direction of the bosses while she was organizing a trade-union of cleaners in Greece where she was working as a Bulgarian refugee. She pointed out that while the Arab Revolutions were going through a setback due to imperialist intervention, the EU was in a huge crisis. She underlined that the EU was on shaky ground with the emerging risk of so-called “Brexit” and the de facto suspension of Schengen. According to her, all over the EU, with the rise of fascism and right-wing politics on one side and rise of the left on the other, a “balance of terror” was being established.
Palestinian scientist and director of the Palestine Natural History Museum Mazin Qumsiyeh had to deliver his speech via Skype, since the Polish state denied him a visa. He described the challenges that the Palestinian people had to put up with after “the Nakba” . He suggested that Zionism was doomed to failure, just like Nazism and apartheid, because it was against human nature. Emphasizing the importance of the international community in the fight against Zionism, he called all the participants to join to BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). We should point out that the DIP (Revolutionary Workers’ Party) participates actively in the work of BDS Turkey.
Belgian journalist and writer Michael Collon stated that the “new world order” and the “end of history” theses have collapsed and the imperialist wars of today are playing out as proxy wars. The last speaker was the representative of the ANAC (American National Anti-War Coalition). He pointed out that the USA lay at the root of every problem that the region was facing, ranging from economic crisis to the refugee crisis and their organization was fighting against all the wars that the USA coonducts. After the concert of a Bulgarian participant the first day of the forum came to end.
Diversity of the Forum
During the following two days numerous plenary sessions and workshops were held on various topics. Amongst the topics discussed were the militarization of Central and Eastern Europe and the role of NATO, rising nationalism and fascism in the region, interaction of feminism with other social struggles, the negative consequences of the collapse of the bureaucratic workers’ states, peripheralisation of Eastern Europe, workers’ struggles, trade unions and social movements, the reaction of Eastern Europe in the face of the refugee/immigrant influx as well as upcoming struggles and the question of program. This was the purpose of the sessions on raising political consciousness in Eastern Europe and the program of the Balkan Federation.
The highlight of the first session, which was devoted to policies seeking the submission of Eastern Europe to the EU and NATO, was the speech on the Odessa Massacre. In this horrendous carnage which happened on 2 May 2014, approximately two months after the Maidan events, fascist killed 44 leftists by burning down the trade-union house in Odessa, Ukraine. This massacre was emblematic of the rising reaction and fascism in the Eastern Europe. Oppressive regimes, just like the one that the AKP is trying to set up in Turkey are being established in Hungary and Poland. In addition to Jobbik, the overtly Nazi party that came in second in Hungary recently, at the time of the forum, a Nazi-referencing party in Slovakia obtained nearly ten percent of the vote.
However, imperialism’s project of the conquest of Eastern Europe faces severe contradictions. The clearest expression of this is the fact that the effort of the EU to take over Ukraine led to a civil war in this country. Two “popular republics” proclaimed in Donetsk and Lugansk were amongst the topics discussed in detail during the same session. Yuri Shahin from Ukraine participated via Skype in the session about the expansion of the EU and NATO.
The collapse of the bureaucratic workers’ states
One of the most fruitful sessions of the forum was about the collapse of the bureaucratic workers’ states, which ruled for more than 40 years in the Eastern Europe and Balkans, and the consequences that flowed from this collapse. Many of the presentations delivered in this session were outstanding. In addition to the two speakers from Poland, speakers from Hungary, Slovenia, Belorussia and Bulgaria explained the process in their country in detail.
It is useful to point out some of the common points of these speeches. All of these speakers, in opposition to the claims of the bourgeoisie and renegade ex-Stalinists, stated that during the period of the bureaucratic workers’ states, industrial structure had gained some strength and most importantly, that period was unequivocally superior to the current situation with regard to social rights. They explained how the rising poverty of the working and toiling classes, as well as unemployment in these countries, which never had unemployment for half a century, inequalities and other ills of capitalism emerged after the collapse of the bureaucratic workers’ states.
However, the speeches were marked with a notable absence. Bureaucratic degeneration of the workers’ states, this degeneration leading to capitalist restoration and the constitution of the capitalist class by the bureaucracy as a result of this, was not taken up by the speakers. This is one of the reasons for which a dialogue between revolutionary Marxism and the intellectuals of these societies is of vital importance.
The struggle for the emancipation of women
Concurrently with the session on the collapse of the bureaucratic workers’ states, a session on the interaction of feminism with other social struggles took place. In addition to the speakers from Tunisia, Poland and Belorussia, our comrade Armagan made a speech on the behalf of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party. Our comrade, with reference to the struggle of women in Turkey and Kurdistan, explained the necessary forms of the struggle and pointed out the assault on women’s labour and illustrated how the new legislation regarding the casual employees and maternity leave rendered women’s labour more flexible and precarious. She described the sexist and oppressive policies of the AKP government on the life and bodies of women and pondered upon the fight emerging against these policies. She explained that war was not just a simple threat against the lives of women but women were always paying the most abominable price in the event of war. She emphasized the horrific extent of the violence against women and the importance of the foundation of self-defense organizations. She said that the rage of women against all these aggressions was visible in the popular revolt that followed “Gezi” and in the struggle of Kurdish women. She said that to achieve the emancipation against male-dominant capitalism and the barbarism created by the reactionary governments of the Middle East could only be achieved under the leadership of working women. The following Q&A session was focused on the speech of our comrade. Nearly all the questions were addressed to her. Thus, on the suggestion of the other speakers, our comrade gave a 15 minute-long second speech to answer the questions and thus presented her perspective in depth.
Emancipation with refugees, not from them!
One of the two parallel sessions in the morning of the last day of the Social Forum was about the anti-fascist and anti-racist struggle in the context of the refugee question. In this session, Matyas Benyik from Hungary focused on the rise of the overtly-Nazi Jobbik party and the threat created by these conditions to refugees. Tatyana Ondzikowa from Slovakia pointed out that their government was hostile towards refugees and accepted only four of the demands of asylum. She said that she and her organization were conducting activities to be in solidarity with refugees, ranging from psychological support to aid campaigns. Hermann Dworczak from Austria drew attention to the rise of fascist parties in Europe, but also pointed out the non-negligible extent of solidarity campaigns with refugees. He said that they had organized a sixty-thousand strong demonstration in Vienna in support of refugees. He emphasized the need for a common initiative in the whole of Europe and suggested a conference on the refugee question.
The last speaker of this session was Armagan from the Turkish DIP. She stressed the fact that she was coming from a country where 800 people died in a year while trying to leave it to arrive to Greece. She explained that this was the tragedy of capitalist society. She depicted the impact of the Syrian civil war on the on-going refugee crisis and the abominable role played by the AKP government and Erdogan in this war. She stated that Syrian refugees were living and working in atrocious conditions in Turkey and this led them to try every possible means to reach Europe. She pointed out that the AKP was using the more than two million of refugees in Turkey to blackmail the EU and the fortune of millions of people were being used as a trump card in underhanded negotiations between the imperialism of the EU and AKP.
Our comrade pointed out that it was necessary to connect the urgent demands of the refugees and anti-fascist and anti-racist struggle with the fight for socialism because as long as imperialist capitalism subsists there would be no real solution to the refugee crisis. She concluded by saying that only the worldwide triumph of socialism would solve this problem and when this day comes people will take the road not because of necessity but to explore the new and diverse cultures of a world without wars, without exploitation, without borders and without classes.
Debating the way forward
Generally several parallel sessions took place concurrently. There were only two plenaries at the end of the day, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. The latter was fittingly devoted to the strategy of the struggle. But the issue was not addressed as comprehensively as it should have been.
The real crucial discussion took place at the plenary of Saturday. The way to the future was discussed at this session. The main feature of this session was that it did not limit itself to Eastern Europe but encompassed Western Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and even Africa with a rich internationalist perspective.
The first speaker of this session was Matyas Benyik from Hungary. He described the threatening political situation in his country, in the context of the 2014 general elections. Bernard Founou, who spoke on the behalf of the “Third World Forum”, founded by the renowned Egyptian-French Marxist economist Samir Amin, illustrated the importance of anti-imperialism by explaining how Africa was forced to use outdated technologies and products under the pressure of the world system. Jan Mayicek from the Czech Republic talked about the activities of the Anti-TTIP Committee, which extends all over Europe. TTIP is the name of a free trade and investment treaty in progress between two imperialist powers, the USA and the EU, in the guise of “national interests”. Successful activities of the Anti-TTIP Committee are contributing to the creation of a considerable opposition to the agreement amongst the masses in Europe. Thomas Maier from the BDS movement talked about their activities for the liberation of Palestinian people.
One of the most striking speakers of this session was the secretary-general of the EEK, our sister party in Greece. In his lively speech, constantly interrupted by applause, he showed how contradictions of world capitalism connected the fortune of different regions. He pointed out that the massive refugee/immigrant flux caused by wars (primarily Syria, but also Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya) provoked by imperialism created a situation in which events in Europe and the Middle East- Mediterranean conditioned one each other. He stated that the tension between the USA-EU bloc and the Russian Federation created a long line from north to south. He enumerated some of the problems pitting the two blocs against each other. These problems range from the consolidation of the military force of imperialism in the Baltic Sea to the concession of the Aegean Sea to the NATO under guise of taking the refugee flux under control and the involvement of Russia in Syrian civil war. Matsas said that the EU was on the edge of collapse under the pressure of its contradictions and finished his speech with a reference to the great Polish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg by saying that only viable solution would be internationalist socialism and its only alternative is barbarism.
The last speaker of this session was Sungur Savran from DIP, Turkey. He started his speech by inviting the audience to show solidarity with Kurdish people against the crackdown they undergo as a result of their fight for freedom. The applause he received from the jam-packed hall was the expression of the solidarity of the audience towards the Kurdish people. In the speech he delivered, our comrade pointed out that capitalism was dragging humanity into a world war by means of the economic crises and the barbaric tendencies all over the world (albeit in different forms), both products of capitalism itself. He stressed that pacifism could not be the solution and the only way to resist the tendency of world war would be to raise class war and revolutionary struggle. Our comrade also saluted the numerous uprisings of Poland (1956, 1968, 1970, 1979-81) against Stalinist bureaucracy during the period of bureaucratic workers’ state, as well as evoking the most important revolutionary woman of the 20th century, Rosa Luxemburg,.
He then said that socialism in opposition to the current barbarism could be edified on the basis of the revolutionary wave which started in 2011 and the main fault laid in the socialist movement which is completely confused on the question of the construction of the revolutionary vanguard. He ended his speech by calling for revolutionary parties in all countries and an International to gather all these parties together.
Spreading internationalism to Eastern Europe
The Social Forum of Central and Eastern Europe, was not a circle of chitchat for the revolutionary Marxists. This event was important as the occasion of meeting with the forces and individuals, with whom various types of international activity might be undertaken. A big RedMed banner and a DIP flag was the first thing that participants saw in the hall. The DIP militants along with the EEK militants presented their publications in our common stand. In addition to the latest issue of Gerçek (the Truth) newspaper and some issues of our theoretical journal Devrimci Marksizm (revolutionary Marxism) some flyers of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party were also present in our booth. First was an appeal adopted by the Emergency Congress of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party to international left-wing forces to turn the impending world war into revolutionary class war. The second was about the refugee crisis. While these two were in English, the third statement was in both Turkish and Kurdish and focused on the war against the Kurdish people and the political situation in Kurdistan. This bilingual flyer drew the interest of most of the participants, most of them not speaking neither Turkish nor Kurdish. Some of these participants were really impressed by our bilingual flyer and they even decided to take back home to show it to their friends and comrades. The resolutions of the 3rd Euro-Mediterranean Conference of July 2015 in Athens were also present in our booth as a brochure. This brochure was particularly popular amongst the participants from Balkan countries.
In the demonstration organized in the second day of Forum, the EEK and the DIP participated under the banner of RedMed.
The Social Forum of Eastern and Central Europe was an event organised by a handful of people (Ewa Groszewska, Monika Karbowska, Piotr Lewandonski, and Naila Wardi, first and foremost) in the most self-sacrificing manner. Great organisational skill had gone into every aspect of the enterprise. The comrades who undertook this courageous enterprise should be congratulated.
This was a most important beginning for establishing internationalist contacts at the level of Eastern and Central Europe and the Balkans. Various ideas are circulating in the aftermath of the Forum as to how we should progress in the future. But one thing is certain: this work should definitely be carried forward in the future.