Dear comrades, dear friends,
Before beginning my analysis on the challenges that the contemporary world mounts to world socialism, I would like to thank the organizers – the World Socialism Research Center and the Center for Contemporary World Studies – for their invitation and for the opportunity they offered to discuss with such distinguished experts and colleagues, some topics I have a close interest in.
Let me clarify that it is not my intention to appear provocative, but I believe that the first question we should ask ourselves is “what is the Left today, in the Twenty-first century?”
We know very well what last century Left was. It was made of the communist movements, of the socialist parties gathered in the Socialist International, of the workers movements and of the trade unions, of the many forces of national liberations around the world that fought for the independence of their country from foreign rule.
However, I am afraid that this varied and complex panorama belongs to the past. Moreover, today it looks like it has been shaken by a violent earthquake. At the end of the last century, authoritative intellectuals and politicians have even theorized the end of such Left. Even more, they have speculated about the end of History. As though the whole humankind had no choice but to identify itself with the free market ideology and with the market’s capability to self-regulate, giving up any claim to fight the contradictions engendered by the development of capitalism, and any ambition to lead development towards the goals of equality and human emancipation.
We now know that this vision was without rationale.
Globalization, ruled by wild and lawless financial capitalism, has produced growing imbalances and inequalities up to the outbreak of the crisis that in 2008 started to hit world economy. The effects of these developments have been not only the financial speculation that has damaged real economy, but the monetary disorder and the trend towards a currency war – that is, competitive devaluation – and a harsh competitiveness based on exports rather than on a balanced growth, capable of fostering aggregate demand, increase of salaries, improvement of living standards, and so on.
Thus, the first tasks for the international Left must be correcting such kind of developments and impose new rules on a global level to fight financial speculations, tax havens, and above all promoting a cooperative model, which might allow, as you would say, a harmonious growth. A growth in which the rise of new economic powers, such as China – is not to be perceived as a threat.
It is from these observations that I would like to begin my analysis of the current situation and explain the reasons why, in my opinion, we should now work in order to renew the Left. “Renewing” is the keyword, because we have definitively left behind some of the utopias we have been pursuing in the last century, starting with the idea that the state should fully control production. An idea that has unfortunately caused inefficiencies and stagnation.
This said, let me add that today is more than ever necessary to establish a coalition of forces capable of reversing the current trend of global economy, correcting the imbalances and the social injustices, which are no longer sustainable.
A modern Left must fight to impose rules able to limit the predominance of finance and speculation. A modern Left shall promote economic cooperation on an international level, to control the unrestrained competition that too often has led to squeezing salaries and curbing workers’ rights. A modern Left must encourage a harmonious development, reducing inequalities between the extreme poverty of the many and the huge wealth of a few. It must reconcile the necessity to produce economic growth with that of protecting the environment and human life.
A modern Left must, I think, promote freedom and human rights; it must act to advance in the path towards the achievement of true democracy, enabling every citizen to be active part of a country’s political life, regardless of his or her ideas and beliefs.
A modern Left must advocate peace, supporting the search for solutions of the current conflicts, and acting with the aim of preventing the outbreaks of new religious or ethnic wars. It must pursue the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear disarmament. This requires, on the one side, leaving behind the power politics logic, and, on the other side, endorsing a multilateral system of international relations, based on states’ mutual respect and on the central role of the United Nations framework, which can be the only real guarantor of international legality. Of course, it will be necessary to face the arduous question of the UN’s reform, to make it more efficient, to enhance the Security Council’s representativeness and decision-making capability, and to establish new mechanisms to face and solve economic crisis.
I believe that it is around these important issues that the debate between the old and new forces that make today’s wide left-wing camp should be promoted. Indeed, I refuse to think that the Left could be reduced merely to the communist parties which have survived after the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and to the parties that are members of the Socialist International.
There are other progressive forces around the world, which have a different cultural background, and nevertheless are essential interlocutors for a new global Left.
I am thinking of parties such as the Brazilian Partido dos Trabalhadores, or the African National Congress in South Africa, the progressive forces in India or the US Democratic Party. As for the latter, for example, it would be a mistake to neglect the deep turn they have been able to give to American politics, after the neoconservative season and the war in Iraq.
To a shallow analysis, the one I proposed might appear as a confused and blurred camp, made of forces which seem to have too little in common and too many differences to separate them. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the time of ideological fortresses is over. It belongs to the Twentieth century. And in any case it was in that time that so many harsh divisions and conflicts within the Left took place. Let’s think, for instance, of the rift between socialists and communists, or to the clash between Soviet communists and Chinese communists.
The modern Left I am thinking of, is not a Left whose identity is to be found in its “doctrinal purity”. The Left I would like to see shall find its strength in its principles and in its values, and in the coherence of its political choices.
The modern Left I am thinking of, is the Left of dialogue, able to make the most of its components’ diverse experiences and to make any effort to find a convergence between them. A Left that tries to identify common goals and shared priorities.
Let me remind you that without the pragmatism and bravery with which it challenged the orthodoxy of the past, China today will not be the great political and economic power that it is today. It is thanks to the courage of its political leaderships, that one after the other have ruled this great country, aware of the consequences of their choices, if China has achieved such goals.
Re-founding a new, open and representative Left after the great utopias of the Twentieth century requires a less ideological vision and more pragmatism. But this does not mean that today’s Left shall be devoid of principles and values. A great Italian philosopher, Norberto Bobbio, affirmed that the ideal that makes the Left different from the Right is equality.
We now live in a world characterized by profound inequalities. Our priority must be reducing and progressively eliminating these intolerable injustices, offering to everyone opportunities to get a proper education, a better income and access to culture, while fighting any form of human beings’ oppression of other human beings. Because the hope of a fair and peaceful world, which was the great dream of the revolutionary generations that came before us, is still the goal of today’s new Left.