Organizing for a Left Hegemony. Strategies, Struggles and Social Rights

The full report including videos and pictures of the RLS Summer School is available here.

Challenges of the Left

The left in Europe, whether it is organized in parties, movements, activist groups, NGOs, collectives or otherwise, is united by similar developments that shape our political struggles. Caused by decades of neoliberal restructuring and austerity policies, inequality is rising in our societies. Social divisions become more entrenched, social rights once taken for granted have been further and further undermined and curtailed. Insecurity and fear of decline are shaping the lives of many people. The financial crisis and the crisis policies of the EU have aggravated these developments. The most prominent case being Greece, which has become a laboratory of EU austerity policies.

However, the economic and social crises that are creating political ruptures and opportunities are shaped in very different and specific ways in different localities and political contexts. The lock-in of neoliberal politics in the EU state-apparatus limits the possibilities for left wing politics or even anti-austerity governments. But the room of maneuver and the conditions for transformation differ from country to country. The last years have shown the creation of new social and political movements – and their limits. Among them the movements »of the squares« that led to new or transformed political parties, as well as a new focus on anti-austerity. Attempts of a renewal of social democratic and left parties. Or the revival of left-wing municipalism and successes of new urban coalitions and left-wing local/regional governments, which seem to one way to open up alternatives.

The Third Pole

In many European countries the rise of the far right and authoritarian politics pose severe challenges to the left. Right-wing populism on the one hand and (authoritarian) neoliberalism on the other are increasingly shaping the political landscape in Europe. A progressive alternative, a "third pole" to these two, however, needs to become more visible, politically effective and bigger. In order to counter neoliberalism and authoritarianism from above and from the right and to develop and defend solidary alternatives, we need a left that extends far beyond the existing elements of the left. We need to come up with renewed and wider forms of organizing those who are most affected by austerity and neoliberalism. We need strategies to match the development of diverse class realities with a new class politics. And we need organizations that reflect our approach of connecting different strata of people, of voters, of the working class.

Many people that joined and led the protests and re-organization of the left over the last years are predominantly young, rooted in urban struggles and often highly educated. Politics of class don’t come naturally to many of them (us). In contrast, the right wing tries to expropriate and reclaim class and to "defend the working class" against assumed two enemies at the bottom (refugees and unemployed) and at the top (politicians). Therefore, the left needs a change of perspectives: A new class politics that builds on the variety of interests and the diversity within the working class. It needs to connect to racism, gender relations, social issues, ecology and global inequality that are inextricably interwoven. It needs to build real connections to the popular classes, especially in marginalized areas, to create structures of solidarity, and thereby to broaden and root the social base of the left.

The European Summer School 2017

The summer school wants to contribute to these discussions on the strategic challenges and possible approaches of organizing, campaigning, gaining ground for the left in Europe:

  • How can left parties renew and re-organize? Which parts of the new composition of class and conflict can be connected? How does the left relate to the crisis and the attempts to renew social democratic and left parties? How can we, for example, deal with the differences and dialectics between "left-populism" and "new class politics"?
  • What are the different strategies and experiences of "transformative (community) organizing" as a form to build a broader base and to build leadership among people and communities affected by austerity and neoliberalism? How can we renew union politics and organizing and build strategies addressing the transnational organization of capital as well as being able to win better wages and fighting back precarious working conditions?
  • How can we learn from each other in order to develop innovative strategies and reflecting the specifity of social and political conflict in each country? How can we reach and organize more people who are not yet involved in movements and organizations? How can we address the current disparities between left parties and organizations and the lack of campaigning abilities especially on a European level?
  • What could be a connecting transnational strategy of the left in Europe for a rupture with austerity and a radical transformation in Europe? How can we deal with different positionings within the neoliberal architecture of economic and political power in the EU?


Programme (pdf)