Friday, April 18, 2014

"We must not allow an undemocratic model to consolidate in Europe": An interview with Teresa Forcades (III)

By Cristianisme i Justícia
April 16, 2014

Interview by Xavier Casanovas, Oscar Mateos, Santi Torres and Nani Vall-llossera.

Let's talk about Europe and the next European Parliament elections. Is Europe part of the problem or is it the solution?

It's obvious that Europe is part of the problem and also that it should be part of the solution. It's part of the problem because there's been a European Union that was built in a way that benefits or strengthens certain commercial interests. How can you explain that to set an interoccupational minimum wage at the European level requires the unanimity of all the countries but, on the other hand, to approve a multinational treaty that in fact invalidates parliamentary decisions, an act by the Commission is enough? It's a Europe that's more commercial than social. There's a decision making structure in Europe that systematically undercuts real democracy and sovereignty. Thus, it is not a social Europe.

They've made a monetary union that hasn't taken into account the analyses of the best economists who recommended at least a two-speed euro. It was shouted that with a single currency we were moving towards a sort of neocolonialism of the countries of southern Europe relative to the northern ones. That's why Europe is part of the problem.

And these austerity measures, which I directly call "criminal" -- because I like austerity and think it's a concept that deserves respect, I can't apply it to policies that cause 25% of the children in Catalonia to be malnourished. The change in the Spanish constitution that took place in 2011 and that allowed basic social rights to be cut back due to the debt incurred through the bailout, is a direct attack on democracy and everything that represents. That's why Europe is part of the problem.

And also the solution?

Yes, of course, because if Europe isn't part of the solution, we have no solution. For me the good thing about the idea of Europe, is that it was born as a horizontal relationship that could then be extendable or expandable. But since the Lisbon Treaty, we have built a pyramid structure, with a parliament subject to a complex and lengthy text that people are unaware of, don't understand and haven't voted for. Europe is part of the solution to the extent that it's possible and desirable to create partnerships at European level to change the rules of our coexistence. You also need to think about a model of peaceful democratic rupture at the European level. It's not feasible to think in terms of continuity with the current model nor simply reform. With the word "anticapitalism" we're showing the need and urgency to free political power from the yoke of economic power. Only then is democracy viable.

By voting, do we legitimize this situation, and does the EP [European Parliament] still have some role to play?

It's that if we don't vote, what do we do? The strategy within democracy to make a rupture is to vote for a rupture candidate. There are other mechanisms too -- holding a referendum or a massive petition to compel a thorough debate in the Parliament. Many possibilities are imaginable.

Is a leftist European alternative feasible? A "constituent process" at the European level?

There's movement, sure. Here in Barcelona for example, a few months ago we had Martin Shulz, the president of the EP, who came almost like a firefighter putting out fires. He didn't say he was anticapitalist but almost...(laughs) I interpreted it as an attempt to avoid the real alternative. I think they've realized in the European Parliament that the bipartisanship situation could change, because rupturist parties and movements are emerging in various countries. In Germany there's the Pirate Party, for example, and also in Spain there's some possibility of putting something similar together. There are many people who are willing to vote for these kinds of options and who perhaps wouldn't dare to do so in regional or national elections. They want to take advantage of the European elections to send a message: we're outraged and we don't trust the traditional parties.

But the alternative might come from the extreme right too. Marine Le Pen leads the polls in France. They also give a favorable vote to those parties in Austria, Norway, Holland...It seems that Euroscepticism is consolidating and will establish itself in the next election.

Yes, that's true. That's why I stress so much that the national issue not be separated from the social issue. It's the only antidote to the rise of nationalism in these times of social unrest. The national theme has roots, emotionality and literature that can become a catalyst. It's the atavistic and tribal "we". I believe in this reality of belonging. It's obvious that as a contemplative, I'm a community person, and I'm aware of the need to feel part of a group. I think it's a challenge for the left to be able to root the social justice and individual rights argument in communities that are organic, communities that actually deserve that name. I think this is the challenge for dealing with the rise of the extreme right.

In that sense, it seems we are at a crucial moment for this existing malaise in much of Europe to either pour out on the side of greater social justice or towards the entrenchment of small national entities that make the European project unfeasible.

It's true that the expression "historical moment" or "crucial moment" has been abused, but I would add to those two possibilities the one that a pyramid model, an antidemocratic model of Europe, ends up coming together. And I say "coming together" because fortunately it hasn't yet. It still has many cracks. If this political activation takes place, they might allow penetrating into the system and eventually dismantling that undemocratic structure. Certainly there's no guarantee whatsoever that the rupture will go towards a goal of more social justice, but we should attempt it and work for it. Yes, we're at a crucial point.

One theme that has to do with all this is fear. What are the strategies to lose fear in times such as we are experiencing?

I distinguish between two types of fear. One fear is that of losing the salary that feeds you or feeds your family. I have every respect for that fear. I don't think you should encourage people to fight alone because the only thing they'll get is becoming jobless. And the problem for many people is really tragic.

The other fear is the fear that if we organize collectively, the alternative will be worse. We must fight against that fear because it's the one that keeps us from mobilizing. Faced with this, we must remember what has happened historically. Help people to see what has happened in other historical processes of rupture, of revolution. See how those processes, although they haven't been lineal or easy, have mostly translated into advancement and improvement for all of society. I encourage those who are reading this to participate in a movement or platform of rupture. Or to create one.

And be informed too...

Exactly. Because fear is often associated with a dizziness of not knowing the cause and this not knowing paralyzes us. The process of becoming aware is a long process and we can't ask people to do it overnight. We have to facilitate it, respecting each one's process and rhythm to the utmost. And if in spite of the effort we go on hitting clay in structures that are harder and harder, we'll stop to rethink what we have to rethink and continue. It's a long term struggle, but for me it's a struggle that's meaningful in itself because what we're doing with the whole movement that's been initiated is to try to give a decent answer to a situation of injustice. How can we humanly experience a situation of injustice without standing up to it?

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