Left and Right in Contemporary European Politics

You are invited to a meeting on Wednesday the 23rd of June at 7pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, to be addressed by two visiting left scholars who are briefly in Brisbane, Peter Thomas, recently the author of The Gramscian Moment and well-known to many of those who were familiar with Brisbane radical politics in the nineties, and Sara Farris, who is well-known for her work on Weber and on Italian political theorists.

The topic will be Left and Right in Contemporary European Politics.

The discussion will be introduced by two brief talks, the titles and summaries of which appear below.

‘Project Europe’ and the Radical Left.
The Western European Radical Left has gone through important experiences of regroupment and recomposition over the last 15 years. Waves of social struggles in individual nation-states (most prominently, France and Greece) have interacted with European-wide and international protest movements (e.g., the movement against the EU constitution; the alternative globalisation and anti-war movements).

These movements have given rise to the emergence of new political formations and actors in number of Western European nation-states (particularly in France and Germany), which are struggling to develop a radical alternative to the increasingly aggressive (post) neoliberal dimensions of ‘Project Europe’.

Other political cultures (such as England and Italy) have witnessed arguably less successful but nevertheless significant attempts at the consolidation of political formations to the left of traditional social democracy. The deepening of the global economic crisis and its regional articulation as a crisis of the Eurozone, both economically and politically, can only be expected to pose further difficulties – but also opportunities – for these projects of ‘refoundation’ of the radical Left. This talk with provide a brief and selective survey of the history and of some of the most significant recent initiatives of Western European Radical Left to develop a socialist alternative to the ‘New Old World’.

Peter Thomas is a Lecturer at Brunel University, London. He is a member of the editorial board of ‘Historical Materialism: research in critical Marxist theory’.

The Far-Right in Europe. Hegemonic Project or Fragmentary Reaction to the Economic Crisis?
Recent European Elections have revealed at least two alarming phenomena: on the one hand, the increasing distance of EU citizens from the European Institutions, and, on the other hand, the dramatic growth of xenophobic and ultra-nationalist parties. The unprecedented success of far-right parties in Europe is certainly one effect of the failures of the process of European integration, although in a very contradictory fashion. Yet, more importantly, this success is especially the result of the economic crisis, the dismantling of welfare state services and the impoverishment of the population that has increasingly threatened the European working classes since the late 1990s. The far-right, and especially its anti-immigration and racist propaganda, has started becoming more aggressive. It has even managed to find support in social strata and territories that were once points of reference for the left. Can we speak of a hegemonic project of the far-right in Europe? How can we establish an hegemonic project for the left that will be able to challenge the threats represented by these xenophobic and right-wing organisations?

Sara R. Farris is a Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and senior research fellow of the Institute for Women’s History, Amsterdam. She is a member of the organisation Sinistra Critica (Critical Left), in Italy.

There will be food and drink, convivial interaction and a possible but not guaranteed absence of Leon. Bring your friends.

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