17 Group: “Cracks in the Fortress? Project Europe and Prospects for the Left”

"The thing is, you know nothing about the 60s."
    - Organiser, Students for Democratic Action(SDA)
      University of Qld
“Drowning” by Wassilij Grigorjewitsch Perow

The next meeting of the 17 Group will take place on Wednesday the 3rd of June at 7 pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, West End. The topic will be:
“Cracks in the Fortress? Project Europe and Prospects for the Left”.
The speaker will be Dr Peter Thomas from Brunel University, London, formerly of University of Queensland Refectory and Boundary St, West End.

Here is Peter’s summary of the talk:

The European Union has been wracked by a series of financial, social and political crises for the last decade. Rejection of an elite-driven treaty and integration process by popular referenda in the mid years of the first decade of the century was quickly followed by the contagion of the Global Financial Crisis across the Eurozone from 2007 onwards, plunging some countries (Greece and Spain in particular) into deep and ongoing fiscal and social turmoil. Economic austerity policies are firmly entrenched with bipartisan support in the North, while a ‘Troika’ of unelected bodies (the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) continue to impose disciplinary conditions on the South. Repressive EU migration policies are leading to a humanitarian crisis across the Mediterranean, while the last remainders of the post WWII social state are progressively and systematically dismantled. Only 15 years after the introduction of the Euro currency, not only the viability of the Eurozone but the continuing existence of the EU itself is being widely and openly questioned.

The New Left 1968

Waves of popular protest have accompanied these interlocked crisis, sometimes at an EU level but more often confined to individual member states. More recently, the election of the Syriza government in Greece and the rise of Podemos in Spain have revived hopes that the Left may be emerging from a long season of defeats and be able to propose a credible alternative programme of economic and social development. This talk will explore some of the causes of the current crises in different areas of Europe and in the EU as a whole, and attempt to provide a balance sheet of the prospects for the Left in the current conjuncture.

Short biographical notes:

Peter Thomas teaches Leavisite close reading at Brunel University London, though according to a malicious rumour he is supposed to be teaching politics and history. He has written and edited books on Antonio Gramsci and the history of Marxism, and serves on the editorial board of the journal ‘Historical Materialism’. He spent much of the 1990s trying to devise new ways to occupy the J.D Story Building on the UQ campus.

Advised with our customary politeness of this meeting, Leon, after reading the summary said musingly “Oh yes a troika. I well remember driving with Antonio in an actual troika in the December of 1923. At that time we had to press hard to convince him to take a combative position against Bordiga and I don’t know whether we succeeded… I remember saying to him on another occasion: ‘It will hardly be possible to catch the European bourgeoisie by surprise as we caught the Russian bourgeoisie.

Trotsky's pledge
Trotsky’s pledge

The European bourgeoisie is more intelligent, and more farsighted … The revolutionary proletariat will thus encounter on its road to power not only the combat vanguards of the counter-revolution but also its heaviest reserves…’ He went on later of course, in distressing personal circumstances, to develop my ideas in an interesting rather ‘southern’ way… Perhaps I could be similarly useful to Dr Thomas… about the European bourgeoisie you know…Do you think I should come this time? ” But he went on to complain about prostate problems and other old-age worries like dozing off when anyone else was speaking, and as we quietly left he was snoring rather noisily. So once again who knows if he…

Dan O’Neill
May 1968

Footnote: Troika: a Russian vehicle pulled by a team of three horses (or more rarely, politicians) abreast.

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