Next Left : Framing a New Narrative




Within the scope of the FEPS Next Left ‘Dialogue of Dialogues’, a continuous transatlantic academic conversation, a number of scholars gathered in the Idec-Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, on 10-11 May 2013 to discuss a new progressive narrative. This activity has been initiated by the Next Left Research Programme within the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), the Renner Institute, the Institute for Global Law and Policy of Harvard Law School (IGLP), and for this specific event co-organized by the Fundació Rafael Campalans. The ‘Next Left: Framing a New Narrative’ event entailed five closed sessions and one public event, with speeches of Pére Navarro, Secretary-General of the PSC, Massimo D’Alema, President of FEPS, David Kennedy, Director of the IGLP and Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer, Chair of the FEPS Next Left Research Programme. It fostered further cooperation between FEPS, its member and the world of academia.   

The main objective of this activity was to deepen analyses and advance the debate with different perspectives, on how to shape Europe’s and the world’s future. Massimo D’Alema opens the discussion with emphasizing the importance of a new Left narrative, where democracy is essential and the social model should give direction to Europe’s future. Dr. Gusenbauer therefore, points out that Social Democracy should restore its self-confidence, allowing the EU and its institutions to serve in shaping a better society. Key within this debate remains the crucial role of the ‘Alternative’, a given that should be offered by the Social Democratic movement, where social citizenship is key. Professor Kennedy brings the global aspect into the debate, emphasizing its undeniable role within the current society. Europe should understand that due to the fading of borders, transnational policies should go beyond EU politics.

In the first session entitled ‘Restoring sense of politics’, the discussion continues, addressing the issue of populist parties, the falling turnout and the sincere motivation of political agendas. The main question remains, how the European Progressive movement should cope with the current political tendencies, where a decrease of trust in politics has the overtone. After discussing the cases of the Spanish, British and European elections, the demand focuses on political imagination. A notion related to the earlier mentioned ‘Alternative’, thinking outside of the box and offering the movement, as well as society, a strengthening and empowerment of politics. A way for the Social Democrats to increase their strength, providing an ‘Alternative’ could be to redesign the ‘Welfare State’. Which we know as being one of the core values the Social Democratic ideological background. However, it’s in high demand for renewal, for it to become sustainable, but more importantly more equal and active. Suggestions were made how to reestablish relationships between society, politics and economy.

The second session ‘Distinguishing modern progressivism’, works further on an adequate translation of principles into feasible policy proposals. As mentioned before, the current economic situation presents itself as a challenge for the progressive movement. In order to cope with this situation the second session concludes that all economic projects should be social projects, where inequalities and imbalances should be countered. There’s a need for a new social economic paradigm, which would also apply on the global level.

After having emphasized the importance of a global perspective, the third session ‘Formulating a global agenda’ elaborates on the political framing for international cooperation. Both public, as consumer goods are depending on international cooperation, which is the case for intellectual property. It appears that often within this type of cooperation there’s a case of ‘sovereignty paradox’, which progressives should turn into ‘smart sovereignty’ in order for it to become effective and sustainable.

The Public event, focused on the key objective of this event, Framing a New Narrative. The speakers elaborated on what they envision for Europe’s future. It should be based on democracy, where institutions enjoy civic legitimacy and serve society. The Eurozone should be strengthened and decent equal standards of living and working conditions should be included. The trust in European politics can be restored, if Social Democrats succeed in presenting a society with a feasible ‘Alternative’, in which the redesign of the ‘Welfare State’ should take the lead.

Saturday morning the debate continued with the session ‘Building a welfare society’, where Europe should play an active role in forging regulations for the financial market. The current economic policies attempt to address the situation by implementing direct, short term measures mostly focused on the debt issue, for example by lowering interest rates. A sustainable reform is required, which should include an active European position with more integration, where politics and institutions structure society and its markets. Social security and social investment are two highly valuable ingredients for this reform to succeed. Other options are to improve the use of Eurobonds, more weight on the role of education, accomplish tax justice and to encourage public investment outside the Stability Growth Pact.  

During the session ‘Creating socio-economic paradigm’, appeared that Europe should implement new strategies for smart industrialization in order to secure its position as a global player. The realisation of equality through education, learning, a social safety net and employment return as the main issues. Overall, the debate offered the occasion to envisage Europe’s future, where the Social Democratic movement should urgently focus on a credible ‘Alternative’, the ‘Welfare State’ should be reinvented and adjusted to the current and always changing situation, where decent equal standards for all are strongly linked to education, employment and equal distribution of wealth. For Europe’s future this should all be placed within the global perspective, where Europe should safeguard and consolidate its position, by adapting to a rapidly changing environment. Europe should again become a part of the solution; with these progressive thoughts we believe the future can achieve the set objective.