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For a solidary Europe of the millions; against the European Union of the millionaires

2019 DIE LINKE European Election Programme: Introduction

We’re fighting for a social Europe, for a different European Union where everyone can work and live decently. Not one where disparity and exploitation grow but cooperation. One where all are protected from poverty. A Europe where big corporations and the rich cannot shirk from funding the common good but one where everyone adheres to the rules of a solidary society. Not a Europe where the drowning of thousands of people at its borders is shrugged off. For a peaceful Europe where security does not mean armament. For a Europe where democracy is not subordinated to the market but where people decide together how they want to live and what they want to produce. For an ecologically just Europe, where our climate is not sacrificed for the profit of a few. Instead, one where we handle our natural resources in such a way that we – and people all over the world – can live a decent and healthy life.

DIE LINKE stands for the European ideas of social justice, humanism, and international solidarity. DIE LINKE favours a united Europe. At the same time, we are convinced that the current EU treaties are not a suitable basis for a social, democratic, ecologically sound, and peaceful Europe.

The European Union is not as we want it to be. It does not even meet its self-proclaimed goals of the neoliberalism and profit-seeking inscribed in the treaties. Too often, competition is considered superior to the needs of the population, and the freedom of corporations considered over the freedom of people from poverty and insecurity. The EU has not learned anything since the economic crisis 10 years ago, but instead has become even more neoliberal and authoritarian. Instead of fighting the crisis in through solidarity, wages in southern European countries have been levelled down, social benefits cut, public institutions and services sacrificed to corporations. Banks and corporations are still not sufficiently regulated. By the time of the European elections, the United Kingdom will most likely have left the EU.

This shared house of Europe has been shaken to its very foundations. We, DIE LINKE, want a new start for the European Union. Our vision for Europe is rooted in internationalism and solidarity. Together with other left parties we stand for a fundamental policy change in the European Union. Withdrawing behind national borders and walls are not an option for us. We want a different, a better EU. The European Union must become a real, democratic, inclusive, socially and ecologically focused, and peaceful union. The current legal basis of the European Union is not suitable for this task. The European Union needs a new start with a complete reversal of the treaties bases, which obligate the members to arm themselves, are oriented towards military intervention, oppose the requirements of democratic organisation and prescribe neoliberal policy such as privatisation, social cuts and market radicalisation. We, therefore, advocate for the renegotiation of the treaties. We want a constitution that is co-created by citizens, and upon which they can simultaneously share their voice in plebiscites in all EU member states. If this is impossible as it currently stands, we are ready to break the rules to enable a more democratic, socially and ecologically sound, and peaceful Union. Even if the treaties require it, we will neither expand the military nor implement austerity.

A new start for the EU means changing priorities: instead of holding open trade or the interests of individual governments first, the interests of the people should be paramount. Instead of competition increasing stress and holding down wages we want decent working conditions and wages people can make a living from. Instead of social exclusion, we need guaranteed protection from poverty for all. We want to end the growing divide between rich and poor. We do not accept that big corporations make billions in profit and pay close to no taxes while poverty grows and social spending is reduced. We know that wealth in the EU is threatened by tax fugitives, not by refugees forced to migrate as a result of profit-oriented politics. We fight for an economic policy which serves the people and not the profits of a few. We want Europe's youth to have a future. We want investments in health, social affairs, and in inclusive education. We want a peaceful Europe. Instead of armament, the deployment of medium-range missiles, and the establishment of an ‘intervention’ army, we want disarmament and a policy of détente. The havoc caused to the climate and environment needs to be stopped. We oppose politics which subordinate essential natural resources of life like water, air, a clean environment or health to profits. Europe needs to take the lead regarding climate protection. These priorities are impossible to set in a national framework; therefore, we’re fighting for fundamental policy change in the European Union.

Despite objections against the predominant politics in the EU, there are many people inside and outside the European Union who find hope in European integration, exactly because they realise that fascists and nationalists want to destroy the European Union and that dangerous nationalism is spreading. In view of current developments in Europe, many are reminded of the first half of the 20th century, of two world wars unleashed by nationalism, and are afraid that this horror will happen again should the European Union collapse. Since Brexit the latest many people understand that it is important to preserve the European idea and the European Union. At a time when not just the European Union, as an institution, is threatened from the right, but also the peaceful coexistence of people throughout the continent, at a time when nationalists bid for power in individual nation states, but also on the level of the European parliament, when single nation states breach established international law or overrule basic principles of democracy and human rights, it is especially then that a strong, united and determined Left, fighting for a democratic and open-minded Europe, is necessary.

We stand for an inclusive Europe which is a space for different lifestyles and cultures, physical capabilities, and where people in need receive help. We want a Europe of solidarity with open internal and external borders within a democratic economy and society, a Europe where all people have the right to self-determination – regardless of faith, skin colour, origin, gender or sexual orientation. Right-wing parties are mobilising: in Italy, Hungary, France and all over the EU. They reinforce racism and exclusion and make refugees the scapegoats. We counter the right-wingers and neoliberals with a Europe of solidarity, democracy and social justice. Opposing authoritarian capitalism, we stand for democracy, freedom and humanity. DIE LINKE fights for a Europe putting people centre stage. For a democracy where we do not just cast a vote but jointly decide how we want to live. It will not be given to us for free. Let us take up the fight for human rights!

Many will say this is not possible. But we know that nothing needs to remain as it is – we can change Europe together, so that life is improved for all people. This struggle starts locally under concrete conditions. This is currently demonstrated by the social and political protests of the “yellow vests” (gilets jaunes) in France. For this we need the courage to confront those in power: the corporations that evade taxes, the banks that receive refunds for taxes they never paid, the economic lobbyists that create their own laws, the right that mobilises against people of different origin, religion or skin colour, the neoliberals that constantly cut funds for a social Europe and instead support armament and military build-up.

No one has to believe that there is no other way. We have proposals how to do it better, more socially and ecologically sound and just. We can build a solidary Europe. A fair alternative needs to reinforce that which unites the people. This alternative needs to organise what is available for all in a socially considerate and open way. Instead of leaving planning and decision-making to the market, we all need to democratically decide on issues which concern us all. We want a new economic and welfare model, providing a good life for everyone, a Europe of social guarantees instead of one filled with the fear of decline, a Europe without poverty and low wages. For this we need to end the austerity which has been exported from Germany throughout the European Union. We want a solidary, a socialist Europe.

We fight for minimum welfare standards, good jobs, and pensions protecting from poverty. We declare war on banks, corporations, and the rich who try to evade taxes.

We oppose privatisation of public goods and services and want to reverse them through public votes. We want to strengthen the public sphere. We want affordable living space secured for all and want to create more affordable living space all over the EU. We want access to quality health care for all people and good working conditions for health and care workers. We want to take health care and housing off the market and re-orient it towards the needs of society. DIE LINKE has a plan to save the climate which is also socially just. We want to transfer the energy supply to the public and to cooperatives and shut down dirty energy sources. We want a Europe-wide carbon and nuclear phase-out. The European Atomic Energy Community EAEC, which has promoted nuclear energy to this day, needs to be dissolved.

We want to strengthen regional economic activities and further involve the local population in the decision-making process. For this the rules for tendering public offers and economic development projects need to be changed  on the regional, national, and EU scale. Instead of short-term financial speculation driving the economy, we want to create regional, viable, innovative, and sustainable structures.  For this we demand an investment programme which effectively builds and promotes local and regional structures. Through the upheavals after 1990, East Germans in particular have experienced the disparate living conditions of regions left behind. The support of economically weaker regions needs to be extended and set on a different footing: regional, sustainable, and democratic forms of economy must be prioritised.

The EU prevents the socially just, sustainable development of the global South. It subsidises exports and free trade agreements, which destroy national markets and rob people of their livelihood. Many end up leaving their homes. We fight for fair development cooperation, which provides countries of the global South with their own development options.

We want to develop democracy and make sure that there is something to decide on. The fiscal policy of the EU has deeply intervened in the democratic self-determination of the Greek people and forced cuts to social programs. Such an approach damages democracy and harms the people. The European Parliament has been subordinated to the only somewhat democratically legitimate institutions of Council and Commission and cannot initiate the passing of laws. We want the European Parliament to be vested with basic parliamentary rights and strengthened. Lobbyists exert entirely too much influence. At the same time, the EU should only decide on issues which need to be dealt with on an EU level. What can be decided on local level, should be.

Weapons do not create peace! Plans for the EU budget involve cutting expenses for regional funding by about a fifth to increase armament and ‘border protection’. Conditions are being created to build an actual ‘European Army’. We say no! Instead, we present a programme for disarmament and a policy of détente. We object to arms exports from the European Union.

We want to put an end to the death at the EU’s external borders. The EU is waging a war against the refugees of this world. The EU has not made the European states more peaceful. The seclusion of the Fortress Europe is being enforced with ever more brutal means. In the struggle for resources and markets, the EU acts against the interests of the people in the poorest countries. Instead, we say that rescue at sea is not a crime but a moral duty, adhering to international maritime law and is a matter of course. We fight for social solutions allowing a future to all. We believe that those newly arriving in the European Union should have the right to freely choose their residence and equally participate. We also want to better support municipalities, regions, and states in their effort to integrate and develop humane social relations for all people. Solidarity is indivisible.

The EU cannot remain as it is now.

So what's on the EU’s label? Solidarity, freedom, peace, a united Europe. That would be great, but it is not how the EU currently stands. Freedom mainly applies to corporations and enterprises: free flow of capital, free flow of goods and services, and employees. The neoliberal crises management labelled “solidarity” plunged many people in poverty and desperation and stole the future of a generation of young people. Instead of creating equal living conditions for all, social injustice has grown. Funds supposed to have been used to harmonise the living conditions of the people have on a wide scale been re-allocated from social issues to armament, and member states have committed themselves to build up their militaries.

Many people experience the EU as distant. Decisions are made which they have no influence on. They hear of the EU when communal tasks are transferred to cheaper firms which disregard social and ecological standards. They hear of the EU when central public tasks are transferred to private enterprises and the market, and thus deteriorate. The governments of the member states, local and regional decision-makers shirk from creating social policy, using EU regulations as a pretext. Referenda on the EU level are not possible; the European Citizens’ Initiative is a farce. Not even the European Parliament, elected by voters in the EU, can introduce bills. We, by contrast, want to make the voice of the people and of their parliament heard.

The EU is in a political crisis. It struggles to find common solutions for all member states. As has often occurred in history, armament is supposed to replace diplomatic agreements. In many countries the extreme right is on the rise, posing a danger to the wellness and security of many. It calls for a battle of the cultures and is attempting to seize power in Europe. However, exactly those parties which laid the foundations for right-wing success – the neoliberal, conservative and feeble social democratic parties – intend to continue their failed politics. They either have no answers to urgent problems or the wrong ones. Germany is acting as a fire starter instead of a fire brigade, despite vocal commitments to EU, the Euro and international conventions and agreements. The German low-price/high-export economy is a substantial factor in the growing tensions in the euro zone. Against growing inequality we need tax justice, the fight against tax evasion and tax dumping, a financial transactions tax and a fair digital tax, which takes on the privileges of the internet giants. We must push back privatisation and competition, and hold the needs of the people in the EU higher than corporations’ profit . Making capitalism just a bit greener will not help face the threat of climate change. We need to place the sustainability of the environment above profit.

We will not surrender Europe either to the right or to the neoliberals. Neither Macron nor Merkel are true alternatives against the shifting of politics to the right. This shift is part of a deep political crisis and also the result of neoliberal policies. The fight against the right can only be successful if we challenge the grounds the extreme right feeds upon: the antisocial politics of competitiveness, the ‘debt brake’, privatisation and the erosion of democracy, which the German government has promoted. We are faced with a choice: a new start for the European Union or a move towards authoritarianism which opposes the social state, democracy and peace. Capitalism is more and more becoming a danger to democracy. The time is approaching for a new narrative on Europe. Progressive left politics on European level means that Europe should dare to be more! Some successes on the way already carry the handwriting of left policy, be it progressive changes in public procurement law, the “account for everyone”, the implementation of the principle “equal pay for equal work” within the Posted Workers Directive, or improved data protection. This demonstrates the use of left politics, and this is why we are elected. We want to bring about a left Europe of social justice, humanism and international solidarity against its destruction by the neoliberal politics of the EU and its member states.

The idea of a united Europe gives wings to the wishes and dreams of many people and inspires us as well. There IS another Europe: the Europe of the many people who collected nearly two million signatures against the privatisation of water and thus succeeded in keeping water supply a public service. They know that the market does not create equal living conditions. There is the Europe of the millions who fight against the free trade agreement, TTIP, and agreements with Canada. There is the Europe of the employees of Ryanair and Amazon who waged a joint, cross-border fight for better wages and working conditions, for dignity and respect. They demonstrated what solidarity means. There is the Europe of many people who strike and demonstrate, together with their unions, against antisocial austerity politics, against social and wage dumping. There is the Europe of millions of people who stood up against the privatisation of public property and fight for proper climate protection. A vast number of people take to the streets against right-wing agitation and racism in Europe. There are those that demonstrate for legal and safe escape routes side by side with refugees. There is the Europe of women who rise to fight for their rights. They know what freedom is. There is the Europe of millions of people with disabilities fighting, in many places, against discrimination and for a full and meaningful participation in society. They know what equality is. There is the Europe of people who obstruct arms exports and military interventions. They know that arms do not create peace.

Many are on the move. They represent hope.

Together we can shape the future. Let’s make it ours.