A new manifesto

Francis Wurtz, president of the Paris-based European United Left party, is certain that ecology is emerging as a political ideology on the left. Attending the World Parliamentary Forum, held along with the World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai, he spoke to RICHARD MAHAPATRA

By Richard Mahapatra
Published: Sunday 29 February 2004

Does holding the World Parliamentary Forum indicate the Left is using the event to resurrect itself?
The World Parliamentary Forum was formed much before the wsf. But wsf's emergence has definitely given it a forum to explore issues the globe is talking about. The parliamentary forum is a platform for legislatures to debate and introspect on social issues. The wsf gives us the right opportunity to sense the mood of people. I can call it a 'people's parliament' where we must go and seek relevance of our existence.

Don't you think the Left, particularly in Europe, has been very vocal about such events and allegedly always hijacks such processes?
The wsf in Spain and France showed it was gaining as a political movement, asking the right questions: livelihood, the suitability of an economic model. Also, this was the second important political event after the fall of the Berlin wall. Yes, for political parties -- including the Left -- these events become issue-picking events. There is a great yearning among us to come and see how people are reacting to global developments.

Political ideology is a dynamic process and time-sensitive. Political parties react to current happenings and the Left has been sensitive in reacting to the existing situation. I don't agree that these events are meant for resurgence of the Left worldwide. But one thing is sure: by addressing issues discussed in such events, like ecological conflicts, we are coming closer to people; such issues have given us a chance to become relevant to global politics.

Has ecology emerged as a political ideology?
Ecology is emerging as a political ideology and the Left is vocal about this. Rather, I would say ecology as a political ideology has changed our own political thinking. Given the different political situations in different continents, ecology is the only issue that can be relevant to all political parties.

The Left -- for that matter, any sensitive political formation -- has to look into ecological issues. For example, for the European Left, climate change and food security are two major global issues that must be worked upon. They are our constituency, as Europe is playing a major role in it. The left parties, also identified as greens, has been campaigning for food security and sovereignty. We call for an end to the monopoly of a few countries in Europe -- and the us -- who dictate the adoption of a particular economic model.

Aren't you piggy-backing on environmental issues?
It is not just an ideology nurtured by us, but a pragmatic political emergence. If you observe, environmental issues have a common origin: the conflict between multilateralism and unilateralism. Whether it is the rights over bio-diversity in a globalised economy or the unilateral denial of global warming and its solution by the us or Europe, the issue is more political. So what you see is a unified struggle against globalisation that is also a fight for ecology -- the basis of human existence. In this context the Left in Europe is greener and is fast emerging as a political force that tackles these issues.

Is it like rewriting The Communist Manifesto?
Not rewriting, but rethinking the context of an ideology. The emergence of the Left in Europe as the green party is also a lesson in global governance. Any political party formed by a rigid political ideology needs to be decentralised in its approach. This is what ecological issues taught us. The problems of each and every country differ from each other. When the Left adopted this ideology, there was debate among us; it resulted in a very decentralised political force woven together just by a broad agreement on environmental issues.

How widely has ecology emerged as a political ideology?
Sadly the emergence is still slow. It is being adopted by a minority of political parties. In Europe we are at loggerheads with our own governance set-up and are also a minority as a political force. But as the issues directly impact people, political parties can't wish it away.

As a minority, what are the challenges you face?
The challenge is to make the mega-European Union respond to the people's issues more sensitively. Our governments still speak correctly on environmental issues but act on the wishes of the us. This is not good. This is where we have to influence and bring in change. Economic interests have been the sole criteria of addressing environmental issues and this makes some countries dictatorial. So our first responsibility is to change this attitude and to instil an ecological sensitivity into political thinking.

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