The Party of the European Left (EL), Bloco de Esquerda and transform!europe organised last Saturday 20th of April the fourth edition of the ‘NO PASARAN. Defeating the Far Right – Building the Alternative’ international conference in Lisbon.

The conference commenced with the opening plenary ‘Nationalism, racism and war: the far right on the global offensive’ by Fabián Figueiredo, president of Bloco de Esquerda’s parliamentary group and co-coordinator of EL Fighting the Far Right Working Group, Dimma Mohammed, Palestinian Portuguese academic and activist, Luis Fazenda (Bloco de Esquerda), Eleonora Forenza (EL Political Secretariat), David Adler, co-general coordinator of Progressive International, and Lucia Cavallero, representative of Ni una Menos-Argentina.

The conference continued with seven workshops: Rising Far Right, The Anti-feminist agenda of the far right, Instrumentalizing Migration, dehumanizing migrants: How to change the Narrative, Historical Revisionism: Sanitizing the Far Right Through Falsifying the Past, How the Far Right gets the working-class vote, How the Far Right organises internationally and Who are the new far right and who is paying the bills. In these workshops political and civil society representatives debated how to organise the alternative to the far-right from a left perspective.

Finally, the closing plenary concluded with speeches with Miguel Duarte (Human Before Borders), who spoke about the criminalisation of humanitarian aid and migrants and Danai Koltsida (transform!europe) who contended that progressives should not downgrade the importance of the social-economic policies to combat the far right, and recognise the multiple identities and integrate them to be successful, Catarina Martins, Walter Baier and Mariana Mortágua.

Catarina Martins, head of the Bloco de Esquerda’s list for the European elections, commenced her speech thanking the collaboration between the Bloco de Esquerda and the European Left Party, highlighting the need to stop the far right to protect minorities and people who cannot afford the cost of living and housing crisis. “The housing speculation is not a physics law”, she stated, arguing that we cannot maintain this system in which a salary cannot pay a house. “Let’s have the courage to change the rules: decent salaries, affordable housing, fair taxation, in Portugal and in Europa”, she added. “We don’t fight not to lose; we fight to win. Nao passarao”, she concluded.

Walter Baier, president and spitzenkandidat of the Party of the European Left, defended the need to fight the far right, mentioning the need for social alliances and a fair transition to defend the rights of working people. “People see that neo-liberalism has not delivered, and at the end of the month they see that they cannot pay their rents, that their jobs are insecure and that the cost of living is increasing daily”, adding that the fight against the far right is also a cultural one. “We cannot accept hate speech, we cannot accept misogyny, we cannot accept antisemitism and anti-Muslimism speech, and because of that we cannot accept that we somehow have to accommodate this kind of speech to fight the far-right”, he added, criticising the recent Migration Pact in the European Parliament, which abolishes the individual right to asylum. “The far right can be defeated in the area of the socio-economic and ecological interests of the working people”, Baier continued, adding that ecological transition must be connected with social justice and with social equality, and “that’s why we need a change in European politics”.

Moving to international politics, Baier repeated the position of the Party of the European Left regarding the war in Ukraine and Gaza. “From the very first moment we condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as a breach of the international law, and at the same time, after 500.000 deaths, we say that it is time to come up with a political solution, involving a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops. And the same applies for Israel and Palestine. The European Left Party has condemned the assault of Hamas against Israeli civilians on 7th of October: killing civilians and sexual violence can never be a means of emancipation and liberation. But let’s not forget that for the people in Gaza since more than six months there is every day a 7th of October, and that’s why we say stop the aggression against Gaza, we urge the European Union to take decisive steps to stop Israel”.

Mentioning the recent banning of a conference of Jéan-Luc Mélenchon in the University of Lille, Baier commented that “we cannot accept the violation of the right of free speech under the false accusation that somebody is an anti-Semite. We cannot allow that criticising the politics of Israel amounts to being anti-Semitic. If we allow this, we destroy the open spaces and democracy and we will not allow this”.  

“A diverse left, united in action, is necessary for the sake of the European people, for peace, for democracy, for human dignity and for socialism”, he concluded.

Mariana Mortágua, national coordinator of the Bloco de Esquerda, closed the event, thanking first transform!europe and the Party of the European and its working group Fighting the Far Right for the organisation. Mortágua mentioned that the idea of Europe is still a idea of hope in Portugal, but that really needs to be confronted with the fact the European Union has moved away from its citizens, mentioning the economic crisis which started in 2008 as a crucial moment for this phenomenon.

“Across Europe, the far-right propagates the ideas of authoritarianism, against feminism and LGTB rights, negationism against the climate threat, and militaristism”, adding that these ideas go against human rights, reinforcing at the end of the day the capitalistic elites, as proved by the recent alliances of centre-right and far-right in Portugal. “Our alternative is based on a simple idea: the criteria to organise housing, education, health and care systems should be the welfare of the majority”, she added, mentioning the necessity to reduce working hours to be closer to freedom.

“The role of the left, as it has historically been, is to create social majorities to change the present and the future”, Mortágua commented, highlighting also the best policies of the European Union had been related to the exception to the European rules and not because of it, with the examples of the European Central Bank to buy public debt to countries, the decision to suspend budgetary rules during the COVID-19 pandemic and the welcoming of 5 million Ukrainian refugees during the last years. “These examples show that rules and institutions can be modified”, she added, “and today we are here to celebrate the Portuguese revolution of the 25th of April but with our eyes looking into the future”, Mariana Mortágua concluded.

Watch all pictures of the event by Ana Mendes – in this FLICKR ALBUM

Watch the video of the event below or in the Youtube Channel of the Party of the European Left