Acceptance speech by George A. Papandreou, President of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK

ATHENS COUNCIL - Peace, Democracy, Solidarity: among peoples, across cultures, 30-31 January 2006

 

It is a great honour to receive this vote of confidence.

My special gratitude to you and to all the parties you represent here today.

I take this vote of confidence as a challenge.

A challenge for me.

A challenge for us.

A challenge for the Socialist International.

The challenge is clear.

We must strengthen our common will, our common voice, and our common actions to make our world a better place.

A place of greater freedom and democracy.

A place of greater security, prosperity, less poverty and famine.

A place of greater equality and opportunity.

A place of greater social justice and harmony with our environment.

A place of greater peace and cooperation.

These are ambitious goals.

For the first time in human history, we have the technology, the knowledge, and the wealth to design a different world.

For the first time in history,

We can make poverty history.

We can stop the globe from overheating.

We can guarantee decent employment.

We can reduce child mortality.

We can improve healthcare.

We can stop pandemics such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

We can achieve gender equality.

We can integrate migrants into our societies.

We can stop illegal trade in drugs, arms and people.

We can stop corrupt practices.

We can reduce inequality and relieve countries of their debt.

We can bridge the digital divide.

We can achieve universal education.

We can guarantee human rights.

The tragic irony is that we have the power to change the world - and yet we aren’t taking the necessary steps to do so!

Our citizens sense a lack of political will in our global society to seriously tackle these problems.

No wonder our citizens are sceptical - if not cynical.

In 2000, the governments of the world adopted the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

These goals are in no way revolutionary. Yet the global community has not stepped up to meet these basic responsibilities towards humanity.

As socialists, as progressives, as democrats we have a moral obligation.

To re-energize political life and give hope to the world.

Our politics must be a politics of responsibility.

Responsibility to our environment.

Responsibility to both developing and developed nations.

Responsibility to each and every one of our world citizens.

Our policies must guarantee responsible governance and institutions, working for and with responsible citizens.

We must and can revive people’s trust in political institutions - but also in our citizens’ own potential.

Our citizens alone have the collective power to change the world.

We must place people again at the core of our agenda.

I would therefore like to outline what I see as priorities for our future cooperation.

1) Democratizing Globalization

Our first challenge is to democratize globalization.

There can be no real democracy in this world when we have a massive concentration of capital in the hands of the few. A massive concentration of power in the hands of the few.

There can be no real democracy when multinational corporations challenge the power of democratically elected representatives of the people.

There can be no real democracy when the media is controlled by vested interests and big business. The monopoly of public and private media is steadily eroding fundamental freedoms in our democracies.

There can be no real democracy when organized criminals can buy off police officers, judges, and politicians.

There can be no real democracy when corruption is rampant in our societies. Corruption undermines the rule of law, at the expense of the weakest.

There can be no real democracy when large scale corruption means looting from the poor in oil deals, diamonds or arms trading.

How can our citizens feel they have a democratic say in world economic development when the IMF and the World Bank work on the principle of ‘one dollar, one vote’?

Responsible institutions at the global level mean more democratic institutions and institutions that can regulate world economic developments.

We need to strengthen the United Nations. But we need to look beyond the narrow debate about Security Council reform, and start creating a democratic global architecture that will strengthen the voices of our citizens.

Responsible institutions at the global level presuppose stronger and more democratic institutions on the local level.

Democracy is our cause.

We must reconfigure globalisation from the bottom-up, in order to bring in the two thirds of the human race currently excluded from the globalisation process, on terms that reflect the socialist principles of inclusion, cultural diversity, and sustainable development.

2) Regional Cooperation

This process of democratizing globalisation will take time. But we can accelerate the process by strengthening regional cooperation and integration.

The European Union is one inspiring example of different nations, religions and ethnic groups pooling their resources and knowledge for the sake of common values. Our values of democracy, solidarity, sustainable development, and freedom.

Why is this important?

A world run by cooperation among regions, rather than by a rigid hierarchy of superpowers, means more effective multilateralism, greater respect of international law, and more common solutions to global challenges.

The European experiment is not simply European. It is an experiment in solidarity that is relevant to all humanity.

It is our responsibility to ensure this experiment succeeds.

This is an important area of our cooperation with the PES, and I look forward to close cooperation with Poul Rasmussen.

Regional cooperation also calls for new channels of cooperation in other parts of the world.

How will we deal with China?

How will we cooperate with progressive forces in the US?

How will we deal with leaders that profess socialism and yet in practice espouse populism and authoritarianism?

How will we develop closer relationships with India, the Arab and Muslim world?

I hope to work closely with all of you on these issues.

3) Uniting our citizens in common action

The social democratic model of the past was based on the strong presence of labour movements in our societies.

This allowed for a social pact. That between labour, employers and government, which in turn guaranteed a just social welfare system.

Social democratic governments achieved an unprecedented balance between the goals of economic growth, social justice and democratic values.

Today, a profound shift is occurring in the current economic model, as capitalist markets increasingly give way to vast global commercial networks.

A new order has been created and this former balance disappeared; an order where the market logic has undermined the values of all other institutional spheres; a shift from a market economy to a market society.

Governments and labour unions are more restricted in scope. This has disempowered and created divisions among our citizens and undermined our international solidarity.

The top priority for socialists is to re-establish a balance between economic productivity, social justice, and democratic freedoms.

And while we have some very successful models, such as the Nordic one, this balance is becoming more and more difficult to achieve at the level of a single nation-state.

What is needed today is regional and global co-operation of our movement, so we can achieve on a planetary level what socialist/social democratic governments achieved at the national level, during the "golden period of social democracy".

There are four important issues we need to address:

  1. The lack of labour standards in one part of the world is undermining the social welfare of workers in other parts of the world.
  2. Mass migration from poor countries to developed nations has created fear and xenophobia in richer countries, especially among the working class.
  3. Free trade has turned farmers and service workers in the developing and developed world against each other.
  4. Environmental concerns have become a ‘blame game’. The developed world fears the depletion of vital resources by the developing world, which in turn blames the developed world for destroying the environment in pursuit of profit.

If you are a citizen of a developed country you feel more and more an object of a consumer society. If you are a citizen of a developing country you work for day to day survival. In both cases you feel impoverished, morally, spiritually, politically, socially, economically.

These are the divides we must bridge.

We must now rethink the nature of employment in an increasingly automated, borderless and mobile global economy. Help organize and unite our citizens towards a common cause.

For example, we can unite in supporting Juan Somavia’s ILO proposals and lobby other organisations such as the WTO for decent global work conditions, including:

  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining;
  • The elimination of forced and compulsory labour;
  • The abolition of child labour; and
  • The elimination of discrimination in the workplace.

As capital is globalised, so should basic labour standards be global.

We can develop a clear policy of integration of migrant communities into our societies and our parties — breaking down racism and fears.

We can strike a balance between trade in services and agriculture and sustainable development.

4) Empowering our Citizens, Empowering our Parties

As the world has changed, our traditional political base has changed with it.

While we have a stronger class of employers around the world, the working class is no longer a unified body.

We have very diverse societies; yet we also have many new forms of inequality.

While we seem to have the means, the technology and capacity to create a more secure future for everyone, our citizens feel less and less empowered, less secure, more and more marginalised, more alienated.

As a result, people are increasingly disengaged from politics.

Unless we take action, tomorrow our citizens will become more cynical; the day after tomorrow, they will be more angry; and the day after that they will lose all hope - or find hope in extremism, fundamentalism, and violence.

We cannot let this happen.

We, socialists, will not let this happen!

We need to break down the walls that keep our citizens out of politics.

To do so, our mission as political parties needs to change.

We need to make our parties open to all.

We need to fight exclusion from our parties, just as we fight exclusion in our societies.

We must empower citizens through education and participation.

By fostering dialogue, critical thinking, and creativity.

By enhancing democracy, and reducing bureaucracy.

An open party means welcoming all citizens.

Welcoming migrants and minorities.

We must break down the barriers that exclude the disabled from political activity.

We must create more opportunities for women.

This will empower our movement, locally, nationally and internationally.

I hope to share my experience in PASOK with your experience in your parties.

We have undertaken reforms that include the creation of decentralized networks, deliberative forums, mechanisms to improve transparency and support volunteerism, using the internet to exchange information, permanent civic education, and direct participation of citizens in policy-making, as well as new decision-making powers in choosing candidates.

In all this, I see education as central.

I hope we can create a database of best practices from around the world to further empower our parties and our citizens.

5) Working with Civil Society

This brings me to a fifth priority: creating new alliances with civil society.

The growing ‘third sector’ is an important opportunity for us to create new global alliances.

We can profit from their imagination and passion.

They can profit from our political strength.

We can work with different interest groups and social movements on a whole range of issues:

  • Jumpstarting a third industrial revolution by making a transition out of the oil era into renewable energies and a hydrogen economy.
  • Harnessing new scientific and technological fields in ways that advance the vision of social democracy.

And revamping education to prepare successive generations in the art of making social capital in an interdependent world.

6) Women in our Movement

We must give equal opportunities to women.

Women do not only have a right, they have the capability to contribute, if we only create the structures, the practices, and culture that empower them to do so.

I am committed to this cause and will work hard to make our organisation one which will respect these principles and develop new potential for liberating women around the world.

I plan to work closely with Pia Locateli and the Socialist International Women.

7) Peace Building and Conflict Resolution

Our movement has always fought for peace.

In a world still ravaged by wars, we must create new models for resolving armed conflict and building bridges to peace.

Violence is the child of fear, of poverty, of inequality, of exploitation, of ignorance, of powerlessness, of occupation, of fascism and absolutist ideologies.

We will not be able to eliminate terrorism, unless we eradicate the causes that create fertile ground for it.

Let me suggest that we seriously campaign against the build up and immense investment in arms and wars.

Our challenge is to transfer this capital to schools and education.

Let us invest in creating a culture of peace and cooperation.

Let us create fertile ground, where the richness of all our special cultures can grow into beautiful, multicoloured trees and blossoms.

These fruits must be rooted in a common language, which is nothing other than a progressive culture of universal values.

Jose Luis Zapatero’s ‘Alliance of Civilisations’ initiative is an excellent starting point.

We Greeks have worked hard in our region to overcome stereotypes in the Balkans. To create a common base of principles we all can abide by, while respecting each others’ identities.

In this spirit, Greece has promoted good neighbourly relations with Turkey. We have sought to find a just and lasting solution of the Cyprus issue, according to UN Resolutions. And this for the mutual benefit of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. In our struggles, we have been inspired by the vision of our past leaders. The vision of North and South of Willy Brandt, the world of common security of Olof Palme, the commitment to a sustainable environment of Gro Harlem Brundtland, by the work of Antonio Gutierrez, and Pierre Mauroy.

In the peaceful struggle for change, I personally have also been inspired by such figures as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and the humanity of Nelson Mandela.

These leaders embodied the values we stand for as progressive movements.

They have shown that we can choose a different path.

This globalizing world is not a one-way street.

We do have differences from our conservative counterparts. Differences in values.

First and foremost, conservatives try to impose their values on the world.

We, socialists and democrats, attempt to unite people around our values.

They speak of fear. We speak of security.

They speak of walls. We speak of bridges.

They speak of clashes. We speak of dialogue.

They speak of free markets. We speak of free people.

They speak of good or bad nations, good or bad religions. We speak of good or bad policies.

They speak about the war on terror.

We speak about the terror of violence.

They speak to capture emotion through fear.

We speak to liberate emotion through sincerity.

They speak of adapting people to globalization.

We speak of adapting globalization to people.

They speak of the god above.

We speak of the god within every human being.

They speak about a smaller state - but mean a bigger state that benefits the few.

We speak about a different state - and mean one that empowers the many.

Theirs is a politics of contentment.

Ours is a politics of knowledge.

They believe in long working hours.

We believe in creative work.

When they speak of protection from terror, they often mean taking away our freedoms.

When we speak of protection from terror, we mean strengthening our democracies and civil liberties.

When they speak of leadership, they understand power.

When we speak of leadership, we mean trust.

These values are an inspiration. We need this inspiration.

I am humbled by the magnitude of our traditions.

I am humbled by the fact that you have asked me to carry the torch of so many important leaders and uphold the values they fought for.

I will try to live up to your expectations.

I can do so only with you support.

In electing me, I understand that you have chosen someone who is a non-conformist.

I am here to provoke in a friendly and comradely way. I am here to suggest. I am here to listen. I am here to help.

That, I understand as my mandate.

I will attempt to do so.

But I can only do so with your close cooperation.

Your confidence in me is my confidence in you.

My challenge in the Socialist International is also a challenge to bring the best the progressive world has to offer to Greece and the Greek citizens.

In working with you, I can assure you that PASOK and Greece will become richer in ideas and inspiration.

This is the strength of our movement. We embody today - and this has never been more true — the slogan that we must think globally and act locally. But we also must think locally and act globally.

I want to thank you in advance for our future cooperation.

Comrades,

Socialism is based on the belief that it is possible to forge an alternative, egalitarian system, based on values such as solidarity, freedom and cooperation.

Socialism hinges on the belief that we can actually do something about the world - that we can change our fate.

We are by nature optimists. We understand reality, but we know it can be changed.

Today, we know that globalization is not a one-way street. We can civilize globalization. We can make globalization work for the citizens of the world.

We can recapture the energy of socialism.

We need to work closely with progressive movements everywhere - Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, the Mediterranean, Australia and New Zealand, Russia and the Caucausus, Africa, the Arab world, the United States, Canada, and Europe.

We need to use the energy of men and women on the move. Men and women who take their marching orders from their heart and head. Men and women who believe in a better world.

Men and women who possess a consciousness of shared roots, no matter what language they speak.

With your help, we will all work hard to keep the flame of social democracy burning. A flame of hope for this challenging world.

Thank you.

You are currently offline. Some pages or content may fail to load.