Let me present you the spring 2015 issue of the Aspen Review quarterly. “Left is back” analyzes the dynamics behind recent successes of leftist political parties in Europe. It also reveals a dramatic shift between ideas traditionally associated with leftist political thought and the main features of the left today.
After several years of tough austerity measures, the left in Europe is gaining on strength. The beginning of the year saw Syriza, a radical left-wing party, win parliamentary elections in Greece. Ivan Krastev argues that this victory cannot only be explained by the economic crisis, but shows that Greece has a tradition of political radicalism and leftist populism that goes back to resistance against the Nazi occupation. In another text, Martin Šimečka explores the paradox why the Czech and Slovak left-of-center parties are lured towards Kremlin. Although they claim allegiance to the legacy of the 1968 Prague Spring that was crushed by the Russian-lead invasion, they present all sorts of justifications for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The author uncovers political and psychological explanations for this political behavior that earned the Czech and Slovak governments a reputation as the Kremlin’s Trojan horse in the EU.
Despite its revival in Europe, Frank Furedi claims that for the first time in the modern era, the left is falling short of providing a plausible political alternative. The example of the Occupy Movement, which avoided formulating political demands, proves that lack of vision may sometimes be presented as a virtue. In his article, Furedi explains that the struggle of the left to produce a plan for the future is caused by the erosion of almost all political principles and values traditionally associated with the movement. The author also points to what appears as a reversal of roles between the left and the right. Today’s left is risk-averse, opposed to consumerism and weary of the concept of economic growth and technological development.
This spring brings a lot in Aspen agenda. In March, we organized the third edition of the Aspen Young Leaders Program, with the highest number of participants so far. To get an idea of what it has to offer, please have a look at our website. The next big Aspen event is already planned for April, when our institute co-organizes several debates during the European Economic Congress in Katowice, Poland. We invited a number of interesting speakers to the congress, one the largest business events in Central Europe, which convenes thousands of guests each year. In the spirit of our Leadership Program, we also support the EEC Leaders for Tomorrow, a new initiative within the Congress promoting active involvement of young people in discussions on important public issues.
Meanwhile, our Institute continues implementing activities in policy areas—digital agenda, creative palcemaking and urban development. We will organize a series of policy meetings with the aim to help Visegrad countries discuss the potential of new technologies for economy and society. Despite considerable benefits and risks linked with the digital economy and digitalization, which we analyzed in the previous issue of the Aspen Review, the topic has yet to make significant imprint in public policy. In partnership with reSITE Festival we will organize a debate on activism in local politics with a truly special guest, former Mayor of Reykjavik Jón Gnarr. Within our urban focus we will also continue with debates on creative placemaking, culminating during the second Creative Placemaking Festival, organized in cooperation with Pilsen 2015 this fall.
Finally, our office is busy with preparations of a brand new concept for the Aspen Annual Conference, our biggest event each year. The conference will provide an opportunity for renowned experts and personalities to present and discuss their assessments of the state of the Czech Republic in terms of several strategic indicators.
I wish you an enjoyable read during prolonging spring days.
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