Rethinking Popular Sovereignty: From the Nation to the People of a potential new Historical Bloc

Panagiotis Sotiris


During the past decades traditional notions of sovereignty have been challenged in Europe. First, we have the erosion of sovereignty induced by the process of European Integration. From the euro as a form of ceding of national monetary sovereignty to the Treaties that give priority to European Institutions and the new mechanisms of disciplinary supervision of member-states’ economies, exemplified in the Greek experience, the European Integration process has been a process of imposition of a condition of reduced and limited sovereignty, affecting not only ‘peripheral countries’ but also countries of the EU core. Secondly, the new waves of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe and the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies of ‘Fortress Europe’ and ‘closed borders’ along with the intensification of racism and islamophobia, both as ideological climate but also as official state policy, have opened up the debate regarding the relation between sovereignty and ethnicity. The challenge facing us takes the following form
On the one hand, any attempt towards a rupture with the embedded and constitutionalised neoliberalism of the EU in order to initiate processes of social transformation and emancipation, should necessarily take the form of a reclaiming of popular sovereignty and democratic control over crucial aspects of economic and social policy, both in the sense of a rupture from the financial, monetary and institutional architecture of the Eurosystem and of the deepening of processes of democratic processes in order for a broad alliance of the subaltern classes to initiate sequences of social transformation. In this sense, the recuperation of sovereignty represents the collective and emancipatory effort towards another road, an alternative narrative for a potential hegemony of the working classes.
On the other hand, we must deal with the association of sovereignty with nationalism, racism and colonialism, tragically exemplified in the way the Far Right links the question of sovereignty to its own authoritarian racist agenda. To answer this we need to rethink the people in a ‘post-nationalist’ and post-colonial way as the emerging community of all the persons that work, struggle and hope on a particular territory, as the reflection of the emergence of a potential historical bloc. This is not just a recuperation of the ‘national reference’. Rather it is a way to rethink the possibility of a new unity and common reference of the subaltern classes, regardless of ethnic origin, of a new common identity based upon common struggle and aspiration. Movements of solidarity to refugees and migrants exemplify this potential
To deal with these challenges a return to Gramsci is necessary. His conceptualization of the historical block as the articulation of an alliance of the subaltern classes under hegemony of the working class, of an alternative narrative and of the political forms helping this, enables us to rethink the notion of the people as the collective subject of this reclaiming of sovereignty, democracy and emancipation. Moreover, Gramsci’s conception of the ‘national-popular’ can offer the possibility of a common identity of the subaltern classes in a particular social formation, beyond bourgeois nationalism.

(For the General CFP and the specific theme 'Limits and borders: the migration ‘crisis’, the European state-system and racism)

Sovereignty - Gramsci - Historical Bloc - EU - Nationalism - Racism