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This chapter reflects on the role of TNPs during and after the impact of the Great Recession. The broader context helps us understand the challenges and pitfalls facing the EL. We reflect upon these and analyse the achievements of the EL to date. We summarise the EL’s achievements in respect of socialisation, legitimacy, policy-making and effecting Europeanisation. We comment on diversity and competition in the radical left in the run-up to the 2019 European Parliament elections. We finish by teasing out the implications of our study in terms of future research.

in The European Left Party
Developing relations with the movements and broader European radical left

This chapter discusses the EL’s developing relations with both the social movements against austerity and the broader European left. It focuses upon the ways in which the EL has sought to build links, partly through its working groups, with trade unionists, environmentalists, feminists and other sections of the ‘movement left’, as well as participating in the World and European Social Forums and organising gatherings of broad left activists. The second part of the chapter examines some of the reasons why the EL has failed to date to attract a number of significant RLPs. We also consider the objections raised to the EL by more hard-line and traditionalist communist or Trotskyist parties. Finally, we conclude with a detailed discussion of the role of the GUE/NGL confederal group in the European Parliament and the EL’s relations with that group.

in The European Left Party
Organisational and programmatic developments among left-of-centre TNPs

This chapter compares the EL with the two other TNPs of the broad left-of-centre – the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the European Green Party (EGP). It shows how the social democrats have far surpassed the EL in terms of influence, even if the PES still has its limits as a TNP. The Greens, on the other hand, have perhaps advanced most down the road of ‘Europeanisation’ and the EGP now punches well above its weight – while the EL continues to punch below its weight. We argue that this is, in part, due to the fact that the EGP has adapted its structures most. The EL, by contrast, sticks consciously to the model of consensual decision-making, seeking unanimity where possible even if this means slowing down policy-making. In the second part of the chapter we compare the policies towards the European crisis of the three main left-of-centre TNPs. We argue that, on paper at least, there now seems to be much overlap and convergence between the three. However, the EL remains alone in seeking to truly transcend capitalism, rather than merely manage it. The EL’s radicalism – its insistence on its nature as a transformative party (in the sense of standing for a transformation and transcendence of capitalism) – marks it out as a singular case.

in The European Left Party

This chapter traces the institutional and legal context in which transnational parties (TNPs) first emerged and developed. We show that TNP development expanded after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty but remained rudimentary until the 2000s. We aim to explain why the EL, founded in 2004, was a relative latecomer to the field of TNPs and we consider debates between sceptics, idealists and realists as to the potential of TNPs to develop into fully-fledged pan-European political parties. We examine the different functions of TNPs – co-ordination and information exchange, socialisation, legitimacy, policy-making – and discuss where we think the EL has developed to date and where it has stalled. We conclude with some remarks concerning the future of TNPs.

in The European Left Party

Transnational party federations (TNPs) have been critical prisms through which to analyse the EU’s tensions between intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. This study focuses on the radical left TNP, the European Left Party (EL), founded in 2004. It centres on four general questions: first; the conditions under which TNPs might be successful; second, how the EL compares with other TNPs, particularly those of the broad centre-left, the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the European Green Party (EGP); third, to what extent the EL has fostered a consensus over positions towards the EU previously conspicuously lacking among the radical left; and fourth, the degree to which the EL has enabled an increase in the electoral or policy influence of the radical left in Europe. The study highlights the strengths and weaknesses of TNPs as networks of Europeanisation; they have important roles in the EU political system but remain timid actors with only selectively developed transnationalism. It shows how the EL is a paradoxical actor; on the one hand it has brought radical left transnational co-operation to historical highs; on the other it is both less influential than the PES and less transnational and consolidated than the EGP. Such paradoxes result from persistent internal divisions between Europeanists and sovereigntists, as well as suboptimal internal structures. The influence of the EL is also paradoxical. It has emerged as a centre of attraction for the European radical left promoting the Left Europeanist position, but is a long way from being hegemonic or unchallenged on the left.

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This chapter introduces the context and rationale for the study, introduces the main research questions, and sets out an overview of the chapters and their central arguments. It shows how few studies have focused on the radical left’s international activity, fewer still on the European Left Party (EL). It critiques the idea that the radical left should be seen as intrinsically Eurosceptic.

in The European Left Party

In this chapter we discuss the range of factors – procedural, institutional and path-dependent divergences in European orientation – which weigh heavily upon policy-making efficacy within the EL. There is a critical interrogation of the development of the organisation and structures of the EL. We consider what might on the surface appear to be one of the EL’s most exciting and innovative features – the admission of individual members who can join the EL directly, without belonging to a national political party. This might seem to mark a turning-point in the evolution of ‘Europeanisation’. However, the category of individual membership has, until now, been largely stymied. We examine issues of leadership, hierarchy and policy-making within the EL, the role of the various party bodies and the question of internal party democracy. We reflect critically upon the self-effacing stand of the EL within the European Parliament. Finally, we consider the EL’s nature as a networking organisation.

in The European Left Party

This chapter analyses the various radical left international initiatives prior to the birth of the EL in 2004.

We discuss how deep divisions between ‘sovereigntists’ (who looked to the nation-state as a defence of the welfare state and of redistributive social justice) and ‘Left Europeanists’ (who believed that the crisis of socialism required a pan-European and ultimately a global strategic response by the radical left and that ‘national roads to socialism’ were no longer either adequate or even viable in the face of capitalist globalisation) hampered and delayed the emergence of the EL. From the ashes of ‘traditional’ communist forms of multi-party ‘co-operation’ – the various Internationals and attempts at Moscow- or Beijing-dominated meetings of communist parties – a kaleidoscope of differing initiatives eventually emerged. We discuss some of the most important. We show how dissatisfaction with these initiatives lay behind the determination of some of the most significant European radical left parties to take the initiative that resulted in the creation of the EL in 2004. We discuss the differing motivations of some of the parties that joined the EL at the outset and the initial steps that the EL took.

in The European Left Party
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in The European Left Party

This chapter focuses on programmatic and policy development within the EL. We examine the elaboration of policy at the various conferences and Congresses the EL has held since 2004 as well as in the common manifestos for the European Parliament elections. We discuss the impact of the Tsipras candidacy for the post of European Commission in 2014. Both this, and the subsequent election of a Syriza-led government in Greece, were landmark events for the EL. The retreat of that government in the face of pressure and blackmail by the Troika of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund were experienced by the EL as a bitter shared defeat. The experience of Syriza and the previous disappointments associated with the government participation of a full EL member party in Italy and an observer party in Cyprus suggest distinct limits to the EL’s ability to exert decisive policy influence upon its components – or to help them ‘govern’ in any more radical a fashion than the social democratic rivals of the radical left. Nevertheless, the EL has achieved a considerable degree of policy coherence and has sharpened its critique of the European Union since 2015.

in The European Left Party