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This chapter evaluates the responses of Germany’s parties on the left to the crisis, something which has so far been largely ignored as analyses have tended to focus almost entirely on the policy choices taken by Angela Merkel’s centre right Christian Democratic Party. The chapter looks at three phases and analyses the left’s role towards the crisis through the CDU/CSU-SPD (2005–2009); CDU/CSU-FDP (2009–2013), and CDU/CSU-SPD (2013–2017) coalition government periods. The 2013 election is particularly significant, and this chapter focuses on it. The result in 2013 made a left coalition possible, but instead, the SPD chose to go into a grand coalition with the right. The chapter concludes by evaluating the prospects for the left, particularly in relation to their cooperation and to challenging the dominance of the CDU/CSU.
The financial crisis that erupted on both sides of the Atlantic in 2007–8 initially seemed to offer new political and economic opportunities to the left. As financial institutions collapsed, traditional left-wing issues were apparently back on the agenda. There was the prospect of a return to a more regulated economy, there was widespread state intervention to try to salvage failing banks, and it led to increased scrutiny of the wages and bonuses at the upper end of the scale. However, instead of being a trigger for a resurgence of the left, and despite a surge of support for new parties like SYRIZA and Podemos, in many European countries left-wing parties have suffered electoral defeat. At the same time, the crisis has led to austerity programmes being implemented across Europe, causing further erosion of the welfare state and pushing many into poverty. This timely book examines this crucial period for the left in Europe from a number of perspectives and addresses key questions including: How did political parties from the left respond to the crisis both programmatically and politically? What does the crisis mean for the relationship between the left and European integration? What does the crisis mean for socialism as an economic, political and social project? This collection focuses on a comparison between ten EU member states, and considers a range of different party families of the left, from social democracy through green left to radical left.
This book examines how the European left reacted to the economic crisis triggered by the banking collapses of 2008, and this first chapter outlines the structure of the book as a comparative analysis across ten EU member states, as well as across the different party families of the left, from social democracy through green left to the radical left. The basic features of the economic crisis that hit the global economy in 2008 are introduced, and the very particular implications it had for the European Union. The chapter then examines how the crisis created a challenge for left-wing parties in Europe, setting out the political ideas linked to the economic crisis.
This concluding chapter argues that the conventional interpretations of the relationship between the left and European integration have been altered by the crises. We start by summarising the existing interpretations of the left and integration, before setting out the argument that the crises created an opportunity for a new left perspective on the European Union, which we term ‘alter-Europeanism’. We then analyse the main obstacles hindering the achievement of any new form of programme for the European left in the context of the current form of European integration. Judging from the case studies in this book, the European left remains broadly supportive of EU integration and is reluctant to embrace Euroscepticism fully. However, extensive debates have emerged over the direction of the European Union, indicating that there are limits to the Europeanisation of the left. The economic crisis has significantly altered the relationship of the left and Europe.