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
This book examines how the Europeanleft reacted to the economic crisis triggered by the banking collapses of 2008. For some, the crisis was an opportunity for a triumphant comeback for left-wing ideas and policies and for the left to regain the political initiative. The German Social Democrats talked about the crisis being ‘a new starting point for more democracy and a new common ground’ (SPD, 2009 : 5), and there were assertions that ‘the crisis in Europe can be a chance for social democracy to rediscover
The left and European integration after the crisis
Michael Holmes and Knut Roder
West Europeanleft’ (1994: 2). But the economic crisis certainly impacted on the left, with former British Labour Party minister Peter Hain asking bluntly, ‘why have social democratic parties been in abject retreat?’ (2016: v).
One common explanatory factor could be globalisation. Mitchell and Fazi argue that the decline of the left is not just electoral, it reflects a change of core values within society. For them, ‘the extreme right have been more effective than left-wing or progressive forces at tapping into the legitimate grievances of the
The electoral campaign was short and intense. SYRIZA continued to poll higher than its major opponents of ND and PASOK combined. SYRIZA's core objective was to secure an overall parliamentary majority. SYRIZA's campaign emphasised hope of change in Greece and in the EU, with the main slogan declaring ‘Hope is coming, Greece moves forward, Europe is changing’ (SYRIZA, 2015 ). Their campaign was significantly supported by Party of the EuropeanLeft member parties, which sent delegations to Athens. During the party's central political
Journal of Political Research , 51 ( 4 ): 504–539 .
Heilig , D.
( 2016 ) Mapping the Europeanleft: socialist parties in the EU , New York : Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung .
(accessed 15 July 2017).
Heine , F.
Sablowski , T
were not acquired which could theoretically have been used for social policies. Hence, although Latvia's social system could be in need of left policies, the political party system and political culture prevent it from happening.
The pro-Europeanleft and national interests
The positioning of the Latvian left parties towards the European Union is unusual. All parties, regardless of their stance on ethnic issues, have declared themselves to be pro-EU. Though some of their politicians occasionally are tempted to criticise the
). The Left Alliance entered another heterogeneous cabinet following the 2011 elections, but after an uneasy three years left the National Coalition-led ‘six pack’ cabinet in the spring of 2014 due to differences over economic policy. The Left Alliance belongs to the Party of the EuropeanLeft and its MEP sits in the GUE/NGL group.
The Green League is quite centrist and refuses to be categorised as a left-wing party. It served in the government from 1995 to 2002 (when it left the cabinet due to disagreements over nuclear energy), from 2007 to 2011
called the Left Front (FdG – Front de Gauche); MEPs sit in the GUE/NGL group, but not all constituent groups in the Left Front are members of the Party of the EuropeanLeft – just the PCF and the Left Party;
(2) a Green movement (EELV – Europe Écologie Les Verts), promoting environmental issues and a member of the European Green Party; (3) the Socialist Party (PS – Parti Socialiste), the largest party of the French left, and a member of the Party of European Socialists. The following section briefly summarises the
European Green Party and the Greens-EFA group. Die Linke is a member of GUE-NGL and of the Party of the EuropeanLeft (Roder, 2012 : 95).
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
After decades without significant changes, in the short period from the May
2014 European elections to the June 2016 general elections, Spanish politics
experienced the emergence of new political actors, new electoral dynamics
and new issues on the agenda. This chapter aims to synthesise the main
changes in Spain’s political system during the crisis, with a special focus
on the leftist parties. The first section summarises the evolution of the
Spanish left since 2008. The second section addresses the country’s new
party system after the 2015 and 2016 general elections and the patterns of
interaction among its main actors. The third section analyses the discourse,
tactics and ideology of the leftist parties to shed light on the
controversial nature of the newcomers. Finally, the analysis focuses on the
Spanish left’s attitude towards European integration.