Editors: Michael Holmes and Knut Roder

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.

Power, accountability and democracy

Does European integration contribute to, or even accelerate, the erosion of intra-party democracy? This book is about improving our understanding of political parties as democratic organisations in the context of multi-level governance. It analyses the impact of European Union (EU) membership on power dynamics, focusing on the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party (PS), and the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). The purpose of this book is to investigate who within the three parties determines EU policies and selects EU specialists, such as the candidates for European parliamentary elections and EU spokespersons.

The book utilises a principal-agent framework to investigate the delegation of power inside the three parties across multiple levels and faces. It draws on over 65 original interviews with EU experts from the three national parties and the Party of European Socialists (PES) and an e-mail questionnaire. This book reveals that European policy has largely remained in the hands of the party leadership. Its findings suggest that the party grassroots are interested in EU affairs, but that interest rarely translates into influence, as information asymmetry between the grassroots and the party leadership makes it very difficult for local activists to scrutinise elected politicians and to come up with their own policy proposals. As regards the selection of EU specialists, such as candidates for the European parliamentary elections, this book highlights that the parties’ processes are highly political, often informal, and in some cases, undemocratic.

Opportunity or catastrophe?

Introduction This book examines how the European left 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

in The European left and the financial crisis

1 1 Centre-​left parties and the European Union Does European integration contribute to, or even accelerate, the erosion of intra-​ party democracy? This book is about improving our understanding of political parties as democratic organisations in the context of multi-​level governance. More specifically, it analyses the impact of European Union (EU) membership on intra-​party power dynamics. The book takes as its focus the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS), and the German Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische

in Centre-left parties and the European Union

160 8 Centre-​left parties and the European Union: what next? Does European integration contribute to, or even accelerate, the erosion of intra-​party democracy? This book has provided an insight into the dynamic power relationships inside the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, and the  German Social Democratic Party. It has demonstrated that European ­integration –​as an external constraint –​cannot be held solely responsible for the erosion of intra-​party democracy. Rather, the three centre-​left parties have (to varying degrees) missed the

in Centre-left parties and the European Union

11 Ireland, the left and the European Union Daniel Finn Introduction One of the most striking consequences of Ireland’s economic meltdown has been the transformation of its relationship with the European Union. After two years of ham-fisted attempts to manage the implosion of the Irish economy, Brian Cowen’s government bowed to overwhelming pressure in November 2010 and accepted emergency loans from a ‘troika’ composed of the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The arrival of troika officials in Dublin to conduct an

in Ireland under austerity
Abstract only
The left and European integration after the crisis

West European left’ (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

in The European left and the financial crisis
Europe, nationalism and left politics

) [Is] it really… possible to promote a progressive nationalism without legitimizing the chauvinistic nationalism of the right-wing populists? (Attac Norway, 2018 ) Introduction How does the radical left in Europe approach the issue of European governance? The leaderships of almost all social democratic parties have long since embraced an overall commitment to European integration (Bailey, 2005 ), while being sometimes critical of particular aspects of it, but

in The European left and the financial crisis
The Irish left and the crisis

being in coalition. Meanwhile, the various radical left parties have steadily gained support. This chapter argues that the left has expanded significantly, but has done so in a fragmented way that will be difficult to sustain. And Europe has become an important line of division between the centre left and the radical left. The chapter begins with an overview of the crisis in Ireland. The focus will then be on the programmatic and political responses of the Irish left. The crisis created an opportunity for the left, but there was no consistent left

in The European left and the financial crisis
Abstract only
The Portuguese left approach to the crisis

emblem of the political solution. 1 Underlying this process there was some reshaping of political attitudes and alignments, resulting from the strong socio-economic impacts of austerity, which may be changing the role of the left in southern Europe. The structure of the left in Portugal To understand the present-day Portuguese left, it is necessary to go back to the 1974 revolution. On 25 April 1974 Portugal exited a right-wing authoritarian dictatorship

in The European left and the financial crisis