What is the current situation of the radical Left in Europe? What political and historical events have been shaping its evolutions over the last decades? How has it responded to the challenges of Europeanization? What role does the European systemic crisis play in the emergence of new dividing lines across the Left? Where does its political project stand?
This set of question was at the heart of a conference in Paris, where Gerassimos Moschonas (Panteion, University, Athens) gave a comprehensive presentation of the radical left in the long run, insisting on the growing structural function performed by the Party of the European Left within this political field. The conference on 24 February was organised by Espaces Marx and LEM.
In the long run the radical Left proved to be politically well-structured, in spite of competing ideas and breaches such as the new Left or the Eurocommunism. The collapse of real-socialism has led to a high fragmentation of the Left who has been recovering and renewing itself ever since through a quite successful ideological restructuring process. The formation of the Party of the European Left (EL) in early 2004 ended up shaking up the radical Left as a whole. So did the outbreak and the intensity of the so-called Euro crisis. While historical communism had always been the radical Left’s reference point, the EL tends nowadays to undertake this role – not without a certain success.
The way to achieve a radical transformation of society through socialism has been debated within the historical Left since the turning point of the October revolution. To get there, shall we take the high road of a revolutionary radicalism or rather follow the path of reformist radicalism? Until the late 1980s, the socialist transformation of society remained a central element of the communist parties’ narrative and was at the core of their identity – what distinguished them from the other political families.
The collapse of the USSR had tremendous repercussions on all the components of the radical Left, from orthodox communist parties to extra-parliamentary leftist movements: the radical Left as a whole lost over 30% of its electoral force, even though its existential crisis had begun before 1989. It literally hit the bottom. Given this unfortunate course of events, how can it be that the Left made (and is making) such a comeback with positive outcomes – and not only in terms of electoral successes?
There is no doubt that the profound difficulties of the European social-democracy played a role, but they alone cannot explain the resurgence of the radical Left. It is rather an in-depth examination process that led eventually to an ideological, cultural and political transformation. According to Moschonas,it is not in spite of, but thanks to its renovation that the radical Left is getting back on track. If it follows the leads of the historical radical Left – as for its anti-imperialist foreign policy, its classes-oriented understanding of power relations or its internationalism –, the ideological course it seems to take is different. The EL pushes towards reformist radicalism in order to reach social transformation. Yesterday dividing social-democrat parties from communist parties, socialism is today a dividing line within the radical Left itself.
The EL has become a central pillar for the Left. And when Leftist parties or movements take a stand on Europe, they cannot ignore the EL’s standpoints. It tends to exert a unifying – and even a moulding – force upon the most Eurosceptic components of the Radical Left. The violence of the crisis has turned the question of monetary sovereignty and whether or not the Euro must be saved into the main division within the Left on the means to trigger social transformation.
To go further ahead in the analysis, see Gerassimos Moschonas’ contribution “The European Union and the Dilemmas of the Radical Left”, originally published in transform! Journal # 9 and available here.