The Nature of the New European Left

Discussion Paper
The Nature of the New European Left
by Stephen Morgan, Brussels. November 2015.

Part 1: Southern Europe
The background to the emergence of the New Left.
The rise of the New Left. 
How far-left are the “Far-Left”?

Part 2 : Northern Europe

Part 3 : The New Left and the Nationalist Movements

Brief Conclusions



The background to the emergence of the New Left.
From Stephen Morgan in Brussels
The author can be reached at: 

1) The growth of the New Left is a critically important development, symptomatic of a sea change in class relations and a shift towards the left in society worldwide. It has arisen out of the ashes of the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the severe budget crisis, the swinging austerity measures and the massive attacks on the working class.

2) The capitalist crisis first found its political expression with the election of left-wing governments in South America, followed by the revolutions in the Arab world, and then the sudden rise of anti-capitalist youth movements in the form of Occupy and 99% protests.

3) Despite its derailment, the Arab Spring put the word “revolution” back on the lips of a new generation of workers and youth. The events in Tunisia and Egypt captivated people worldwide. It showed the immense latent power of the masses and their ability to bring down even the most brutal dictatorships in the world. Imperialism was paralyzed and looked on helpless as its stooge dictators in  Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen fell like ninepins. The revolutions inspired millions of youth and workers worldwide, empowering them with the belief that they could bring down unpopular governments and change society for the better.

4) In the advanced capitalist countries, the perceived omnipotence of capitalism – which followed the fall of the planned economies and the economic boom – was shattered by the 2007 crisis. Capitalism lost its credibility as the best of all possible systems, in the best of all possible worlds.  Massive hatred exploded against the banks and the super rich –  not just among the youth, but among wide layers of society.

5) The colossal budget deficits in Southern Europe have prolonged and deepened the crisis which began in 2007. Under the dictates of the IMF-EU-EB Troika, governments have been forced to carry out the most draconian austerity measures and vicious attacks on the working class in living memory. The region has experienced an economic catastrophe as bad as the Great Depression of 1929. Southern European countries fell into negative growth rates with unemployment rocketing to an average of 25% and a staggering 50% among youth, while more than 1 in 3 people were thrown under the poverty line.

6) Public services were decimating, salaries and pensions were slashed, and job security and worker's rights were severely undermined. Homelessness rocketed as tens of thousands of people lost their homes through foreclosures or couldn't afford to pay their rents. Large layers of the middle class, as well, were ruined, particularly the self-employed, and those in the retail and building sectors. Many  other small businesses went to the wall.

7) This abrupt rupture with the rising living standards in the pre-2007 economic boom has led to an increase in class consciousness and political understanding, as well as an upsurge in militancy among workers and youth. These harrowing economic conditions and the radicalization of youth and workers, which followed, provided the objective conditions for the rise of new left formations.

The Rise of the New Left
8) The New Left's stinging attacks on capitalism and the Establishment has found a wide echo among youth and radicalized layers of workers. From previously negligible support of 2-4%  prior to 2009, they have attracted a mass or semi-mass following in Greece, Spain and Portugal. The most spectacular was SYRIZA in Greece which grew from 4.6% in 2009 to 36% in 2015. Podemos, which was created in 2014 rose from 8% to around 28% in January, 2015. Podemos' growth in the first year after it was set up was phenomenal, mushrooming from a small group into a mass movement of 300,000 members and 1,000 branches throughout the country. In the local elections in the major cities, it outstripped PSOE and the parties of the ruling class, taking control of Madrid and Barcelona in left coalitions with other parties and independent left candidates.

9) On a smaller scale, the Left Block (BE) in Portugal has grown from 6% to 11% today. Together with votes for the Communist parties or their coalition fronts, this pushes support for the left among the population in Spain and Portugal to over 20%, making them the 3rd or 4th largest political forces in the two countries. Their rapid growth undoubtedly reflects the potential for mass revolutionary parties to arise in periods of severe capitalist crisis.

10) The Communist parties in Southern Europe also continue to attract an important layer of workers, although not on the same scale as the New Left. They have also grown, but not as impressively, with average votes of between 8% to 10%. Moreover, in all of the countries they still control large trade union federations.

11) However, the CPs have never been able to revive there historical support in the workers' movement. During the 20s and 30s the CPs had massive support in all three countries, but in the first free elections in Southern Europe, they were only able to win between 9%-12%, similar to their support today. The main reason for this is that they became tainted by their association with the Stalinist dictatorship. In the mid-70s, the central goal of the workers and middle classes was to achieve democracy and replacing a fascist dictatorship with a Stalinist dictatorship held little attraction to the masses. The in the 1980s, the CP was squeezed out by a big wave towards the socialist parties throughout Europe. Since that time, the CPs have suffered a double-blow undermining their credibility with the collapse of the planned economies in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Therefore, it looks unlikely that they could grow substantially more than at present. This, in turn, has contributed to the growth of the New Left as an alternative force.

12) What is also clear from the situation in Southern Europe (and in Europe as a whole) is that the shift to the left isn't uniform, but manifests itself in different ways, to different degrees and at a different pace in different countries. This is due to the fact that each country has its own unique character, history, and culture, and the conjuncture of economic processes and political events has had different results. So for example, unlike Southern Europe, the shift to the left in Britain hasn't resulted in new independent left formations, but has found expression in a shift to the left in the traditional workers' party, with the election of left-wing, Jeremy Corbyn to leader of the Labour Party.

13) These divergences in the radicalization of society and the development of the left have also been illustrated graphically by events in Italy. The shift to the left there – or rather the beginnings of a shift to the left – has manifested itself in a more vague and somewhat bizarre form, with the rise in support for the anti-establishment, Five Star Movement, led by the popular comedian, Beppe Grillo, which has described itself as a populist party outside traditional left-right politics.

14) Developments in the rest of Southern Europe have influenced one another more directly than other countries. But even here, there have also been significant differences in the way the left has evolved in each country.

15) Events in Greece and Spain had similar beginnings. The Greek anti-austerity movement, which began in 2010, was directly inspired by the 15-M and the Indignados (Indignants) movements in Spain and called itself the Indignant Citizens' Movement. But, while it helped to develop the radicalization in Greek society, which eventually brought SYRIZA (The Coalition of the Radical Left) to power, it played no substantial role in SYRIZA's formation or development. Unlike Podemos, which sprung up from the anti-austerity movement in 2014, SYRIZA was formed back in 2004, as a coalition of different left groups such as dissident communists, left feminists, Greens and Trotskyists. Nevertheless, it was, in general, lifted up on the back of the anti-austerity movement and the radicalization in Greek society, as was Podemos in Spain.

16) Clearly, of all the new left groups, SYRIZA was the one whose rise was the most spectacular. The fact that it was able to take power was due to certain unique developments in Greece, which didn't happen on the same scale in Spain and Portugal. In the first place, the Greek people suffered the most catastrophic economic crisis of all the countries, with nearly 30% of the population unemployed and 60% of youth out of work, and 45% of the population living below the poverty line. Secondly, while both Spain and Portugal experienced significant waves of strikes and demonstrations, the class struggle in Greece intensified to a phenomenal level, with over 36 general strikes in a period of two years, pushing Greece to the brink of revolution. Such an unparalleled radicalization of the working class was a key reason why SYRIZA's support rose to far higher levels than Podemos or the Left Block in Portugal and laid the basis for them to become the largest political force in the country.

17) Despite the close geographical and historical ties between Spain and Portugal, the left has evolved differently in the two countries. The economic crisis in Spain was the second worst in Europe and  more severe than Portugal's. Unemployment in Spain reached 25%,with 50% of the youth out of work and 25% of the population living in poverty. In Portugal, however, although the working class suffered dreadfully, unemployment peaked at around 15%, and 30% for the youth, while 18% of people lived below the poverty line.
Podemos rally, Spain

18) The greater severity of the crisis in Spain was a key factor in why Podemos grew into a far larger movement than the Left Bloc in Portugal - capturing about double the support in 2015. But this was not only down to economic reasons, but political causes too. Although a new, grass root anti-austerity movement did develop in Portugal, called the “12 March Movement”– which organized some big protests in Portuguese cities – it never took on the same scale or level of organization as the 15-M and the Indignados in Spain. Consequently, the 12 March Movement didn't give birth to a new mass political force like Podemos. Similarly to SYRIZA in Greece, the Left Bloc in Portugal is not a new phenomenon. It was established way back in 1999 from an alliance of some Trotskyists and other left groups and has gradually increased since then, but not with the same explosive force of Podemos or SYRIZA..

19) In Spain, the 15-M and the Indignados movement set down a template from which Podemos could evolve. It organized networks of local committees across the country, intervening directly in such things as foreclosures, as well as putting forward a radical left programme for an end to corruption and the nationalization of banks. Then, when it reached its limits as a movement, Podemos emerged to take the movement onto a higher political plane.

20) Its worth noting one other important factor which contributed to the different character of developments in Spain compared to Portugal and Greece, is the lingering influence of anarchism. Spain is the country per se in the world with the richest history of anarchism, and where it had the most profound effect on the workers' movement and political culture. The anarchist movement in Spain began way back in the middle of the 19th century and it played a key role in organizing the workers and giving them a political voice. It is the only country where anarchism developed into a genuine mass force. It created its own mass anarcho-syndicalist trade unions, and its political front had a major influence on events until the end of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. Crushed under Franco, it has never regained its former glory, but it still remains an influential force. Its historical heritage has left a strong imprint on the nature of the current protest movement. Even today in Spain, the anarcho-syndicalist trade union federation, the CGT, is the third largest and claims a membership of up to 100,000, while representing some 2 million workers through industrial committees and collective bargaining.

21) Even if anarchist organizations don't play a leading organizational role in the protest movement, its influence can be seen in such concepts as de-centralized, autonomous democracy in both the protest movement and the running of society; the organizing of “People's Assemblies” to decide policy; its strong anti-leadership, anti-state, anti-establishment and non-party character, as well as its strategies of direct action. Another example is the increasingly popular, radical left-wing nationalist party in Catalonia, the CUP, which list “libertarian socialism” as its guiding ideology. 

22) The role of the traditional workers' parties throughout Southern Europe – PSOE in Spain, the PS in Portugal and PASOK in Greece – greatly facilitated the rapid growth of Podemos, the Left Block and SYRIZA. In all three countries, the socialist parties have participated in governments during the budget crisis and are seen as being largely responsible for implementing extreme austerity measures and their disastrous consequences.

23) Disgusted and infuriated with their leaders, millions of workers and youth turned their backs on these parties, and their electoral support plummeted. This opened up a political vacuum on the left which was filled by the new left formations such as SYRIZA, Podemos and the Left Block (BE) in Portugal.

24) This process was illustrated most dramatically in Greece where PASOK was decimated, its support crumbling from 44% to 4.7%. A similar thing happened to the socialist parties in Spain and Portugal, but not on the same scale. In Portugal, the PS saw its share of the vote fall from 45% in 2005 to 28% in 2011 and, in Spain, PSOE's vote has fell from 42% to 28%.

25) There are complex reasons for why PASOK suffered so severely, while the socialists in Spain and Portugal have managed to retain the support of a sizable chunk of the working class voters. One factor is the depth of the economic crisis in Greece and the second involves historical differences between the parties.

26) While PASOK did gain the mass support of workers during the period from 1980s to 2005, it might be more accurate to describe it as a quasi-traditional party of the working class. Unlike other socialist parties – which grew out of the early workers' movement at the end of the 19th century – PASOK was created by a group of liberals in exile in 1974, and does not have the close links to the trade unions which other socialist parties in Europe have. Consequently, it lacks the historical and class ballast of the other socialist parties, and this made it more vulnerable to severe swings in public opinion.

27) The differences between PASOK and PSOE and the PS were reflected in the results of the first elections in the mid-70s following the fall of the dictatorships. Both PSOE and the PS emerged as the biggest political parties, PSOE winning almost 30% of the vote and the PS capturing 38% in Portugal. In contrast, PASOK only received 13% of the vote in 1974.

28) PSOE in Spain, on the other hand, has deep roots in the workers' movement and close links to the unions. PSOE was formed during the birth of the early workers' movement in the 19th century, and the historic Spanish trade unionist and workers' leader Pablo Iglesias Posse played a key part in its creation. PSOE also has a heritage from its leading role the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and while, from a Marxist perspective, PSOE's wrong policies were partly responsible for the defeat of the republican forces, a Marxist sees the details of events, while the masses remember history in broad brush strokes. PSOE is also credited as having played a leading role in the overthrow of the Franco dictatorship in 1974. Consequently, it will take more than its participation in carrying out austerity measures to uproot PSOE deep foundations in the history of the Spanish workers' movement.

29) Although the PS in Portugal – like PASOK – wasn't formed until 1974, the PS is seen as having played a key role in the 1974 Revolution, and is credited with stopping the attempts at counter-revolution during that period. In that sense, it shares something of PSOE's legacy derived from the Spanish Civil War, and this has given it a stronger base than PASOK.

30) International factors also played a role in the growth of support for the socialist parties in Southern Europe. Alongside the fall of the dictatorships, there was a world economic recession in 1974 and 1979. Consequently, there was a general swing towards the socialist parties across Europe and the growth of the left-wings inside them in the 1980s. This was not uniform everywhere, because of internal factors but percentages in election results show a definite trend in that direction. In Germany, the SPD averaged 40% of the vote, the French PS averaged 35% and the pattern was followed by PSOE at 43% and PASOK with 45% of the vote. The PS in France was in government in France for 12 years consecutively, PSOE governed for 14 years non-stop and PASOK ruled for 17 of the 19 years in the 1980s and early 90s.

31) The socialist parties in Spain and Portugal have suffered a major drop in support recently, but they have not lost their core support among the working class, like PASOK has. However, their betrayal of the working class during the budget crisis, coupled with the CPs decline, has been a critical factor in the emergence of the New Left.

How Far left are the “Far-Left”?

32) The capitalist press have described the New Left groups as “far-left” in an effort to discredit them, undermine their popularity and create fear about who they are and what they stand for. But they have failed. Social developments are far more important in forming pubic opinion than capitalist propaganda. But the question still remains about just how far-left are these “far-lefts”?

33) While the New Left was based on an upsurge from below it was organized from above by left-wing radicals and academics. Many of its leaders, like Pablo Iglesias of Podemos and Alexis Tsipras from SYRIZA were former Communist Party members active in left-wing politics. Although they attract the support of many workers, the New Left did not arise out of the workers' movement and its organizations. The new left coalitions are mostly made up of various small groups of Trotskyists, dissident Communist tendencies, Maoists, Greens and other leftist groups, and the majority of their activists come form the middle classes.

34) All of these New Left formations are anti-austerity, euro-skeptic, anti-NATO and, in broad terms, anti-capitalist. However, none of them are explicitly socialist in their programme. They leave the nature of the society they wish to create intentionally vague. Influenced by bourgeois public opinion, they all fear that using the word “socialism” will scare away potential supporters, especially the middle classes. Instead, they usually call for a “Social Society” and a “Social Europe”, whatever that is supposed to mean. What they really aim for is a more humane capitalism, and that doesn't really differentiate then from progressive liberals. At least, the left-reformists of the past had a concrete programme of taking over the banks and gradual nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy with the openly stated aim of achieving socialism.
Syriza 2012 election poster


35) Following SYRIZA”s betrayal of the working class while in government, it may seem unnecessary to even comment about how “far-left” SYRIZA really is. But so many people on the left had such hopes and illusions in SYRIZA, that they forgot to take a look at its programme. Had they done so, it would have been clear in advance that SYRIZA was not going to carry out a socialist revolution. Looking at their original policies may help us to anticipate how other New Left groups will develop.

36) Even before coming to power, SYRIZA explained that;

“The central strategy of SYRIZA is a new re-negotiation of the debt and its interest payments. Its aims are centred on debt, the demand for a new “Marshall Plan,” creating a “primary surplus” and a “balanced budget,” control of the banks, in order to re-establish “creditworthiness” and “sustainability.”

Not a word about the needed for a democratically controlled, socialist planned economy, not even the need to nationalize the banks!

“Our program” it continues “is based on the values of solidarity, justice, freedom, equality and environmental responsibility.”

37) Of course, Marxists also support those ideals, but the programme is a utopian dream given the crisis capitalism and the budget deficits. They could only be achieved under a democratically planned economy and a socialist political system.

38) When it took power in 2015, SYRIZA could have mobilized the working class to carry through the socialist transformation of society. It had the overwhelming support of the majority of the Greek people in its battle with the Troika, but it crumbled under the pressure and threats of the European ruling class. SYRIZA lacked a solid theoretical foundations and clear strategy to change society, and had insufficient roots and confidence in the working class.

39) The tragic betrayal of the working class by SYRIZA in Greece is an ominous omen of what can happen to the other Left formations. SYRIZA was perhaps the most left-wing of the groups in Southern Europe, but even so, they eventually ended up carrying out anti-working class policies in the interests of the ruling class.

40) An usual situation has now developed in Greece. There is undeniably huge anger and disappointment among youth and workers over SYRIZA's capitulation, but it has managed to hold onto power in elections. Many people thought it would be devastated by its actions, but that hasn't happened so far. The reason for this is that the Greek masses were left with little alternative. The small left split away from SYRIZA failed to gain any real support, because it didn't offer a credible alternative of forming a government to fight austerity and the might of the EU.

41) Likewise, the Greek Communist Party, which had about 8% of the vote, was also not seen as a feasible option. Because of both its Stalinist associations and a sectarian ultra-left policy towards SYRIZA in its ascendant period,  it lost a huge opportunity to grow. Had the CP joined the SYRIZA movement at the beginning and given its leaders critical support, it would have captured the ear and the respect of a far wider layer of workers and youth. Then, if it had broken away with the left-wing of SYRIZA following the betrayal, there was a chance that it would have grown into a credible left-opposition and more layers of workers and youth would have given it their support.

42) In the absence of such an alternative, the working class was left to choose between continuing to support SYRIZA or supporting the right-wing capitalist parties. They feared that the austerity programme anew right-wing government would pursue would be even more vicious than when they were in power before. Many thought that PASOK had at least tried to stand up to the EU, and that, all-in-all, SYRIZA was the best of bad alternatives in the hope that they would at least mitigate some of the worst excesses of an austerity programme and protect the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

43) Whether SYRIZA will be able to continue as a political force in the future will depend on a number of factors, particularly the world economic situation, and whether they get credit for some recovery in the Greek economy, as has happened in Spain, Portugal and Ireland. The future of PASOK is unclear. It is doubtful that PASOK could regain its former place, so there is a vacuum on the left and no other party which workers could support. Ironically, having gained so much from the collapse of PASOK, SYRIZA may end up as a new PASOK, and, at some point, it could also end up facing the same fate.
Left bloc poster: Merkel and Portuguese gov't


44) Podemos captured the support of millions of workers and youth because of its withering attacks on capitalism and corruption, its clear anti-austerity programme, its defense of the poorest section of the population, and the positive reforms it put forward. With both the capitalist PP and the PSOE stained by their role in attacking the working class, Podemos seemed to offer a clear alternative to the discredited Establishment, and was looked on by many as a party which could transform society along socialist lines.

45) Unfortunately, despite its profile, Podemos is not a clearly defined socialist movement, and its programme is limited to working within the confines of capitalism. In its “Economic project for the people” the Podemos leaders state the following;

“In Spain as in (the rest of) Europe, there is no way to achieve sufficient (economic) recovery unless debt decreases, and debt cannot decrease unless the recovery materialises.”

Its main economic demands are;
·      “Flexibilisation” of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact (EU fiscal rules);
·      Change the rules that prevent the ECB from financing governments;
·      Amend the ECB’s statute to include “full employment” among its policy targets;
·      Make the ECB accountable to the European Parliament, which should also be in charge of appointing ECB members;
·      Create mechanisms that guarantee the pooling of debt and the effective supervision of the financial system at the European level”;
·      Scrap the balanced budget rule from the Spanish Constitution – which is basically tantamount to rejecting the EU’s ‘fiscal compact’ on budgetary discipline.
·      Achieve real coordination of economic policies in the Eurozone.” 
Clearly, its entire perspective and programme is aimed at reforming capitalism, rather than transforming society along socialist lines.
46)  Podemos is now shifting to the right as witnessed by more and more changes to its programme. For example, it has dropped its demands for a “universal citizen’s income” because it would cost €145 billion which, they say, is too much for the Spanish government. It is also now no longer advocating the suspension of all foreclosures, but instead proposes negotiations between debtors and creditors over mortgage payments.
In an interview with Associated Press in October 2015, its leader Pablo Iglesias said "It's great that we have rich people, but for the rich to be rich, the key is not to impoverish the rest of the country."
47) The leadership of the party is trying to tone down its radical policies to attract centrist voters, and this is causing a split within Podemos along left/right lines. In April 2015, Juan Carlos Monedero, a leadr and founding member of the group, resigned from the party over its move to the right. In an interview he stated that “sometimes we appear to be like those that we want to substitute” and that the party was trying to make it “seem that we are good clean boys that won't give the powerful any headaches.”
48) As it shifts towards the right, Podemos is falling steeply in the opinion polls. In January 2015, it hit its zenith capturing 28% backing from the electorate. But by September its support had fallen to 18%, and in November to only 14%. Pablo Iglesias seems to think that the only way top stop this is to go even further to the right, believing that he is loosing supporters to the center Ciudadanos (Citizens) Party. This is suicidal because Podemos will loose its identity as a real left-wing alternative and with it the reason for its rapid rise in popularity.
49) Ciudadanos, who were originally only active in Catalonia, burst onto the national stage only this year. They are a populist center party giving off a progressive, but not left-wing image. In some ways their rise has been even more spectacular than Podemos. From nothing they managed to capture 16% of the vote in opinion polls in September 2015. In November, it rose to 22%, with the possibility it could come second in the general election in December after the PP, pushing PSOE into third place.
50) Despite being a center party, Ciudadanos' growth is nevertheless a result of austerity, the attacks of the PP, and the treachery of PSOE. Many people don't want to vote either for the PP or PSOE, but don't feel ready to support Podemos. Its support is mainly among the middle classes, but it is attracting a section of workers for these same reasons. While it isn't a leftward development, it is another symptom of an anti-Establishment mood and a desire for something new and different. Broadly speaking, when the two-party system begins to break down, it is indicative of the more general crisis for capitalism.
51) As a result of the plunge in its support and the rise of Podemos, PSOE's new leader, Pedro Sánchez, has been forced to take a more anti-austerity stance. Furthermore, there are signs of growing discontent and dissent within its ranks. PSOE's Catalan MPs voted against the party over Catalan independence. There have also been clashes between PSOE youth leaders and party heads, and in the recent elections for leader of the party, a grouping called “The Socialist Left Platform” ran a candidate, Perez Tapias, for election.  A shift to the left in PSOE is inevitable at some point, but as with other developments, it wont take exactly the same form as in Britain or Portugal. When it does move left, this will be another factor which can weaken support for Podemos.

52) SYRIZA's betrayal of the working class has definitely undermined belief in other left groupings in Europe. Their credibility as a real alternative to the traditional parties and as an effective force against austerity has suffered and has certainly played a role in Podemos' decline in support in opinion polls.

53) Another factor working against Podemos is the recovery in the Spanish economy, which has also given the right-wing capitalist party a slight lead in opinion polls for the December elections. Despite continuing mass unemployment and poverty, we can not ignore the effect of an increase in economic growth is having on political processes.
54) These mounting problems means that there is a strong possibility that Podemos will split along left/right lines. If its showing in the December 2015 general election is poorer than expected, then a right-wing break away, possibility led by Pablo Iglesias, could emerge and try to create a group similar to Ciudadanos, with a center-left programme. It may even attempt to merge with Ciudadanos or, at least form alliances with it. Podemos is already entering into coalitions with PSOE at a local level. Continuing in this direction would sound the death knell for Podemos. It is very likely that its 300,000 members would then fall into inactivity, disillusioned with developments.
55) At the same time, a left-wing could also break away from Podemos and try to set up a new grouping around its original ideas and a new radical programme. However, that is unlikely to attract the same support as the Podemos originally did. The best it could probably do would be to enter into a coalition of the left with the IU Communist party and the CUP in Catalonia.
56) The situation remains very fluid. The future of the current left movement in Spain will depend on a number of factors, including the economy, PSOE and whether Podemos shifts to the left. If the economy goes into a new crisis, and if PSOE enters a coalition government with the right-wing PP, that could revive the left. But even if Podemos were to wither away, it wouldn't mark the end of the matter. Like the other left movements in Europe, Podemos is just a harbinger of waves of left movements to come in the future. 
The Left Block and CDU in Portugal
57) In Portugal, the Left Block (BE) and CDU Communist alliance groups have together won more than 20% of the vote. Like elsewhere, their success has been based on a combination of economic crisis, austerity measures and the participation of the traditional workers' party (PS) in carrying out these attacks on the working class while in government. The BE and CDU is committed to quitting the Euro and NATO, as well as calling for the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy
58) The success of the BE and CDU has pushed the leaders of the PS to the left. The PS now takes a far more radical anti-austerity position than before, and they have included a series of left demands in their programme. This includes a massive increase in public spending to create jobs, improving education and health care, reversal of wage cuts and an increase in pensions and the minimum wage, as well as stricter rules to defend workers' rights and job security. Moreover, they have taken the unprecedented step of trying to form a coalition government with the Left Block and the Communist Party. At the time of writing, there is a constitutional crisis, because the President has blocked the Left Coalition from forming a government, despite them having over 50% of the vote. The PS is threatening to reject the minority center-right austerity programme in Parliament and vows to pass a vote of no confidence to bring down the government. This all has the potential to cause a revolutionary crisis in Portugal, but the outcome is not yet clear.
59) However, there are already worrying signs of a shift to the right in both left movements. In order to enter the coalition the BE and CDU have dropped the most radical sections of their programme, particularly a clear commitment to socialism. Unfortunately, if they finally do enter a government coalition with the PS, all the elements of SYRIZA-style sell-out are in place. There is a danger that they will seriously undermine their popularity, if they support a PS government, since it is unlikely to be able to carry out the promised reforms, and will probably back down in the face of pressure from the European capitalists. Being part of a new budget-cutting, austerity government would be disastrous for the Left. The only way to maintain their levels of support, would then be to take a principled stand against the PS and break from the coalition.
60) At the time of writing, the Left Block appears to have made a deal with the PS to go into government. But they can't form a ruling coalition without the agreement of the Communist Party. There are encouraging signs that the CP will refuse to enter the coalition on the basis of certain PS policies on budget cuts. If they stick to their guns, this will pay off latter in increased support for the CP and its coalition. The affect on the BE would probably be that left-wing would break away from it, like in SYRIZA in Greece.
61) However, unless the left coalitions develop in a clearly socialist direction, they are bound to drift to the right and become programmatically indistinguishable from the rest of the political parties on the center-left. Then, the support they originally attracted can wither away, and they can find themselves again in the position of small groups commanding 5% of the vote or less. The crisis of capitalism and the continued betrays of the traditional workers' parties may keep them afloat, but it seems unlikely that the left formations in Portugal will be able to repeat the electoral success of SYRIZA.

by Stephen Morgan
62) It would be impossible to cover the developments of the left groups throughout the huge number
Results of German Elections 2014
of countries in the rest of Europe. Therefore, this will focus on the three largest left formations in the three largest and most important countries, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
63) There are both similarities and differences between both the left groupings in Northern and Southern Europe and between the northern left groups themselves.
64) Despite achieving 10%-15% of the vote, the northern lefts have not had the same national or international impact, which SYRIZA and Podemos have had. They have not shaken the Establishment as much as the left has in the south. The exception to this is Britain, where the election of the left-winger, Jeremy Corbyn to the leader of the Labour Party has sent shock waves through the British political system and the capitalist class.
65) The first obvious difference between the Left movements in France and Germany and those in the south, is the role the Communist parties have played. In the south, the CPs have remained aloof from the new left formations, created their own coalitions and even stood candidates against the new left. However, the CPs in Germany and France have instead played a central role in bringing the left together into a major alliance. Another major difference is that in both France and Germany, dissident left-wing split-offs from the traditional workers' parties have also played a prominent role in the development of these left coalitions.
66) The previous division of Germany into the capitalist West and the Stalinist East has given a peculiar twist to the development of the Left there. The Stalinist Communist Party which was previously in power in East Germany, has been able to maintain an important foothold in German politics after  reunification and capitalist restoration. Initially, it even continued to be led by former leading members of the Stalinist bureaucracy, such as  Gregor Gysi, a former high-ranking bureaucrat in the governing Communist party. It, then, changed its name to "Party of Democratic Socialism" (PDS), in order to try to improve its image,.
67) Although the PDS only scored 2.4% in the first elections in the reunified Germany in 1990, by 1998, it increased its votes to 5% and gained 37 seats in the German parliament, the Bundestag. However, its inability to grow beyond this led to an alliance with the Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG). WASG was made up by a small break away group of left-wing Social Democrats (SPD) and some trade unionists led by the well-know left-winger from the SPD, Oskar Lafontaine. Other various left-wing groups like Trotskyists, dissident communists, libertarians and social democrats have joined with them and the coalition is now called Die Linke (The Left).The various groups can organize themselves as tendencies and platforms with in it, although it is still dominated by the old PDS.
68) Die Linke has gained strength after the collapse in the popularity of the SPD, which fell from 38% of the vote in 2005 to 23% in 2009 – following its participation in a four year coalition with the right-wing CDU/CSU of Angela Merkel. In 2009, Die Linke achieved a major breakthrough in support, winning 12% of the vote nationally and 30% of the vote in the regions of the old East Germany – making it the second biggest opposition party in parliament. Since then, it has also made some major breakthroughs in regional elections in the west and the growth in support for Die Linke has meant that the SPD has been forced to go into governing coalitions with it in various regional states, most famously the so-called “red-red”alliance governing the capital, Berlin.
69) However, the attraction of sharing power through coalitions with the SPD in regional parliaments, and the prospect at some stage of becoming part of a national coalition government is shifting Die Linke to the right. Formerly, it is committed to democratic socialism, but, in practice, its programme is based on Keynesian economics and reforms within the context of capitalism. It lists its main aims as; “For More Democracy, For a Fair and Socially-caring Society, One Europe for All, Against War, For high quality education, A social energy policy.” If it shifts further to the right and joins a national government with the SPD, then left-wing sections within it would probably break-away.
70) The SPD is still the second force in German politics, and continues to enjoy major support among workers. It has historical roots going back to the formation of the German workers' movement in the 19th century and retains close links to German unions. The fact that it has begun to also consider a national government coalition with the PDS and Greens shows that it is under pressure from left-leaning members, and there is a clear left/right division among those wishing to continue class collaborationist alliances with the capitalist parties and others who favour moving to the left. At some point, probably during the next economic crisis, it can be forced to the left, and left opposition groups will emerge in its ranks, particularly in it youth wing. Some may remain in the party to fight and others to break away like WASG.
71) The nature of Die Linke is a reflection of the fact that independent left formations are part of the history of the German workers' movement. In the early 1920s a left group broke away from the SPD and founded the USPD (Independent Social Democratic Party), a radical, left party moving in the direction revolution. At one point the USPD had 750,000 members and 18% of the vote, however, splits led to demise and its re-absorption into the SPD some years later. It was from within the ranks of the USPD, that a group broke away to form the German Communist Party. In the 1920s, the Communist Party in Germany was one of the few genuinely mass communist parties outside Russia.
72) Thus, the development of Die Linke has roots in the political history and culture of Germany. However, it seems unlikely that Die Linke, as now constituted, could ever imitate the success of Podemos or SYRIZA. Die Linke's probably can't shake off its close association with the old Stalinist Party and it also lacks the novelty and freshness which SYRIZA and Podemos had.
73) Furthermore, the objective conditions in Germany are less favorable at the moment than in Southern Europe. Germany is one of the most prosperous countries in the world and weathered the crisis of 2007-9 better than others, as well as not facing the problems of budget deficits. Unemployment in Germany is only 4.7%, compared to more than 25% in Southern Europe, although there are great disparities in unemployment and living standards between the East and West, which is one of the reasons for Die Linke's continued support in the East.
74) For Die Linke to develop into a mass force, there would probably need to be a huge crisis in Germany similar to the 1920s. The history and culture of Germany suggests that there is a probability that a left grouping such as Die Linke or similar new alliances will remain part of the political landscape in the future and be a focus for leftward moving youth and workers.

Strike against austerity April 2015
75) As in Germany, the Communist Party (PCF) in France has played a key role in the organization of the Front de Gauche (FG) meaning Left Front, although the histories of the parties are quite different. Up until the 1970's, the French CP was the main traditional mass party of the working class. The heroic role  its members played in the French Resistance to Nazi occupation in the 2nd World War had a similar effect on its fortunes as the civil wars and revolutions in Spain and Portugal did for the socialists.
76) Throughout, the post-war period, the French CP remained the mass party of the workers.  Between 1950-1980 its vote averaged 20%, compared to 15% for the French Socialist (SFIO). Following its betrayal of the 1968 revolution in France, the old Socialist SFIO suffered a “PASOK-style” disintegration, its vote crashing to a mere 5%. With a name change to simply Parti Socialiste (PS), reconstituting itself as a new socialist party it slowly began to recover, and its vote increased considerably after an alliance with the CP in the 1970s.
77) In the 1980s, the CP entered a coalition government with the PS under the leadership of Mitterrand.  Under Mitterrand, the PS moved sharply to the left. It introduced heavy tax increases of the rich, nationalized a number of key companies, increased the minimum wage, introduced a 39-hour work and 5 weeks paid holiday per year, as well as increasing in social benefits, and strengthen workers' rights. In effect, it implemented many CP policies and more, and rather than the CP benefiting from this, the PS stole its cloak and replaced the PS as the most radical party on the left. The PS vote rose to around 35% in the elections and stayed in power for 12 years from 1981 to 1993.
This established the PS as the main party of the working class in France and the CP was decimated. From an average of 20% of the vote it fell to 10% in the late 80s and hit rock bottom in the early 2000s, only being able to win about 4.5% of the vote.
78) In the current period, the PS in France didn't initially suffer the same decline as other socialist parties, principally because it was not in power during the same period from 2007-2012, and therefore wasn't tainted with carrying out austerity measures and attacks on the working class. In fact, its votes for parliament rose from 24.7% in 2007 to 29.3% in 2012, and in the Presidential elections of the same year, its candidate, François Hollande, won with over 50% of the vote. However, this changed dramatically and his popularity fell as low as 13% in 2015, principally because of poor economic performance and a rising unemployment rate. But has begun to recover to 20% as a result of a slight improvement in the economy. 
79) The Left Front in France was created in 2009, as an electoral alliance between the CP and a small break away left-wing group from the PS, calling itself the Left Party (PG), led by the well-known left-wing senator, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and some other leading figures on the left in the PS – much like WASG led by Oskar Lafontaine in Germany. It also attracted some non-party people and left-wing Greens.
80) Apart from the CP and PG, the FG has quite a mix of left groups in its alliance, including left socialists, alternatives, left Greens, and a former Stalinist, pro-Albanian party! So far Trotskyist groups like Lutte Ouvrière, which have a certain following in France, have taken a sectarian attitude towards the Front de Gauche, describing it as a “small bourgeois party” and standing its own candidates in elections. It has even participated on PS election lists in some towns rather than cooperate with other left groups.
81) The FG vote has risen for similar reasons as in other countries, such as economic problems and disillusionment with the PS, but it has also been spurred on by alarm at the rise of the racist, right-wing National Front, much as did the Popular Front in the 1930s.
82) Support for the FG has risen from around 6.5% in 2009 to 11% for its Presidential candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon in 2011, who was able to attract rallies of over 100,000 people in Paris and Marseille. However, its vote fell back to 7% in the parliamentary elections of 2012. It now has 23 MPs in its Parliamentary Group, called the Democratic and Republican Left (GDR)
83) The FG has a list of reformist demands similar to other new left groups in Europe, but unfortunately, like all of them, it does not associate itself clearly with the aim of achieving socialism. As an article in the Guardian observed;
“Mélenchon's growing number of supporters view (his programme) as common sense and salutary: a 100% tax on earnings over £300,000; full pensions for all from the age of 60; reduction of work hours; a 20% increase in the minimum wage; and the European Central Bank should lend to European governments at 1%, as it does for the banks. Here are a few realistic measures to support impoverished populations. Is this a revolution? No, it is radical reformism.”
84) France has strong revolutionary traditions and a culture of radical socialist ideas. The inherent volatility of French politics means that it could not be ruled out that the FG could experience a Podemos-like growth in the future, probably during a new economic recession. But France also has a long history of fluid and changing left-wing electoral alliances and coalitions. Therefore, the FG could easily break up, and new realignments on the left could emerge later on. But, the weakness of the current economic improvement in France, the right-wing character of the PS and the threat of the National Front means there are plenty of reasons why the FG or new independent left coalitions will continue to exist in France.


Keir Hardy, founder of the Labor Party

85) With the election of the left-winger, Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, the swing to the left in Europe has taken on a very different character in Britain. For historical and cultural reasons, it has manifested itself “inside the Establishment,” so-to-speak, with a sudden and unexpected shift to the left inside the British Labour Party. Unlike the rest of Europe, no new autonomous left-wing movements, coalitions or parties have arisen in the UK. Moreover, the Communist party in Britain is a tiny group without any popular support and there has not been any left-wing splits from the traditional party of the working class since the 1930s.

86) The British left-wing groups have never been able to create alliances and attract substantial support, the left groups in Britain have never been able to unite into anything of political significance. Where independent left groups have stood in elections they have received derisory results averaging 1-2%.

87) Nearly all the small left groups had written off the LP as the traditional party of the working class, saying it had become an irredeemable and unreformable “bourgeois party.” To prove their arguments they pointed to the Blairite victory, the emptying out of the LP party membership, the suppression of internal democracy, the dumping of the socialist Clause 4 of the constitution and pro-Imperialist policies, as proof that a qualitative change had taken place and the LP was no longer a workers' party. It was just another capitalist party in Britain, we were told, no different in essence to the Tories and Liberals. Unions should disaffiliate from it, they said, and party members should leave and workers should stop voting Labour.

88) Consequently, these left groups were speechless when the movement around Corbyn exploded. Because of their false analysis, they were caught totally unaware and wrong-footed by events. The new left activists just swept past them, not giving a second thought about becoming involved with these tiny groups on the fringes of the labour movement

89) None of the left groups in Britain have been able to capitalize on the favorable objective circumstances. They remain frozen in time and splintered by extreme sectarianism. And while the UK has some history of independent mass movements, such as the Tolpuddle martyrs, the Chartists and the anti-Poll Tax struggle under Thatcher, none of them have resulted in the creation of new, mass left-wing organizations.

90) The small left groups have been battling away for decades to build their own mass revolutionary parties with abject failure. There is no precedent in the history of the British Labour movement for the development of mass independent revolutionary parties. Although, that doesn't mean that it couldn't come about under very special circumstances, it is highly unlikely to be the way in which a revolutionary movement will develop in Britain.

91) Britain is a deeply conservative and traditionalist country. It is reflected in such things as the monarchy, its ingrained culture of parliamentarianism and the embedded, orthodox reformism of its Labour movement. Of all the countries of Europe, it is probably the one with the least heritage of revolutionary upheaval. Of course, in certain exceptional circumstances, all of that can be reversed, but it would be very unwise not to take these features into account when analyzing how British society could be transformed along socialist lines. It should not be surprising then, that the new left movements in society have found their reflection inside the Labour Party in Britain.

92) The underlying cause for the shift to the left in the Labour Party is the same as elsewhere – the
economic crisis, austerity measures and disillusionment with former, right-wing Labour governments. While on paper, the UK is a prosperous country, there are extreme disparities in income. 1 in 5 people live below the poverty line and many depend on handouts from food banks to survive. The youth have been hit hardest and are considered by many to be a “lost generation” with 15% of them unemployed and most of the rest working in low paid jobs with poverty wages. Furthermore, starting with the Labour government in power during the 2007-2009 recession, the working class has faced harsh austerity measures and swinging cuts in public spending, now continuing under a new Conservative (Tory) government.

93) The right-wing, pro-capitalist policies of the “New Labour” Blair-Brown leadership hit the working class hard and the LP paid for it in terms of popular support. The LP fell from 355 seats in Parliament in 2005 to 232 in the 2015. It was wiped out in Scotland, suffering a PASOK-style catastrophe, in which it lost 40 of its 41 MPs. 

94) It has been said that the working class in Britain is like an elephant, powerful, but very slow to move – until it begins a charge. A contradiction of the British Labour movement is that under the right conditions, its traditional inertia can be suddenly broken in an extremely dramatic way. This is exactly what happened with the election of Corbyn. The anger and disgust with the LP right-wing leaders and the plight of working people had been building up over a long period of time, until suddenly the dam broke.
Jeremy Corbyn

95) Once just a glimmer of hope for changing the LP arrived in the form of Corbyn's candidacy, Labour supporters pounced on it with both hands. A huge movement of workers and youth began from below, and with the full support of the majority of unions, Corbyn was suddenly lifted up on an unstoppable wave that aimed to return the LP back to its fighting socialist roots.

96) The left movement towards the LP took on a Podemos-style scale. A half a million people became  involved in the campaign to get him elected – 99% of whom were not in the LP to begin with. Within days of his victory, tens of thousands signed up to join the party, taking its paid-up membership to over a third of a million.

97) From nowhere, a new left-wing youth section of the Labour Party – Labour Young Socialists – sprung up and adopted a socialist programme. At its founding conference it declared its aims and goals;

“We want to see capitalism replaced by socialism: a society whose guiding principle is no longer profit, but solidarity; where common ownership and democracy guarantee a good life for all.”

A position more clearly socialist than anything in the programme of either Podemos or SYRIZA.

98) At the same time, the unions have begun to recover from the long boom from 1990 to 2007, when class consciousness and combativity were thrown back and union membership declined. Rank and file members of the unions and grass root activists, furious with the relentless attacks on the working class, are shifting to the left, as the class consciousness, political understanding and militancy revives. Given the pivotal role of the unions in the LP, it was inevitable that, at some point, this would find its expression in internal developments within the party. 

99) Consequently, the size and power of this movement around Corbyn has left the right-wing paralyzed. Not that this will last. They will bide their time until they think it is favorable to launch a counter-offensive against Corbyn and a witch hunt against the left. But they will have to take on the might of many affiliate unions, who have backed him and the enthusiasm of a huge new layer of left-winger members. The entire history of the Labour Party is a relentless battle between the left and the right for the leadership, and, even if the right succeeded in driving back the left temporarily, that wont stop the process. Corbyn's election is just the beginning of a protracted struggle between the pro-capitalist right-wing and a working class left-wing inside the Labour Party.

100) The same arguments about “bourgeoisification” have been made about all the traditional workers parties in Europe, so it is worth making a deeper analysis of the British Labour Party and its history, as a yardstick to evaluate how other socialist parties in Europe may develop. They all have a history of struggle between the left and right, and although this may evolve in different ways to the specific course taken by the British Labour Party, there will be a great many similarities.

101) To do that, we first need to get an overview of the history of the British Labour Party. If you don't understand the past, you can't possibly know how to orientate in the present or what to expect in the future.

The Labour Party : A history of relentless left/right struggles

102) Speaking at a meeting of the Labour Representation Committee way back in 2004, (an organization inside the LP set up years ago to fight for internal democracy and left policies) – at which Jeremy Corbyn also spoke – the veteran socialist leader and former Labour MP, Tony Benn said:

“Things may seem very bad in the party, but if we can survive Ramsay MacDonald, we can survive New Labour. I urge people to stay and fight in the Labour Party.”

Even though it took another decade for this perspective to be vindicated, Benn's insight and conclusions proved to be far more correct than all the “theoreticians” of the far-left..

103) The whole history of the Labour Party is a history of swings from left to right; of struggles between its pro-capitalist elements and left-wing socialists; of gross betrayals of the working class and progressive reforms –  leading to the successive emptying out and filling up again of the membership. This has always been set against a background of alternating economic crises and capitalist booms, and the influence of international events of both a progressive and reactionary character.

104) From its very beginnings, The Labour Party has been a broad, but fractious, coalition of right-wing and left wing currents from the nominally Marxist SDF, to the right-wing Fabians, the left-wing ILP and the trade unions. It was begun by the left-wing, ex-miner and workers' leader, Keir Hardy, but it was joined in parliament by former Liberals, who became its pro-capitalist agents.

105)More than any other socialist party in Europe, the LP is characterized by the unions' direct role in creating it, as the political voice of the working class and their continuing powerful influence in the structures and policy-making apparatus of the party. Consequently, this organic link with the unions has defined the LP's fundamental character as the traditional party of the working class, which has never been broken – not even under Tony Blair. The trade union link with the LP is a seal with seven seals, which cannot be broken.

106) As Benn suggested by mentioning Ramsey MacDonald, the betrayals of Blair are far from unknown and perhaps not even the worst which the Labour Party has faced in its history. MacDonald, who led the first Labour minority government of 1924 was just as much a shameless servant of big business and finance capital as Blair was. He publicly denounced the 1926 General Strike, invoked emergency powers to break industrial disputes, carried out severe austerity measures and cuts in workers' living standards in the interests of capitalism. 

107) In 1929, while leader of a second Labour government, during the greatest capitalist crisis of all time – the Great Depression – he opposed any economic measures to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Quite the opposite, he actually cut unemployment benefit, in order to avoid any budget deficit.

108) When the Liberals proposed a government programme of public works to give jobs to over half a million unemployed through projects such as new roads, building council housing, and the expansion of telephone and electrical services, MacDonald rejected this in favour of draconian right-wing policies austerity measures, which made the working class pay for the banking and financial crisis. At the time, the left-wing in the LP described MacDonald's Labour's administration as a “Wall Street Government.”

109) Facing opposition from the left, MacDonald decided to break with the Party and head a National Government in order to carry through his Tory policies, and along with other right-wing traitors in the Shadow Cabinet he formed “National Labour” to enter into a coalition government with the Conservatives. It was a staggering betrayal of the working class, when Labour was needed most to protect people from the ravages of the Depression. Then, to top off his career as a traitor to the working class, MacDonald accepted the position of Lord President of the Conservative Cabinet.

110) In the subsequent 1931 General Election, the massive disillusionment with the Labour Party caused by MacDonald's treachery, led to a crushing defeat for the party. The ILP (a left group in the LP) then drew the conclusion that the Labour Party was finished and that they should break away. Large numbers of workers had drawn revolutionary conclusions from the experience of the capitalist crisis of 1929 and the ILP believed the shift to the right in the LP presented an ideal opportunity for them to build a new independent workers' party. Moreover, the ILP had a strong base amongst the working class, far more than the current far-left groups do. It could boast 100,000 supporters and the nominal affiliation of 140 MPs. Consequently, they split from the party in 1932.

111) But, the tactic proved to be a disaster. Within 3 years it was left with just 4,400 members. They had completely misjudged the situation, because, while they were leaving the party, the workers were moving back into it. Instead of rallying to the ILP, the mass of workers turned once more towards the LP and the party shifted to the left again.

112) The Labour Party then elected the left-winger George Lansbury as leader. Lansbury had supported the Russian Revolution and traveled to meet Lenin and Trotsky not long after. He also published his own ideas for achieving socialism, which combined both reformist and revolutionary methods.

113) Following this swing to the left, all the right-wing Labour MPs who had served in MacDonald's National Government, were expelled. Consequently, from 6,500,000 votes in the 1931 elections, the LP share of the vote increased to 8,300,000 in the 1935 general election.

114) International factors in the 1930's also had a bearing on the shift to the left in the party. The victory of Hitler in Germany rocked the Labour movement. Secondly, in spite of Stalinism, the rapid economic development underway in Russia seemed to prove that an alternative system based on a planned economy was feasible, and, most importantly, revolutionary developments in Spain were moving towards a Civil War.

115) But, with the defeat of the working class in Spain at the end of the 1930s, and the growing threat of war, the LP shifted back towards the right again. When war started, not only did Labour support the war, its right-wing leader, Clement Attlee led the LP into another National Government and became Deputy Leader under Churchill.

Tony Blair, war criminal and Bush ally
116) Tony Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq was a scandalous, Imperialist action. However, Blair was far from alone in the Labour Party on such issues. Right-wing leaders of the Labour movement supported both World Wars, helping to send more than one million British workers to their death and provoking the slaughter of tens of millions of others around the world. What greater betrayal of the working class is there than that?

117) Despite this, workers again poured back towards the LP at the end of the war, giving Labour the largest electoral victory in history on a radical socialist programme, which led to the nationalization of 30% of the economy and the creation of the free National Health Service.

118) It would take too much time to go into the whole history of the post-war period, suffice to say, that once again the LP shifted back to the right in the post-war boom of the 1950s-1970s, much like it did later under Blair during the boom from the mid-80s to 2007. It remained in the grip of the right-wing for decades, led by people like Frank Chapple of the Electricians Union and Labour Deputy Leader, Dennis Healey, and there is plenty evidence to suggest that both of them, and many others worked for the CIA and the British secret service.

119) In the 60's and 70's, two right-wing Labour governments under Wilson and Callaghan went into a political alliance with the Liberals (the Lib-Lab pact) and carried out a massive series of attacks on the working class with policies of cuts, wage restraint and anti-TU laws. This coupled with the world economic recession of 1974 led to a huge strike wave called the “Winter of Discontent.” Callaghan brought in the army to run emergency services during the firemens' dispute, and made plans to call a state of emergency involving the mobilization of 13,000 troops to break the lorry drives' strike.

120) As a result of this betrayal by the right-wing Labour leaders and a world economic crisis in 1974 similar to 2007, the LP shifted to the left again. International political factors also played an important role.  A left-wing wave had been sweeping across the world beginning with the revolution in France in 1968, the uprising in Czechoslovakia and the huge anti-war movement in the US. In Southern Europe, the last dictatorships fell under the revolutionary pressure of the masses. 

121) Consequently, after 25 years of right-wing domination, a huge new left-wing developed in the LP in the 1970s and 1980s. A whole new layer of left activists from among youth and workers poured into the LP. Around that time, Tony Benn ran for Deputy Leader of the LP and narrowly lost the vote by a margin of only 1%.

122) The ensuing battle between the left and right in the Labour Party lasted 20 years, until changes in the objective situation turned the tide against the left again, empowering the right-wing to take back control. The defeat of the miners' strike in 1986 (in some ways similar to how the defeat of the 1926 General Strike helped MacDonald) and the beginnings of the new economic boom, (similar to the post-war boom), plus the collapse of Stalinism all strengthened the right-wing in the Labour Party once again. The subsequent witch hunts against the left and Militant, then prepared the ground for Blair to carry out a far-reaching counter-revolution inside the LP and another 25 years of right-wing control followed – until now when finally the tide has turned back in favor of the left again.

123) Looking back across the history of the Labour Party, it is clear to see that Labour has constantly swung left and right under the influence of developments at home and abroad. To cite Blair's policies as a unique historical turning point, never before seen in Labour's history looks pretty feeble when set against the treachery of previous Labour leaders.

124) The combination of the betrayals of right-wing Labour governments, economic crisis and international events have always created the conditions for a swing back to the left in the LP, while, on the other hand economic boom, a lull in the class struggle and reactionary developments abroad have always provided the backdrop to swings to the right. Now, the combination of favorable objective factors has laid the basis for the shift left in the Labour Party again, with the election of Corbyn and the massive influx of youth and workers trying again to transform the LP into a real, mass socialist party.

125) Even if the right is able to launch a successful counter attack against the left, it won't matter. The shift to the left won't come in one single wave, but in multiple surges. There will be victories and defeats for the left as the class struggle ebbs and flows. There could even be a left split-away similar to the ILP in the past and some on the left expect this to come soon, when the right-wing begins a counter-offensive.

126) Such a development is not ruled out, but it wouldn't be anywhere near the size of the ILP in the 30s and like the ILP it would rapidly disappear off the political map. Even if Corbyn led it, it would end up in the wilderness. But it is unlikely he would. Corbyn is probably too shrewd for that and he understands what has been happening on the left outside the party. The right-wing probably wouldn't be able to expel him, and he has been in the LP for the long haul and will probably continue to do so. Any break away without such a figurehead would be even more likely to sink like a stone.

127) Some in the left outside the LP hold out the perspective that the new left movement around Corbyn is really “a new independent workers' party in the process of formation.” This is simply rubbish. In the event of mass expulsions the majority of new activists would probably become demoralized and drop into inactivity, with only a handful joining the small left groups.

128) However, the objective conditions for the right-wing are not favorable. Any victory it has over the left would be a pyrrhic and temporary one. Reasserting an iron grip over the LP could only be done if there was a long period of economic boom, capitalist stabilization and a downturn in the class struggle. That looks highly unlikely.

129) The current recovery is very shaky and shows signs of slowing down. It could quite quickly be replaced by a new recession. It appears that the capitalists don't have any more economic cards up their sleeves. Unless, they are able to conjure up some magical new strategy, we are in for a protracted period of economic and social instability. This will be reflected inside the Labour Party with a long period of right/left battles pushing the left-wing further and further towards the ideas of revolutionary socialism. The political manifestation of the class struggle is now taking place inside the Labour Party at this moment. This is exactly the right time for socialists, who are now outside the LP, to drop their sectarian stance and join the party.   



129) Another complex manifestation of the radicalization in society and the shift to the left in general, has been the rise of nationalist, independence movements in Catalonia and Scotland, each with a strong left component. These are, by far, not the only nationalist movements in Europe, but, for the moment, they are the most significant ones.

130) The combination of the economic crisis, the betrayal of the leaders of the traditional workers' parties and historical animosity between the Scots and the English, and between the Catalans and the Castilian ruling class in Spain, has meant that many youth and radicalized sections of the middle class, together with many workers have turned towards secessionist movements to express their anger and in the hope that independence could be a way out of the crisis.

131) In both regions, there have been recent votes on independence, both of which were lost, but in which the separatist votes were very high. In 2014 in Scotland, 44% voted in favour and 55% against independence. In 2015 in Catalonia – where for constitutional reasons it took the form of regional elections – it was closer, with the pro-independence parties winning a majority of seats and 48% of the vote, just short of the 50% majority needed to declare victory. However, like the shift to the left in general, there are both similarities in the movements in Scotland and Catalonia and a great deal of differences as well.
SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at 2015 conference


132) In Scotland, the left nature of the independence movement has been much clearer than in Catalonia. Like the rest of the UK, Scotland hasn't experienced an independent left movement such as Podemos or SYRIZA for historical and cultural reasons. Instead the new left movement has manifested itself in support for the Scottish National Party (SNP), which is a left-nationalist party, that stands for secession and campaigns on a left-reformist programme of defending jobs and services. In its programme it states that the SNP fights for a, “real alternative to the pain of austerity, an end to unfair policies like the Bedroom Tax, a higher minimum wage and protection for our NHS and vital public services.”

133) Traditionally SNP support came from among the middle classes and the SNP has always been a petty bourgeois center party. But to stand any chance of taking power and winning a yes vote in a referendum, it had no choice but to move to the left. This was also facilitated by the shift to the right in the Labour Party and the absence of an autonomous, left movement like Podemos or SYRIZA, which left a vacuum on the left, which the SNP could fill. As a result, there has been a tendency to paint the independence movement as a working class movement. However, while there is no doubt that a large number of workers did vote for independence, it was not necessarily a majority. 

134) Many workers in Scotland were not convinced of the economic benefits of breaking away from the United Kingdom, and were afraid that it could lead to a loss of jobs and a fall in living standards. Workers understand that the Scottish economy is intrinsically linked with the national and international economy. They also know that the majority of the Scottish economy is controlled by the British ruling class, rather than by a Scottish bourgeoisie.

135) More than 70% of Scotland’s total economic output  is controlled by non-Scottish-owned firms and  83% of enterprises employing 250 or more people are owned by non-Scottish companies. Furthermore, virtually the whole of the North Sea oil and gas production is owned by foreign firms, and the top 90 banks and finance companies operating in Scotland are registered outside the country, with their profits going directly back to England or abroad.

136) Many Scottish workers feared that with the complications and instability which independence could bring, it might lead to many of these companies leaving Scotland or reducing their investments. Secondly, many Scottish workers feared that independence would divide them from other workers in Britain employed by those companies. They know that the capitalist class tries to play one group of workers off against another in different countries, and that this can lead to a reduction in wages and less job security. Moreover, organizing joint industrial action across international borders is a very difficult thing and they feared that if Scottish trade unions broke away from the all-British union structures, this would weaken solidarity with other British workers and undermine their ability to defend themselves against the bosses.

137) Until now, the British Labour Party has always been the traditional party of the Scottish working class., indeed Scottish workers played a key role in creating it. Scotland has long been considered a rock-solid bastion of the Labour Party, returning an overwhelming number of Labour MPs to Parliament. But in the 2015 UK national election, the Labour Party suffered a humiliating, PASOK-scale defeat in Scotland, and its catastrophe decline there has severely undermined its ability to form a future national government.

138) The Scottish referendum took place 8 months before the UK general election in 2015, and while many workers had voted against independence, when it came to the general election, they voted overwhelming for the SNP, mercilessly punishing Labour, not only for its betrayal of the British working class in general, but for the chauvinistic, class collaborationist position it put forward in the run up to the referendum. Labour had campaigned against independence, in alliance with the right-wing Conservative (Tory) government, which was carrying out draconian attacks on the working class in Scotland.

139) The Tories are largely despised in Scotland. They are seen by Scottish workers as the representatives of the English ruling class responsible for the suppression and exploitation of the Scottish people. Indeed, such is the hatred for the Conservative party that they have never succeeded in getting anymore than a handful of MPs elected from Scotland.

140) As a result of its alliance with the Tories in the independence campaign and its failure to present any class-based arguments.  If they had clearly supported the right of Scottish people to independence, but argued for the maximum unity of the working class and offered the perspective of a future federation of independent British states of Scotland, England and Wales, they would have caught the year of many Scottish workers. But, instead, Labour became seen as just another representatives of the oppressive English ruling class, and so although many workers voted no to independence in 2014, they mercilessly punished Labour in the 2015 national, general election. While the LP's overall vote in the UK also fell dramatically at a national from 40% to 30%, in Scotland its vote plunged from 40% to 24%, loosing 40 of its 41 MPs. SNP support, on the other hand, rocketed from 20% to 50% of the vote.

141) However, despite their stupendous victory in the general election, the austerity policies now being carried out by the SNP in the Scottish Parliament and city councils will erode their support. They are cutting millions of pounds from spending on public services and thousands of jobs are being lost. The SNP is betraying the working class and dumping its left programme in practice. It is shifting to the right, and as it increasing fails to deliver promised reforms and continues with its austerity measures, Scottish workers will begin to become disillusioned with it. It will also become clearer to Scottish workers, who voted for independence, that there cannot be a solution to their problems on the basis of an independent capitalist Scotland, and that there needs to be solutions on a national and international level. Then, there will be great opportunity to gather support for socialist ideas based on a Socialist Federation of Britain, and a European Socialist Union.

142) It is not clear whether the LP has been permanently destroyed in Scotland. It still commands a quarter of the vote, but because of the first-passed-the-post, constituency-based voting system – rather than proportional representation like other countries – they have not returned MPs corresponding to the size of the vote. An overall vote of 20% does show that the LP still has some base in Scotland. With the betrayals of the SNP, it is possible that it could recover, but to what degree is unsure.

143) Historical and cultural factors suggest that the shift to the left in Scotland will still probably find its main expression inside the traditional parties of the SNP and Labour Party, rather than through the development of some autonomous SYRIZA/Podemos-style movement. The victory of  Jeremy Corbyn as British Labour Party leader and the emergence of a more radical, left-wing British Labour Party could also attract back some disillusioned workers, who voted for the SNP.  The Scottish Labour Party (Scottish wing of UK LP) really has nowhere to go but left. The reformist nature of the SNP and the betrayals of the right-wing Labour leaders means there is no center ground for them. Indications of such a shift to the left came at the Scottish LP conference in 2015, when it voted to scrap the Trident missile programme, based in Scotland.

144) However, there are other possible variants. It could also be possible in the future that a more socialist left-wing develops within the SNP, in opposition to its shift to the right, and that eventually a split takes place in in its ranks, leading to the creation of a new more radical, left-wing nationalist party. Furthermore, if the right-wing manage to suppress the new left in the British Labour Party, it couldn't be entirely ruled out that the Scottish Labour Party would shift further to the left and even break away from the national party, creating an independent, left-wing Scottish Labour Party – which might then enter a coalition with a new break away, left-wing Scottish nationalist party.

145) How things develop also depends a lot on the economic situation. Increased growth could see a decline in the nationalist movement, there are even indications that a section of SNP voters have actually turned back to the Tories. Despite considerable poverty in de-industrialized areas, other areas of Scotland are relatively prosperous. The Scottish capital, Edinburgh, for has example, has the best living standards of any city in Britain, with the highest wages, low unemployment and the lowest costs of living than anywhere else.

146) But another major world crisis could put independence back on the agenda, as well as pushing society further to the left in general. However, the correlation between the economy and the so-called “National Question” isn't always simple and straightforward. There are many other political factors and unforeseeable factors which can also change the direction that events take.

Brief Concluding Remarks on the Discussion Paper--The New Left in Europe
Stephen Morgan
180) After 25 years, during which society was dominated by capitalist ideology, the tide has finally turned back towards the left. The apathetic and apolitical generation of youngsters from the pre-2007 boom, have now been replaced by a new left-leaning generation of anti-capitalist youth. Working people formally swept up in the false wealth of the property boom and unlimited credit, have swung back towards class struggle, under the onslaught on living standards and austerity measures.
181) This new wave of radicalized youth and more combatant workers have been the driving force behind the rise of the New Left. Because the old traditional workers' organizations lagged behind these changes in consciousness, the shift to the left in society found its expression in the growth of groups left groups like Podemos, SYRIZA, Die Linke and Front de Gauche, and, in Britain, in the left-wing surge behind Jeremy Corbyn in the LP.  
182) However, following decades, when class consciousness and political understanding was thrown back, the re-awakening of the working class is only at its beginning. Working people have not yet become fully conscious of their role in society as a class and of the need to transform society along socialist lines. This lack of clarity has found its expression in the fuzziness and limitations of the political programmes of the new left formations, compounded by their largely middle class composition and leadership.
183) Despite their stinging criticisms of capitalism, the new left groups lack any theoretical clarity or clear socialist ideology. This leaves them rudderless in the face of changing events, and opens them up to bourgeois influences, which encourage a watering down of their programmes and more and more opportunistic policies. Moreover, not having been thrown up directly by the workers' organizations, they lack the sort of social ballast and class roots needed to give them any permanency. Nevertheless, the development of the New Left represents a quantum shift in class politics. But, at the same time, it is only harbinger of many surges to the left in the future.
184) There are too many unforeseeable variables to say definitively what the future of these new left formations will be. At the moment, support for the new left groups seems to have peaked, and even appears to be declining in some countries. If the economy continues to improve, and they shift further to the right, their vote could fall back below 5%, and some groups might even break up and disappear altogether.
185) On the other hand, the weak recovery in the world economy and the possibility of a new recession, combined with continuing austerity measures and right-wing policies of the traditional socialist parties, could allow them to maintain a certain level of support. A severe economic downturn could breath new life into them. New left splits in some traditional workers' parties could also occur. But, that might be tempered, if a new crisis also shifts the old socialist parties to the left.
186) What is sure is that this isn't going to be one smooth, meteoric surge towards a new mass socialist movement, but process which will more likely to zigzags in contradictory ways. As we have already seen the development of the New Left hasn't been  uniform or synchronized internationally, but has taken on – and will continue to take on – many different forms, in different countries, at different times.
187) While there will be similarities and overlapping tendencies in how the left develops internationally, it is likely that new left movements in the future will manifest themselves in even more unique ways. However, at the same time, traditional paths for left-wing developments, through the old socialist parties, may re-arise in tandem with entirely new formations. Some of outlines of these processes may be foreseeable, while others cannot be predicted, and may appear suddenly from unexpected sources and in unpredictable places. Sudden and profound changes in class consciousness and political understanding, such as in Greece, can quickly throw up new mass left-wing movements.
188) If we look back on history, every single movement to the left since the beginning of the workers' movement has taken on unique and quite different features – Chartism in Britain in the first half of the 19th century; the communards of Paris in 1871; the 1st International; the creation of mass trade unions and the mass socialist parties at the end of the 19th century; mass anarchist movements in Southern Europe; the Communist parties in the 1920s, Stalinist societies; the mass left-wings in the traditional parties of the working class and their split-ways; and in the post-war period the overthrow of capitalism in the underdeveloped world by guerrilla armies and left-wing military coups. We also saw the mass Anti-Vietnam War protests and the Black Panthers in the US in the 1960s-70s, as well as other manifestations of left-wing currents in organizations, like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the new phenomenon of the Green parties. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, we have already witnessed a dizzying kaleidoscope of left-wing currents not seen before in history.  
189) As the economy rises and falls and the class struggle ebbs and flows, there will be victories and defeats, and advances and retreats for the working class and the left. There is no way of jumping over this process, because it is only through assimilating the lessons of triumphs and setbacks that new layers of workers and youth can draw the right conclusions about the need for revolution and the strategy, form and content of a socialist programme which can achieve that.
190) Therefore, socialists cannot afford to be dogmatic and schematic in their approach to building a new socialist movement. It may be possible to take a fixed position on a theoretical question or a political issue, but it would be disastrous to take a rigid and categorical standpoint on any unfolding and unfinished process. In particular, you can't simply impose a theory about how things will develop in one country onto another. That sort of blinkered and mechanical thinking will shipwreck any group or organization.
191) Consequently, revolutionaries need to be open-minded when it comes to analyzing events or anticipating future developments. Organizationally, they will have to be original and inventive in the ways they intervene in new left-wing currents and the labour movement in general. And they will need to find fresh and imaginative ways to put their ideas across and win support for a socialist programme.



Hi, an interesting analysis here that I am sorry I have only just found. However what worries me is that in two of the situations you analyse (France and Spain) and another one (Portugal)you leave out the absolutely essential and indispensable role played by organisations linked to the Fourth International. Perhaps you have "disappeared" some major groups or individuals from the processes discussed is because of your background in the CWI as it can't be from ignorance. At least in the case of Portugal you refer to the Bloco de Esquerda as having originated in some unnamed Trotskyists although to be completely honest you should acknowledge that it was the Revolutionary Socialist Party (PSR by it's initials in Portuguese) that formed the Bloco along with the ex-Maoist UDP and Politica XXI. Similarly I do not understand how you can talk about the situation on the far left in France without referring to the role played by the Fourth International's New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) or it's predecessor the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) and by one reference to Lutte Ouvriere. I am not questioning the major and many disagreements anyone may have with these organisations. Open and free discussion is the only way that we can build alternatives to capitalism. This cannot be done if you pretend that these organisations do not exist.
Your excision of the comrades of the Anticapitalistas, previously the Anticapitalist Left (IA) the section of the Fourth International in the Spanish state, is even more absurd given that Podemos would not even exist without their leadership a fact widely understood and acknowledged except here. Again, many disagreements with the politics of and the role played by the Anticapitalistas in Podemos are possible, but to allow these disagreements to erase these comrades from any attempt to draw a serious balance sheet of these processes seem to me to be either a case of sour grapes at best or the sort of stalinist sectarianism that remain a legacy of many left organisations -- even those claiming continuity with Trotsky's ideas. This also means that neither yourself nor your readers will be able to judge the issues critically as your prejudices take precedence over principled politics.

Sean said...

David I just saw your comment now. My name is Sean O'Torain and along with Richard I started the Facts For Working People Blog. I was in the CWI for 25 years, 20 of those on its IEC and 10 on its IS and over 20 as a fulltimer. I am interested in what you write and would like to discuss this more with you. I recognize that the CWI and I myself were sectarian in relation to other left groups. This is difference from being sectarian in relation to the working class. What led me to join the CWI was that it had an orientation to the working class and I found that the other left groups did not have this orientation. Depending on how the wind was blowing they were either orientating to student movements, guerrilla groups etc. and then would on occasion veer back to the working class. I and the other few Comrades from FFWP are breaking from left sectarianism. The article you comment on was incorrect in not mentioning the role of the left groups in the rise of the left parties. The Comrade who wrote this article is no longer active due to illness or I am sure he would respond. One of the things we have struggled with is recognizing openly our own mistakes. I recognize this mistake in this article. We are trying now to struggle against left sectarianism, both in our own pasts and the left sectarianism that still is very prevalent in the left groups and very damaging to the workers movement. We are not hostile to other left groups. We are hostile to left sectarianism wherever we meet this, either in our own past or present or in other left groups. We seek to work together with forces in other left groups against sectarianism. But we have a proviso in this. For it to have any chance of success and to justify the use of our tiny resources we pretty much confine our discussions and work against left sectarianism to those who are prepared to openly own up to and face up to and draw lessons from their own left sectarianism. Prepared to deal with why revolutionary socialism has not been able to put down mass toots in the working class and their and our role in this failure. You are correct and we openly accept that the articles on the rise of the left in Europe should have dealt with the role of the left groups in Europe, the positive and negative roles they played and the roles they are likely to play. I am interested in discussing more with you on this issue. I hope you check this and get this comment. It would probably be better to discuss by email. My email is I am originally from Ireland but now live in Chicago. Comradely, Sean.