The return of the left in Europe?

Srecko Horvat on AlJazeera about the rise of left in Europe

When Tariq Ali went to Vietnam to collect evidence and testimony on the US military intervention in the mid-1960s, the Vietnamese soldiers in Hanoi told him the following anecdote.

Just a few months earlier, a delegation of the Italian Communist Party arrived to see Ho Chi Minh. After a long meeting, the Italians asked the Vietnamese leader, “How can we help you?” Ho Chi Minh replied: “The best way to help us is to start a revolution in Italy.”

Although it seems that everyone agrees that the recent European elections showed a dramatic rise of the radical right, let us risk the following hypothesis: The European left is back in game.

And it happened precisely because the European left acknowledged and implemented the old Ho Chi Minh motto. It is not enough to admire and congratulate the incredible success of the Greek radical left party SYRIZA, such new organisations have to be formed all around Europe.

The situation is definitely far from optimistic. From the National Front in France to UKIP in the United Kingdom, from Jobbik in Hungary to the Freedom Party in Austria, from the True Finns in Finland to National Democratic Party in Germany, the extreme right-wing parties have successfully exploited an overwhelming unease all around the European continent.

On the other hand, for the first time in Europe since 1984, when the Italian Communist Party won the European elections, a leftist party gained the first place in its country. With 26.5 percent of votes SYRIZA triumphed. If Greece were to conduct national elections tomorrow, SYRIZA would get as much as 130 seats in the Greek Parliament.

And it is not just SYRIZA anymore. Activists associated with the “Indignant” movement in Spain decided to form a new organisation called Podemos (“We can”) and have won 8 percent – which means 5 seats in the European parliament. They have existed for only four months and are now the 4th biggest party in Spain and 3rd in Madrid.

“L’Altra Europa” (“The Other Europe”), the left-wing electoral list in Italy in support of Alexis Tsipras, founded in March 2014 won 4 percent, which is 3 seats in the European Parliament.

The United Left in Slovenia didn’t get any seats in the European Parliament, but they won 5.9 percent. Again, turned into numbers at national elections, they would have got 6 seats in the Slovenian parliament. And they were, like Pademos from Spain, founded only a few months ago.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that all these young European left parties cite SYRIZA as their inspiration. And it is definitely not a surprise that most of them emerged from the protest movements of the past few years. Moreover, most of SYRIZA’s elected new MEPS are more or less connected with these movements. In addition, it has included prominent anti-fascist figures like Manolis Glezos, who in 1941 climbed on the Acropolis and tore down the swastika and who will now take his European Parliament seat as the oldest MEP. Furthermore, the election of Bulgarian citizen and trade unionist Kostadinka Kuneva in Greece through the SYRIZA list demonstrates that this new left has the potential to cut across national borders.

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