The Post-1989 Radical Left in Europe: Results and Prospects (Part I)
1. The end of ‘actually existing socialism’
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought about a profound change in the European political landscape. The implosion of the repressive bureaucratic regimes of the Soviet bloc had the positive effect of freeing communism from ‘actually existing socialism’, and of opening it up again to the struggle for working-class emancipation. The structural political upheavals, however, together with major economic transformations, set in train a process of capitalist restoration that had severe social repercussions on a global scale. In Europe, anticapitalist forces found their influence being irresistibly squeezed: it became more and more difficult for them to organize and orientate social struggles, and ideologically the Left as a whole lost the hegemonic positions it had won after 1968 in key areas of many national cultures.
This reverse was also apparent at an electoral level. From the 1980s on, the parties united around the idea of Eurocommunism  as well as those still strongly tied to Moscow  suffered a sharp decline in support, which turned into a veritable crash after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A similar fate also affected the various New Left groups and Trotskyist parties. .
A phase of reconstruction then began, in which new political formations often emerged through the regrouping of anticapitalist elements still in existence. This enabled the traditional forces of the Left to open up to the ecological, feminist and peace movements that had developed in the previous decades. Izquierda Unida in Spain, created in 1986, was the pioneer in this respect. Similar initiatives then took shape in Portugal (where the Unitary Democratic Coalition (CDU) was formed in 1987); Denmark (the Unity List/Red-Greens, in 1989); Finland (the Left Alliance, in 1990); and Italy and Greece in 1991, when Communist Refoundation Party(PRC) and Synaspismos (Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology) came into being. The organizational forms of these new aggregations varied considerably. The parties comprising Izquierda Unida – including the Communist Party of Spain – maintained their existence; the Unitary Democratic Coalition in Portugal functioned only as an electoral bloc; and Communist Refoundation Party and Synaspismos constituted themselves as a new unitary political subject.
In other countries, however, there were attempts (some only cosmetic) to renew the parties that had existed before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1989, following the foundation of the Czech Republic, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) was proclaimed; and in 1990 the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) appeared in Germany, taking over from the Socialist Unity Party that had ruled the GDR since 1949. Also in 1990, in Sweden, the Left Party–Communists adopted more moderate positions and dropped the name ‘Communist’ from its title.
2. Failures in government
These new parties, like others that had not changed their name, managed to retain a political presence on their respective national stages. Together with the social movements and progressive trade-union forces, they contributed to the heightened resistance against neoliberal policies after 1993, when the Maastricht Treaty came into effect and set rigid monetarist parameters for new member-states joining the European Union.
In 1994 a European United Left group was formed in the European Parliament, and the next year, following new adhesions from Scandinavia, it changed its name to the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL).
In the mid-nineties, buoyed up by strikes and large demonstrations against their respective governments (Berlusconi and Dini in Italy, Juppé in France, González and Aznar in Spain), some forces of the radical Left even achieved modest electoral breakthroughs. Izquierda Unida scored 13.4 per cent in the European elections in 1994; the Communist Refoundation Party 8.5 per cent in the national elections of 1996; and the French Communist Party almost 10 per cent in the parliamentary elections of 1997. At the same time, these parties increased their membership and their implantation at local level and in the workplaces.
Apart from the Czech Republic (with its Communist KSČM), the countries of Eastern Europe were an exception to this phase of consolidation; the legacy of the postwar ‘communist’ dictatorships excluded – and continues to hinder – a process of rebirth of forces of the Left. As the new century dawned, a huge, politically heterogeneous movement of struggle against neoliberal globalization spread to every corner of the globe. Since the late 1990s, self-organized collectives, rank-and-file union movements, anti-capitalist parties and non-governmental organizations had already been promoting mass protests at the summits of the G8, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Economic Forum (in Davos, Switzerland). The subsequent birth of the World Social Forum (WSF), in Brazil in 2001, and the European Social Forum (ESF) encouraged broader discussion of alternatives to the dominant policies.
Meanwhile, with the rise of Tony Blair as Labour Party leader (1994) and UK prime minister (1997-2007), the way was open for a profound shift in the ideology and programme of the Socialist International.  Blair’s ‘Third Way’ – in fact, supine acceptance of the neoliberal mantra masked by vacuous exaltation of ‘the new’ – was supported in varying degrees and forms by the governments of Gerhard Schröder in Germany, chancellor Socialdemocratic Party of Germany (SPD) from 1998 to 2005,  and of the Portuguese José Sócrates, prime minister of the Socialist Party (PS) from 2005 to 2011. Romano Prodi in Italy (prime minister and head of centre-left coalitions from 1996 to 1998 and 2006 to 2008) also shared many of the same themes and echoed the search for a ‘new way’.
In the name of ‘future generations’ (who in the meantime were to be deprived of the right to work), and inspired by the EU’s adoption of the Lisbon Programme in 2000, these governments pursued a series of economic counter-reforms that have eroded the European social model. They rigidly initiated deep cuts in public expenditure, made labour relations more precarious (by limiting legal safeguards and generally worsening conditions at work), implemented policies of wage ‘moderation, and liberalized markets and services in line with the disastrous Bolkestein directive of 2006 . The so-called Agenda 2010 in Germany, especially Schröder’s ‘Hartz IV’ plan , were the most conclusive evidence of this new policy direction.
Many parts of southern Europe saw the whittling down of what remained of the welfare state, attacks on the pensions system, another massive round of privatization, the commodification of education, drastic cuts in the funding of research and development, and a lack of effective industrial policies. These trends were also apparent in the governments headed by Konstantinos Simitis (1996-2004) in Greece, Massimo D'Alema (1998-2000) in Italy and José Zapatero (2004-2011) in Spain.
Similar choices operated in Eastern Europe, where the Socialist governments of Leszek Miller (2001-2004) in Poland and Ferenc Gyurcsány (2004-2010) in Hungary were among the most dedicated followers of neoliberalism and enforcers of public spending cuts. They thereby alienated the working classes and the poorest sections of the population, to the extent that today the forces of the Socialist International occupy a completely marginal position in both countries.
As regards economic policy, it is hard to detect anything more than minimal differences between these social-democratic governments and conservative regimes in power at the time. Indeed, in many cases the social-democratic or centre-left administrations were more efficient in carrying through the neoliberal project, since the trade unions found the government actions more acceptable because of an old illusory belief that they were ‘friendly’ to the labour movement. Over time, the adoption of a pliant, non-conflictual model has made the trade unions less and less representative of the weakest sections of society.
Foreign policy orientations involved a similar discontinuity with the past. In 1999 a government headed by the Left Democrats (DS), the inheritors of the old Communist Party, authorized Italy’s second military intervention since the war (the first was the Gulf War in Iraq, in 1990-1991); the NATO bombing in Kosovo, with its much-reported use of depleted uranium weapons. In 2003 British Labour Party leaders stood in the frontline alongside George W. Bush, in a war they waged against the Iraqi ‘rogue state’ that they falsely accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction.  Between these two conflicts, no force within European Socialism opposed the intervention in Afghanistan (whose devastating ‘collateral damage’ affected the population at large) or spoke out against the more general Enduring Freedom campaign waged by the United States.
The Socialist parties often shunted the ecological question into declarations of principle, but almost never translated these into effective legislation to solve the major problems facing the environment. This was helped by the moderate turn on the part of most Green parties, which, in choosing to ally indiscriminately with parties of the Right or Left, mutated into ‘post-ideological’ formations and gave up the battle against the existing mode of production.
The shifts in European social democracy, involving uncritical acceptance of capitalism and all the principles of neoliberalism, demonstrated that the events of 1989 had shaken not only the Communist camp but all the forces of Socialism. For these abandoned any reforming ambition and no longer espoused the kind of state intervention in the economy that had been their main distinguishing feature after the Second World War.
Despite these profound changes, many parties of the European radical Left allied themselves with social-democratic forces – whether out of a legitimate concern to block the advent of right-wing governments that would further degrade the situation of young people, workers and pensioners, or in some cases to avoid isolation or to prevent the logic of ‘tactical voting’ from working against them. Thus, within the space of a few years, Communist Refoundation Party in Italy (1996-98 and 2006-8), the French Communist Party (1997-2002), Izquierda Unida in Spain (2004-08) and the Socialist Left Party in Norway (2005-13)  all supported, or served as ministers in, governments of the Centre Left. More recently, the Left Alliance (2011-14) and the Socialist People’s Party (2011-15) have assumed governmental responsibilities in Finland and Denmark respectively. Such choices had already been consistently made at local level, often without serious attention to the programmes of the political forces accepted as coalition partners.
The neoliberal wind that blew unopposed from the Iberian Peninsula to Russia, together with the absence of large social movements capable of shaping government actions in a socialist direction, evidently represented a negative constellation for radical left-wing parties. Moreover, whether they were called upon to occupy low-profile ministries (as in France or Italy) or had to content themselves with tiny parliamentary groups (as in Spain), the relationship of forces vis-à-vis the ruling executive was extremely unfavourable to them. The anticapitalist Left did not succeed in extracting any significant social gains that ran counter to the basic economic guidelines; all they could achieve was an occasional feeble palliative. Most often, they had to swallow a bitter pill and vote for measures against which they had earlier promised the most intransigent opposition. Steered by parliamentarians and local figures selected for their uncritical loyalty to the leadership, these parties were swallowed up by the policies of the cabinets they supported. A gap with their own base grew slowly but constantly wider, with a resulting loss of credibility and consent among their electorate.
Yet the results at the ballot box were disastrous everywhere. In the presidential elections of 2007, the French Communists obtained less than 2 per cent of the vote, and the next year Izquierda Unida hit rock bottom with a score of 3.8 per cent. In Italy, for the first time in the history of the Republic, the Communists were shut out of parliament, reaching a dismal total of 3.1 per cent and only under the umbrella of the Rainbow Left.
3. The Troika dictatorship
In the course of 2007, the United States was hit by one of the gravest financial crises in history, which soon affected Europe and plunged it into a deep recession. As the soaring public debt increased the dangers of insolvency, many countries had to resort to credits from the (so-called) Troika, consisting of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Nations at risk of default were granted loans in return for the introduction of rigid austerity policies, beside which the ‘restructuring’ measures of the Nineties seemed quite restrained. Beginning in 2008, there have been a total of 13 bailout programmes in the EU: one in Hungary (2008-10), one in Latvia (2008-11)  and three in Romania, plus – within the Eurozone – three in Greece (2010-18), one in Ireland (2010-13), one in Portugal (2011-14), two in Cyprus (2011-16) and one in Spain (2012-13).
The very term ‘structural reforms’ underwent a radical semantic transformation. Originally, in the vocabulary of the workers’ movement, it had indicated a slow but steady improvement in social conditions, but now it became synonymous with a profound erosion of the welfare state. The pseudo-reforms in question – regressions would be a better word – have cancelled a host of achievements and re-established legal and economic conditions reminiscent of the rapacious capitalism of the nineteenth century.
This was the setting for the terrible recession from which Europe has still not emerged, and which at present sees it grappling with the spectre of deflation. A strong downward pressure on wages has caused a collapse of demand, with a resulting fall in GDP, and unemployment has reached levels never before recorded since the Second World War. Between 2007 and 2014, the jobless rate soared from 8.4 per cent to 26.5 per cent in Greece, from 8.2 per cent to 24.5 per cent in Spain, from 6.1 per cent to 12.7 per cent in Italy, and from 9.1 per cent to 14.1 per cent in Portugal. In 2014 the lack of work reached epidemic proportions for a whole generation of young people: 24.1 per cent in France, 34.7 per cent in Portugal, 42.7 per cent in Italy, 52.4 per cent in Greece and 53.2 per cent in Spain. More than a million, often the most skilled and best educated, have been forced to emigrate from these five countries. 
We are thus facing new forms of class struggle: it is waged with great determination by the dominant classes against the subaltern classes, while the resistance of the latter has often been feeble, disorganized and fragmented. This has been the case both in the most developed capitalist heartlands, where the curbs on workers’ rights have exceeded anything imaginable thirty years ago, and in the periphery of the world economy, where corporations (many of them multinational) exploit their workforce in extreme forms and ruthlessly strip countries of their precious natural resources. This has led to a huge growth in inequalities and a major redistribution of wealth in favour of the wealthiest inhabitants of the planet. Social relations have undergone profound changes, driven by job insecurity, competition among workers, commodification of every sphere of life, social warfare among the most impoverished strata, and a new, more invasive capitalism that corrupts people’s lives and consciences in ways never seen before.
At the same time, the crisis in Europe has rapidly spread to the world of politics. In the last twenty years, decision-making powers have been increasingly transferred from the political to the economic sphere; economics now dominates politics and is often depicted as a separate realm unsusceptible to change, setting the agenda and ensuring that the key choices are outside popular control.
What used to be seen, not so long ago, as a field for political action is now governed by economic pseudo-imperatives, which, behind their ideological mask of non-politics, actually present a dangerously authoritarian form and a totally reactionary content. The most emblematic case in point is the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (TSCG) – the ‘fiscal compact’, as it is widely known, that rammed the obligation of balanced budgets into the law of EU countries. This means that each member-state undertakes to comply, within the space of twenty years, with the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty of 1993, according to which public debt must not exceed the threshold of 60 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. In fact, according to the statistics for 2014, this figure is currently 92 per cent in the Eurozone; it stands at 74.4 per cent in Germany and 89.4 per cent in the UK (the only country with the Czech Republic not to have signed the pact), and rises to 106.5 per cent in Belgium, 130.2 per cent in Portugal, 132 per cent in Italy and 177 per cent in Greece.
In building a wall to prevent national parliaments from taking independent decisions on political-economic objectives, the TSCG thus serves to undermine the social state in the most heavily indebted EU countries and threatens to deepen still further the ongoing recession. As part of this general offensive, and inspired by some English-speaking countries, France (from 2007 on) and Italy (in 2011) introduced new ‘spending review’ commissioners to ‘rationalize’ public expenditure. The measures they proposed not only reduced waste, as intended, but led to a decline in the quantity and quality of services.
The next stage of this project is meant to be the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an accord between the EU and the USA. Highly confidential negotiations are currently under way about the details, geared to the further deregulation of trade, the primacy of corporate profit over the general interest, and a consequent rise in destructive downward competition to bring about further wage cuts and fewer rights for workers.
Already the shift from proportional electoral systems towards others based on majority ‘bonuses’ of one kind or another, as well as anti-democratic tendencies to strengthen the executive against the legislative power, have undermined the representative character of national parliaments. But this latest transfer of power from parliament to the market and its oligarchic institutions is the gravest impediment to democracy in our times.  It demonstrates that capitalism today is in the throes of a deep crisis of consensus and is incompatible with democracy.
On the other hand, in the few national referenda since the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty, the choices of the dominant technocratic powers in Europe have more than once been defeated at the ballot box. This happened in France and the Netherlands in 2005, with regard to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe,  and in Ireland in 2008 with regard to the Lisbon Treaty. 
Stock exchange indices, rating agency assessments and the yield spread between government bonds are huge fetishes for contemporary society: they have acquired greater value than the people’s will. Hence the decisions that cause most harm to the mass of the population are presented as absolutely indispensable for the ‘restoration of market confidence’.
At the most, politics is summoned to lend support to economics, as in the case of the banking bailouts in the US and Europe in the wake of 2008. The representatives of high finance needed public intervention to mitigate the devastating effects of the most recent capitalist crisis, but they stoutly refused to reopen discussion on the underlying rules and economic options.
Not even the rotation of centre-right and centre-left governments has changed the basic social-economic direction, since it is increasingly economics that determines the formation, composition and purpose of the administrations holding the reins of power. Whereas, in the past, the main factor was the large sums of money given by ‘vested interests’ to the governments or parties they sought to control, as well as the shaping of the mass media in their service, the key element in the twenty-first century is, rather, the edicts issued by international institutions.
The clearest evidence of this came with the season of ‘technocratic governments’. Within less than a single week – from 11 to 16 November 2011 – two paragons of economic power, Lucas Papademos (vice-president of the European Central Bank from 2002 to 2010) and Mario Monti, were appointed as prime ministers of Greece and Italy respectively, without the benefit of elections. Papademos remained in office for only seven months, while Monti, thanks to the resolute support of the Democratic Party (PD), held on for a year and a half. Having built themselves up as champions of austerity, they simultaneously introduced drastic spending cuts and further social sacrifices. Their experience proved short-lived, since they were seen off in short order as soon as the voters were given a say. But the activity of their governments had deeply damaging effects, both at an economic level and, perhaps even more, because of the wound to democracy caused by the form of their investiture.
During those years, some forces in the Socialist International took a path that ended in a similar way. Ideologically convinced that there was no alternative to neoliberalism – even though the crisis of 2008 had shown its disastrous potential and the Obama administration had opted for a different course with its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – they allied with the forces of the European People’s Party (EPP) group of centre-right parties and uncritically adopted the main elements of its approach to the economy and society.
The prototype of this tendency was the Grosse Koalition in Germany, the agreement whereby the German Socialdemocratic Party, in supporting Angela Merkel as chancellor from 2005 to 2009 and from 2013 to the present, has to all intents and purposes given up its autonomy. Other experiments in ‘national unity’ have occurred in southern Europe. In Greece, between 2012 and 2015, the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and, for a time, the Democratic Left (DIMAR), gave their support to the New Democracy (ND) prime minister, Antonis Samaras. In Italy, after the 2013 elections, the Democratic Party entered government (with its deputy secretary, Enrico Letta, as prime minister) alongside the centre-right People of Liberty (PdL) coalition headed by Silvio Berlusconi. In 2014 the young neo-Blairite ‘iconoclast’ Matteo Renzi took over and gave life to the government that is still in office today, in which the Democratic Party (PD) has worked with the New Centre-Right (NCD), a splinter group from Berlusconi’s movement, and reached an agreement with it on some significant electoral and constitutional ‘reforms’.
Since the election of Jean-Claude Juncker  in 2014 as president of the European Commission, the grand coalition between the European People’s Party and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) has continued to govern the main institutions of the European Union.
4. Anti-politics, populism and xenophobia
The harmful uniformity of approach to political and economic questions – which has been confirmed since 2012 by the evolution of Hollande’s Socialist administration in France – and the growing hostility of public opinion to the Brussels technocracy have helped to produce a second major change (after the one in 1989) in the European political context.
In the last few years, a profound aversion has developed everywhere on the old continent towards anything that can be described as ‘politics’; this has become synonymous with power for its own sake, rather than a commitment to, and a collective interest in, social change, as it was mostly understood in the 1960s and 1970s. This new phenomenon concerns particularly, but not exclusively, the younger generations. It has also encouraged a more diffuse apathy and a decline in social conflicts, especially as the organizations of the trade union movement are increasingly seen as approved by the powers that be.
In a number of countries, the tide of anti-politics has also washed over the forces of the radical Left. Largely because of their poor performance in government, they are even blamed for adaptation to the existing climate and gradual abandonment of the militant demands that they used to champion.
There have been significant changes in the European balance of forces. Some bipartisan systems have simply imploded, as in post-dictatorship Spain and Greece, where Socialist and Centre-Right forces regularly used to account for three-quarters of the electorate. Similar trends seem to have affected the political systems in France and Italy, where for decades the vote was divided between the centre-right and centre-left blocs. Furthermore, the three political groups in the European Parliament elected in 2009 – the European People’s Party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) – lost more than 13 per cent of their deputies at the elections held in 2014.
The political-electoral landscape has been modified by abstentionism, the rise of new populist formations, the major advance of by far-right forces, and in some cases the consolidation of a left alternative to neoliberal policies.
The higher levels of electoral abstentionism, a tendency apparent in a variety of countries, are mainly attributable to the growing detachment from political parties in general. The turnout at parliamentary elections declined in France from 67.9 per cent in 1997 to 57.2 per cent in 2013;  in Germany from 84.3 per cent in 1987 to 71.5 per cent in 2013; in the UK from 77 per cent in 1992 to 66.1 per cent 2015; in Italy from 87.3 per cent in 1992 to 72.2 per cent in 2013; in Portugal from 71.5 per cent in 1987 to 57 per cent in 2015; in Greece from 76.6 per cent in 2004 to 56.5 per cent in 2015; and in Poland (at presidential elections) from 64.7 per cent in 1995 to 48.9 per cent in 2015.
Participation in elections for the European Parliament has also fallen, from 62 per cent in 1979 to 42.6 per cent at the most recent polls;  This reflects loss of interest in an institution that represents an ever more technocratic, ever less political model for Europe. Riding the anti-EU wave, new ‘post-ideological’ movements have arisen in recent years, guided by generic denunciation of the corrupt existing system or by the myth of online democracy as a guarantee of rank-and-file political participation in contrast to the usual practice of political parties.
On the basis of these principles, a Pirate Party (PP) was founded almost simultaneously in Sweden and Germany in 2006. Three years later, it won 7.1 per cent of the vote at the Swedish Euro-elections and two per cent at the elections for the Bundestag. In 2012, this party was also established in Iceland, where it scored 5 per cent at the elections held the following year. These are significant percentages if we consider the Pirate Party’s limited political programme, but tiny when compared with the Five Star Movement (M5S) that the comedian Beppe Grillo created in 2009. At the next general elections it became the first political force in Italy, with 25.5 per cent of the vote.
In 2013 the Alternative for Germany (AfD) was founded in Berlin, and thanks to the surge of euroscepticism it won 4.7 per cent at the federal elections in 2013 and 7 per cent at the Euro-elections the following year. In 2014 it was the turn of The River (TP) in Greece, which notched up 6.6 per cent and 4.1 per cent at the next European and national elections respectively. Meanwhile, Ciudadanos (C's) – a movement founded in Catalonia in 2006 – broke through to score 3.2 per cent at the Euro-elections,6.6 per cent at the local council elections in 2015 and doubled its share to 13.9 per cent in the December 2015 general elections. Finally, at the recent presidential elections in Poland, the right-wing populist singer Pawel Kukiz captured 21.3 per cent of the vote; his movement, Kukiz’15, has become the third political force in the country, winning 8.8 per cent at the legislative elections in October 2015.
During the same period, a number of already existing formations boosted their presence on the basis of similar political platforms. The most striking example is the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which, by combining populism with nationalism and xenophobia, topped the Euro polls in 2014 (26.6 per cent) and achieved 12.6 per cent at the general election in May 2105. In the European Parliament, United Kingdom Independence Partydeputies have joined with the Five Star Movement to form a new group, the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy.
In Switzerland, the Swiss People’s Party/ Democratic Union of the Centre (SVP-UDC) pulled off its best-ever result in 2015, winning 29.4 per cent at the October elections. Although its name might suggest something else, it is in fact a xenophobic far-right formation, which distinguished itself in the past by advocating a referendum (actually approved in 2009) for a ban on new minarets.
In many European countries, xenophobic, nationalist or openly neofascist parties have made big advances as the effects of economic crisis have made themselves felt. In some cases, they have modified their political language, replacing the classical left-right division with a new struggle specific to contemporary society: what Marine Le Pen calls the conflict ‘between those at the top and those at the bottom’.  In this new polarization, far-right candidates are supposed to represent the ‘people’ against the establishment (or the forces that have for a long time alternated in government) and against the elites who favour an all-powerful free market.
The ideological profile of these political movements has also changed. The racist component is often shifted to the background and economic issues brought to the fore. The blind, restrictive opposition to EU immigration policies is taken a stage further by playing on the war among the poor, even more than discrimination based on skin colour or religious affiliation. In a context of high unemployment and grave social conflict, xenophobia is raised through propaganda asserting that migrants take jobs from local workers and that the latter should have priority in employment, social services and welfare entitlements. 
This change of course has certainly played a role in the recent successes of the Front National, which, under Marine Le Pen’s leadership, shot up to 17.9 per cent in the 2012 presidential elections, became the largest French political party (24.8 per cent) at the 2014 Euro-elections and,carried away 25.2 per cent of the vote at the local elections in March 2015, and 27.7 per cent at the regional elections of December 2015, although failing to take any regional governments..  In Italy, meanwhile, the North League has also undergone a metamorphosis. It was born in 1989 demanding independence for ‘Padania’ (its name for northern Italy), and after 1996 it envisaged the unilateral secession of the region. But recently it has turned itself into a national party, whose ‘non’euro’, anti-immigrant platform is the lynchpin of an alliance with the main forces stemming from the fascist tradition. As a result, its electoral score has climbed dramatically: it is now the largest organization of the Italian centre-right, having overtaken Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI).
In both France and Italy, some historical fortresses of the working-class and Communist vote have mutated into stable electoral bases of the above two parties. A coalition agreement between the Front National and North League led to the formation in June 2015 of a Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENL) at the European Parliament in Brussels; this also includes established political parties which, alongside lesser organizations, have for some time been demanding withdrawal from the euro, a revision of the treaties on immigration and a return to national sovereignty. Among the most representative forces in this respect are Flemish Interest (VB) in Belgium; the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which won 20.5 per cent of the vote at the 2013 national elections, 19.7 percent in 2014 at the European elections and 30.8 per cent at the Viennese elections in 2015; and the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, founded in 2006, which scored 13.3 per cent at the last European elections. The latter two parties have risen to occupy third position in their national polities.
Far-right forces have joined more than one group in the European Parliament and, for the first time since the Second World War, have made important advances in various parts of the continent. In every Scandinavian country, for example, they are already an established reality, not to speak of the ideological reorientation that their electoral successes have encouraged in society. In the homeland par excellence of the ‘Nordic model’, the Swedish Democrats (SD), which arose in 1988 through a fusion of neo-Nazi groups, have emerged as the third largest political force, and are allied with UKIP in Europe. In Denmark and Finland, two parties founded in 1995 and affiliated to the European Conservatives and Reformists Group have scored even more surprising results, becoming the second largest parties in their respective countries. To general amazement, the Danish People’s Party (DPP) won the highest number of votes at the last European elections, with 26.6 per cent of the total; it then consolidated its success with 21.1 per cent at the 2015 legislative elections and joined the government majority. In Finland, the True Finns (PS) also now sit on the government benches, having attracted 17.6 per cent support at the ballot box in 2015. Finally, in Norway, the Progress Party (FfP) – which already collected 22.9 per cent of the vote in 2009, and whose political views are equally reactionary – has entered government for the first time, with a score of 16.3 per cent.
The near-uniform assertion of these parties, in a region where the organizations of the workers’ movement had exercised undisputed hegemony for a very long time, may also be attributed to the fact that they have taken up battles and issues once dear to both the socialdemocratics and communists. Two other useful, though not fundamental, factors are their carefully designed political symbolism – the Swedish Democrats, for instance, have replaced the old flame common among fascist movements with a reassuring wild flower in the national colours – and the rise of young leaders skilled at communication with the media.
The Right has made its breakthroughs not only by means of classical reactionary instruments, such as campaigns against globalization, but also through the arrival of new asylum-seekers and the spectre of the ‘Islamization’ of society. Above all, however, they called for social policies traditionally associated with the Left, at a time when the Social Democrats were opting for public spending cuts and the radical Left was gagged because of its support for, or actual participation in, government. The rightist ‘welfare’ is of a different kind, however: no longer universal, inclusive and solidaristic, but based on a principle that some theorists have described as ‘welfare nationalism’. In other words, it involves the offer of rights and services only to members of the already existing national community.
In addition to its widespread support in rural areas and the provinces, which are often depopulated and hit by high unemployment because of the economic crisis, the Scandinavian far Right has been able to draw on a significant number of workers who have yielded to the blackmail of ‘either immigration or the welfare state’.
The radical Right has also managed to reorganize in a number of East European countries, since the end of the pro-Soviet regimes there. Bulgaria’s ‘National Attack Union’ (ATAKA), the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Greater Romania Party (RM) are some of the political forces that have often obtained good results and sent their own deputies to parliament.
In Poland, the populist Law and Justice (PiS) party won the presidential elections in May 2015 and, having scored 37.6 per cent at the legislative elections in October 2015, holds the first absolute majority of seats in parliament since the end of the Cold War. Unlike the usual appeals to nationalism and ultra-conservative religious values, the PiS economic programme highlights promises to increase social spending, to improve wage levels and to lower the retirement age. It is a left platform, in a country where the anti-capitalist Left is non-existent and social democracy is confined to a small residual space after its pursuit of policies that hit the weakest layers of society.
The most alarming case in this part of Europe, however, is Hungary. After the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) government had imposed severe austerity measures at the behest of the Troika, causing a lurch into deflation, the Hungarian Civic Union/Fidesz (which is affiliated to the European People’s Party) took over the reins of office. Then in 2012, having purged the judiciary and brought the mass media under control, the government introduced a new constitution with authoritarian overtones that took the country a perilously long way from the rule of law. As if that were not enough, the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) has been the third party in the country since 2010, netting 20.5 per cent of the vote at the 2014 elections. Unlike most of the radical Right in Western Europe and Scandinavia, Jobbik is a classical example – now dominant in the East – of a far-right formation that uses hatred of minorities (especially Roma), anti-Semitism and anticommunism as major instruments of propaganda and action.
To complete this survey, we should mention some of the neo-Nazi organizations spread across parts of Europe. Two of these have obtained good results at the polls. The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) has a foothold in two regional parliaments; it secured 1.5 per cent in the elections of 2013; and it has had one Eurodeputy since 2012. In Greece, Golden Dawn (GD) picked up 9.4 per cent of the vote in the European elections of 2014 and 7 per cent in the general elections of 2015, thereby asserting itself as the third political force in the country. 
In recent years, therefore, the parties of the populist, nationalist or neofascist Right have considerably broadened their support in almost every part of Europe. In many cases, they have proved capable of hegemonizing political debate and sometimes entered government in a coalition with the more moderate Right. It is a disturbing epidemic, to which it is certainly impossible to respond without fighting the virus that caused it in the first place: the neoliberal mantra still so fashionable in Brussels.
Nevertheless, neither in Greece nor in eastern regions of Germany has the far Right done as well as it might have done; and in Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic – that is, in places where the Communist Left has maintained its roots in society and developed a coherent opposition policy in recent years – the conditions for a new rise of the radical Right have not been fulfilled.
 In 1989 the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the Communist Party of Spain (PCE), the Greek Left (EAR) and the Socialist People’s Party (SF) in Denmark formed the Group for the European United Left in the European Parliament.
 Beginning in 1989, the French Communist Party (PCF), the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Workers’ Party (WP) in Ireland formed a Left Unity group in the European Parliament.
 The most significant of these electorally was Workers' Struggle (LO) in France.
 The government led by Lionel Jospin in France, which reduced the working week to thirty-five hours, was an exception to this tendency. In Spain, the Zapatero government pursued the same neoliberal policies as in other European countries and was swept away by the effects of the economic crisis. Nevertheless, it adopted a number of important reforms with regard to civil rights. For a full analysis of social-democratic tendencies in Europe, see Jean-Michel de Waele, Fabien Escalona, Mathieu Vieira (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Social Democracy in the European Union , Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
 See Anthony Blair and Gerhard Schröder, Europe: The Third Way - die Neue Mitte, London/Berlin, Labour Party/SPD, 1999.
 The Services in the Internal Market is a law of European Union aiming at establishing a single market for services within Europe.
 The Hartz plan was set of recommendations submitted by a commission, from 2001 to 2004, to dismantle the German labour market.
 This party only joined the Nordic Green Left, not the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group in the European parliament.
 The Left Party (‘Die Linke’) took the same decision in Germany, entering government with the Social Democrats in Brandenburg State (where its vote fell as a result from 27.2 per cent in 2009 to 18.6 per cent in 2014) and in Berlin (where it halved from 22.6 per cent in 2001 to 11.6 per cent in 2011). In the Netherlands, the Socialist Party is in government in six of the country’s twelve provinces, having joined in some cases with centre-right parties, while the Labour Party (PvdA), the affiliate of the Socialist International, has remained in the opposition.
 In Denmark, the Socialist People’s Party scored 13 per cent in 2007, but then plunged to its present 4.2 per cent after a moderate political turn in favour of the government. This fall took place at the same time that the party crossed from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left group in the European parliament to the European Green Party group – a move approved by its national congress in 2008.
 Latvia adopted the euro on 1 January 2014.
 The Portuguese National Institute of Statistics has calculated that, from 2010 to 2014, at least 200,000 people between the ages of 20 and 40 left the country. In Spain, the National Institute of Statistics counted at least 133,000 new young emigrants in the years from 2008 to 2013. And in Italy, at least 136,000 young people left for abroad between 2010 and 2014. In reality, these estimates are well below the true figures. In the Greek case there are no official data, because the national statistical board does not record youth emigration.
 In 2006, the US investor and magnate Warren Buffet eloquently stated in an interview: ‘There’s class warfare all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ See Ben Stein, ‘In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning’, New York Times, 26 November 2006.
 On the relationship between capitalism and democracy – a theme on which a vast literature has blossomed in recent years – see Ellen Meiksins Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism, London: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
 Approved only in Spain and Luxemburg, the ratification of this treaty came to a standstill precisely as a result of these rejections in France and the Netherlands.
 In Greece, the consultative referendum held by the Tsipras government in July 2015 also delivered a resounding ‘no’ on the relevant policies of Brussels.
 As prime minister of Luxemburg, Juncker had enabled more than three hundred multinationals to take advantage of a special tax regime in his country.
 It should be noted, however, that participation in France’s more important presidential elections has been much higher, as shown by the 79.4 per cent turnout in 2012.
 In many countries of Eastern Europe the figures were extremely low: Slovakia 13 per cent, Czech Republic 18.2 per cent, Slovenia 24.5 per cent, Croatia 25.2 per cent, Hungary 28.9 per cent. Also noteworthy were the 33.6 per cent in Portugal and the 35.6 per cent in the UK. See http://www.europarl.europa.eu/pdf/elections_results/review.pdf.
 After the municipal elections of March 2014.
 ‘Priority for the French’ is an old xenophobic slogan of Jean-Marie Le Pen: see his Les Français d'abord, Paris: Carrère-Michel Lafon, 1984.
 Since the 2012 election, the Front National has stood as part of a broader coalition calling itself the Navy Blue Rally (Rassemblement Blu Marine – RBM).
 For a study of far-right forces in Europe, see the volume edited by Andrea Mammone, Emmanual Godin and Brian Jenkins: Mapping the Extreme Right in Contemporary Europe, London: Routledge, 2012.
 This is true even if we take into account the oscillations in the stance of Izquierda Unida towards the government in Spain between 2004 and 2008.