Europe’s Anti-System Left Has Paved Way for a Harder Right

Denis MacShane - Europe’s Anti-System Left Has Paved Way for a Harder Right

Europe’s Anti-System Left Has Paved Way for a Harder Right


       The Greek election and the riots in France confirm the end of Europe’s anti-system left’s dream that history was turning their way.

       In 2015, Syriza which arose as a challenge by left academics, social identity, pro-immigrant, and anti-EU radical activists – incarnated by the flamboyant Yanis Varoufakis – won 159 seats in the Greek parliament and formed the government

       In the recent Greek election Syriza won 48 seats, just 16 more than their social democratic PASOK rivals.

       The 2008/9 financial crisis imported from the United States saw a surge across Europe of new left parties. They grew out of the 1968 movement’s critique of the reformist, trade unionist social democratic, in Britain the Labour Party’s cautious accommodating compromises with globalised capitalism.

            New social movements based on gender, race, the looming climate catastrophe and latterly trans rights were seen as more important than the social justice traditions of good pay and workplace equalities.

       The collapse of private sector trade union membership across Europe allowed space for new identity radical-left political activists to infiltrate classic 20th century social democratic parties and when they grew frustrated at the slow acceptance of their ideas to go out and form new electoral groups.

       Hence the rise of Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the so-called “frondeurs” in the French socialist party who undermined François Hollande’s presidency after 2012. Die Linke in Germany and “5 Stars” in Italy split and weakene German social democracy or the reformist Italian left.

            Today the hard left in France led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the main anti-systemfaction in the French Parliament,  have been  inciting street violence to weaken the Macron government led by a president who has little electoral experience and a poor choice of policies and ministers.

      The main beneficiary is Marine Le Pen  representing the intolerant racist right even if she has dropped the anti-semitism of her father.  She says as little as possible letting the anti-system left which has replaced the democratic Parti socialiste left with the most seats in the National Assembly make itself more and more unpopular with crude accusations that all French police officers are racist killers.

         French workers and shopkeepers who see jobs destroyed and shops looted have no sympathy  for this line and turn to Le Pen.

       In Britain the radical nationalist identity politics that emerged in Scotland guaranteed Labour a long spell in opposition with Momentum as a party within a party and the election and re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-system leftist even after he lost the 2017 election. 

       Today fifteen years after the 2008 financial crash the new identity left has lost electoral support, intellectual élan, and political conviction.

       Appeals to consider trans gender questions as the most important political issue of the day no longer convince. Banning flying for a family holiday or punishing workers who use their cars  loses votes. Black lives matter but so do working class lives but no-one on the identity left speaks for workers.

       Identity radical left attacks on their reformist comrades has only benefitted the right, especially a much harder right that is winning support in Europe. Just as Momentum and Corbyn ushered in ever more right-wing premiers in London Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the best ally Marine Le Pen has. Today’s polls show her winning the Elysée. 

      Once again today, it is the right that wins when the left choses demagogy and the street over political education and parliament.


Denis MacShane is the UK’s former Minister of Europe

*The opinions of this article our the authors own