A new start for Europe's left?

While many states in Europe are experiencing a shift to the right, leftist and social democratic parties have seen their support dwindle over the last few years. In Germany Sahra Wagenknecht, group leader of The Left party in the German Bundestag, has founded a new leftist collective movement. Commentators discuss the new movement's potential and explain why some sections of the the left now take a critical view of immigration.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

The old positions of established players

Deutschlandfunk doesn't see the point of the new movement "Aufstehen":

“In terms of content Aufstehen is mainly just a rehash of old left-wing positions. The founding appeal could just as well have been written two or ten years ago - it's an analysis of the status quo, not a call for concrete action. ... If we analyse its structure Aufstehen is a classic top-down, hierarchical organisation. The organisers have founded an association of which they are members. They have a website via which anyone interested can say what they're interested in and in which areas they want to play an active role. Supporters' rights? There are none. ... In fact the organisation above all gives a voice, a legitimation, to those who have long since had these things anyway. Who were already capable of gathering an audience.”

Libération (FR) /

Migration a pretext for wage dumping

Economist Bruno Amable explains in his column with Libération why leftist formations like Sahra Wagenkneckt's new movement Aufstehen are increasingly against migration:

“The mass arrival of migrants, like that we saw in Germany in 2015-2016, can serve as a pretext for liberalising the job market, with negative consequences for wage levels. The German conservatives have attempted in vain to lower the newly introduced minimum wage so that - as they put it - the immigrants can be better integrated. What's more, a minor pay cut can have a non-negligible impact on low-wage employees. In Germany's case it's no doubt not just pure coincidence that hostility towards migrants is expressed, at times violently, more in regions with a high number of poor workers than elsewhere.”

Dimokratia (GR) /

A different attitude towards migration needed

The left in Germany has understood how to deal with immigration, the conservative daily Dimokratia writes with an eye to Greece:

“In Germany the left has understood that it will be left without voters if it continues to support illegal immigration, and that consequently it must change its policy. In Greece, where an unprecedented Islamic invasion took place even before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the established parties have turned their backs on the problem in the belief that by doing so it will be forgotten. They think voters don't really care about it all that much, and that the problem will sort itself out. But this way of thinking will prove to be very mistaken indeed.”

Mérce (HU) /

Powerless in the face of capital

Leftist governments are powerless against the interests of capital, Mérce believes:

“If you want a contemporary example you need look no further than Greece. There you can see what the oft-formulated popular will is worth when it comes up against the interests of capital. It also demonstrates how pragmatic, moderate and - when necessary - impotent the brand of social democracy embodied by [Greek governing party] Syriza is. The very Syriza that was described by the conservative and liberal press around the world as a terrible red threat and 'communist horror'. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Labour Party behind the times

Guardian commentator Nick Cohen rakes Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party over the coals in an interview with Le Monde:

“It's a backward movement led by 70-year-old men, who want nothing better than to rehash a political and economic policy left over from the 1970s. The problem with this left - and maybe it's the same thing in France - is that it neglected the economy for a generation, which is paradoxical considering that Marx was above all an economist. I'd say what we're dealing with is a post-Marxist party: Marx put forward a coherent critique of society. Corbyn's left is unable to do the same.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Poland's left needs to reduce privileges

Journalist Jacek Żakowski lists a few topics the Polish left should address in Gazeta Wyborcza:

“Has the democratic left any idea how to ensure that patients in hospitals enjoy the same civilised standards as employees at ministries or banks, for example air conditioning? In times of great heat it's cool in offices but blazing hot in hospitals. ... Can the democratic left ensure that the living standards of those who are starting their adult life are taken just as seriously as the rights of the older generations? The disparity is huge and continues to increase.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Keep an eye on the new movement

Sahra Wagenknecht's new coalition movement "Aufstehen" could be a game changer in Europe, writes conservative member of parliament and historian Jean-Louis Thiériot in Le Figaro:

“She has the support of [her husband] Oskar Lafontaine, co-founder of The Left and a former Social Democratic minister. ... And she's also received support from various public figures, for example Willy Brandt's son. Der Spiegel puts the number of those who have joined Wagenknecht's movement at roughly 70,000. ... The Wagenknecht case deserves to be followed closely. Whether it fails or is crowned with success, it sets a trend. Since this summer Germany is without a doubt a laboratory for a new direction being taken by Europe's left.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Caught between liberals and identitarians

The Süddeutsche Zeitung describes the dilemma that has led to the crisis of leftist parties:

“The term 'left' has long since been decoupled from criticism of capitalism, and is instead limited to demands for sexual equality and the protection of minorities. There's nothing wrong with that, except that these are so to speak liberal values. The upshot is that today the Western world is divided into a liberal camp of those who benefit from global exchange and advocate open societies, and an identitarian camp that seeks its salvation in national identities and isolation, with a growing number of fans from Hungary through to Catalonia. Between the two there seems to be precious little space for a leftist coalition movement and its utopias.”

888.hu (HU) /

The left is anti-Semitic

The European left must face a serious problem in its midst, the pro-government, right-wing nationalist website 888 contends:

“What is the ideological basis for the anti-Semitism of the Western European left? The answer is simple: its hostility towards the Church. That's why it closes its eyes to the demonisation of Jews by Muslims. Because anticlericalism, or more precisely the rejection of Christianity, is the link between leftist movements. In the name of multiculturalism the left sympathises with the Muslims, and as a result of its anticlericalism it embraces anti-Semitism. ... Already in the 1970s the German left-wing terrorist Ulrike Meinhof said that anti-Semitism is really hatred of capitalism.”