From Greece to Portugal to Corbyn’s Labour Party:
Openings and Closures on the European Left
Toronto — 1 November 2015.
After decades of uninterrupted neoliberal austerity across Europe, in recent years a new left alternative has begun to take shape. Whereas generations had turned to Latin America and other parts of the global capitalist periphery for signs of hope for a viable socialist alternative, today working people have once again turned to confront the capitalist classes in their own countries, and to challenge the vision of a neoliberal Europe with a reinvigorated left politics that seeks to build social movements by working both within and outside the state.
Three of the most prominent examples have been Syriza's meteoric rise in Greece – the only radical left government to do so despite the nearly decade-long global crisis of capitalism – in January; the continuing electoral gains of Portugal's Left Bloc since its formation in 1999; and most recently the victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Labour Party leadership elections, which was accompanied by a doubling in the membership of that party to reach the largest size in its history.
This new challenge to neoliberal austerity raises important questions about the roles of social movements and political parties in crafting a renewed left politics, and the possibilities for using the state as a means for social transformation in the 21st century.
Moderated by Leo Panitch. Presentations by:
- Michael Spourdalakis is Professor of Political Sociology and the Director at the Laboratory of Political Communication and Media Information at the University of Athens. He is currently co-director of the Canadian Studies Center at the University of Athens and is the editor of The Socialist Register in Greece.
- Caterina Principe is a social movement activist from Portugal. She is a member of Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) political party in Portugal and Die Linke in Germany.
- Hilary Wainwright is co-editor of Red Pepper and Research Director of the New Politics Project of the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam. Her most recent books include Public Service Reform: But Not As We Know It! and Reclaim the State: Experiments in Popular Democracy.
This event was co-sponsored by Centre for Social Justice and Socialist Project.