The Heritage of Eurocommunism in the Contemporary Radical Left

Fabien Escalona


Though the European radical left has not generally been of interest to mainstream political observers, it has nonetheless recently become the subject of significant media coverage. Such presentations have often fallen into two symmetrical pitfalls. On the one hand, left parties have sometimes been presented as completely new, with their historical development left unexamined. On the other hand, many editorialists and even academics have paid little attention to what is original about these organizations: some have seen them as a disagreeable avatar of the far left, others as a resurgent ‘traditional’ (and thus inoffensive) social democracy. In fact, the parties which have realized the most remarkable electoral gains certainly belong to a ‘new’ radical left, though their theoretical orientations and the strategic challenges they face find an echo in a historical sequence which is today largely forgotten: that of Eurocommunism.

Despite important differences in political and economic conditions today, several strategic debates from the Eurocommunist period are still relevant. They concern the capacity of the radical left to escape both marginality and normalization; in other words, to approach power without its desires for transformation being absorbed or liquidated by existing institutions. In fact, the Eurocommunist legacy is rich with inspiration (the search for a middle way between social democracy and the far left) and potential assets (in defining a strategy adapted to current European societies and the multiplicity of dominations which run through them), but also with unresolved problems (concerning in particular the relationship to the capitalist state).

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