The New European Left: A Socialism for the Twenty‐first Century? K. Hudson. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (2012) 211pp. £66.00hb. ISBN 978‐0‐230‐24876‐2

AuthorBen Widdicombe
Publication Date01 December 2016
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/hojo1_12187
The Howard Journal Vol55 No 4. December 2016
ISSN 2059-1098, pp. 532–541
Book Reviews
The New European Left: A Socialism for the Twenty-first Century? K. Hudson. Basingstoke:
Palgrave Macmillan (2012) 211pp. £66.00hb. ISBN 978-0-230-24876-2
This book examines the history of European communist parties in a number of countries
following the fall of the Soviet Union. Taking as its starting point the events of 1989
to 1991, it examines the immediate responses of European communist parties to the
crisis, their search for an identity separate from Moscow and the formation of distinct
electoral platforms and reformist programmes. It tracks their recent electoral success (or
for some, distinct lack of electoral success) and contrasts the paths taken by communist
parties across the continent.
The first few chapters set the scene for what comes later. Chapter 1 focuses on
‘Survival and Renewal’ in the early 1990s and Chapter 2 looks at the ‘regroupment’
and the establishment of a ‘European Movement’ (a network of left-wing parties co-
operating both within and outside the European Parliament). Chapter 3 discusses the
creation of the Party of the European Left in the European Parliament. The chapters that
follow then focus on the communist parties of particular countries; Die Linke (Germany),
Partito della Rifondazione Comunista (Italy), Parti Communiste Francais (France), The
Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, and the Scandinavian left.
What is striking is the diversity of paths taken, and fortunes enjoyed, by the parties.
For instance, as just one example of divergence, whereas Die Linke achieved national
appeal and gained 11.9% of the vote in the federal elections of 2009 and 19.2% in
the Saarland state election, the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista was nearly finished
following a difficult period in coalition with the mainstream right, taking only 3.1% of the
vote in the general election of 2009 (as part of the ‘Rainbow Coalition’) and subsequently
gained no seats in parliament.
Just as the book plots the differences in the parties’ post-1989/91 experiences, it also
brings out a set of consistent and shared dilemmas. How should the hard left respond
to the Maastricht Treaty?Seen as a neoliberal free trade project, the parties struggled to
frame opposition to the Treaty without surrendering their internationalist (in this case,
pan-European) heritage. Further, some parties gained sufficient strength to become
viable coalition partners, often to right-of-centre parties. Should this opportunity for
power be taken, or is support for right-wing parties and their agenda seen as too high a
price to pay?
The book may not appear to be of immediate interest to criminologists, particu-
larly those with a United Kingdom focus. First, there is no discussion of crime or
criminal justice policy. The book is a work of political science and a reader looking
for a discussion of crime policy within European left parties will look in vain. Sec-
ond, the book carries no analysis of how post-1989 communism and socialism fared
in Britain; this is very much a book about ‘continental’ left movements. British read-
ers will no doubt find themselves asking which parallels from the European story ap-
ply to Britain, and whether the recent apparent strengthening of the hard left within
the British Labour Party forms part of this story, or whether Britain is somehow
distinct.
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2016 The Howard League and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK

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