Situating the Radical Left in Contemporary Europe

By Babak Amini

The sociopolitical context of post-2008 Europe is ripe for the revival of the radical left as a viable force against the hegemony of neoliberal capitalism and the politics of austerity. Political space on the left has been opened up owing to extreme electoral instability and to a significant decline among centrist parties, which, in violation of their principles, have been instrumental in imposing austerity policies. The polarization has led also to a dangerous rise of the far right. These developments need to be examined in the context of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

The convergent Center and its discontents

The electoral fluctuation which had traditionally been contained mainly within the centrist parties in Europe reached a new level of volatility after the 2008 financial crisis. The gradual convergence of center left and right political parties under the structural demands set by neoliberalism has opened up the space for other political parties to gain ground and achieve astonishing electoral results.

The reconstruction of Europe after the World War II and the unprecedented economic boom between 1945 and the mid-1970s allowed social democratic parties to implement welfare policies and establish themselves as the most significant political force on the left in Western Europe. The fundamental promise of social democracy was to mitigate the worst aspects of capitalism without abandoning the market economy, by promoting social welfare measures. Such policies required significant state intervention into the economy. Characteristically, social democratic parties saw themselves as mass working-class parties and built strong connections with labor unions.

Christian democracy was another major force during the postwar era. Christian democratic parties established themselves as ‘catch all’ organizations which sought supporters across classes united by religious identity.1 Besides their social conservatism on cultural issues, their orientation toward the welfare state was substantially different from that of social democracy, as they favored income replacement rather than job protection, occupational insurance based on social partnership, and relative decentralization and fragmentation of state administration.2

With the end of the postwar economic boom, a new era of neoliberalism began, characterized by globalization, financialization, and privatization coupled with draconian attacks on trade unions, labor rights, and social welfare. This challenged the basic pillars of the welfare state, requiring social democracy to adapt itself strategically and ideologically to the emerging form of capitalism.3

Although the reaction of social democratic parties to the neoliberal demands varied in scale and kind,4 overall, they gradually altered much of their traditional program. Similar pressure was also exerted on Christian democratic welfare policies, as rising unemployment in the early 1980s caused significant problems for employment-based social insurance and insurance-based income replacement.5 These structural demands occurred while the changing space of political competition put further pressure on the centrist parties to conform to market demands.

Market integration through establishment of the European Union in 1993 and Eurozone in 1999 further restricted the key policy instruments available to achieve especially social democratic objectives. By reducing restriction on capital flow, market integration made it much more difficult to impose progressive taxation on corporate and private capital gains. Also, the loss of control over monetary policies negatively affected the implementation of employment policy. On the other hand, joining the monetary union helped some of the countries with lower social security regulations, to gain some economic strength to improve their social policies.6

It is important to note that there has been a large-scale loss of membership for the center left and right parties in much of Europe during the past three decades, which calls into question the idea of these organizations as ‘mass political parties’. Even though there is a considerable variation among European countries in party membership as a percentage of national electorate (ranging from 17 percent in Austria to less than 1 percent in Latvia), the average stands at the dismal 4.7 percent.7 Parties in the UK, France, and Italy alone have lost millions members in the past three decades. The same trend is seen not only in the Nordic countries, with 50 to 60 percent lower membership than before, but also, even more pronounced, in the Eastern and Central European countries. This historic loss of membership, as well as changing demographics, means that center left and right parties have to seek support outside their traditional social base.

Longitudinal studies have demonstrated a definite policy shift toward the center. Neoliberalism in general and European integration in particular have certainly accelerated this process. The convergence towards the center has severely limited the policies and objectives available to centrist parties, which must now comply with the system’s demand to cut down public spending, most severely during economic crises.

The consequent volatility for center-left and center-right parties is manifested in electoral results across Europe. Social democratic parties have seen some of the poorest outcomes in their history. The Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP), which has been in government almost continuously since 1945, saw its worst electoral result since 1921 (the year Sweden adopted universal suffrage) in 2010 (30.7 percent: 112 out of 349 seats). The Social Democratic Party of Germany, the oldest such party in Europe, experienced its lowest electoral result since 1949 in 2009 (23 percent: 142 out of 622 seats), after steadily falling from 40.9 percent (298 seats) in 1998, without much improvement in the following election (2013) when it reached 25.7 percent (193 seats).9 The social democratic parties in other Western European countries such as the United Kingdom (Labour Party), Netherlands (Labour Party, PvdA), and Austria (Social Democratic Party of Austria, SPÖ), have all seen significant average decline in their electoral performance since 2000.

The most dramatic decline of social democratic parties is observed in Greece, Spain, and Portugal (which share a common history of recovering from a period of military dictatorship) after the European sovereign debt crisis. After achieving relatively stable electoral results in the 1990s, they all experienced a sharp decline since mid-2000s, with the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) crashing from 43.9 percent in 2009 to 4.7 percent in 2015, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) from 43.9 percent in 2008 to 28.8 percent in 2011, and Portuguese Socialist Party (PS) from 45 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2011. We see a similar phenomenon in Central and Eastern Europe, with the Polish Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the Hungarian Socialist party (MszP), and the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) all experiencing significant decline after 2007.

This decline is not steady and uniform across Europe. Depending on the national and regional situation, centrist parties might gain support in particular elections, as was the case with social democratic parties in France (PS), Slovakia (Smer), Romania (Social Democratic Party), and more recently Italy, as well as with the Christian Democratic Union in Germany. However, it is becoming ever more difficult for centrist political parties to uphold and distinguish their political objectives from each other, as they all have embraced severe austerity policies in response to the recent economic crisis.

As the mainstream parties converge to preserve neoliberalism, polarization becomes inevitable. This has opened space for the radical left, but has also created a breeding ground for the far right.

The dangerous rise of the Far Right

Despite local and regional differences in goals, rhetoric, and strategies, the far right in general is a racist reaction to socioeconomic inequality, based on nationalist defense of an imagined community of mono-racial/ethnic people against certain minorities, such as ‘immigrants’, ‘Muslims’, and ‘Africans’. Given the relative weakness of a radical left alternative in many European countries, far right parties have been remarkably successful in channeling social frustration arising from the economic downturn. Far right parties feed on the fear bred by economic insecurity. They use populist, anti-corruption, and anti-elitist rhetoric to establish themselves as the true defenders of ‘the people’. They cling to a nostalgic past, be it authoritarian ideas (especially in Poland and Hungary) or democratic values (mainly in Nordic countries),10 in order to paint a perilous picture of ‘the people’, ‘the nation’, or ‘our values’ under external threat.11

Far right parties are active not only at the national level but, very importantly, at local and – somewhat contradictorily – at transnational levels.12 Currently, the far right parties, including the French National Front (NF), the Austrian Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), the Italian Northern League (NL), and the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), have formed an anti-EU political group, the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENL), at the European Parliament which occupies 37 seats (out of 751).13  Table 1 shows the performance of some of the most significant far right political parties in national and European Parliamentary elections.

Defining the Radical Left

Radical left parties are those which, on the political spectrum, are to the left of social democratic parties, although many do not consider social democratic parties as belonging to the left; hence, they do not always identify themselves in a relation to social democratic parties. Their radicalism, although varying in kind and degree, is based on rejection of the unjust socio-economic arrangement of contemporary society, and their commitment to eliminate the resulting inequalities. Even though radical left parties in various parts of Europe have different origins (e.g. communist parties, left-wing of social democratic parties, etc.), organizational structures (‘democratic centralism’, decentralized federalism, etc.), and even ideological beliefs (orthodox Marxist-Leninism, non-Marxist socialism, etc.), there are some characteristics that are common among them, albeit to varying degrees. They are anti-capitalist (although they increasingly frame this in terms of resistance to neoliberalism)14 and pro-democracy (although they often expand the notion from representative democracy to participatory democracy). They are highly critical of multinational military and economic arrangements such as NATO and the IMF. Most of them are internationalist, not merely in terms of networking among radical left parties, but as a necessary basis for resisting the onslaught of global capitalism. An increasing number of them have embraced some aspects of ‘New Left’ politics such as environmentalism, feminism, and workers’ self-management.15

On the European level, radical left parties have become less ‘Eurorejects’ and more ‘Eurosceptic’ over the years, especially since the late 1990s.16 Before 2009, Eurorejectionism could only be found among the a few conservative communist parties such as the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), and the socialist Swedish Labour Party (V).17 However, after the unsuccessful attempt by the SYRIZA government to invoke ideals of European solidarity and cooperation in order to curb the harsh austerity plans imposed by the powerful European nations, one can expect a gradual shift towards Eurojection among the radical left parties.

There have been numerous initiatives to unite the radical left parties in European Parliamentary as well as the extra-parliamentary levels. Within the framework of the European Parliament, the first radical left parties to change their views on the European integration process were the Italian Communist Party (1969) followed by the French Communist Party (1973), and the Danish Socialist People’s Party (1979).18 Between 1989 and 1994, the contradiction felt by radical left parties between their anti-capitalism and the European integration project made it difficult for them to converge into a single parliamentary group. After the Nordic countries and Austria joined the EU in 1995, the Nordic Green Left (NGL) merged with the United European Left group (Gauche Unitaire Européenne, GUE),19 to form a confederal group GUE/NGL in the European Parliament. The electoral performance of GUE/NGL is shown in Table 2, and its composition in the current European Parliament is shown in Table 3.

Another important initiative at the level of the European Parliament was the formation of Party of the European Left (PEL) in 2004, starting with 11 party members. It remains one of the most inclusive and successful initiatives to unify a large section of the European radical left to “work together in the tradition of the struggles against capitalist exploitation, ecological destruction, political oppression and criminal wars, against fascism and dictatorship, in resistance to patriarchal domination and discrimination against ‘others’”.20 It seeks to find a balance between various tendencies within the left by broadening its constitution to include not only “the values and traditions of the socialist, communist and labour movement” but also feminism, environmentalism, and human rights.21 It is composed of 22 member states and 32 party members. The party composition of the PEL is shown in Table 4.

In the eyes of some radical left parties and networks (e.g. the European Anti-Capitalist Left, EACL), PEL is seen as either too integrationist, too moderate, or too soft in its rhetoric and program.22

Overview of the European sovereign debt crisis

The global financial crisis of 2008 manifested itself in Europe most superficially in the form of sovereign debt crisis. There is a vast literature on the underlying causes of the crisis.23 However, there is a growing consensus among economists that macroeconomic imbalances and the deregulation of financial institutions and were among the most prominent factors.24 Their impact was aggravated in Europe by the fundamental structural deficiency of the Eurozone.

The Eurozone refers to those 19 European Union member states (out of a total of 28) which adopted the euro as their common currency. The common currency, which dates from January 1, 1999, is controlled by the European Central Bank (ECB), and is not backed by any sovereign state. The Eurozone is a monetary arrangement with very limited powers to set fiscal policies for the Eurozone countries, although national fiscal policies are constrained by the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP).25 Liberalization of the financial market through the removal of regulatory restrictions on capital flow – both globally and within Europe – increased the snowballing effect of the crisis. The interconnectivity of financial institutions made them “too interlinked to fail”26 and so their burden of debt was shifted to the public. However, the Eurozone lacks proper adjustment mechanisms, except price and income deflation, to contain the crisis effectively.27

European member states cannot independently lower the exchange rate of their national currency to improve market competitiveness. Consequently, the economic options to confront the financial crisis within the Eurozone are limited to three possibilities.28 First is to impose austerity measures, which means reduction of wages and public spending, and raising taxes to reduce government deficit and hope that it will raise labour productivity and improve competitiveness. Besides the hardship that people have to endure as a result, due to rise of unemployment and loss of social benefits, austerity is unlikely to lead to sustainable growth in the long term because investment in the real economy and new technologies is not the main incentive behind it. Second is to reform the Eurozone in order to promote investment especially in ‘peripheral countries’ (i.e. Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain) and reduce competitiveness across the continent. This is highly unlikely to happen because it is fundamentally at odds with the economic motivation of the core and peripheral counties to join the European Monetary Union (EMU). The core countries (i.e. Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium) saw it as an opportunity to expand their exporting sector and foreign direct investment within the Eurozone. The peripheral countries, which initially had higher growth and inflation rates, saw this as a chance to catch up with the richer economies since initially their interest rate was much higher than what joining the EMU offered, thereby allowing them to have more progressive domestic spending at the cost of reduction in export and competitiveness.29 The third possibility for confronting the debt crisis is for heavily indebted counties to exit the Eurozone – either a conservative exit via significant devaluation of the national currency and liberalization of the economy, or a progressive exit through capital control, nationalization of banks, and expansion of public ownership of means of production.

After an initial attempt at a stimulus program between 2008 and 2009, the European leaders chose to impose severe austerity measures in return for bailout of the indebted government. Austerity measures led to huge increases in unemployment, especially in indebted countries, to levels only comparable to the Great Depression era. Even more troubling are the statistics for youth unemployment, which for countries like Greece and Spain reached 52.4% and 53.2% respectively in 2014.30

It has always been the workers who have to bear the cost, not only in the peripheral but also in the core countries, especially Germany, as the ruling elites have been extremely successful in squeezing their workers by imposing flexibility and restraining real wages.31 To understand this, we must look at the nominal unit labor cost (ULC), defined as nominal hourly costs of labor divided by labor productivity. Hence, nominal ULC grows faster if either nominal hourly costs of labor grows or labor productivity declines. Figure 2 shows that, comparatively, Germany has had the lowest Nominal ULC since the start of the EMU in 1999.

It might be thought that this is due to Germany’s high labor productivity compared to other European countries. But Figure 3 shows that productivity in Germany was not drastically different from periphery countries and was lower than in Greece (until 2009) and Ireland.32 This reveals the class character of the European sovereign debt crisis, as workers everywhere had to bear the cost of capital accumulation by the elites.

The politics of austerity that has loomed over Europe since 2009 has put a tremendous toll on workers and pensioners and has destroyed much of what remained of the European welfare system. Here is a summary of measures imposed on the hardest-hit countries.33

Cyprus: In addition to the austerity measures introduced in 2011, which included increase in personal income tax and value-added tax (VAT),34 the 2013 budget imposed austerity measures worth about 5% of GDP, including:

  • Cutting public sector wage cut (from 6.5% to 12.5%), and a 3% reduction in 2014
  • Laying off at least 4,500 public sector employees between 2012 and 2016
  • Increasing fee for public services by 17% Imposing early retirement penalty and raising the retirement age
  • Increasing the premium for social security for both employees and employers.

In addition to this, the agreement that the country reached with the IMF in 2013 led to further austerity measures for 2013-18, amounting to about 7% of the GDP, which include:

  • Increasing corporate tax from 10% to 12.5%
  • Planning for privatization of public enterprise
  • Compulsory contribution of 1.5% of the salary or pension of public employees towards universal healthcare

Greece: Greece received bailout packages in 2010, 2012, and 2015. It is worth noting that Greece’s social spending was always less generous than that of other Western European countries.35 The austerity measures passed in 2010 and 2103 include:

  • A tax of 3% to 10% on pensions over €1400 per month
  • Increasing VAT from 19% to 23%
  • A wage-freeze until unemployment falls below 10%
  • A 75% wage cut for more than 75,000 civil servants entering a ‘mobility’ scheme36 by the end of 2013
  • Hiking up duty on fuel by 86.6% and on tobacco and alcohol by 30%
  • Laying off 4,000 civil servants by the end of 2013 and 15,000 between 2013 and 2014.
  • Raising the retirement age and reducing pensions
  • Reducing the length of time unemployment benefit is given in any 4-year period
  • Permitting private-sector layoffs without notification

The austerity measures accepted in the latest bailout agreement in 2015 include:

  • Privatizing of public asset worth €50bn
  • Carrying out “ambitious pension reform”37
  • Terminating the early retirement option by 2020 and raising the retirement age to 6738

Ireland: Since 2008, the country has gone through numerous austerity budgets, bringing total cuts to €33bn (approximately 18% of GDP).39 The austerity measures include:40

  • Cutting public wages by 14% and welfare rates (except state pension) by 8%
  • Reducing healthcare budget by more than 5% amounting to €781 million
  • Reducing childcare benefits
  • Dismantling the weekly social insurance (PRSI) for those who earn more than €18,304 per year
  • Selling off public assets such as the gas company, Bord Gais Energy.

Italy: The country holds the second largest sovereign debt in Europe after Greece. Austerity measures passed by successive governments include:

  • Cutting wages of senior government employees by 10% and freezing wages of other civil servants
  • Reducing healthcare and education budgets
  • Decreasing ministerial spending
  • Lowering regional and local government budgets
  • Passing a highly controversial labor market reform in 2014 to make it easier for companies to fire workers previously under permanent contract

Portugal: The country requested financial assistant from the troika (European Central Bank, European Commission, and the IMF) in 2011. Some of the austerity measures passed since 2009 are:

  • Freezing almost all pensions and insurance benefits
  • Decreasing the public sector budget by up to 10%
  • Cutting the education budget by €380 million (more than 20%)
  • Lowering social benefits (besides pensions) by €180 million
  • Cutting public sector wages
  • Drawing a higher portion of pension-premiums from individual paychecks
  • Readjusting personal income tax to raise at least €2.7bn
  • Introducing indirect and property tax

Spain: Measures and outcomes since 2009 include:

  • Eliminating universal birth grant and reducing child benefits (for under 2 years old) from €500 to €291
  • Reducing wages of public sector employees by 5% on average (with cumulative cuts reaching 18%)
  • Total loss of purchasing power, 18%
  • Cutting education and healthcare budget by about €10.7bn from 2012
  • Reduction of unemployment benefits to 18 months and to €420
  • Increasing VAT (for some products and services) from 8% to 21%

Austerity policies have been disastrous for the ordinary people. They have produced an enormous increase in social inequality and poverty. Figure 4 shows the percentage of those at-risk-of-poverty anchored in 2008 versus 2013 or 2014 (depending on availability of data).41

The European radical left has been in the process of reinventing itself following the hegemonic emergence of neoliberalism, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and maturation of the European integration project. Even though the radical left parties are not uniform in their ideological orientations, policy objectives, election performance, government experience, and relation to social movements, their overall agenda is becoming clearer since the turn of the century: opposing the growing privatization of education, health, and transportation, resisting the onslaught against workers’ rights, and promoting a progressive social agenda in favor of gender equality and minority rights.42 They have also achieved relative cohesion in their international agenda, opposing international free trade agreements (e.g. the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP) and calling for the demilitarization of Europe and an end to NATO.

Nonetheless, there are still enormous steps to take before the radical left can become a hegemonic force in European politics. Resisting de-radicalization and the shift towards social democratic market-based welfarism, formulating clear, distinct and pragmatic policies to confront neoliberalism, building long-term radical objectives and strategies while supporting progressive social movements, and strengthening the radical left in Eastern Europe are among the most pressing tasks facing the European radical left today. The immensity of the challenge, the monstrous impact of the prevailing system, and the memory of a bitter past require boldness in action, creativity in ideas, and humility in heart. The world is plagued with a potentially fatal illness and the radical left embodies the only hope to bring about any future.

Notes

1. S. N. Kalyvas, and K. V. Kersbergen, ‘Christian Democracy’, Annual Review of Political Science, 13 (2010), 187.

2. Ibid., 198.

3. G. Moschonas, ‘On the Verge of a Fresh Start: The Great Ideological and Programmatic Change in the Contemporary Social Democracy’, in P. Delwit (ed.), Social Democracy in Europe (Brussels: Editions de l’Universitae de Bruxelles, 2005), 37.

4. For a discussion on qualitative differences in the responses of social democratic parties to neoliberal structural demands, see W. Merkel, A. Petring, C. Henkes, and C. Egle, Social Democracy in Power: The Capacity to Reform, (London and New York: Routledge, 2008), 208-259.

5. Kalyvas, and Kersbergen, ‘Christian Democracy’, 198.

6. Merkel, et al., Social Democracy in Power, 18.

7. For the full discussion, see I. V. Biezen, P. Mair, and P. Poguntke, ‘Going, going, . . . gone? The decline of party membership in contemporary Europe’, European Journal of Political Research, 51 (2012): 24-56. For a summary of the findings, see http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2013/05/06/decline-in-party-membership-europe-ingrid-van-biezen.

8. I. Budge, H.D. Klingemann, A. Volkens, J. Bara, and E. Tanenbaum, Mapping Policy Preferences: Estimates for Parties, Electors, and Governments 1945-1998 (Oxford University Press, 2001).

9. All the electoral data are taken from http://electionresources.org.

10. N. Langenbacher and B. Schellenberg, ‘Introduction: An anthology about the manifestations and development of the radical right in Europe’, in N. Langenbacher and B. Schellenberg (eds.), Is Europe on the “Right” Path? Right-wing extremism and right-wing populism in Europe (Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Forum, 2011), 16.

11. Ibid., 17.

12. Ibid., 21-23.

13. J. Levy-Abegnoli, ‘Far right MEPs form EU parliamentary group’, in The Parliament Magazine. Available at https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/news/far-right-meps-form-eu-parliamentary-group. (June 16 2015).

14. There are substantial differences in rhetoric and goals between anti-capitalism and anti-neoliberalism. As social democratic parties gradually abandoned their traditional commitment, radical left parties also increasingly moved away from revolutionary anti-capitalism toward reformist Keynesianism, which at the time of total market hegemony, comes out as radical indeed.

15. L. March, Radical Left Parties in Europe (London and NY: Routledge, 2011), 18-19.

16. G. Charalambous, ‘All the shades of red: examining the radical left’s Euroscepticism’, Contemporary Politics, 17: 3 (2011). In the theoretical scheme used by Charalambous, ‘Eurosceptics’ are those parties which are highly critical or pessimistic about the European integration project in its current form, even though they accept the idea of cooperation and integration in principle. By contrast, ‘Eurorejects’ oppose European integration as long as it is implemented within a capitalist framework and argue for the withdrawal of their nations from the EU (ibid., 301-3).

17. Ibid., 307, 309-11.

18. K. Hudson, The New European Left: A Socialism for the Twenty-First Century? (London and New York: Palgrave, 2012), 35-37.

19. The GUE was established in 1994 in the European Parliament by the Spanish IU, the Italian RC, the Portuguese PCP, and the Greek Left (composed of the Greek KKE and Synaspismós).

20. http://www.european-left.org/propos-de-la-ge/documents

21. Ibid.

22. March, Radical Left Parties in Europe, 163.

23. For a survey of this literature, see A. Knyazeva, D. Knyazeva, and J. Stiglitz, ‘Crises and Contagion: A Survey’, in Europe on the Brink: Debt Crisis and Dissent in the European Periphery, T. Phillips (ed.), (London: Zed Books Ltd., 2014).

24. C. Laskos and E. Tsakalotos, Crucible of Resistance: Greece, the Eurozone & the World Economic Crisis (London: Pluto Press, 2014), 78.

25. The SGP sets fiscal limits of 3% of GDP for budget deficit and 60% of GDP for public debt. Failure to meet these condition may lead to sanctions: first, a warning; then, a penalty of 0.2% of GDP; then, a penalty of 0.5% of GDP. Amendments to the SGP came to into effect towards the end of 2011, known as the ‘Six Pack’ and ‘Two Pack’ respectively. They were designed to increase surveillance of budgetary and economic policies of the member states and enforce compliance with SGP criteria. For further details on the SGP, see http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/economic_governance/sgp/index_en.htm

26. Knyazeva et al., Crises and Contagion, 93.

27. M. Baimbridge and P. B. Whyman, Crisis in the Eurozone: Causes, Dilemmas and Solutions (New York and London: Palgrave, 2015), 2-3.

28. C. Lapavitsas, Crisis in the Eurozone (New York: Verso, 2012), 7-9.

29. D. Marsh, Europe’s Deadlock: How the Euro Crisis Could Be Solved — And Why It Won’t Happen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 28.

30. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Unemployment_statistics

31. Lapavitsas, Crisis in the Eurozone, 23.

32. Data are based on Index of 100 for the year 2000 (except for Greece, where the available base-data are from 1999).

33. Although we look here only at periphery countries, public spending cuts in the Balkans and the UK amount to 20% and 11.5% respectively (as of 2013). Oxfam, A Cautionary Tale: The true cost of austerity and inequality in Europe (2013), 8-9. The main sources for the data presented in this section – checked with other sources and occasionally supplemented, refined, or corrected – are: A. Leahy, S. Healy, and M. Murphy, The European Crisis and its Human Cost: A Call for Fair Alternative and Solution, Caritas Europa Crisis Monitoring Report 2014; A. Leahy, S. Healy, and M. Murphy, A Study of the Impact of the Crisis and Austerity on People, with a Special Focus on Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, Caritas Europa Crisis Monitoring Report 2013.

35. Increasing VAT does not improve income distribution. “Raising VAT is a regressive form of taxation that disproportionately affects people on lower incomes as they tend to spend more on VAT as a proportion of their income”. Oxfam, A Cautionary Tale, 10.

35. http://www.oecd.org/social/expenditure.htm

36. ‘Mobility’ scheme refers to the government plan to assess civil servants for reemployment or layoff. A. Leahy, S. Healy, and M. Murphy, The European Crisis and its Human Cost, 29.

37. Euro Summit Statement, SN 4070/15, (July 12 2015). Available at
http://www.consilium.europa.eu/

38. ‘Greece debt crisis: Eurozone deal laws backed by MPs’, BBC (July 16 2015).

39. Leahy, Healy, and Murphy, The European Crisis and its Human Cost, 37.

40. Leahy, Healy, and Murphy, A Study of the Impact of the Crisis and Austerity on People, 23; Leahy, Healy, and Murphy, The European Crisis and its Human Cost, 37.

41. When there are rapid socioeconomic changes in a country, it is much more revealing to anchor the at-risk-of-poverty data to a specific year in order to shield the data from the moving poverty threshold (defined as those with income less than 60% of the national median) over the period. Data for 2014 were used for the following countries: Greece, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Hungary, Austria, and Finland.

42. March, Radical Left Parties in Europe, 202.

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