Moscow enjoying great success with far left parties in Europe, new study finds

Putin's Russia (Image: VPK-news.ru/Andrei Sedykh)

Putin's Russia (Image: VPK-news.ru/Andrei Sedykh) 

2016/04/18 • Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Vladimir Putin has achieved major success in reaching out to far right parties in Europe, a development that has attracted particular attention because of its unexpected nature; but his success in expanding ties with far left parties there has received far less attention, even though it has been in many ways at least as successful and consequential.

In a new paper entitled “Russia and the European Far Left,” Peter Kreko, the director of the Budapest Political Capital Research and Consulting Institute, and Lorant Gyori, a social sciences graduate student at Eotvos Lorand University, provide a useful corrective.

They point out that the 2008 financial crisis and the austerity policies of most European states energized not just the right, which played to xenophobic themes, but also the far left which took a stand against austerity as such. And they note that the radical left has been “much more willing and able to cooperate across national borders” on the basis of its ideological program “than is the far right.”

“The current far left in Europe,” the two say, “is the product of two decades of careful evolution. After the collapse of the USSR, the mainstream of the European radical left, with some notable exceptions … made a strategic turn to the new left,” abandoning Marxism-Leninism, promoting ecological activism, and organizing at the grassroots level.

During the 1990s, they continue, there was “a weakening of ties” between these parties and Moscow, but “that trend began to be reversed in the 2000s as the Putin regime looked to re-establish some of the pre-existing connections with the ‘new,’ politically emerging and competitive socialist left in Europe and beyond.”

Putin was prepared to develop these links especially as the ability of the domestic communists to challenge his rule waned, and clearly, the Hungarian scholars say, his effort to develop ties with the left as well as the right was “driven by pragmatism rather than ideology,” one that was stronger the more internationally isolated the Kremlin leader felt himself to be.

For many on the far left, “the annexation of Crimea … proved to be a turning point, leading to a striking display by some far-left groups of their allegiance to the Kremlin.” And as with the far right, the far-left parties were prepared to support Moscow “not only with words” but also with votes in various European institutions.

“The far-right parties’ pro-Russian stance is easy to explain on ideological grounds,” the two write. But “it is more difficult to understand why radical left parties with a secular, egalitarian and pacifist ideology admire a ‘post-communist neo-conservative’ system that is showing strong authoritarian and chauvinist tendencies, emphasizing the role of religion” and so on.

But there are five reasons why the radical left in Europe has done so for ideological reasons, the two Hungarian writers say:

  1. “the remnants of historic ‘comrade’ networks between communist parties and the Soviet Union,”
  2. the emergence of “new international far-left organizational structures,”
  3. the notion that the enemy of my enemy is my friend,
  4. Russia’s controlled economy which promises to limit “’big capital,’” and
  5. the Kremlin’s successful disinformation campaigns about Ukraine.

Significantly, “most of the leftist parties we observed,” the two continue, “rarely praise President Putin or his regime openly.” Instead, they support what Russia is doing in terms of stopping Western “’aggression’” or in the name of equal treatment of Russia compared to the United States. And they draw on the “anti-fascist” rhetoric that Moscow’s propaganda effort promotes.

Western countries need to recognize this development as a threat because many of these “’comrade networks’” between the European far left and Moscow have “both a diplomatic and a secret service dimension, which are alive and well” and which pose a security threat. And these countries need to actively oppose the arguments of the far left lest Moscow’s influence grow because of its actions.

Related:

Edited by: A. N.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Terry Washington

    Precisely how a kleptocratic, chauvinist and avowedly reactionary regime(with a healthy dollop of religious zealotry) could command the support of even the most addle pated far leftist is beyond me(at least the USSR had some degree of a patina of progressivism)- I guess the old Spanish proverb is true- there is NO pot so ugly it can;t find itself a lid!

  • Patrick

    It surprises me how long it took before such a report was finally revealed to the larger public. I don’t want to play Mr. Smartguy but I (as many other amateurs) have been warning for this since a long time.

    I haven’t only warned for this but also explained: For the time being the far-right and the far-left are natural allies of Russia. Both have an interest in destabilising the EU. The far-right or far-left parties will, under normal circumstances, never come to power. Only if the moderate power is destabilised they have a chance. Russia destabilises the EU from the outside by a 1000 and 1 ways (violence, intimidation, bribes, gas and oil). The extreme parties try to do the same from within (by populist rhetoric alienating the people from their leadership and undermining their trust in them) and this optimises their chances to get to power. The far-left doesn’t like the EU because they see it as a neo-liberal project and the far-right doesn’t like the EU because they believe in the nation state (nationalism). If they come to power, both of them will most likely weaken or destroy the EU. This is in the interest of Russia because then Russia will be the single most powerful entity in Europe, maybe not economically but certainly militarily and don’t forget, violence is the highest power means.

    So undermining the existing order in the EU is in the interest of both the extreme parties in the EU and Russia. They are natural allies !

  • Alex George

    The far-left in Germany is virtually indistinguishable from the far-right.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      I disagree. The communists have little chance of seizing power because their supporters come chiefly from the ranks of the elderly. Their leaders are pretty much invisible. Dwarfstan’s extreme nationalists, on the other hand, are a different matter. Their supporters are usually much younger, and their leaders such as Zhirinovsky, Aleksandr Dugin, Tamara Guzenkova & co are very visible, especially Zhirinovsky. They pose a far greater danger to the dwarf’s kleptocratic dictatorship than the communists. Furthermore, they have among their ranks mercenaries who have fought in the Donbas and returned with a grievance against the dwarf for what they see as lack of his support for seizing “Novorossiya”, if not all of the Ukraine. They are a far greater danger than the communists, and one that the dwarf himself created by embracing nationalism for his own purposes. This may well blow up in his face.

      • Alex George

        You are giving a picture of where the communists were two years ago. That is not where they are at now. That two years is significant, because millions more Russians have dropped below the poverty line in that time.

        The communists need bad times in Russia in order to increase their support. And for the past two years they have been getting bad times, although not too bad. But things are going to get worse (which means better, from a communist perspective).

        And they are very patient.