Far-left politics

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Far-left politics are political views located further on the left of the left-right spectrum than the standard political left. The term has been used to describe ideologies such as: communism, anarchism, neo-Marxism, anarcho-communism, left-communism, Marxism–Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, and Maoism.[1][2][3]


Far-left New Anticapitalist Party during a demonstration against pension reform in October 2010 in Paris.

Luke March of the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh defines the far-left in Europe as those who position themselves to the left of social democracy, which they see as insufficiently left-wing. The two main sub-types are called the radical left, who desire fundamental changes to neo-liberal globalist capitalism and progressive reform of democracy (such as direct democracy and the inclusion of marginalised communities), and the extreme left, who denounce liberal democracy as a "compromise with bourgeois political forces," and define capitalism more strictly. March states that "compared with the international communist movement 30 years ago, the far left has undergone a process of profound de-radicalisation. The extreme left is marginal in most places." March specifies four major subgroups within contemporary European far-left politics: communists, which he states exist only as a "commitment to Marxism (of sorts)" and a "historical sense of the movement"; democratic socialists, who reject both totalitarianism and neo-liberalism, are "in many cases non-Marxist," and support environmental issues and "substantive democracy"; populist socialists who are similar but "overlaid with a stronger anti-elite, anti-establishment appeal"; and social populists, who evidence "a dominant personalist leadership, relatively weak organisation and essentially incoherent ideology," "fusing left-wing and right-wing themes behind an anti-establishment appeal" (true Populists).[4]

To distinguish the far left from the moderate left, March and Mudde identify three "useful criteria": firstly, they reject the underlying socio-economic structure of contemporary capitalism; secondly, they advocate alternative economic and power structures involving redistribution of resources from political elites; and thirdly, they are internationalist, seeing causality between imperialism and globalism and regional socio-economic issues.[5]

Vít Hloušek and Lubomír Kopeček suggest secondary characteristics, such as anti-Americanism, anti-globalization, opposition to NATO and in some cases a rejection of European integration.[6]

In France, the term extrême-gauche ("far-left") is a generally accepted term for political groups that position themselves to the left of the Socialist Party, such as Trotskyists, Maoists, anarcho-communists and New Leftists. Some, such as political scientist Serge Cosseron, limit the scope to the left of the French Communist Party,[7] but there is no real consensus.

Far-left terrorism[edit]

Aftermath of the bombing on American Ramstein Air Base in 1981 by left-wing terrorist group RAF

Many far-left militant organizations formed from existing political parties in the 1960s and 1970s,[8] such as the Red Brigades, Montoneros and the Red Army Faction.[9] These groups generally aim to overthrow capitalism and the wealthy ruling classes.[10][11][12]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Paolo Chiocchetti. The Radical Left Party Family in Western Europe, 1989-2015. London: Routledge, 2017.


  1. ^ Left Communism in Australia, by J.A. Dawson Thesis 11
  2. ^ Left Communism and Trotskyism, by Loren Goldner et al.
  3. ^ Arnold Paul Goldstein (1 January 1983). Prevention and Control of Aggressión. Pergamon Press. p. 312. ISBN 0080293751.
  4. ^ March, Luke (2008). Contemporary Far Left Parties in Europe: From Marxism to the Mainstream? (PDF). Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. p. 3. ISBN 9783868720006. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  5. ^ Hloušek, Vít; Kopeček, Lubomír (2010). Origin, Ideology and Transformation of Political Parties: East-Central and Western Europe Compared. Farnham: Ashgate. p. 46. ISBN 9780754678403.
  6. ^ Hloušek, Vít; Kopeček, Lubomír (2010). Origin, Ideology and Transformation of Political Parties: East-Central and Western Europe Compared. Farnham: Ashgate. p. 46. ISBN 9780754678403.
  7. ^ Cosseron, Serge (2007). Dictionnaire de l'extrême gauche. Paris: Larousse. p. 20. ISBN 2035826209.
  8. ^ Weinberg, Leonard; Pedahzur, Ami; Perliger, Arie (2009). Political Parties and Terrorist Groups (2nd ed.). London: Routledge. p. 53. ISBN 9781135973377.
  9. ^ Chaliand, Gérard (2010). The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to Al Qaeda. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520247093.
  10. ^ "Red Brigades". Stanford University. Retrieved 1 November 2019. The PL [Prima Linea] sought to overthrow the capitalist state in Italy and replace it with a dictatorship of the proletariat.
  11. ^ Raufer, Xavier (October–December 1993). "The Red Brigades: A Farewell to Arms". Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. 16 (4): 319. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  12. ^ "Red Brigades announce end of their struggle to overthrow German state". The Irish Times. 22 April 1998. Retrieved 1 November 2019. German detectives yesterday confirmed as authentic a declaration by the Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorist group that its struggle to overthrow the German state is over.

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