Party of the European Left (PEL): Development, Positions & Status

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  • 0:02 European United Left
  • 0:33 History
  • 2:40 Politics
  • 4:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the European political party, the Party of the European Left, a coalition of socialist, communist, and other leftist parties which coalesced after the fall of the Soviet Union.

European United Left

When you think of 'left-wing' politics, what do you think of? Likely you think of Democrats or even farther-left fringe parties, or issues like the environment, social programs, and perhaps even an expansionary government. Well, the United States' Democratic Party doesn't even come close to the left-wing politics that can be found in Europe. These far-left parties are perhaps best exemplified by the European United Left, a coalition of communist, socialist, and other left-wing parties in the European Parliament.


The left-wing communist and socialist parties which make up today's European United Left (or GUE) did not originally work together at the European level. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of these parties had worked toward expanding Soviet-style communism in their own countries. Afterward, these parties significantly revised their agendas and began working together to implement leftist policies in European institutions as well as in their home countries.

The European United Left was first founded in 1989, by four leftist parties from Spain, Greece, Denmark, and Italy. Throughout the 1990s, the GUE expanded its scope and began inviting and accepting leftist parties that were not explicitly socialist or communist. The GUE first ran candidates for election to the European Parliament as a stand-alone parliamentary group for the first time in 1994. The leftist group won 4.9% of the vote and 28 seats in the 1994 elections, coming fourth amongst all parties.

With the 1995 incorporation of Sweden and Finland, the GUE gained new allies in the socialist, communist, and leftist parties from these Scandinavian countries. These new parties formed the Nordic-Green Left Alliance, and formed a new, larger coalition with the GUE. The new Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic-Green Left Alliance formed due to the common ideals of these leftist parties. With the new support, the GUE/NGL won 6.7% of the vote and 42 seats, though they were now the fifth largest parliamentary group.

Support for the GUE/NGL slowly declined over the next few elections, and the party lost a few seats. However, in the 2014 elections, GUE/NGL support surged back in the wake of economic turmoil in Europe and the unpopular austerity measures put in place which slashed government spending in several countries. The GUE/NGL won 6.9% of the vote in 2014, seating 52 members - its best ever showing.


The GUE has never garnered enough votes or seats to have a major say in European politics, and claims that the institutions of the European Union have yet to fully represent the values and needs of Europeans. The GUE believes all Europeans want an egalitarian Europe which welcomes increased national integration and acts as a single unit. According to the GUE, the current policy and direction of EU politics stands in the way of this vision. Too long, they claim, EU politics has been based on market-oriented policy which helps richer EU countries at the expense of lesser EU nations and other, third-world countries.

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