Who Votes for the Left and Why? In Search of Our Identity

Strategy Seminar 2022

Espace Niemeyer
2 Pl. du Colonel Fabien
75019 Paris


This annual strategy seminar organised by transform! europe and the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation will focus on the sociology of the left vote and various conglomerates of the radical left.


The radical left in Europe has been debating for years the reasons behind its decline, drawing conclusions from the results of national and European elections, the social basis that influences or not, its impact on the political mobilisations, and the extent to which sets or not the political agenda in our continent. This debate results to the question of the radical left identity of today and the constraint in spotting the changes that the crisis of political representation — which obviously affects also the left — has brought.

The annual strategic seminar organised by transform! europe and the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation has been a point of reference for the work and methodology of our think tanks. This year we aim to tackle questions related not only with the European elections, but in general with the social basis of the left in Europe and the reasons behind our weakness to mobilise social strata with our political programme and influence the European politics, both in national and in the EU level. We wish to dig into the sociology of the left vote today, identify the socioeconomic profile of the people who preferentially vote for the left, and in parallel identify who do not, despite the fact that we consider them as strata that we could politically represent. Such a process will lead us to some conclusions on where the left could potentially deploy in order to extent its social basis, and consequently, the electoral one.

The second pillar of this year’s seminar will be the examination of the variable of class in our contemporary era in combination with the various mutations of capitalism. Much of the left’s soft spot on identifying the social needs of the people is the weak analysis of the social structures and the modern composition of the classes. Often, we face the working classes in ways that historically belong to the past and we fail to acknowledge the interconnection of various variables alongside with class, such as gender and/or race – racial background. However, available data from existing surveys upon the sociology of the vote prove that different variables and their combination lead to particular electoral behaviors.

In a year from now, EU will enter the electoral period and much have changed since the last European elections. The results of the 2019 elections were disappointing and damaging for the left forces in Europe. The European Left needs to reboot with a common political strategy and a concrete vision for Europe. transform! europe, as the political foundation of the Party of the European Left, and the network of left-wing think tanks all across Europe will work systemically and — wishfully — decisively for a rejuvenation of the radical left parties in Europe and the common presence and fight in the European elections.

The ultimate goal of the seminar is to for the left be more capable of articulating a political programme, and a strategy to promote it, that will firstly, remobilise our existing social basis, but also give us the leverage to deploy further than than and make the European Left the political force that will convince more social majorities and guarantee a socioeconomic programme with transformative power for our national states, as well as for the EU as a common project that serves equality, justice, peace, and solidarity.

The seminar is open to invited attendees only.

For more information, please contact: Angelina Giannopoulou, Facilitator of “European Integration & Left Strategy”, giannopoulou[at]transform-network.net


Thursday, 24 Nov

9:30—10:00 (CET): Welcome speeches and introduction to the concept of the seminar


  • Gala Kabbaj, transform! europe’s facilitator of the Working Group “Radical, Far and Populist Right”; researcher at Espaces Marx, France
  • Angelina Giannopoulou, transform! europe’s facilitator of the Working Group “European Integration and Left Strategy”, Greece

10:00—11:30 (CET): Session 1: Mutations of the labour market and forms of subjectification


  • Yann Le Lann, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Lille & President of Espaces Marx; member of the transform! europe board, France


  • Hugo Touzet, Dr. of Sociology, Researcher at Espaces Marx, France

This session addresses how the labour market is structured at the European level by developing a double move, firstly through flexibility and precarity, and secondly through the racialised and feminised labour force. Deconstructing the figure of the working class as a homogenous group of white male workers, and in parallel, deploying precarity as a sociological category the way Guy Standing had described it through the notion of “class-in-the-making”, the first aim is to grasp the new and often diverse forms of subjectifications produced. In parallel, and drawn from the process described, we wish to face the puzzling question of the middle class(es). Is the concept of “the vanishing middle class” characterised by such a vagueness that creates political deadlocks for the left strategy?

11:30—11:45 (CET): Coffee break

11:45—13:15 (CET): Session 2: The impact of precariousness and social stratification: Class experiences on shaping the vote


  • Walter Haeusl, PhD Researcher in Political Science and Sociology, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy
  • Luís Ramiro, Associate Professor of Political Science, National Distance Education University of Spain – UNED, Spain


  • Gauthier Delozière, PhD Candidate in Political Theory, Sciences Po, France

Precariousness describes a labour condition shaped primarily by the meltdown of permanent, regular jobs who used to create aspirations of an ascending social mobility. The multiplication of flexible labour regimes in combination with the effects of the globalised and ever-expanding digitalised economy have created a landscape of fragmented working strata where trade unions are either absent or powerless and the bargaining power of the workers relies solely with their individual capacity and/or efforts. Have these transformations unquestionably weakened the role of the political left or do we witness an over-mobilisation of some of the precarious profiles that the radical left must take into account as a central political subject?

13:15—14:30 (CET): Lunch

14:30—16:00 (CET): Session 3: Trade unions and voting patterns. Conclusions from France, Belgium, and the Czech Republic


  • Tristan Haute, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Lille, France
  • Daniela Ostrá, Assistant Professor, Department of Politics & European Studies, Palacký University, Czech Republic


  • Antoine de Cabanes, PhD Candidate in Political Science & Political Economy, University of Louvain, Belgium-France

The left and the labour movement have intertwined histories. As a field for the workers to organise politically, the link between unions and political parties has long been reasonable. However, it is getting more and more contested due to the individualisation of the collective work arrangements, the decline of unionism and the displacement of the workers’ struggles from the actual workplaces. These are what now constitutes a critical battlefield for the ideological work of the left. In this session, we want to explore the way in which the relationship to the unions (presence in the company, membership, strike participation, etc.) affects the electoral behavior in France, Belgium, and the Czech Republic, and to evaluate the impact of unions on the electoral preferences.

16:00—16:30 (CET): Coffee Break

16:30—18:00 (CET): Session 4: The politicisation of the youth and attitudes towards the left


  • Maro Pantelidou Maloutas, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Athens, Greece
  • Dimitris Papanikolopoulos, Dr. of Political Science & Independent Researcher, Greece


  • Angelina Giannopoulou, transform! europe’s facilitator of the Working Group “European Integration and Left Strategy”, Greece

The youth express the most militant and promising part of the political left and history has proved its central role in social mobilisations and political uprisings. Parallel to that, the demographics of the vote reveal the preferential vote of the youth to the left. The left usually treats the youth as an ancillary group of its support base; therefore, it is imperative to reconsider the relation between the youth and the left politics. Could we say that the “institutionalisation” of the left politics is the main factor of the detachment of the youth from the parties of the left? Or the crisis of political representation affects equally and without differentiation the youth as well? The youth has been mobilised over the past period for a number of issues, mainly the climate emergency, but also the gender inequality and gender violence, and here, again, the question of the gender variable appears as crucial. How can we transform the left-wing parties into an attractive and inspiring project for the youth by giving them an important role on the revitalisation of the left and the building of a realistic utopia of today?

Friday, 25  Nov

10:30—12:00 (CET): Session 5: The voting behaviour of ethnic and immigrant origin minorities and the UBI as a key means to win the vote


  • Laura Morales, Professor of Political Science, Sciences Po, France-Spain
  • Matthew Johnson, Professor of Politics, Northumbria University, UK


  • Giuseppe Cugnata, PhD candidate in Political Science and Sociology, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy

More and more, the vote of the descendants of immigrants is at stake. Their political preferences are mostly analysed in relation with the countries or regions of origin. We aim to apprehend the political practices of these groups through their social positions and draw an intersectional analysis of the voting patterns. The radical left brings together profiles that are discriminated against on the basis of their origin but also for their unstable and constantly insecure social status. It is therefore essential to understand the types of politicisation of these groups. Moreover, the left needs to come up with new strategic tools in order to cross over to its traditional, but also broader audiences. Economic tools that deal with social and economic faultlines are likely to be supported by those who benefit. A Universal Basic Income could be a key means for the left to win the hearts of the voters.

12:00—12:15 (CET): Coffee break

12:15—13:45 Session 6: Gender, politicisation, and voting preference: A particular interest for the left-wing parties?


  • Raul Gomez, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics, University of Liverpool, UK-Spain
  • Małgorzata Kulbaczewska-Figat, Journalist & Editor-in-chief of “Cross-border talks”, Poland


  • Gala Kabbaj, transform! europe’s facilitator of the Working Group “Strategies Against the Far-right”; researcher at Espaces Marx, France

Gender is beyond a shadow of a doubt a variable in diversified voting patterns and electoral behavior. It is especially the gender gap in the voting preference for the extreme right that attracts the attention of political commentators. Indeed, the extreme-right vote continues to be a male practice in many countries, even if in some cases (Marine Le Pen in France) when an extreme right-wing party reaches high scores ends up mitigating the gender differentiation. Taking into consideration the social positions of women, as well as the labour regimes they are mostly found at, structurally more devalued and less well paid than those of men, but also the fact that they are at the heart of the ideological work struggle of the movement, the political left has a strong and particular interest for their voting preference. Moreover, we need to dig into the resonance behind their abstention.

13:45—15:00 CET): Lunch

15:00—16:30 (CET): Session 7: Case studies combined: The popular vote in France and in Greece


  • Antoine de Cabanes, PhD Candidate in Political Science & Political Economy, University of Louvain, Belgium-France
  • Danai Koltsida, Director of Nicos Poulantzas Institute, member of the transform! europe board, Greece


  • Tatiana Moutinho, transform! europe’s facilitator of the Working Group “Cooperation Strategies for Southern Europe”, Portugal

This session seeks to trace the way in which labour relations, the different labour regimes, and the self-identification when it comes to class positions shape the electoral behaviour of the working strata in France and in Greece. The aim is to understand how people with often relatively similar social statuses orient themselves towards antagonistic political options and how the popular electorates are shaped. In both case studies we will optimise the most recent data from various electoral circles, trying to identify patterns, trends, but also shifts and contradictions in the moment of the ballot box. What kind of differences emerge in analysing the data from these countries and what lessons can be learnt for the European left from two national examples where the radical left parties perform quite well and have a parliamentary influence?

16:30—16:45 (CET): Coffee Break

16:45—18:15 (CET): Closing part: Reflections on the debate and political perspectives


  • Cornelia Hildebrandt, Co-President of transform! europe & Member of the Institute for Critical Social Analysis – Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation, German
  • Marga Ferré, Co-President of transform! europe & Member of the Europe of Citizens Foundation, Spain


The contributions of scholars to strategic questions posed by Transform Europe is a first step to a process that has the European elections as an horizon, but is not limited to them. Gaining a more accurate view of the sociology of the left vote and the current forms of social stratification tools us up in order to develop a critical view of the structure and the programmatic deployment of the radical left parties, as well as the new forms of politicisation and the demand for political participation.