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Dissent on the future of Euro Social Democracy, American Conservatism

| 6 Comments

The Decent Left magazine Dissent has a pair of features in this issue. Robert Taylor asks "Does European Social Democracy have a Future?"

Based on demographics alone, the answer is clearly "no" within 30 years or less. In the near term, however, the answer is yes, despite or possibly because of the rising neo-fascist hard left. Taylor doesn't have a full answer to his question - at this point, nobody does. Nonetheless, his explanation of the key stress points is valuable, and so are the pointers to new thinking from people like Dutch Labour Party leader Wouter Bos. Given that soft socialism's failures have led to fascism in Europe before, that kind of adaptation and thinking is a service to all.

On the other side of the spectrum, Kevin Mattson asks "Has Conservatism Cracked Up?" Here, Dissent suffers from the lack of an inside perspective, but American conservatives are indeed going through a self-definition and reflection process. Sarah Palin's nomination has paused it - but not stopped it. Note that Europe's conservatives (including Britain's) have a very different identity, and would represent a separate subject.

6 Comments

When did European Social Democracy ever have a future? The Bolsheviks, the Nazis, the Soviets, and now the Islamists easily recognized them for what they are - recreational Barrel Fish, extra slow-moving.

And yet Glen, they have established a dominant ideological and institutional position on the continent.

Not all are victims ripe for the picking, even if that thread does run through their current incarnation like a worm through a rotten apple. And Europe itself is not poised for immediate collapse.

Until Europe either conclusively suicides or saves itself, this combination of observations means that social democracy in Eruope does have a future of its own, and a major role to play in Europe's future as well.

The question is the shape of that role, and the shape of that larger future. Neither is decided, or done, just yet.

wrong thread, but the one above (Almond's book) has a broken comments link.

he he, a "fragmentation" of the Left's voters.

IMHO Mr. Taylor is avoiding there to enter into the real cause of the problem. Since the European Left parties have been supporting the privileges of the state owned companies' workers (the have's), they have gotten away from the private workers (the have not's ). The ones from these that find their situation OK or that they can promote, usually vote now the right, looking for a bit more of freedom and economic expansion to do so. The ones that seek a disruptive change, vote more radical left parties, like Oskar Lafontaine's in Germany.

Note that these last have been previously cataloged "far left", but also "far right".

Also note that this has left the European Socialist Parties as a branch of the State themselves, close to the position of some oligarchs (who control the media) although as before, oligarchies have usually been cataloged "far right".

Trade unions followed a similar pattern.

Some economic reforms and privatizations have further shrunk the social voting base of those "State"-left parties. As a consequence, not only right wing parties prevail now in Europe, but they are far more "progressive" (seeking reforms) that left ones, which have to be entrenched in issues like abortion, gay marriage and all that stuff in order to disguise how reactionary they are.

Spain is a case appart. Spain followed such evolution, but it was derailed by political violence. A full control on the media has endowed the Spanish Socialist Party the possibility of being portrayed in the regional nationalist regions of Spain as a radical force whilst in the rest still showing a moderate image, which granted it a slim victory in 2008 elections. They have combined both branches of the Left. However, this can only be attained in a country such as Spain, with minorities very radicalized through political violence, full control of the media, and a good economic feeling, due to a real estate bubble.

Much of the attitudes we now see in Europe were support by the United States after the war. With the fear of the spread of communism, the Truman, Eisenhower Kennedy and Johnson administrations took on the responsibility for the defense of Europe leaving the Europeans free to spend money on social programs that competed with what the Communists purported to offer.

We were perhaps the major player in the construction of this system. Remember, their was widespread famine in Europe after the war and the continent's Industry was leveled. It took a masive Marshal plan to even begin to get the economy rolling. To put this in perspective, I went to Europe in 1967 stayed for 3 months travelled from Sweeden to Italy germany to England Holland to Spain and North Africa on 1,000 dollars and had money left when I got off the plane at Kennedy. Such was the economy 20 years after the end of the War.

There is a reality about Europe that American Policy has never confronted. It is horrilby traumatized after blowing it self to kingdom come, not once but twice in the last Century. We then allowed tham to prosper withouft signifigantly helping with their own defense. It was Reagan who, at the beginning of his administration, really changed the paradigm by announcing we would no longerallow our cities to be put at risk of nuclear attack in case of a Soviet attack, since we felt that we could do that containing the nuclear war to the European theater.

I see progress with the Europeans. Nato troops are in Afghanistan, Kosovo was a win. Unfortunately, no matter how impatient we might be about the Europeans progress on this front, one must remember Moses kept the Israelites in the desesrt for 2 generations to purge the slave attitude that they had learned in Egypt so he would have the type of Army he would need in order to enter Canaan.

The same thing seems to apply here.

I like that Moses' analogy.

Democracy in Continental Europe exists because the American people wanted. At the begining of the Second World War it was clear for many in Europe that the 80 year experiment on democracy there was ending, and that Fascism was the future. In this context it could be understood the surrendering of the French establishment to Hitler in spring 1940: European oligarchies preferred a Fascist dictator rather than a democratic system that could allow the Communists into power.

There was no longer democracy in Continental Europe. It was brought back by the white starred tanks of the US Army, as Spanish historian Pio Moa points out with these same words.

Then, America built there the kind of democracy they judged it was necessary in those post war-cold war years: economically socialist, which was what the European public was used to live in; watched by those same oligarchs and some formerly Fascists members, that would avoid any evolution towards Communism.

The problem arises when Reagan is elected and Communism collapses, whilst the structures built for the Cold War still pervive. How can a system designed to hinder any unwanted evolution evolve in a way not wanted by the oligarchies?

That is the problem of Europe, Fascist dictators passed, the Americans came and went, Communism rised and sank, but they, no matter what it happens, stay.

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