Socialism’s Comeback | December 11, 2008

As the debate about whether the Feds should
"bail out" the big three auto makers comes
to a head, it is relevant to answer charges
made by conservatives and right wingers
about whether this is "nationalization".iT IS NOT.
In the current situation it does not mean
actually running the companies but rather
having a "car Czar" overseer to
monitor how the "loan" is being spent.

What perilous path does this lead us down?
Or is that path really that perilous? The article below
examines some of the political directions
taken in Europe, with an ear to understanding
how this can affect us here in the good ol'
capitalist US of A

By Neil Clark
New Statesman (UK)AsAs the debate about whether the Feds should "bail out" the big three auto makers comes to a head it is relevant to answer charges made by conservatives and right wingers about what this "nationalization" means. In our case it does not mean actually running the companies but having a "car Czar" overseer. overseer to monitor how the "loan" is being spent. the debate about whether the Feds should "bail out" the big three auto makers comes to a head it is relevant to answer charges made by conservatives and right wingers about what this "nationalization" means. In our case it does not mean actually running the companies but having a "car Czar" overseer. overseer to monitor how the "loan" is being spent.
December 2008


At the beginning of the century, the chances of
socialism making a return looked close to zero. Yet
now, all around Europe, the red flag is flying again

"If socialism signifies a political and economic system
in which the government controls a large part of the
economy and redistributes wealth to produce social
equality, then I think it is safe to say the likelihood
of its making a comeback any time in the next
generation is close to zero," wrote Francis Fukuyama,
author of The End of History, in Time magazine in 2000.

He should take a trip around Europe today.

Make no mistake, socialism - pure, unadulterated
socialism, an ideology that was taken for dead by
liberal capitalists - is making a strong comeback.
Across the continent, there is a definite trend in
which long-established parties of the centre left that
bought in to globalisation and neoliberalism are seeing
their electoral dominance challenged by unequivocally
socialist parties which have not.

The parties in question offer policies which mark a
clean break from the Thatcherist agenda that many of
Europe's centre-left parties have embraced over the
past 20 years. They advocate renationalisation of
privatised state enterprises and a halt to further
liberalisation of the public sector. They call for new
wealth taxes to be imposed and for a radical
redistribution of wealth. They defend the welfare state
and the rights of all citizens to a decent pension and
free health care. They strongly oppose war - and any
further expansion of Nato.

Most fundamentally of all, they challenge an economic
system in which the interests of ordinary working
people are subordinated to those of capital.

Nowhere is this new leftward trend more apparent than
in Germany, home to the meteoric rise of Die Linke
("The Left"), a political grouping formed only 18
months ago - and co-led by the veteran socialist "Red"
Oskar Lafontaine, a long-standing scourge of big
business. The party, already the main opposition to the
Christian Democrats in eastern Germany, has made
significant inroads into the vote for the Social
Democratic Party (SPD) in elections to western
parliaments this year, gaining representation in Lower
Saxony, Hamburg and Hesse. Die Linke's unapologetically
socialist policies, which include the renation
alisation of electricity and gas, the banning of hedge
funds and the introduction of a maximum wage, chime
with a population concerned at the dismantling of
Germany's mixed economic model and the adoption of
Anglo-Saxon capitalism - a shift that occurred while
the SPD was in government.

An opinion poll last year showed that 45 per cent of
west Germans (and 57 per cent of east Germans) consider
socialism "a good idea"; in October, another poll
showed that Germans overwhelmingly favour
nationalisation of large segments of the economy. Two-
thirds of all Germans say they agree with all or some
of Die Linke's programme.

It's a similar story of left-wing revival in
neighbouring Holland. There the Socialist Party of the
Netherlands (SP), which almost trebled its
parliamentary representation in the most recent general
election (2006), and which made huge gains in last
year's provincial elections, continues to make headway.

Led by a charismatic 41-year-old epidemiologist, Agnes
Kant, the SP is on course to surpass the Dutch Labour
Party, a member of the ruling conservative-led
coalition, as the Netherlands' main left-of centre

The SP has gained popularity by being the only left-
wing Dutch parliamentary party to campaign for a "No"
vote during the 2005 referendum on the EU
constitutional treaty and for its opposition to large-
scale immigration, which it regards as being part of a
neoliberal package that encourages flexible labour

The party calls for a society where the values of
"human dignity, equality and solidarity" are most
prominent, and has been scathing in its attacks on what
it describes as "the culture of greed", brought about
by "a capitalism based on inflated bonuses and easy
money". Like Die Linke, the SP campaigns on a staunchly
anti-war platform - demanding an end to Holland's role
as "the US's lapdog".

In Greece, the party on the up is the Coalition of the
Radical Left (SYRIZA), the surprise package in last
year's general election. As public opposition to the
neoliberal econo mic policies of the ruling New
Democracy government builds, SYRIZA's opinion-poll
ratings have risen to almost 20 per cent - putting it
within touching distance of PASOK, the historical left-
of-centre opposition, which has lurched sharply to the
right in recent years. SYRIZA is particularly popular
with young voters: its support among those aged 35 and
under stands at roughly 30 per cent in the polls, ahead

In Norway, socialists are already in power; the ruling
"red-green" coalition consists of the Socialist Left
Party, the Labour Party and the Centre Party. Since
coming to power three years ago, the coalition - which
has been labelled the most left-wing government in
Europe, has halted the privatisation of state-owned
companies and made further development of the welfare
state, public health care and improving care for the
elderly its priorities.

The success of such forces shows that there can be an
electoral dividend for left-wing parties if voters see
them responding to the crisis of modern capitalism by
offering boldly socialist solutions. Their success also
demonstrates the benefits to electoral support for
socialist groupings as they put aside their differences
to unite behind a commonly agreed programme.

For example, Die Linke consists of a number of internal
caucuses - or forums - including the "Anti-Capitalist
Left", "Communist Platform" and "Democratic Socialist
Forum". SYRIZA is a coalition of more than ten Greek
political groups. And the Dutch Socialist Party - which
was originally called the Communist Party of the
Netherlands, has successfully brought socialists and
communists together to support its collectivist

It is worth noting that those European parties of the
centre left which have not fully embraced the
neoliberal agenda are retaining their dominant
position. In Spain, the governing Socialist Workers'
Party has managed to maintain its broad left base and
was re-elected for another four-year term in March,
with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
promising a "socialist economic policy" that would
focus on the needs of workers and the poor.

There are exceptions to the European continent's shift
towards socialism. Despite the recent election of
leftist Martine Aubry as leader of the French Socialist
Party, the French left has been torn apart by
divisions, at the very moment when it could be
exploiting the growing unpopularity of the Sarkozy

And, in Britain, despite opinion being argu ably more
to the left on economic issues than at any time since
1945, few are calling for a return to socialism.

The British left, despite promising initiatives such as
September's Convention of the Left in Manchester, which
gathered representatives from several socialist groups,
still remains fragmented and divided. The left's
espousal of unrestricted or loosely controlled
immigration is also, arguably, a major vote loser among
working-class voters who should provide its core
support. No socialist group in Britain has as yet
articulated a critique of mass immigration from an
anti-capitalist and anti-racist viewpoint in the way
the Socialist Party of the Netherlands has.

And even if a Die Linke-style coalition of progressive
forces could be built and put on a formal footing in
time for the next general election, Britain's first-
past-the-post system provides a formidable obstacle to

Nevertheless, the prognosis for socialism in Britain
and the rest of Europe is good. As the recession bites,
and neoliberalism is discredited, the phenomenon of
unequivocally socialist parties with clear, anti-
capitalist, anti-globalist messages gaining ground, and
even replacing "Third Way" parties in Europe, is likely
to continue.

Even in Britain, where the electoral system grants huge
advantage to the established parties, pressure on
Labour to jettison its commitment to neoliberal
policies and to adopt a more socialist agenda is sure
to intensify.

1 Comment »

  1. […] December 11, 2008 Go To: LeftOfDayton […]

    Pingback by Socialism’s Comeback : DaytonOS — December 12, 2008 @ 4:18 am

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