Distrust of the Left


It is apparently the Third Way, the political philosophy which transformed the centre-left into a winning hegemonic bloc in the mid-90's, that is coming back to haunt it in 2009. The Third Way, which saw the hard-line democratic socialism of the 60's and 70's embrace Western capitalism and take the left almost to the radical centre, was mainly characterized by the Clinton and Blair governments.

One must recall (not that I do) that in 90's it was actually the left in Europe (which was relatively powerful at the time) that pushed so fervently for the deregulation of the markets. In pursuing "the mad capitalism of the casino" the socialists abandoned their historic basis and may have played a great role in the financial trouble we find ourselves in today. And today, when the socialists are calling once again for the regulation of the markets and a return to state power they find themselves weakened.

In Eastern Europe the left is in deeper trouble. There is a huge distrust, shared even by those who were born after the fall of Communism. Józef Oleksy of the SLD and former Prime Minister of Poland has indeed admitted that he had 'a quasi-religious belief that there was no other way than the capitalism proposed by the West'. The ghost of Communism and the lingering haunt of neo-liberalism pushed by the left itself leave much to be desired and it is no surprise that Conservatives in religious Poland are set for a landslide victory in MEP elections.

The PES itself is deeply divided especially when it comes to the choice of Commission President. Shocked by the surprise unanimous endorsement of Barroso by the EPP, including endorsment from the social-democratic and labour governments of Spain and the United Kingdom, the PES' weakness is exposed. The French socialists on the other hand are deeply opposed to Manuel, whom they view as being chiefly responsible for the Commission's (in)actions during the financial crisis. The German SPD which is in a coalition government with Chancellor Merkel is silent. It is ironic that the European Green Alliance are perhaps far more supportive of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (of the PES) for Commission President then the PES itself.

Caught in this harsh theoritcal conflict and by the suddenness of the economic crisis the PES is in a deep state of paralysis and it is not surprising that they are set to remain second best. The fundamental problems are twofold:

- The Third Way social democracy has led to the distrust of the left by many who are attached to historic principle and by those who are victim to the widespread economic liberalism of the West, for which the left played a key role in the 90's.
- On the other hand, a return to the 70's hard-line socialism cannot function in the 21st Century.

I refuse to believe that the left has come to extinction, but despite all the years it has spent re-fashioning itself and the stint of success it enjoyed in the 90's, it seems that the left has yet to come up with new ideas for its revival as a trustworthy force capable of victory.


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3 Responses to Distrust of the Left

Red said...

I am fairly sceptical about the so-called "Third Way" that is often associated with Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. As a socialist, I always ask myself: how would this type of politics benefit those who need the greatest amount of help in a particular society? Historically, I believe that the "Third Way" has not done much to bridge the gap between the extremely rich and the extremely poor people in the world!

With reference to an article about Spain published in the latest edition of The Economist, "With almost a third of the workforce on temporary contracts, marginal workers are easy to shed by the simple expedient of not renewing contracts" (p. 31). The most shocking thing is that this is happening in a country presently governed by a Socialist party!!!

When considering other leftist organisations, it is quite evident that the errors committed by various Marxist-Leninist parties are likely to continue haunting millions of people for many years to come. Such errors and the massive anti-socialist propaganda campaign that was waged in virtually every capitalist country in the world have generated such an intense distrust in Marxist-Leninist organisations that it is extremely unlikely that such organisations would have an impact on government policies any time in the near future.

Nowadays, I consider myself as a Socialist. I embrace democracy and believe that any political changes should come from below; change should come about democratically. So far so good. I might also accept the possibility of having a mixed economy which includes a private sector, but I find it hard to believe that a truly Socialist organisation could ever embrace an economic model whereby the private sector dictates the agenda for the members of a particular society. It is not enough to talk about progressive ideals; such ideals need to be supported by plans to translate them into reality.

To me, Socialism is about creating a society whereby all people can relate to each other as members of a single family. Our current culture, heavily influenced by an incredible amount of competitive shows and the notion of the free market economy, is not really compatible with the goals of Socialism. How can our society be called Socialist when people who go to one school tend to be favoured over other children who attend a different school? These are issues that people like Dr Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici used to talk about in the 1980s. Nowadays, it seems as though many people who call themselves Socialists have forgotten about the importance of these issues. I am not even going to mention working conditions here since I would need around an hour to document the importance of Socialism in such an area! :)

Anyway, whilst agreeing that the Left needs to keep abreast of the latest challenges affecting the world (illegal immigration, for instance), it should never surrender its core values. If a Leftist party can only serve as a pressure group to criticise details relating to another party's projects, it should not even bother contesting any elections. A Leftist party needs to present a different way of doing things and it should also offer a different set of goals. To conclude, if the masses do not perceive that a Leftist party is there to protect them from the undeniable exploitation that comes with a neo-liberal economy, they will probably not feel motivated to vote for such a party.

Andrew Sciberras said...

Thanks Red, your insight was fantastic. I agree with you on many levels. I'm not sure if social democrats in Europe can or should dismantle the free market economy but when in power they should make it far lest capitalist and far more social democratic. There is nothing wrong, in my mind, about regulation and intervention to keep the economy stable and in check.

I am also quite shocked about the situation in Spain, a socialist country with 17% unemployment. But Zapatero promised a brighter future and one hopes that such would be the outcome.

One basic principle of socialism is that of equality. To me the blood of socialism may have been the transfer of power to the working class but its soul is written in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration: all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This principle is non-negotiable. It is the raison d-etre for my latest posts.

Andrew Sciberras said...

...and actions

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