Ok, what Way now?

The German SPD's electoral untergang was perhaps one of the very few remaining nails hammered into the coffin where European social democracy as we know it has been laid to rest. Whilst social-democracy is still relatively powerful, it must be said that the "hard" left and other fringe-groups of political spectrum such as the Greens are becoming more trustworthy than the political orientation which seeks the middle-ground. These are all facts which no one can deny.

This is a problem for social democracy and therefore a problem for the left. It is real, it is identifiable. One leading argument for this downfall is that the electorate is no longer bothered with ideology and fancy statements of policy about social markets and regulation. So it follows that the 'message' of third-way political parties was not explained/delivered well enough, or it simply wasn't what the elctorate wants to hear. Some even argue that it had no message to begin with. This argument however, stops here for whilst it identifies that the 'message' has failed it offers no plausible alternative. One still needs to identify therefore the type of message social-democracy needs to deliver if it is to become credible once again.
Another argument is that the mix-and-match politics of the third way has alienated those who identify themselves with socialism and the labour movement. The new left tried to supplant the old grass-roots by embracing neo-liberalism as the way forward. It is of no surprise that these voters, which reject the centre-ground, turn to more radical parties such as those falling on the hard left and perhaps even the Greens. This has led to a deep fragmentation in socialist parties across Europe culminating in the battle of different factions and ultimately in party splits. No wonder that social democrats fared hopelessly even in times of economic crisis.
In December the PES will hold its 8th Congress since its conception, with the aim to tackle the social democratic crisis. It is admirable that the pan-European socialist party openly admits that its message has failed to reach voters' aspirations. Questions need to be raised as to how and why this is so. More importantly however, it needs to seek solutions to the problems that have become so deeply rooted in social democracy and this requires a revisionist as well as a pragmatic approach. How can social democrats convert the ideological politics of a better tomorrow into something sensible, real and credible? What can social democrats do to overcome the problems that accompany certain issues such as immigration, climate change and globalisation? Should social democratic parties become more open and more pluralistic? Is it time to move away from the centre-ground? These few questions have certainly been posited before. Now is the time to come up with plausible answers.

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3 Responses to Ok, what Way now?

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, Portugal and Greece just elected the socialist parties.

The Germans, voted for Hitler once. It says something about them.

I hope the Left doesn't turn into a bunch of whiners, always dreaming about the missed utopia and so one and I hope no one comes up with some 'fourth way' bright idea.

Andrew Sciberras said...

I'm not so sure about a "fourth" way. If anything, what is needed is for social democratic parties to abandon the dogmatic right (characterized by the third way) and return to their roots, whilst making inroads with others falling on the left in the process.

I am glad that Portugal and Greece have elected socialist parties although it shouldn't just let us deny that social democracy is in a bit of a tangle...to put it mildly.

What I hope is that we move away from the whining and start to come up with good ideas.

Red said...

I still believe that most social democratic parties in Europe will continue to lose popular support as long as they try to "struggle for the working class" and embrace capitalism at the same time. The interests of the person who is struggling to make ends meet, who is being exploited at work by doing the tasks that three people should be doing, whose work appears to have little impact other than making the shareholders of a company richer...these interests clash head-on with those of the group of people who are motivated by greed...the desire to maximise profit and to minimise costs.

There was a time when individuals such as Dom Mintoff and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici framed their national objectives within a socialist discourse. During those times, a speech about, say, education was rarely just a mere criticism of what other parties had failed to do; education would be analysed in terms of improving society in a way whereby every person had a certain amount of knowledge that could be utilised to create a better country for all. A country in which people came first. A country in which people helped one another.

Joseph Muscat has worked very hard to encourage more debate about "progressive ideas". Yet, there is still virtually no talk of socialism and its benefits to society.

I think that more and more individuals are turning to Communist parties because many people are tired of a contest between parties who simply promise to lure more foreign investment to the country and whose discourse is often limited to critiques and counter-critiques. Perhaps more people are becoming aware that as long as the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party adopt capitalist principles to govern a country, thousands of individuals will keep being used and abused at work, receiving ridiculously low salaries, etc.

What is so "progressive" or "social" about a party that fails to criticise the economic system that creates so many victims each day? As a citizen, I want to know that when I need a decent job, I will find one. That when I earn a salary, that money will see me through till the end of the month. That when I am sick, I am able to receive good and free treatment. That I will always have a roof over my head. These are the things politicians should talk more about.

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