Monday, June 02, 2014

The crisis of Social Democracy in Europe

Ignacio Ramonet, the former editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique, addresses the very topical issue of The decline of social democracy in Europe IPS/Deccan Herald 05.28.2014:

In 2002, the social democrats were in power in 15 countries of the EU. Today, despite the fact that the financial crisis has proved the social, moral, and ecological bankruptcy of ultraliberalism, social democrats rule in only five countries.

Indeed, repudiating their very foundations has become a habit: European social democrats decided years ago to ramp up privatisations, demand lower budgets at the expense of the citizens, call for raising the retirement age, dismantle the public sector, while pushing for giant corporate mergers and concentration and pampering the banks. It gradually converted itself, without remorse, to social-liberalism, dropping as priorities certain objectives that were part of its ideological DNA — for example, full employment, the defence of acquired social advantages, the development of public services, and the eradication of hunger and poverty.
The most dramatic example of a loss in confidence for a long-standing social-democratic party in recent years is that of PASOK in Greece. Mark Lowen reports on that sad story in How Greece's once-mighty Pasok party fell from grace BBC News 04/13/2013:

The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) has dominated the Greek political scene for more than three decades. It soared to power in 1981. The dictatorship had just ended here; Pasok created a welfare state, transforming Greece into a modern, European country.

But today it languishes at around 6% in the polls, widely reviled for corruption and for accepting hated austerity while in power in 2009. ...

For now Pasok is on life support as part of the coalition government. But few expect it can truly rise again. At its height, it was backed by almost half the Greek electorate under the adored leadership of Andreas Papandreou.
It has since refounded itself with a new name, Ελιά (Elia/Olive Tree), or at least attached itself to the name of a small group that already existed, as Andy Dabilis describes for the Greek Reporter (Venizelos Says PASOK Over, Olive Tree In 04/30/2014)

Essentially declaring his once-dominant party dead, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos says it will survive the critical May elections for the European Parliament and Greek municipalities although it has had to attach itself to a new center-left political group Elia, The Olive Tree.

PASOK had been polling around 3-5 percent in polls after joining the coalition government of Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative minister Antonis Samaras and backing tough austerity measures that have made most Greeks furious at the ruling parties.
And Dabilis explains some of the policies that have led to such a state of affairs for the party once known as PASOK:

Venizelos was made Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister in return for supporting pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that his party had begun on the orders of international lenders in a previous administration headed by then-premier George Papandreou, who quit in 2011 after relentless protests, strikes and riots. [my emphasis]
The left economist Costas Lapavitsas discusses this crisis of Social Democracy in Europe in Financialization and the Collapse of European Social Democracy - Costas Lapavitsas on RAI The Real News (7/8) 05/29/2014:

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1 comment:

Mike Lumish said...

I find all of this to be deeply disturbing, with my history as a Michael Harrington style social democrat. Twenty years ago in Scandinavia I felt right at home, but at present they do seem to have lost their way - if not completely abandoning their roots as you describe in Greece.

It's also disturbing that seven years after the breakdown we in America have not been able to pull our economy back to the original trajectory - the unit root guys are having a field day with this one, but we are bearing the burden.