A note on the obliteration of the ‘responsible’ left in Europe and the United States

Serge Halimi rightly points out that:

The Occupy Wall Street protests in the US are also directed against the Street’s representatives in the Democratic Party and the White House. The protesters probably don’t know that Socialists in France still consider Barack Obama exemplary, since, unlike President Sarkozy, he had the foresight to take action against banks. Is there a misunderstanding? Those who are unwilling or unable to attack the pillars of the neoliberal order (financialisation, globalisation of movements of capital and goods) are tempted to personalise the disaster, to attribute the crisis in capitalism to poor planning or mismanagement by their political opponents. In France it’s Sarkozy, in Italy Berlusconi, in Germany Merkel, who are to blame. And elsewhere?

Elsewhere, and not only in the US, political leaders long considered as models by the moderate left also face angry crowds. In Greece, the president of the Socialist International, George Papandreou, is pursuing a policy of extreme austerity: privatisations, cuts in the civil service, and delivering economic and social sovereignty to a ultra-neoliberal “troika” (1). The conduct of the Spanish, Portuguese and Slovenian governments reminds us that the term “left” is now so debased that it is no longer associated with any specific political content.

The current French Socialist Party spokesman explains the impossible situation of European social democracy very clearly: in his new book Tourner la page, Benoît Hamon writes: “In the European Union, the European Socialist Party is historically associated, through the compromise linking it with Christian democracy, with the strategy of liberalising the internal market and the implications for social rights and public services. Socialist governments negotiated the austerity measures that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund wanted. In Spain, Portugal and Greece, opposition to the austerity measures is naturally directed against the IMF and the European Commission, but also against the socialist governments … Part of the European left no longer denies that it is necessary, like the European right, to sacrifice the welfare state in order to balance the budget and please the markets. … We have blocked the march of progress in several parts of the world. I cannot resign myself to this” (2).

Others think the debasement is irreversible because it is connected to the gentrification of European socialists and their lack of contact with the world of work.

The upshot: Leftist reformers in Europe and America’s legacy parties will never implement radical and desirable reforms unless large and active movements compel them to do so.

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