Thursday, December 11

SOCIALISM'S BIG COMEBACK IN EUROPE

Neil Clark New Statesman, UK - 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 center left that bought in to globalization and neo-liberalism 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 renationalization of privatized state enterprises and a halt to further liberalization 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. . . Die Linke's unapologetically socialist policies, which include the renationalization 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 favor nationalization of large segments of the economy. Two- thirds of all Germans say they agree with all or some of Die Linke's program.

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

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 neo-liberal package that encourages flexible labor markets. . .

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". . . .

In Greece, the party on the up is the Coalition of the Radical Left, the surprise package in last year's general election. . . .

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 labeled the most left-wing government in Europe, has halted the privatization of state-owned companies and made further development of the welfare state, public health care and improving care for the elderly its priorities.

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