The intellectual challenge for social democrats is not just to repudiate the neo-liberal extremism that has landed us in this mess, but to advance the case that the social-democratic state offers the best guarantee of preserving the productive capacity of properly regulated competitive markets, while ensuring that government is the regulator, that government is the funder or provider of public goods and that government offsets the inevitable inequalities of the market with a commitment to fairness for all. Social democracy’s continuing philosophical claim to political legitimacy is its capacity to balance the private and the public, profit and wages, the market and the state. That philosophy once again speaks with clarity and cogency to the challenges of our time.
Social-democratic governments across the world must rise to the further challenge of developing a practical policy response to the crisis that rebuilds shattered economic growth, while also devising a new regulatory regime for the financial markets of the future. This is our immediate challenge. But if we fail, there is a grave danger that new political voices of the extreme Left and the nationalist Right will begin to achieve a legitimacy hitherto denied them. Again, history is replete with the most disturbing of precedents.
~ KRudd, ‘The Global Financial Crisis’, The Monthly, February 2009, p.21.
Originally, in the late nineteenth century, an ostensibly revolutionary doctrine — a marriage, presided over by Marxism, of the industrial working class and the middle class intelligentsia — in Australia, ‘social democracy’ is the ideological blanket in which the ‘Australian Labor Party’ has wrapped itself for many years. As an instrument through which the aspiring middle class can obtain some degree of influence over the political process, the party has been relatively successful. But over previous decades keeping the coal-powered fluorescent bulb burning on that hill in Canberra — and various State parliaments — has rendered the party a lifeless husk: somewhat dependent on the million-dollar sponsorship of the ALP-dominated cash-cows otherwise known as ‘trade unions’; increasingly reliant on the corporate sector for the filthy lucre necessary to defeat the Tories come election time; and almost entirely bereft of ideas.
- See : The Australian: Eternal quest for equality, Dennis Glover, September 22, 2009 | Marxism holds the key, John Sutton, September 25, 2009 | How to become a federal MP. Part 1, ALP, Andrew Crook, Crikey, September 30, 2009. On the early history of social democracy in Russia, see Richard Gombin, The Radical Tradition, Methuen, 1978, esp. Ch. 2, ‘The radical tradition in Russia’; on contemporary crises, see Social Democracy: No Future? Introduction to Articles on the Retreat of Social Democracy, Aufheben, No.7, 1998 & The Retreat of Social Democracy… Re-imposition of Work in Britain and the ‘Social Europe’, Aufheben, No.8, 1999.
In Germany, ‘social democracy’ is in heap ’em big trouble. In the federal election held over last weekend, the SPD gained just 23% of the popular vote — a drop of 11.2% on the last time the part-ay went to the polls — in the process losing 76 seats in the Bundestag (dropping from 222 to 146), and mourning over its worst performance in post-WWII Germany.
Beyond the Third Way: What Is Wrong with Social Democracy?
Matt Browne, Ruy Teixiera and John Halpin
September 30, 2009
Germany’s Social Democrats are in crisis. And they are not alone. Across Europe, social democratic parties are struggling to connect with a new generation of voters. What’s the problem?
SPD looks leftwards after election defeat
Bertrand Benoit and Gerrit Wiesmann
September 30, 2009
Germany’s Social Democrats were set for a sweeping leadership reshuffle on Tuesday as advocates of a sharp leftward shift moved to grab the helm of the country’s oldest party following Sunday’s historic electoral debacle.
Whoever becomes the party’s next chairman will decide the political direction of Europe’s largest Social Democratic force at a time when the centre-left is on the defensive across the continent.
Sunday’s general election, where the SPD obtained 23 per cent of the votes and only 146 seats in parliament – its worst result in the Federal Republic’s 60 years – could mark the end of an era for the centrist reformists who have dominated over the past decade…
Otherwise, the hard men of the NPD turned into Mr. Floppy at the ballot box — making Welf Herfurth and other “national anarchists” shed hot tears of disappointment. A total of 635,437 people voted for the NPD in the federal election on Sunday, a drop of 0.1% (1.5 ~versus~ 1.6) on the 2005 election results.
In the UK, Brown gambles on law and order (Paola Totaro, The Age, September 30, 2009). Apparently, while the great majority of the police, seemingly ever-patient and self-controlled, have stood for years as kids baited and yelled, shoved and provoked — and only a handful of officers have used well-placed elbows, their batons raised only in response to vandalism — the Government has had enough of the UK’s most pressing concern: anti-social families, teenage drunkenness and problem children.
Social democracy in the UK in the ’00s: ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ and a ‘short, sharp shock’ for recalcitrants.
See also : Melbourne : ALP ~versus~ Greens (August 24, 2009) | Bump Me Into Parliament (July 2, 2009) | Unions Must Move Left, They Have No Alternative, David Bacon, Monthly Review (Reviewed: Solidarity Divided by Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Fernando Gapasin, University of California Press, 2008), September 2009.
The councilor comes with his battered old suit
And his head all filled with plans
Says “It’s not for myself, for the fame or wealth
But to help my fellow man”
Fist in the air and the first to stand
When the Internationale plays
Says “We’ll break down the walls of the old Town Hall
And we’ll fight all the lifelong day!”
Ten years later where is he now?
He’s ditched all the old ideas
Milked all the life from the old cash cow
Now he’s got a fine career
Now he’s got a fine career