Kind Of Left In Europe?
Time and time again European countries face a fundamental choice
of their socio-political systems: either an alternation between periods
of Capitalism and periods of “Socialism” as has happened
in many countries. OR, a permanent state of a mixture of the two systems
in a kind of “social market economy” as in Scandinavia.
Socialism is a confusing term today because of the political variants
that call themselves Socialist or Social Democrat—some of which
are not even of the Left—and also because of the taint left by
East European Communism that called itself Socialist, some leftwing
political analysts prefer to speak directly of Capitalism and its relationship
with the social state.
victory in Spain, the Center-Left government in Italy, German Socialists,
though losing ground, still sharing power in a coalition government
and the Labour Party, despite its war policies, in power in Great Britain,
indicate a continuing left orientation in part of Europe today despite
over thirty years of capitalistic market economy.
1970s Europe has lived in a phase of open market economy that has favored
free enterprise, especially financial enterprises, over the social state
and trade unions. Globalization has broadened savage economic freedoms.
The constant financial-economic scandals a la Enron such as Italy’s
Parmalat International, the astronomical flow of money and stock options
into the hands of top managers, and the dislocation of profit-earning
industries to Asia or East Europe, have combined to alarm already underpaid
and underemployed workers.
is the evolution of a public opinion opposed to an unfettered market
economy and a Europe leaning toward a social state.
of Socialism and Capitalism or a mixed economy—is an easy political
choice. The Left in power walks on tiptoes so as not to upset conservative
and sensitive voters and has difficulty passing legislation on reforms
of pension or tax systems. On the other hand the Right in power defeats
itself through its own arrogance and disregard for the majority of the
of the system of alternation in power between market economy and social
state, as in Spain and Italy today, fear that the system only increases
social tensions and conflicts.
of the mixed system are justifiably afraid that the redistribution of
wealth will not favor the poorer classes but will benefit the upper
middle classes, precisely what is happening.
as a political-economic system is marked by the elimination of social
and political controls that place limits on the “unfettered”
freedoms of actors in the capitalist economic field. When economic forces
are completely free they naturally exercise their power also over the
government that in turn must bow to their wishes. Capitalist power is
in fact the real power. This is the essence of capitalism. This is the
United States today, where real power is in the hands of freewheeling,
unfettered capitalists with Enron-style results
development has historically depended on periods of Capitalism, as seen
in the United States and in Great Britain. Asia led by China and India
is in that phase of savage capitalism today. However, modernization
requires that after the Capitalist phase there must be a phase of the
redistribution of income, otherwise there is no consumer society. This
alternation is the historic formula for enduring economic development.
Both Capitalism and anti-Capitalism play a role.
planners believe that after these two phases have created a strong economy,
a permanent mixed system permitting both capital accumulation and redistribution
of income is preferable. Such a solution is not impossible as seen in
Scandinavia and to a lesser degree in much of Europe. Germans have voted
in favor of a kind of market economy which however maintains their great
social state. This system has been defined as the “European social
In practice, wide sections of public opinion are demanding that their
leaders put a limit on the unfettered freedoms of markets and enterprises.
The problem is who is to represent the demands of workers and much of
public opinion. Trade unions are still important in some countries,
but not all.
political parties and grass-roots movements are apparently not enough
to obtain new social rules in a new world of inequalities of income
and new unemployment caused by dislocation of industry.
That is however
the task of elected governments. That is, the State. Each swing of public
opinion to the left offers a new reserve of power to the Left and Center-Left
governments in power. Yet, the tendency to limit the freedoms of the
unfettered market economy and to charge political power with the defense
of less privileged segments of the population comes and goes with the
distinguishes Europe from the United States, which has opted for a permanent
and enduring system favoring free enterprise to the detriment of salaried
workers. Market freedoms in the United States have never been greater.
In the USA capital accumulation continues with little or no redistribution
of wealth. And therefore discrepancies between rich and poor have never
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