RULE BY SOCIAL DEMOCRACY IN THE WEST MEANS CONTINUED DECLINE

The Guardian (UK) on September 29, 2017, published an article, (”The right is rising and social democracy is dying across Europe – but why”) by Josef Joffe, a German editor of the journal Die Zeit and American academic (Hoover Institution, Stanford University). A similar article by Joffe but on the global implications of this trend can be found on-line at the journal American Conservative (”The Relentless Decline of the Social Democracy in the West”) in October 2017.

It is an important subject. For excerpts from the Guardian article see below:

To put it brutally, the reformist left is losing its customer base

The common denominator is resentment and protest.

…these sentiments highlight a…bigger picture: the precipitous decline of those large centre-left parties…that have governed…Europe since the second world war.

The[German Social Democratic Party] SPD is battling long-term decay. Here, too, Germany is not alone; the signs of decline for social democracy stretch across Europe.

In Italy, the once mighty Italian Socialist party (PSI) is no more. The Socialist party in France used to be strong…In this year’s presidential race, they captured only 6.4% in the first round. In Scandinavia, the moderate left has taken a beating.

The Dutch Labour party (PvdA) has plunged from 19% to less than 6% in five years. A similar fate has befallen Greece’s Pasok. To take in the whole panorama, imagine a map of Europe. Twenty years ago, the map was mainly covered in red, the traditional colour of social democracy. Today, only five countries are inked in red. (Comment: one of these five countries is the small island of Malta in the Mediterranean).

Then look farther afield. At first sight, Britain sticks out as the great exception because Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour almost edged out the Tories in the June election. Arguably, the verdict was more anti-May than pro-Labour.

In the US, the Democrats seem to fare much better, given their majority of the popular vote in 2016. Now look again, at middle America. Since Barack Obama’s first victory, the Republicans have gained 1,000 additional seats in the state legislatures, and 34 out of 50 governors are Republicans.

What happened?

Historically, social democrats rose to power in tandem with a rising working class. Now, this once mighty force is shrinking along with manufacturing as a share of GDP. In the past 50 years, that portion has roughly dropped from 35% to 15% throughout the West. To put it brutally, the reformist left is losing its customer base, and it shows in all recent elections.

It is also losing its unique selling point, which is redistribution and the all-providing state. Take Martin Schulz, the SPD’s hapless candidate for chancellor. His message was “social justice” – taking from the rich to help the poor through taxes and benefits. But today’s German workers are middle class, and the highest tax bracket bites at €50,000 – the salary of an upper-level teacher or skilled worker.

These folks do not look forward to more taxation – not in a country where the government takes in almost half of GDP…So the SPD must find another selling point. Yet the SPD is trapped by its traditions.

Comment: It is important to consider the Scandinavian countries. These were once the core of European social democracy. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden were for decades ruled by social democratic parties sometimes with the support in parliament by communist parties. In 2017 the scene is different. The center right is ruling in Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland. Sweden is the only exception. The reason for social democratic rule in Sweden is not that voters like overwhelming state influence in most sectors. In the 2014 elections the voters had lost confidence in the center right alternative. In 2017 the center right parties have not regained the confidence they had from 2006 to 2014. They may still have chance in the 2018 elections but must shape up. The Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) is in the fall of 2017 supported by around 30 percent of the electorate. The party should be down at around 20 percent like the German SPD.

In general terms the way forward in the West is not a moderate reformist brand of socialism. What saved Sweden between 2006 and 2014 was a center right government that lowered taxes and introduced pro-enterprise reforms. Like Germany Sweden is an exporting country and SAP has been able to remain in power thanks to the reforms of non-socialist parties and a fairly strong economy in Europe. The relentless decline of social democracy will most likely continue in the West. Rule by social democratic parties in America and Europe can only mean continued decline of the West. One can only wish that the present trend of social democratic parties on both sides of the Atlantic will continue.

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