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posted on 23 May 2017

Social Democracy In Europe: The Guardian Is Out Of Touch

from Dirk Ehnts, Econoblog101

Last weekend, Spaniards were called to elect a new leader of the Socialist (well, Social Democratic) Worker’s Party of Spain (PSOE). Pedro Sflnchez got the job with around 50% of the vote. He previously held the top job, but stepped down when the PSOE decided to support the minority government of Partido Popular, the conservative party of Spain. This support was seen as treason by many on the left, adding to dissatisfaction with the party that had grown over the past few years.

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The government of Zapatero, which led Spain through the late boom and the early crisis (2004-2011), did literally nothing to stop austerity policies and then topped it all by giving a pardon to a banker that was having problems with the law. Having been to Spain many times, this was when most younger progressive people turned to look for alternatives, finding one in Podemos.

The reporting by UK newspaper “The Guardian" is of a different opinion:

The Socialists have suffered the fate of many of their leftwing peers across Europe as electioneering has been distorted by populist leaders from all sides of the political spectrum, leaving its base fractured and struggling for an identity.

That, I believe, is a complete myth. Socialists have suffered defeat everywhere in Europe because of their support for austerity policy. The Dutch worker’s party took a beating this year, losing more than 75% of its seats in parliament. The Socialist candidate in the French presidential elections (first round) got nowhere close to a possibility to run in the second round. Why? Hollande, the Socialist president, had been promising voters to end austerity but did not deliver.

The Guardian article continues:

Spain’s Socialists have chosen former leader and hardliner Pedro Sflnchez to head the party again, a vote likely to make it harder for the ruling conservatives to secure the opposition support it needs in parliament to push through legislation.

He has pledged to take a firm stand against the ruling minority People party’s market-friendly, deficit-tackling policies.

Sflnchez will lead the Socialists further left and place them in direct opposition to the PP, increasing the possibility of a hung parliament over key reforms, something prime minister Mariano Rajoy has warned would trigger a new general election.

This is a very odd passage. So if you oppose “market-friendly, deficit-tackling policies" you are a “hardliner"? The phrasing is very neoliberal. What is “market-friendly" supposed to mean in Spain for the conservatives? Transparency International reports:

“Corruption in Spain distorts policy making and hurts people’s basic rights for the benefit of a few. Just looking at recent scandals like the Pujol case in Catalonia, the linkages between the ruling People’s Party and the construction group OHL, the Gürtel case, the Bankia fraud and Rodrigo Rato, gives a sense of the scale of the problem," said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.

“This does not need to remain this way. Spain has the democratic maturity, the institutions and a vibrant population and can reverse this trend and stand up to corruption, including grand corruption," added Ugaz.

Interesting. “Market-friendly" in the context of Spanish politics roughly translates into corrupt. And deficit-tackling policies? Does “The Guardian" still believe in the expansionary austerity myth? Have you seen what happened in Portugal next door, where according to The EconomistPortugal cuts its fiscal deficit while raising pensions and wages"?

By the way: Germany’s social democrats (SPD) today cancelled their presentation of key policies with respect to the national election, saying that they need more time to discuss the details. I wonder whether they are recalibrating in a Europe where the UK and Spain have real social democrats and Macron in France is at least demanding some real social democratic reforms. Neoliberal mumbo jumbo does not seem to work anymore for the European voters on the left. Maybe SPD did realize this a little late (but not too late)?

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