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"Europe's left is failing to gain from capitalism's crisis"

Picture 4 In an interesting article for the FT, John Lloyd argues that the Left is not benefiting from the so-called 'crisis of capitalism' that is reportedly engulfing the world:

"In no big European country is the main party of the left, in or out of government, surging ahead. The Burson-Marsteller forecast for the European elections in June shows that the centre-right European People’s party will remain the largest group in the European parliament – even if the British Conservatives and the Czech ODS fulfil their aim to leave the EPP."

He summarises explanations offered by others:

"What has gone wrong for the left?

In a recent column on the Open Democracy website, Tibor Dessewffy, a Hungarian commentator, argues that “fears of terrorism, and subsequent anxieties caused by immigration and the sustainability issues of welfare and social systems, [have] brought the progressive left under increasing pressure”.

Wouter Bos, leader of the Dutch Labour party and deputy prime minister in the Netherlands’ right-left coalition government, said in a speech in London last year that these issues, and the pressures of globalisation, “reduce the effectiveness of the kind of policies we [the left] favour. It affects the cohesion which is our lifeblood. It hurts our international orientation that has always been the core to our mission”.

Olaf Cramme, director of the UK-based Policy Network, a centre-left global policy forum, believes that “despite the scale of the crisis of neo-liberalism, leftwing proposals about how to remake capitalism aren’t being received well. The centre left finds it difficult to offer a credible alternative to how to ensure wealth and security. In fact, in many countries, the conservative parties have been less enthusiastic about the growth of finance capitalism and tougher on regulating the financial sector than the left”.

There is a cloud of rhetoric on the end of capitalism – or, more often, “free-market capitalism”, as if that were a wholly separate entity. Beneath it, however, lies a public mood that is deeply sceptical of a left whose governing parties in the past decade have used the surpluses generated by successful finance capital to fund their social programmes, and, in general, is even more sceptical of a far left which apportions blame but has little experience of, or programmes for, government."

Conservative commentators would also note, however, that most of Europe's centre right leaders have moved towards the left during this period on issues of regulation, fiscal stimulus, industrial interventionism and protectionism.


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