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OCTOBER, 2009

IN TIME OF CRISIS THE SOCIALISTS SUFFER AS MUCH AS THE CONSERVATIVES

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Is Europe's Left in crisis?, Harold Meyerson asks from the pages of the American Prospect. This fall (2009) the pre-eminent party of European socialism, the German Social Democrats (SDP), had their worst election since the end of World War II, winning a scant 23 percent of the vote.

The European socialist parties suffer of three major faults, argues Meyeson: "First, each of their parties has been the champion of the welfare state in their respective nations, but the political support for universal welfare states has weakened as immigrants have transformed the populations of the hitherto homogenous European states. Second, the relative numerical decline of the blue-collar working class across Western Europe has compelled the parties of the left to embrace new constituencies and new agendas, some of which conflict with their old constituencies and agendas. And third, though globalization has not had the catastrophic effect on European workers that it has had on their American counterparts, it has weakened the nation state's ability to manage its own economy and secure it from harm, undermining the arena where socialists won their greatest victories."

Meyeson thinks that the European socialists are not better than their opponents, the conservatives, in times of crisis. Europe's socialists have never being doing well when facing a crisis of capitalism, he says. The Labor Party government of Ramsey MacDonald was clueless when the Great Depression of the 1930s descended upon it; of all the socialist parties, only the Swedes, who proved to be instinctive Keynesians, knew how to navigate their way to recovery. It was during the great prosperity -- the decades that followed World War II -- that Europe's socialist paries thrived, creating the welfare states that provided both security and prosperity on a mass basis.

Perhaps capitalism and socialism thrive together and suffer crises together, is Meyeson's conclusion.

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