The Future of Socialism in Europe (if there is one)
When Gordon Brown attempted to storm out of an interview last week, he was far from being the sole frustrated Socialist in Europe. Across the European continent, a rather daunting reality has descended—the slow collapse of Socialism. In France, the Socialists last held the presidency in 1988, and in 2007, Mr. Sarkozy defeated Ms. Royal by a rather large margin. Following the election, the Socialist party descended into a rather divisive squabble over where the party should go in the future. In Portugal, the Socialists just recently lost their absolute majority in Parliament, and in Germany’s latest elections, the Social Democratic Party was clobbered by voters, receiving only 23% of the vote. In this past summer’s elections for the European Parliament, voters again turned away from left-leaning candidates, and in most countries where the Socialists still hold power, including Mr. Brown’s Great Britain, they are under significant attack. In countries that have bucked this recent trend, such as the elections in Greece, the conservatives have been plagued by disastrous scandals. Of further interest is the fact that Papandreou, the head of the Socialists in Greece, won election after a campaign in which he promised to limit the public debt and reduce government waste.
The irony of the situation is that the downfall of Socialism occurred during what they viewed as the very downfall of capitalism—the latest global financial crisis supposedly caused by the unchecked greed of free markets. In what was supposed to be their moment of absolute triumph, the Socialists have found themselves alienated from the public. The reason for their demise is simple. Socialism was the answer to the last century, and in the face of changes in the global economy, the left has failed to provide an adequate and convincing response. While Europe’s conservatives have adapted and adopted many of the ideas of the left, the European left has failed to change. The conservatives have won the trust of the majority of Europe by promising to provide efficiency while also lowering taxes, improving financial regulations, and proposing solutions to the problems posed by Europe’s aging population. Furthermore, while the right remains united, the Socialists have been unable to find common ground with the green parties and the far left remnants of the Communist parties. The Socialists had their moment in the sun, but as the world turned, they failed to turn with it.