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Will European Social Democrats regain some mojo?

by Frank Schnittger Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 04:55:53 AM EST

One of the secular trends in European (and global) politics in recent decades has been the gradual erosion in the influence of social democratic parties and a rise in centre right parties promoting market led globalisation and austerity policies. The more recent backlash against globalisation and austerity has not resulted in a swing back to social democratic parties, but rather in a swing even further right as exemplified by Trump, Brexit, and the rise of far right nationalist parties in Europe.

There may be many reasons for this:


  1. The end of the cold war, the decline and later the collapse of the Soviet Union ended any fear conservative elites might have had of Bolshevik revolutions at home. Social democracy was a price they had been prepared to pay in the wake of the devastation of World War II and in order to stave off unrest at home. With the decline and later the collapse of the Soviet Union, Reagan and Thatcher could lead the way in busting unions and liberalising markets with relative impunity.

  2. The subsequent co-option of many social democratic parties by neo-liberal and neo-conservative market liberalisation, globalisation, austerity, and militaristic ideologies as exemplified by "third way" Blairism, Clintonian triangulation, and the "me too" adoption of hard-line economic and social policies by social democratic parties competing with conservative parties for the "centre ground" in a vain attempt to attain Government majorities. It became harder and harder for progressives to support parties whose policies were becoming indistinguishable from conservative parties.

  3. Meanwhile globalisation dramatically increased inequality in western societies with almost all the incremental wealth created in the last few decades going to the top 1%. Unions in the private sector could be cowed by the threat of their members' jobs being shipped overseas and workers in increasingly precarious and marginalised zero hours employments came to resent the relatively secure, well paid, and pensioned employments in the Public sector and the Unions and their social democratic masters who were increasingly seen as their representatives.

  4. There may also have been generational factors at play: the idealistic young socialist or progressive generation of leaders fighting conservative elites on issues such as civil rights, the Vietnam war, Apartheid,the welfare state and ecological responsibility gradually became older and more conservative and were co-opted by the elites they had grown up fighting. In the recent US elections, what had been relatively progressive Democrats came to be seen as representing the elite because of their close ties with Wall street, globalisation, and liberalisation of markets.

So what grounds do we have for believing that social democratic style politics may make something of a comeback in the next few years? Firstly, the sheer incompetence, recklessness and extremism of Trump, May, Le Pen, and other far right leaders may cause even relatively conservative voters to look around for safer and more moderate leaders to provide an alternative. The post war settlement which had given rise to an American dominated world order and the EU in Europe is now seen as being threatened with extremely uncertain consequences.

We seem to be heading back toward a "robber baron" era of capitalism where there are almost no checks on the activities of billionaires and global corporates with nation states competing against each other to do their bidding. The complete fraud that is Trumpism and Brexit may take some time to become clear to many voters, but when it comes, the backlash could be severe. And when it comes, that backlash will be looking to a new set of leaders rather than re-heated social democrats from previous generations. Sanders may well look tame compared to the new generation of younger leaders who might now emerge.

Secondly, even the old social democrats had some real achievements which are now under threat. The New Deal, the Great Society, public education and the welfare states within Europe as well as the EU itself are now threatened by Trump and Brexit. Having been on the defensive for so long as these achievements were gradually whittled away, progressive leaders may find the public mood becoming much more receptive to strong and socially progressive state interventions in the economy.

Fine Gael lost out badly in the Irish general Election last year because they proposed tax cuts rather than the increases in public expenditure the public wanted. It is not lost on people that the much poorer Ireland of the 1960's was able to provide social housing to those who needed it, whilst today's much richer market economy apparently is not.

Whilst running as an Independent, Macron could well win the French Presidential election running on a fairly orthodox pro-EU, centrist and moderate political programme. Schultz may well do the same for the SPD in Germany, although I would expect Merkel to hang on to the Chancellorship by remaining leader of the largest party. However all three might well run on a virulently anti-Trump and anti-Brexit platform arguing that the EU must be defended against Trump's attempts to undermine it and that the UK must be excluded from all the benefits of the EU if it is not prepared to pay for them.

Up to now EU leaders have remained largely quiet on how they see the post Brexit relationship with the UK developing, arguing that Article 50 has not yet been triggered and that they don't yet know what the UK is going to look for. Accordingly the discourse on Brexit to date has been very one sided with the UK setting out it's stall and with only cursory responses from the EU. However the Brexit negotiations could become central to the French, Dutch and German elections later this year with very hard line positions being adopted and with Schultz and Macron to the fore in demanding that the EU protect itself from a devaluing, de-regulating and tax competing UK.

The Brexit negotiations could get ugly, but it could also give the EU, and social democrats in particular, some of their old Mojo back. The warmongering, corporatist, nationalist, and fascistic tendencies exhibited by Trump and the Brexiteers makes it easy for social democrats to define themselves as progressives without even having to stray too far from the centre of the political spectrum. Whether it will be a last hurrah or the beginning of a new dawn remains to be seen, but I could see Trump losing the mid-terms badly and the UK being shocked by the hostility they will face in Europe. We haven't even seen the beginnings of the fight back yet.

Display:
I am particularly interested in seeing what impact Schultz will have on the SPD. His experience as President of the EP will make him uniquely qualified to understand the various tensions within the EU and he has had some success in raising the profile of the Parliament in general.  He will also have witnessed the antics of Farage et al in the Parliament, and I would not be surprised if he he is keeping his anger on ice so that it may be served cold in due course.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 03:15:57 PM EST
The impact so far: in one month the SPD went from 20% to over 30% and now is now leading the polls.

The downfall of social-democrat parties has a great deal to do with personalities, unfortunately. How can folk like Joren Disselbloem or Pier Steinbruck ever came to lead social-democrat parties is beyond me.

Schultz is pretty much the opposite: outspoken, has no college education but has no complex about it, bonds with common folk and floats on sheer courage. He is one "us" for ordinary voters.

Of course, expect many roadblocks in the way up the November election.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 07:27:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting that if you add the CDU and SPD vote together in most of those polls, you get a figure of around 60%. In other words, most of the SPD's gain has been at the CDU's expense.  It seems that a significant part of the German electorate have decided that there is an alternative to Merkel after all. Schultz also seems to have been generally popular in the EP so I would be hopeful he has staying power.  I am much less sure about Macron, who may just be a Hollande Lite - if such a thing is even possible.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 07:47:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Adding that on the latest figures, a Red Red Green coalition is not out of the question, although the CDU is sure to hype that in an effort to shore up its vote. The failure of the AfD to get much more than 10% is also somewhat reassuring.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 07:51:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am much less sure about Macron, who may just be a Hollande Lite - if such a thing is even possible.

Don't worry: such a thing is possible and its name is Macron. Unlike Schulz, Macron is a smooth, well-educated product of the French überclass, former banker, and there's no chance voters would think of him as "one of us".

Unlike Hollande, Hamon et al, Macron is not a PS member; never been and never will. He definitely does not fit into the "soc-dem" box: FPD (or Lib-Dem) would be a much better label for him.

by Bernard on Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 09:27:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose the only plus would be that he is not Le Pen or Fillon, not a doctrinaire xenophobe or austerity hawk, and would generally offer some prospect of continuity for the EU. How economically literate is he? Does he offer the prospect of some reforms in the management of the Euro? Would he be able to stand up to Merkel, May or Schultz? What does he offer that Hollande does not and would his ratings be similarly in the toilet in no time even if the does win the Presidency?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 01:19:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
he is not Le Pen or Fillon

And that would be the only reason many people on the left would vote for him.

How economically literate is he?

A former investment banker with Rothshild, he has also worked in the Ministry of Finances, for what it's worth.

Does he offer the prospect of some reforms in the management of the Euro? Would he be able to stand up to Merkel, May or Schultz?

That's the big question: his program is remarkably fuzzy and lacks precision at this time. Which is probably why the media like him so much, come to think of it: everyone can project his/her own fantasies upon him.

What does he offer that Hollande does not

In 2012, Hollande ran on a clear left wing platform: combating austerity and "big finance", opposing Merkel etc... Once elected, he folded and conducted conventional "Merkel-lite" policies, or even Sarko-lite when he appointed Valls. Folks who voted him in office five years ago hate him for that.

Macron is not running on a left wing platform, even though he's been a PS member from 2006 to 2009 (unlike what I wrote above - my mistake): at best, he's a neolib centrist.

by Bernard on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 07:43:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"How economically literate is he?"

Not at all.
He was the one who convinced Hollande of Say's law. Offer creates its own demand.

It's called Say's law, but it's really unfair on Say. He just wrote it in a letter, not a well researched book, and he himself noticed his whopper later.
And we did not have all that much data in the late 18th century.

To believe in that in the 21st, wait, to believe in it so strongly that you will set out to convince the president (remember heads of states don't have much time so you must pick your battles) of it is outrageous - unless you get your economics from listening to BFM while driving to work. Then all bets are off.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 09:14:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The detail of the polls in France is interesting (latest IFOP rolling poll, pdf)

My favourite bits :

  • (p 24) 19% of "workers" support Mélenchon, 19% support Hamon. It may not sound like much, but it's the first time in about a decade that I've seen workers' support for Le Pen at under 50 (39%)
  • (p 17) Prediction of the outcome : Leading candidate is "Don't know" (26%). A refreshing change.


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 08:22:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Iron Curtain didn't come down until 1989, long after the Reagan-Thatcher nexus had wrought their worst.

However, minor timing glitches don't necessarily upset the idea. Unions have been under attack in the US since forever but their heyday had been the 50s and 60s. Changes in technology, upgrades in production techniques and switching to cheaper imports had begun to wreck union membership through the 70s in the US.

This process also hit the UK in the 80s, most of it natural, some of it, such as steel and coal, were forced out of vindictiveness.

I don't know how unions worked in the US, but I always had a problem with the macho "might makes right" attitude of many unions in the UK where workers in powerful unions gained brilliant conditions and pay rises. However, other unions in not so key sectors were left by the wayside, which led to many deciding that unions weren't for them or, worse, just a source of annoyance in strikes with their constant demands for improvment to already "gilded-in-comparison" contracts.

This special pleading also excluded women workers, even in the same union. The film "Made in Dagenham" demonstrates how backward many unions were when it came to equality. And this attitude continued even into the noughties with local government being found to have colluded with unions over decades to discriminate against women workers.

So, in the UK at least, unions were active particpants in their own downfall by acting not as porgressive agents to improve society, but by falling into a conservative rearguard acion protecting a series of worker relationships that were outdated and counter-productive. these not only failed to serve society or the wider employment landscape, they ultimately failed the members who paid their dues.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 06:34:12 PM EST
Great comment. I could have worded my piece better.  It was more the gradual process of the ending of the Cold War which gave Reagan and Thatcher a licence to do more or less as they pleased.  As you say, the actual collapse of the Soviet Union didn't come until some time afterwards.  

I have always felt that trade union dominance in relatively strong or secure sectors damaged the social democratic movement as a whole.  The faux working class populism and solidarity rhetoric of trade union leaders fooled no one, and especially not workers in the precariat.

Many left-wing friends seemed to think that blanket support for all Union actions was a condition of membership of a socialist or progressive party. In Ireland, Union membership is becoming a badge of honour for largely privileged public sector or professional workers who seem to think that a living wage is twice the average industrial wage. Their sense of entitlement actively excludes almost everyone else.  No wonder support for the Irish Labour party - a party with a largely honourable history - currently stands at about 5%.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 07:17:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The swedish(or nordic) model is interesting in comparison. Here the the central union (LO for blue collar labour, TCO for white collar labour) bargains for all unions to collectively raise wages and has a policy of trying to combat wage inequality.

In a sense, central unions transcend a more narrow self-iterest and becomes more of societal institution. This depends on union solidarity and a high degree of unionization but also promote the same values when it is succesful. This is a key reason why we have such high unionization and low wage inequality in Sweden and how the social democrats there came to be so dominant. It is similar in some ways to corporatism but crucially it keeps the central conflict between employers and employees.

by chumchu on Tue Feb 21st, 2017 at 10:24:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ireland used to have a similar model of social partnership which has unfortunately fallen by the wayside in recent times.  However the re-emergence of widespread industrial unrest may prompt a re-think in due course.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 23rd, 2017 at 06:10:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link!
by chumchu on Sun Feb 26th, 2017 at 07:22:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which leads to another, greater, failure of Social Democracy.

I always felt that the organic socialism of the UK was the methodist one that originated in Rochdale and took hold across Wales.

However, Marxism was more attractive to the intellectual middle classes for whom it offered a rigorous analysis as a substitute for the absence of a lived experience at the bottom of the heap. Thus it took hold and then, with German collusion, Lenin subverted the White Russian revolution and marxism became the default socialism.

Long before the Wall came down, the limitations and inadequacies had been critically exposed in the West.

The problem was that the intellectual left, rather than create a new and better liberal socialism, decided that they should throw their lot in with the neoconservatives, re-branding their betrayal as "muscular liberalism".

It's only, 30 - 40 years after it became bleeding obvious that we needed new thinking are we beginning to understand the scope of what needs to be done. Yet we need this alternative now and we've barely started.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 07:41:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The White Russian revolution was about as effective as the Syrian resistance is proving to be, and were doomed by the fact that they were committed to continuing WWI long after that was possible from a military perspective.

But that is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. I should look into Welsh socialism, as I know nothing of it.

by Zwackus on Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 10:45:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The big problem with Marxism is that it provoked determined, vicious reactions, including fascism. It touched some social-hierarchical nerves of human nature badly indeed. The climax was a series of CIA-coordinated coups, assassinations in the 1960s-70s. Since then, the left lost own direction and commanding mojo, gradually became triangulating, all-pleasing monkeys.

Social status of "organic socialism" would be organically limited. Any original populism (like Trump's) would overrun it at big times - that is an ancient pattern.

Religious social movements have interesting history. But South American Liberation theology was met with firm Vatican reaction as well.

by das monde on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 01:10:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen:
I always felt that the organic socialism of the UK was the methodist one that originated in Rochdale and took hold across Wales.

However, Marxism was more attractive to the intellectual middle classes for whom it offered a rigorous analysis as a substitute for the absence of a lived experience at the bottom of the heap. Thus it took hold and then, with German collusion, Lenin subverted the White Russian revolution and marxism became the default socialism.


The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers is the foundation of the cooperative movement in the UK, which while different from unionism, is complementary and is still very important in its emphasis on mutuality. Robert Owen had a different form of employer sponsored social welfare at New Lanark around the same time. Karl Polanyi writes of it in The Great Transformation:
The strength of Owenism was that its inspiration was eminently practical, and yet its methods were based on an appreciation of man as a whole. Although the problems were intrinsically those of everyday life...the issues involved were as broad as the moral forces they appealed to. The conviction that, if only the right method was found, man's existence could be restored enabled the roots to penetrate into that deeper layer where personality itself is formed. There rarely was a less intellectualized social movement of a similar scope; the convictions of those engaged in it imbued even their seemingly most trivial activities with meaning, so that no set creed was needed. Indeed, their faith was prophetic, since they insisted on methods of reconstruction that transcended market economy.

Owenism was a religion of industry the bearer of which was the working class. Its wealth of forms and initiatives was unrivaled. Practically, it was the beginning of the modern trade union movement. Cooperative societies were founded, mainly engaged in retail to their members.... (see Owenism in the index)


 

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 07:35:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, Mason Gaffney notes the more organic appeal of such non-Marxist ideals to the working classes in the USA in the late 19th Century in his monograph Neo-Classical Economics as a Strategem against Henry George.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 07:40:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I submit the prototypical member of the intellectual middle class in the US during the 20th Century is more Max Eastman than Max Shactman.  The Center Left crumbled when Anti-Communism and foreign interventionism (For Their Own Good©) became the primary ideology.

 

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Feb 12th, 2017 at 12:17:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Populist Party rise in 1892-1896 was a fascinating and consequential episode. From Wikipedia:

Established in 1891, as a result of the Populist movement, the People's Party reached its zenith in the 1892 presidential election, when its ticket, composed of James B. Weaver and James G. Field, won 8.5% of the popular vote and carried five states (Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada and North Dakota), and the 1894 House of Representatives elections, when it took over 10% of the vote. Built on a coalition of poor, white cotton farmers in the South (especially North Carolina, Alabama and Texas) and hard-pressed wheat farmers in the Plains states (especially Kansas and Nebraska), the Populists represented a radical crusading form of agrarianism and hostility to elites, cities, banks, railroads, and gold.
Most farmers and share-croppers became chronic debtors in the 1880s because of falling prices, overproduction; competition for machinery; high rates of railroad shipping and grain storage. Confederate and Union veterans were united by these privations (and religion devotion). Eventually, there was some inclusion of Southern black alliances as well.

The party inventively supported eight-hour workday for industrial workers (to woe the urban labour, rather unsuccessfully), immigration ban, progressive income taxation, direct election of senators, free coinage of silver. Much of their agenda was soon co-opted by the two major parties, even implemented in the Progressive Era. In particular, William Jennings Bryan won the 1896 Democratic convention with the famous Cross of Gold speech, and the Populists awkwardly put Bryan on their own ticket (with other vice-presidential candidate) two weeks later. The heated 1896 Presidential Election was won by the "sound money" Republican candidate William McKinley. The election realigned the Democratic Party and doomed the Populists. The Democrats had only Woodrow Wilson as the president (first elected in another unorthodox election of 1912) until FDR.

by das monde on Sun Feb 12th, 2017 at 05:53:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, 'Social Democracy' was an orphan in the USA by 1972, with the Students for a Democratic Society the most notable proponent. As Tom Hayden noted in 'Reunion' the least democratic place in the USA was the workplace, which remained, effectively, a monarchy, with unions as the only real check. It is in the workplace that Social Democracy lives or dies.

Social Democracy has never been more than an aspiration, but that aspiration has become even less realistic, in terms of the actual factors operating in society since that time. Where are the checks on the effective 'Divine Right' of the business owners and corporate executives? But it has become even more important to keep those aspirations alive. We have to create a world fit for human beings, not one optimized for business.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Feb 12th, 2017 at 05:05:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The aspiration met hard opposition. It is not easy to compel someone to give up a good position. Why should they, really?

The American democracy is well "compensated" by financial-economic dominances, indeed. Bluntly speaking, there is not much deviation from the standard of primate species that some 10% males get all deference and frindge benefits, while the rest 90% are living lives of quiet desperation.

The big reason that the Populists did not attract the urban Labour was that deflation was favourable to the Labour.

by das monde on Mon Feb 13th, 2017 at 03:18:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Unions Betraying the Left -- The New Republic
The building trades have long aligned themselves with racist and exclusionary forces. The labor movement's first major legislative victory in the United States was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which originated with California workers angry about Chinese competition. The trades consistently supported immigration restriction well after the Immigration Act of 1965 reopened America's borders to the world's tired and poor. The Congress of Industrial Organizations, founded in 1935 by United Mine Workers of America President John L. Lewis to organize the millions of workers in the nation's industrial sectors, was necessary because the trades not only refused to allow women, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and unskilled workers into their unions, but also opposed any effort by other unions to organize them.

A general strike could transform American politics... -- Jacobin

Calling for a general strike now bears no relation to what mass strikes have meant in the past. The flight from reality shows up in activists' blasé attitude to history and their very distant relationship to the working class.

The United States has the most violent labor history of any major industrial country. General and other large-scale strikes in the US have nearly always been met with major repression, from police, National Guard, even federal troops.

When Capitalists Go on Strike -- Jacobin

Capitalists routinely exert leverage over governments by withholding the resources -- jobs, credit, goods, and services -- upon which society depends. The "capital strike" might take the form of layoffs, offshoring jobs and money, denying loans, or just a credible threat to do those things, along with a promise to relent once government delivers the desired policy changes [...]

Recent investigations into Donald Trump's past unearthed a telling example. In the late 1970s, the real-estate magnate used a hotel project in Manhattan to extract millions in tax breaks from the city. The bankrupt government granted Trump an unprecedented forty-year waiver on all real-estate taxes for his 42nd Street Grand Hyatt hotel in return for his investment in its construction.

by das monde on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 09:59:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These are very valuable notes. Thank you for posting them. Over these years of innerboob revolution I'm ever more amazed by US american ignorance of US labor history tandem with principles of fascist, so-called nativist political economy that made this nation "great" from 1789. The continuity of the arguments marshalled by Labor and Capital --embodied most notoriously right up  to the present era by the collaboration of Andy Stern -- ought leave you all weeping.

Just the other day, so to speak, I crossed paths with an UID who'd no idea (based on cursory reading of a wikipedia article) what a viper was Sam Gompers (Knights of Labor, AFL) in defense of "Alien" acts, which proliferated at the turn of the century, trade and immigration restraints, and suppression of the CIO.

To address the issues of a socialist vanguard within the labor market since 1900, there is no better authority on the topic than Philip S. Foner.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 05:09:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that generational turnover, and a generational shift in left priorities, has to have a place in any discussion of what has happened to the social democratic left. I am not sure how big a place this deserves, but it seems part of the picture.

The post-war generations grew up in a world in which the major achievements of social democracy seemed obvious, natural, and immutable to many. They were tied to the larger narratives about the progress of history -- we had left bad old robber-baron capitalism behind forever. As such, it was easy to forget the arguments FOR them, and it was easy to forget to defend them. One does not defend the rising of the dawn in the morning, after all - it just is.

I don't know what happened in Europe. In the US, it became clear that the fight for racial and gender equaltiy was pressing, because so long as those architectures of oppression were still standing than the the current and future fruits of prosperity and liberty would never be shared. So, one battle seemingly won, a new generation focused its energies in a new location. Those battles have proven hard, and though there has been progress it has been slow and incomplete.

And so, with that battle underway and the political casualties brought about by "identity politics" continue to mount, the right has regrouped and attacked on the old social welfare front, the very place that had been ignored by the left, and those gains of the past which had seemed natural and inevitable and immutable are once again under threat. For a time, it seemed like there were compromises to be made here -- after all, if something cannot be truly rolled back, than it makes sense to make deals around the edges if that might buy progress for the other major ongoing fight.

And now we are at the point where child labor laws and indentured servitude will probably end up back on the table. Fuck.

by Zwackus on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 04:53:59 AM EST
There are a few blind spots in the liberal, progressive or socialist value systems that the intellectual, activist and leading left should be aware of and address.

One of them is appreciation of authority dynamics in human societies. No shit, Sherlock, but the subject of that my diary deserves a lot of attention:

hierarchy interactions, instincts and emotions have to be taken seriously
If we stand to impose (or what?) humanist values on the society, we should know how to do that in a humane way, congruent with biological and historically impressed perceptions, impulses. People tend to recognize complete packages of leadership. So it starts with knowing yourself, your comfort with your own mojo.
by das monde on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 05:50:34 AM EST
As was pointed out, those theories are more about justifying the status quo and your own biases than explaining anything about human nature. Humans (and the animal models a lot of that stuff depends on) have lots of reasonably stable ways of organising their societies.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 09:52:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Without expanding your perceptions, will you make any dent in the status quo?
by das monde on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 10:08:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Expanding ones perceptions doesn't necessarily mean accepting 19th century derived views on hierarchies and dominance....
by generic on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 10:20:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As if we know all nuances of the 19th century or dominance already...
by das monde on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 10:28:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have no idea how hard it is for me to restrain some nuances of dominance right now.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 10:41:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's all keep calm!I think we can probably all agree that the election of Trump poses some difficulties for rational models of voter behaviour. He exemplified many of the traits and policies his voters said they were against. Objectively he can be expected to do many things against their interests, and yet they showed a willingness to be ruled by him through their votes.

I think we do need to have a greater understanding of the emotional impulses, triggers, and factors which influence political allegiance and behaviour.  Although many social democrats have betrayed their constituencies, and therefore deserved to lose (I'm looking at you Hollande!), many more have lost to all sorts of demagogues even when they offered objectively more sympathetic policies. I have spent the guts of a lifetime studying political behaviour, and still feel I am only scratching the surface.

So lets not be too quick to condemn theories that irritate our rational and egalitarian sensibilities.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 03:36:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then go read the previous discussions. I've looked at some of this stuff: it's status quo defending crap. Fucking hierarchy and dominance theory that explains why white men are naturally the top of the evolutionary pile and why women are naturallybe subservient. Beloved of MRAs, whatever the date rape sales guys are called now - PUAs? - and the alt-reich neo nazis.

Go read your Veblen, much more useful. Then maybe: Coontz, Stephanie. The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 04:59:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just because a theory can be interpreted as supporting the status quo doesn't make it automatically wrong.  After all, the status quo is the status quo for a reason, and progressives need to understand those reasons if they are to have any hope of changing it. I'm not particularly interested in hierarchy and dominance theory but I am interested in understanding more about why progressives have so signally failed to attract greater support even where their declared policies are so much more in the interest of those whose votes they are not getting.

Hillary Clinton's declared policy platform was way more progressive and in the interests of the vast majority than that of Trump.  OK, most people don't read, understand or care much for detailed policy programmes and vote instead for someone who reinforces their prejudices or who has personality strengths they admire. Trumps' negatives were higher than Hillary and yet his voters turned out. Why did the email controversy resonate so much when many previous senior officials ran their own servers?

The narrative which seems to have won the day is that "Crooked Hillary" was deceiving people whilst with Trump what you see is what you get. He was the better entertainer and TV personality. I think there was also a lot of unspoken sexism at play: a women couldn't be trusted do a man's job. Now that the reality of a Trump administration is beginning to sink in, there may be a change of heart by some, but many will stay loyal despite being shafted.  Why? Progressives need to understand and address these issues...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 11:59:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The key word was "justifying". This crap justifies the status quo, doesn't explain it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 8th, 2017 at 08:59:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The key concept is the scientific validity of the theories. It is that, and the scope of that validity, if any, which should determine our views of the subject, not how it may or can be used.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Feb 12th, 2017 at 05:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The particular status quo is beside my point. The suggestion is that people are swimming in evaluation of relative authorities (of various scales and aspects) and in playing out imposed, suggested or imagined roles. According to Confusians, leading and following happens (or is supposed to happen) in any interaction.

Surely it is a challenge to change a status quo. People will jump into a mass of presumptions just because you are a woman. But asking others to handle your challenge is not a social merit for you - that holds for everyone, including Trump. And I have to notice, you jump into far conclusions just by seeing the words "hierarchy, "dominance".

The Soviet gender status quo should interest you. Read the recent Literature Nobelist Svetlana Alexievich. You can find a splendid reading audiosample here, just below the cover picture.

by das monde on Wed Feb 8th, 2017 at 01:02:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Whereas I have done so, I should like someone to direct me a passage where Veblen supports or advocates for collective bargaining. I haven't seen it.

Or principles of social democracy.

Quite to the contrary, I've read Veblen to rationalize "right to work" (or "natural right") as a function of authentic liberalism --in the order of J.S. Mills-- modernism, and mechanical innovation which collective bargaining and union organization corrupt. That is a classic thesis of capitalist polemicists.

Then came WWI and a comparatively brief, ineffectual period recanting his earlier position. What an idol that guy makes for nations of clay feet!

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 05:47:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good to see you back, Cat.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 06:31:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you recall a specific work in which he endorses those views? I have only read portions of many of his works and I agree that I do not recall advocacy of a right to organize. But, to me, that does not invalidate his value as figure in US intellectual history and in sociology.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 06:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<non sequitur siren>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 09:18:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I recall, Veblen argued that unions work for gains for their members at the expensive of the rest of society.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 11:56:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In which they are hardly alone in a capitalist society. They just have the weaker hand when the capitalist can control the local, state or national police, state troopers or national guard. That would be a rather realistic and balanced position. My sense from recalling what I have read of Veblen is that he tends to expose basic interests and relations that others might prefer stay hidden. It made him notorious, such as comparing local churches, their national denominational organizations and their teachings to product vendors, their distributors and their advertising.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Feb 12th, 2017 at 05:31:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Veblen described. He never prescribed.

He never prescribed, because he never indicated any problems or barriers to "wealth building" formula that describes the culture of the USA in his time or now, be that "leisure class" retirement or CAPM exploits by bankers or 401(k) "savers".

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sun Feb 19th, 2017 at 04:28:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Much of what he wrote was around the time the very first 'progressive' reforms were made under TR. The chief barriers to wealth building in the USA was the power and activities of existing wealth, which was what was being addressed, and the weaknesses in the monetary system which were being 'addressed' via the creation of the Fed. Much of the attention of the rich was focused on the new, awful Income Tax.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2017 at 07:46:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes.

Veblen described collective bargaining AS IF it were anathema of society. That is to say, the rights of laborers are antithetical to "natural rights" or the "right to work" inherent to the individual which doctrine of free trade epitomizes. No where does Veblen advocate for market power to counter capital exploitation of labor but such commentary to suppress collective bargaining.

Read The Theory of Business Enterprise in its entirety, then term "machine process".


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sun Feb 19th, 2017 at 04:16:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I will look for this the next time I look at  The Theory of Business Enterprise. I never read Veblen specifically for his attitudes about labor nor was he taught that way in the course I took that mentioned him.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Feb 19th, 2017 at 07:50:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... have the same congruence with Reality that the Rational models of economic behaviour does, i.e., not much.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Feb 7th, 2017 at 07:13:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Verbal rationalization is hardly a factor whether people will follow you or not. You may have heard somewhere that some 93% of human communication is non-verbal. For some aspects, that is almost 100%.

Earnest display of rational thinking is not a plus in subconscious social ranking. Followers don't want to be bothered with rational details.

by das monde on Wed Feb 8th, 2017 at 01:31:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What economists call "rational" is nothing of the sort. The correct wording is "model-consistent" behavior. Which is why its proponents prefer to use misleading names - when spelled out explicitly it does not even pass the giggle test.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2017 at 11:06:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ha, Daily Kos started to go more neuro-linguistic, supra-rational.
by das monde on Mon Feb 13th, 2017 at 04:40:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's all keep calm!I think we can probably all agree that the election of Trump poses some difficulties for rational models of voter behaviour. He exemplified many of the traits and policies his voters said they were against.
Only if you postulate that those statements are statements about policy, rather than affirmations of tribal allegiance.

One of the concerning things I hadn't realized until this election is how closely US politics resembles a sectarian faction fight. The public affirmations of the sect's members are not statements about behavior or policy, they are tribal totems that reinforce the sect as a coherent organization. And the point of elections, if one adopts a sectarian model, is not to enact one's own policies - the policy itself was after all never more than a sectarian shibboleth. It is to tear down the other sect's graven idols.

If that is in fact what is happening, it is very bad. But it fits the facts a lot better than most of the stories being told.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Feb 10th, 2017 at 11:03:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There supposed to be some competition for the social-political resemblances. But the liberal/progressive side offers no assertive frame really; the other, conservative sects are the boss of the social dynamics since 2000.

One disadvantage of rational thinking/behavior is that it does not score well in apparent self-respect and confidence. It is like idealistic Russians seeking to abide by the true Universe principles versus self-assured Hell's Angels bikers.

by das monde on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 12:20:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that's pretty much all bullshit.

I can't put my hand to fire on what the American Liberal coalition's problem is, but it's not an inferiority of their tribal totems or an absence of the will to kill.

I suspect that part of it is that culturally they are winning. The coastal, urban, geographically mobile culture has the better demographics, the better economic prospects, and the more attractive opportunities for converts. There is a lot of precedent for rural and semi-rural decadent romantic polities to degenerate rather nastily when they face extinction.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 12:32:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The 'American Liberal coalition's problem is', (at least this time), that they drew the lines of in and out too narrowly to work when the opposition turned out to be as or more motivated than were their supporters. You can't blame people you don't target for not supporting you.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 12:47:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Clearly, the two political sides are looking down on each other. But which side has better use of their opportunities? Which one attracts, motivates more people? Which one controls more resources? Even with Obama, it has been a pretty one-sided game.

There are quote a few commentaries out there that seek to explicate liberal pains by referring to the Graves Values models of human existence. That is generally an appropriate paradigm for an analysis, though particular commentary can be disagreeable. If you care, here is a hostile evaluation:

the [Level 6/Liberal/Green] postmodern leading-edge of evolution itself has, for several decades, degenerated into its extreme, pathological, and dysfunctional forms. As such, it is literally incapable of effectively acting as a real leading-edge. Its fundamental belief -- "there is no truth" -- and its basic essential attitude -- "aperspectival madness" -- cannot in any fashion actually lead, actually choose a course of action that is positive, healthy, effective, and truly evolutionary. With all growth hierarchies denied and deconstructed, evolution has no real way to grow, has no way forward at all, and thus nothing but dominator hierarchies are seen everywhere, effectively reducing any individual you want to a victim. The leading-edge has collapsed; it is now a few-billion-persons (or so) massive car crash, a huge traffic jam at the very edge of evolution itself, sabotaging virtually every move that evolution seeks to take.
And here is from a practitioner promotion:
There are multiple levels of what we can call "psycho-social" security [...]

Essentially, the "progressive" political movements of the recent decades in North America and Europe were a function of more secure economic times following the end of World War II

(Note: A registration discount for his web-presentation of the "modern" Graves theory next Thursday is valid just for another 2 hours.)
by das monde on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 02:42:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was absolutely essential to deconstruct the myths by which our societies operate and expose them and their relationships to critical, public view. We just have to become accustomed to dealing in a world where various groups of 'we' assert values and relate them to lived experience without divine intervention or the support of ancient venerated practices. The problem is that too few of the population are at all comfortable so doing.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Feb 12th, 2017 at 05:37:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In a broad sense, myths are essential in changing and maintaining core values of people.
by das monde on Sun Feb 12th, 2017 at 06:08:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed. But when myths become sufficiently disconnected from large portions of the community they need to change or, in modern parlance, be deconstructed. The process is not usually pretty and 'western civilization' has been going through just that process since WW II, more intensively starting in the '60s. Widespread myths of the racial superiority of the 'white race', and, hence, the justification for white domination of 'lesser races' were challenged, most strongly by the victims of these myths, non-whites.

Then it became a question of what to think about that and how to respond to that whole process. For a large portion of whites the reaction was one of angry denial. A corollary of the myth of the superiority of the white race was the whole post-WW II American triumphalism with America as a unique moral force for good in the world. It had always been in conflict with reality, but, until the whole Vietnam issue blew up, it was the tacit understanding of a majority in the USA. The divisions that mythic struggle engendered are also still with us.

I grew up believing much of those common myths and still did when I started college in June, '60. By fall of '61 I had changed. That I gave voice to my dissidence did me no good in Oklahoma or Arizona, but in California I found a home.

The expression of views corrosive to the prevailing myth so alarmed professors in the History Department at the U of Arizona that they gave me a terminal masters degree without even telling me what they had done. I didn't find out for close to 50 years, as I never applied to other, better programs. A.J. Hobson described this process well from the English perspective in his 1902 book, Imperialism, some of the insights from which resonated with me and which I naively embraced in seminars. I actually thought that freedom of belief and opinion really existed in Academe. Hobson described the view of educators in the England of his time for selection of aspiring educators as "sound men, sound views". It was the same in Arizona. I was 'unsound'.

The process rolls on. One of the better things that Trump has done is to spectacularly challenge this myth of US exceptionalism hilariously in defense of his business relationship with the Russian state under Putin. As he noted on Fox during the Superbowl: "We've got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country's so innocent?" A large portion of his supporters are also believers in the myth and were upset. I take my pleasures where I may.    

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Feb 12th, 2017 at 10:14:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the Liberal Coalitions problem of turning its growth into power both depends on constitutional factors and the leaderships relationship with donors and institutions, compared with the Republicans.

The constitutional factors are simple enough, FPTP elections + state redistricting + over-representation of rural areas = advantage for the party that does better in rural areas. Also Republicans can take away the vote from Democratic voters by controlling the state level, in a way that Democrats can not do to Republican voters.

When it comes to leadership, donors and institutions, the Republicans has it easier as their donors are the owners of the supporting institutions - companies, media, thinktanks. When they get into power they shower their donors with state money, that turns into more power for them and their institutions.

If Democrats would be the same, they would shower mainly unions with cash and power. But as they also has private big donors who would lose power if unions gained, it us not that easy.

And it is the private wealth that is the ticket to an easy retirement after politics for the individual politicians, again making gaining power an easier route for Republicans then Democrats.

by fjallstrom on Mon Feb 13th, 2017 at 01:32:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No. They are not. The electorate is divided by fiscal and totalitarian ("social") priorities. Half of state legislatures are controlled by conservatives and have been since before G. W. Bush. The US congress itself is populated today by conservative liberals (Republican Party). They represent a constituency that identifies Republican and crypto-Republican ("independent affiliation").

I warned you people years ago: the USA is not a "liberal" nation in fact. Perhaps in theory, if you're motivate by civic duty to contradict poll respnses in order to portray yourself as world citizen.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sun Feb 19th, 2017 at 04:49:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jake, much of US politics DOES consist of sectarian faction fights with just the objectives you describe - especially when it moves into the general public. I agree that this is sad and disturbing. Each generation seems to take pleasure in appropriating and debasing the idols of the previous generations of their opponents.

Any practical suggestions on how to move beyond this sordid spectacle?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Feb 12th, 2017 at 05:39:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Social democracy will recover, assuming we don't all, y'know, get killed in a nuclear holocaust.  Which...okay, let's assume that's not going to happen.

I'm sorry, but I'm not willing to hand in my Liberal Card.  I'm not alone on that.  I know the other side -- and I don't mean generic center-right types (what few are even left) but the nuts -- is stupid.  I know our side is not.

Maybe it's dumb, but I have faith in reason.  Social liberalism is reasonable.  You don't let your fellow humans starve in the streets.  Ordoliberalism is reasonable.  You write laws to deliver outcomes that are beneficial on a societal level and manage power.  Classical liberalism is reasonable.  You build institutions to defend people no matter their place in society.

Problem is we get tripped up on tribalism, and those things go to shit for periods.  And it's the old "two steps forward, one step back" bit.  Sometimes it's even "one step forward, three steps back".  That's the struggle of the species.  Always has been.

You're wrong on one bit, Frank.  We have seen the beginnings of fighting back.  Folks were out there the whole time.  We here at ET were always with them, of course, but now others are.  It just took Trump and Brexit and Hungary and the assorted other horrors to elevate them.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Feb 8th, 2017 at 03:23:04 AM EST
European Tribune - Comments - Will European Social Democrats regain some mojo?
 The warmongering, corporatist, nationalist, and fascistic tendencies exhibited by Trump and the Brexiteers makes it easy for social democrats to define themselves as progressives without even having to stray too far from the centre of the political spectrum.

Aye, but here lies the danger.

Defend our trade treaties! Pass CETA to show Trump! Defend our virtous austerity against populism! Defend our hallowed technocratic institutions and agreements against the horrors of people voting!

European Tribune - Comments - Will European Social Democrats regain some mojo?

Whether it will be a last hurrah or the beginning of a new dawn remains to be seen

Yes, and if they don't come back to some form of economic policies that allows the state to spend in recession, they are digging their graves.

Most soc-dem parties don't give me much hope.

However, Hamon and Corbyn being elected by the party members does gives me a bit of hope. That they are fighting their own neoliberals is to be expected.

Also, what is going on in Portugal? Is the coalition managing to find a working path without breaking the euro-rules so much that the hammer comes down?

by fjallstrom on Wed Feb 8th, 2017 at 01:23:39 PM EST
The New Statesman seems to be convinced that corbyn is going to resign soon. I haven't read the stories cos NS has taken something of a surreal turn of late and, whilst once it was a reliably Blairite, it now seems opposed to just about everything. So it's not exactly reliable, even if it has got (some) good sources

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Feb 8th, 2017 at 02:14:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think finding Labour sources that will tell you Corbyn is going to resign is only marginally more difficult than finding an US spy that will tell you about nefarious Russian plans.
by generic on Sat Feb 11th, 2017 at 02:08:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One could write a separate diary on the emergence of Podemos, Syriza, Sinn Fein and other alternative parties  who are carving out a niche on the left as social democrat parties drift ever further right. Perhaps they just mark a generational change or perhaps they will be uniquely different.  Certainly the old hegemony of two large centre right/left parties - Christian Democrat and Social Democrat seems to be broken in more and more countries.


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 8th, 2017 at 02:52:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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