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Gingersnap
09-20-2010, 01:42 PM
Analysis: Swedish rout highlights European socialist crisis

By Paul Taylor

PARIS | Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:33am EDT

PARIS (Reuters) - The crash of Sweden's long-ruling Social Democrats to their worst defeat since 1914 highlights the decline of socialist parties in much of Europe, drained by social change, economic crisis and the rise of new issues. The re-election of a center-right Swedish government for the first time in modern history and the entry of a hard-right anti-immigrant party into parliament show how far the times have changed, even in social democracy's north European heartland.

How the center-left should respond, and whether it can regain the ascendancy in Europe at a time when loyalties are shifting across the political spectrum, are now being fought out in internal party tussles in Britain and France in particular.

In Sweden as in Germany, France, Denmark or the Netherlands, the main party of the center-left has hemorrhaged votes in all directions -- to the hard left, the ecologist Greens, the populist far right but also to mainstream conservatives. "Social democracy comes across as a victim of the crisis, when it should appear as a refuge or a hope after years of neo-liberal excess," French political scientist Laurent Bouvet wrote earlier this year.

Technological change and globalization have shrunk the traditional industrial working class and the trade unions, made jobs more precarious and thrown up new issues such as climate change, population aging, immigration, obesity and drugs. The mainstream left is torn between trying to reconnect with a lost popular electorate and reaching out to an aspiring new class in the knowledge economy.

Swedish Social Democratic leader Mona Sahlin alienated some centrist supporters by agreeing to a formal coalition with the ex-communist Left party -- a move that the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) continues to eschew.

ACCOMPLICE?

In countries such as Britain, France and Germany, where the center-left was in government in the early 2000s, it is regarded by many voters as having been a zealous accomplice in financial deregulation and economic liberalism.

Rising income inequality gave a hollow ring to the left's proclaimed ambition to redistribute wealth.

Now that most European countries are burdened with high deficits and debt mountains due to the financial crisis, the "big government" left is not seen as offering a credible answer to the question of where and how to shrink the state.

In many countries, public employees are the biggest bloc of socialist party members and constitute a brake on reform.

Interesting.

Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68J28520100920)