The failure of European social democracy

For the past 3 decades social democracy has been positioned as the “perfect middle ground” between capitalism and socialism in Europe. In practice, its history tells a very different story.

In the aftermath of World War II, communism was at its height of popularity in Europe. Communists made electoral gains in San Marino and Luxembourg, were well respected in France and Italy for their resistance against the Nazis, and communist partisans controlled significant parts of Greece. But the occupying powers of the United States and Great Britain wouldn’t let this slow down their imperial ambitions.

In Greece, Britain turned to mass repression to crush the communist movement. Communists were massacred after being lured into peace talks, and the Soviet Union was unable to help for fear of inciting another war. In Italy, the United States helped rig elections, which prevented the communist party from winning. In occupied West Germany, former Nazi figures and commanders were recruited to help set up the new West german state. The US and UK began covert operations, smuggling anti-communist fighters into Poland, Albania and the Baltics. But despite all this, communists were still a popular force in western Europe.

The anti-communist efforts became more subtle. In 1956, former Hungarian fascists began an uprising in Hungary, beginning anti-Jewish pogroms and killing communists. The Soviet Union intervened, stopping the uprising and restoring order. Seemingly a clear-cut situation. However, when the communist party of Great Britain moved in to support the intervention, a new wing within the party emerged. This new wing supported the uprising, painting it as a “workers revolt”, decrying “stalinism” and “authoritarianism”, and dubbing the rest of the party “tankies”. This started a dangerous new trend within the western european left: Eurocommunism. Eurocommunists opposed existing socialism, openly strayed from Marxist thought, and sought to dilute the radical foundation of socialism. As the 70s and 80s went on, this was complimented by the rise of the “New Left”, a movement similarily straying from Marxism, embracing individualism and completely abandoning class analysis in favor of empty identity politics. But no attempt to destroy the left was as successful as Western European social democracy.

In 1945, social democracy was on the rise. Their support of popular economic measures made them an “accessible” alternative to communists, especially among the ruling class. Early social democracy claimed to follow a Marxist tradition, but it did not advocate for a radical transformation of society and empowerment of the proletariat. It only involved appeasing the proletariat, satisfying their immediate demands but leaving out long-term radical change and empowerment. During the cold war, social democracy served as a means to deradicalise the proletariat, and make the communists appear “extremist” for advocating against capitalism. Why abolish capitalism when we can make capitalism better? In France the social democrats experienced rising popularity. In Norway and Sweden, social democrats preached for a more equal society while actively crippling the union movement, leaving political power in the hands of the capitalists. Prime Minister Olof Palme in Sweden tried to implement policies that would give more benefits to the workers, but was assassinated in 1986, and his plans were scrapped.

However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, even this veneer of equality was no longer necessary. With nearly all opposition to capitalism being defeated, social democratic parties began implementing austerity, and allying with conservatives in order to stay in power. In countries such as Belgium, Switzerland and Germany, supposedly left-wing parties openly work with conservatives and nationalists, with the electoral percentages being the only relevant metric. The social democratic nationalizations of the late 40s and early 50s were more and more a distant memory.

And in an age where Russia and China gain more and more influence, and global south countries where European and American industry was outsourced after WWII becoming less and less dependent on their overlords, liberal capitalism is becoming less and less sustainable. The 2010s saw a massive surge in popularity in fascistic parties in Europe and an increasingly fascist turn in American politics, as increased military intervention and reduction of workers benefits becomes the only way for capitalism to survive. Thanks to this, social democracy is collapsing in Europe. An ideology never intended to produce serious change has been left without a purpose by its capitalist masters. In the 2020s and 2030s, the only real choice will be genuine working class socialism, or fascist barbarism.

Marxist-Leninist, sick and tired of all this sh&t