Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe


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Past and Present

The consequences of this became clear by the s, when a noxious mix of inflation and unemployment hit the West. During the previous decades, a free-market right had been organizing and thinking about what it viewed as the drawbacks of the postwar social-democratic order. When the crisis hit, this free-market right was ready with explanations as well as solutions. Social democrats, in other words, ceased presenting themselves as wary overlords of capitalism, cognizant of the need to protect society from its downsides, and instead increasingly presented their mission in technocratic, efficiency terms.

Social democracy - Wikipedia

Having abandoned this view, the traditional left was poorly positioned to capture the resentment and anger that materialized when the weakening of the postwar social-democratic order produced its inevitable fallout: dramatic economic inequality and insecurity, as well as immense social disruption.

The financial crisis aggravated these trends, sharpening popular frustration with neoliberalism and the elites and parties that had embraced it. With the traditional left no longer able to capture growing popular discontent, a golden opportunity arose for an enterprising political force. This force turned out to be populism. Most European right-wing populist parties have their roots in the late s and s, but when they emerged on the scene almost all had conservative economic profiles.

Indeed, Le Pen once boasted that he had adopted the principles of Reaganomics and Thatcherism before they became fashionable. The Austrian Freedom Party underwent a similar change. And during the parliamentary election in Sweden, the populist, nativist, right-wing Sweden Democrats claimed that they, rather than the Social Democrats, were the true defenders of the Swedish welfare state.

Shifting the main axis of political competition from economic to social issues benefits the populist right more than the traditional left. Historically, at least, the left benefits most when class identities are strong and dissatisfaction with market outcomes is high. So when political competition centers on social issues, it becomes harder for social-democratic parties to build and maintain broad, cohesive electoral coalitions.

Voters from less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds, such as workers and those with low levels of education, have always been conservative on social and cultural issues; they also, however, have left-wing economic preferences. As long as right-wing populists advocated conservative economic policies and flirted openly with fascism, which was universally rejected by European voters , voters with left-wing economic preferences would face tradeoffs voting for them. But once right-wing populists shifted course, voters with conservative social views and left-wing economic preferences no longer had to choose between them when deciding how to vote.

When it comes to economic views, however, right-wing populist voters are divided—for example, between workers and small-business owners—and so it is in the interest of populist parties to keep social rather than economic issues at the top of the political agenda. To gain legitimacy, many East European leftist parties modeled themselves after their West European counterparts—and by the late twentieth century, this meant adopting neoliberal policies and portraying themselves as parties of technocrats and pragmatists. As in the West, the acceptance of neoliberal policies by much of the left in Eastern Europe initially made sense.

It enabled these parties to distance themselves from the communist past and to signal that they embraced the Western economic consensus and were committed to joining the EU. Over the longer term, however, this strategy contained the seeds of its own destruction. The transition out of communism in Eastern Europe created winners and losers. These trends have been particularly evident in Hungary and Poland.

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After the former Hungarian communist party rapidly rebranded itself as a social-democratic party the MSzP , adopting a pro-European stance and accepting the neoliberal policies advocated by the IMF and the EU. Discontent with the fallout from these policies cost the MSzP much of its popularity, and in elections it lost its status as the largest parliamentary party.

Out of government, the MSzP reoriented itself once more, promising that if it returned to power it would increase social spending.


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When a governing coalition with the MSzP as its major partner was formed following the next elections in , the party began borrowing to fund the promised expenditures. It made an even stronger showing in , this time with promises to keep social expenditures high, but by this point the debt incurred as a result of this spending had brought Hungary into conflict with EU stability criteria.

The MSzP-led government was thus forced to backtrack and implement austerity measures, including hikes in gas and electricity prices and in taxes. A new austerity package was announced in June , and support for the party dropped by 12 points between May and August of that year. Meanwhile, support for Fidesz a right-populist party and later for the extreme-right Jobbik party was increasing. The Polish left followed a similar trajectory. After a poor showing in the legislative elections, the party shifted course, promising to increase support for those suffering as a result of economic change.

But with Poland on the threshold of joining the EU, the need to meet the accession criteria forced the new government to enact further neo-liberal reforms, including large tax increases and cuts in social benefits the total planned spending in the state budget was nearly 20 percent lower than in the previous year. These moves caused a rapid drop in support for the new government. Soon after, as in Hungary, corruption scandals erupted, heightening popular disgust with the government. When additional austerity measures were introduced at the end of , the left was pummeled, and the SLD received only Over the following years, many former SLD supporters turned to the populist right-wing Law and Justice party.

In some Central European countries, leftist parties stuck with more protectionist economic policies, regained the support of blue-collar voters, and thereby left less of an opening for the populist right. Experimental work by Maria Snegovaya further demonstrates that the ability of right-wing populists to present themselves as champions of the welfare state has contributed to their success in Eastern Europe. Without such promises, anti-immigrant appeals were not enough to cause these voters to shift support to the populist right.

The decline of the center-left is one of the most consequential trends of recent decades. This was democracy as the EU envisioned it — clinically dead. Then the Great Recession came, followed by German imposed austerity. Spain, along with other Southern European states was hit for six by the post recession. For a decade prior to that the economy had boomed but it was based largely on a construction boom generated by banks issuing sub-prime mortgages to Spaniards who had little or no experience with credit and its risks.

When the bubble burst property developments were left unfinished or were unsaleable, people were left with mortgages greater than the value of their homes; evictions began and reached a day while construction jobs drained away. The banks had to be rescued by the state and the cost was austerity through massive government spending cuts.

Unemployment hit This went up to the highest political and business echelons. Even King Juan Carlos had to abdicate after his son in law was brought to court. He would eventually be jailed, though under very lenient conditions. Austerity and corruption rekindled a fire long considered extinguished in Spain: democracy. In the main union federation called a one day general strike but when it was over people did not go back to work or their homes. Instead the M Movement or Indignados movement brought hundreds of thousands out onto the streets occupying squares, public buildings and feeding a movement to stop evictions and to squat empty properties.

It was from this movement that a radical left party, Podemos, would emerge. The backlash against corruption saw the emergence of the obligatory new neo-liberal party pledged to root it out, Ciudadanos Citizens , but also to deal with the new democratic tendencies in Spain. It was created in Catalonia but from the very outset took a hard-line against Catalan self-determination. It does not look like it will return. In the general election the combined votes of the Social Democrats and the PP was 84 percent. Their share of the vote declined to record lows of support in the December elections.

The Rebirth of Social Democracy

The PP was the biggest party but for 10 months it could not win sufficient votes to form a government. A fresh election in June saw the PP recover to seats, but well short of securing a majority. Interestingly, the supposed anti-corruption party, Ciudadanos, failed to vote to remove Rajoy. Under the terms of the Spanish Constitution, a Congress of Deputies was required to do more than simply say it had no confidence in Rajoy; it had to elect someone else prime minister in his stead, with an absolute majority. As I write the future of the social democratic government hangs by a thread as it faces losing a budget vote defeat because the two Catalan parties will not vote for it in protest at the trial of 12 Catalan leaders on charges of rebellion and sedition in relation to the 1 October Catalan independence referendum.

As already mentioned the first has foundered on the prosecution of 12 Catalan leaders. For supporters of Catalan independence, promises of greater fiscal powers for the Catalan Parliament, extra funding for infrastructure and overhaul of the Constitution comes long after the horse has bolted. Details of the purported constitutional overhaul have never been made public.

Despite the high degree of organisation under reformist leadership the workers have been powerless to defeat this attack.

Fascism vs Democracy - What's The Difference? - Political Comparison

Let none say: These events concern Germany; we have no Fascism in Britain; how can we concern ourselves with the question of Fascism in Britain? The offensive of capitalist reaction is a world offensive. It extends from country to country, through Italy, Hungary, Poland, Germany. To-day it has reached Germany. The world capitalist offensive has struck most ferociously in Germany, because the German working-class movement is the strongest working-class movement outside the Soviet Union, and the nearest to socialist victory; on the fate of the struggle in Germany turns the future of the movement throughout the capitalist world.

Therefore, the most violent, murderous fury of the capitalist offensive is revealed in Germany. But in every country in the capitalist world, reaction rages. Only the united strength and action of the working class can defeat this offensive of capitalism.

This is the urgent question of to-day. The whole future of the working class and of socialism is at stake. This is the urgent issue which every socialist and every trade unionist must face, must understand how Fascism came to conquer in Germany, despite all the democratic forms and developed working class organisation, and how alone the working class can defeat Fascism. The Communist International declares in its Manifesto, issued in the beginning of March, —. This is the plain and straightforward proposal put forward by the Communist International for the common action of the workers against the offensive of Fascism and reaction.

It is a plain proposition, which should commend itself to every worker, for a practical fighting alliance against the capitalist attack, while holding over ultimate political differences during the fight. In every country the Communist Parties have put forward concrete propositions to the social democratic parties and trade unions for the united working-class front against Fascism and reaction.

In every country the social democratic parties and the reformist trade unions have refused. In this manifesto they put forward no concrete proposals for the fight against Fascism. How these empty phrases of abstract principles are to help the German workers under the attack of Fascism, how they are to defeat the attack of Fascism, they have no answer.

Thus the Labour Party refuses the united working-class front against Fascism, but joins in the united front with capitalism and with Fascism against Communism. The Manifesto issued last week-end by the National Joint Labour Council betrayed no realisation that the issue is the destruction of the working-class movement throughout Europe. This same line will lead to the victory of Fascism in Britain, if the workers do not correct it in time. Greenwood, M.

Face the facts. The Labour Party in office has shown what it means by democracy when it has ruled as the Government of the British Empire. Of the million subjects of the British Empire, millions, or six-sevenths, are coloured peoples despotically ruled from London without even the form or pretence of democratic control of their own destinies. The Labour Government ruled and held in subjection these four hundred and twenty million colonial slaves, one-fifth of the human race, by armed violence, shooting and imprisoning all who dared to resist and to claim democratic rights.

Dictatorship by armed force over four hundred and twenty million people—is that democracy? When the Indian people rose in in a mighty mass movement for their freedom, the Labour Government met them with charges and shooting, and threw into prison sixty thousand fighters for freedom within a single year—a record unequalled by Tsarism and not equalled yet by Hitlerism in Germany. The Labour Government carried forward the Meerut trial of the leaders of the Indian working-class movement, including British trade unionists and socialists, who were held in prison for four years and then sentenced to barbarous sentences of transportation for life or for periods ranging to ten or twelve years.

For what crimes? For the crime of preaching socialism. For the crime of building trade unions. For the crime of supporting strikes. The Labour Government in Britain operated the Tory Trade Union Act against the workers, arresting hundreds of workers for strike activity, setting the police against the workers, setting the secret police to spy on the working-class movement, suppressing working-class literature, and acting as the agent of the tiny minority of rich capitalists against the working class. The Labour Party and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress have suppressed democracy within the working-class movement, expelling the most militant workers including the old founders of the movement like Tom Mann , excluding duly elected trade unionists from official positions, and breaking up whole sections of the movement whenever a majority goes against them.

What does the Labour Party mean when it speaks of democracy? To-day the capitalist dictatorship is increasingly throwing over democratic forms, even in its metropolis in Britain, is introducing more and more anti-working-class legislation, judicial persecutions, suppressions of freedom of speech, and intensifying police measures. The Labour Party supports this process and as a Government has helped to carry it forward. If the capitalist dictatorship advances to open Fascist forms, the Labour Party will also adapt itself to these forms.

This is shown by the example of its partner, German Social Democracy, which with the victory of Fascism in Germany has passed over to the side of Fascism and declared its readiness to support it. The claim of the Labour Party to stand for democracy is a brazen lie, disproved by its whole record and practice. Yes, it is a form of dictatorship—against the capitalist class.

But there is a world of difference between one form and another. In all class society, so long, that is, as classes exist, there is inevitably dictatorship. One class rules in reality, and one class is subject, whatever the form. The Capitalist Dictatorship is the dictatorship of the tiny exploiting minority against the immense majority, against the working population, and leading only to increased exploitation and ever-intensified forms of dictatorship Fascism.

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The Communist Party fights for the former; the Labour Party for the latter. Thus the Communist Party is in the forefront of the fight for democracy, of the fight for freedom, at every stage. The Labour Party leadership is thus revealed in practice as the gaoler of democracy and the bloodstained enemy of every fight for freedom. In the same way, the Communist Party leads the fight against Fascism in every country where Fascism has shown itself.

Social Democracy surrenders to Fascism and passes over to Fascism. The falsity of this is sufficiently exposed by the war record of the Labour Party, as of all Social Democracy. The Labour Party took on the role of recruiting sergeant for the imperialist butchers, joined the war governments, and urged on the workers to slaughter one another. The Labour Party violated every principle of international socialism, broke its own pledged word at international congresses, and chose the path of imperialist violence.

Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe
Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe
Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe
Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe
Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe
Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe
Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe Fascism, Liberalism and Social Democracy in Central Europe

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