East of (democratic) Socialism,
As a consequence of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen stepping down as PES President last November, the PES Party members national bureaux prepare to elect a new leader in the incoming Bucharest Congress (next September). And, if all goes to plan, Sergei Stanishev (Bulgarian Socialist Party leader) will succeed Poul as President of the European Socialists. Thus, once confirmed the election, the former Bulgarian Prime-Minister will succeed the former Danish Prime-minister, in a congress organized by the current Romanian Prime-Minister (Victor Ponta).
It seems to me clear that the (European) socialist ambitions are not only to present themselves to the European electorate as a political force institutionally equipped (hence electing for their top echelons former rulers), but also to open the PES towards the East, promoting new figures from the new Europe. And if I easily understand the need to present leaders with experience in government and imperative to understand the Union as a political space spamming from Lisbon to Sofia, I understand less the need to promote leaders with a governmental record evidently distance from the inheritance and tradition of social democratic values and the ideals of democratic socialism, especially at a time when European electorate screams for new left-wing progressive solutions.
Furthermore, I am very doubtful that throughout the democratic transitions in Central and Eastern Europe, and especially during the construction of current party systems in former communist countries, local socialists parties were founded under the same ideological and programmatic assumptions that their Western European sister parties (for several reasons). This justifies, for instance, that issues as Equality, Social Equity or the protection of the Welfare State were never on the front pages of their political agendas, but quite the opposite actually. And that the legacy of their governments are usually associated with intense and misplaced privatization policies, corruption scandals or the lack of any coherent set of Equality policies.
That said it is normal that within the PES family we find parties with different (and sometimes conflicting) political traditions and political cultures. As in any Political Party set in the frame of a Federal State (see for instance US party system). Thus we should not deem strange the need to find consensual equilibriums and monist solutions inside the PES. Solutions aimed broadly to build a unified partisan force united to political battle. And indeed this does make some sense, from the pure tactical point of view.
The problem is that Europe it’s (still) not the US (who have centuries of party culture). Moreover, Europe has boosted in recent years an engaged, and pro-active civil progressive society. A Civil Society that is against the current austerity policies packs and against the autistic fascination with the deficit and the wellbeing of the markets. A Civil Society who wants more democracy, less oligarchies and an effective coherence between political discourse and political praxis. A civil society that is waiting for a new left-wing European response, but not from an apparatchik, oligarchic and tactical-based Left, as the one I fear will be enthroned in the Bucharest Congress.
But maybe that is the price to pay to get rid odd the current liberal-conservative European government. And for the PES the strategy appears quite simple indeed: after the overwhelming victory in France, win the Germany general elections in 2013, and arrive in 2014 with sufficient over-spilling (political) momentum to win the decisive 2014 European elections.
And although such a plan seems to me quite plausible, it will represent the choice of a lesser evil. A choice East of (democratic) socialism and far from an integrating, democratically plural and straightforward progressive solution. One that could be represented by politicians of solid social-democratic values and convictions, with a progressive governmental record and in sync with the current demands emerging from European society and electorate.
Now I believe we still have the chance to build up Poul Nyrup’s legacy, and open the PES to the current active and engaged European civil society and other progressive political partners. To embark in the elaboration of a pan-European political platform that could capacitate the scattered European progressive political forces and gather them around a common vision for the Union. And with this ‘Rainbow Alliance’ definitely shift the current European focus from the markets and the oligarchs to the Women and Men living in the Union.
But in order to do so, we – European socialist – must set the example. Only with a strong progressive left-wing discourse, an attitude of openness towards our natural political allies and with a new set of coherent and truly engaged politicians can we achieve such desideratum. Not doing so, present us as East of Socialism, will only add noise into the European political Arena. Exactly at the moment where we need political clarity and straightforward solutions.