Anthony Giddens published in 1994 a book titled Beyond left and right: The future of radical politics, which joined other voices who reflected on the future of the left and the right in the western world after the fall of the Berlin wall. Gidden’s thesis was not very popular, but time might have proved him right. According to Giddens, the right became revolutionary once it embraced tightly the market and its dinamism. On the contrary, the left had become conservative, for its speech was still rooted to the post-war welfare world’s preservation.
In the late nineties Gidden’s thesis was cancelled by the plan for the renewal of social democracy that he had inspired. That plan was globally known as the “Third way”. It might be the great final attempt to shape an international social democratic project and to synchronize a reformist agenda oriented to the achievement of social justice with the 21st century societies’ complex and global nature. The meetings that gathered Blair, Clinton, Schröeder, Prodi, Ricardo Lagos, etc. looking for a common speech seem nowadays something from the past. At most, subject of study in universities when the last plan to modernize social democracy is being explained.
2007-2008 economic crisis brought some fresh air and prominence to the post-communist left that the URSS disintegration had left in no man’s land for some decades. Social democratic parties, accused of being accomplices of capitalism by its younger siblings, have not known how to reshape their ideological place. They have resignedly accepted the diagnosis other people have made of them, they have given up their own identity and they have ended up yielding to populism’s easy argumentation. To the point where many of the youngest militants don’t recognise themselves in their parties’ history. This sequence is better explained with the case of the British Labour Party, which was at the forefront of Social democracy and is now headed by Jeremy Corbyn, one of the most radical leader in the Party’s long history.
This historical and political framework is illustrative, because the sorry spectacle that the PSOE gave away last week can’t be separated from the future of the European Social democracy. In the display of arguments that served the struggle for power in the headquarters of Ferraz street there was not a word that could guide their voters on what does each part of the conflict think about the real issues of the country. At most, the only arguments put forward have confirmed the populist and plebiscitary drift of a significant sector of the party, willing to use the militancy against the party itself. That is, copying the “people’s” trite speech against institutions, which are guilty of kidnapping their will. From here to assume as own the theses of speech against the system, that paradoxically the PSOE aided significantly to create, there’s just one step.
If Social democracy wants to survive, in Spain and in the rest of Europe, it should strengthen its identity and seek solutions, one by one, and from its ideological keys, for the real issues that bother the citizens. Countries need a loyal and institutional representation that express and channels the feeling of the centre-left voters, since the alternative to the centre-right cannot be an amalgamation of anti-system forces. It should not be forgotten that the social democratic compass stopped pointing to the revolution as a way to achieve social justice almost one hundred years ago. And with it as its North point, it has known how to adapt to different times and circumstances. And now it shouldn’t be any less. In its repertory there are enough resources and history to produce an autonomous project that, from a constitutional background shared with the other parties, allows it to regain its credit and its place for the sake of all Spaniards.
Translated into English by Clara Ayuso