It’s not a coincidence that the crisis of social democracy is happening at precisely the same moment as the crisis of Europe. That’s is because Europe only has a future as a social democratic project and social democracy can only now thrive at a European level.
It means the dual crisis isn’t cyclical or temporary. Recovery, like the dawn, is not just round the corner. We can’t just sit it out and wait for the people to come back to us. The crisis is systematic and is fast becoming existential. Nowhere. Let me say again – nowhere – is social democracy succeeding. After the biggest crisis of capitalism in 150 years – it is social democracy and not capitalism that is in free-fall. The fate of PASOK – a party of government one day – and finished the next is merely the outlier for the destruction of more social democratic parties.
The fundamental reason – which I explore in more detail in Europe as a Good Society is that at the level of the nation and the continent social democrats colluded with an essentially neo-liberal project. They did so with good intentions. Humanised free-markets were better than the de-humanised alternative when nothing else was deemed feasible. But social democrat’s got caught out when the music stopped. They were advocating propping up the banks, liberalizing markets and privatizing the public realm. The right does right wing things – they can at least be trusted to do what they believe in. If social democrats aren’t making the world – well more social and democratic – what’s the point of them? If Europe isn’t the site for our shared prosperity – what is the point of it?
So what to do? Europe as a Good Society suggests a radical twin-track strategy. First a series of economic measures enacted at a European level to rebuild a social Europe. That means the collectivization of debt, the break up of the banks, Eurobonds for green investment, an integration fund for migrants and the re-introduction of capital controls – all as part of an Emergency European Recovery Plan.
But in tandem Europe has to be more democratic – with a shift to a two-house parliament of directly elected MPs and a senate representing members states. But this requires the establishment of a European public realm – which ought to be possible given new technology and the shared interests of Europe’s people.
Showing Europe can stand up to capital and make the continent more social – would be the trigger for a round of democratic reform, followed by deeper economic powers to ensure footloose corporations operate for the people of Europe and not just private profit. Economic and democratic reform will reinforce each other.
The right are fighting for their life because they fear both social democracy and Europe. They know the combination of the two is powerful enough to shatter their dreams of a free market nirvana. Its time we stopped helping them get their way.