Why are the left parties in government in the majority of European countries today?

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1. Out of the 15 countries which make up the European Union, 13 today have Social-Democratic governments or governments in which the Social-Democrats are participating (Spain and Ireland are the only exceptions). This reality has obviously been subject to analyses both by bourgeois journalists and by revolutionary groups. Thus, for a ‘specialist’ in international politics like Alexander Adler. “the European lefts have at least one joint objective: the preservation of the welfare state, the defence of a common European security” (Courier International, no. 417). Similarly, Le Prolétaire for last October devoted an article to this question, rightly arguing that the current predominance of Social-Democracy in the majority of countries corresponds to a deliberate and co-ordinated international policy of the bourgeoisie against the working class. However, both in the bourgeois commentaries and in the article of Le Prolétaire, it is not possible to see the specificity of this policy in relation to the policies carried out in previous periods since the end of the 60s. It is thus a question of understanding the causes of the political phenomenon we are seeing on a European scale, and even on a world scale (with the Democrats at the head of the executive in the US). This said, even before going into these causes, we have to respond to one question in particular: can we say that the undeniable fact that the Social-Democratic parties have a hegemonic position in nearly all the countries of western Europe is the result of a general phenomenon with common causes for all the countries, or is it rather a circumstantial convergence of a series of specific and particular situations in each country?

2. Marxism can be demarcated from the empirical approach in the sense that it does not draw its conclusions only from the facts observed at a given moment, but interprets and integrates these facts into a historical and global vision of social reality. This said, as a living method, marxism is concerned to permanently examine this reality, and is never afraid to put into question the analyses that it has elaborated previously:

 - either because they have been shown to be erroneous (the marxist method has never claimed to be immune from error);

 - or because new historical elements have arisen, rendering the old analyses obsolete.

In no way should the marxist method be seen as an immutable dogma to which reality has no choice but to bow down. Such a conception of marxism is that of the Bordigists (or of the FOR which denied the reality of the crisis because it didn’t correspond to its schemas). It is not the method that the ICC has inherited from Bilan and the whole of the communist left. While the marxist method certainly refuses to be limited only to immediate facts and refuses to submit to the ‘evidence’ celebrated by the ideologues of the ruling class, it is still always obliged to take account of these facts. Faced with the phenomenon of the massive presence of the left at the head of the countries of Europe, we can obviously find within each country specific reasons militating in favour of such a disposition of political forces. For example, we have attributed the return of the left to government in France in 1997 to the extreme political weakness and the divisions within the right. Similarly, we saw that considerations of foreign policy played an important part in the formation of the left government in Italy (against the Berlusconi wing favourable to an alliance with the USA) or in Britain (where the Conservatives were profoundly divided with regard to the European Union and the USA). However, to try to derive the current political situation in Europe from the simple sum of particular situations in different countries would be a futile exercise contrary to the marxist spirit. In fact, in the marxist method, in certain circumstances quantity becomes a new quality. When we consider that never since they joined the bourgeois camp have so many socialist parties been simultaneously in government (even if all of them have been at one time or another), when we also see that in countries as important as Britain and Germany (where the bourgeoisie usually has a remarkable mastery over its political apparatus) the left was put into government in a deliberate manner by the bourgeoisie, then we have to consider that this is a new “quality” which can’t be reduced to a mere superimposition of “particular cases”[1].

Furthermore, we argued no differently when we highlighted the phenomenon of the “left in opposition” at the end of the 70s. Thus the text adopted by the 3rd Congress of the ICC, and which gives the framework for our analysis of the left in opposition, began by taking into account the fact that in most countries of Europe, the left had been pushed out of power:

We only have to glance at the situation briefly to see that... the arrival of the left in power has not only not been verified, but that the left has over the last year been systematically moved out of power in most of the countries of Europe. It is enough to cite Portugal, Italy, Spain, the Scandinavian countries, France, Belgium, Britain as well as Israel to see this. There are practically only two countries in Europe where the left is still in power: Germany and Austria” (“In opposition as in government, the ‘left’ against the workers” International Review 18).

 3. In the analysis of the causes for the coming of the left into government in this or that European country, we had to take into account some specific factors (for example, in the case of France, the extreme weakness of “the world’s most stupid right”). However, it is vital that revolutionaries are able to give an overall response to an overall phenomenon, to answer it as completely as possible. This is what the ICC did in 1979, at its 3rd Congress, with regard to the left in opposition and the best way to take up this work is to recall the method we used to analyse this phenomenon at the time:

With the appearance of the crisis and the first signs of the workers’ struggle, the ‘left in power’ was capitalism’s most adequate response in these initial years. The left in government, and the left posing its candidature to govern, effectively fulfilled the task of containing, demobilising and paralysing the proletariat with all its mystifications about ‘change’ and about electoralism.     

The left had to remain, and did remain, in this position, as long as it enabled it to fulfil its function. Thus, we weren’t committing any error in the past. Something different and more substantial has taken place: a change in the alignment of the political forces of the bourgeoisie. We would be committing a serious error if we didn’t recognise this change in time and continued to repeat ourselves emptily about the danger of the ‘left in power’.

Before continuing the examination of why this change has taken place and what it means, we must particularly insist on the fact that we’re not talking about a circumstantial phenomenon, limited to this or that country, but a general phenomenon, valid in the short term and possibly the middle term for all the countries of the western world.

 Having effectively carried out its task of immobilising the working class during these initial years, the left, whether in power or moving towards power, can no longer perform this task except by putting itself in opposition. There are many reasons for this change, to do with the specific conditions of various countries, but these are secondary reasons. The main reasons are the wearing-out of the mystifications of the left, of the left in power, and the slow disillusionment of the working masses which follows from this. The recent revival and radicalisation of workers’ struggle bears witness to this.

Let’s remind ourselves of the three criteria for the left coming to power which are outlined in our previous analyses and discussions:

1. Necessity to strengthen state capitalist measures,

2. Closer integration into the western imperialist bloc under the domination of US capital,

3. Effective containment of the working class and immobilisation of its struggles.

The left fulfils these three conditions most effectively, and the USA, leader of the bloc, clearly supported its coming to power, although it has reservations about the CPs (...) But while the USA remained suspicious about the CPs, it gave total support for the maintenance or arrival of the Socialists in power, wherever that was possible....

Let’s return to our criteria for the left being in power. When we examine them more closely, we can see that while the left fulfils them best, they aren’t all the exclusive patrimony of the left. The first two, state capitalist measures and integration into the bloc, can easily be accomplished, if the situation demands it, by other political forces of the bourgeoisie: parties of the centre or even outright right-wing ones[2]... On  the other hand, the third criterion, the containment of the working class, is the specific property of the left. It is its specific function, its raison d’être.

The left doesn’t accomplish this function only, or even generally, when it’s in power (...) As a general rule, the left’s participation in power is only absolutely necessary in two precise situations: in a Union Sacrée to dragoon the workers into national defence in direct preparation for war, and in a revolutionary situation to counter-act the movement towards revolution.

Outside of these two extreme situations, when the left can’t avoid openly exposing itself as an unconditional defender of the bourgeois regime by directly, violently confronting the working class, it must always try to avoid betraying its real identity, its capitalist function, and to maintain the mystification that its policies are aimed at the defence of working class interests (...) Thus, even if the left, like any other bourgeois party aspires ‘legitimately’ to government office, we must note an important difference between these parties and other bourgeois parties concerning their participation in power.  That is that these parties claim to be ‘workers’ parties and as such are forced to present themselves with ‘anti-capitalist’ masks and phrases, as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Being in power puts them in an ambivalent situation, more difficult than for more frankly bourgeois parties. An openly bourgeois party carries out in power what it says it’s going to do: the defence of capital, and it in no way gets discredited by carrying out anti-working class policies. It’s exactly the same in opposition as it is in government. It’s quite the opposite with the ‘workers’’ parties. They must have a working class phraseology and a capitalist practise, one language in opposition and an absolutely opposed practise when in government...

After an explosion of social discontent and convulsions which caught the bourgeoisie by surprise, and which was only neutralised by bringing the left to power, the crisis deepened, illusions in the left began to weaken, the class struggle began to revive. It became necessary for the left to be in opposition and to radicalise its phraseology, so as to be able to control the re-emerging struggle. Obviously this couldn’t be an absolute, but it is today and for the near future a general rule[3]” (ibid).

 4. The text of 1979, as we can see, reminds us of the need to examine the phenomenon of the deployment of the political forces at the head of the bourgeois state under three different angles:

- the necessities of the bourgeoisie in the face of the economic crisis,

- the imperialist needs of each national bourgeoisie,

- the policy towards the proletariat.

It also affirms that this last aspect is, in the last instance, the most important one in the historic period opened up by the proletarian resurgence at the end of the 60s.

In our efforts to understand the present situation, the ICC took this factor into account in January 1990, at the time of the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the retreat in consciousness that it provoked in the working class: “This is why, in particular, we have to update the ICC’s analysis of the ‘left in opposition’. This was a necessary card for the bourgeoisie at the end of the 70s and throughout the 80s due to the class’ general dynamic towards increasingly determined and conscious combats, and its growing rejection of democratic, electoral, and trade union mystifications (...) By contrast, the class’ present reflux means that for a while this strategy will no longer be a priority for the bourgeoisie” (International Review 61).

However, what at the time was seen  as a possibility is today being imposed as a quasi-general rule (even more general than the left in opposition during the 80s). Having seen the possibility of the phenomenon it is thus important to understand its causes, taking into account the three factors mentioned above.

 5. The search for the causes of the hegemony of the left in Europe must be based on a consideration  of the specific characteristics of the present period. This work has been done in the three reports on the international situation presented to the congress, and this isn’t the place to go over it in detail here. However it is important to compare the present situation with that of the 1970s when the bourgeoisie played the card of the left in government or moving towards government.

On the economic level, the1970s were the first years of the open crisis of capitalism. In fact, it was mainly after the recession of 1974 that the bourgeoisie became aware of the gravity of the situation. However, despite the violence of the convulsions of this period, the ruling class still clung to the illusion that they could be surmounted. Attributing its difficulties to the oil price rises that followed the Yom Kippur war in 1973, it hoped to overcome this problem through stabilising oil prices and installing new sources of energy. It also counted on a revival based on the very considerable credits (drawn from the ‘petrodollars’) doled out to the countries of the Third World. Finally, it imagined that new state capitalist measures of a neo-Keynsian type would make it possible to stabilise the mechanisms of the economy in each country.

At the level of imperialist conflicts, there was an aggravation of the latter, largely due to the development of the economic crisis  - even if this aggravation was well below what took place at the beginning of the 80s. The necessity for greater discipline within each of the blocs was an important element in bourgeois policy (thus in a country like France, the arrival of Giscard d’Estaing in 1974 put an end to the strivings for ‘independence’ which characterised the Gaullist period).

At the level of the class struggle, this period was characterised by the very strong combativity which developed in all countries in the wake of May 68 in France and the Italian ‘rampant May’ of 1969; a combativity which initially had taken the bourgeoisie by surprise.

On these three aspects, the situation today is very different from what it was in the 1970s.

On the economic level, the bourgeoisie has long since lost its illusions about ‘coming out’ of the crisis. Despite the campaigns of the recent period about the benefits of ‘globalisation’, it doesn’t really bank on a return to the glories of the reconstruction period even if it still hopes to limit the damage of the crisis. And even this last hope has been severely undermined since the summer of 1997 with the collapse of the ‘dragons’ and ‘tigers’, followed by the fall of Russia and Brazil in 1998.

At the level of imperialist conflicts, the situation has been radically altered: today there are no imperialist blocs. However, military confrontations have in no way come to a halt. They have even sharpened, multiplied, and got closer to the central countries, notably the metropoles of western Europe. They have also been marked by a tendency for the big powers to participate more and more directly, particularly the world’s greatest power. The 70s, by contrast, saw a certain disengagement by the great powers from such a direct role, particularly the US which was in the process of leaving Vietnam.

At the level of workers’ struggles, the present period is still marked by the retreat in combativity and consciousness provoked by the events at the end of the 80s (collapse of the Eastern bloc and of the ‘socialist’ regimes) and the beginning of the 90s (Gulf War, war in Yugoslavia, etc), even if we are seeing tendencies towards a revival of combativity and there is a profound political ferment amongst a very small minority.

Finally, it is important to underline the new factor acting on the life of society today, and which didn’t exist in the 70s: capitalism’s entry into the phase of decomposition. 

6. This last factor has to be taken into account if we are to understand the present phenomenon of the left coming to power. Decomposition affects the whole of society and in the first place the ruling class itself. This phenomenon is particularly spectacular in the countries of the periphery and constitutes a factor of growing instability which often fuels imperialist confrontations. We have shown that in the most developed countries, the ruling class is much better placed to control the effects of decomposition, but at the same time it can’t completely protect itself from them. One of the most spectacular examples of this is without doubt the Monicagate pantomime in the world’s leading bourgeoisie; although it is aimed at reorienting the USA’s imperialist policy, it has at the same time resulted in a definite loss of American authority.

Among the various bourgeois parties, not all sectors are affected by decomposition in the same way. All bourgeois parties obviously have the mission of preserving the short and long term interests of the national capital. However, within this spectrum, the parties which generally have a clearer consciousness of their responsibilities are the parties of the left, since they are less tied to the short term interests of this or that capitalist sector, and also because the bourgeoisie has already given them a leading role at decisive moments in the life of bourgeois society (world wars and above all revolutionary periods). Obviously the parties of the left are subject to the effects of decomposition - corruption, scandals, a tendency towards falling apart, etc. However, the example of countries like Italy or France shows that because of their characteristics they are less affected than the right. In this sense, one of the elements that enable us to explain the arrival of left parties in government in many countries is the fact that these parties are better able to resist the effects of decomposition and have a greater cohesion (this is also valid for a country like Britain where the Tories were much more divided than Labour)[4].

Another factor helping to explain the current ‘success’ of the left, and connected to the problem of decomposition, is the necessity to give a boost to the democratic and electoral mystification. The collapse of the Stalinist regimes was a very important factor in the revival of these mystifications, particularly among the workers who, as long as there existed a system that was presented as being different from capitalism, could still harbour the hope that there was an alternative to capitalism (even if they already had few illusions in the in the so-called ‘socialist’ countries). However, the Gulf war of 1991 struck a blow against democratic illusions. Even more, the general disenchantment towards the traditional values of society, a distinguishing feature of decomposition, and which is expressed especially in atomisation and the trend of ‘look after number one’, could not fail to have an effect on the classic institutions of the capitalist states, and in particular, the democratic and electoral mechanisms. And it was precisely the electoral victory of the left  - in countries where, in conformity with the needs of the bourgeoisie, the right had governed for a very long period (notably in important countries like Germany and Britain) -  that constituted a very important factor in the reanimation of electoral mystifications.

7. The aspect of imperialist conflicts (which also has to be linked with the question of decomposition: the collapse of the Eastern bloc and ‘each for himself’ at the international level) is another important factor in the left’s accession to government in a number of countries. We have already seen that the necessary reorientation of Italian diplomacy to the detriment of the alliance with the USA was a central element in the break up and disappearance of Christian Democracy in this country, as well as in the failure of the Berlusconi ‘pole’ (more favourable to the US). We have also seen that the greater homogeneity of Labour in Britain towards the European Union was one of the keys to the choice of Blair by the British bourgeoisie. Finally the arrival in the German government of political sectors most distant from Hitlerism, and even dressed in a ‘pacifist’ garb (the Social-Democrats and above all the Greens) is the best cover for the imperialist ambitions of a country which in the long term is the USA’s main rival. However, there is another element to take into consideration  and which also applies to countries (like France) where there is no difference between the right and the left in international policy. This is the necessity for each bourgeoisie in the central countries to participate more and more in the  military conflicts which ravage the world, and this is connected to the very nature of these conflicts, which are often presented as horrible massacres of the civilian populations in response to which the ‘international community’ has to apply the ‘law’ and send in its ‘humanitarian missions’. Since 1990, nearly all the military interventions by the great powers (and particularly in Yugoslavia) have been dressed in this costume and not in the banner of ‘national interests’. And for waging ‘humanitarian’ wars it is clear that the left is better placed than the right (even if the latter can also do the job), since its speciality is the ‘defence of the rights of man’[5].

8. At the level of the management of the economic crisis, there are also elements which work in favour of the left coming to government in most countries. In particular, we have the  now patent failure of the ultra-liberal policies of which Thatcher and Reagan were the most noted representatives. Obviously, the bourgeoisie has no choice but to continue its economic attacks on the working class. It will also not go back on its privatisations which have allowed it:

- to lighten the budget deficits of the state,

- to make a certain number of economic activities more profitable,

- to avoid the immediate politicisation of social conflicts due to situations where the state itself is the boss.

This said, the failure of the ultra-liberal policies (which was expressed very clearly by the Asian crisis) does provide fuel for the advocates of greater state intervention. This applies at the level of ideological discourse: the bourgeoisie has to give the appearance of correcting what it presents as the result of the errors of liberalism - the aggravation of the crisis - in order to prevent the crisis from facilitating the development of consciousness in the proletariat. But it is equally valid at the level of real policy: the bourgeoisie is becoming aware of the ‘excesses’ of the ‘ultra-liberal’ policy. To the extent that the right was strongly marked by this policy of ‘less state’, the left is for the moment the best placed to bring about such changes (even if we know that the right can also take these kinds of measures as we saw with Giscard d’Estaing in France in the 70s; and it’s a man of the right, Aznar, in Spain who identifies with the policies of Blair’s Labour party). The left cannot re-establish the welfare state, but it has to appear not to entirely betray its programme, by re-establishing greater state intervention in the economy.

Furthermore, the failure of ‘unlimited globalisation’, which was particularly concretised by the Asian crisis, is another factor adding grist to the left’s mill. When the open crisis developed at the beginning of the 70s, the bourgeoisie understood that it could not repeat the errors which had helped to aggravate the crisis in the 30s. In particular, despite all the tendencies pushing in this direction, it was necessary to combat the temptation to shut off each country in autarky and protectionism, which would deal a fatal blow to world trade. This is why the European Economic Community had to carry on its development till it became the European Union and set up the Euro. This is also why the World Trade Organisation was set up, with the aim of limiting customs duties and facilitating international trade. However, this policy of opening the markets has been an important factor in the explosion of financial speculation (which constitutes the favourite ‘sport’ of capitalists in periods of crisis when there is little chance of profitable investment in productive activities), the dangers of which were clearly revealed by the Asian crisis. Even if the left will not basically call into question the policy of the right, it is more in favour of greater regulation of the flow of international finance (one of the formulae for this being the ‘Tobin Tax’), thus claiming to limit the excesses of ‘globalisation’. Its policy is to create a kind of cordon sanitaire around the most developed countries, so limiting the effects of the convulsions hitting the periphery.

9. The necessity to face up to the development of the class struggle is an essential factor in the coming of the left to government in the current period. But before determining the reasons for this we must look at the differences between the present situation and the situation in the 70s in this domain. In the 70s, the argument for the left coming to power presented to the workers was:

- there has to be a radically different economic policy from that of the right, a ‘socialist’ one that will revive the economy and ‘make the rich pay’[6];

- in order not to compromise this policy or to allow the left to win the elections, social struggles had to be put under wraps;

To put it crudely, we can say that the ‘left alternative’ had the function of channelling workers’ discontent and militancy towards the election booths.

Today, the different left parties which have got into government by winning the elections are far from speaking the ‘workers’’ language they spoke in the 70s. The most striking examples of this are Blair, the apostle of the third way, and Schroeder, the man of the ‘new centre’. In fact, it’s not a question of channelling a still weak combativity towards the election booths but of ensuring that the left government doesn’t have a language that is too different from the one it had during the election campaign, so as to avoid a rapid loss of credit as in the 70s (for example, the British Labour party came to power in the wake of the miners’ strike of 1974 then had to leave it in 1979 faced with an exceptional level of militancy in that year). The fact that the left has a much more ‘bourgeois’ face than in the 70s is a reflection of the low level of working class militancy today. This has allowed the left to replace the right without too many upsets. However, the generalisation of left governments in the most advanced countries is not just a phenomenon ‘by default’ linked to the weakness of the working class. It also plays a ‘positive’ role for the bourgeoisie faced with its mortal enemy. And this in the middle as well as the short term.

In the short term the alternation has not only made it possible to restore the credibility of the electoral process, it has allowed the parties of the right to regain some strength in opposition[7] so that they will be better able to play their role when it becomes necessary to put the left in opposition with a ‘hard’ right in power[8].

In the immediate, the ‘moderate’ language of the left in pushing through its attacks makes it possible to avoid the explosions of militancy that would be made more likely by a Thatcher style language of provocation. And this is indeed one of the most important objectives of the bourgeoisie. To the extent that, as we have shown, one of the essential conditions that will enable the working class to regain the ground it lost with the fall of the Eastern bloc and to become more conscious is the development of the struggle, the bourgeoisie today is trying to gain as much time as possible, even if it knows it cannot always play this card.

10. The massive presence of the left parties in the European governments is a very significant aspect of the current situation. This card is not being played by the different national bourgeoisies each in their own corner. Already during the 70s, when the card of the left in or moving towards government was played by the European bourgeoisie, it had the support of the Democratic president of the USA, Jimmy Carter. In the 80s, the card of the left in opposition and the ‘hard’ right found in Ronald Reagan (as well as Margaret Thatcher) its most eminent representative. At this time, the bourgeoisie elaborated its policies at the level of the entire Western bloc. Today the blocs have disappeared and imperialist tensions have grown sharper and sharper between the USA and a number of European states. However, faced with the crisis and the class struggle the main bourgeoisies of the  world are still concerned to co-ordinate their policies. Thus on 21st September in New York there was a summit meeting of the ‘international centre left’, where Tony Blair celebrated the ‘radical centre’ and Romano Prodi the ‘world wide olive tree’. As for Bill Clinton, he  expressed his joy at seeing the ‘third way’ spreading across the world[9]. However these enthusiastic expressions by the main leaders of the bourgeoisie cannot hide the gravity of the world situation which is what really lies behind the current strategy of the bourgeoisie.

It is probable that the bourgeoisie will carry on with this strategy for a while to come. In particular, it is vital that the parties of the right recover the strength and cohesion that will eventually allow them to take their place at the head of the state. What’s more, the fact that the coming to power of the left in a large number of countries (and particularly in Britain and Germany) took place in a climate of weak combativity in the working class (contrary to what happened in Britain in 74 for example), with an electoral programme very close to what they have actually carried out, means that the bourgeoisie has the intention of playing this card for a good while to come. In fact, one of the decisive elements which will determine when the right comes back will be the return to centre stage of massive proletarian struggles. In the meantime, while workers’ discontent only expresses itself in limited and above all isolated ways, it is the job of the ‘left wing of the left’ to channel the discontent. As we have already seen, the bourgeoisie cannot leave the social terrain totally unguarded. This is why we are seeing a certain rise in strength of the leftists (notably in France) and why, in certain countries, the left parties in government have tried to take their distance from the unions, who can thus speak a more ‘challenging’ language. However, the fact that in Italy a whole sector of Rifondazione Comunista has decided to carry on supporting the government, and that in France the CGT decided at its last congress to adopt a more ‘moderate’ policy, shows that the ruling class does not yet feel itself to be faced with any emergencies at this level.



[1] We should note that in Sweden, where, at the last elections, the Social-Democrats got their lowest score since 1928, the bourgeoisie still called on this party (with the aid of the Stalinist party) to run the affairs of state.

[2] This is an idea that the ICC had already developed on several occasions “It can be seen that the parties of the left are not the only representatives of the general tendency towards state capitalism, that in periods of crisis, this tendency expresses itself so forcefully that, whatever political tendency is in power, it cannot avoid taking measures of statification, the only difference between right and left being the way they try to silence the proletariat - the carrot or the stick” (Révolution Internationale no. 9, May-June 74). As we can see, the analysis that we developed at the 3rd Ccongress did not fall from the sky but developed from the framework we had already elaborated five years earlier.

[3] The possibility for a left party to play its role better by staying in opposition rather than entering the government was also not a new idea in the ICC. Thus, five years before this, we had written with regard to Spain: “The PCE is more and more being outflanked by the present struggles and, if it takes up a place in the government, it risks not being able to carry out its job of controlling the working class; in this case, its anti-working class effectiveness would remain much greater by staying in opposition” (Révolution Internationale 11, September 1974).

[4] It is important to underline what is mentioned above: decomposition affects the bourgeoisie very differently depending on whether it is from a rich or a poor country. In the countries of the old bourgeoisie, the political apparatus, even the right wing sectors which are the most vulnerable, is generally capable of remaining master of the situation and of avoiding the convulsions which affect the countries of the periphery or of the old Soviet empire.

[5] After this text was written, the war in Yugoslavia has provided a striking illustration of this idea. The NATO strikes were presented as being purely ‘humanitaarian’, aimed at protecting the Kosovo Albanians against the exactions of Milosevic. Every day, the televised spectacle of the tragedy of the Albanian refugees reinforced the revolting thesis of the ‘humanitarian’ war. In this bellicose ideological campaign, the left of the left as represented by the Greens played a particularly illustrious role, since it was the leader of the German Greens, Joshka Fischer, who led Germany’s war diplomacy in the name of ‘pacifist’ and ‘humanitarian’ ideals. Similarly, in France, while the Socialist party was hesitant on the question of the land war, it was the Greens who, in the name of a ‘humanitarian emergency’, called for such an intervention. The left is thus rediscovering the accents of its ancestors in the 1930s who called for ‘arms for Spain’ and who wanted to be in the front ranks of pro-war propaganda in the name of anti-fascism.

[6] This was the time when Mitterand (yes, President Mitterand of France and not some leftist) talked so fervantly in his electoral speeches about “breaking with capitalism”.

[7] As a general rule, “rest cures in opposition” are a better therapy for bourgeois forces than a long and wearing stay in power. However, this isn’t the case in all countries. Thus, the return of the French right into opposition following its electoral failure in the spring of 1997 was a new catastrophe for it. This sector of the bourgeois political apparatus only dived deeper into incoherence and division, something it would not have been able to do if it had stayed in power. But it is true that we are talking about the stupidest right wing in the world. In this sense, it is difficult to accept, as Le Prolétaire suggests in its article, that president Chirac deliberately provoked the anticipated elections in order to allow the Socialist party to take the reins of government. We know that the bourgeoisie is machiavellian but there are limits. And Chirac, who is himself ‘limited’, certainly didn’t want the defeat of his party which has now given him a very secondary role.

[8] Note after the ICC Congress: the European elections of June 1999, which in most countries (and particularly Germany and Britain) saw a very clear revival of the right, provide evidence that a rest cure in opposition has been benficial for this sector of the bourgeois political apparatus. The notable counter-example is obviously in France where the elections were a new catastrophe for the right, not so much at the level of the number of electors but at the level of its divisions, which reached grotesque proportions.

[9] We should note that the card of the left in government being played today in the most advanced countries (over and above local particularities) is having a certain echo in some of the peripheral countries. Thus, the recent election in Venezuela - with the support of the “Revolutionary Left” (MIR) and the Stalinists - of the former putchist colonel Chavez, to the detriment of the right (Copei) and of a particularly discredited Social-Democratic party (Accion Democratica), corresponds to the formula of the left in government. Similarly, in Mexico, we are seeing the rise of a left party, the PRD, led by Cardenas (the son of a former president), which has already taken over the leadership of the capital city from the PRI (which has been in power for eight decades) and which has recently benefited from the discrete support of Bill Clinton himself. 

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