The Left in Government II – Latin America and Europe Compared

Birgit Daiber

Report of the conference in June 2010 in Brussels (English, German)

Political activists from Latin America and Europe met for the second time in recent days at the invitation of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Brussels to discuss their experience with participation in government. At the first conference, the opinion had been unanimous: Yes, despite some disappointing results, such as those in France and Italy, the left could not resist the challenge of assuming governmental responsibility. The recent second conference was to serve to deepen the discussion. How is the left reacting to the worldwide crisis? What strategic concepts are they following? Are there political topic areas, in which the left is implementing new ideas? What about such issues as participatory justice, ecology, deepening democracy, or an alternative financial architecture?

All participants were convinced of the importance of these issues for the left, even if clear answers are difficult. The debate showed that despite the very different basic conditions, it is extremely important to discuss strategic concepts together on the basis of concrete experience.

Europe, with the exception of Norway, is groaning under the crisis, and the left is being forced to fight to preserve the welfare state. Given the massive austerity policies of the nation-states, there is very little room to manoeuvre; nonetheless, that space is being used at the regional level. In Germany, the Left is in government in the states of Brandenburg and Berlin, and is focussing primarily on education and employment security; in Italy, the left-wing president of the region of Apulia is fighting for a socio-ecological and democratic-renewal.

The participation of the radical left in governments in Europe has to date also always meant an association with the Social Democrats – but they have in many European countries succumbed to the neo-liberal Schröder-Blair charm, and are managing only very slowly to move away from this aberration.

In Latin America, the picture first of all appears very different. In nine countries, the left is in government, and the anti-capitalist dynamic is still strong. Stronger still, however, is the compulsion to follow the logic of capitalist development. The acquisition of control over a country’s own natural resources, development of industries, and, on the other hand, policies of social redistribution, are the real core of governance in many countries. Left activists see their central task not in blind faith in development (“desarollismo”), but rather in creating practical alternative priorities by deepening democracy and the participation of the people, and through the reduction of poverty, with respect for the indigenous population as particularly important. At the same time, there are concrete ideas for an alternative international financial architecture.

In Europe it is currently in the North that there is the most left-wing government participation: in Iceland, Greenland and Norway. These countries at the same time show the breadth of the development of the crisis in Europe: Iceland has only barely been able to avert national bankruptcy, while Norway has been almost unaffected by the crisis. An exciting initiative is reported from Sweden: In the lead-up to the elections in September, the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left have come together and developed projects which they – if they win the elections – will implement together in a coalition government.


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