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However, even in Europe, the direction of socialism for step-by-step reforms through the parliamentary route, e.g. Social Democrats, historically favoured policies building up a wide middle-class. Myself, I think the self-defeating nature of this project could have been seen on the onset: the have-some will have a tendency to defend what they have, and hope they will rise further, thus a significant part will end up supporting the have-mores against the have-nones. [...]Thus to a large extent I view the current doldrums of the European centre-left and the plague of Third Wayism as a logical consequence of core Social Democrat strategy from at least 60, but perhaps 120 years ago.

First, I think you're wrong on the dynamics of building up a wide middle class. It is precisely at the time that the have-somes felt most secure and upwardly mobile that they were most willing to support anti-poverty programs (i.e. the sixties through the mid seventies). The backlash came once they started feeling their prosperity threatened.  You also can't really expect for a large majority of society to vote to lower their own living standards substantially in favour of a minority.

In times of extreme economic crisis, i.e. the Great Depression, the declasse have-somes in Europe reacted by turning to the extremes - the anti-democratic and radical parties of the left, but especially the right. In America they turned towards the moderate left in the form of FDR. Neither is a particularly hopeful example for the radical left. On the other hand the example of the postwar boom does suggest that the incremental approach which starts off by reassuring and helping the broad middle can pay large dividends for the poor as well.

Which brings me to my final point - the historical attitude of the radical left towards fundamental democratic values has tended to range from ambivalent to very hostile which in turn hurts their popular appeal.  That stems  in large part from a conscious or unconscious understanding that the radical alternative is very difficult to achieve without the use of the gun and the torture chamber on behalf of a self appointed and unaccountable elite against the population.

by MarekNYC on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 04:27:46 PM EST
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but then again, we're not trying to defend the hard left, are we? Just the left...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 05:51:58 PM EST
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Well, DoDo seemed to be objecting to an incremental approach which focuses primarily on the broad middle class with the very poor mainly being helped incidentally. What I was saying that the chances of achieving and implementing radical measures that discount the interests of the middle is almost certainly impossible through democratic means, but that on the other hand the incremental approach does eventually lead to programs specifically targeting the poor. Or to put it in shorter terms - the incremental approach is more positive than he gives it credit for, while the radical approaches are either futile or very ugly.

Of course I don't actually want the kind of end stage that DoDo does, so that may be unconsciously biasing my analysis. On the other hand I don't think I'm all that alone in my views among left wing voters, and given the difficulties even the moderate left has in winning majorities, it seems to me that insisting on 'radical left wing policies, now!', and thus rejecting the votes of us moderates will not be a successful electoral strategy.

by MarekNYC on Sun May 18th, 2008 at 09:54:16 PM EST
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