Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
"I suggest you familiarise yourself with the reality of parliamentary politics under proportional representation systems before you throw hissy fits at people who are actually doing something."

It pains me to admit it, but Jake has for once a point.
You can't just take the american two party, first past the post system  and assume that everything in other western democracies works in the same way. Even in the UK, regional third parties are quite viable. Say what you want about the SNP, but voting for them instead of Labour is hardly symbolic.

So you assumption that voting for a non PSOE party on the left is useless depends on what party and in what circumstances.

generally I don't think you should transfer your slights with the american "left" here. We are not just convenient replacements for the sector of the american left you don't like, after all.

by IM on Sun Nov 20th, 2011 at 11:48:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Voting for SNP or even De Linke is very different from voting for Ralph Nader in the US or for a splinter party in most of Spain.  I'm not against that at all. In fact, even in the US, there are places where third parties can and are effective. New York's Working Family Party is quite interesting. If you have a third party that is in position to win seats - why not?  My point was that the "plague on both houses" argument in favor of either sitting it out or voting symbolically, is a common argument. No Les Votes reads a lot like Michael Moore. I don't think it's a coincidence.
by rootless2 on Sun Nov 20th, 2011 at 03:46:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 >If you have a third party that is in position to win seats - why not?<

Then I don't get your point. What is your point?

 >My point was that the "plague on both houses" argument in favor of either sitting it out or voting symbolically, is a common argument.<

Is it? In my experience non voters, including non-voters who argue that all politicians are the same and equally useless are ideologically and politically all over the place. And hardly only common on the left.

In 2010 liberals did not actually abandon the democrats, but moderates, independents etc. And the groups who did vote in 2008 but not in 2010 were exactly the groups not terribly involved in politics anyway. Who sit out every mid-term election.

< No Les Votes reads a lot like Michael Moore. I don't think it's a coincidence.<

To get the idea you can protest with not voting you don't need Michael Moore. "If elections could change anything they would be illegal" is a lot older then your bete noire Michael Moore.

by IM on Sun Nov 20th, 2011 at 04:06:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point is that if your third party is NOT in a position to win seats "PPSOE" and "Gore=Bush" are programs that advantage the right.

The right has a very clear message: for its own adherents the message is to go to the polls, for the opposition the message is that voting changes nothing. They work hard to sell apathy and disillusion to the majority - which is naturally against them. When the "left" cooperates in this marketing campaign, as they do with consistency, there is one beneficiary. This is a struggle that Saul Alinsky wrote about in the early 1970s in the US.  And I think that, although the history of claiming its all a fake is a long one, the argument that "we're going to punish/show/instruct" an insufficiently successful social democratic party by sitting it out or voting for Mickey Mouse seems to me to be a product of the 1970s.

by rootless2 on Sun Nov 20th, 2011 at 04:24:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If it's ok to vote for viable third parties, I'm not sure what all your hot iar is all about. Spain has many viable third parties, and on the left, IU got record seats yesterday. Many former PSOE ostensibly found their true home on the left, outside of PSOE.

This is true in Greece as well, which has a strong Communist party. In Germany, Die Linke. In France, Front de Gauche. In the Netherlands, the Socialist Party, in many ways a model for us all, whose former leader Jan Marijnessen led the party nearly to official opposition not so long ago with a record score. In Denmark, the Enhedslisten. In Italy, the PRC. In Ireland, Sinn Féin. Most here get my point, I imagine.

Even close to you, in Canada, the centrist third-wayism of the Liberals was crushed by another left party, the NDP, who virtually annihilated the Liberals in Québec and in the process became the official opposition.

Everywhere one looks outside of the money-corrupted US "democratic" system, there is a viable left alternative to Third-wayism people like you propose as "the only pragmatic way". Perhaps you should, rather than hectoring us about how we should vote in our own countries, start asking yourself why there is no left alternative in your own country.

Hint, it likely isn't because a large segment of the population don't want one.

Another hint: you are most likely part of the problem, and not the solution.    

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 06:15:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Consider France where you have these "viable" third parties. In the last presidential elections
35% center right Sarkozy
25% weak social democrats
18% more center right
4% biggest communist party

However in the legislative elections - the PCF reached a stunning 4%.  Considering that through much of the post war period they were at 20%, one sees that the wheels of history are moving inexorably in their favor.


by rootless2 on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 01:15:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
seats in the parliament the PCF has, nor how many in the Senate.

You also neglect to mention how well the same charismatic LCR leader did in the 2002 election, a lot more than 4%.

I also notice you appear to have bought into the end of history meme, a bit hastily.

I finally would remark that the fortunes of the left rise and fall; the PCF has been stronger of course than it was in the last two elections. But it was also weaker, including in the post-war period.

Again, I'm not sure what your point is, and I am sure I am not alone.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 01:31:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To me it's remarkable how happy many "on the left" are with being marginalized. Comfortable with losing. Secure in their own self-evaluation as "correct and principled" and happy to blame others for their inability to mobilize the population. The West's Left of the 21st century. Ready to write critiques of policies made by others.
by rootless2 on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 01:46:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The PES parties were actually functioning social democratic parties until the first half of the '90s. Where for "social democratic" you should read "the parliamentary arm of the labour unions." There really wasn't any "left of the PES" policy space worth talking about until the third-wayers took over in the two election cycles around 1990.

Then we had ten years of third-wayers, whom the left supported - as you argue it should. It didn't become adequately obvious that this was a cul-de-sac, both electorally and politically, until two or three election cycles ago.

Since then, the left in most of Western Europe has been bootstrapping an organisation that can catch the votes the third-wayers are shedding. But it's not terribly surprising that voters move from the PES to the left through an election or two on the sofa. You may find this flirtation with the sofa party counterproductive. I would agree. You may even find it disappointing. But you can't pretend that it is unexpected.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 02:26:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't argue the left should "support" third wayers. I argue that people should vote tactically and that the tactic of not voting or voting for a party that cannot win seats to "punish" is a tactic that has been shown to not work very well.
by rootless2 on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 03:48:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The left overwhelmingly does vote tactically.

You will notice that it's centre-left voters who stay home, because they cannot bring themselves to vote for the left, and won't hold their nose and vote for the centre-right.

And... remind me again how enthusiastically you endorsed the primary challenge against Lieberman?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 04:04:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Liberman - you mean the critical vote that passed the most significant infrastructure investment in 50 years and the historic health care reform? That guy? I sent money to his opponent, however, I had little hope because the opponent had turned his campaign into a progressive joke and because the right voted tactically for someone they hated.  See how that works? They knew they could not win the seat for someone they wanted, but they could get a 50% win by denying the seat to the Democrat. That's why the right authors laws and the left authors papers about Lacanian interpretation of civil liberties (c.f. Zizek).
by rootless2 on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 04:20:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I see how that worked: The state went from being contested by an Independent and a Republican to being contested by a Democrat and the same Independent.

Net result: The Independent went to DC, the Democrats got practical experience in organising a campaign. If they learned from that and do better next time, that was a net win. If they didn't learn and won't do better next time, it was neither a win nor a loss relative to the alternative.

Considering how well you appreciate the importance of practical on-the-ground organisation for left-wing political groups, I would have thought that you would see the value in that sort of exercise.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 05:00:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My experience is the opposite.

As some here might have noticed, I am a member of the Swedish Pirate Party. Despite gaining no seats in national parliament elections, political successes to date includes having converted about 10% to a position of supporting legalisation of filesharing and having the EU Data Storage Directive postponed time and again, despite Sweden being one of the driving countries for enacting that Directive in the first place.

I think proportional elections make all the difference. Since all votes affects the seats, parties need to protect their flanks in another way and are therefore more sensitive to challenges, even if those fails to take away seats in the short run.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 04:40:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I know more than a few and I don't know anyone who is happy about being out of power or who likes losing. We campaign to win, and we vote tactically in the second round. As for the party, it certainly criticises the right-wing policies being adopted by Sarkozy (and also by so-called social democrats like Zapatero in Spain) but also proposes policies and, when in power in coalition, enacts them.

I don't know anyone who feels marginalised either.

Again, you cut a ridiculous figure here, projecting upon people here, many of whom are in fact politically active and engaged, your phobias about US strawmen and women of your own construction.

Let me ask you: have you ever been in Europe even? And if so, for more than a two-week vacation?

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Nov 22nd, 2011 at 05:46:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've never left Borracho Junction Texas, my home town.  But, thanks to Fox, I have a good idea what happens in Europe and other parts of Africa.

There. Feel happier now?

by rootless2 on Wed Nov 23rd, 2011 at 03:07:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many European former communist parties are in the minds of many voters tarred by their collaboration and or political support of the Soviet dictatorship, and rightly so in my mind, unless they clearly and unequivocally condemn their history, and stop current support for such nations (Cuba, North Korea etc). Of course, this does not apply to all European communist parties (I believe the Italian communists stopped any support of the Soviets long before the fall of the Berlin wall, for example).

This is the conundrum of the left: while the more extreme left parties still can't make themselves see what awfulness they supported during the cold war and ask for forgiveness (keeping the large voter masses alienated), the end of the Soviet empire also made the more mainstream left (soc-dems) lose all belief in socialism, and replaced it with an absolutely theological belief in markets, everywhere and always, the so called third-way.

What is needed is either to have the extreme left once and for all clear out the skeletons from the wardrobes (which is unlikely until more time has passed and the perps have retired), or have the soc-dems accept that what they've been doing since 1991 to a large degree has been stupid. This is not very likely either, as we'll need to wait even longer until all those guys retire. This is especially clear as even with a golden chance, the collapse for the current model of global capitalism, a rupture of the same magnitude as that of the fall of the Soviet empire, the left has managed to do absolutely nothing. A free kick of astronomical proportions has been wasted.

So, what is to be done? I believe what is needed is mainly new ideas, new people. All the old forces of the left are either spent or contaminated or just out of touch. A fresh start is needed, to produce people equipped with the intellectual tools needed to deal with the world as it actually is (yes, this means they have to look at lots of graphs). This of course all sounds very fluffy, but I do feel that the ET is doing its part. Funnily, one of the main tools of spreading the new ideas, is the Financial Times, the world most secret source of subversive socialist propaganda. I suppose there's a reason they only let the elite read it. :)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 02:29:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But you ignore how the french system, actually works: because you need as a rule two rounds, in the first round everybody can indulge his political inclinations fully. Here is the place to show your purity or make a protest or a symbolic vote.
More neutrally, you can vote your first preference.

In the second round then there is place for pragmatism and the voting for the lesser evil. And indeed:

Nicolas Sarkozy UMP    18,983,138    53.06%
Ségolène Royal    PS    16,790,440    46.94%

As you can see, Royal had no problems to gather the left and also got some voters from UDF or FN. Wasn't enough, but would the second round really been different if Royal got 31% in the first round like Sarkozy?

And the same game is played in parliamentary elections, but here in some constituencies the green or communist candidate will make it to the second round and then expect the socialist voters to vote for him. Mostly works.

I won't claim that  this is a perfect system, but the voters use it competent enough.

by IM on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 02:55:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I used the first round to show how marginal the left parties are - those to the left of the despised social democrats - really are.

It is inutile in the extreme to complain that the Social democrats have "betrayed" a left that has minimal public support.

by rootless2 on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 03:54:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The first round of the 2007 presidential election was the least significant when it comes to minor party support on the left, because of what happened in the first round in 2002 - an election that showed that most people on the left would rather vote for someone else than the SocDem candidate...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 06:13:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll just add that according to most opinion polls at this point, the only thing standing between the Greek left beyond the socialists and government, is a willingness to collaborate on a minimum programme. The numbers are there. The far right party leader now in government (with the consent of the "socialists", I note) is ringing alarms that Greece might become a "Cuba of the Mediterranean"...
Greece on the austerity disaster schedule is a year ahead of Portugal and Ireland, and perhaps a couple from the rest. Keep that in mind in the extremely unlikely scenario under which this whole austerity scheme doesn't collapse on all of us...

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Nov 21st, 2011 at 04:52:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Top Diaries

Occasional Series