The purpose of this issue is to explore the possible political futures of parties and movements of the “democratic left” in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Poland, and Russia. The task could not proceed without clear definition, or definitions, of the “democratic left” because of national variations. There is “liberalism” or “progressivism” in the United States of many hues, but with no “social democracy” or politically viable socialism to the left. Socialism, in the old sense, of ownership of the means of production, has died in Britain, and the present government of “New Labour” refers to itself as the “Third Way” between capitalism and socialism. But there is much controversy at home whether “social democracy” has been also jettisoned in favor of a kind of “neoliberalism” that has embraced markets and trimmed social security. The large, democratic parties of the left in France and Germany derive from traditions of “social democracy” that have challenged many capitalist values and institutions, whether from Marxist or non-Marxist perspectives, and sought to establish a state and society organized around principles of social justice. These parties may win national elections but are torn between old left politics and the need to form larger coalitions in order to win. One might ask, Why include Poland and Russia? The purpose was to ask if new democratic forms of “social democracy” could be discerned in the ashes of defunct communist systems that might bear some resemblance to the politics of Western Europe.
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