The rebirth of social democracy

Photo taken at #occupylsx camp, 17/10/11

Photo taken at #occupylsx camp, 17/10/11

As I outlined yesterday I do not share in the mixture of cynicism and impatience with which some of the left have greeted #occupylsx. I agree rather with Paul Mason: what we have is a growing movement which occupies the space vacated by social democracy. The young people I spoke to today are not revolutionaries in the sense that the left would generally understand that term, but neither are they social democrats in the traditional, twentieth century sense, ie. people whose objective is to work within  existing institutions to enact progressive changes to society and the economy. Blair et al effectively evacuated the term of all meaning, and despite the efforts of (for example) Compass and to a much more limited extent Ed Miliband to reinvigorate the social democrat project there has been no response from younger generations. This is instead a deinstitutionalised form of social democracy which has grown organically in the land which formal social democracy abandoned, and which hence has much more radical implications, not the least being that it is totally separate from parliamentary politics. The movement will change and develop, and no-one has the slightest idea what it will turn into. What is certain is that the age in which it could be proclaimed ’we are all neoliberals now’ is emphatically over. Whatever may happen from day to day, this is a new set of historical circumstances.

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