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Decline of Eurosocialism By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 12, 2002


THE RIGHT IS WINNING CONTROL of France’s legislature, if trends from this past weekend’s first round of voting continue next weekend, as polls say they will.

As one more sign of a rightist tide sweeping Europe, this French vote prompted Britain’s Observer to moan that the French Left might now face many years of wandering in the "wilderness." Ils sont désolés.

The reasons for this change in voter preference, say Leftist pundits, cannot possibly be a public repudiation of the Left.

These recent rightist victories in France, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Denmark and other nations are instead, Leftists insist, merely a symptom of boredom with the same tired old Leftist leaders, a repudiation of personalities rather than socialist political ideology. Or these votes are just a reactionary response to rising crime rates. Or primitive nationalism and chauvinism raging against the ongoing unification of Europe. Or the bitter fruits of populists like Jean-Marie Le Pen stirring latent racism against rising numbers of swarthy Muslim immigrants from places like Turkey and Algeria.

The problem with most Leftist rationalizations is this: French voters last weekend overwhelmingly rejected the Left, giving it but 36.1 percent of the vote and at most 192 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly. The once-powerful French Communist party is now virtually extinct, and the Socialists are projected to lose about 100 seats and their ruling legislative majority. But French voters also rejected Le Pen.

Le Pen’s Pat Buchanan-like National Front won only 11.3 percent of the vote, a decline of more than 15 percent from the last parliamentary election in 1997. The National Front and a parallel rightist party combined got 12.55 percent of the total vote. Eliminated by its poor showing from the upcoming runoffs in all but 37 districts throughout France, Le Pen’s National Front is now projected to win at most two National Assembly seats.

Incumbent President Jacques Chirac’s center-right Gaullist "Rally for the Republic" party and his successfully united "Union for a Presidential Majority" coalition of right-of-center parties garnered 43.6 percent of the vote, an eight percent increase since 1997. Chirac’s allies next weekend could win up to 400 seats in the new parliament and, after five stagnant years of Chirac’s "cohabitation" with a Left-run legislature, a clear popular mandate to move France to the right.

Already Chirac has named as his prime minister 53-year-old Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who describes himself as a disciple of England’s former conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The only wild card in next weekend’s election is that last weekend 14.1 million French voters, 35 percent of the electorate, stayed home. Many had been supporters of candidates from new minor parties spawned by a new government $1.60 per vote subsidy for parties that run at least 50 candidates. Will France’s shocking 2-0 loss to Denmark in World Cup soccer bring these voters to the polls or make them even more likely to stay home?

 

New evidence suggests a bigger, more basic reason why Europe is turning right: ordinary people now recognize that, even measured by its own values and promised goals, Eurosocialism has failed.

Sweden, for example, was with its socialist welfare state supposed to inspire a "Third Way" for the world midway between capitalism and communism. But last month a new study by the Swedish Research Institute of Trade (HUI) revealed that the typical middle-class Swede, even before paying his nation’s highest-in-the-world taxes, earns less money and enjoys fewer material goods than the average African-American in the United States.

The median income of African-American households is about 70 percent that of overall U.S. median income. This means, wrote HUI study authors Fredrik Bergstrom and economist Robert Gidehag, that Swedes are "below groups which in the Swedish debate are usually regarded as poor and losers in the American economy."

If present Swedish trends continue, they wrote, then "things that are commonplace in the United States will be regarded as the utmost luxury in Sweden."

"If Sweden were a U.S. state, it would be the poorest measured by household gross income before taxes," the HUI study reported. Sweden is poorer than Arkansas, Alabama, or Mississippi.

Prior to its plunge into welfare statism during the 1960s and 1970s, Sweden had one of the world’s fastest-growing, most prosperous economies, writes Swedish historian Johan Norberg. Socialism dragged it down from being the 4th richest among OECD nations to the 17th. Confiscatory taxes that could reach 104 percent of income destroyed the incentive to work, become educated, or invest.

"In 1990," writes Norberg, "…private enterprise had not created a single net job [in Sweden] since 1950, but the public sector had increased by more than a million employees." The public sector is parasitic, of course, feeding on the taxes and labor of others. With its most enterprising citizens having fled to tax havens such as Monaco and the United States, the majority of parasites who remain are expected easily to re-elect Sweden’s ruling socialists this September 15.

And in Sweden economic authoritarianism continues to move towards political authoritarianism. Its parliament, for instance, last week voted to amend the constitution to make it a crime to, by speech or written word, criticize homosexuality or any other "alternative lifestyles." Some American conservatives see this as a step towards criminalizing free speech, the Bible and Christianity.

Other European socialist welfare states differ from Sweden’s problems only in degree, but those degrees of remaining freedom could shift their politics rightward in upcoming elections. Germany’s ruling Social Democrats, according to recent polls, are likely to fall from power this coming October. Great Britain’s Labour government is rapidly losing popular support, say polls, despite Prime Minister Tony Blair’s efforts to make his party seem centrist and to embrace the United States.

The European Union recognizes that with a declining and aging population, Europe faces an increasing ratio of retirees collecting government benefits to workers paying taxes. In the next 15 years, Europeans between ages 20 and 29 will decrease by 20 percent, while those 50-64 years of age will rise by 25 percent. The only way to offset this problem is through more immigrant workers, but such immigrants and their demands on the welfare state will, as Leftist pundits foresee, drive European politics to the right.


Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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