The Three Worlds of Social Democracy

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The authors discuss the social democratic models in Western Europe, South America and peripheries. The central model in Europe discussed by Max Crook is British social democracy, which championed a mixed economy with the free market dogma of containing inflation through a monetarist economic policy. New Labour saw social democracy integrate the neoliberal economic model.

The contradictory nature of social democracy in Britain contributed to the collapse of trade union strength under 18 years of Conservative rule with high unemployment and anti-trade union laws. Those attacks were never repealed under New Labour but extended with structural reforms, attacks on welfare and restraining of collective labour power.

In South America the foremost model discussed by Mariono Feliz is in Argentina, where Kirchnerism (a form of left wing populism named after former president Nestor Kirchner)was implemented along with neo-developmentalism — a continuation neoliberalism.

Kirchnerism became a political force needed by the ruling classes to build hegemony in order to neutralise the popular struggles from below.

The author discusses the crisis of the neoliberal project in Argentina, the increase in concentration and centralisation of capital that led to high unemployment and repression of the labour movement.

The political programme that attempted to recompose conditions for the profitability of capital led to mass labour struggles such as those of militant workers in the general strike of November 2012.

Patrick Bond defends South African social democractic rhetoric under the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC finance minister Nhlanwa Nene reduced the already tokenistic survival funds given to South Africa’s poorest by more than 4 percent. Furthermore, Prawin Gordhan, formerly a Marxist, implemented neoliberal agreements with the IMF in 1993, including austerity.

Under South Africa’s social democracy unemployment soared to 25 percent, while the corrupt corporate class evaded taxes.

The state responded to the insurgent workers’ movement that posed a challenge to neoliberalism, with the massacre of platinum mine workers at Marikana in 2012 by proprietor Lonmin’s allies in the ANC and the police. Workers in South Africa also won a recent victory by forcing MRC, an Australian titanium mining giant, to leave the country.

This is a timely book considering the election of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain; a left wing leader of the Labour Party carrying a parliamentary social democratic programme.