Their Left, Our Left: Our New Old Friends

By MacShane, Denis | New Statesman (1996), January 8, 2007 | Go to article overview

Their Left, Our Left: Our New Old Friends


MacShane, Denis, New Statesman (1996)


After a century of snootily looking down their noses at each other, are the US and European mainstream lefts linking up? Howard Dean, leader of the US Democratic Party, was the first-ever mainstream Democrat politician to address the congress of the Party of European Socialists, held last month in Portugal. Segolene Royal from France, Romano Prodi from Italy, and a gathering of other centre-left prime ministers and party leaders sat as Dean made a classic social-democratic pitch for better wages, stronger labour rights, an end to wars and a united front to tackle global warming.

This was not the post-White House oratory used by Bill Clinton to schmooze Labour Party conferences, but a workaday appeal for formal links between the Democratic Party and its opposite numbers in Europe. Dean's call was reinforced by Nancy Pelosi, the new Democrat leader in the House of Representatives, who turned up unexpectedly at the seminar of European politicians in Washington and--in contrast to George W Bush--pledged to work with Europe on tackling climate change.

These attempts to reach out to Europe are filtering down to the smarter of the Washington top officials who are beginning to work on life after Bush and Cheney. European politicians have been surprised on visits to the state and defence departments at the friendly cries of: "We are all Europeanists now!" The Rumsfeld language of "old" (bad) western Europe and "new" (good) eastern Europe is no longer used.

The US is beginning to understand that its go-it-alone geopolitics have not worked. Making allies and friends means dumping Rumsfeld and John Bolton--the UN ambassador/bull who carried his own china shop around with him. America faces problems on too many fronts to want to alienate the one region in the world--united Europe--that shares a similar commitment to democracy, the rule of law, media freedom and laws trying to help the weak, the old, and men and women of different races, as well as gay people and the disabled.

Blah-blah about shared Atlantic values has existed for decades. But in the 20th century, the Europeans regarded the American left, including the Democratic Party and the trade unions, as irredeemably pro-capitalist and anti-socialist while, among the Democrats and in other US progressive movements, most had little interest in the doctrines of state ownership or pacts with communists that animated the post-1945 European left. …

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