Socialist International signs on to neoliberalism

KDean75206 at SPAMaol.com KDean75206 at SPAMaol.com
Sun Nov 7 06:26:05 MST 1999



Socialist International seeks signs to Third Way

By Tom Heneghan


PARIS, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Socialists and social democrats from around the
world meet in Paris this week looking for signposts to the elusive ``Third
Way'' meant to match their welfare state ideals with the reality of global
capitalism.

Three European government chiefs -- Britain's Tony Blair, Lionel Jospin of
France and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder -- have for several years been in
polite but bruising competition for the mantle of ``most modern leader'' on
the European centre-left.

But the three-yearly congress of the Socialist International (SI), where they
and other delegates from over 130 left-leaning parties will meet from Monday
to Wednesday, should reveal a maze of national paths leading down what Blair
calls the ``Third Way.''

Globalisation has undermined the welfare state -- the classic socialist goal
of this century -- and forced centre-left parties split between
``modernisers'' and ``traditionalists'' to seek other ways to guarantee
social justice.

``We have accepted the market economy,'' outgoing SI chairman Pierre Mauroy
said. ``But to stand up to this triumphant capitalism, we need to adopt
active policies that counter the evolution of the markets, (because markets)
favour the strong over the weak.''

Finding a common line for parties with very different histories will be
tough.

Blair, who has angered SI stalwarts by suggesting a new centre-left grouping
including the U.S. Democratic Party, has put off many other leaders by
proselytising for the market-friendly policies of his ``new'' Labour Party.

In a controversial joint paper with Schroeder last June, he called for a
society where successful businessmen were as popular as artists and football
stars.

Upset by this flirtation with France's main ally, Jospin's Socialist Party
responded with a ringing defence of state intervention and ``controlled
modernity.'' Schroeder, stung by a string of regional election defeats, has
since backed off from the ``Blairite'' manifesto.

BRITISH-FRENCH RIVALRY

The British and French parties have submitted their views as the basis for a
declaration due on Monday and the congress will be watching to see which one
dominates.

On the sidelines, delegates from the Netherlands and Scandinavia will present
their different models for slashing bloated welfare budgets and fighting
unemployment.

The SI leadership list includes serving government heads from Britain,
Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal
and Sweden. Most are expected to make short appearances at the congress on
Monday.

Former leaders from Austria, Hungary, Israel, Norway, Spain and Turkey are
also in the presidium, which loosely coordinates the work of centre-left
parties around the world.

Despite its heavy West European bias, the London-based group has spread in
recent years into former communist states and the Third World.

The Middle East will feature on Tuesday when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat meet to discuss ``the path to
peace and solidarity.'' South Africa's ruling African National Congress will
meanwhile join the SI.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, a ``moderniser'' who led his
country into the euro single currency, will take over as SI chairman from
Mauroy, whose old-school leftism still colours the rhetoric of the French
Socialist Party.

Although socialists and social democrats head governments in 11 of the 15
European Union states, their record in office presents a confusing mix. All
but the French lost support in the European Parliament election in June.

Schroeder now ranks in polls behind the veteran Helmut Kohl he trounced last
year. Italy's premier is former communist Massimo D'Alema, but his party has
just lost its showcase city Bologna to the right for the first time since
1945.

06:01 11-07-99









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