Born-again socialists

One of the most interesting phenomena in present-day America is an explosion of born-again Christians. In Europe, we are seeing the blossoming of something different, of born-again socialists. A typical example is the German Social Democratic Party (SDP). After its electoral defeat and loss of votes to the Lafontaine-Gysi «Left,» the new SDP president Kurt Beck heralded in the return of a Marxist analysis of society, a war against the offshoots of globalized capitalism and a return to «democratic socialism,» burying the much-touted «Third Way.» The contest between the reformers – advocates of the Schroeder legacy – and born-again socialists threatens a rift at the SDP Party congress in Hamburg later this month. Beck, usually a composed and polite individual, at the last party convention slammed his fist on the table and made it quite clear that he will not stand for being undermined, despite polls showing a clear preference for Angela Merkel as chancellor. The similarities with what is currently taking place in PASOK are no coincidence. George Papandreou, who supported uninsured labor for the country’s youth before Dominique de Villepin and non-state universities before Marietta Giannakou, the leader who agreed to include Stefanos Manos and Andreas Andrianopoulos on the PASOK ticket, is now heralding a return to socialist roots. His remorse rings true in the tight circles of PASOK, but whether the public finds him equally convincing is a different story. The truth is that comrade Beck, despite his Marxist facelift, has not dared, so far at least, to question the SDP’s participation in the grand coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Politicians’ self-criticism differs very little from the repentance of a certain category of born-again Christians: They simply mentally wipe clean the slate of past sins to make way for new ones.