Originally posted by twhitehead
My understanding is that left leaning parties have been on the increase in Europe largely due to the failure of capitalism and loss of faith in the democratic process - or rather the somewhat undemocratic process - of right leaning systems. The problem is that it is not so much communists gaining ground but rather anyone that opposes the current government, which tends to include a wide range of unsavory characters and political beliefs.
Obviously, disenchantment with the neoliberal consensus is growing and the subordination of politics to corporate interests becoming evident. People can see they are being lied to but lack the political awareness to distinguish the issues. So some are swinging off to the right and others to the left and many to the fringes. However, there are also coherent movements in the political space which are going to have an impact.
Americans have a serious difficuty when they try to interpret European politics, which is that Americans are deeply enmeshed in an ideological view of the world and cannot yet appreciate the nonsensical way in which their world view is assembled. In particular, for this thread, they retain the comforting delusion that what happened in 1989 was the collapse of socialist and the triumph of neoliberal values.
A number of useful sources might help to shift their perceptions a little. A novel by Kandura, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, plays with a good few philosophical concerns and one is the question - what is it that the East Europeans (in this case, the Czechs) protested against in their communist regimes and what is the alternative they had in mind? One somewhat comical scene shows European and American intellectuals coming together in a protest against a communist country's policies and discovering that the Europeans strongly objected to and rejected the way their American associates interpreted the situation and expressed their opinions.
Studies of East Germany have shown that the the (obviously brutal and tyrannical) communist regime there had substantial popular support, without ever being blind to the tyranny in place, and that this support faltered when and because the socialist vision failed to deliver, not because people wanted a capitalist alternative. They wanted a socialist alternative. Americans forget that they also display a complacent acceptance of some extremely violent and shamefully irresponsible activities of the American government over recent decades, believing that there are higher values that justify these failings.
When the communist regimes fell, they were largely replaced by a form of gangster capitalism which has robbed their economies of the benefits of social investment and transferred wealth and resources into private hands. Obviously, the German experience differs hugely from that of Russia, and there is huge diversity as you move around the former soviet countries, something Americans choose not to see or appreciate. But even in Germany, there is a powerful nostalgia for social arrangements that have been neglected - a particular example being nursery care for the children of working mothers.
There are many aspects of the communist regime in East Germany that are considered worth rescuing. The desire to patronise and insult all former communist citizens in order to sustain the neoliberal interpretation of events is not as sustainable as some Americans imagine.