European social democracy and war



The British Social Democrats, Socialists and Labor became a backbone of the US military strategy within Europe.

“There is strong historical evidence that it was during the period in which the European utopia of “perpetual peace” was consolidated and the project of a world order based on shared values ​​and institutions was formulated for the first time that the most numerous and bloodthirsty wars in history were fought. history” (José Luís Fiori, about the war, P. 95).

It was on September 28, 1864 that the International Workers' Association was born in the city of London – called the First International – with the proposal to abolish all national armies and all wars in the world. The same pacifist and radical thesis that was later endorsed by the congress of the Second International, held in Paris in 1889, and which was later confirmed once again by the Social-Democratic Congress of Stuttgart, in 1907. In 3, the parliamentary group of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) unanimously supported Germany's entry into World War I and immediately approved the military budget presented by Emperor Wilhelm II.

After the Germans, so did the Austrian, Hungarian, Polish, French, Belgian, English, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish social democratic parties. And with the exception of the Russian Social Democrats, almost all European Socialists cast aside the “pacifism” and “internationalism” of their forefathers and adopted the patriotic rhetoric of their states and national governments during the First World War.

And even then most social democrats incorporated the traditional fear of European conservatives about what they saw as a permanent threat to Western civilization posed by the "Russians" and the "Asians". It should be noted, however, some notable individual dissidents who opposed the war or defended the neutrality of the socialists at that time, as was the case, among others, with Karl Kautsky, MacDonald, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburgo, Vladimir Lenin and Antonio Gramsci.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the creation of the Third International in 1919, the Communist Parties in Europe and around the world adopted an international position converging with the foreign policy of the Soviet Union in the face of the Second World War (1938-1945), the Korean War (1950-1953), the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the national liberation wars in Africa and Asia in the 1950s and 1960s, and all other conflicts of the War period Cold, until the end of the Soviet Union itself and the loss of general importance of the communist parties.

Likewise, the European communist parties did not become a government or only played a secondary role in supporting a coalition government, and they did not have to formulate their own foreign policy within “Western Europe”. But this was not the case with the socialist, social-democratic and labor parties, which followed a completely different path, from the first moment they were in government, and much more so during and after the Cold War.

Right after the First World War, social democrats participated in several coalition governments in Denmark, Germany and Sweden, among others, and the socialist parties themselves participated in Anti-Fascist Popular Front governments in France and Spain during the 1930s. 1930. In all cases, they were governments that ended up absorbed by the management of the post-war European economic crisis and the consequences of the financial crisis of the 1920s. And in none of these cases, did the social democrats and even the socialists stand out for their foreign policy, and almost none of these parties or governments took a clear position condemning the military intervention of the great Western powers in the Russian civil war in the early 1930s, nor did they take a unanimous position against the military intervention of the Italian fascists and the German Nazis in the Spanish Civil War in the second half of the XNUMXs.

And even after the Second World War, European socialists, social democrats and workers were unable to formulate a common and consensual foreign policy in the face of the challenge of the new wars that followed thereafter, for three fundamental reasons: first, because they were galvanized by the beginning of the Cold War, and by the American policy of permanent containment of the USSR that was at the origin of the creation of NATO; second, because after the formation of the “Atlantic Alliance” and the creation of NATO, Europe was transformed in practice into an atomic protectorate of the United States; and finally, because this protectorate took the form of a direct military occupation, in the case of Federal Germany, the historic seat of the main European social-democratic party.

These three factors left very little room for the exercise of an autonomous foreign policy by the European States, in particular in the case of social-democratic governments that submitted, most of the time, to the designs of the so-called “Atlantic Alliance” led by the United States. United States, and unconditionally supported the formation of NATO, often adopting a complicit position with their national States in the wars of independence of their colonies in Africa and Asia.

If I am not mistaken, the only original contribution of the social-democratic foreign policy of this period was the Östpolitik proposed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and later German Social Democratic Chancellor, Willy Brandt, in the early 1970s, which promoted a relative normalization of the Federal Republic of Germany's relations with the countries of Eastern Europe, including East Germany and others communist countries of the Warsaw Pact. but out of Östpolitik German socialists, social democrats and European labor were not present or supported the initial project of forming the European Economic Community, which was conceived and led by conservatives and Christian democrats in the 1950s, and only had the support of the social -democrats and socialists much later, already in the 1970s.

Furthermore, this part of the European left has supported, with some honorable exceptions, almost all American wars around the world, starting with the Korean War, submitting to George Kennan's argument about the “expansive and threatening nature” of the Russians. Even when the war was very far from Europe, as in the case of the Vietnam War, which was also defined by the North Americans as a war of “containment” of communist expansionism in Indochina. In this case, the only major exception was that of Swedish social democracy, which has always opposed the war, alongside various groups of activists and left-wing militants in various European countries whose mobilization has grown in importance with the passage of time and the advance of resistance within the United States itself.

But there is no doubt that the big surprise in this somewhat repetitive story was the behavior of European social democrats after the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War in 1991. , most of European socialism continued to support the United States and NATO in their “humanitarian wars” of the 1990s, including the 1999-day aerial bombing of Yugoslavia in 74, responsible for the death of hundreds of civilians and destruction almost complete breakdown of the Yugoslav infrastructure and economy.

And then, already in the 2003st century, with rare exceptions, European socialists and social democrats continued to support the US and NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen. More than that, in the case of Iraq, in 150, it was the British Labor government of Tony Blair that led, together with the United States, the aerial bombing, the ground invasion and the destruction of that country, with more than XNUMX thousand dead, without any “just cause” or legitimate motive being presented for this devastating attack carried out in the absence of the United Nations Security Council. However, it should be noted, in this case, the opposition to the Anglo-American attack by the German social-democratic government of Gerhard Schröder.

Almost all other socialist and social democratic parties - enthusiastic defenders of "human rights" - maintained their support for these successive wars by the United States and NATO, in the name of combating "terrorism", concentrated in the Islamic world of the Middle East, from North Africa and Central Asia, despite the fact that these wars left behind a trail of millions of dead, wounded and refugees who were later barred or expelled from European territory.

At that time, some more idealistic socialists and social democrats believed that the “humanitarian wars” of the 1990s would be the price to pay for a new peaceful and borderless world, as in the dreams of the first European socialists of the XNUMXth century. But in the case of the so-called “global war on terrorism” declared by the United States, what was seen was a European socialist, social-democratic or labor left that was completely torn apart and submitted to the strategic interests of the United States and NATO.

Summarizing the argument, today it can be said, after almost a century and a half of history, that in fact the European socialists and social democrats never had a common position on international politics, nor did they ever practice an independent and differentiated foreign policy. They repeated a rhetorical discourse in defense of peace, pacifism and human rights as abstract and universal values, entirely detached from the particular historical contexts in which the wars originated, and each one of the wars in particular.

From this longer-term historical perspective, it is not entirely surprising, but it shocks negatively that in this new wartime conjuncture in Europe, it fell to a German social-democratic government to take the decision to rearm Germany, expand NATO and actively participate , alongside the USA and NATO itself, of a new European war, within the territory of Ukraine.

A few days before the commemoration of the Nazi defeat by Russian troops in World War II, Germany decided to pay the probable price of the destruction of its industrial economy and the implosion of the European Union itself, showing itself to be entirely incapable and impotent of mediating a conflict that was coming announcing itself many years ago and that could have found a diplomatic and peaceful solution within Europe itself.

Because, in practice, the English social democrats, socialists and labor, in a very particular way, became an auxiliary force of the North American military strategy within Europe.[1]

* Jose Luis Fiori Professor at the Graduate Program in International Political Economy at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Global power and the new geopolitics of nations (Boitempo).



[1] It is almost impossible today to find any consensus position on the left on any subject that is on the international political agenda. In the past, perhaps it was simpler, but even so, our historical research in this article only analyzes the position of the more traditional European social-democratic parties, in the field of foreign policy, and in particular in the face of the challenge of wars. They were parties that regularly participated in elections, had parliamentary benches and became a government, or participated in coalition governments, in the XNUMXth and XNUMXst centuries. We speak generically of “European social democracy”, but we are always thinking of its three most important aspects: the social democratic parties themselves, with a greater presence in Germany and the Nordic countries; the socialist parties, with greater strength in France, Italy and the Iberian countries; and the labor parties, especially the English case, and we only mention the communist parties in passing for the reason explained in the article itself. And even in the case of the three main “social-democratic” strands, we restrict our analysis to the main lines and guidelines of their parliamentary groups and their governments, recognizing that many times these governments diverged from the position of their party leaderships, and much more, of the position of its militants dispersed by an infinity of divergent trends and currents.

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