1990s >> 1991 >> no-1047-november-1991

Book Review: Reformism

The Left Unraveled. Social Democracy and the New Left Challenge in Britain and West Germany. By Thomas A. Koelble. Duke University Press, 1991.

This is a study by an American academic of what happened to the “social democrats” in the British Labour Party and the German SPD in the 1980’s. Koelble describes how in Britain some of them eventually left to form the SDP while in Germany they retained control of the party machine at the price of a few policy concessions.

But what is ’’social democracy”? According to Koelble it is the view which

     accepts capitalism as a desirable economic system, aims to gradually improve the economic position of workers by providing welfare policies (health, education, social security, old age pensions, unemployment benefits), and by so doing alleviating the inequalities and unevenesses of unbridled capitalism.

On this definition, the British SDP may have disappeared without trace, but Social Democracy is alive and well and in complete control of the Labour Party. And, if it comes to power again, it will fail to deliver the promised goods as miserably as it did the last time in the 1970s—which led to the reaction Koelble analyses in this book.

Adam Buick