The changes of the last 30, and especially 25 years have produced an unexpected and important indentity crisis for all parties rooted in the tradition of Western European reformistsocialism. In fact, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the world experienced great changes such as new expectations from people, the entrance in the era of globalisation (globalisation was not a new
concept at that time but it was at th at time that its effects began to be visible). Those changes forced
the European Social Democratic parties to face an uncertain future and the retreat of social democracy and therefore to try to change in order not to disappear from the political scene. Without giving too many details now, it can just be said that Western European Social Democratic parties moved towards 'modernisation'. This process of 'modernisation' brought real changes as much in the
parties'internal structure as in the parties'ideas, policies and creeds. The evolution of the German, English and French Social Democratic parties over the last 25 years illustrate the changes that occurred in the 1980s and the process of 'modernisation' undertaken by these parties.
[...] The Social Democratic parties of East and West Germany merged in September 1990. The newly formed party was not organisationally changed such as the New Labour. Instead, leaders and especially Gerhard Schroder tried to work within existing structures but put the emphasis on the electoral campaigns, using the most modern technologies (such as Tony Blair but the latter did it on a smaller scale). Reform of the internal structure was therefore seen as a way of modernising the parties and gaining the electorate back. [...]
[...] People have a clear responsibility to help themselves.' (Alastair Darling, the Social Security Secretary, speech, 1999) . The SPD followed the same path and the modernisation of ideas was principaly done by Gerhard Schroder. He gave his process of modernisation the name of 'neue Mitte' ( the 'new center'). German economy has been in decline since the 1980s but the decline has been steeper since the 1990s. unemployment has been a real issue with 4.5 million of unemployed peole in 1997 and 4 million in 2002 ( 8.1 per cent of the labour force) . [...]
[...] So, the Social Democratic parties of Germany, England and France faced the problem of out of date principles in the 1980s but reacted to solve this problem at different paces and in different amplitude. Basically, what can be said is that a quick reaction benefitted more the parties than a slow one and that according to this time to react, the parties were more or less able to re-gain their electorate. As the world is changing, one could wonder if the SPD, Labour and the PS will be able to further modernise in order to evolve at the same pace as the world Bibliography. [...]
[...] The PS also changed a lot over the past 25 years. Internal organisation has been modified, although not as much as Labour's. The major structural change was the new way of electing the First Secretary of the party. Since 1995, the First Secretary is directly elected by all the members of the party. Despite this major reform, the PS has more or less followed the same path as the Labour party, notably about the presence of women in the party. [...]
[...] As change was indispensable, the past 25 years witnessed a real renewal of the SPD, Labour and the PS. First of all, Labour and the PS thought that internal disfunction was partly the cause of the last electoral defeats. Therefore, they were soon reformed. In the Labour Party for example, the successive leaders of the party ( especially Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair) launched a campaign for more internal democracy. This 'democratisation' process consisted mainly in empowering ordinary members who used not to have significant power because of the trade unions' important power. [...]
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