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How have social democratic parties changed over the last 25 years?

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  1. Introduction
  2. The main reason which explains the changes
  3. The decline of the German, English and French Social Democratic parties
    1. This 'democratisation' process
    2. Modification of the internal organisation
    3. The case of Germany
  4. Mitterrand's two terms and Marxism
  5. The German, English and French Social Democratic parties and liberalism
  6. The SPD, Labour and the PS's response by modernising the party
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography

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) . [...]

[...] Although the German, English and French Social Democratic parties shifted towards liberalism, they are still committed to a part of the traditional social democratic ethos. For example, in England and Germany, Blair and Schroder proposed measures to rise the living standard of those living in poverty ( Labour's budgets have raised the incomes of the poorest 20 per cent of households with children 4 by about 15 per cent), raised pensions. This extract from one of Tony Blair's speeches proves that Social democratic parties are still committed to taditional socialist values : 'our goal is a Britain in which nobody is left behind [ . [...]

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