Next Left and Amsterdam Process: What future for internationalism in 21st century social democracy?



FEPS in cooperation with Policy Network and Wiardi Beckman Stichting held on 4th and 5th October in Brussels a high level joint seminar of Next Left and Amsterdam Process. Its inspiration has been an observation that though internationalism once lay at the heart of the progressive movement, yet in recent years the idea appears to have been largely forgotten by many social democrats parties.

Faced with the challenges of globalization – such as labour mobility, immigration, industrial dislocation and international capital flows – many on the centre-left have tended to see these as overwhelmingly negative developments which threaten the sustainability of the welfare state, the fight for social justice, and the electoral performance of social democratic parties.

Others, however, see this scepticism towards internationalism as symptomatic of a failure of ambition and an inward-looking perspective which is largely responsible for the troubles of the centre-left. They argue that now more than ever, the globalization of capitalism requires a response of equivalent ambition and boldness from social democrats. Action at the state level is no longer sufficient, on its own, to achieve centre-left objectives: regulation of the market, social justice, and the creation of public goods. These require social democrats to look beyond short-term national interests and work together for an international ‘greater good.’

In this dialectic, the concept of cosmopolitanism has come under fire. It has been conflated with an elitist disconnect from mainstream society and the fracturing of the social contract between the winners and losers of globalization. At the same time, the pervasive loss of confidence in the centre-left’s ability to deliver social progress in a time of economic upheaval has stimulated a revival of conservatism in political thought on the left.

Some have depicted this development as a value and lifestyle split going through the heart of European social democracy. ‘Cosmopolitans', who are better placed to prosper from globalization through educational attainment and status, are pitted against more traditionally orientated ‘communitarians' in working-class and lower middle-class areas, who disproportionately do not benefit, both economically and culturally. The fault lines run through attitudes and approaches to globalization, international migration, European Union and green issues.

Among speakers there were: R.LIDDLE | E.STETTER | M. SIE DHAN HO | P. NYRUP RASMUSSEN | M.LIND | L.MARTELL | C.TRAUTMANN | A.GUSENBAUER | F.TIMMERMANS| L.BYRNE | A.GIDDENS | L.LEMKOV | J.M. WIERSMA | L.TSOUKALIS | F.VANDENBROUCKE | M. BADIA I CUTCHET | G.MOSCHONAS | O.CRAMME | P.LOCATELLI | S. LIGHTFOOT