So this is one of those “history setting” memes that actually requires a careful shifty-eyed reading of history. It is just like the claim that liberal democracies have never started a war of aggression, you move the goal posts on the argument to exclude anything that doesn’t quite fit until you end up with a data set small enough to prove your point. This above meme fits the same concept.
To begin with, the Coalition of the Radical Left, otherwise known as SYRIZA, did indeed win a majority of seats in the Greek parliament most recently and is a single party. It originally started as a coalition of leftist parties however it registered formally in 2012 as a single party, why this is important will come into play in a moment.
Above is pictured Joseph Tito, leader of the Yugoslavian Communist party, World War II partisan leader, and post-World War II leader of the new Republic of Yugoslavia, shortly after renamed the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. (For those playing our home game the “People’s” marker is a solid indicator of its Communist leanings. The new ruling party of Yugoslavia did win the majority of seats in the election of November 1945 and the Communist party leading Yugoslavia was, both by definition and policy, anti-capitalist.
Shifty Eye Point #1 – “Well this doesn’t count because the elections in Yugoslavia, although secret, were marred by political maneuvering, intimidation, and using the mechanisms of the state to break opposition parties before the election. Ergo this doesn’t count, just like all the other Eastern European nations that ‘voted’ for Communism post-World War II.”
I’ll grant Team Shifty Eye the solid essence of this point – because the Greek win in 2015 does appear to be as legitimate as any election in a democracy can get.
In 1936 both France and Spain elected “Popular Front” governments (the one in France headed by Leon Blum, pictured above), a coalition victory in both countries that gave political dominance to leftist political parties and both of which undertook radical reforms of their respective governments. In Spain the new party undertook reforms to improve labor’s position in Spain, and although rejecting land nationalization it did embrace state aid to collective economic ventures, protective laws for tenants, and state aid for agriculture in Spain. France went further with its own 1936 reform government, including such actions as:
- Creating a price control board to stabilize agricultural prices in France
- Nationalizing the arms industries
- State loans to assist small and medium businesses
- Major public works programs
- Shifted labor laws to very strongly pro-union labor
Shifty Eye Point #2 – “Those aren’t single parties in European politics, they are coalitions of political parties working together and therefore do not disprove the core truth of the meme, that Greece elected a single anti-capitalist party to power in 2015.”
Some might also add that the above measures are not “anti-capitalist” enough to count but I’d argue that one – anti-capitalist in Greece of 2015 remains to be defined and the above measures are not exactly capitalist favorites.
But the Shifty Point here is correct as well, these were not single parties but coalitions and in 2012 SYRIZA did indeed re-register as a single party, to gain access to a special seat boost in the elections.
Meet Clement Atlee, leader of the Labor Party in 1945 and the surprise winner of the 1945 general elections when Winston Churchill and the Conservative party were kicked to the curb by British voters who supported Labor as the party to rebuild Great Britain after the ravages and expense of World War II. Some of his administrations anti-capitalist policies included:
- Nationalizing a good percentage of the economy including coal, railroads, road transport, the Bank of England, civil aviation, cable and wireless services, electricity and gas, and steel
- Strong pro-union positions
- Created the National Health Service Act which nationalized all British hospitals and provided universal healthcare
- Expanded government supported housing
- Expanded the government safety system
Put all that together and I think I’m on safe ground stating that the Labor government, and party, of 1945 – 1951 was solidly anti-capitalist, making the above meme sweet, but historically wrong.