The international financial crisis triggered a rethinking of capitalism. The non-western developmental model has received attention. The left wing forces have manifested vitality during the crisis. The world socialist movement is facing a new opportunity. On the other hand, the left wing’s “right to speak” has been stifled. Some left-wing political parties find it hard for their ideologies and operational capacity to cope with the new situation. The world socialist movement is facing a major challenge.
The international financial crisis has had a profound impact on the current and future international political and economic structure and on socio-political ideas, prompting a new round of growth and decline of the world forces. The world socialist movement is facing a new opportunity for development and a new challenge.
The new liberalism has lost its previous aura. The ruling parties in the world’s governments are adjusting their developmental ideologies. The socialist moral values are receiving renewed attention. After the dramatic changes in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Europe countries, the new liberalism’s economic policies’ disadvantages have failed to achieve widespread prosperity and have instead been exposed. People are reflecting upon capitalism and paying attention to socialist values. While the superiority of and confidence in capitalism have been suffering setbacks, socialism is gaining the upper hand in terms of ideology and morality. Some politicians and scholars in capitalist countries think that the financial crisis highlights the importance and necessity of reform and the upgrade of capitalism. They advocate a combination of multi-systems and multi-targets in capitalism. They hope to reform capitalism using political, financial, legal, and ideological approaches. The thinking and exploration into developmental models in the international community has not only stimulated the enthusiasm of the left-wing to pursue socialism, but has also forced many countries to adopt more government intervention and to increase social security. The shift in international opinion and the measures to cope with the crisis have, once again, proved the rationality of socialism, enhanced the attractiveness of socialist theories, and provided a good ideological and public opinion environment for the development of the world socialist movement.
Throughout the financial crisis, the communist parties have reinforced the faith in socialism and adopted corresponding measures to speed up its development. For non-ruling communist parties, the international financial crisis has created a beneficial social environment. Many Communist parties have advocated their policies through the use of rallies, parades, and open statements. The French Communist Party called on all party members to “gather all forces to cope with the crisis and build up a new world,” to initiate a series of activities such as “protecting public schools,” “opposing the government’s manipulation and support of the privatization of the post offices,” etc. It proposed that the government stop providing financial support to speculators, reduce unemployment, fight for housing rights, and improve purchase power. The left-wing party in Europe in its 2nd Congress put forward the “New Policy”, in contrast to the new liberalism, calling for a strengthened alliance and coordination among the left-wing parties in Europe, including the communist parties. The goal was to change the current situation in Europe through uniting with other social movements such as the labor unions in Europe, achieving their replacement by the left-wing. The alliance of left-wing parties at the regional and international levels will not only enhance their ideological communication, but also maintain cooperation and mutual support in operations, strengthening the left-wing as a whole body. Overall, the majority of the communist parties are grasping this rare opportunity, uniting with all kinds of new anti-capitalist social movements, and proactively engaging in activities to continuously advance the world socialist movement.
Recently, a few communist and socialist parties have been emphasizing their characteristics by showing a trend toward “returning” or “turning left.” To curb the momentum of their waning influence, some communist and socialist parties have been reflecting upon and readjusting their policies. In recent years, the communist party in South Africa has advocated for independence (from the government) on policies and has emphasized the characteristics of the communist party. On development strategies, it asked for more radical policies to protect the interests of the poor, giving equality a higher priority. In a multi-party system, the social democratic parties still belong to the left-wing camp. After the onset of the financial crisis, the socialist parties took advantage of the people’s feeling of dissatisfaction to attack the right-wing government, declaring, “Save free-market capitalism using social democracy,” and “Return to social democracy.” To regain power, some socialist parties, one by one, have grasped the current advantageous opportunity to engage in a good battle with the right-wing. The European socialist party again raised the flag of “Socialist Europe” that was once coldly received as the “New Keynesianism.” It proposed the “European Economic Management Model” which advocates a balanced development of the economy, society, and the environment. Most socialist parties have reflected on their economic and social reforms, and have put more emphasis on policies such as government intervention, the development of small and medium sized businesses, improving people’s livelihood, and ensuring labor rights. The French socialist party has crafted a directive policy document for 2008-2011. It strongly supports protecting the right to work for the working class, raises a new development model, and formulates a practical policy based on the left-wing standpoint.
Those in the Latin American left-wing forces have improved their political environment and consolidated their ruling position. With the background of the international financial crisis, the Obama administration expressed friendship toward them during the Summit of the Americas, relaxed the sanctions against Cuba, and improved the relationship with Chavez. These moves are conducive to further establishing the political environment of the leftist forces in Latin America, and are especially reflected in the fact that some left-wing parties won in recent elections and continue to be the ruling party. Their domestic political status was further stabilized, and the structure of “strong left and weak right” was further enhanced. Socialism has become an ideal goal for many countries in Latin America.
Because of China’s development and its outstanding performance during this crisis, many countries are attracted by and paying great attention to “the China model.” Through reform and opening up, socialist countries will win advantages comparable to the capitalist countries and become more attractive. Deng Xiaoping once said that “as long as China does not fall, a fifth of the world’s population will adhere to socialism.” “When China becomes stable and realizes its goals of development, socialism will manifest it advantages.” The success of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the development and growth of the socialist countries during the reform and opening up will contribute to the revival and development of world socialism. It also shows that the history of socialism will not terminate.
The ruling right-wing parties in western countries have taken advantage of the opportunities of coping with the crisis and continuously suppressed the left wing’s voice and activity space. After the onset of the financial crisis, the developed capitalist countries, such as the U.S., U.K., and France, adopted measures different from previous governance rationale by enhancing financial supervision and enhancing the government’s interference in the economy. The ruling right-wing parties now consider the policies that the left-wing parties promoted in the past to be effective medicine. When facing the crisis, the left-wing was even at a loss for words and could not propose better methods to cope with the crisis. To show that they are different from the right-wing, some left-wing parties have advocated radical ideologies. Their extremist left-wing opinions are not at all practical, and the majority can hardly accept them. Because the traditional left-wing vocal advantage cannot function when the right-wing loudly voices their ideas, the activity space for the left-wing will surely be suppressed. The ruling left-wing parties face the major issue of maintaining stable economic development, while also realizing social equity and equality. These are hard to resolve within a short period of time.
There are many conflicts and problems in the left-wing parties. After the drastic changes in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries, some Communist parties moved toward social democracy in their theories and policies, under the banner of reform, so as to distance themselves from the color of the communist party. Some of them bowed to the major ruling party in order to maintain their status while participating in administrative affairs. They do not have a clear standing and have become attached to the major ruling party. This short-sighted behavior finally cost them their traditional supporters. Due to the lack of support, their decline is inevitable. The abandonment of democratic centralism in many Communist parties has resulted in a loose organization in which multiple fractions fight with each other endlessly and do not have the power to fight with others. The promotion of ideological pluralism has caused differences and disagreements inside the party, ever changing policies, and inadequate theoretical preparations. The majority of the party members are not clear about the direction and gist of the party and do not know which way to follow. Some parties have rigid thoughts and hold an incomplete picture of the financial crisis and capitalism. Their extreme behavior has also interfered with the healthy development of the left-wing forces. Traditional conflicts and new problems are challenging the resilience of the left-wing parties. The lag in subjective conditions will be a major obstacle to the future development of world socialism.
There are still very strong anti-communist and anti-socialist forces in the international community. The situation of “strong capitalism and weak socialism” still prevails. Although the international financial crisis had a severe impact on capitalism, the capitalist system and the existing world structure will not dissolve as a result. The powerful status of capitalism will not change within a short time frame. At the beginning of the 21st century, although the left-wing forces in some countries have become stronger, overall, international socialism is still at a disadvantage. The U.S. and other western countries will not live with the fact that the communist and other left-wing forces have become stronger. They will not change their hostility and suppressive policies toward socialist countries. At present, under the leadership of the U.S., the western countries are speeding up global democratic reform and frequently promote “color revolution” in countries that lean toward the left. With the advancement of modern technology, the Internet and cell phones have become indispensable tools for daily life. The fast spread and magnifying effect of the Internet has made the “color revolution” digital and instant. That poses a new threat and challenge to the governance security of the left-wing parties. From now on, the left-wing forces will still be suppressed by all sorts of western forces. The world socialist movement will make its headway in a harsh environment.
 Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, October 22, 2009