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Southern European Socialism

September 21, 1984

Report Outline
The French Example
Other Experiences
European Comparisons
Special Focus

The French Example

Identity Crises within the Political Left

During a short span of little more than two years, from mid-1981 to the late summer of 1983, all five of the big democracies in Southern Europe and their nearly 170 million people came under the sway of Socialist-led governments. This leftward shift of power in France, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy provoked a wave of anxiety in those countries and among their northern neighbors in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Economic Community (EEC). For the political left throughout Europe, it sent expectations soaring.

Both the fears and high expectations have all but vanished today. The Socialist leadership, though varying in ideological ambition from country to country, has generally turned to middle-of-the-road devices in trying to meet pressing economic problems and to conduct foreign policy. The question now being asked in Europe, “What has the socialist ‘revolution’ wrought?” brings forth no single all-encompassing answer. It has meant different—often dissimilar things—in each of the five countries.

France was the first to go Socialist, ending decades of right-of-center rule. This came with the election of François Mitterrand as president in May 1981. That fall Andreas Papandreou engineered a Socialist victory in Greece's national elections. The next year, Felipe González, at age 40, led the way to a similar electoral triumph in Spain. And 1983 witnessed the return of Socialist Mário Soares as prime minister of Portugal and the unprecedented selection of a Socialist, Bettino Craxi, to lead a coalition government in Italy. Three of these countries—Greece, Spain and Portugal—had been in the iron hand of military dictatorships until a few short years earlier.

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BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Regional Political Affairs: Europe
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