When the former and current leaders of one of the major parties in the country communicate through public letters, journalists and public commentators experience good times. The same happened to the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats half a year ago when the Christian Democrat minority became so absorbed into crushing the, in their opinion, too liberalised supporters of Gabrielius Landsbergis that all of his enemies needed only sit back and enjoy that sort of a “celebration of democracy.”
Former Social Democrat Party leaders Algirdas Butkevičius, Gediminas Kirkilas and Česlovas Juršėnas defend what Vladimiras Laučius called “an expressly disdained relation with political views and principles” in his article Nauja provincialų karta: laiko dvasios kaimiečiai (A new generation from the province: villagers in the spirit of the times). They are apparently defending a party which was created by late Algirdas Brazauskas and his entourage from the crumbling remnants of the Lithuanian Communist Party – the collaborator elite, seeking to retain influence during the fall of the Soviet Union.
Those who cared about ideology and values, those went with Mykolas Burokevičius or joined with the Sąjūdis and the parties that would arise from it. The LCP became the LDDP, then later Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis would enter the tangle, handing over the placard of the miniature LSDP for an opportunity to come closer to power. Under different circumstances the LDDP could equally successfully have become a liberal or conservative party, only the names of no such parties were available for purchase.
“The Social Democrats were always a solid, state inclined party,” writes A. Butkevičius, G. Kirkilas and Č. Juršėnas. Do not laugh, state inclined means, in this case, an entrenchment in state companies, ranging from the forestries to Lietuvos Geležinkeliai and politics as business administration without any ideology.
The LSDP was one of the country’s favourite parties at a time when it acted as the (let me quote V. Laučius again) “… excellent group of society which we proudly call the political elite and opinion shapers, who not only do not try to think in the categories of politics, but instead economy and provincial administration and soap opera intrigue; it had a sacred belief that exactly this – apolitical behaviour and thinking – is the real standard of politics, the norm to aim for, how things should be.”
However there are ever fewer of the Brazauskas-era party founders and the chosen Social Democrat Party name is as if a repellent to right wing and liberal youth. Only the leftists are left, those who, after grumbling about the LSDP ideological inconsistency nevertheless adhere to the party. Because there are simply no alternatives today – to the left of the LSDP we only have such pro-Russian marginal elements such as Algirdas Paleckis‘ Socialist People’s Front.
“The Social Democrats are certainly not falling apart, though we must admit a generation shift is happening. That’s obvious. I am seeking to bring the party more to the left, toward classical Social Democracy. However there are those who think the party should pursue more centrist, neoliberal policies,” party chairman Gintautas Paluckas described the LSDP internal disputes. He contradicts himself because it would be a generation shift only if A. Butkevičius, who was not based on any ideology, would have been replaced by yet another tasteless and odourless, just a decade or two younger politician. For example G. Paluckas’ former rival in the LSDP chairman elections Mindaugas Sinkevičius.
The aim to shift the “moustachioed beaver” party “more to the left, toward classical Social Democracy” – this is not a generation shift, but a true revolution. Because there has never been a leftist party in contemporary Lithuania.
After such an internal revolution the LSDP will once more be able to seek support from that numerous portion of the electorate which keeps jumping from one populist to another, unable to wait for their pursuit of social justice to be accomplished. However they will repel those who voted for the LSDP because it, as the former chairmen wrote, is “a solid, state inclined party”, the most faithful Brazauskas-era voters. This is specifically the possibility that most appeals to political opponents ranging from the TS-LKD to the LVŽS, who tap G. Paluckas’ shoulder and repeat that Lithuania needs a true leftist party. This is because the centre of the political spectrum is so cramped, there’s a lack of air. With the LSDP shifting toward the left, they will all be able to breathe easier.