Why is Lithuania lacking real Social Democrats?

Algirdas Butkevičius ir Algirdas Brazauskas
DELFI montažas

The place of lefts in Lithuanian party system was taken by fake Social Democrats and reformed Communists, who later “ate” the Social Democrats, told political scientist Mažvydas Jastramskis and philosopher Gintautas Mažeikis to LRT.lt. “The Social democratic party itself demonstrated what literature calls neoliberalism, when only capital and oligarchs are respected”, highlights G. Mažeikis. Two people who are the favourites to the office of LSDP leader partially agree with this criticism, but argue that party members are not interested in changes, LRT.lt reported.

This week the Social Democratic party (LSDP) for the first time is going to elect their leader directly. His task will be not only to get back the voters that were lost during the Parliament elections but also possibly to turn the criticized liberal policy towards social democratic values.

Numerous political scientists and philosophers speak that Lithuania lacks a Social democratic party. M. Jastramskis, political scientist of the Institute of international relations and politics (TSPMI) stated that up until now Lithuania did not have real Social Democrats.

“Lithuania really needs Social Democrats. Income inequality is rising, massive emigration is noticed whose reasons are economic, year after year clear social problems exist – violence, alcoholism, suicides. The solving of these is linked to the ideology of leftist parties and their competence. […] Unfortunately, up until now we did not have those. Just a party by that name” – summed up M. Jastramskis to DELFI.

About the need for social democracy spoke TSPMI professor and philosopher back in 2004.
“The current crisis has fostered for a long time. The need for a Social Democratic party is increasing. When the restored party merged with LDDP, a part of the society was convinced that they formed a united social democratic power, but it was clear that it had little to do with social democratic provisions. The core of their leadership was comprised of the old communist nomenclature with Algirdas Brazauskas in the lead. Its goal was to establish economic positions. Its nomenclature which tried to become the new capitalist class in Lithuania”, at the time V. Radžvilas explained to ELTA.

Why according to critics both when the Social Democrats merged with LDDP nor later and they does not represent the leftist views of the voters.

Social Democrats were absorbed by LDDP

According to apolitical analyst Vidmantas Valiušaitis said that the real Social Democrats strongly fought communists in the world.

“Principled Social Democrats did not merge with communists because the latter were tainted by repressions, murder, totalitarian reflexes. These people who appreciate a democratic process, like Scandinavian Social Democrats, were never trapped in the forms of totalitarian attempts. Our Communists, who came with the Movement, were not linked to murder, but were linked to a corrupt system, nomenclature ties, etc.” explained V. Valiušaitis.

He states that the difference between Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia is that after 1990 that time governments of Latvia and Estonia managed to stay the whole term and put down the basis for a new and qualitative political system. In Lithuania at that time the people of Movement clashed and failed to reach a compromise.

“In 1992 LDDP won, which contained the same communists only in different colours, who created the basis of our states political system from 1992 until 1996” reminded V. Valiušaitis.

Later the party which was created by Aloyzas Sakalas, Vytenis Andriukaitis and other politicians merged with LDDP. “Social Democrats came in like an unequal partner. While they receive the post of a vice-President of the Parliament, they were not equal partners. LDDP dictated that agenda and absorbed the group while only taking the name. Now we see that the party is representing the grand capital and never a Social democratic idea. Frankly, they are the instrument of liberal democracy which serves banks and the rich” V. Valiušaitis told LRT.lt.

As stated by the political scientist of TSPMI M. Jastramskis, when LSDP and LDDP merged, it remained unclear how the Social Democratic power would have acted in the Government if it had not merged: “They were in the position with LDDP before the merge. […]The place of lefts in Lithuanian party system was taken by fake Social Democrats and reformed Communists, who later “ate” the Social Democrats.”

G. Mažeikis, a professor of Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) states something similar. According to him, then they merged, the whole LDDP parties nomenclature experience and habits wer saved.
“The Soviet Communist party had nothing to do with leftist movements.

Nomenclature experience was transferred to the Social Democratic party. It dragged on also during the Presidency of Algirdas Brazauskas and Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius. It paralyzed the leftist thought, movements of emancipation and solidarity, secular thought. The current party has reached the point then they do not represent the interests of the working class, nor emancipation goals which would interest feminists. It does not represent internationality, like the interest of foreign workers which is a necessity for them. They do not carry out their functions” said G Mažeikis.

M. Jastramskis stated that LSDP has been in power for a long time, and when you spend there more time, it is easier to identify with the government and push down the ideology and values. “Also, up until 2004 the goal of Lithuania’s policy was integration into western structures, and ideologies were less important. All main parties agreed that we have to become EU members. Later, there was not enough competition between them and they became similar. This led to the lack of project differences in Lithuania’s policies” continued M. Jastramskis.

He does not expect that the candidates can change the party

This weekend the LSDP will elect a new leader. Firstly, a direct vote will take pace for the ones nominated and the results will be announced on Monday. The second round of elections, on the 28-29 of April, when they will vote for two candidates with the most votes. The results should be known on the 2nd of May.

The candidates competing are: Andrius Palionis, Gintautas Paluckas, Mindaugas Sinkevičius, Artūras Skardžius and Mantas Varaška. However, according to a responder to LRT.lt, it is unlikely that any of them may turn the party in the right direction.

“We have only hope for them. Out of them I mostly think G. Paluckas is one of the few who is ready to communicate with the new left, who have many movements in Lithuania. And he is prone to discussing party ideology”, commented G. Mažeikis.

The professor at VMU said that the Social Democratic party has showed what critical literature calls neoliberalism – the only respected thing is capital and oligarchs. “Social Democrats were the ones who ensured the bad tendencies of the state. Why did this happen? Because party leaders I particular have LDDP habits which they brought with themselves from the Communist party. This has nothing to do with leftism but with state-owned enterprises and the defence of great capital” summed up G. Mažeikis.

At the same time analyst V. Valiušaitis does not see a candidate which could turn the party towards left. “When I listen to young Social Democrats I see the rhetoric which they have adopted, how they have mastered the communication skills, learned speeches, but I don’t think that they burn with desire to change Lithuania, and this needs more justice. After all, everything leans on social justice and the system of political justice. I don’t see them living for their ideas. I had more hopes for A. Butkevičius who came from the Social Democrat and not Communist party. But in the government he did not show integrity” said V. Valiušaitis.

According to M. Jastramskis, LSDP has more than 20 thousand members so it is difficult to change fast. A lot of people in it see it as an organisation, where they get a post and has little to do with ideology. If a leader is strong, he can of course change direction but not independently idnore gžhis party. I would look sceptically at change, despite who wins” said the political scientist at TSPMI.

Candidates agree with criticism

The candidate of the Social Democratic Party G. Paluckas can agree with many claims of G. Mažeikis and M. Jastramskis, but to look back does not make sense. According to G. Paluckas, political agenda errors and the rule of “paper” values obvious problem in LSDP.

“But M. Jastramskis is wrong in saying that the majority of party members are not interested in change, many is useing it or seeking the „fruit“ of nomenclature. It is not like that. The majority of party members – ordinary people, participating in the activities out of enthusiasm and faith in social democracy. If we returned democracy and hearing to the party of a lot of things would change. Values will come back and political agenda will change”, – promised G. Paluckas.

At that time, another candidate for the Social Democratic Party M. Sinkevičius says he does not agree with the statement that it was the Social Democrats who secured bad tendencies. On the contrary – the Social Democrats have contributed significantly to the core steps of Lithuania, such as the EU and NATO memberships, becoming members of Economic Cooperation and Development, in the event of the Russian threat began to rapidly strengthen national defense and returned the country to the path of economic stability.

“However, one can agree that it is the social left was missing from the former Social Democratic Government. In the last term of office the minimum wage was increased five times and unemployment fell by half. Also, the amount tax-exempt increased for income and the average salary has grown. However, social inequality has increased as well. It is obvious that there was no will to undertake major reforms of social policy, particularly in areas such as health care and basic assistance to families with children, as well as state support for young people purchasing their first home or for a free higher education “, – commented M. Sinkevičius.

According to M. Sinkevičiaus, the Social Democrats can justify themselves that not all reforms were achieved because of the objectins of the coalition partners but society needs the result, but losein the election in economic growth is a painful lesson, that voters expect not empty talk but the implementation of promises.

“In addition, voters need the leftist politics and the Farmers and Greens Union triumph proved that, who were much more left in the social and economic issues in its program than the Social Democrats,” – admitted M. Sinkevičius.

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