How is the political Left in Europe different from the Left in the US?

Inspired by this thread and dozens of others:

It seems like in nearly every thread discussing the difference between conservatives and liberals here in the US, someone announces that the liberals in the US aren’t nearly as far to the left as those in Europe. This has been asserted dozens if not hundreds of times here, and everyone who remarks on the comment sagely agrees it’s true. But no one ever has said how they differ. Those of us who have no idea what makes people say that are left with a hazy idea that it probably has something to do with socialism.

So, would someone care to enlighten us? What do people on the Left in Europe believe - as specifically as possible - that people on the Left in the US don’t?

Two aspects that come to my mind:

  • Some views seem to be an exclusive preserve of the left in the US that are also supported by the moderate right in most of Europe (e.g. a certain level of welfare state, proactive environmentalism). So, these are not ‘left’ policies here.

  • a different approach to anti-racism: “Someone’s race to be taken no notice of whatsoever” vs. “Someone’s race to be officially taken notice of, outcomes to be tracked by race and differences in outcome to be acted against”. For example an US leftist would decry the high number of black people in US prisons while a German leftist would decry (if that were the case) the government knowing how many black people are imprisoned.

I suppose part of it is that, because of McCarthyism, the cold war et al, overt lip service to and engagement with socialist or communist ideas and philosophies were and continue to be more taboo in US politics. During the cold war, communist parties were popular in several Western European countries, most notably in Italy and France.

They still exist, but don’t have as much support as they used to. Others have tried to rename themselves using versions of “Left”.

For example: In Sweden there’s the Vänsterpartiet (Left Party), in Iceland we have the Vinstri/Graenir (Left/Green). Both perfectly legitimate parties who hold places in parliament.

But I think the main difference between Europe and the US, when it comes to politics, is that the gameboard is so differently set up. We already have national health-care, a wider social net and so on. So the debates aren’t really on wether they should exist or not, but how far-reaching they should be.

If the situation were the same in the US, the Dems would probably be seen as further to the left than they currently are seen.

So, you’re saying that the Left in Europe is more closely tied to communist leanings than here in the US?

Yes, I would say the Left in Europe has quite a bit more socialist leanings than in the U.S. People in Spain, for instance, had many more expectations about what the government was supposed to be doing for them, such as providing free healthcare, paying for college, and setting them up with jobs not more than 10 minutes from their home.

Absolutely. What **Pyper **writes goes for the Nordic countries as well.

Whenever I mention my being a conservative on these boards, somebody or other sure as hell notes my location and says, “Yeah, but you’re not an American conservative. Those guys are at a whole different level of conservatism.”
And I’d actually agree with that. I’m a “small(ish) government, free(ish) market, secularly social [kids sometimes need a smack in the arse, for example]” conservative, rather than a “God, guns, and guts” one.

So there’s a difference there.
But I think that difference widens the further right you go, and that the Left is more similar across the US and other nations than is the right. For example, a British Green party might be like an American one (if you have such a thing), but their Conservative Party would differ more greatly from the Republicans. The Labour Party (UK) and the Australian Labor Party are both kinda centrist these days, and more or less in tune with the US Democratic Party, whereas Britain’s and Australia’s respective conservative parties aren’t nearly as far right as the Republicans.

Of course, I could be wrong, but that’s my reading of it from the other side of the world.
I’m a conservative who is hoping for an Obama victory, put it that way.

We do, and it made quite a stir in 2004.

In a recent bout of bitch-biting (we’re both female, so “dog-biting” is inappropiate), Sheboss told me that instead of staying in a hotel when we’re in Spain, I should just drive in every day. I reminded her (she hadn’t known) that under Spanish Labor Law, since the Spanish location where she wants me to work is more than 70km from my home (and from my legal place of employment), I’d be entitled to count travel time as worked. That’s 6h knocked off my “actual work time.” She went white, and whiter even when Heboss offhandedly confirmed it.

So while 10 min is a bit of an exaggeration, that’s a detail that’s actually regulated.

Things like Social Security/Medicare aren’t even something “moderate right parties” consider important. A lot of the advances in that direction come from far right times (both XXth century Spanish dictators advanced SS/M a lot, as part of the capitalistic notion that “it’s more efficient to have healthy workers than sick ones”). So some issues which are part of the right/left division in the US aren’t even on the table in Europe, or are something which puts even our most right-wing parties “on the left” by US standards.

Discrimination policies have already been mentioned. Many US companies make a point of educating all their employees worldwide on anti-discrimination policies, but often their educational materials are based exclusively on US law. This is viewed as quite offensive by EU workers; we see it as “these dudes can’t even be bothered find out what our law is like!,” plus often what they describe is illegal in the “country of reception” (I’ve had to take courses by which it was fine to discriminate by reason of age as “it’s not a protected group,” Spanish law doesn’t have protected groups except for the recent “Law Against Gender Violence”). Again, this is something on which the immense majority of political groups agree; in Spain I can think of a few extreme-far-right parties, a far-left one and some prominent individuals who are openly against the notion that “discrimination is wrong unless it’s justified” (if you’re preparing an ad for diapers, then discriminating your prospective models by reason of age is justified); there’s far-right parties who are perfectly happy with immigration, multiculturalism and so forth.

Often I see posters who say things like “I’m socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” I’m not sure what “fiscally conservative” means, but in many countries the political map is very fragmented and looks more like a multi-dimensional matrix than a line. You can have a far right party which wants a return to Catholic values, SS/M access for immigrants, sectorial labor unions, illegallisation of cross-sectorial unions, and whose representative in City Hall works with the local Muslim immigrants to create a post in the local (publicly owned) slaughterhouse for a Halal worker. And no, he doesn’t see any contradiction there: he’d like everybody to be a Catholic, but since not everybody is, he wants people to be able to practice their religion in a pacific and legal way without stealing lambs at the end of Ramadan (which was what the Halal position tried to avoid, and succeeded in avoiding).