Interview in the SPD magazine “Vorwärts”

Mr. Lamy, is capitalism just in a crisis, or is it as some scientists claim at the end? It’s in a crisis. The end of capitalism has been announced quite a number of times – just think of Karl Marx – but so far it has always succeeded in renewing itself. But the current crisis has two important new aspects: Firstly, capitalism is really global, and secondly, it causes an enormous ecological crisis worldwide. Politics has to find answers to both these new aspects of the crisis.

You are trying to find these answers with the Progressive Alliance, working among other things on the concept of a “social and ecological transformation of society, politics and economics”. What exactly is behind that concept? Behind it is the realization that progressive forces have become weaker in the last 10 to 15 years and that populists increasingly managed to determine the political agenda. We have not formulated our criticism of capitalism in such a way that people understand and follow us. We need more precise analyses and new concepts.

Which ones could these be? We need to find an answer, for example, to the rapidly increasing use of robots in the working environment. It revolutionises economic production and causes uncertainty among many people. Populists will be successful as long as we cannot counter such uncertainties.

Why do many of the Social Democratic parties no longer manage to convince people of their options? I see two reasons: There is a problem with the middle class in the Western world. Parts of the middle class who were continuously doing better over the last 50 years now see that their real income is stagnating or decreasing. And we have a credibility problem. Many people have the impression that we do not understand them and their concerns any more. They feel left alone with their doubts and questions.

What is your answer to this? We should increase our efforts to fight inequalities, at all levels, even if this could lead to a tactical problem with parts of the middle class which rejects a policies for more social justice.

Bill Clinton once formulated as a recipe for success of the US Democrats, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Is this statement still valid? No, there are some things that have changed. In Great Britain, in Poland and in the US populists are succeeding although the economy is doing well. There is a great cultural uncertainty which has to do with one’s own identity. Only if we can find answers to these questions will we be successful in the future.In the 1990s the policy of Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder were considered by many social democrats to be an example of success. How do you evaluate this policy today?Both have implemented important and necessary reforms. But the truth is also that this has lead to the creation of many “working poor“. Although I believe that it is better to earn a low income with work than to depend on social transfers, it is clear that we need new ways to substantially improve the situation of the “working poor”.

– Vorwarts >