Stevo, when I think of the left my associations are quite different. In the immediate post war years I grew up in Holland where the Dutch labor party was an important partner in a coalition government then and provided the Prime Minister, Willem Drees, for several cabinets. Drees was the man behind the establishment of a general old age pension. He also took care of more generous provisions for the unemployed. He is the only Dutch Prime Minister who has been called “Father”, Vader Drees (a name he honored by living to the ripe old age of 102).
In England you had, at the same time, the Attlee Labor government, that took the initiative for the introduction of at least part of the Plan Beveridge with the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 and a wider system of social security benefits.
I don’t have to consult books to know about the bitter poverty, especially among the aged, that many still had to endure before the war. I know this particularly from the stories of my mother (who was born in 1899).
The regimes you mentioned I classify as totalitarian rather than of the left. Totalitarianism can come about under any ideological guise.
The preoccupation of the modern left with fringe issues such as abortion and gay rights has been much exaggerated on this thread. I see very little of that, both here and in Holland.
I haven’t got much more to say about this issue.
A bit more about Willem Drees. The bane of his career was the conflict with Indonesia. If the labor party had been in power on its own (as it was in Britain) I dare say that the Accord of Linggajati would have been honored, there would have been no “police actions” and peace would have been brought about much earlier. Sukarno would, probably, have become less dominant and there would have been more space for politicians like Sjahrir and Sjarifuddin. But Drees had to operate in a coalition government, mainly with the then Catholic People’s Party, and couldn’t follow his own insights. Later, in the fifties, when Drees had to deal with Sukarno in the conflict about Papua the Dutch PM became far less inclined to make concessions. This was partly because Sukarno was to him a totally incomprehensible and impossible figure. And indeed these two people couldn’t have been more different. Drees was solid, careful with the finances, cautious, and conservative in his personal life. He wasn’t much given to rhetoric. I don’t have to sketch Sukarno.
I posted a few weeks back a link to a documentary about a recent trip through Indonesia by the Dutch novelist Adriaan van Dis.
Here is a link to the second installment:
Van Dis visits here one of the six burial places for Dutch victims of the war with Japan, the ‘bersiap time’ and the struggle with an independent Indonesia. Altogether about 25,000 people are buried there. He had himself five generations of ancestors in Surabaya and his attempts to find some of their graves in an old neglected Dutch graveyard (not maintained by Holland as different from those war graves) came to nought. He visits a ‘hari pahlawan’ in Surabaya and talks there to some Indonesian war veterans. He also talks to an Indonesian historian who calls this “hari pahlawan” a bit of mythology and is so bold as to praise Van Heutsz for uniting the country.
He also speaks with two alleged eye witnesses, one Indonesian and one Indo Belanda, about the flag incident of 14th Sept. 1945 in and near the former Oranje Hotel, then Hotel Yamato, now Mandarin Oriental Hotel Gajamada, in which a group of pemudas transformed a Dutch flag into an Indonesian one by tearing off the blue stripe. One Dutchman was knifed in the incident.
The language is Dutch but there are substantial fragments in Indonesian.