Fellow Travelers: Socialist Leader Finds Common Ground with Obama

Socialist International President George Papandreou has a lot in common with President Barack Obama.

Both the world leaders have called for nations to come together to solve the global recession and both claim it is necessary to focus on a green economy. Papandreou, who is likely to become Greece’s next Prime Minister, was encouraged by Obama’s “very new signal” about global goals for economic recovery.

“The United States under Barack Obama is giving out a very new signal which is, ‘We need to collaborate.’ And I think that is very important for our planet today. We need to collaborate,” Papandreou told Nicole Petallides of the Fox Business Network April 1. “The issues are global and if we do collaborate we can actually say that we can change the economy. We can change some of the structures that created this crisis and we can make sure that we uh, that we create the jobs for people – and jobs for workers in the United States.”

On April 1 in a joint press conference, Obama said “We can only meet this challenge together,” signaling cooperation with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and with the G20 which began their meeting in London the same day. Obama supports a global stimulus and a focus on green technology which he claims would produce job growth.

Papandreou said he supports those same goals, but was frank about the redistributive use of a stimulus package.

“I think the EU needs to have a big stimulus package also and but secondly I also think that we need to see where we’re going to put the stimulus package. It has to redistribute the wealth in a way to help the poor and the middle class in order to really stimulate the economy,” Papandreou said. “And secondly it has to go into the green economy to talk about not only today, the energy autonomy that we need, independence that we need. But also bringing in the infrastructure for future generations and that’s the green economy.”

And just like Obama, Papandreou denounced businesspeople for making huge “bonuses” and demanded change: “We can’t have a system and it’s not fair when you have the capital markets helping those get their huge premiums, their huge bonuses and having unemployed on the other side.”

Socialist International’s statement of principles lists many goals, including “social justice,” and “economic rights.” According to its Web site, “Economic rights must not be considered as benefits paid to passive individuals lacking in initiative, but as a necessary base from which to secure the active participation of all citizens in a project for society. This is not a matter of subsidising those on the fringe of society, but of creating the conditions for an integrated society with social welfare for all people.”

In Papandreou’s view implementing the socialist agenda must be a global effort. “This is an agenda which is not American, it’s and agenda for every country and for the globe and I think that’s one of the new historical things today – that we have the same agenda. We can collaborate and make this a success.”