Myself, Ive only listed the easy ones so far - Western Europe. I basically fit in the same category in all those countries: where possible, to the left of the Social-Democrats, but most always steering clear from the ex-, post- and real communists, Trots and other such traditionalist collectivists. In many countries there's a space in between for more free-thinking radicals, mostly with the Greens, though having been brought up a solid Social-Democrat I do sometimes get weary of their all too postmaterialist, liberal tendencies.
But, yeah, still - all the same focus, basically. If on a scale from left to right of 1-10 the traditionalist far left is at 1 and the Socialdemocrat and Labour Parties are at 3-4, I'm at 2.
Elsewhere is a different question, though. Take Central and Eastern Europe for example. Whole political system is shaped a bit different.
For one, the "values" axis of debate is more important, proportional to the socio-economic one, than in Western-Europe. Nationalism vs open societies, religion vs secularism: those debates make a stronger mark than in Western-Europe, where they might come up but left and right are still defined primarily by the welfare state-vs-capitalism axis. In that sense they're more like the US.
Secondly, history plays a larger role. Ex-communists versus anti-communists; the division that dominated Polish politics throughout the nineties, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Romanian and Bulgarian politics to a marked degree as well.
My affinities from the start, there, were with the left-liberal wings of the anti-communist civic movements of 1989, the liberal former dissidents. Not with any post-communist party, and not with the conservative, nationalist and/or christian parties. Back in the early nineties, those liberals, radical democrats, were in fact more
stridently anti-communist than the conservative parties: compare the initial positions of Hungarian Democratic Forum and Alliance of Free Democrats in 1990.
That means, on the scale of 1-10, you'd have unreformed communists at 1, ex-communist at 2-3, and those radical democrats at 4. Thats where I'd be.
The only hypothetical alternative were the authentic, refounded pre-war Social-Democratic parties, but apart from the Czech Republic, they struggled, floundered and went under in the shadow of the much larger ex-communists-turned-pragmatist almost everywhere (barring a long-marginal parliamentary representation in Lithuania).
So sympathies were easy, back in the early nineties. In the Czech Republic, after the Civic Forum broke up, you had the Obscanske Hnutie (OH), the Civic Movement, uniting most all the famous ex-dissidents of the Forum. In Slovakia you had the ODU, the Civic Democratic Union. In Hungary the SzDSz, Alliance of Free Democrats, in Poland the Democratic Union. In Bulgaria, President Zhelev.
Not that I didnt have my misgivings: there was a strand of a-democratic elitism in those intellectuals' political projects, a sometimes explicit claim that there was a better alternative to the multi-party system, a more civic democracy in which "the best and brightest" minds would be voluntarily elected into enlightened, benign rule on individual basis.
The (in some cases understandable, but nevertheless telling) distaste for the coarse preferences of public opinion led these "anti-politicians" to sometimes unfair rhetorics against conservative counterparts, who were all too quickly accused of being rabble-rousers, even anti-semite (Walesa for example was treated rather unfairly, even hysterically, in 1990).
The same elitism tempted such intellectuals into an all too public disavowment of all that proletarian campaign-politics stuff, which had the dual effect of a complete failure of setting up effective political organisations of their own and provoking public distrust by appearing to sometimes prefer powersharing-through-negotiation with the old regime than having to weather the test of public approval.
All of that differed from country to country, of course, just some general patterns. Nevertheless, contrasted with the two other camps of ex-communists and conservative nationalists, it was clear who were the 'good guys'.
All that's gone too, though. That specific political stratum dissolved in three ways.
Some went under, mostly through the flaws I mentioned above. The OH and the ODU never even got into parliament in 1992. Zhelev lost the 1996 Union of Democratic Forces primaries against a conservative, free-market candidate.
Some tried a Social-Democratic course, like the leftist members of Solidarity who founded the Labour Union (UP). (And yes, he said through relay to Dag's Polish professor friend, the UP did
actually at first make it across the threshold and into parliament wholly independently, in 1993). Eventually, however, they failed to make it on their own and submerged into ex-communist-led alliances. Rough versions of the same happened in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Latvia.
The third strand, most successfully, survived and remained influential for at least some time by transforming from centrist, civic-liberal projects into clearly profiled free-market parties of economic reform. This is what the Polish Democratic Union did, morphing into the Freedom Union. The Hungarian Alliance of Free Democrats in fact managed to do both
of the latter two things at once ;-).
So, gone. All of which leaves Central and Eastern Europe a lot more difficult a place to recognize one's political soulmates in, for someone like me.
Ex-communists turncoated into ardent privatisers? No thanks.
Human rights activists ruling as libertarians? They deserve respect: in the nineties, it was often the radical freemarketeers who were also the most progressive when it came to minority and Roma rights, gay rights, et cetera - in Slovakia, the libertarian (if marginal) Democratic Party was the most multicultural-minded of the country. But I'm no free-market believer.
Devout catholics, nationalist populists? Nope.
Bolsheviks turned chauvinist, like in the Balkans? Worst of both worlds.
Wonder what Dagmaraka's take is on all the above... sorry to have made it into some kind of essay