Tuesday, May 08, 2007

European Left Isn't Dead Yet

By Cernig

As American rightwingers cackle over the supposed demise of a socialist France (that has been run by conservatives since the mid -80's) and newly minted President Sarkozy gets into "egalite" trouble for relaxing on a billionaire's massive yacht, Johnathan Freedland at the Guardian writes that the Left isn't dead in Europe yet.
Start with the home front. Last week's most significant defeat came in Scotland, where Labour had dominated for 50 years. Yet it was not the right who won. It's true the Scottish Nationalists promised a cut in corporation tax, but in almost every other area the SNP attacked Labour from the left - from opposition to the Iraq war and the renewal of Trident to promises to wipe out student debt. And remember, the SNP fought not the government in London but Scottish Labour, which was already to Blair's left. In other words, Scots were choosing between two shades of centre-left and they chose the redder of the two.

In Wales, there was a similar story. Rhodri Morgan's administration was also of deeper red than Blair's in London. And while it lost three seats in the assembly, Plaid Cymru, which sits to Labour's left, gained the same number. Thursday was certainly a bad night for Labour, but that's not quite the same as a pendulum swing to the right.

It's harder, admittedly, to draw that conclusion about France. (Tony Blair's YouTube message of beaming congratulations to Sarkozy is confirmation that the prime minister is leaving office utterly unrepentant, as heedless of Labour party members' feelings now as when he holidayed with Silvio Berlusconi or locked shoulders with George Bush.) Sarko looks every inch the hardman of the right. Yet even he, for all his rage against the 35-hour week, does not buy into the full Blair package. "I want Europe to protect us from globalisation, not let in globalisation as a Trojan horse," Sarkozy declared during the campaign. Rather than let the chill winds of market forces and free trade blow, Sarkozy proposes new barriers to imports from outside the European Union, all in the name of protecting jobs. Not quite one of les Anglo-Saxons, then.
Freedland connects the dots with American progressives like Edwards, Obama and Senator Jim Webb who are concerned with the increasing fact of "two Americas" and resurgent robber barons. Also to Zbigniew Brzezinski who in his latest book talks about:
"global political awakening", a stirring across much of the developing world, among those who are "conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree and resentful of its deprivations and lack of personal dignity".
and concludes with another factor - the failure of aggresive capitalism and conservativism in economic and foreign policy terms.
Last weekend a clutch of political scholars gathered in Oxford for a New York Review of Books conference on "The new face of American capitalism". Several suggested that, thanks to a weakening dollar and a narrowing in the performance gap between the US and Europe, the US model was beginning to lose its shine. The debacle in Iraq had also badly damaged American prestige.

...As one speaker, Simon Head, put it: "The UK has staked much on being the best European emulator of the American model. But if that model is looking jaded, where does that leave us?"

...Is it possible that the...era of neoliberal certainty is coming to a close, that there are stirrings abroad that call for something else? Might there not be a demand for action, as there was when the last intolerable gap in wealth opened up nearly a century ago - a demand, in short, for a battle against inequality?
Scottish voters and Americans at the midterms alike are reacting to the same signs, the same injustices. The Left is not dead - not even in Europe.

No comments: