All the indications are that left-wing politics is in crisis, there isn’t a week that goes by without the gloomy predictions from the continent on a party’s electoral chances.
We should think of politics in much the same vein as Capitalism, there are patterns to be observed, crisis and then prosperity. Though this period of crisis for the left, where in just 5 countries in Europe the left have control of parliament, may be different. There is an emerging pattern, on economic policy, right wing parties however extreme are integrating left-wing policies into their campaign pledges, this is an encouraging sign, albeit in a non-traditional sense. Look for example domestically, where the Conservative party adopted many Labour manifesto promises, including increases in spending on healthcare an attempt to tackle the growing power of online corporations.
Across the channel, other right-wing governments are doing the same. the Italian government may be considered populist or nationalist, but are defying austerity and strict EU deficit rules on their budget. Gone are commitments to free markets, instead plans to introduce Universal Basic Income a policy that has long been pushed by the left. UBI is a policy that hopes to solve the problem of the 4th industrial revolution. What will happen to workers when full automation becomes a reality?
Europe is unique from Britain in that voting for right-wing governments is a sign of a rejection of inequality, a protest against elites and often nationalism. Where in the U.K. people tend to vote for the Conservative party, is to keep the elite in power, and secure your riches. Yet, Britain’s left is thriving.
In Europe as in the U.K the left has been lost, though there are signs of hope, ideas are central to everything, the fact that the far-right are adopting economically left-wing policies, is a sign of the changing times. What the left must realise is that they are trying to attract the same voters as the populists, because the voters are sufferring from the same symptoms that the left have the willingness to solve.
The left also has to adapt, as Capitalism does. I will repeat, these are changing times and although I disagree with closing borders and appealing to nationalism, many don’t share this view. I also realise that these concerns are unfounded, when you study the data, so this also needs to be communicated better. Crucially in the 21st century, voters can’t be put into traditional brackets of political alignment, largely due to the changes that have occurred because of Globalisation. Just because someone has a right-wing view of immigration, does not mean they have can’t be left-leaning economically. The perfect paradigm that used to define left and right wing politics is blurred, the sooner we realise that, the better.
The British economist and business professor Geoffrey Hodgson in his book “Wrong Turnings: How the Left Got Lost,” argues that, after making compromises with capitalism since the 1950’s, the socialist and labour parties have failed to offer a “persuasive, feasible and democratic alternative to capitalism” after the 2008 global financial crisis.
In the U.K. the momentum is with Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party, the fat cat campaign highlights this, where CEO’s earn what a normal worker does in 3 days. His muddled stance on the EU, but his unwavering support from his base is evidence of a party that has adapted, they understand the economic hardship that the Tories have forced upon the working class. Europe again, is slightly different, but reconnecting is crucial to any European parties electoral viability, the Momentum campaign and as a strategy to electoral victory is evidence of this.
The 2019 European elections may side with the populists in the news bulletins, but Europe’s left should not be all doom and gloom, they will be back.