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Europe & the anti-austerity left

Written By: - Date published: 9:42 am, December 24th, 2014 - 28 comments
Categories: democratic participation, elections, Europe, greens, Left, poverty, sustainability, uk politics, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

As redlogix argued in his post yesterday, it is important for the left in Aotearoa/New Zealand to look outwards (internationally) as well as to focus on politics within our nation state.

In recent days I have been reading some articles that highlight a rise in the support for the Green party in the UK, with a general election coming up in 2015.  Early in December the Independent reported that Green Party membership had doubled in England and Wales since the beginning of 2014.  It provides an indication that a significant minority of people are turNing off from the 3 more established parties:

The Green party’s rise in popularity comes as membership for Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats has plummeted.


And despite a 10 per cent rise over the last 18 months, the Liberal Democrats’ 44,526 reflects the loss of almost a third since joining the coalition.

Labour policy chief Jon Cruddas warned last month that “established political parties are in danger of being past their sell by date”.

There has also been some strong criticism of the Green Party not being included in ITV’s leader debate for the election next year. 79% of people surveyed by an ITM poll expressed being in favour of the Green leader (Natalie Bennett) in the debate.

Vote Green UK 2015 Bennett

Bennett stated:

“It is clear from votes and polls that the public are fed up with the three business-as-usual parties and are looking around for alternatives.  The public want a serious debate in which they hear the full range of views.

Green Party Logo“They are well aware that austerity has failed even in its own terms while it has made the poor, the disabled, disadvantaged and the young pay for the fraud, corruption and mismanagement of the bankers.

“The Green Party offers a positive alternative to the Westminster “business as usual” approach to politics by the three main parties. Our policies on bringing the rail network and NHS back into public ownership resonate with the public understanding that the privatisation of public services by successive Tory and Labour governments is an expensive and damaging failure.”

A recent YouGov poll put the Greens 2% ahead of the Liberal Democrats. And many commentators, as in the last linked article above, claim UK politics is now entering a multi-party era. This article claims the UKIP gets its main support from older people disaffected with the established parties.  meanwhile younger people’s disaffection provides support for the Green Party.

Meanwhile, in Greece, some are claiming a likely left wing upset in their up-coming elections.  Owen Jones in The Guardian reports:

Another war looms in Europe: waged not with guns and tanks, but with financial markets and EU diktats. Austerity-ravaged Greece may well be on the verge of a general election that could bring to power a government unequivocally opposed to austerity. Momentous stuff: that has not happened in the six years of cuts and falling living standards that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

But if the radical leftist party Syriza does indeed triumph in a possible snap poll in the new year, there will undoubtedly be a concerted attempt to choke the experiment at birth. That matters not just for Greece, but for all of us who want a different sort of society and a break from years of austerity.

The article claims that there is rising opposition in Greece to the damaging austerity programme.

Syriza flag

Syriza offers new hope for many, not just in Greece but in Europe.

Although it has shifted from demanding an immediate cancellation of debt, it is demanding a negotiated solution. It has conjured up the example of a European debt conference to wipe away a portion of the debt, as happened with Germany in 1953. Syriza’s manifesto proposes that repayment of debt could come through economic growth, rather than from budget cuts. It wants a European new deal backed up by an investment bank; an all-out war against the tax avoidance endemic in Greek society; an emergency employment programme; a raised minimum wage; and the restoration of collective bargaining. In alliance with anti-austerity forces such as Spain’s surging Podemos party, Syriza wants the EU to abandon crippling austerity policies in favour of quantitative easing and a growth-led recovery.

Jones warns that if Syriza is successful in gaining power in the election, the full forces of the right across Europe will be unleashed against Syriza and the left generally.  That is why Greece’s left needs solidarity internationally.

The forces of reaction against any concerted left wing new direction are pretty much aligned with those that would be unleashed on a new left direction in New Zealand.

28 comments on “Europe & the anti-austerity left ”

  1. Colonial Rawshark 1

    Although UKIP is the main beneficiary of voter dissatisfaction in the UK because UKIP know how to tap into the angers, fears and prejudices of people which are growing due to inequality and austerity.

  2. RedLogix 2

    Thanks. I’m busy catching up on Manuel Castellas whom you mentioned yesterday.

    It’s disturbing to watch which direction austerity will push Europe.

    • karol 2.1

      Castells has been influential on my thinking – about the “network society” with a more fluid and flexible “digital divide” than the classic marxist model of two distinct and relatively rigid classes.

      For Castells the elites operate more in the world of transnational flows, while the powerless are locked more into their geographic locations. He sees a multi-faceted movement of local organisation plus inter-national networks as a way to challenge the power of the elites.

      The Green parties have a platform that is recognisable internationally, while also focusing on local issues. Greece’s anti-austerity campaigns also have the potential for solidarity across nation-state boundaries.

      • RedLogix 2.1.1

        Yes I was concious that I had omitted any mention of the Greens international networks from yesterday’s discussion. Partly to serve brevity, but mainly because I didn’t want to pretend to know more about them than I do.

        I’d certainly welcome more information about the Greens experience in this area.

  3. Skinny 3

    If a radical Left party gain power in Greece you can see a pretty rapid flow on effect happening in Europe and other Western nations. When you think of the growing intolerance to the austerity measures and the widening gap between the rich elite and the rest it’s bound to happen. Here in New Zealand the effect will be NACT booed out of office.

  4. The problem in Britain is that the Labour Party acts like a dead hand on the working class in the fightback against austerity. Miliband attacks rather than supports the unions.
    The Greens may make inroads on the Lib/Dems but they are not serious contenders for working class votes, and the far left has proved unable to unite into a serious party.
    As CV points out it is UKIP that is taking Labour votes because Labour hasn’t got any answers, so a reactionary nationalism becomes the default.
    Scotland showed this. Labour has been reduced to a rump and the SNP has attracted large numbers of workers on the basis of Scottish nationalism that threatens do divide rather than build solidarity with an EU wide workers movement.
    Syriza and Podamos are progressive developments because they have won many workers from the anti-worker social democracy and incorporated the Greens (in Greece, don’t know about Spain), creating a left force that can potentially put up a fight against austerity.
    While workers are being attracted to the right by the failure of the left organisations, the new formations that have arisen out of the old left provide a party framework that can potentially generate international solidarity linking workers across borders.
    That is the hope.
    This is the best survey of the UK political scene I have seen.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    Jones warns that if Syriza is successful in gaining power in the election, the full forces of the right across Europe will be unleashed against Syriza and the left generally.

    That may actually be the best thing to happen as it will show that democracy has been replaced by dictatorship and that it’s a dictatorship of the nation by the corporations.

  6. tracey 6

    The Greens are still a place where people can vote IF they want to encorage a focus on issues and personal integrity.

    • Colonial Rawshark 6.1

      The Greens don’t have credibility from a conventional economics sense, nor do they have credibility from a non-orthodox economics sense in which climate change and energy depletion is fully embraced.

      Better than the mainstream options, almost certainly. But an actual answer to the destructive oligarchic rule that we are facing? Still only 20% of the way there – and that’s being generous.

      • tracey 6.1.1

        Ah the credibility stakes… of course they fudged a bit to get credibility in all the wrong places.

        Once people understand, if they dont already that The Greens dont expect to be a majority party in government and “get” that the Greens are indeed pushing a new way of doing politics they, the voter, get the option to vote for that way, rather than the labour versus nats way which leads us down the same path but at a different speed.

        For my part integrity is more crucial than ideology because from personal integrity in a politician flowsctransparency and open, honest debate, all of which is sorely lacking in the winner takes all masculine pissing contest we have now.

        I point to rod donald, turei, fitsimons as exhibits 1.

        • Colonial Rawshark

          Donald and Fitzsimons would have never countenanced a major policy launch full of flash new $60,000-$100,000 electric cars and hybrids which pushed a false dream of how everyone buying this fancy technology was going to somehow save the environment…

          • karol

            History shows that any political party is capable of moving away from its core values.

            The Greens start from a different position from traditional Labour parties. labour is rooted in class analysis and a focus on removing oppression of the working class. Ultimately economics are foundational to it.

            The Greens come from a different angle. they focus on the whole of society and, it seems to me, focus on the kind of community-based egalitarian society they would like to see. They don’t begin with a class analysis, but it is a part of their considerations in aim for a just and sustainable society. It seems to me they begin with the environment and communities located within them – people and their locations. They then look for an economic policy they will fit the kind of society they are aiming for.

            To me, the Greens have got the place of economics in society the right way around/ Economics should serve the kind of society we want, and not vice versa.

            Also, the Greens with their whole community approach, put more stress on some things that the foregrounding of class analysis can miss – people’s roles as ‘workers” within capitalism, is one of the very important roles, but not the only one – people within families and communities, whether they are in paid employment or not.

            However, in the end, how they put their philosophy into practice is important when giving my support to any party.

            • Kenat

              The main points of the smart energy policy launch were (from the website):
              – Establishing a target of 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2030.
              – Reducing families’ power bills by around $300 per year through the introduction of New Zealand Power and providing low-cost loans to enable households and schools to invest in solar panels to enjoy free, sustainable power for decades.
              – Speeding the transition of the private vehicle fleet to electricity by investing $10 million into the roll-out of fast-charging electric car refuelling stations across New Zealand and $10 million in cash-back payments to electric car buyers and over time, we will replace the Crown car fleet with electric vehicles where there are appropriate electric vehicles available.
              – Better enabling energy conservation and distributed generation through smart grid initiatives including real time electricity pricing, limited fixed lines charges, and a fair price for surplus renewable electricity.

              Which core value is it that the Greens are moving away away from exactly?

              • karol

                You’re right. As far as I can see the Greens are not moving away form their core values, especially on energy and the environment.

                But it is always a possibility for any party to do that once in government.

  7. Te Reo Putake 7

    Interesting post, Karol. Sadly, the Greens are irrelevant in the UK, as their FPP system means they will never be able to turn their support into seats in parliament. UKIP are taking some soft support from Labour, but not to a significant degree. Again, the distortions inherent in the FPP system means UKIP are most likely to just knacker the Tories and allow Labour to win outright. The second most likely outcome is Miliband leads a minority Government or forms a coalition with the Lib Dems or the SNP.


    In Greece, while Syrisa are leading the opinion polls, they are likely to take a hit if they successfully force an early election by stopping the appointment of a new President. The majority of Greeks are opposed the instability of an early election, which may trim a few points off Syrisa’s actual result, allowing New Democracy to sneak through. The biggest party is gifted 50 extra seats in their system, so it’s vital to be the most popular if they are to have any chance.

    The most recent Greek polling is here:


    • Colonial Rawshark 7.1

      UK Labour is limping along. A horrific out of touch Tory government which is smashing into the bottom 80% of British society but Labour still can’t pull out ahead of the Conservatives in any recent poll.

      • Te Reo Putake 7.1.1

        Labour have been leading most of the polls in recent months, CV. Not that they have to be the most popular in order to win, anyway. FPP is a recipe for results that don’t reflect the public will. The funny thing is that Labour are likely to win despite Ed Miliband being regarded as a joke (though he’s still more popular than Nick Clegg).

          • Te Reo Putake

            Cheers, Al1en. Not only are Labour in front of most of them, the UKIP effect hurts the Tories disproportionately, so the real gap is wider than the polls suggest.

        • Colonial Rawshark

          A broad view of the polls suggests a real Labour lead of 2%-3%. OK, so a lead is a lead, but its not much given how much pain and suffering the Conservatives are inflicting upon so many ordinary people in the UK.

          • The Al1en

            But remember how bad labour ultimately were under blair and especially brown? Most unpopular government ever, and yet less than five years later back in front. To be fair, that’s quite some turn around.

            No worries TRP 🙂

    • Colonial Rawshark 7.2

      Who do Brits trust more with the economy – 37% to 27% say the Tories, not Labour.


      • emergency mike 7.2.1

        “One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual’s response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be perceived as a threat.”

    • Colonial Rawshark 7.3

      Also worth noting UK Labour helped kill dead any moves to change the electoral system to become more proportional, in order to maintain the power of the two main parties in Westminster.

      I guess that’s just as well as otherwise UKIP would win a hundred or more seats.

  8. JonL 8

    Labour in the UK are just Tory slightly lighter, and far further to the right than any Tory government of the 70’s.

    • Paul 8.1

      I recommend you read a book by Owen Jones called the Establishment.
      Also a book entitled ‘Private Island’ by James Meek.

      Both describe and detail very well the point you are making above.

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