- Date published:
9:31 am, November 16th, 2014 - 116 comments
Categories: australian politics, class war, climate change, global warming, International, john key, national, uk politics, us politics - Tags:
A recent Guardian Article by Jason Wilson asks a very pertinent question. Why is the right in control of the English speaking Western world? In England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States (despite Obama’s presidency) the right is in control. The repercussions are significant. For instance the response to climate change is insipid in the extreme and the western world is going backward.
Wilson sums up the situation as follows:
Right now the Anglosphere nations share another institution: everywhere, the political right is in charge, despite the times offering us reasons to vote for parties emphasising leftwing notions of environmental responsibility, equality, and military restraint.
The common policy features amongst these states are the unwinding of action to address climate change, even though the need to do something is more relevant than ever, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, the starving of most branches of state of resources, apart from the military and the security forces, and the attacking of beneficiaries.
And why is the right doing so well? Wilson sums up the reasons for success in this paragraph:
Each country has its own internal political dynamics. In each case the right has come to power in different ways. But these groupings share a lot of ideological common ground. This is no accident — multinational corporate lobbying, a global network of thinktanks, and the planetary echo chamber afforded by organisations like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation keeps right wing ideas circulating and resonating throughout the English speaking world.
Anglosphere conservatives want to erode whatever remains of their respective welfare states, with a particular emphasis on wrecking social security, education and public health. They have profited by scapegoating immigrants or refugees, and stoking paranoia about border security. More so than in previous eras of rightwing ascendancy, they are joined at the hip to the carbon merchants whose products are worsening the climate disaster already under way. While Abbott waxes lyrical about the civilising properties of coal, Harper redesigns Canada’s foreign policy around getting the products of its dirty oil sands industry to market. In the US, the Koch brothers and other carbon moguls bankroll the Republican party. If New Zealand and UK conservatives are less strident on this topic, it’s because their carbon industries are nonexistent or were deliberately destroyed. Right now, they’re all committed to the negotiation of a Trans -Pacific Partnership that economist Joseph Stiglitz says benefits “the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else”.
Wilson describes Key’s Government as being “relatively moderate” when compared to the likes of the Cameron or Abbott or Harper governments. But the attacks on beneficiaries and labour law reform that weakens Unions and conditions of employment are happening locally as well as globally.
It is not all doom and gloom for the left though. In Australia Abbott is deeply disliked and if the Labor Party can unite and organise then anything is possible next election. In England Ed Miliband for the past few years has looked a likely winner until recently when declining polls has caused some from within the Labour Party to leak to the press and created a sense of disunity. You would think that they would have learned. They only have to see what happened to Gillard in Australia and Cunliffe here to see the damage that disunity and internal leaks can cause.
Wilson thinks that the basic cause is a weakness amongst the leadership in the left.
Leaders tend to look better when they are moving in a discernible direction. The real problem for centre-left parties in the Anglosphere is that it’s very difficult to tell what their objectives are, and what, if anything, they stand for. (If any Australian can provide me with a succinct account of contemporary “Labor Values”, I’m dying to hear it).
Having spent the last three decades chasing conservatives rightwards in pursuit of a mythical centre, it may be that politicians are as confused as voters are. Between them the social democratic governements of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair redefined progressive policy, seeking to effect social change through market-based, capital-friendly mechanisms. Capital showed precious little gratitude to them, and none to their successors. But the habit of trying to please everyone, including the vested interests who actually need to be confronted in order to bring about lasting change, dies hard.
This is however a vicious cycle. As mass membership declines and parties become more dependant on corporate funding a drift to the right is almost inevitable. And the professionalism of politics and the very dependant relationships with the media means that any point of difference can be seen as a weakness and attacked.
But there is hope. In the recent US elections five referenda advocating the increase in the minimum wage for different states were passed convincingly. Issue by issue campaigns can work and achieve change that being in Parliamentary opposition cannot.
This neatly leads into a question on which leader is most likely to achieve change for New Zealand Labour. Business as usual is not an option. And caucus needs to be united, disciplined and rejuvenated.