The Return of the Populist Left

Just when BREXIT and Trump made it look like right wing populism was set to take over the electoral landscape, along comes the leftist populism of Macron and Corbyn.

Late last year it was like a leftist apocalypse had transpired, first BREXIT, then Trump! How could it get any worse? Thankfully Austria and Holland did not elect anti-immigration parties to government. Then, a major sign of relief with the election of Emmanuel Macron, the center-left political outsider who won the French presidency. A populist figure outside the normal parties of French politics.

And now Theresa May’s snap election to wipe out British Labour has monumentally backfired and put Jeremy Corbyn within striking distance of victory.

Corbyn has been surprisingly successful, first at winning the British Labour party leadership; second, keeping it despite a leadership challenge and an onslaught of negative press; and third, he didn’t just put up competitive showing but brought the Tories to a hair’s breadth of defeat in Thursday’s British election.

Corbyn won’t form a government, but he has vanquished any doubts about whether he is electable, and he has led a resurgence of the populist left – the far left no less – in British politics.

It is Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, and Emmanuel Macron who are the new triumvirate of hope for the political left.

What does this mean?

First, the British Tories have only one term left and then an inevitable defeat to Labour. May will have to resign, her position is untenable, she’s a terrible campaigner. If the Tories don’t finish her off, a no-confidence motion in the Parliament just might.

Second, the American mid-term elections will probably end the GOP majority and perhaps elect a bunch of Bernie supporters. Questions about Trump and Russia, political inertia, and the continuing media frenzy, all will erode Trump and the GOP.

Third, in Australia, it is not Malcolm Turnbull who should be nervous, but Bill Shorten. That is because Anthony Albanese might use Corbyn’s success as a platform to launch a bold leftist take-over of the Australian ALP. Watch this space.

Fourth, it is clear that populism rather than parties are the key to power, whether right or left leaning, and for the moment it is the left who has all the political momentum.

Socialism is the new black.

Of course, a leftist resurgence could be potentially disastrous: economic growth, deficit reduction, freedom of speech, and the global war on terror, all these are placed in peril if not managed responsibly. Corbyn and Sanders have built their platform on big government and lots of handouts, all paid for by massive deficits with very little capacity to stimulate economic growth. It is the offer of a temporary welfare paradise before the bust of national bankruptcy. And that’s not even taking into account the ideological drive to turn progressive beliefs into a form of social orthodoxy where dissent is not tolerable. Plus their habit of blaming jihadist ideology on economic inequality and US imperialism – half truths at best. Not exactly the best recipe for economic prosperity, global security, and ensuring personal freedoms.

All we can do is wait and see how far this populist left resurgence goes, how long it will last, and what it will achieve.

Photo: Wikimedia.