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by Darrell Goodliffe
The Challenge of Success for Opponents of Austerity
Last Thursday, Labour won a decisive election victory (despite Ken’s narrow defeat) and now we have a new Socialist President of France in Francois Hollande. Meanwhile, in Greece, the radical leftist Party, Syriza, has swept aside PASOK to become the second-largest Party in the Greek Parliament. PASOK took capitulation to the austerity agenda to its logical conclusion by co-habiting with New Democracy and today they played the electoral price, losing a whopping 30% at the polls.
Clearly, the people of Europe are unimpressed with the austerity agenda. However, the alternative is poorly formed; in Britain we are more than aware of that. Labour is not promising a particularly radical alternative. In fact, all it is doing is proposing to slow the pace and try to bolt on some growth along the way. The difference, as we all know, is rather in the emphasis than the effective substance at this point in time. It is set within the framework of the system being more effectively and/or sensibly managed. The danger of this is that the far-right are the ones best placed to offer a vision of a radical ‘new society’ response to one aspect of the system ie, globalisation through calling for a new nationalism.
Both the French and Greek elections benefitted from high turnouts compared to Labour’s triumph on Thursday. We have to add the caveat that this will be partially because both of these elections were either national-presidential or national-parliamentary respectively and therefore likely to benefit from higher turnouts than local elections. However, it can also be no accident that Hollande has backed his radical rhetoric with a few radically pitched politics, like his supertax, and Syriza’s opposition to austerity is far more clearly defined than Labour’s. It’s actual positive proposals though seem to lack alot of defintion to me and it is the same It is not political rocket science to work out why boldness is rewarded with bigger turnouts, even those voters who do not agree with what is on offer are more motivated to turn out because both supporters and voters feel like their vote actually makes a difference so the act of voting is actually worthwhile.
This week now presents the anti-austerity left with a clear challenge and it is a similar one, albeit set in certain different contexts and that challenge is to present a coherent alternative which can solidfy the opposition to austerity around a vision of the different world we can build from the ashes of the old. In many respects, Labour still probably has the furthest to go in that regard however, Hollande certainly has yet to full break from the neo-liberal consensus though he is clearly straining at the leash and will most likely forced to snap it by the markets who wont even tolerate his only midly abrasive proposals.
The electorate is crying out for a sharply defined alternative and left should beware because if we don’t provide it, then others will.
Athens News: Syriza winning over Anti austerity voters
France 24: Hollande Ousts Sarkozy in French presidential Vote
Fight Future Fascism, Together Think Left on dangers from the Far right:
The final quote in particular reflects my thoughts exactly. We must keep up pressure against austerity and call a spade a spade.
Does the present Labour Parliamentary Party have the people in it likely to propose even a Hollande-style limited socialist programme? I do not think so myself.
Unemployment today is projected to continue rising to 2016 which basically means orthodox economists cannot predict when we will return to job-creating growth in the UK.
We need a new bottom up radicalism in the Labour Party to generate new forces for real socialist change. We need new populist politicians who are at the same time accountable to a mass democratic Party. That includes MPs who reflect the working class communities they represent and are accountable to their local CLPs. The PLP is packed full of middle class professionals and the selection process appears far to open to manipulation by the leadership and to self-replication.
Balls and Milliband are locked in old thinking which includes never fundamentally confronting the City of London for fear of provoking capital flight. The Party lacks an analysis of what is happening to the global economy and a recognition that capitalism is a system facing long term decline, and that either we stand with the Austerians and are part of managing that decline for Capital, or we propose the historic and realistic alternative: socialism and real democracy ( and I include in that confronting who owns the means of production and who has control of the accumulation of capital).
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