Thursday, September 10, 2015

Resurgence of the left in UK and US

Political pundits are watching with some astonishment the resurgence of the left in the UK and- of all places- the US.

In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is positioning himself for the leadership of the Labour party on September 12. That doughty champion of market forces, The Economist, does not approve one bit:
For him no policy is too dog-eared, no intellectual dead-end too futile. Public spending? Yes, please. Higher taxes? Soak the capitalists and the landlords. State ownership? Nationalise the railways and utilities, get the private sector out of public services and reopen the coal mines. If that were the secret of prosperity, Britain would never have fallen apart in the 1970s and Tony Blair would not have won three elections at the head of a modernised centre-left Labour Party.
In the US, Bernie Sanders stands a slender chance of emerging as a shock Democratic candidate. He may end up getting pitted against Donald Trump, the Republican's own shock candidate who leads the ratings. An article in the Economist describes Sanders' broad political position:
A typical Sanders speech resembles a 90-minute sermon on modern America’s ills, delivered in the growling tones of his native Brooklyn. Hunched over a lectern, snowy hair aquiver with emotion, the 73-year-old’s usual targets include the “greed, recklessness and dishonesty” of Wall Street bankers, the malign influence of billionaire political donors, and the “abysmally low” wages that blight the lives of working families. Change will be hard, Mr Sanders warns audiences, and will require a “political revolution”. He is not joking (the senator rarely jokes). His proposals include moving towards a Canadian-style health system with publicly funded care for all, free tuition at public universities and a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan intended to create 13m jobs.

...Mr Sanders detects a chance in 2016 to lead a national uprising, drawing strength from the millions of working Americans who loathe mainstream politicians, news outlets and the economic status quo. Paraphrasing Franklin D. Roosevelt, he told the rally in Boone: “If the Koch brothers and the billionaire class hate my guts, I welcome their hatred.”
The Economist doesn't think that either Corbyn or Sanders can actually emerge as leaders of their respective parties.

BJP leader Varun Gandhi has a comment on this in the Hindu. He ascribes the resurgence to rising inequality. Gandhi's prescriptions for inequality would, perhaps, find easier acceptance in the Congress than in the BJP:
To cut inequality, we need to raise the level of minimum wages, strengthen collective bargaining, and improve employment benefits. Women need equal wages, flexible work environments and better childcare facility. We need better regulation of business, especially for rent-seeking sectors. Climate change requires a systemic response, with enhanced environmental protection.. With new demands for reservation based on economic criteria, the old politics of ethnic, racial and caste based reservation or affirmative programmes will soon die. 
Well, I am not sure the issue is just inequality, although it is an important factor. There is widespread discontent about the economy, for one thing. More importantly, perhaps, a profound dissatisfaction with mainstream candidates and parties and a yearning for something very different. Trump's appeal is precisely on the latter count, although I cannot fathom how he appeals to black voters.

Some of this is reflected in Indian politics as well. Aap undoubtedly has won out because of its anti-establishment orientation. The resistance to reforms reflects a growing realisation that a disproportionate chunk of the economic pie has gone in favour of business and corporate interests.  The BJP's retreat from the Land Bill and its reluctance to privatise government banks are acknowledgements of the realities on the ground. It's hard to think of any party moving decisively to the right in the near future. 


Anonymous said...

Dear Prof,

Thank you for this blog post: I observe* the rise in income disparity, lack of social mobility and intergenerational mobility.

It almost seems like UK is self colonising herself.

You may like to read Daniel Radcliffe's support for Jeremy Corbyn in The Independent:

* my observations find their basis in my experience of observing the people I at times interact with; my readings and understanding of policy changes, the tax structure and ONS data (I am a resident of UK for the better part of decade).

and just for records, I liked the conservatives in 2009 and was to vote for them in 2015 for the poor options placed by. Liberal Democrats and the Labour. I ultimately opted to vote for the Green party (which could only manage 2 seats and the win was not in my constituency:) My constituency has been held by Conservatives since early 1900 without a single break (talk of change:)

Best wishes

T T Ram Mohan said...

Anonymous, Happy to learn that your observations validate some of the points in my blog. Everyday experience is often a good guide to underlying trends. And thanks for the link to Radcliffe article.