Sunday, December 14, 2008

The failure of the left to capitalise on the current crisis

The financial markets have collapsed, some of the largest banks have disappeared off our high streets, the car industry is crying out for state aid in order to stave of collapse. Yet with the exception of Greece, there are no marxists manning the barricades, and no sign of a resurgent far left (or even the mainstream left for that matter).

Yes, New Labour may have died, but there has been little in the way of Old Labour rhetoric. And Obama may have won the presidential election, but there are no grand plans for a Roosevelt style takeover of the US Economy.

How things have changed...Go back to the seventies and eighties, and there was a passionate debate raging between socialists pushing for greater state control of the economy and conservatives arguing in favour of free markets. But twenty years later, most Western countries have evolved towards a hybrid model, somewhere between the two. Even in "socialist" France, a vast privatisation programme was undertake during the 1990s under the left wing administration of Lionel Jospin. Quite simply the old left - right debates of yesteryear have disappeared.

In its place, there seems to be a new competition taking place: not between parties of the left and right, but between countries. It's called globalisation. It's all very well arguing for state control of uncompetitive industries, for high taxation and for increased government borrowing, but most Europeans deep down are beginning to realise, that if they don't keep their economies competitive, all their businesses will flee to India and China.

As a result political debates are more likely to arise between countries than between political parties. It explains why the most effective opposition to Britain's Labour party is not the Tories, but the Germans!