May 8, 2017

hISTORY eNDED:

The End of the Left/Right Divide? (Ian Buruma, 5/08/17, Project Syndicate)

There is little doubt that something shifted in the last decades of the twentieth century. Left-wing parties began to lose - in some countries more quickly than others - their base in the industrial working class. Redistribution of wealth became gradually less important than the social emancipation of ethnic and sexual minorities. The old alliance between intellectual idealists and trade unions gave way to rainbow coalitions of intellectuals, non-whites, feminists, and gays.

Meanwhile, right-wing parties, like the Republicans in the United States, paid lip service to the social conservatism, and sometimes outright bigotry, of less privileged voters in rural and provincial areas, while doing what was best for big business once they were in power.
What was good for big business - international cooperation, pan-national institutions, and openness to immigration - was not always against the interests of the evolving left-of-center parties. Big business benefited from cheap labor, and the left favored multiculturalism.

It made some sense, then, that European social democrats frequently ended up in coalition governments with moderate pro-business conservatives or Christian Democrats. This trend was boosted by the collapse of the Soviet empire, because Western liberal democracies no longer had the same pressing need to counter the Communist model with egalitarian arrangements of their own. The electoral successes of Bill Clinton in the US and Tony Blair in the United Kingdom had much to do with their deliberate tilts towards the pragmatic, neoliberal, business-friendly center.

In this respect, distinctions between left and right have indeed collapsed. The old idea of a left representing the downtrodden proletariat against the interests of big business and the bourgeoisie is gone. One reason why the British Labour Party is in such disarray is that it is led by a man, Jeremy Corbyn, whose politics haven't changed since the 1970s.



Posted by at May 8, 2017 9:36 AM

  

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