June 26, 2005


The forces of conservatism are on the march – say hello to the new Left

(Gerard Baker, The Times, June 24th, 2005)

The Left’s new rallying cry is to build a protective system that would impoverish Bulgarians, Romanians, Turks, Indians and Chinese and would, of course, as do all attempts to retreat from the realities of the global market, ill serve its own workers.

And it is not just the European Left. In America, too, anti-globalisation is the turf that many Democrats are eager to defend. As Governor Schwarzenegger has discovered — and as Europeans have long known — the Left is also reactionary in defending the interests of public-sector trade unions against genuine reform and progress.

Besides anti-globalisation, the other main current in the current stream of leftish theory and practice is visceral anti-Americanism, again on both sides of the Atlantic.

Nothing new there, of course. Except that what really rouses the animus today is not America’s supposed global mission to exploit the downtrodden worker, but its ambitious objective of spreading democracy.

In the Middle East the left finds it much easier to side with the mullahs and the jihadists, the persecutors of women and the torturers of dissidents. America’s flaws at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are viewed by the Left’s political and intellectual leaders as morally indistinguishable from (or perhaps worse than) anything the Islamists and Arab despots have got up to. To be fair, not all on the Left have taken their stand on the side of reaction. But the trends in political debate in the West are strikingly clear. We are well on the way to an inversion of the classic Left-Right divide.

These days if you’re in favour of policies designed to promote global economic integration, policies that have led hundreds of millions in Asia, Latin America, and Africa out of the misery of grinding poverty, and have significantly lifted the standard of living of workers in the West too; if you support change to topple tyrannical regimes and give some hope to people who have suffered in fledgling democracies, you’re now more likely to be considered a conservative. What, exactly, is Left?

Conservatives may have overtaken the Left on freedom, democracy, prosperity and human dignity, but bitter and reactionary as they may be, nobody can emote like they can.

Posted by Peter Burnet at June 26, 2005 6:45 AM
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