The other day a friend almost told me off when I said I don’t exclude even an election win for Corbyn, but I certainly exclude the possibility that the Tories are going to romp home.
He was not the only person with this view. Once again, the great majority of observers throughout the world, but also politicians, proved completely wrong in their forecasts. Having succeeded in controlling the totality of public life, political correctness has fallen victim to its own success, reaching the point where it deceives itself, mistaking its own pronouncements for reality.
There is nothing accidental about this. It is a systematic, not a random error and this is why it is constantly being repeated. It was seen in the referenda in the Netherlands and Britain, in the elections in the US and France, in the Spanish Socialist Party, and now again in Britain.
Such mistakes always emerge in periods of deep crisis and transition to a new historical epoch. People tend to analyze the future in terms of the experienced past and present.
I read somewhere that the turn of the British and American Left to candidates in their seventies is the surest sign of their decline. The commentator who wrote this evidently perceives the crisis of the system as a crisis of the Left, at the very moment when in a number of centrally important Western countries it is the Left that is arising from its ashes, in tandem with the far right, precisely because something is going very wrong.
The reason that Corbyn, Sanders and Mélenchon are so attractive, particularly to very young people, is that this age group, who represent the future, are condemned to a precarious existence in an ugly, unacceptable, dangerous, prehistoric and barbaric world and are searching intently for a political solution. (In passing, the recent French and British elections have shown that the emergence of a genuine, authentic left drastically reduces the power of the far right – the vast majority of European citizens are mainly interested in maintaining their social gains and the basics of democracy)
The commentator is evidently unaware of the cyclical elements in history, including in the realm of ideas. He appears to think that the system that he himself imbibed, which shaped his life and which he believes in and serves, cannot be disturbed. It will remain forever in place, less and less disputed, as in Fukuyama’s postulated “End of History”.
They find “seventy-year-olds” to represent them because they do not often come across people in the intermediate age groups, given that they have almost all compromised or withdrawn from the conflict, in the course of almost a half-century of undisturbed hegemony of neo-liberalism and the international rule of financial capital (“globalization”). Some have not compromised: they have remained in the arena and now they meet up once again with the historic wave expressing the “social question”, which has once again become relevant, as much as it was two hundred years ago. It has become relevant, ironically, at the very moment when many have proclaimed “transcendence” of Left and Right, a political distinction that has its origins in precisely that social question in the past.
The stormy entry of youth, and particularly of students, into politics, played a basic role in the rise of Sanders, Mélenchon and Corbyn.
The youth is looking for a solution to its huge social problems, but also feels that the planet is on the wrong course. All of this is encapsulated in a desperate search for honest politicians: people of integrity.
A recent study in the USA showed that among teens from 16 to 20 years of age, 45% would vote socialist and 21% communist, in a country where socialists and communists hardly exist.
A Defeat for the War Party
As illustrated by the crisis with Qatar, the continual reappearance of war plans against Assad, Iran and Korea, plans in other words that were elaborated and publicized twenty years ago by American neocons and their friends, within the parameters of what has been called a “Strategy of Chaos”, remain permanently in force, threatening a new escalation in the Middle East and Far East and conceivably involving a nuclear cataclysm at some point.
The otherwise inexplicable early elections called by Theresa May possibly aimed at clearing the British political scene of the annoying Mr. Corbyn, whose presence at the head of one of the two main political parties was never tolerated by the country’s establishment and its international allies.
How could May and her particularly warmongering Defense Minister Fallon go into new major wars in the Middle East with a former leader of the British anti-war movement and man of principle par excellence, whether one agrees with him or not, as leader of the opposition?
It is at this point that the question of “Islamic terrorism” also made its entrance, because the attacks in France and Britain have very much the appearance of…..electoral interventions, difficult to interpret from the viewpoint of Islamic fanatics and their ideology.
This is now noted by a number of analysts, who emphasize that ISIS evidently enjoys support from Saudi Arabia, a country in relation to which Corbyn demanded that arms sales be stopped and “tough discussions” initiated. In the past, according to reports in the Guardian newspaper, Saudi Arabian leaders had even threatened Tony Blair with terrorist attacks in Britain! (1)
It is nevertheless interesting that terrorist attacks, as demonstrated in the British elections, are always able to move public opinion, but that increasingly large sectors of it are beginning to link them with Western policy itself in the Arabic/Muslim world and thus not react in the way normally expected.
In any case, the attempt to eject Corbyn from leadership of the Labour Party not only failed but also backfired, greatly complicating any attempt to organize British participation in a new major war in the Middle East, along the lines apparently favoured, during his recent tour of the area, by US President Trump.
Unfortunately the defeat of Theresa May was not decisive enough to lead to failure of the plan to convert Cyprus into a protectorate.
Shortly after the formation of her government, the General Secretary of the UN called for a conference in Geneva on the Cyprus problem. In what amounts to a coup inside Cyprus and the European Union, this illicit conference aims at expropriation of the Cypriot state from its population and the transformation of the second member state of the EU, after Greece, into a colony. It also involves the risk of Cyprus being converted into Syria, with all that entails (2).
The great problems of the Left
The recent re-emergence of an authentic Left in important Western countries does not of course mean that the way ahead is strewn with rose petals or that the Left itself is ready to deal with the huge problems it faces.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon appeared disappointed in the immediate aftermath of the first round of the French presidential elections. He perhaps imagined that he would be in the second round and that henceforth all would become possible.
But even if he had managed to have himself elected as President of France there is much reason for skepticism as to what in reality he would have been able to achieve. There are two ways to look at his “failure”. On the one hand it was indeed a failure. On the other it is as if History has presented him and La France Insoumisewith a great gift. It has given them time to prepare themselves. The future of this political current, and also much else, depends on what use they make of this time.
A reminder from Greece
The same gift was presented in 2012 to Alexis Tsipras, bringing him to the threshold of power. But it seems to have gone to his head. Rather than using the time he was given to organize and prepare, he preferred to subordinate the need to develop a strategy for addressing the Greek problem… to the priority of winning the election. He took his desires for realities, hoping that he would find a painless way to compromise with the forces that were attacking and ruining Greece.
Instead of SYRIZA opening up and instituting qualitative changes, adjusting to the very difficult problems it was facing, he tried to adapt the problem to his own moods, to his capacities and to numerous petty vested interests.
The forces of financial capital and the USA-Britain-Israel axis finally succeeded with their skillful manipulation of the leadership team, utilizing its own characteristics to lead it finally, of its own accord, to capitulation and its subsequent downfall.
Of course, there are many differences between the situation in France, Britain and the USA, as well as very significant differences in the personalities. Nevertheless, there is also a basic structural similarity between what is happening in Southern Europe and what is happening in these former countries, so we will at the first opportunity return to the very little known and internationally poorly understood Greek example.
The question of the political subject and of the Program
The successes of Sanders, Mélenchon and Corbyn have confirmed that a significant sector of the population are aware of the need for a radical shift towards more social, democratic and ecological policies, the need to halt the continuing movement towards new wars in the Middle East, Europe (Ukraine), the Far East (Korea) and Africa.
On the other hand the emerging American, British and French Left can hardly be expected already to include the political and programmatic subjects with the capacity to wage war against an “Empire of Finance” that has become stronger than ever.
There is no doubt that any government attempting to implement such policies will find itself immediately up against the pressure of “the markets” in a globalized economic environment where financial capital has enormous power to pressure any state and also the technological means for unprecedented monitoring and manipulation both of small leadership groups and large social collectives. Recourse to an updated Keynes is a first but still insufficient response. The creation of parties and movements capable of responding to the difficult requirements of the “war” they will be obliged to wage if they are to implement their policies has yet to be done. It cannot be regarded as having been done just because certain politicians have performed quite well in electoral confrontations.
Sanders, Mélenchon, Corbyn would doubtless like to pursue a social-democratic policy. But it is doubtful whether the margins for this exist in today’s capitalism.
To resort to the Leftist rhetoric of the 1930s is completely anachronistic. But this is not true of the lessons to be learned from the experience of the Left and the social movements of the 20th century prior to the Second World War, if only because the world that was established in 1945 is now in crisis and is passing from the scene.
The need for a new Zimmerwald
The urgent, pressing, very little understood need for today is the need for a new Zimmerwald Conference.
It is worth noting that in Europe today, objectively, we are in any case more and more in a single state while still feeling, thinking and acting within a national reality that has become increasingly fictitious.
It is necessary today in Europe, but also internationally, for anyone who seeks to oppose, and not just be inside, “the system” not only to have the solidarity of an “International”, but to be part of a new gradually forming international political entity, with one foot firmly ensconced in national realities and the other in international. This requires a “Zimmerwald II Conference” (3) to bring together forces that combine seriousness with radicalism, the popular element with a Gramscian relationship to their own nations.
Such a role cannot be undertaken, of course, either by the Socialist International or by the European Socialist Party. Nor can it be played by the self-appointed so-called European Radical Left.
Something new is needed
After the great tragedies and failures of the Left in the 20th century the question remains open of what the alternative vision is to be for the world of the 21stcentury.
For the moment neither the Western Left nor Russia, China, or the BRICS embody such a vision, which is a strategic necessity for victorious confrontation with the chaos and ruin being organized by the global power of Finance, which is gnawing away like cancer at the body of the human race.
1 For the question of Islamic terrorism and European policies see, indicatively:
3 The Zimmerwald Conference was convened in 1915 in the Swiss town of the same name, bringing together the few socialists who had not compromised with the pro-war policies of their governments in the First World War. It was the foundation stone in the course that led to the Russian Revolution in 1917.