Left revival across the globe
The common right-wing surge has given impetus to the proliferation of asymmetrical left networks edging towards a global renascence against the neo-liberal agenda
It is a spring back moment for the global Left. It might not have reached a point of renascence yet. But the Left revival, though inconspicuous and asymmetrical across countries, is unmistakable. It is the bouncy after-effect of the all too common right-wing surge all over the globe. Writing off the Left or berating it for inaction is passé. The call of the hour is to seize the moment and grasp the less-noticed left effervescence.
Is it alright to talk of a unified global left, variegated as it is in innumerable shades? Yes, when confronted with the common right-wing onslaught, it makes sense to talk in terms of a broad global left convergence – inclusive of all its shades like the social-democratic, the Communist and the New Left, the ecosocialists, sectoral movements like radical feminists, labour movements, including the alt-labour movements of oppressed races, castes and ethnic minorities and other anti-imperialist nationalists and, of course, the academic and media left. After all, the challenges faced are common. The traditional lines of demarcation need not get blurred but need to be moderated to suit the call of the hour.
And we are not talking in generalities. If the tech workers of Amazon demand of their CEO Jeff Bezos that he immediately stop selling facial recognition technology to the American police lest they use it against the coloured people and migrants, if the geeks of the Microsoft call upon their CEO Satya Nadella to cancel the $19.4 million contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the US to provide cloud-computing services to track illegal migrants and if the tech gurus at Google prevail upon Sundar Pichai to call off the contract with Pentagon to supply artificial intelligence algorithmic back-up under Project Maven to enable it to carry on drone warfare, are they not early indicators of an oncoming radicalisation of the cream of the millennial tech-workforce?
If the participation in women's marches in January and March 2018 in the US adds up to an unbelievable 5 million, doesn't it mark a refreshing revival of a tributary stream of the popular left? The last, the world witnessed such humongous mobilisations was in 1989 when the Soviet puppet dominoes in the Eastern Bloc fell like ninepins. History repeats but it is also double-edged. It has come back to haunt the bourgeoisie gloating over the end of history.
History repeats but not in copybook monotony. Yellow vests of 2018 might be a pastel variant of the red bandanas of 1968. But in the times that have changed, they are colourful all the same. 50 years is a blip in history. The mighty Soviet power might have evaporated and justifiably so. The Chinese might have embarked on a capitalist road to socialism. So what? History marches on. Class struggles keep raging. The capital needs their Erdogans, Modis and Trumps. The working people, too, need their left. Even if the left is dormant, they are bound to give birth to the conditions of its revival. That is precisely what is happening. Sceptical still? Go to JNU or visit the lush green fields a few kms away to meet the farmers who marched on Delhi in lakhs and one can sense the new mood.
Even the mainstream political Left has become newsmakers here and there. Including in the USA, of all places! Just Google it up to look for all the left 'platforms" which, with their unbelievable vibrancy, imparted a fascinating grassroots churn to the otherwise dull politics of the Democratic Party and galvanised it to deal body blows to Trump during the mid-terms.
Even as the liberal media completed writing its epitaph on the alleged demise of European social-democracy after the opportunist New Labour looked irredeemably lost, some Jeremy Corbyn springs up on the scene and promises a rejuvenated left social-democracy 2.0!
The imperialistic far-right in Europe and the US might fear Putin as a born-again reincarnation of Lenin, causing them a new nightmare. But even a clumsy Google Chrome translation of the daily postings in Russian social media can tell you about the revival of "Dissenters' Marches" of 2007–08 again in 2017–18 in St. Petersburg against despotic strongman Putin, where the fledgeling Russian Left, including the umbrella platform the Other Russia, Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party, the far-left Vanguard of Red Youth and the radical working class outfit Labour Russia of Viktor Anpilov and many more have started marching in thousands, often jointly with liberals like People's Democratic Union of Mikhail Kasyanov and even with not-so-liberal but popular Gary Kasparov and his United Civil Front. They may be small but the discussions are intense and more mainstream.
True, they might be too marginal still to effect an immediate turnaround at the macro-political level. But not all alternatives begin with a bang. Country after country has an inspiring tale to tell on new left stirrings. The corporate media has a different scale for ranking. But for those reorganising the Left from the scratch, the measurement might be different.
And the leftward shift in Europe is no electoral capriciousness or mere fickle-minded mood swing of the electorate. Rather, they are firmly rooted in the material conditions of austerity, not only in Europe but even to some extent in America. Ten years of austerity as a result of the Eurozone crisis has left the population reeling. Wage cuts became the official wage policy in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain and real wages fell. Wage freeze was witnessed in other countries of EU. Pension benefits were curtailed even in supposedly affluent welfare states. There was a fire-sale of public sector assets as neo-liberal doctrines became the gospel. Welfare benefits eroded under tight fiscal austerity and so-called Social Europe was in tatters. Above all, Europe became a jobless Europe.
Austerity was not exclusive to Europe. Japan has been sinking under its weight for more than a decade. Despite rosy parameters of the current state of the economy, the US is not alien to it. As on date, 420,000 federal employees in the US don't know when they would get their next paycheques, thanks to the government shutdown. The fund crunch has intensified the battle over spending priorities. If the gross public debt as a per cent of GDP at market prices touched an unsustainable 82.2 per cent in Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe, it hit an alarming 108 per cent in the USA by 2012. In fact, the developed world never fully recovered from the financial explosion of 2008. Neo-liberalism, far from solving the crisis of stagnation, only took the developed world to the doorsteps of a sovereign fund crisis. Attacks on labour in the name of labour reforms became the norm. The proliferation of left networks is rooted in such grim realities.
Though embedded in local realities, these mushrooming new left fora are not localist or nativist. Significant calls for global solidarity among the Left are emanating. If Bernie Sanders, the grand old man of the American Left, calls for a global united front, to be echoed by Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister of Greece and a leader of the left-wing Syriza, and earlier Samir Amin, one of the prime architects of the World Social Forum, pens a moving appeal a few days before bidding adieu to all his comrades, calling for a new International, a World Social-Political Forum so to say, then there must be strong objective impulses for a growing international solidarity.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)