Jeremy Corbyn has revealed what Donald Trump’s victory means for nations operating under the same neoliberal economic system as the US. And the apparent message of the anti-establishment victory is bad news for the Blairites, who are currently crowdfunding for a second coup against their twice-elected leader.
In a speech to the Party of European Socialists (PES) Council, the Labour leader said:
unless progressive parties and movements break with that failed economic and political establishment it is the siren voices of the populist far right that will fill the gap
For Corbyn, President-elect Trump and the success of scapegoating in other countries show that the tide is turning against the neoliberal establishment. If Labour and other left-wing parties do not ride the wave, argues Corbyn, the political vacuum will be filled by scapegoating elites like Trump:
If we are only seen as protectors of the status quo how can we expect people to turn to us when they can see that status quo has failed?
Decades of privatisation, deregulation and reduced government spending (i.e. neoliberalism) since Margaret Thatcher have heavily polarised income inequality. Under Blair and Miliband, Labour offered the same economic model championed by plotting MPs today. This will no longer cut the mustard, says Corbyn:
Too often in recent years the left in Europe has been seen as apologists for a broken system rather than the answer to how to deliver radical social and economic reform for the 21st century.
Too often the left has been seen as the accomplice to reckless, unfettered capitalism rather than a challenge to it.
Too often the left has been seen as standing up for the privileged few rather than for the many we exist to represent and defend.
And if the left in Europe continues to fail to challenge the system, it will open the door to the scapegoaters.
A failed economic status quo and the rise of anti-foreigner scapegoating
Despite enjoying 41.6% of the world’s wealth, the US is by far the most unequal country in the world. This is because it has the same neoliberal policies that Britain’s Conservatives and Blairites have moved towards. Now, Trump has been elected President on the back of very dangerous anti-foreigner scapegoating.
The pattern continues in Austria. Scapegoating far-right candidate Norbert Hofer was defeated by Alexander Van der Bellen, former head of the Greens, in the Austrian Presidential election on 5 December. But his party, which was founded by old Nazis and German nationalists in the 1950s, still received 46.7% of the vote.
It was the Social Democrats and the People’s Party which dominated Austrian politics since World War II. That the battle in 2016 was between a Green-backed independent and a far-right populist means the two-party political establishment has broken down in Austrian politics.
A look at the economic trends in Austria, and we find the same as the US and UK. Rampant privatisation since the 1980s means that, as of 2012, one percent of the population owned 27% of total financial assets and 22% of real estate. Private banks were also bailed out after the most recent financial crisis, like in the US and UK. And now, a far-right party is winning close to 50% of the vote.
The vital challenge ahead
Corbyn called out these problems in his speech:
It can be hard to make clear that our public services are being run down because of years of austerity and predatory privatisation, rather than overspending and government waste, but it is vital that we do.
The Labour leader says left-wing parties must reject the political establishment or the far right will swing to power. Anti-establishment backlash such as Trump, the rise of far-right candidates, and Brexit all reflect a power vacuum created by a failing economic orthodoxy. Offering more of the status quo won’t allow Labour and its counterparts to occupy it.
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Featured image from Flickr/Garry Knight