Once upon a time sometime between the years 2008 – 2016 a left wing surge seemed to be engulfing the world.
The western described ‘Arab Spring’ took hold across several nations, the people rising up against dictatorial powers. Podemos in Spain was surging and threatening to take the country by storm. Syriza in Greece tried to lead the country in a new direction. In the UK Jeremy Corbyn became leader of Labour and in the US Bernie Sanders threatened to bloody the nose of the Democrat Party.
So where has it all gone wrong?
The Arab spring never went the whole hog, Podemos haven’t really gone beyond a peak that would help them take power, Syriza lied and broke promises and shot themselves in the foot, Jeremy Corbyn faced an internal coup and still faces the threat of being ostracised by MP’s and Bernie Sanders just missed out on the Democrat nomination and to add insult to injury the far right are on the rise across Europe especially in Eastern Europe and Germany, the UK voted the ever more right wing Conservative party in for another 5 years and Labour’s poll ratings remain worryingly low and America has just voted in Donald Trump, the UK equivalent of Nigel Farage.
What the left need to understand is that anti establishment sentiment is not owned just by them, the right also have anti establishment sentiment and both the left and right are generally the working classes. They all share the same concerns and have the same fears. The only difference is that the left and right blame different people. The left blame the government whilst the right blame other people for their problems. The left believe only the people or a politician of the people can solve their problems whilst the right believe that only a hard line right wing politician can solve their problems.
Human nature dictates that when faced with hardship the first reaction is anger. Of course though anger creates resentment, fear and crisis and only at the darkest moment do the people in the middle tip the balance of power to something considered more left wing or socially acceptable.
This might read as a call to move to the centre ground. A ‘New Labour’ perhaps? Far from it. A centre ground creates little progress just like a right wing and left of centre government, progress is incremental. Even a left wing government will produce only incremental changes for the good and when you’re faced with a right wing movement increasing its reach around the globe you need more than incremental changes because voting for the right is a backward step especially when it comes to the environment and social progression.
So why are people reluctant to vote for the left over the right?
What Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign in the UK did was speak to the heart with undeniable passion and vigour. It was loud, at times brash and most importantly to many, inspirational. People believed that change could come even if it meant some hardship. People certainly in the working classes simply said to themselves ‘things can’t get much worse’ and yet what the left campaigns lack is that passion and vigour. It lacks that loud inspirational message that galvanises the right.
Both Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders speak in soft tones but can barely muster a rallying cry that is convincing. The EU remain campaign was built on fear and not aspiration. When you’re blaming others for your woes and you have an anti establishment candidate ringing the bells of change why would you vote instead for a lack lustre candidate that fails to inspire?
That’s not to say the likes of Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders are lacklustre. They appeal to the left wing crowd as bastions of honesty and unity but they lack the passion that speaks to the anger.
How else do you explain people in the UK voting for a party that promotes privatisation of the NHS, continued arms sales to a nation accused of war crimes, a party that takes away from the most vulnerable and gives to the rich and resists the smallest of asks to take in child refugees from war torn nations.
The left need to find their voice. As well as calling for social unity, fundamental change to the system and to the way the powerful conduct their business, the left also needs to speak passionately about change and the vision. The left needs to convince people that life will be better under a left wing government for everyone.
The fact that Theresa May can get away with saying she wants to be the champion of the ‘many not just the few’ is an incredible state of affairs and what the left certainly in the UK need to do is be far more vocal and active and stand up to a right wing establishment government in a far more active way than just talking in echo chambers if they ever hope to convince a nation.
It’s no time to speak softly. It’s time to shout. It’s no time to worry about sensibilities. It’s time to go on the offensive. Otherwise things will go backwards long before we can ever hope to move forward.