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Renewing the Left in Europe? Let's debate

by whataboutbob Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:08:56 AM EST

Notwithstanding the unexpected bounce back by the Social Party in the just completed French legislative elections, I have been feeling a growing sense of frustration as I watch the Left lose seats and/or power in many recent national elections around Europe. And I wonder "what the heck is going on??"

And I had an interesting (but too short) conversation with Jerome in Paris about the need for a new "hard Left"in Europe too (which I hope Jerome will say more about here).

Now you may not agree with my perception about the Left not doing so well recently...and I sure would like to hear your arguments, because I am eager to be convinced as wrong...but right now it is what I am seeing. So I have some questions to pose for you all out there:

  1. Why do you think the Left is or is not doing so well in various countries and regions throughout Europe?

  2. What does the Left need to do, to renew itself in a way that regains people's interest (and votes)?


Display:
I was talking about this with Lil recently, and she thinks that part of the problem with the Left here in Switzerland (and she includes the Greens in this) is that they are not good at getting out the vote - and further, that much of the Left is quite arrogant in their ideology and out of touch with the everyday needs of the European citizen. So between not voting and thinking you are right (without checking it out), the Left is really in danger of losing a lot of seats in the upcoming national election this fall (and already lost a huge number of seats in a recent Kanton Zurich election). And unfortunately, the Greens...while having a great cause...are too "copper, wool and straw" for most people to relate to.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 10:05:09 AM EST
I do agree with Liliana. In general the people I know who are on the left are well educated, might even see the problems of the average citizen, but can not communicate their solutions, because they do not speak the language of the 'normal' citizen. Also the left more often talk against what they do not want instead of were they want move towards. Listening to them I do not feel they do have a vision of the future they want to create, they get caught up in analysis and statistics. Now I do believe that is important too, but if I think of one of my friends, she feels put down when she hears their talk because she can not really understand what they are talking about. Now, I am aware I am over-generalising, but I do see this pattern.

I also know some people on the right - talking to them they use simpler language and they sound as if they know were they are going to and are able to convey that  goal. I do not agree with most of their goals, but I can imagine that it is more convincing for people like my friend who do not like to analyse every word to find out what has been said. Again over-generalisation.

So I see two problems:

  1. No clear vision as to what they want to achieve.
  2. Lousy communication, not being able to level with the people language wise.
by Fran on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 10:18:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, SVP (the Swiss far right) is very good at using media to convey emotional messages. Their latest was something like: The disabled are MIS-USING government funding!! And sure enough, the people voted a reduction in funding <geez> And the Left couldn't even counter that cruelty...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 10:44:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not even talking about the media, it is also on a one-to-one level - the disscusions are different.

And I find lately the left has mostly become the party who is against something, the no-sayers. Why did they not bring up an alternative solution for the IV. The IV does have problems, it is to rigid and I think there could be more flexible solutions. But I have heard nothing really constructive from the left either on how to solve and improve the IV insurance.

by Fran on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 10:50:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good points...so it is poorly communicating to individuals, and has no clear positive message that people can relate to.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 11:24:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think of one of my friends, she feels put down when she hears their talk because she can not really understand what they are talking about. Now, I am aware I am over-generalising, but I do see this pattern.

That comment made me recall the Betriebsrat work I did lo these many (many) moons ago. Simply explaining to colleagues what a Betriebsrat is supposed to do - ensure that all rules benefiting employees are actually applied and that all personnel decisions are exercised in a fair and equitable manner - took a lot of effort: between the apathetic and the I'm-all-right-Jacks, that was a tough row to hoe. Explaining how the process actually worked in real life - why things had to happen one way and not another was even more difficult to get across.

Once you get beyond first principles, everything that we want to communicate is based on the real world and real needs, and is thus complex and requires more effort on the part of the listener.

I don't want to say that "lousy communication" is not a problem - very often it is.

But we also need to realize that what we are trying to communicate is inherently more difficult to get across (and less emotionally satisfying) than the righteous feel-good tirades of the right.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:46:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You see I just fell into the trap I wanted to warn about! Assuming the other persons come from the same place I do.

My comment came out of my knowledge of NLP, which says, it is always the sender who is responsible if the listeners understands the message. This means the sender has to go into the world of the listener and adjust his language to the world of the listener. This means we need to learn about the world of the listener - same as walking in someone elses shoes. Then adjust the language to the adressee's language. I not only mean words, but also the pictures and feeling need to be adjusted.

This is not necessarily easy and at times downright challenging if the way of thinking and experiencing of the other person is very different ones own world.

Wish I had time to write more, but have to get going again.

by Fran on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:31:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are absolutely right to remind us that we need to communicate so as to make our ideas understandable to each and every listener. And that this makes significant demands on anyone who wishes to communicate a serious message.

But the way you frame it here, it sounds like listening is a passive activity. Don't the listeners need to participate as well ("active listening")?

You're right that we who enjoy talking about stuff like this need to adapt our communication modes to the sensibilities of those who don't. But we are still at a disadvantage that our message is inherently less interesting for the listeners than theater, Big Brother or whatever else it is that floats their boat.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:11:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the way you frame it here, it sounds like listening is a passive activity. Don't the listeners need to participate as well ("active listening")?

In an ideal world yes! I think most party members would probably be more active listeners, but I have my doubt even about that. The thing is we want something from the people - we want them to vote for the Left! So we have to be interesting enough for them to be able to make the shift from passiv to active listening. So the responsibility is with those who want something.

I think often listening to the left there is a lot of metatalk - this is not a way to involve most people. Most people have a favorite topic that gets them interested and that is themselves. When they can see and feel and how voting for the Left will improve their lives the will listen and vote. And I am not talking about monetary promises only, but also quality of life in general.

by Fran on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:24:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps the word 'Left' is the problem, and its association with labour unions and the working class. We all work.

In the end, I am uninterested in parties. I am not at all sure we need them. What we need is communities - local and transnational. We have new tools for getting together in 'interest groups', across borders and maybe across languages barriers.

I believe we will no longer need politicians nor parliaments in the future. They were invented, after all, to solve a logistics problem that might no longer exist in a  few years. Who needs a representative, if you can represent yourself?

What the Internet has started to prove is that 'middleman' are no longer needed. Politicians are 'middlemen'. We need decentralization. Peer-to-peer.

We'll still need a civil service to implement our decisions.

OK, OK all this is in the future, and I may not be around to see it. What you are asking in this debate is what we can do now to affect the dialogue (or rather begin a dialogue!!!). I'd like to see a 'hard left' that is so hard left that it becomes something else never seen before - with a new name!

We could always bring back Flower Power...
Retro is in now  ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 01:59:29 PM EST
Flower power party pooper... ;))

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 02:19:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What the Internet has started to prove is that 'middleman' are no longer needed. Politicians are 'middlemen'. We need decentralization. Peer-to-peer.

You stole my line!

But actually most people do not actually WANT to participate in every decision that affects them but may well be prepared to delegate to other individuals they trust - particularly subject by subject in relation to particular issues they did not feel they have knowledge or experience of.

While reserving the right to participate if they wish.

I came across quite a useful distinction - made by a lifelong activist who has immense practical experience - between what he calls "divergents" and "convergents".

The former constitute maybe 5% of the population, and the latter the balance of 95%, and it is the former who are prepared to take responsibility and represent others, while the latter are quite happy to delegate that responsibility to them, while reserving the right to participate directly.

I am sure that there is much academic material in social anthropology that I am entirely ignorant of which relates to all this, but I found it a very useful approach and if it could be "encoded" in some way, we might make progress towards Democracy 2.0

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 02:40:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I've been saying that quite a long time (1996 >), so let's see who stole from whom ;-)

The divergent/convergent insight is a valuable one - and I WILL steal that one!. BTW isn't convergence to divergence what kids go through in relation to their parents, and isn't that what education should be about?

Venture Communalism Rules!

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 02:50:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It Le Roman de la Rose Russe, oh useful intelligent one.

Just Reading along.

This is interesting.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:18:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to see a 'hard left' that is so hard left that it becomes something else never seen before - with a new name!

Long live Venture Communism!

http://www.telekommunisten.net/venture-communism


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 02:44:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Left has become a middle class interest, not a working class interest. With the demise of the unions it's become much easier to distract the working classes with celebrity, sex and glamour, with a side order of immigrant abuse, and screw them over.

The most active remnants of the working class hard left (at least in the UK) is a tiny subculture of travellers and eco-protesters - the kinds of people who chain themselves to trees to stop a new road. When they're active they have a high media profile, but - apart from a few successes - their political effectiveness isn't high, because they target specific issues in a negative way rather than pushing a positive alternative. Also, that kind of rebellion can easily be dismissed as irritating and adolescent. It's noisy, and it's coming from outside of the mainstream by people who very deliberately don't fit it, and that makes it easy to dismiss it.

So I think a New Left has to co-opt the pseudo-authority of the Right. It has to wear a suit, it has to be respectable, and it has to be able to appear in the FT without creating cognitivive dissonance in the readership. It has to appear on mainstream news channels pushing hard left points -  I'm not suggesting any compromises there - without looking anything like the old left. It has to be smart, confident, unflappable, relentless and utterly plausible and convincing.

The media, rather the shop floor, is the main battleground now. The way to reinvigorate the Left is to subtly storm the media so that Left values move into the mainstream without being sidelined as oppositional politics (with the implied frame that they're in opposition to the Right, which can easily present itself as the natural party of power.)

Because the media has more than one channel, the New Left has to have a presence in all of them. We've already talked about taking Being Green away from the allotment anoraks into the mainstream, and there has to be a lot more of that in every area.

The Right does this already. Big Brother isn't just a stupid show, it's a stupid show with a gladiatorial subtext which promotes ruthless competition and fuck-you values. People love it partly because it undermines Left-ish socialisation, which is seen as oppressive and limiting - goody-goody and PC and rather dull.

A smart move would be an alternative show which somehow promoted sane values without labouring the point or being earnestly PC about it.

You can't reach people by lecturing them. But you can reach them by being obviously more fun and entertaining than the alternative.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 02:18:44 PM EST
Is the working class still a concept that can be used?

I hear all these people around talking about common working class people whose views politicians should be taking into account. I guess I'm out of touch, but does this working class still exist as an identifiable class, and are they still common?

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 05:25:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, common people still exist. See

The Guardian: Common ground (October 4, 2006)

Having lived for years on a council estate, middle-class academic Gillian Evans set out to discover what it means to be be white and working class - with surprising results  

...

I am not a complete outsider, but the anomaly of my status as a resident is pronounced: first, because I am, as Sharon continuously reminds me, "posh" and not "common" like her, and second, because my partner and the father of my children is black. The problem is that posh people don't live on council estates - they live in nice apartments and big houses - and Bermondsey people don't marry "blacks", especially not Nigerians.

Being posh and finding myself living and raising my children on a council estate in south London - because I have none of the money that equates with the manners (and education) that distinguish posh from common people - I have been forced, over the years, to come to terms with what it means to go down in Britain's social hierarchy; to understand what it means to become working or lower class, or what Sharon calls common.

Reading this article convinced me that the UK House of Commons should be renamed House of Posh because, as TBG points out, even the "Labour" party is a middle-class concern.

I wonder whether the working class had a class consciousness in the 19th century before people started theorising about it, or whether it was socialist activists preaching about the working class that conjured it into existence. If the latter, I suppose it's possible that class consciousness may be revived by political discourse. The problem is the opium of the people, which used to be religion and nowadays seems to be celebrity TV.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 06:35:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great article. But NuLabour has made politics that have been comparatively good for anyone from the second to the fifth decentile, plus the top decentile. It's just the bottom 5% they screwed (and they only really screwed the lowest percentile). Now, is the working class more than this bottom 5 or 10%?
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 01:44:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that is a fair point.

I'm bringing the chart over from the other thread - is there a similar chart (or raw data) for income growth after social transfers? Note, however that an across-the-board 2% (+/- change) increase in income actually increases the Gini, because the wealthier 10% gets much more from their 2% increase than the second and thirds deciles. In fact, the larger the Gini, the more skewed to the lower end the percent income gains need to be in order to just maintain the Gini constant, let alone improve it.

And what this chart shows is that labour has benefitted the lover incomes relative to the disaster that was Tory rule.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:42:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for bringing the graph over. I was looking for some statistics on the distribution of income in absolute terms and the best I could find so far was this graph. On the same site there's a graph of the gini coefficient development, which shows that it was rose quite a lot under Thatcher, dropped a bit under Major and stayed more or less constant under Blair.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:14:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All right, but I think nanne has a valid point insofar as what we traditionally think (thought) of as the working class - industrial workers with a cohesive sense of their class and class interest - has been in decline for decades.

As long as manufacturing predominated, the unions were a really effective instrument for relating personal life problems to overarching political principles. But the decline of industry in the west has cut off a large portion of the "natural base" from serious, left-oriented political discourse.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:30:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not only the decline of manufacturing, which wasn't that large anyway.

Companies have been outsourcing like mad : whole services that were part of the big company, such as cleaners, cooks in the factory restaurant, etc... are now in other companies, and thus don't have access to the big unions. And services have lousy unionisation.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:55:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a toxic component of despise for agricultural workers and focus on industrial workers in traditional socialism. After all, in the west socialism really took off as a reaction to the industrial revolution. Marx famously thought the revolution would happen in England (ha!) or Germany (he almost got that right) but that "Russia was too backwards" (read: too rural) for a revolution.

Nanne's point stands if the industrial workers' class consciousness was the cause, and not the effect, of socialist theorising. Otherwise, it might be possible for a new class consciousness to be intilled in the "lower" class.

Britain is really interesting to me, because class is very much in your face here. You can't escape it, and I think "common" people interiorise (and express externally) their class status as a sort of learned helplessness vis-a-vis the political process.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:55:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a long history of working/rural class action in the UK dating back to medieval times.

Because the original Fabians were mostly middle/upper class they started to change the rules from the inside. Socialism is a somewhat watered down Marxism, and - in the traditional British way - this acted as a safety valve and may well have prevented a more explosive confrontation.

During the Thatcherite counter-revolution the original working classes were soundly thrashed and encouraged to become ambitious.

So what we have now is a cultural mix where the new working classes - office drones, freelancers, micro-entrepreneurs - see themselves as middle class. In reality they're exploited ruthlessly, and because they're fragmented they have no political or financial leverage.

They're also conditioned to play the game from birth by a constant media barrage  As a result they're magnificently compliant, believing absolutely that you have to work hard (and play hard) to get ahead and that being 'aspirational' - as my magazine editors colleagues like to say - is the best of all possible values.

The true middle classes remain the traditional professionals - doctors, lawyers, and corporate accountants. They've mostly kept their place in the scheme of things, and so - with the possible exception of doctors - are unlikely to make too much noise.

There are people who still do manual work. Often they're immigrants. But even if they weren't, no one pays much attention to them any more.

A lot of the violence direct at immigrants isn't racist, it's classist. They're threatening because they're outside of the game and they remind people that there is a game, and not even their aspirational values can protect them from its ravages.

It's much easier to kick them than to accept that aspirational reality isn't as rosy as it's made out to be.

The corollary of all this is that class solidarity is almost irrelevant now as a concept. So this is yet another reason to re-take the media. The compliant working class does what it's told to by PR people and ad managers. Getting them to behave and think differently can only be done by co-opting those channels and subtly changing their message.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:20:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a great comment.

The problem really seems to be the "white collar working class", which given the categories with which we operate, seems like a contradiction. The idea that "white collar = middle class" is what needs to be fought.

But the problem is also the reality TV fairytale whereby one can go from rags to riches simply by being in Big Brother or some talent show for a few weeks.

All that people want to do is wait tables in hopes that someone from show business will discover them, like that waitress from London who was taken to stars at a recent film festival and is now (I think) going to release a CD.

It's Cinderella all over again. Back to pre-industrial folk tales about princes and princesses "mistakenly" raised among the common folk.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:29:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that waitress from London who was taken to sing for stars

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:21:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What Tony Blair did was making politics that hurt the bottom 1 to 5%, but were to the benefit of the lower and middle middle class (with the upper middle class benefiting a bit less but the richest 10% benefiting most).

This is dereliction for a social democrat, who is supposed to care most about those who have the least. But NuLabour is no longer really a social democratic party (others can tell more).

The thing is, the bottom 5% or the bottom 10%, or even the bottom 20% is a small group that is not organised and very hard to organise as they no longer work as masses in factory halls, but are spread as cashiers in Tesco, garbage collectors and security personel in tube stations (when they can find employment). You can screw them over if this benefits the rest, especially if you are in a first past the post system like Britain, France or the US. Tony Blair won three elections doing just that.

The middle class (or maybe a better term, the leisure class) is the majority of the voters. Working class interests have become or are fast becoming special interests.

I guess most of us would agree that a just society is one in which the worst off are off best. But to put that into political practice we have to find a way to co-opt the interests of the working class while focusing at least as much on the interests of everyone up to the upper middle class. Otherwise we'll just be building a permanent minority.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:23:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is dereliction for a social democrat, who is supposed to care most about those who have the least. But NuLabour is no longer really a social democratic party (others can tell more).

Doesn't the Hartz IV Plan also mean that the SPD is no longer Social Democrat either?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:48:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's certainly not a social democratic law, more a third way law as we've seen the same in the US (welfare reform under Clinton). But I didn't say that it was only because of the abandanment of the poor that NuLabour isn't really social democratic...

With regard to the SPD, they have at least started fighting the good fight on the minimum wage. They made some very minor steps to enlarging the minimum wage settlement to additional sectors, but Müntefering (on TV) said that no more than that can be done with the CDU/CSU. He also said that the SPD wouldn't break up the coalition, but indicated that they would campaign on this theme in the next general elections. I think they're veering left a little under pressure from the unions and the Linke.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:58:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Reading this article convinced me that the UK House of Commons should be renamed House of Posh..."  Migeru

LOL! Excellent.  Reminds me to remember the cost of elections in the US.  But i'm sure that kicker Beckham would approve.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:10:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obviously, since the people who self-identify as "common" call the middle class "posh".

The UK should get a tricameral legislature: a House of Commons, a House of Posh, and a House of Peers.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:16:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A House of Daily Mirror vs House of Financial Times vs House of Country Life could be interesting.

(Have you seen Country Life? No one can understand Britain without buying a copy.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:24:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is Country Life?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:33:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a monthly magazine.

You can find it on sale almost everywhere.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:03:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The million pound mansion mag for the old landed gentry (read by middle class wannabees). The classifieds and the girls in pearls are great. Fell in love multiple times there. Red-headed aristocrat daughters sporting hunting rifles...

(My Dutch father read the thing for years)

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:06:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fell in love multiple times there. Red-headed aristocrat daughters sporting hunting rifles...

Sounds like the bimbos they use to advertise "conservative T-shirts" in the US right blogosphere.

My Dutch father read the thing for years

What are you doing on ET, you class traitor?

By the way, apparently a lot of Dutch are snapping up refurbished farms in Southern Bohemia for very cheap, and they say that they keep their purchases secret back home because they don't want to appear too aristocratic to their neighbours (as these farm houses are actually rather large).

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:11:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The thing with the bimbos with guns you see in the US is that they are bimbos. And sport guns for cheap effect. As a middle class boy you can dig bimbos, but you're not going to fall in love with them. Most of the time the girls in pearls don't sport hunting rifles, I should add. But it happens.

My father is a middle class wannabee English aristocrat. Aside of not (yet) driving a jag, he takes it quite seriously. Wears barbour, has stuffed animals in the house, owns a small piece of farmland, the works. Nothing against him, though.

The Dutch generally have the motto "just act normal, you'll be crazy enough". There is some conspicuous consumption, but you don't want to stick out too much from those who surround you (my parents don't really stick out that far as they live in a middle class village). There will be envy and bad talk.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:45:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am sure you are all aware of the origins of the word POSH - but just in case... Port Out, Starboard Home.

It was an acronym written in the passenger manifest of ships travelling to India and the rest of Asia. Those passengers with more money were able to claim cabins on the shadow side of the ship in both directions.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 03:38:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh, I was told POSH was the side from where you could see land all through the journey around the Cape of Good Hope.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:30:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In these days before AC, I think a cabin in the shade would have been marginally more attractive, especially considering the visibility from the sea lanes around the Cape.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:38:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:10:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You get the PN points for this diary.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:13:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I heard it, and to which I alluded in my description, was that it was written in the passenger manifest. This would have been a handwritten log, and not connected to the official issuing of tickets.

If the Purser, or whoever administered the manifest, received a 'bung' or bribe, to facilitate the allotment of cabins, it would have been unlikely to be written in plain English, but in a code that underlings would understand. I have no evidence for this. But I think it is still plausible.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:21:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good idea, Bob! But we have to conduct this debate with a maximum of rigour if we want to produce anything worthwhile.

The first requirement should be to define clearly the words we use in such a debate before we start using them, because in this field, words are highly polysemic and can be misleading. For example, what do you mean by a hard left? Another example is "liberalism" or "neo-liberalism", "capitalism" and so on... For some persons, liberalism means global financial capitalism, for others, it means all forms of capitalism. It is not splitting hairs for the fun of it; on the contrary, it is necessary if we want to have a fruitful debate.

Another condition for an interesting debate (it might be harder) is to stop having a unidimensional vision of politics. I'm fed up with people positioning themselves or others in a one-dimension space (more to the left or more to the right) with only a very poor set of criteria (the role of the state...).

In my view, what we need is a more creative, a more innovative left. We need a modern social democracy which takes into account the world as it is in order to transform it without giving up its values and its goals and is able to make an alliance with the trade unions and the NGOs.

We also need a new utopian left which is rid of the old leninist/trostkyite vision of the world and which is able to develop and propose new economic and social models.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 02:34:55 PM EST
It seems to me that the "Left" is letting themselves get defined...is sitting back and being more reactive

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 03:28:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree. That's the big problem: the left hs been on the defensive for a long time and is still letting the right frame the debate. We need to go on the offensive with new ideas and new projects!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 05:32:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're mixing Economics with Politics. The political definition of Liberalism is quite clear (at least to me).

In my view, what we need is a more creative, a more innovative left. We need a modern social democracy which takes into account the world as it is in order to transform it without giving up its values and its goals and is able to make an alliance with the trade unions and the NGOs.

Hollow words to me. Innovative left? What's that?

The world today is one where Liberalism reign over all other forms of politics. Socialism is by itself an alternative, it simply won't fit in.


luis_de_sousa@mastodon.social

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:04:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you elaborate?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:06:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think (and this is just my personal opinion) that one of the reasons the Right has been more appealing is because they have presented a more comprehensive vision of the society. True, a lot of it is simplistic, impossible, and downright xenophobic and selfish, but it's a vision, nonetheless. Just like religion answered questions in the society in the past, politicial vision has to respond to people's need to know where their societies are headed. Left-wing parties have struggled with that identity and vision. People (especially in the middle class) all have a selfish streak, and the right-wing vision if the world appeals to that. You you can be wealthier, yes you don't need to pay as much in taxes, yes foreigners are undesireable because they threaten our way of life, etc. These are easy answers and they fit what some people want to see in their life. Selfishness will almost always trump solidarity in my humble opininion. The only way forward for the left-wing parties is to clearly differentiate themselves from the right-wing by presenting their own co-herent vision of the world, by not adopting right-wing policies just to a lesser degree, by appealing to the selfish streak in people AND the need for the society to co-exist at the same time.
Clearly there are also some country-specific logistical issues that need to be worked out as well, but the trick is first to become a viable, vocal, and well-organized opposition.

Mikhail from SF
by Tsarrio (dj_tsar@yahoo.com) on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 08:07:00 PM EST
i see it in a timeline...

it takes vision and courage to try new ways, and there will always be a pull to avoid change, to hanker back for a 'temps perdu', attempting to pull on the handbrake as acceleration intensifies experience to sometimes uncomfortable levels.

a return to the wallow...a 'nostalgie de la boue', where you knew what was what.... this reassuring predictability is offered by the right as a palliative to all the world's problems, and its appeal is to the fear-based, who feel they have more to lose than win by rocking the status quo.

that's what the left needs to accentuate the future, pointing out that we can and should advocate for a more peaceful world, wherein we may be more productive, while working less, as we rechannel the enormous labour, energy and raw materials used to prepare for wars.

which then makes war more possible...vicious cycle...

we need to reclaim the use of reason from the right, who have turned it inside out and upside down, and proclaim out better natures' eventual  victory, or there won't be any 'we' to enjoy anything.

is it an act of faith to believe things could be a lot better than they are, or is it a reasonable supposition?

the distortions of the right's message are becoming ever easier to percieve and parse, as their pudding is proofed daily and we all see the outcomes of their idiot hubris.

extreme socialism didn't work either...

we need a judicious blend - what will be a centrism, once the overton window the right have been shoving their way for 40+  years has travelled back to a more sane position..

events will continue to betray the right's faithlessness, so violent extremes are not necessary from us, since time is on our side.

we are heading for a crunch, only the very blinkered have not caught on... pity there are so many of them, and pity so few who do see, care that much.

quite the little challenge...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jun 20th, 2007 at 09:51:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Before you talk about renewing the Left, shouldn't we discuss what "the Left" actually is?

On some issues (societal values, foreign policy), I'd likely be categorized as being on the left; on others (economy, business) as being on the right.

In the US I was a blue dog democrat under Clinton, until I found myself to the left of Gengis Khan under Bush, but I didn't change, it's the ground under my feet that moved.

by Lupin on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:53:26 AM EST
A good start is to inequivecaly leave Bush and Clinton out of it.

luis_de_sousa@mastodon.social
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:53:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that in Canada that would make you a Red Tory. Tory is also known as the Conservative Party.

Just to make things confusing, this would apply before the hostile take over of the Conservative Party by the Reform Party renamed as the Alliance party. After the hostile take over they renamed themselves the Conservative Party. Branding is a big thing with these folks. They can't win without it, and hopefully they can't win with it.

Anyway Red Tories are now in the political wilderness in Canada having left the party in disgust. It seems as thought the most influential have moved to the Liberal party (middle of the road) with some moving to the Green Party.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:20:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Going beyond the political disputes of the day, the left basically focuses on two overarching issues: social justice and climate/energy/environment. However, I think voters notice that there is a reluctance on the left to articulate the synthesis of these two messages. As well they might, as this synthesis boils down to: less, distributed more equitably.

As so often discussed here, we will have less energy at our disposal in future; how much less will depend on the quality technological fixes, but it's going to be significantly less. As a consequence, literally everything in our daily lives will become significantly more expensive. The neolib response will be to junk the existing social systems as "too expensive", saying they want to "put the money back in people's pockets".  (All right, I hear you saying, "Whaddaya mean 'will be'!?" But imagine what kind of noise machine they'll crank up when energy costs jump by (caution: WAG) 30%.) To resist this, a large part of our "mission" will be to convince the public that these systems are vital and must be retained - quite possibly through the sacrifice of even more discretionary income (higher taxes).

As a message, "less, more equitably" is a lot less emotionally appealing than the message of the right, i.e., Life will be groovy if we can just get rid of all the [demon of the week]. And I think a lot of groups to the left of center are still unwilling to take this logical step.

But to me, harmonizing social justice with sustainable environmental and energy use is the challenge of our lifetimes (with all due apologies for the unintended drama of that statement).

I realize that the foregoing is getting away from the strategic focus with which Bob framed the discussion. But consistently articulating a message of "less, more equitably" would make the left a highly relevant (though perhaps not highly popular) force.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 05:25:41 AM EST
Yes! I like this...as a solid starting point. Maybe even, "Less, more equitably and efficently".

But like you said, it may not be too popular (and thus self-defeating, for the purposes of this discussion)...unless there is an added message about rising costs...which most people definitely can relate to.

I've also felt for a long time that the Democratic party in the US really blew it by not fightng back on the good aspects of government: public financed schooling, transportation, roads and other infra-structure, public health and safety, pensions, etc., etc. - all very liberal and good. Why not be proud of these things...and somehow fold it into the "less, more equitably and efficiently" statement.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:14:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Less" won't get you anywhere, as people want to be promised a bright future, or at least the possibility that their children will do better than themselves (and themselves better than their parents, in the case of young adult voters).

So the message has to be "More ..., Better ...".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:19:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But how do you make the message 'More...Better...' in an environment of less?
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:25:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suggest

Less [negative thing]

More [positive thing]

as the meme.  Then you have the dance of the negative positive, so you can start with a supposed positive, add it to less, and then counteract with another positive which throws the previous "positive" into the light of less...

My weak example:

Less stuff, more fun.

So...a whole raft of honest "Less" statements, which have as a counteracting force aspirational "more" statements.

Less power, more co-operation

Less money, more relaxation

Less trips, more journeys

So "less" becomes...sorta like a diet...less fat, less cigarettes...and then the more is to counteract the puritan edge...which thinks that if less fat is good no fat is better...so not good better or less better, but rather less...more

Less is more.

That kinda thing.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:35:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Tastes great, less filling" (ugh, American ight beer)

"Kills bugs dead" <heh>

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:43:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While on an electioneering level I appreciate what you're trying to say, I think the reality on the ground is going to be more like:

Less heat, more sweaters

Less meat, more cabbage

Less riding, more walking

Less travel, more staying home


The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:53:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you interested in attaining power, guiding policy, or affecting the public debate? Because they are not the same thing.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:55:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
None of the above. I'm trying to affect our debate.

We're treating peak fuels and climate change as an issue separate from "what is left". And I believe that is a mistake.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:10:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Peak fuels and climate change are part of the context, not part of the definition of left. The right's response to them is probably resource war. The left's response needs to follow from "what is left" - for instance, solidarity.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:17:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I quite agree. But to my knowledge, no one has considered what the ramifications are for solidarity and for an equitable society. I think depending on the ultimate magnitude and speed of the crunch, adapting to these constraints is going to entail more than simply scaling down our society. What do we need to do to ensure that everyone has access to a basic amount of heat and electricity, good medical care, an adequate diet, a halfway functional transportation for both persons and goods, Internet and a whole lot of other things we take for granted - at a time when these same constraints will probably put a fair proportion of the population out of work?

If we can't find some kind of an answer to this conundrum, I don't know if it matters to much who is in power.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:36:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To answer that would probably be a full-time job for everyone at the last ET meetup for a year. Do you have a half-million Euros?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:43:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. I have €47 in my wallet that I could kick in...

It would probably be a subject for copious debate as well.

I just happen to think that a coherent progressive policy is not possible unless the question is explicitly addressed.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:36:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Amybe we should apply for an EU grant to finance our research of the question?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:39:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, I'm going to be a bit picky here and ask:

What are the specific privations people will have to suffer?  I don't mean meat vs. vegetables or foreign travel vs. a journey by bike.  I think you can sell those no problem.  Just associate something bad with the one people can't do, and/or bring the good association from the undoable over to the doable.  I mean, why cabbage rather than

Less meat, more longevity

Just as an example.

So, if we were to restructure hospitals, jobs, etc. and buildings  (big IF, but IF we did)...what...

..I mean, beyond your three meals a day, some shelter, and some heat control...it's alla culture, no?  I don't miss the diamond-encrusted watch I don't have.  I'd miss...what?  Maybe I'll only be able to listen to CDs at the public CD-listening place...

...so if we're dealing with culture and how that rolls out via products and services...that's advertising.  Something like that.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 01:40:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair question.

But I submit that for political purposes, subjective privation is just as real as real privation. To describe just one conceivable scenario:

Say someone living in the suburbs is no longer able to afford a car. That will be perceived as a decline in the standard of living right there. And if the lack of a car forces this person to seek smaller quarters nearer to public transportation, s/he is likely to consider this a loss in quality of life (especially if s/he has a large family).

All this assuming a smooth transition to limited energy.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:34:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm talking about a political narrative, a way of selling a "left" idea to the public.  So there also need to be serious proposals from any progressive political entity.  You can't just have whole suburbs uprooting and moving to the cities because the cities are already packed.

So the need is for public transport, re-arrangement of work (swap jobs with someone who lives closer to the community you work in rather than live in and vice versa...if that makes sense), re-position industries, knock down what doesn't work, build what does.

And to sell that political project:

Less cars, more fresh air
Less cars, more freedom for your children
Less travel, more free time

etc...

What I mean is, what are going to be the net losses that can't be made up by rearranging the furniture?

I had a thought about this as follows:

Take away all of our imports

then

Re-classify all of our exporting so that it turns to supplying goods and services to the internal market (let's assume we will have the energy to move items across Europe--and let's add all Mediterranean countries...including Africa above the Sahara...

Now, if we have that re-alignment, what can't Europe produce for itself?  What will we materially lack?

And I would add that we have huge rubbish piles which are, when seen from another angle, huge repositories of raw materials in various forms.

So, given all of that (because that would be the progressive political project; without such a project I think any progressive advertising will have the same value as, say, David Cameron), what are we going to lack?  Titanium?  Bananas?

(Let's add that we have intellectual contact across the world; the internet will survive because WiFi plus basic renewable energy supply = communication.)

It's a serious question--for me.  If people have to make do with "less", then what is it that we will have to do without?

The perceptions of loss are what need to be managed, and so you need the advertising to sell the product which, I'll add coz I've always thought it, should be tied to the product/service/idea being offered.  I mean: If you want to sell a new beer, let people taste it.  If you want to sell a new transport device, let people be transported in it.  I think it is the abstract nature of advertising (including political advertising) that detaches people from...alienates people from material processes.  I mean: you watch a television and see a picture of a car, then someone talks about the car, or there is music to associate.  But the first time you drive the car will be--I guess--when you have decided you need/want one...

People need to be re-engaged.  In particular the semi or permanent unemployed, who already have "less"...hey, my thoughts are wandering wildly!  

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:03:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the only area where we significantly differ is in the political narrative.

There are times in history where people don't expect to be promised a better future, but merely hope for a future at all -  a "blood, sweat and tears" moment if you will.

Already this is (in my opinion at least) the most honest message a political movement can offer. It is conceivable that a point will be reached where it is the credible one left.

At the very least I think we need to be taking a "nothing to fear but fear itself" line.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 04:03:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with you, less will go nowere. How about, "simplify for a happier and more peaceful life and future".
by Fran on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:12:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, I think simplify would be a good work. I hear many people complain how life has become to complicated and complex.

Why not use that - in the sense want to create a world that moves a way from the complex and complicated world that has caused so many problems, like in the environment, etc. towards a simpler, healthier and easier life. I don't think I know many people who wouldn't like that. But that is only the titel - after that the meat would have to be put on the bones. :-)

by Fran on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:36:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quality, vs Quantity.

Cooperation, vs Competition.

Transparency, vs Opacity.

Predistribution, vs Redistribution

"Not for Loss" vs "For Profit"

"Common" vs "Private" or "Public"

To reinvent "the Left" we need revenue and risk sharing frameworks within which people interact so that it is in their interests to go for the former rather than the latter.

I maintain that such frameworks are now not only available, but "emerging" because those enterprises using them are at a competitive advantage to those who do not.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:17:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think, since "less" is coming anyway, the best way I can think of to frame it is:  Out of what is available if we stick together we can have more of a necessarily smaller pie.  The dilemna is that it takes education and some sophistication to understand that "more" is not perpetually available.  But you in Europe should be able to point out all that the left has brought you and there is a clear example of what the right has to offer just across the Atlantic.

This may be off topic, and if so I apologize, but I wonder how much of the damage to the European left has been caused by the rapacity of the US model and how that model has been used to attack the interests of the European working and middle classes.

Here, it has been an interesting 35 years since I came of age and worked for General Motors in a factory-at age 18 I made a man's wage and busted my ass at what I considered a shitty job.  Now I'm a professional, but my standard of living is not greatly better than it was those many years ago with a good union job.  My job is much better and more satisfying and emotionally rewarding much of the time, and I'm not subject to all the nastiness of the factory environment, but I'm not really of a different class.  Now 18 yr old kids-and 28 yr old kids too, for that matter, really struggle to just stay in the mid blue collar level.

Anyway, great discussion.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson

by NearlyNormal on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 12:29:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But you in Europe should be able to point out all that the left has brought you and there is a clear example of what the right has to offer just across the Atlantic.
This is a difficult point to get across, even in a place like, say, Sweden. People there will frequently talk about the US, and how in the US, one is not 'held back' by a restrictive state, with burdensome taxes, etc. "All are free to prosper on their own", they say. And people who don't are lazy. Yes, in Sweden all the lazy, untalented people are coddled by a  protective state, benefiting from the hard work of others, upstanding, ambitious, hard working, clever people. Whereas those ambitious, hard working people did it all on their own, with no help from a free education system, a national health system, or luck of birth. No, the successful are beholden to themselves alone, to themselves and their hard work, they deserve more and others less. Why would people work hard if it was not possible for them to become disgustingly wealthy? And it is clear, of course, that it is important to have a bunch of hyper-ambitious over-achievers willing to do everything and more to 'get ahead'. If you are not willing to climb to the top over some dead bodies, you can't be very serious about your own success, now can you. And then what use are you to anyone else?

Which brings us to 'the career'. With a 'career' one no longer works for an employer in exchange for money. But, with ambition, one works for oneself, to 'advance' ones career, to soar within the ranks. Don't complain about the long hours! Your 'career' is worth it! The ascent will be its own reward, no use for monetary compensation! If this is not your style, if you'd like to 'work to live' rather than 'live to work', why then, screw you, you lazy, unambitious crud. Get with the program, and work for growth! 'Careers', not just for white-collar climbers with advanced degrees, or what not. But, also, for those in the service industry. Hey, you could 'make your career' at McDonalds or Walmart too!

Off on a rant for a bit, there... But to respond again to your comment: No, people are not necessarily able to make the comparison between 'social Europe' and 'liberal USA' and conclude what are the consequences of the YOYO approach. I didn't get it until I lived for several years in an American city, what exactly would be the result from dismantling the social safety net. Maybe it is a generational thing? Fewer people remain who remember what it was like to live in a country with stark poverty?

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 06:32:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But a good rant it is!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 06:13:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My problem is, also reading this diary, that nowere is mentioned what the Left stands for. There are slogans, like environment, social justice, but they are not defined (I don't mean you dvx, just using you comment to hang up mine) :-). What exactly does the Left mean by that? To much empty space in these words for people to fill in. This is okay for people who are actively interested in politics, but what about the others.

I don't think people are primarely against higher taxes -  as can be seen here in Switzerland were people have voted for higher taxes when they were well explained and for social purposes. I general I would say most people are willing to make sacrifices for the well-being of the whole, if they understand why.

I really think the first step is to answer the question what does the Left stand for - and what exactly does that mean for everyday life of the individual, because that is what most people want to know.

by Fran on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:22:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The left stands for solidarity, and for the individual this means (how did Jerome put it?) protection from the random miseries of life.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:59:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And how does that protection from random miseries work? The definition sounds nice, but for me it leaves to much space that can be filled in.
by Fran on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:04:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A social safety net: universal access to health care, a living wage, unemployment assistance... All these "dirty" things that help "lazy" people.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:17:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What else? Sorry can't resist. :-) But why should a hard working small business owner vote for the Left if he has to pay higher salaries, etc., how will the Left help him or her to improve their lot?

You know I am self-employed. I have had to pay all my life unemployment-insurance, but if I actually should end up with no work, I would not be supported. And there are many things like this, at least here in Switzerland.

by Fran on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:30:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, if not the "left", who's going to pick up the issue of "unemployment" insurance for the self-employed? How about protecting small business owners in the event of a recession?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:47:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I too am self-employed. Living next door to the US provides some clarity to the issues you raise. The biggest advantage we have in Canada for small business owners is health insurance. It is difficult to over emphasize the importance of that. If my business fails, then there is a safety net for me. That takes a certain amount of pressure off.

Wages are not necessarily more expensive (I have no employees) but the advantage of state health care makes Canada extremely competitive. Add on the fact we are literate (I am serious here) and suddenly that "leftist" state sometimes known as Canuckistan in the US looks like a good deal.

WOODSTOCK, Ont. (CP) - Ontario workers are well-trained.

That simple explanation was cited as a main reason why Toyota turned its back on hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies offered from several American states in favour of building a second Ontario plant.

The factory will cost $800 million to build, with the federal and provincial governments kicking in $125 million of that to help cover research, training and infrastructure costs.

Several U.S. states were reportedly prepared to offer more than double that amount of subsidy. But Fedchun said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project.

He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson.

CBC Toyota to build 100,000 vehicles per year in Woodstock, Ont., starting 2008


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having worked as a consultant for foreign companies (number of them from the US), I confirm it's for the same reasons they invest in (socialist) France: a well-trained and reliable workforce.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sat Jun 23rd, 2007 at 08:35:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe "an income guarantee" is better than "a living wage" or "unemployment assistance". It is more general.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:59:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:59:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right about the lack of specificity. I was trying to provoke some discussion about the great big elephant in the room:

From here on out, any stable social system must take into account the enormous constraint of peak fuel, and the (perhaps even greater) constraint of CO2 and methane emissions reduction. Presumably, that means not only much higher transportation and heating costs, but significantly higher costs for clothing and food (and most likely vastly more expensive meat, dairy and poultry) - in other words, declining material standards of living. (I hasten to add that I am not trying to describe an end-of-civilization scenario (though the Porsche drivers out there might disagree :-) )).

So while I agree that people are not averse to higher taxes in principle, higher taxes in a time of declining real incomes are going to be a really tough sell.

Anyway, these are the parameters under which any left-oriented policies however defined - or any sustainable policy at all - must operate. I find that we talk a lot about peak fuels and the potential repercussions of climate change, and also about the whys and wherefores of social policies, but we've failed to think about how the one will impact the other.

Or rather, we don't want to think about them. Did you ever read the comments when Jerome proposed higher gas taxes over at DK? The greatest response was, "This will kill us at the polls, so we mustn't talk about it." And apologies to all, but even here the discussion that started with Bob's reply to my comment seemed to focus more on how to dress the fact up for public consumption than on what it means.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:45:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From here on out, any stable social system must take into account the enormous constraint of peak fuel, and the (perhaps even greater) constraint of CO2 and methane emissions reduction.

Assume for a minute that you can safely deploy breeder nuclear reactors running on Thorium and that you can use the output to synthesize dimethyl ether from atmospheric CO2 and water for use as transportation fuel.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:54:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  • stop burning the roof to our house to heat yourself
  • stop throwing your garbage in the soup

We have to focus on the rule of the law, and the respect for the rules that ensure the survival of the community.

Focusing on anti-social behavior and wilful destruction of common resources for private ends should be something that can be heard from the left.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 12:00:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Less: Selfishness

More: For the common good

Only problem with this: the selfish own the media and are largely in power, and won't want to relinquish it easily. But, continually putting out "what is best for the common good?" is one place to start...proactively...until enough people agree and movement heads to head away from supporting selfish interests. (I don't know if that came out clear...I'm fighting a cold...but, you know, the common good!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 02:10:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One peculiar aspect is that the right parties are far less closed than the left parties. They recruit talent like Sarkozy or Ken Mehlman in the US while the left parties/organizations are self perpetuating closed groups.
by rootless2 on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:54:05 AM EST
The only thing that people in right parties seem to have in common is their drive for power.

The left is both much more anarchic and more ideological. The right is more authoritarian and so people are just happy to work for the party's political machine.

Just my own personal view, mostly based on experiences with student politics, and the differences between lefty and righty students.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:00:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But how do you compete with people whose sole motivation is power for its own sake, without, you know, stooping to their level?

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:12:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you want power, or do you want to effect change? I think these are two distinct goals.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 07:22:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sadly enough, the only thing people in leftist parties have in common is drive to powerlessness.
by rootless2 on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:08:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Talent" Mehlman??? <geez...>

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:46:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy is a party man through and through.
Sarkozy's political career began at the age of 22, when he became a city councillor in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy and exclusive western suburb of Paris (in the Hauts-de-Seine département). A member of the Neo-Gaullist party RPR, he went on to be elected mayor of that town, after the death of the incumbent mayor Achille Peretti. Sarkozy had been close to Peretti, as his mother was Peretti's secretary. The senior RPR politician in the time, Charles Pasqua, wanted to become mayor, and asked Sarkozy to organise his campaign. Instead Sarkozy profited from a short illness of Pasqua to propel himself into the office of mayor.

As for Mehlman:

Mehlman [born in 1966] practiced environmental law at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C. (1991-1996) and assisted campaigns in Massachusetts (William Weld's 1990 gubernatorial campaign), Ohio, Virginia, Texas, and Georgia as well as the 1992 and 1996 Presidential campaigns.

Mehlman was Congresswoman Kay Granger's (TX-12) Chief of Staff and Congressman Lamar S. Smith's (TX-21) Legislative Director. Mehlman served George W. Bush as the field director for his 2000 campaign and later became the White House Director of Political Affairs. He managed the Bush presidential re-election campaign in 2004.


Now if you want to talk about recruiting talent, Michael Bloomberg would be a far more obvious choice.

Oh, wait...

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:13:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I think this comment could be better founded, I don't believe it deserves to be trollrated.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:00:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I quite agree.

So let's say it again: down-ratings (2s or 1s) are not to be used to indicate disagreement with another user. It's a practice that tends to spark off ratings battles and generally encourage more heat than light.

I don't really know quite what rootless is talking about, and his reference to Sarko and Mehlmann hardly fills me with desire to find out.

But he isn't insulting anyone, hi-jacking the thread, or being more than just a bit provocative. No reason to troll-rate.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:16:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My 2 cents:

First of all one should note that in some countries in Europe the "hard-left" (as in the German Linke and the Dutch Socialists) are achieving electoral results that were inconceivable a decade ago - as far as the "beyond-the-socialists-left is concerned. The way they have done that is (if I understand correctly) by addressing the working class as a working class, talking prominently about economic issues that affect the majority of wage earners and the various hardships they are suffering as a result of the erosion of the welfare state. It's worth noting however that these exact policies that today are considered "extreme" were a decade or two ago, pretty much part of the Social Democratic mainstream.

The re-emergence of a powerful left IMHO requires the left to be defined principally as a defender of the economic interests of the majority of wage earners and as a democratizing force across the board. It also requires the re-invigoration of the notion of worker solidarity, a concept that has taken a beating lately and - of course - acquiring some media avenue to publicly and articulately present its views. The web seems like a promising avenue, but it can't be the only one.

More than that however, the left needs a new, feasible utopia, or if you prefer some sort of credible "vision". I happen to believe that the mix of decentralization and cooperative enterprises that we frequently discuss here in the ET, must be a crucial element of this new "repositioning". I quote from a recent article by Rick Wolff, on the exact topic we're discussing:

The new direction and strategy for social democracy follows from the flaw in its historic compromise with capitalism.  The egalitarian, solidaristic society envisioned by social democracy cannot be secured so long as it leaves in place a group of people with incentives and means to prevent that.  A transformation of the structure of production inside each enterprise could change the basic situation in so far as it ended the dichotomy between workers and capitalists.  The collective of workers that produces the surplus/profits would become the same collective that appropriates and distributes the surplus/profits.  Full participation in work and its products would then make possible and foster full participation in political democracy and cultural activity.  Achieving this fundamental re-organization of each enterprise must become a core policy of social democracy.

Instead of old social democratic policies inadequate to their goals, this projected transformation of the structure and practice of all work represents a dramatic new vision and program.  It offers the basis on and with which to construct an egalitarian, solidaristic society.  Advocacy of such a program might reanimate, unify, and focus the forces of a new left today.

The great thing about such a strategy is its "non-millenarian" character: it is something that can be tried and tested now, its viability demonstrated in the present rather than in some future utopia.

Finally as to what constitutes the left: right now, again IMHO, if there is a fissure, a borderline somewhere in the political spectrum, it isn't mainly between conservatives and social democrats. The Grand Coalition in Germany is an indicator of the convergence of the "two poles". Instead I think that the political line (on a party level) is to the left of the Social Democratic Parties. The (electoral and social) success of that, explicitly anti-neoliberal political space, is a requirement for shifting the Overton Window this way and dragging the Social Democrats along with it...

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 08:57:32 AM EST
Perhaps the insistence on "wage earners" is a bit counterproductive. The small independent contractor, the small shop owner, the peasant, are in no better situation than the poor worker - often worse. Addressing only wage earner misses those ; what's more, many wage earners identify with and wish to become part of independents. It won't prevent them from being squeezed by large company ; that is a message that must be sent to that part of the population, and maybe convince it.

The wage earner has become "the other" for a large part of the population, even wage earners.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:17:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Point taken.  Although I have to say that there often is more than a little tension between say, the small contractors and the people working for them. In fact, over here (Greece) it's mostly (but not exclusively) small and medium businesses that systematically break labor laws and hire uninsured ("black") employees. So at that point you have to have some sort of priority (i.e. as a political party) or some sort of understanding regarding these kinds of conflicts.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 11:29:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another about the focus on wage earners : it means that big wage earners tend to get a free pass on redistribution. Piketty showed that for the last century, inequality between 10%highest and 10%lowest wages has remained at 5 to 1. Common sense remains that the wage earning upper middle class shoudln't be taxed for redistribution matters, and that's a bad consequence.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Jun 22nd, 2007 at 05:53:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for bringing this up whataboutbob, here's how I view it.

As I understand it, the term Left refers to the three veins that came out of early Socialism envisioned by Marx and Engels:


  • Utopic Socialism (also called Reformism and the base of today's Socialist parties)

  • Communism (also called Scientific Socialism)

  • Anarchism


Taking on each one:

Reformism is presently dead in Europe. The traditional Socialist parties slowly mutated from the WWII, getting farther and farther apart from its origins. Socialist parties in Europe are presently dominated by liberals and limit themselves to pursue liberal agendas. Even the social state has been left behind by many self-entitled socialists.

And this is the major root of the disillusion that the electorate feels towards Socialist parties: they can't differentiate their politics from those of the Liberal or Christain Democrat parties. Tony Blair's Third Way was nothing else than liberalism put forward by "lefty" politicians.

As long as Socialist parties continue to fool electors presenting a social concept and performing another there's no hope to become a decisive political force in Europe - Christian Democrats and Liberals will continue to have majority on their own.

Communism is also going through an identity crisis. Today, European Communist parties resemble somewhat the social democrat parties of the early XX century - promoting Socialism inside the Democratic regime. Contemporaneous Communism is in fact an alternative to the Liberal undermined Socialism, but with a major setback: modern Communist became Nationalist.

It can be traced back to 1970s when the last Fascist regimes fell in Europe; with a revamped Left, western European Communists cemented Nationalism as a way to keep some independence from the Soviet block. The iron curtain felt more than 15 years ago, but Communist parties are more Nationalist than ever, skeptically opposing the European Construction.

Nationalism and Communism don't rime. Naturally the Communists cannot feel at ease with the present Liberal lead European Construction, but instead of euro-skepticism we need a clear European Communist Project.

Anarchism is by far the most successful form of Socialism in the early days of the XXI century. You don't see the word written in the newspapers, or in the acronym of any party, but associated with a revival of Agrarianism, Anarchism is today one of the most influential veins of political thinking.

Claiming for the reduction of the state, a new social pauper paradigm centered on rural living and devoid of progress, the voices of Green, Environmental, and anti-Globalization movements are the visible side of modern Anarchism. And this is the most important aspect of the modern rise of Anarchism: it grew by itself dissociated of political parties. Maybe this is the only way for Anarchism to be.

The influence that Anarchism has today, reaching now deeply conservative sections of society, will not disappear easily. Even when rougher times come, and Anarchists have to feel the paucity of the society they propose, even then Anarchism will prevail because, love it or loath it, it presents a real alternative to today's unsustainable way of living in the wealthy countries.

This is just a quick review of my thinking; Socialism has a long and rich history that couldn't possibly be summarized so quickly, and that, by the way, is far, far from over.


luis_de_sousa@mastodon.social

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 09:51:40 AM EST
Good summary. I'll add that the green/environmental movement is much broader than its anarchist wing, the luddites or the cult of the wilderness (at least in Germany, Holland, Belgium...).

And even the alterglobalisation movement is not all luddite.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:26:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In my view it is Anarchism that has a broad reach, not the other way around.

Most Environmental groups have connections with Liberal parties, but their agenda is deeply rooted on Anarchism.

luis_de_sousa@mastodon.social

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:33:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Green party in Germany is in many respects further to the right than the Social Democrats, I think. Green parties are widely divergent in Europe, with the Nordic Green Left even having a separate representation in the European Parliament, together with the hard left paries. Some of this divergency can be modelled on a fundi-realo axis, and some comes from differing ideals of environmentalism.

Historically, I'd guess most of these parties come from the '68 generation which had anarchist overtones. And as greens talk to each other some ideas could be traced back to anarchist roots. But you can overstress the link.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 10:50:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I had an interesting (but too short) conversation with Jerome in Paris about the need for a new "hard Left"in Europe too (which I hope Jerome will say more about here).

I have to agree, and the reason is not to get it into power, but to shift the dabate leftwards a little.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:42:56 PM EST
I think Fran comes closest to hitting the nail on the head:

No clear vision as to what they want to achieve

It's hard to communicate when you don't know what it is you want to communicate.

For the last 25 years or so the Left has been stuck in a sort of conservatism where we mostly just defend (or rearrange a little bit) past gains against a right wing that has had all the wind in its sails.

The steam, finally, is beginning to run out of the Right-wing onslaught somewhat, but will the Left be able to take advantage of this?

A couple of (economic) ideas?

Economic Democracy

The Left has surrendered its' position in the public mind as the progressive force on economic issues. The Right is (wrongly) seen as the people you turn to to fix the economy.

So the Left has to regain this position in ways that are consistent with our values -- i.e. combine efficiency and growth with greater equality and public participation in decisions that affect people's lives.

In the post-WWII period to 1970s, the Left built its' position as the progressive economic party primarily through demand-side initiatives -- union power and higher/more equal wages, Keynesian macro policy, the welfare state -- that established a virtuous cycle of greater equality at the micro level that reinforced, and was reinforced by, economic growth and full employment at the macro level.

Now what we need to complement this may be a Left "supply-side policy" that can reestablish this "virtuous micro/macro circle" through increased public control over investment decisions:

These "left-demand side" policies must be augmented by a "left-supply side" that links changes in the workplace with influence -- and perhaps control -- over investment funds on which the economic health of their societies depends. . . .

This would require . . . dramatically extending the principles of worker participation far beyond the narrow confines of the shopfloor and into society more generally. . . . to develop industry-specific union strategies and then linking them to . . . questions of structural change and employer-driven visions of flexibility. . . .

The vehicle to make democracy more meaningful in capitalist societies is a reinvigorated set of public institutions -- such as political parties, trade unions, and community organizations -- that can effectively demand accountability, particularly on the crucial issue of investment.

Also  a new set of global economic insitutions that would promote growth, full employment, and reduction of international economic inequalities.

Qualitative Growth

Part of a renewed Left program also ought to be a re-think what we mean by concepts such as "efficiency" and "growth." Not less, necessarily, but emphasizing a different kind of economic progress:

. . . the expansion of the qualitative dimensions of output, including satisfactions that are not directly embedded in commodities:
  • Intrinsically satisfying work
  • Voluntary leisure time
  • Economic security
  • A safe and clean environment
  • A plenitude of community and voluntary services
by TGeraghty on Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 06:20:26 PM EST


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