Jeremy Corbyn Is Not the British Bernie Sanders

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (Catholic Church England and Wales/Lorie Shaull)

American leftists who are tempted to sympathize with British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — don’t. He is not an overseas version of Bernie Sanders.

Both men were political outsiders for much of their careers until they unexpectedly rose to the tops of their respective parties. Both appeal to voters who are disillusioned with old politics. Both argue for a break with the neoliberalism-inspired “Third Way” in social democracy.

But that is where the similarities end. Read more

Tragedy in Catalonia

Night falls on Barcelona's Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017
Night falls on Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017 (Sergio Marchi)

Twelve Catalans — ten politicians and two activists — went on trial this week for their role in the 2017 independence referendum and attempted secession from Spain.

There is a good chance the defendants, who include the former Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras — who still leads one of the region’s two largest pro-independence parties — will be found guilty of at least some of the charges against them. The Spanish Constitutional Court had, after all, forbidden the referendum in advance and the Spanish Constitution speaks of the “indissoluble unity” of the state.

Hopefully the Supreme Court in Madrid (which is separate from the Constitutional Court) will throw out the more serious — and much harder to prove — accusations of rebellion and sedition, which carry prison sentences of up to 25 years.

But even light sentences would be a tragedy. This trial should never have happened. The 2017 referendum, which most opponents of independence boycotted, should never have happened. The reason it did is that the Spanish government at the time, led by the conservative People’s Party, refused dialogue with an increasingly restless nationalist movement in Catalonia. Read more

European Parliament Doesn’t Need Stricter Rules for Groups

Three young women listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016
Three young women listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

Mainstream parties in the European Parliament want to break up smaller groups that lack ideological cohesion. It is a risky proposal that is rightly being resisted by Euroskeptics and the Greens.

The center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) — who between them have a majority — argue that the current rules, which require political families to have at least 25 members from seven member states to qualify for subsidies and committee seats, are too lenient. They accuse anti-EU groups of gaming the rules to access taxpayer money.

There is something to this. On its face, there is little that unites the left-leaning Five Star Movement in Italy and the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party. Yet they group together in the same European Alliance for Direct Democracy.

It is also worth pointing out that some of the European Parliament’s biggest spending scandals have been in the anti-system blocs. Read more

Britain Is Making Brexit Impossible

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010 (Geir Halvorsen)

With two months to go before it is due to leave the EU, Britain has decided it can’t accept a key component of Brexit: the so-called Northern Ireland backstop, which could keep the province in the EU’s single market for goods, and the whole of the United Kingdom in a customs union with the EU, indefinitely so long as no alternative solution is found to prevent a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

Parliament voted on Tuesday night to ask Prime Minister Theresa May to renegotiate Britain’s withdrawal with the EU and seek “alternative arrangements” to the backstop.

Two weeks ago, Parliament voted down the Brexit treaty she had negotiated altogether. Read more

The Sources of Populist Rage — And What To Do About It

Yellow Vests protest in Avignon, France, December 1
Yellow Vests protest in Avignon, France, December 1 (Sébastien Huette)

Add France to populism’s list of victims.

A year ago, Emmanuel Macron’s election victory was hailed as a setback for the transatlantic reactionary movement that began with Brexit and has since led to Donald Trump in America, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and an anti-EU government in Italy.

The outbreak of nationwide anti-tax protests, which quickly morphed into an anti-government movement, makes clear the same forces that gave us Brexit and Trump live in France.

The consequences could be calamitous. Read more

Loss of Control: What Moderates Get Wrong About Migration

Red Cross workers provide first aid to migrants in Hungary, September 4, 2015
Red Cross workers provide first aid to migrants in Hungary, September 4, 2015 (IFRC/Stephen Ryan)

Immigration into Europe and the United States is down, yet the far right continues to monopolize the debate.

The EU faced a one-time surge in asylum applications from Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians in 2015-16 as well as four years of high numbers of mostly African migrants (PDF) trying to reach Italy by boat. The numbers are down, yet the far-right League is the most popular party in Italy.

In the United States, asylum applications from Central American countries plagued by violence are up, but Mexican immigration is down. Donald Trump nevertheless won the 2016 election on a virulently anti-immigrant platform.

Fake news and media echo chambers are part of the problem. It is difficult to expose voters to the facts when they can find “alternative facts” just a click away. But this does not fully explain the appeal of the populist message. The bigger problem is that moderates do not have a coherent migration policy to fix systems that are obviously broken. As a result, they do not have a strong story to tell. Read more

A Futile Leadership Challenge from Brexiteers in Denial

British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American defense secretary James Mattis at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American defense secretary James Mattis at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017 (DoD/Jette Carr)

With Brexit only four months away, its biggest supporters are still in denial about what it must mean.

They have called a confidence vote in Theresa May, believing that a different prime minister could negotiate a better deal from the EU.

They’re wrong. Read more