The triumph of the relatively unknown Benoît Hamon in the French Socialist presidential primary last weekend has inspired comparisons with fellow leftists Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom and Bernie Sanders in the United States.
The comparison is imprecise. Hamon’s vanquished primary opponent, Arnaud Montebourg, had more in common with Corbyn. Both are nostalgic for the times when blue-collar jobs paid well, trade unions were powerful and the welfare state was at its most generous.
Hamon is more forward-looking. His signature policies are a universal basic income funded by a tax on robots. Neither would be implemented overnight — if ever — but he is thinking about novel ways to preserve France’s high living standards at a time when many jobs may be automated or outsourced.
Low-skilled workers are already struggling to make a living under globalization. What if high-skilled, white-collar professionals are next? The solution is surely not a return to the 1970s.
Surveys suggest the French Socialists could make the same mistake as the British Labour Party and lurch to the left next year, taking themselves out of contention for the presidential and parliamentary elections that due in April and May.
Arnaud Montebourg, a fierce anticapitalist and former economy minister, is neck and neck with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, the center-left candidate, in the polls.
Ifop and Harris Interactive both give Valls 51 percent support in a hypothetical runoff against 49 percent for Montebourg.
Two Ipsos surveys conducted earlier this year put Montebourg ahead.
The formation of an all-left city government in Berlin that includes the once-communist Die Linke follows a pattern: center-left parties across Europe are increasingly willing to team up with their rivals on the far left.
Germany’s Social Democrats shunned Die Linke for decades. The two parties disagree on EU and industrial policy, NATO membership, relations with Russia and welfare.
Last week’s disappointing election result has exposed a fissure on the Spanish far left.
The debate is a predictable one: hardliners insist the Podemos alliance with the communist-led United Left wasn’t left-wing and principled enough; moderates recognize that it was perceived as too radical.
Preelection polls had shown Podemos surpassing the mainstream Socialists to become the biggest party on the left. But on election day, they got exactly the same number of seats as they did in December. The Socialists lost five but still came in second.
As Americans try to make sense of what is happening in British politics, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is sometimes compared for convenience with Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders, another leftwinger.
There are similarities. Both are old men who appeal mostly to disillusioned millennials. Both are to the left of their parties. And both are refusing to give up when it’s obvious to everyone else that they’ve lost.
The likelihood that the far left will surpass the mainstream Socialists as Spain’s second largest party in the elections this weekend has brought international attention to the Izquierda Unida (United Left), a coalition of left-wing splinter parties that has joined forces with the anti-establishment Podemos. Polls suggest they could get a quarter of the votes combined.
Social democratic parties in Europe should make permanent alliances with smaller parties to their left and right in order to keep their constituency united, argues a Dutch political scientist.
Joop van den Berg, formerly of Leiden University, writes that the traditional social democratic alliance, between workers and the intellectual middle class, is breaking down. The former are defecting to either populists on the far left (Die Linke in Germany, Podemos in Spain) or nationalists on the right (the Danish People’s Party, the Dutch Freedom Party). The latter are switching to Greens or centrist liberals in the middle.