Corbyn, Sanders, Hamon. Has the Left Given Up?

French Socialist Party lawmaker Benoît Hamon
French Socialist Party lawmaker Benoît Hamon (Alchetron)

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.

All of which is not to say Hamon is more electable than Corbyn or Sanders. If anything, it’s their inability to win elections that really unites the three. Read more “Corbyn, Sanders, Hamon. Has the Left Given Up?”

Dutch Socialists Struggle to Claim Mantle of Left-Wing Purists

The Dutch Socialist Party has ruled out joining a government led by the liberal prime minister, Mark Rutte, after the election in March, saying the differences between them are too great.

On everything from labor policy to health care to taxes, the two could hardly be further apart.

But that didn’t stop the Socialists from leaving open the possibility of forming a government with Rutte fours years ago.

The difference is that their competitor on the left, the Labor Party, formed a coalition with the liberals in 2012 instead. Now the Socialists seek to claim the mantle of left-wing purists. Read more “Dutch Socialists Struggle to Claim Mantle of Left-Wing Purists”

French Socialists Could Make Same Mistake as Britain’s

Jeremy Corbyn
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8 (PES)

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.

There is little doubt these two men will prevail in the first voting round. Read more “French Socialists Could Make Same Mistake as Britain’s”

European Social Democrats Warm to Coalitions with Far Left

The sun sets on the Saint Nicholas' Church and town hall of Berlin, Germany, January 26, 2010
The sun sets on the Saint Nicholas’ Church and town hall of Berlin, Germany, January 26, 2010 (Mika Meskanen)

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.

The alliance in Berlin is only the second time in German history the two have shared power. Read more “European Social Democrats Warm to Coalitions with Far Left”

Jeremy Corbyn: Radical Chic for Those Who Can Afford It

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8 (PES)

Sarah Ditum explains in the New Statesman why Jeremy Corbyn is a risk only middle-class voters can take.

“I want Labour to have power,” she writes. Under Corbyn, it never will. His purist, “heirloom leftism,” as Ditum puts it, is simply not appealing to voters. It is a “luxury good” for those can afford life under perpetual Tory government. Read more “Jeremy Corbyn: Radical Chic for Those Who Can Afford It”

Defeat Splits Podemos Between Moderates and Hardliners

Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias gives a speech in Vitoria-Gasteiz, June 21
Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias gives a speech in Vitoria-Gasteiz, June 21 (Podemos)

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.

The outcome was especially bitter because Podemos had teamed up with the United Left in order to grow its parliamentary faction. It effectively lost seats, because the United Left’s were folded into Podemos. Read more “Defeat Splits Podemos Between Moderates and Hardliners”

Sanders Supporters Shouldn’t Sympathize with Corbyn

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008
The British Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn talks with reporters outside Parliament in London, England, June 11, 2008 (Flickr/Jasn)

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.

But dig a little deeper and you’ll find significant differences that should give Bernie Sanders’ supporters pause. Read more “Sanders Supporters Shouldn’t Sympathize with Corbyn”

Spanish Far Left’s Influence Could Be Limited in Coalition

Pablo Iglesias
Spanish Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias gives a speech in Vitoria-Gasteiz, June 21 (Podemos)

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.

The United Left hasn’t played much of a role in Spanish politics so far. To learn more about it, I asked Raquel Perez, the editor of The ANC-USA Weekly, which summarizes international news on Catalonia, about the influence it might have. Read more “Spanish Far Left’s Influence Could Be Limited in Coalition”

The Case for Permanent Coalitions on the Left

Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10, 2014
Swedish Social Democratic Party leader Stefan Löfven makes a speech in Stockholm, August 10, 2014 (Socialdemokraterna/Anders Löwdin)

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.

One way to stem this, Van den Berg proposes, would be for social democrats to ally permanently with the other parties of the left. Then they would no longer need to fight on two fronts at once. Read more “The Case for Permanent Coalitions on the Left”

Faymann’s Resignation May Not Help Social Democrats

Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann resigned on Monday, two weeks after his Social Democratic Party’s candidate placed a distant fourth in the presidential election.

Faymann, who governed for nearly eight years at the head of a grand coalition with the conservatives, recognized that his own party had lost faith in him, saying, “The government needs a new start.”

But unless his successor — who can be named by the parties without the need for snap elections — makes a clearer choice as to where the Social Democrats stand, he or she may not do much better in stemming the party’s declining popularity. Read more “Faymann’s Resignation May Not Help Social Democrats”