Monday, June 08, 2009

Slicing the Leftist pie.

The consensus is that the Right triumphed at the Euro elections. We say it's courtesy of a leftist vote split into a myriad of tiny fractions.

"Voters steer Europe to the Right", says the BBC as results keep coming in from the European elections. It's the same analysis wherever you look.

BBC correspondent Mark Mardell talks of "March of the right", with particular reference to the advance of far-right parties across the continent, while the Independent talks of "Right advances in Europe" and, in case the message hadn't been rammed home yet: "Right wing parties sweep to power in the European Parliament", is the Daily Mail's headline .

The Mail adds that the electoral wipeout was a "vote against stimulus spending and corporate bailouts", more or less in line with the theory that European Social Democracy is in serious trouble.

That may well be the case but, as of today, few have picked up on the crucial factor that turned the right's victory into plain sailing: the spectacular divisions within the left.

Let's look at five of what the BBC calls "Europe's big six".

France. There's reports all round that, with 27,8% of the vote, Sarkozy mastered an "amazing victory". But how's that the case when every opinion poll in the run-up to the vote suggested Le Président was in trouble? A quick glance at the left's line-up for the elections should shed some light.

The Socialist Party's dismal performance cannot be read without taking into account the historic 16.2% pocketed by the Greens. More though, if you put together the Front de Gauche's 6% and the 5% of the brand new Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) led by rising star Olivier Besancenot (without forgetting Bayrou), the progressive anti-Sarkozy vote is in excess of 50 per cent, hardly a popular endorsement for the President.

Italy. In Berlusconiland, the centre-left's internal divisions are now legendary. Counting the myriad of parties mushrooming up to the left of Partito Democratico has become humanly impossible. Elbowing their way through the crowd, meet the fiercely anti-Berlusconi Italia dei Valori (8%) and not one but two, I mean two, post-Communist Parties, each of them netting a rough 3,5% - plus plenty of other tiny groups.

Add them altogether and they could bring off a comfortable 5% lead ahead of the Berlusconi coalition. Alas, such parties tend to disagree on stuff like whether Fidel Castro should have shaven his beard in the summer of 1964 - which is why Berlusconi's grip on power remains secure until he pops his clogs.

Germany. Similar story. No doubt the SPD is looking battered, reaping perhaps the harvest of coalition governments with the centre-right. But did its haemorrhaging votes shift to the right? By the look of it, the answer is no. With the Greens and Die Linke pulling off a total of 20%, the assumption that free-market conservatism came out on top ends up looking a bit flimsy. Yet, courtesy of the atomised left, it's Angela Merkel who's popping the champagne.

Last but not least, Britain. There's absolutely no doubt the government was handed a drubbing of epic proportions, perhaps the natural consequence of 12 years of New Labour meticulously eating away at what was left of Britain's progressive politics. And yet, here too, the Green Party managed a historic 8.6%, suggesting many disillusioned Labour ballots found a temporary shelter.

But then witness the the depressing sight of leftists grupuscules fighting for the crumbs- if that. Can anyone explain, for instance, the tactical differences between Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party (1,1% of the vote), Bob Crowe's NO2EU (1%) and the Socialist Party of Great Britain (0,3%)? What did they hope to achieve exactly, aside from splitting the leftist vote into a myriad of tiny fractions?

And while arguments about socialist purity thrive, today the Europeans wake up more right-wing than at any time since WWII.


Richard T said...

You have indirectly explained the reason for the schismatic performance of the radical left - the personality cult.

Patrick Gray said...

Richard T is absolutely right.
In the UK alone all those mini proto-socialist sects are built around individual egos, Crowe, Scargill or Galloway for instance.

But flicking through the French and Italian examples online, there's evidence of very similar situations.

"Those who do not learn from history", etc...remember why the far right managed to climb to the top in the 1920s and 1930s?

Finally though, it must be emphasised the damage that what used to be known as the Third Way project (Mr Blair and Herr Schroeder) inflicted upon the left.

They took the concept of "modernisation" a step to far.

socialist sam said...

Perhaps not directly, but this article seems to point the finger at groups to the left of so-called "mainstream" centre-left parties.

Instead a good question is: why is there such an appetite for groups to the left of the German SDP, Britain's New Labour, France's PS or the Italian Democrats?

It's because those "mainstream" parties have been utterly incapable to articulate the anxieties and problems of millions of people. Their kowtowing to big corporations and obsession with city-friendly policies led them to take their core voters for granted.

One thing though this article gets right is in its deconstruction of the idea that "former Labour voters flock to BNP" idea. It's a myth. A few perhaps, but the greatest majority either didn't vote or went for the Greens, the LibDems or minor groups.

Stan Moss said...

To me, it is quite clear that across most of Europe the electorate was/is hungry for social democratic answers to the economic downturn.

At the moment there aren't any credible big parties able to harness that need - hence the fragmentation of the vote.

With the exception of Britain, perhaps, the right has not gained any votes. It's the left that disintegrated.

Another crucial element is abstentionism - millions of traditional progressive voters didn't cast their ballot.