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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The 'Left-Wing' Rogues Gallery

This article of mine, on 'left-wing' wolves in disguise, appears in the Morning Star.

It's a sad truth that some of the biggest enemies of progressive socialist causes have not been those on the right but those who claim to be on the left.

All over the world, some of the most reactionary anti-working-class policies have been carried out by governments which go under a "socialist" or "social democratic" label.
In eastern Europe for instance, nominally leftist governments have presided over mass privatisation and cutbacks in health and welfare provision since the fall of communism 20 years ago.

And in Britain, new Labour has sided with global capital against the interests of ordinary working people as well as supporting illegal imperialist wars of aggression in the Balkans and the Middle East.

New Labour claims to be a left-of-centre party but, as Labour veteran Tony Benn recently stated, in fact it is to the right of the positions taken by old-style "one-nation" Tory figures such as Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan.

They accepted the progressive mixed economy/welfare state consensus of the post-war period and did not believe that market forces should be allowed to rule every aspect of our lives.

So here is a "rogues gallery" of 10 political figures who, while campaigning under a left or progressive banner ended up siding with capitalism and betraying the very people - and the causes - their parties were supposed to represent.

Tony Blair

At the 1995 Labour Party conference, the new Labour leader promised a "publicly accountable, publicly owned railway" if his party returned to power.
It was the first of many promises he was to break.
In fact, Blair extended the Tory policy of privatisation into new areas such as air traffic control. An enthusiastic globalist, Blair showed where his loyalties were when he told the bankers of Goldman Sachs that he supported British companies "letting some jobs migrate" to India and China.
In foreign policy, Blair ditched Labour's traditional scepticism of foreign adventures and respect for the United Nations and enthusiastically supported illegal attacks on Iraq and socialist Yugoslavia.
The man who in his maiden speech in Parliament declared that he was a socialist because "socialism corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral," currently earns around £2 million a year from US bank JP Morgan Chase and receives up to $250,000 (£147,600) for a 45-minute speech on the US lecture circuit.

Ferenc Gyurcsany

A former Hungarian Communist youth leader, Gyurcsany made his fortune from privatisation deals in the early 1990s.
On becoming "socialist" prime minister in 2004, he presided over a large-scale privatisation programme and cutbacks in Hungary's health and welfare programmes which led to a sharp rise in poverty.
In 2006 he provoked riots when a tape in which he admitted lying "morning, noon and night" to the electorate was leaked to the media.
But while he is hate figure for most Hungarians, others hold a more positive view. "Gyurcsany is our kind of socialist," was the verdict of a US junk bond trader.

Ramsay Macdonald

The first ever Labour prime minister sided with the bankers in the economic crisis of 1931, betraying his party and Britain's working class by forming a Tory-dominated "national government" which introduced swingeing cuts in unemployment pay and the pay of public-sector employees. Macdonald's treachery led to riots in Glasgow and Manchester.

David Lange

Lange's New Zealand Labour government of the 1980s was a forerunner of Britain's new Labour.
Lange's finance minister Roger Douglas carried out a programme of privatisation and deregulation which was lauded by free-market economists and big business but alienated the party's traditional supporters and led to a sharp rise in unemployment and inequality.

Jose Manuel Barroso

A former leader of an underground Maoist grouping, the leader of Portugal's Social Democratic Party and prime minister from 2002-4, Barroso hosted the infamous meeting at which he, George Bush, Blair and Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar made the final plans for the illegal invasion of Iraq.
In office, Barroso pursued neoliberal policies, which he has continued as head of the European Commission.

Aleksander Kwasniewski

The former Communist minister morphed into a hawkish pro-NATO Polish president, supporting the US-led bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the invasion of Iraq four years later. A strong globalist, he is a board member of the Atlantic Council of the United States.

Gyula Horn

In 1994, after four years of economic hardship, the Hungarian Socialist Party won a convincing election victory on a programme of retaining the best features of the popular "goulash communist" system of the Janos Kadar years.
Western elites were horrified, but when faced with the choice of defending the interests of ordinary Hungarians who had voted for him or siding with the international money men, Horn chose the latter.
He sacked genuinely socialist ministers and appointed wealthy banker Lajos Bokros to introduce a swingeing programme of cuts in public spending and welfare provision.

Philip Snowden

The "Iron Chancellor" in Ramsay Macdonald's 1929 Labour government, Snowden blocked plans for a socialist reflation of the economy and joined Macdonald in defecting to a Tory-dominated national government formed in August 1931.
In the election campaign later that year he turned on his former comrades, calling Labour's pro-working-class policies "Bolshevism run mad."
He ended up as "the first viscount Snowden" - not bad for a weaver's son from West Yorkshire.

Viktor Klima

Austrian Socialist Party politician who, under the pretext of "modernisation" moved his party away from the unequivocally socialist positions it took under the leadership of the popular Bruno Kreisky to adopt a more pro-capitalist stance.
During his period as Austrian chancellor from 1997-2000, Klima privatised publicly owned assets and cut back on welfare provision. His policies undoubtedly aided the rise of far-right politicians such as the late Joerg Haider.

Ivica Dacic

Leader of the Serbian Socialist Party who last year took his party into a coalition with the Democratic Party of Serbia, whose former leader Zoran Djindic had been responsible for founder of the Serbian Socialist Party Slobodan Milosevic being kidnapped and sent to The Hague.
Dacic's decision to enter a neoliberal, pro-privatisation coalition with his party's most bitter enemies was condemned by the party's traditional supporters who saw it as a betrayal of everything it had claimed to stand for.


Elmo Lindström said...

I would add Göran Persson, former "Social Democrat" prime minister of Sweden, who introduced "liberal" immigration polices. Immigration is only good for Swedish businesses, not ordinary Swedish people. We have proper laws in Sweden but Persson refused to enforce them. My brother told me of a case where a person was working in a restaurant earning 110kr and hour and then when they started hiring Iraqi immigrants his pay got reduced to 70kr an hour. So he had to quit and find a new job. Were getting screwed over, lets face it. Somebodys working on a job making good money. Iraqis come on the job and boom thier pay drops.

As for immigrants helping too keep things low is a bull-faced lie because they do not lower the price of food in restaurants or reduce the cost of hotel rooms. Why did Persson and his rich cronies want mass immigration? Because they want a cheap, slave like workforce where decent wages will be a thing of the past. Sweden was the ONLY country in the EU to welcome migrants from all of the new accession countries. In addition to this they now want companies to be able to hire anybody from any country. Also there is no minimum wage. This cheap labour migration is a plan to make the corporations rich while working folks are denied any hope of having any sort of a decent standard of living. This will create a third world country of corporate princes and the impoverished.

vladimir gagic said...

You should add Bill Clinton. Even though he grew up poor in Arkansas, he gave up on health care reform, governed from the right, and was as much a mad bomber as any neocon.

Eastern Europe Watch said...

'All over the world, some of the most reactionary anti-working-class policies have been carried out by governments which go under a "socialist" or "social democratic" label'

That's evident as much under Soviet Communism or 'really existing socialism' in the former Eastern bloc before 1989 as it was after.

Many hoped during the later days of the Cold War that there might be 'convergence' between the democratic politics of the West and the state's dominance in protecting the economic interests of the masses.

A convergence since 1989-1991 has happened but between the free market and a more centralised and powerful state.

That's why so many Communist politicians turned to global neoliberal capitalism and maintain Soviet style politics of deception and lies.

As with Communism, the neoliberal policies of Horn,Bokros and Gyurscany in Hungary or of Balcerowicz and Kwasniewski in Poland were exercises in Utopian social engineering.

The idea was to get 'shock therapy' to destroy the old society of stable communities and dinosaur industries, get rid of 'barriers' to the flow of labour and capital and preside over an atomised society that would rate consumerism higher than citizenship or in challenging the power of those who know best.

'Post communist' politics became a parody of what was called 'anti-politics' by dissident thinkers and mercilessly undercut the foundations of what was termed 'civil society'.

The testing ground for what Balcerowicz called 'extraordinary politics' had been in Fascist Chile where the idea was first mooted that political repression was actually of less importance than radical economic change that would get enough to acquiesce in a regime that fulfilled their consumer needs.

What post-Communists did not want was the very masses who had made movements like Solidarity possible as the grassroots level to get it into their heads that just because they had got rid of Communism that they would have any real say in how their nation was to be governed or what economic system they preferred.

Hence Balcerowicz's remark “When your country is liberated from an oppressive regime, there is a lot of euphoria… the lesson is to use it to the maximum....How do you use it? By moving very fast.”

In other words, people will tolerate hardship in the aftermath of a liberation whereas they would not in the absence of the feeling that real change was possible, as had happened under Gierek's foreign debt fuelled economic drive in the 70s.

Poland did recover in the 1990s and its economic revival was inevitable anyway in a nation artificially stultified by half a century of being a Soviet colony.

Yet Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz maintains that relative success happened only because shock therapy or extreme neoliberal monetarist policies were abandoned in 1992.

The cynicism of Balcerowicz's manouevre was felt throughout Polish society and as with Thatcher has successfully destroyed both the social democratic and conservative traditions in Polish politics.

In fact there is in economic policy not a hell of a lot lot of difference between the PO and PiS and the SLD who differ mostly in 'identity politics';that is on Poland's role in Europe, homosexuality, the role of the Church etc.

There is very little real reform going on. Pensions are a pittance, unemployment was astoundingly high until the mass migration to the West after EU,universities churn out graduates with meaningless degrees and Polish society is riven by anger.

Graeme said...

Neil, in defence of Barroso I would point out that he is unashamedly right wing and makes no pretence to be anythimng else. The label of "Social Democratic" in the name of his party is a bit misleading as the party is the main right wing opposition to the already not very left wing socialist party in Portugal. Barroso is the candidate of the conservative parties in Europe to head the European Commission - and sadly one or two of the non-conservative governments are also supporting him.

Louis said...

Bernard Kouchner belongs in here as well as Marti Ahtisaari, Milo Djukanovic, Joschka Fischer and of cause Javier Solana who once was a active anti-Nato campainer who later became its leader!

Eastern Europe Watch said...

Sorry for the mistakes...

This should have read....

"...radical economic change that would get enough PEOPLE to acquiesce in a regime that fulfilled their consumer needs".

One more point.

Many 'left wing rogues' in the West are 68ers who have hitched their internationalist credentials to corporate globalisation and advocated imposing 'Human Rights' through expanding NATO into a huge transnational power bloc akin to Orwell's Oceania.

Like the Utopians who dreamed like Fourier in the nineteenth century of 'oceans made of lemonade'they see that consumerism can mollify the masses, get them to overcome history and fulfil their deepest craving to be an autonomous sexually satified goods consuming human.

As weel as making plenty of money for those in advertising and PR who know the life urges of the masses and can manipulate and direct them towards the illusion of 'individuation'.

This vision has been mercilessly satirised by the French novelist Michel Houellebecq who sees that the constant attempt to maximise the right to pleasure through transgressive sex has crossed over into voyeurism, cruelty and sado-masochistic excess, anything to keep boredom at bay and get people spending surplus cash.

Neoliberal economics and leftist globalism require that any barrier between the individual and the market must be mercilessly eliminated, including national boundaries because the entire globe is crying out for the Utopia that clearly makes people in the West so 'happy'.

Underlying this attitude is one of contempt: if people do not have the promise of a frantic non-stop regime of packaged pleasures and divertions they'll get nasty and turn on one another as in Yugoslavia and before WW2.

Its paradoxically a form of repression; instead of developing a wiser and saner society, the idea of Mandelson, Blair et al is to get people enmeshed in an infernal cycle of working and playing hard, earning more and more cash to spend on products and experiences that eradicate the questioning mind.

People in Poland tell me they are able to see the similarities between the old Communist propaganda and the new kind produced by corporate advertising, some of whom work for corporations like Shell.

One conservatives like Huxley and socialists like Fromm were able to see the way both communism and capitalism in its rigid instrumentalist and crude utilitarian dogmas were eroding man's independence and capacity for free thinking.

The notion in recent years across Europe is that by ending the development of your culture and giving it over wholly to the pusuit of money power and consumerism that difficult questions about the meaning and direction of our civilisation can be avoided.

Which accounts for the banality and emptiness of politics and the sterility of 'post modern' life in the West.

Robin Carmody said...

Karl N - hello. I always enjoy your comments here.

You talk of the "convergence" hoped for in the later years of the Cold War. I get the impression that things may have at least seemed to be heading tentatively towards this in the 1970s, before Reagan and Thatcher turned up the heat again: do you think it's possible that such a reconciliation, with the West becoming more socialist and Eastern Europe more liberal, might have happened in the 1980s/90s had history gone differently, specifically with Callaghan winning a 1978 election and Carter winning a second term? Neil certainly speculated that in his 'How Jim Callaghan Changed the World' piece.

Neil Clark said...

thanks for all the comments.

elmo- the socialist, non-racist case against large-scale immigration is a strong one. the question that must always be asked is 'Who benefits?'- and the main beneficiaries of large scale immigration have undoubtedly been the multinationals and international capital, as you say.

Vladimir and Louis- agreed.
Karl- I can only second what Robin says- it's great to have you back commenting after your summer break.
I always look forward to hearing your views.

Robin- yes, it was extremely sad that the 'convergence' between east and west didn't happen. The hope for progressives was that the Cold war would end not with the 'victory' of one side over another but with the two systems coverging- to form the best of all possible words- 'part Kreisky's Austria, part Kadar's Hungary', as I once wrote.

But international capital - and their political emissaries- didn't want that convergence to happen- they wanted all vestiges of socialism to be destroyed so they could make more profit.

Robin Carmody said...

Indeed. I'd be interested to see what Karl thinks of that.

Elmo Lindström said...

Thanks for your reply. May I also add that the current Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt before the 2006 election said his Moderate Party was the "New Workers Party". People voted for him in the hope that he would be stricter about immigration. Not only has Reinfeldt not changed any of Persson's immigration policies, but he has in fact introduced even more open immigration policies.

December last year Reinfeldt's government further "liberalised" immigration policy by making it easier for companies to hire people from outside the EU. Immigration and greed are destroying Sweden's workforce. This is just another scheme by greedy corporations who want cheap workers and don't care about the affect it has for the jobs and wages of ordinary Swedish people.

You're right. Sweden (and probably the UK) need new left wing parties that will champion an end to mass immigration, so that workers will be protected. The current left-wing parties are ignoring people's concerns about immigration. No wonder the "far-right" Sweden Democrats are increasing their share of the vote.

jack said...

All main stream political movements are a fraud starting with Communism which was devised as a means to over through the Czar as a geo-political rival as it is a pretty well known fact now it was financed by the largest banking firms/families in the world Schiff of New York, Warburg of Germany, Rothschild of London and Ashburg of Sweden. That Trotsky and his Marxist goons where exiled and given political sanctuary in New York and Europe and financed by western intelligence.
Most of the first senior post Bolshevik government where exiles from New York and Schiff who owned The Guaranty National Trust, the largest bank in the United States, financed Lenin and Trotsky $35 million for the Red Revolution to direct and set up the red army and direct the civil war.

It is the same with this war on terror hoax where the senior Islamic militants are in the pay of western intelligence agencies, conveniently fight in theatres of war near areas of natural resources oil and gas that are geo-political rivals to the US and the terrorists groups all happen to be Central Asian, Chechen, KLA/Bosnian, Uighar Chinese and Kashmiri who work through NGO fronts based in Europe and the US.

They are also on the payroll of the CIA through NED who sponsor there world congresses, lobby groups, internet media, give them grants, arrange speaking engagements, etc.

Also the US and NED support Crimean Tartars so maybe this will be the next Yugoslavian style flashpoint?

DBC Reed said...

You exclude Sunny Jim Callaghan again.But it was he who at Peter Jay's prompting declared "You can't spend your way out of a recession" and who challenged the low paid public sector unions with a 5% pay increase limit when the private sector like Ford's and the oil companies had paid double digit increases to their workers.He may not have said "Crisis ?What Crisis" on returning to UK ,but he did suggest that the beginnings of the Winter of Discontent were all got up by the Press.Don't forget that the public-sector workers who were blamed for the ensuing strikes had a good case,facing decreasing real wages.
He also ended the convention that politicians did n't meddle in education.

DBC Reed said...

Geezer in the Telegraph is quoting
Callaghan's " You can't spend your way out of a recession" only today (Monday).What a legacy!