Category Archives: Populism

Populism isn’t a dirty word it’s time for the left to reclaim it * Populism Now! – David McKnight.

When the political class adopted Neoliberalism, it effectively transferred significant amounts of political power, the democratic power of governments, to private corporations.

We need to take it back! (Hans)

David McKnight makes the case for a people power that doesn’t scapegoat immigrants or minorities.

INTRODUCTION

Here’s a quick quiz. What do the following political figures have in common: Pauline Hanson, Bill Shorten, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders?

Answer: all have been accused of populism. Whether they’ve bashed banks, billionaires or boat people, they’ve been damned as populists. Yet these political figures come from wildly different parts of the Left and Right. Can they all be populists?

Mostly, when I hear people damning someone as a populist, they are talking about a right-wing version. But it’s not that simple. In this book, I argue that a progressive version of populism exists too.

A progressive populism takes up the genuine economic grievances of everyday Australians without scapegoating migrants or minorities in the way Donald Trump and the proBrexit forces have done. In fact, a progressive form of populism is the best way of defeating the racist backlash of right-wing populism because it addresses the social and economic problems which partly drive the rise of right-wing populism. As well, it asserts our common humanity, whatever diversity we also express.

I first discovered populism when I began teaching investigative journalism in the late 1990s at university. I had some understanding of the subject already, having worked on the ABC’s investigative TV program Four Corners. Like other journalists, I knew about the role of investigative journalism in the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. However, to teach it as an academic course I needed to know about its historical origins. I found that investigative journalism (originally called muckraking) began in the United States around 1900 during what Americans call ‘the Progressive Era’. It was called this because it was a period of radical ideas and activism about social reform. One expression of this was the emergence of a new political party, the People’s Party, in 1890-91. It stood for the interests of ordinary people farmers and workers against the ‘robber barons’ in the privately owned banking, oil and railway industries. Friends and enemies alike described the approach of the People’s Party as Populism and its supporters as Populists.

The muckraking journalists were crusaders on issues which they shared with the Populists. For example, in his book The Jungle, writer Upton Sinclair exposed the dangerous and filthy conditions endured by the Chicago meatworkers. Years later his book was recognised as one of the forces behind the introduction of food safety laws. One of the first female muckrakers, Ida Tarbell, exposed the ruthless practices of Standard Oil in crushing rival companies in a series of articles published in McClure’s Magazine, and eventually a book, The History of the Standard Oil Company. Today, Standard Oil is better known as Exxon and remains a ruthless corporation. Lincoln Steffens’ book The Shame of the Cities exposed the corruption of political machines linked to gambling, prostitution and bribery. Other muckrakers attacked the role of big money in government and the power of Wall Street. Their journalism, I realised, was a key contribution to the progressive causes shared with the Populists.

The key idea of the Populists was that the interests of ordinary people were in conflict with those of the elite. Some of the Populists had conspiratorial ideas about money and power but their movement was a powerful challenge to aggressive, unregulated big business. Having been on the Left of politics since my teens, I found this history of a forgotten reform movement fascinating. its goals of economic and social justice for ordinary people are still relevant today.

Years later I rediscovered American populism when I read a book by journalist Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? Published in the wake of the election of George W Bush, his book pointed out that Kansas, now a conservative Republican state, was once a centre of radical activity. One Kansas town produced a socialist newspaper, Appeal to Reason, which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. In the 1890s its farmers, driven to the brink of ruin by years of bad prices and debt, held huge meetings where Kansas radicals like Mary Elizabeth Lease urged the farmers to ‘raise less corn and more hell’. From this situation, the People’s Party emerged as the enemy of the ‘money power’ and as an alternative to both Democrats and Republicans. It advocated publicly owned railways and banks along with a progressive income tax on the rich. For this, Frank tells us, they were reviled ‘for their bumpkin assault on free market orthodoxy’.

In 2015 and 2016 I found myself hearing commentators talk about the rise of modern forms of populism during the looming US presidential election. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were referred to as populists. Sanders had opened his campaign with the statement: ‘This country and our government belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires’. It was a modern echo of the progressive side of the American populist tradition. Although he didn’t win the Democrats’ presidential nomination, Sanders shifted the political agenda and challenged the untrammelled power of the wealthy in the name of ordinary people.

Trump, a right-wing populist, represented the worst aspects of popular prejudice. Yet he won. Like many others, I was stunned as I read the first online news reports announcing this. How could it have happened? One of the most illuminating insights came from Thomas Frank, who argued that Trump’s populist campaign on economic issues was far more important than most people realised at the time and had been the key to him winning crucial states. The abandoned factories and crumbling buildings in cities devastated by free trade deals had created a ‘heartland rage’ that swamped the Democrats.

All of this was ‘the utterly predictable fruit of the Democrats’ neoliberal turn’, he said. ‘Every time our liberal leaders signed off on some lousy trade deal, figuring that working-class people had “nowhere else to go”, they were making what happened last November, Trump’s win, a little more likely.’

Such sentiments inspired this book. And all of this is relevant to Australia because both our Labor and Liberal politicians have, in recent decades, largely accepted the principles of deregulation, privatisation and small government, together known as neoliberalism. In part, this book is an investigation into the failures of these principles in Australia.

The final reason for writing this book is more personal. I grew up in a single-income, bluecollar family with my mother suffering from a severe mental illness. Yet we survived and thrived thanks in part to a strong public sector, especially in health and education. This public sector was grounded in the major parties’ consensus that it was both morally obligatory and economically sound that important public services should be equally available to all and provided collectively. Now this consensus is being broken apart and discarded. This is not some misty-eyed memory about a non-existent golden age, an error often made by right-wing populists when they equate the White Australia Policy years with better conditions overall. Australia is a better and more open society today, not least because it is more culturally diverse. But in terms of simple practical things such as expecting a secure wellpaid job, social services and a home to live in, we are going backwards.

When I started researching this book in the wake of the shock Trump victory and the vote for Brexit I was already a critic of neoliberalism. But as I probed more deeply I grew angrier and angrier. My research revealed that the orthodoxies of deregulation and privatisation, regarded as supreme common sense by the political and economic elite, are radically transforming Australia. The gulf between billionaires and the poor is widening as old egalitarian Australia crumbles; deregulated banks have become parasitic to the rest of the economy; corporate tax avoidance is out of control; and our pay and conditions are being eroded. As it had with me, this has angered many ordinary Australians. Some falsely blame migrants and refugees while others rightly blame a corporate and political elite. To change things, we need to rebuild a new progressive agenda which unites ordinary Australians against these elitedriven policies.

Of prime importance in such a renewed progressive agenda is genuine action on the biggest danger of all, irreversible climate change, which will hit ordinary Australians first. A progressive populist approach aims to unite Australians in the broadest possible new movement one that will provide the necessary people power to avert the worst kinds of changes in the future. Nothing less than the survival of humanity is at stake.

CHAPTER 1

THE POLITICS OF POPULISM

We forced discussions on issues the establishment had swept under the rug for too long. We brought attention to the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in this country and the importance of breaking up the large banks, we are stronger when we stand together and do not allow demagogues to divide us by race, gender, sexual orientation or where we were born.

US presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders

*

The establishment complains I don’t play by the rules. By which they mean their rules. We can’t win, they say, because we don’t play their game. We don’t fit in their cosy club. We don’t accept that it is natural for Britain to be governed by a ruling elite, the City and the tax-dodgers, and we don’t accept that the British people just have to take what they’re given.

British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn

*

With Donald Trump’s successful campaign to win the US presidency and Britain’s decision to ‘Brexit’ from Europe, we suddenly began to hear a lot of the word ‘populism’ in the political discourse. At first it was used to describe the attack Donald Trump made on illegal Mexican immigration when he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in mid 2015. With his trademark bombast, he declaimed, ‘When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best They’re sending people who have lots of problems They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists’. He then added, ‘and some, I assume, are good people’. His call to build a wall on the US-Mexico border (‘which Mexico will pay for’) became a recurrent theme of his campaign and later, his presidency.

Nor was his abuse limited to Mexicans. After a Muslim US citizen committed a terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California, Trump called for a ban preventing Muslims from entering the United States, at one point including those who were American citizens currently abroad. Trump’s campaign received what seemed to be a certain death blow in October 2016, when the Washington Post revealed an audio tape of his boast that, because he was ‘a star’, he could grab women ‘by the pussy’ and get away with it.

By the normal rules of elections in the United States and elsewhere, his popular support should have shrunk. Trump’s coded appeals to racism, crude misogyny and calculated abuse should have fatally wounded his bid for the White House. But his popular support grew and Trump eventually attained the most powerful position in the world. In office, he has confirmed the worst expectations, responding to North Korea’s threat to the United States with a warning that North Korea ‘will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen before’, a thinly disguised threat to unleash a nuclear war.

How did we get into this situation? Trump’s election victory owed a lot to two factors. One was his economic populism, which criticised free trade and globalisation. This received a warm response from many working Americans. He threatened to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement. He promised to impose high tariffs on runaway US companies which moved production overseas. He threatened restrictions on imported Chinese goods. Globalisation, he said, helped ‘the financial elite’ while leaving ‘millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache’. All the while he targeted the states hardest hit by economic globalisation. Much of this was downplayed or never reported by both social media and the traditional news media, which preferred to concentrate on his more colourful outbursts and tweets.

The second key to his victory was his skilful use of social media, which he credited with being a way to counteract what he called the ‘fake news’ propagated by mainstream news media. On Facebook and Twitter his popularity eclipsed that of Hillary Clinton and it was there that he circulated his own ‘alternative facts’. The algorithms of social media, which suggest news based on past activity, transformed this popularity into self-reinforcing echo chambers of Trump supporters. And all of this was fed by the crisis in traditional journalism, whose capacity to report news had been eroded by the power of that selfsame social media.

The election of Donald Trump has taken us all into a new and dangerous place. If it had been an isolated incident it would not matter so much. But it was far from that. A few months before Trump’s election, Britain went to the polls to decide whether or not to leave the European Union (EU). The vote was voluntary but the turnout was high. More than 30 million people voted, with a majority in favour of Britain’s exit, styled Brexit. Another victory for populism, said the commentators.

The British vote to leave the EU spanned traditional Right and Left and drew support from unexpected places. While the ‘Leave’ vote was highest in traditionally Conservative areas, it was also high in some working-class Labour strongholds. For some, voting to leave the EU was a protest against the economic effects of the globalised economy, with its problems of unemployment and low wages. For others, their main concern was the immigration which had ensued from open borders. ‘We want our country back!’ was a common cry. Donald Trump, then campaigning for president, hailed the Brexit vote as a ‘great victory’ and drew parallels to his own opposition to ‘rule by the global elite’. A new populist Right was on the move globally.

Soon populism seemed to be everywhere. In Europe the established parties saw their dominance challenged by right-wing populism. In France in 2017 the antiimmigrant and anti-Muslim National Front achieved 34 per cent of the presidential vote, its highest yet. That same year the far right Alternative for Germany won an unprecedented 13 per cent of the vote and 90 seats in the Bundestag. In the Netherlands Geert Wilders’ xenophobic Party for Freedom advanced in the 2017 general elections.

In Australia too Trump-style political disaffection is taking hold. A reputable study by academics at the Australian National University (ANU) shows that key indicators, including satisfaction with democracy, trust in government and loyalty to major parties are at record lows among Australians. The study was conducted following the July 2016 election and found that only 26 per cent of Australians think the government can be trusted (the lowest level since it was first measured in 1969). Forty per cent of Australians were not satisfied with democracy (the lowest level since the period after Gough Whitlam was dismissed in 1975); and there was a record low level of interest (30 per cent) in the 2016 election.

The study’s lead researcher, Professor Ian McAllister, said that we are seeing ‘the stirrings among the public of what has happened in the United States of the likes of Trump, Brexit in Britain, in Italy and a variety of other European countries, it’s coming here and I would have thought this a wake-up call for the political class’. Australian conservatives, hoping to take advantage of this disillusion, welcomed Trump’s victory, with Tony Abbott tweeting: ‘Congrats to the new president who appreciates that Middle America is sick of being taken for granted’. Mining magnate Gina Rinehart urged Australia to follow Trump’s lead and Andrew Bolt told his audience: ‘The revolution is on!’ Very much part of this phenomenon, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party achieved an unprecedented four seats in the Senate in the 2016 election.

But what is populism?

To many, ‘populism’ is a shorthand term for pandering to people’s baser instincts, exemplified in Trump’s campaign and his presidency. It inflames a desire to blame ethnic and religious minorities; it is a lust for cheap popularity and it is a phony hostility to the Establishment and to ‘the elite’, such is the common understanding. Populist leaders are seen to be posing as outsiders and as representatives of the underdog. Above all, populism is regarded as a right-wing phenomenon.

But it’s not that simple. This book argues that a progressive version of populism exists too. A progressive populism fights for the genuine economic grievances of everyday people without blaming minorities or migrants. In fact, a progressive populism is a very good way to neutralise this sort of scapegoating because it addresses the social and economic problems which partly drive the rise of right-wing populism.

Populism is a notoriously loose description of a political stance. In many ways it is a style of doing politics rather than a series of particular policies. Some people think populism means trying to be popular, but this is misleading. The words populist and populism come from the Latin word for ‘the people’ (populus) what today we’d call the public. The meaning survives in the expression vox populi, the voice of the people. Generally speaking, populism is a style of politics which frames politics as a conflict between the people and an elite. But the identity of the people and the nature of the elite can vary widely. On this basis populism can be either a right-wing or a left-wing phenomenon. In some countries today, the traditional battle between right and left is being channelled through a populist filter.

Academic Margaret Canovan conducted one of the early studies of populism. She argues that there are two broad strands to populist movements. The first is rural, based on organisations of peasants or farmers, a kind which typically emerges when these people are confronting modernisation. The second is characterised by highlighted tensions between the elite and the grassroots. This can take the form of ‘idealisations of the man in the street or of politicians’ attempts to hold together shaky coalitions in the name of “the people”’. Canovan concludes that populism can take right-wing or left-wing forms but that ‘all forms of populism without exception involve some kind of exaltation of and appeal to “the people” and all are in one sense or another anti-elitist’.

The American writer John Judis, author of the recent book The Populist Explosion, also argues that populism is ‘not an ideology but a way of thinking about politics’. He too supports the view that populism can exist in both left and right forms. Left-wing populists champion the people against an elite or establishment (as in Occupy Wall Street’s slogan about the One Per Cent versus the 99 per cent). Right-wing populists are against an elite ‘that they accuse of coddling a third group, which can consist, for instance, of immigrants, lslamists or African American militants’.

Judis notes that the original US People’s Party was formed in the 1890s when Kansas farmers united with an early workers’ organisation and challenged the existing establishment of Republicans and Democrats. The People’s Party developed policies against monopolistic railroads and greedy banks and in favour of progressive income tax and expanding public controls. As one populist writer said, they aimed to get rid of ‘the plutocrats, the aristocrats, and all the other rats’. To the Australian Labor Party, emerging in the same tumultuous decade of the 1890s, the US People’s Party was something of a model and there were early proposals to call the new Australian party the People’s Party, rather than the Labour Party.

This progressive strand within American populism re-emerged in 2015-16 when Bernie Sanders competed with Hillary Clinton to become the Democrats’ presidential candidate. At the start of that campaign he was seen as little more than an eccentric, rumpled, 70-plus year old running an unusual campaign. One newspaper described him as a ‘grumpy grandfather type’ who ‘embraces his reputation for being gruff, abrupt and honest and promises to be bold’. As time went on, observers began to note the cheering, youthful crowds that he drew, his calls for a ‘political revolution’ and his strong social media campaign on Facebook.

Although he did not win the Democratic nomination, Sanders surprised everyone by doing well enough in the battle for the presidential nomination to win 23 primary and caucus races to Clinton’s 34. With no big corporate donors, he raised millions of dollars in small donations from a growing support base, especially from the young. Most surprising of all were his campaign’s public statements and appeals. Sanders attacked ‘the One Per Cent’ of super-rich people who had benefitted enormously from the globalised economy while others struggled to survive. In one speech at Liberty University, he said: ‘In my view there is no economic justice when the 15 wealthiest people in this country in the last two years saw their wealth increase by $170 billion’. It was a fact he repeated all through his energetic campaign.

Another Sanders target was the deregulated banking system that had caused the global financial crisis. Sanders charged: ‘Wall Street used their wealth and power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation and then, when Wall Street collapsed, they used their wealth and power to get bailed out’.‘ The contrast he pointed out in several speeches was with the 41 per cent of American workers who didn’t take a single day of paid vacation in 2015 and with the third of workers in the private sector who cannot even claim paid sick leave.

Like Trump, Bernie Sanders was also widely regarded as a populist, reviving a long American tradition in which the central conflict is seen to be between the people and the elite.

Sanders happily described himself as a democratic socialist and pointed to the socialdemocratic states of Scandinavia as models. In his platform, Sanders said he supported: a national public healthcare system; an end to corporate welfare; abolishing fees for college degrees; a full employment policy; raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; and preventing ‘greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry’. The money to achieve these aims was to be raised by compelling wealthy individuals and corporations to pay their fair share of tax.

All of these policies, advocating a stronger role for government, effectively rejected the decades-long dominance of the ideology known as neoliberalism the ideology of small government, of globalising in the form of deregulated markets and of faith in market forces to guide and manage the economy.

Progressive populism in the Sanders mould attributes today’s social and economic problems not to migrants or minorities nor to the ‘politically correct’ mainstream media, but to the failure of neoliberal policies. And because progressive populism addresses the forces driving the rise of right-wing populism, it is the most effective antidote.

The political theorist Chantal Mouffe is not surprised by the rise of right-wing populism:

In a context where the dominant discourse proclaims that there is no alternative to the current neoliberal form of globalisation and that we have to submit to its diktats, it is small wonder that more and more workers are keen to listen to those who claim that alternatives do exist, and that they will give back to the people the power to decide.

And this is just what Trump promised. Unlike the campaign of Hillary Clinton, issues of economic injustice featured heavily in his winning campaign. Just a few days before the November election, Trump told a huge crowd in an aircraft hangar in Pittsburgh: ‘When we win, we are bringing steel back, we are going to bring steel back to Pennsylvania, like it used to be. We are putting our steel workers and miners back to work’. Trump touched a raw nerve. No steel mills now exist in Pittsburgh and hundreds of thousands of steelworkers had lost their jobs since the 1980s, in part due to freer global trade. Whether Trump was sincere in (or even capable of delivering) his promise to bring steel jobs back to Pittsburgh is not the point. Identifying economic grievances and blaming them on free trade and globalisation is almost unprecedented by a Republican candidate. More importantly, it was a challenge which Hillary Clinton, as a long time supporter of neoliberal free trade, could not rebut. As it turned out, Trump did win in Pennsylvania. It was one of the three ‘rust belt’ states that made the difference to victory or defeat in the presidential election.

Both Trump and Sanders were outsiders in US politics. Both denounced the domination of big business and the banks and blamed them for much of US economic woes. Both based their campaign on appeals to ordinary Americans and both were described as populists. Unlike Trump, Sanders was a progressive populist. When he talked about the elite and the establishment, he meant the economic elite and the corporate establishment. Unlike Trump, Sanders did not scapegoat immigrants or ethnic minorities.

The groundswell grows

The groundswell of populism soon saw Sanders joined by the leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. When he began his election campaign in April 2017, Corbyn faced deep opposition from many of his fellow Labour members of parliament. Like most media commentators, they also believed that because of his leftwing history and left-wing policies he could not possibly win. And certainly he was in trouble at the beginning of the campaign, when polls were placing Labour up to 24 points behind the Conservatives.

From the start of the 2017 election campaign Corbyn framed the contest in the language of progressive populism. He described the election as a battle of ‘the establishment versus the people’ and promised to overturn ‘a rigged system’ that favoured the rich and powerful. Under him, Labour would not be part of the ‘cosy club’ whose members think it is natural for Britain to be ‘governed by a ruling elite, the City and the tax dodgers’, he said. His opponents believed such deeply controversial rhetoric was guaranteed to result in a huge loss.

But his message was straightforward and cut through the spin and PR fog of traditional political rhetoric. And these policies proved popular among the British people. Early opinion polling showed that up to 71 per cent of people supported his proposal to raise the minimum wage to ten pounds an hour. A similar proportion of the British public (62 per cent) supported his plan to raise taxes on the rich and high income earners.

Corbyn’s manifesto broke other unspoken rules of the economic consensus of neoliberalism. He argued that the railways and water supply should return to public ownership. He promised to extend free school meals by a tax on private school fees. He also urged increased funding for social housing, and his pledge to abolish university fees helped build a powerful momentum among young people, who registered to vote at unprecedented levels and voted Labour on election day.

The Conservatives had called the election, confident they would increase their majority in parliament, and Corbyn’s campaign of progressive populism destroyed their majority and almost beat them.

There were close parallels between the movements around Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. Officials from Sanders’ campaign helped Corbyn with ideas on strategy and fundraising. Sanders himself visited Britain just days before the election campaign and drew comparisons between his own policies and Corbyn’s:

Too many people run away from the grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality that exist in the United States, the UK and all over the world Globalisation has left far too many people behind. Workers all over the world are seeing a decline in their standard of living. Unfettered free trade has allowed multinational companies to enjoy huge profits and make the very rich even richer while workers are sucked into a race for the bottom.

The spread of progressive populist ideas has not been confined to the United States and Britain. In Spain the progressive populist party Podemos emerged in 2014 and grew so rapidly that it secured 20 per cent in the 2015 elections, campaigning on an anti-austerity platform, supporting increased public spending and strong anti-corruption measures. In the 2016 election it retained its electoral support. In Greece, another new progressive party, Syriza, formed out of a coalition of left-wing and environment groups and received 35 per cent of the vote in the 2015 elections, later forming government. While the majority trend within European populism is rightwing, the significance of a new left populism should not be underestimated.

Neoliberal globalisation

Driving the emergence of right and left-wing populism is the set of policies known as neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism became the mindset of the political class in the 1980s and was a very deliberate project to wind back the welfare state, reducing the public sphere with its public goods of health, education, transport and culture, along with the tax system which paid for it.

The neoliberal project is based on the idea that the market is the most efficient distributor of goods because it combines the profit motive and competition. It takes no account of justice, inequality or social cohesion. Ultimately this promotes the transformation of all human relationships (not just economic ones) into commercial transactions.

It was neoliberalism with its floating currencies and deregulated markets which drove the present form of globalisation. But neoliberal globalisation means much more than a loosening of trade. It means the unplanned transfer of blue and white-collar jobs from erstwhile industrial countries to less developed nations. It also means national governments are less able to control what happens in their own society and economy.

When the political class adopted neoliberalism, it effectively transferred significant amounts of political power, the democratic power of governments, to private corporations. While benefitting a corporate elite, the neoliberal experiment demonstrably failed in the global financial crisis and the effects of that failure are still with us.

What had been a crisis of private debt was transformed by government bail-outs into an alleged crisis of public debt. This sleight of hand reinforced the neoliberal dogma that the problem was always governments. The ideology of ‘small government’ meant that governments imposed even more stringent cost-cutting measures.

The failure of neoliberalism in Australia

The populist groundswell in the United States, Britain and Europe and elsewhere is reflected by similar movements in Australia, prompted by similar causes. In the following chapters I examine the ways in which Neo-liberalism has failed to produce a good society, as well as its role in fostering a populist backlash.

First and most significantly, 30 years of neoliberal globalisation and deregulation have produced a polarisation of wealth which has undermined Australia’s egalitarian ethos. The gulf between the super-rich and the rest of us is widening. We are becoming a more divided society with a tiny wealthy elite at one extreme and a significant group of poor at the other.

Nor is it solely a matter of fuelling material inequality. As important as inequality (and more important in the long term) is climate change. The ideology of small government and deregulation is impeding our response to accelerating climate change despite the clear warning signs in record high temperatures and the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Whatever combination of market and state arrangements is best at fostering renewable energy, it will need tough government action to implement this and to defeat the power of the coal and oil industries. To support such action we need a broad populist coalition of all the diverse forces demanding real action on climate.

And just as it has in the United States and Britain, privatisation is spreading throughout Australian society, changing services that used to be provided to all citizens into profitmaking enterprises. The sale of public assets like seaports, airports and electricity poles and wires has simply created expensive monopolies. Billions have also been wasted in attempting to privatise technical and vocational education. Despite these failures, private companies are now being encouraged to move deeper into education, aged care and disability services.

Likewise, Australia has its own rust belt of closed factories and, for those in employment, jobs are increasingly casual, part time and less secure. The deregulation of Australian workplaces means that for younger workers, jobs with paid holidays and fair wages are becoming less common. And thanks to a variety of temporary overseas visa schemes a casualised, cashinhand underclass is spreading in the agriculture, retail and hospitality sectors. Such workers are exploited and their labour conditions undermine those of local workers. This is not occurring accidentally but because economic orthodoxy (backed by employers) demands this labour deregulation. The resulting job insecurity combined with low wages is one factor stoking a right-wing populist backlash based on xenophobia and hostility to overseas workers.

While low-paid workers are made increasingly vulnerable, at the other end of the scale big corporations do everything they can to avoid paying tax, a practice made easier in the globalised world of neoliberalism. In 2014, the Australian branch of the tech giant Apple paid $80 million in tax just 1 per cent of its total Australian income of $6 billion. Its rival, Microsoft, paid just 5 per cent of its income. Over several years big mining companies like BHP and Rio Tinto shifted billions through Singapore, where tax rates can be a mere 2.5 per cent. Nor is it just corporations. Some of Australia’s richest families and individuals pay little or no tax. When the Panama Papers were leaked, up to 800 wealthy Australians were associated with shell companies in tax havens like Panama. Meanwhile, ordinary Australians are left to pick up the tab for hospitals, roads and schools, effectively subsidising those who refuse to pay their share.

Finally, compounding the problem of wealth inequality, the banking and finance sector has swollen enormously since it was deregulated. In Australia we have some of the biggest and most profitable banks in the world. Together they form a rapacious oligopoly which extracts more than $30 billion in profits each year from the rest of Australia.

In their zeal to lend money, deregulated banks have fuelled a housing price boom, the result of which is that fewer Australians now own their own home than 40 years ago.

It’s now time to look again at regulating banks and the finance industry to ensure that they act in the public interest.

Overall, the spread of neoliberal orthodoxy through society has corroded many of the institutions and relationships on which citizens rely and which offer protection from the vagaries of the market. This orthodoxy has shrunk the democratic space by removing all sorts of functions from the public to the private sphere. The real meaning of ‘small government’ is that we have ended up with a small democracy, because governments are still the only institutions we have for exercising our democratic, collective voice. The zealous advocacy of theories of selfinterest, competition and small government has led to a dead end.

All of this spawns populisms of both the Right and Left. The crucial point of difference between them concerns the meaning of and response to globalisation. Are the problems of globalisation primarily issues of economics and economic justice or are they mainly an issue of immigrants and of changing the ethnic mix? Progressive populists are alarmed by the damage that open economic borders, which import cheap products and export jobs, do to local jobs and the national economy. Right-wing populism dredges the deepest and most dangerous emotions to reject the changing ethnic mix which results after years of relatively open immigration.

When right-wing populists define what they mean by the ‘elite’ they take aim at the progressive middle class, the so-called politically correct, who abhor racism and gender inequality. Progressive populists, by contrast, define the ‘elite’ in economic terms as the super-rich and corporate moguls. When talking about ‘the people’, progressives seek to unify the middle class and working class in an alliance for reform. Progressive populists emphasise the common ground which the majority of people share on issues of economic justice.

By focussing attention on genuine economic grievances, a progressive populist agenda can undercut the way ethnic and religious minorities are demonised.

Some see progressive populism as the natural continuation and revival of social-democratic and labour politics which have been compromised by their turn to ‘third way’ politics. One critic is political theorist Chantal Mouffe. She argues that the neoliberal consensus between conservative and once-radical workers’ parties has created a favourable ground for the rise of populism because many people feel their voices are unheard and ignored in the representative system. The problem is that this often takes the form of a right-wing populism which sees ‘the people’ defined to exclude immigrants and minorities.

On this basis many people criticise ‘populism’ negatively. She responds:

This is a mistake, because populism represents an important dimension of democracy. Democracy understood as ‘the power of the people’ requires the existence of a ‘demos’ a people. Instead of rejecting the term populist, we should reclaim it.

In this book my intention is to reclaim populism by fostering a progressive version of it which puts the interests of the common man and woman first, ahead of the priorities of a wealthy global elite whose interests and priorities have dominated for far too long.

CHAPTER 2

THE RISE AND RISE OF THE SUPER-RICH

There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war and we ’re winning.

Warren Buffett, billionaire investor

*

With their collective wealth estimated at $US7.7 trillion, the global elite of the super-rich are the natural opponents of progressive populism. Some of that global elite are household names in Australia. In July 2016 over 200 of them gathered for a huge celebration in the dazzling blue waters of the Mediterranean. Trucking billionaire Lindsay Fox was throwing an all expenses paid birthday party and had invited his closest friends to enjoy a cruise from Athens to Venice via Corfu. Fox’s ship of choice was Seabourn Odyssey, renting for over a million dollars a week and containing 225 luxury suites.

Lindsay Fox’s own wealth totals $2.9 billion. His fellow passengers included the mining billionaires Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest.

According to the Australian Financial Review’s 2017 Rich List they are worth (in Australian dollars) $10.4 billion and $6.8 billion respectively. Shopping centre king John Gandel ($6.1 billion) and retail giant Solomon Lew ($2.3 billion) also took part in the exclusive celebration on the high seas. Further down the guest list for the stylish cruise were former Liberal Treasurer Joe Hockey, former Liberal Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, media businessman Harold Mitchell and golfer Greg Norman.‘

This public airing of the details of a party for Australian billionaires is rare. It’s not always easy to get information on the super-rich. A key source is the Financial Review’s annual Rich List. The 2017 edition identified 60 Australian billionaires, headed by the paper manufacturing magnate Anthony Pratt ($12.6 billion). The most modest billionaire (scraping in at just $1 billion) is Melbourne-based Peter Gunn, who owns PGA Group, a private investment business that holds a property empire in office and industrial blocks and is also involved in cattle production. Others among the ten wealthiest are James Packer ($4.75 billion), whose money is in casinos; Harry Triguboff ($11.45 billion), who made a fortune from building tower blocks; and Frank Lowy ($8.26 billion), the Westfield shopping centre magnate. The eighth wealthiest Australian is Hui Wang Mau ($6 billion), who made much of his money in Hong Kong property and took out Australian citizenship after studying in South Australia in the early 1990s.


from

Populism Now!

by David McKnight

get it at Amazon.com

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Real Facts about Tariffs. Trump’s plan brings a gun to a knife fight, a gun aimed at his foot – Greg Jericho.

It wasn’t a total surprise that Australia was spared the steel and aluminium tariffs as Trump’s bluster of levelling tariffs for everyone is weakening.

This week saw leaders around the world trying to remember whether they were meant to take Donald Trump seriously, but not literally, or literally but not seriously, and also wondering if they have a Greg Norman somewhere they could use.

When US president Trump announced early in the week he was going to levy a 25% tariff on steel and a 15% tariff on aluminium imports, he suggested it was in order to protect national security. As with most Trump utterances, it left everyone trying to decipher just what he meant, because the US imports nearly half its steel from four nations Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico which are hardly enemies of the US.

Was he doing this to attack China? He did write a series of tweets that suggested trade with China is in his sights, but while China is the biggest producer of steel, it only exports a small percentage of it to the US.

Some of his other tweets suggested that Trump was instead targeting Europe, but again, hitting steel imports was an odd way to go about it, given Europe made it quickly obvious that it would retaliate with tariffs of its own and the European Union is one of the few economies with enough grunt not to get pushed around by the US.

Then came the suggestion that Trump was using this to negotiate with Canada and Mexico over Nafta but that was also odd because that shot down his national security reasoning and opened the US up to retaliation under the World Trade Organisation rules (which would be likely anyway, given his national security reasoning was clearly bogus).

And using the threat of increasing tariffs in free trade negotiations is a weird way to go about things.

The tariffs do hurt the countries that export steel and aluminium to the US, because they force them to charge more for their product, thereby giving American steel companies an advantage, but they also hurt the US.

Tariffs are effectively consumption taxes designed to give local industries an advantage (or at least an equal footing with international competitors), and they work by raising the price of imports. Now that is great for the owners and possibly workers of those industries, but not so good for anyone else who wants to buy those goods, because now they have to pay more.

A tariff on steel and aluminium imports might help create a few extra jobs in the steel industry, but it also increases the price of all things made with steel and aluminium. That leads to job losses in those industries and also reduces the living standards for everyone because suddenly they have to pay more for things like canned goods, beer, and cars.

One study suggested that for every job gained in the steel and aluminium industries, five would be lost elsewhere.

That does not mean all free trade is a win for everyone and international trade does not occur in a textbook, but rather in the real world where governments subsidise and assist industries. But the general rule is that the costs to the economy increase with the size of the tariff and the number of industries affected (and similarly the benefits of lowering them reduce as the tariff gets closer to zero). A 25% tariff on steel is thus a rather hefty whack.

Trump is in effect going to the negotiating table with a massive weapon, a bit like taking a gun to a knife fight. The only problem is he has the gun aimed at his own foot.

And so it wasn’t a total surprise to see Trump back down and exempt Canada and Mexico, and then later give one to Australia. As the trade minister, Steve Ciobo noted this week, our steel exports to the US amount to about 0.800 of the US market and our aluminium exports account for about 1.5% so exempting Australia makes little difference.

To that end, reports that we have engaged Greg Norman to do some lobbying on our behalf seem eminently sensible. Not because Norman is some master trade negotiator, but because when dealing with Trump, nations always need to realise he is an insecure, ego driven fool who needs praise for doing the most ordinary of activities, and who sees every discussion and issue through the prism of how it makes him look.

Norman is probably the only Australian Trump has heard of, and the fact that Norman is famous and successful and would be seeking a favour from Trump would appeal to Trump’s vanity.

We could bemoan the fact that America’s electoral college system has selected this vainglorious ignoramus, or we can suck it up and use it to our advantage.

For now it appears his bluster of levelling tariffs for everyone is weakening. Trump clearly believes this the best way to negotiate trade deals, like any good swindler he’ll ignore the costs and talk only of the benefits.

The danger for Australia has always been not from a direct US tariff but should retaliation come from Europe and China. The last thing a small open economy needs is for the large economies of the world to start playing like it is 1930.

For now everyone is trying to work out just what Trump is after, mostly he is after things that he can call a win (even if they are really not). So I; nations will be thinking of things they give Trum that don’t matter in order for him to claim victory in the negotiation.

Or they can see if Greg Norman is available for hire.

The Guardian

Why Men Rebel. An analysis of political violence – Ted Robert Gurr. 

Introduction to the Fortieth Anniversary Paperback Edition

Why Men Rebel was written in the late 1960s when observers in the Western world were deeply concerned about political violence in postcolonial states, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia, and mass protest movements, especially against racial discrimination in the United States and military intervention in Vietnam.

Looking backward, the question is how well its arguments help us understand later waves of violent conflict within societies. This introduction reviews and updates some of Why Men Rebel’s arguments and, in a concluding section, applies it to the wave of pro-democracy protests that swept through the Middle East from 2009 in Iran to 2011 in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and beyond.

Why Men Rebel was first published in 1970 by Princeton University Press and was awarded the American Political Science Association’s Woodrow Wilson Award as the best book of 1970 in political science and international relations. In the next few years it was translated into German, Spanish, and Thai. In the first decade of the twenty-first century it attracted a new Hurry of intellectual interest that led to the appearance of editions in Arabic and Russian. 

In my late twenties, when the Why Men Rebel arguments were first formulated in a New York University dissertation, I thought it was possible to provide a general explanation for political protest and rebellion that could help readers understand not only the violent conflicts of the 1960s but a great many others as well.

I was convinced then, and am convinced now, that to build a more peaceful and secure world, we need to begin by analyzing the minds of men—and women—who oppose bad governments and unpopular policies. But equally we need to know about the societies in which they live, their beliefs and cultural traditions, and the governments they oppose.

The essential argument of the Why Men Rebel model is that to understand protest and rebellion in general, and in specific instances, we should analyze three general factors.

First is popular discontent (relative deprivation), along with an analysis of its sources.

Second are people’s justifications or beliefs about the justifiability and utility of political action.

Third is the balance between discontented peoples capacity to act—that is, the ways in which they are organized—and the government’s capacity to repress or channel their anger.

In the present era, people almost everywhere worry about international terrorism, instability in Africa and the Islamic world, and the risks that political conflict will lead to genocidal massacres of dissidents. Does an analytic framework from 1970 also apply in the second decade of the twenty-first century?

The Why Men Rebel model has been tested by many researchers during the last forty years, including its author.

Comparative analyses have asked how political violence is affected by relative deprivation, group organization, regime repression, and international support, and whether it takes shape as political protest or rebellion. Detailed case studies have applied the model, and modified it, to explain particular events such as the Hungarian revolution of 1957 and the Tiananmen Square uprising in China in 1989.

In the 1990s, Stephen G. Brush, a historian of science, analyzed several hundred publications in the social sciences that addressed the scientific agenda laid out in Why Men Rebel and published his findings in 1996 in the Journal of Conflict Resolution. This is his summary:

“The extent to which theories in the social sciences are accepted or rejected on the basis of empirical tests can be shown only by a detailed analysis of specific cases. [This study] examines the reception in the 1970s and early 1980s of T. R. Gurr’s theory of collective violence based on the concept of relative deprivation.

The history of this theory may be considered an example of definite progress in social science: A hypothesis widely accepted at one time has been tested and rejected, thus making room for the development of alternative hypotheses. But although Gurr and other advocates of the theory have abandoned it in its original form following the mostly negative results of empirical tests, many social scientists (especially psychologists) have continued to cite it favorably. Slightly less than half of the unfavorable citations have been supported by references to empirical evidence. He points out that less than half of the unfavorable citations were supported by references to empirical evidence—in other words, negative judgments had other bases, such as a preference for different approaches to explanation.”

Brush adds that a shift toward more favorable citations in the American social science literature was evident by the early 1990s. The argument prompted strong theoretical critiques. Prominent scholars such as Charles Tilly, Theda Skocpol, and Sidney Tarrow argued that we should begin explanations by examining social and political structures (Skocpol), political mobilization (Tilly), and mass social movements (Tarrow).

Mark Irving Lichbach showed that the anger-grievance-rebellion sequence could be explained within a rational choice framework.

In light of forty years of research and reflection, I think the core of the Why Men Rebel model remains valid but is incomplete. First, I continue to think that people, with all their diverse identities, desires, and beliefs, should be central to our analyses of conflict. This means using individuals as the prism through which to examine the effects of social structures, beliefs, and the possibilities for mobilization and political action. Is “relative deprivation” the best concept for doing so? In my own later research, I have used the words grievances and sense of injustice to capture tile essence of the state of mind that motivates people to political action. Whichever phrase is used, the essential first step in analysis is to understand what people’s grievances are and where they come from.

This brings me to my second point, which is that to understand grievances, we must first examine where people stand in society and what goods and bads they experience from governments. It is not enough to point to big economic and social structures as the “explanation.” We need to understand how people interpret the situations in which they find themselves. Protestors against the effects of globalization, for example, are mainly young people in advanced industrial societies who, objectively, benefit from globalization. Why do they protest, and not the poor of the global South?

Some young men in the Islamic world are attracted to militant movements like the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and elsewhere in the Middle East that justify political violence by appealing to a perversion of Islamic doctrine. Some seek opportunities in the modern world in cities, in the Gulf States, and in Europe and North America. And tens of thousands of young people have led a virtual tsunami of protests against autocratic rulers in North Africa and the Middle East.

Why do they respond in such different ways to political appeals and opportunities?

My third point is that Why Men Rebel does not analyze carefully enough the sources of people’s beliefs about justice and injustice. The phrase “relative deprivation” implies that they feel unjustly treated by comparison with other groups, but explanation does not stop there. The content of ideologies and revolutionary or militant Islamist doctrines also help shape their expectations.

Group identity is even more important; To understand grievances we need to understand peoples clan, ethnic, religious, and political identities. With what people do they feel kindred, what networks of social interaction and communication connect them? The politics of identity are central to understanding people’s reference groups, their sense of collective injustice, and their susceptibility to appeals for political action.

In my more recent writings about the sources of protest and rebellion by ethnic groups, summarized in Peoples versus States (2000), the theoretical beginning point is analysis of group identity, The question is:

With whom do people identify and in what circumstances does a particular identity become more or less salient for them?

This approach does not abandon the essential “understand people first” principle of Why Men Rebel. But it recognizes that in most of the world, including the West despite its emphasis on the individual, group context and identity shape people’s hopes and grievances.

My fourth point concerns group mobilization. Empirical analyses of the causes of political protest and rebellion mostly confirm the late Charles Tilly’s contention in From Mobilization to Revolution (1978) that whether and how people are organized is the immediate source of political action. The greater the extent of mobilization in a group, a city, or a country, the greater the extent of political protest and rebellion.

The Why Men Rebel model also looks at the extent and structures of group organization, in chapter 8, but does not provide a full account of the processes by which they become organized. Tilly gives much more attention to process, but with one major omission: He does not analyze carefully how a group’s grievances and beliefs shape the mobilization process. Therefore, a full analysis of group mobilization and ensuing political action requires a synthesis of a Why Men Rebel analysis of grievances and beliefs with Tilly’s analysis of mobilization as a process.

In summary, to understand when and how people are politically mobilized, and which kinds of people are prepared to take risky political action, we need to begin with group identities and shared grievances.

Fifth, we need to examine the ways in which communication of ideas and personal mobility are transforming political action in the twenty-first century. When Why Men Rebel was written, most protest and revolutionary movements were specific to one country, or even one region within a country. The Internet and social networking make for much and more rapid communication of ideas, air travel gives organizers greater mobility. It is much easier now than it was forty years ago to establish a transnational movement in support of indigenous rights, or environmental protection, or democratic governance. It also is easier to create a transnational network of revolutionaries using a strategy of terrorism.

In other words, political action no longer stops at national borders.

To understand why and how this occurs, it remains useful to begin with some of the Why Men Rebel arguments, which include an analysis (in chapter 4) of the role of the communication media in spreading political ideas. We understand the mechanisms. What we do not understand as well is how skillful communicators can create a sense of identity and common purpose that transcends national boundaries and then use it to mobilize people in many different places for coordinated political action. Sidney Tarrow’s work provides a good starting point for analyzing the formation and effects of social movements.

Next are some observations about the rationality of political action. Why Men Rebel was written on the psychological assumption that non-rational responses to frustration help motivate episodes of political violence. An effort was made in chapter 6 to incorporate elements of rational-choice analysis, showing how cost-benefit calculations are used—especially by leaders—to put anger to strategic political purposes.

In retrospect, I think it was a mistake to suggest that people who react violently to their sense of injustice are non-rational. It is true that the consequences of violent political action are more often destructive than constructive and can lead to great suffering for those who take the step to violence. An important complement to Why Men Rebel is Mark Irving Lichbach’s The Rebel’s Dilemma (1995), which shows that elements of rational calculation permeate the entire process of political conflict.

I do not now think it makes sense to assume a priori that conflict behavior is either rational or irrational. Instead, one should focus on the identities, grievances, and objectives of people who initiate political action and ask, critically, whether and how their actions contribute to the attainment of their goals.

Let me turn next to the role of governments in the process of conflict. Why Men Rebel points out, in chapter 5, that the legitimacy of governments is a major determinant of whether people’s anger is directed against authorities or channeled into other kinds of action. This argument has been verified in many subsequent studies: legitimate governments are Seldom targets of rebellion. But the model also simplifies reality by making a linear argument that people rebel and governments respond. This seems to imply that rebels are the problem and government the solution. A more careful reading shows that governments are implicated in creating the conditions for conflict at every step in the process.

Government-imposed inequalities are a major source of grievances, repressive policies increase anger and resistance, denial of the right to use conventional politics and protest pushes activists underground and spawns terrorist and revolutionary resistance.

But this leads to a big set of questions that Why Men Rebel does not attempt to answer. Why do some governments rule by repression, thus reproducing the conditions of future rebellion, while others govern with policies and concessions that contribute to social peace? No specific explanations are proposed in Why Men Rebel or in this new introduction about why and how governments respond to political action or the grievances from which it springs, but here are a few suggestions.

Democracies generally do better because their leaders have to face reelection and therefore are encouraged to compromise. Nonetheless some democracies suppress minorities and some autocratic leaders carry out long-term programs of social reform, so democratic governance is not the only factor.

Equally important are the beliefs or ideology of political leaders. Some have fundamental commitments to protecting all citizens’ rights and well-being; others are ideologically committed to objectives such as radical nationalism or religious purification. Exclusionary ideologies like the latter can be used to justify discrimination, repression, and in extreme cases the physical annihilation of offending minorities, as Barbara Harff has shown in her analysis of the causes of genocide and political mass murder.

We need also to recognize that all leaders, in whatever kind of political system, have strong survival instincts and, if their and their supporters’ security is seriously and repeatedly threatened, they will resort to almost any means to defeat challengers.

Lastly, governments and political movements alike are increasingly exposed to international influences. One of the good consequences of globalization is that most governments now are dependent on international trade, investment, and external political support. Therefore they face political pressures to respect human rights, to rely on reform rather than repression to contain discontent, and to open up their political systems to popular participation and power sharing. Failure to do so is risky because it often leads to international criticism, diplomatic pressures, reduced trade and investment, and in response to the worst abuses, international intervention.

Why Men Rebel continues to be recognized as a classic because it helped lead the way to a systematic, people-based understanding of the causes of political protest and rebellion. The book itself and forty years of critical analysis also point to additional questions. I encourage readers in the contemporary world to keep these guidelines in mind when seeking to understand and to respond to popular discontents:

Begin by examining the group identities and grievances of disadvantaged people, including the poor, underemployed urban youth, and members of ethnic, national, and religious minorities. Understand the sources of people’s grievances by examining their status and their treatment by governments and by other groups. Listen to what people say, not just what others say about them. Ask why group identities and disadvantages make their members susceptible to different kinds of political appeals and ideologies that justify protest or rebellion. Analyze the motives and strategies of leaders who seek to build political movements among aggrieved people.

Study the motives and strategies of governments in dealing with disadvantaged groups. Are governments open to political participation by such groups? Do government policies increase or reduce the potential for disruptive conflict?

Look for evidence about international factors—transnational movements, ideologies, examples of successful political action—that affect group grievances, mobilization, and choices among different political strategies. Analyze the international pressures and constraints that influence the way governments respond to political action. Consider how political action and government responses affect the groups involved. How much does a group gain or lose? Do governmental policies restore public order or do they provoke further resistance?

Let me sketch an analysis of pro-democracy protests in the contemporary Middle East that helps illustrate many of these points. The analysis should begin in Iran in mid-June 2009, with eight weeks of massive protests (reaching a peak of nearly two million on July 17) in the streets of Tehran and other cities against the fraud-tainted national election that returned President Ahmadinejad to power for a second term. Security forces and most senior clergy supported him and the campaign of repression that followed.

Censorship, scapegoating protestors as Western stooges in the government-controlled media, random shootings, arrests, and show trials won the day and Ahmadinejad was sworn in on August 7.

There was a very different outcome of protests in Tunisia, where urban protests by young men began in December 2010 against economic conditions and corruption in the government of President Ben Ali. In power for twentythree years, Ben Ali soon lost the support of the military and went into exile in January 2011. Protests escalated until a caretaker regime was purged of his close associates.

Anti-government protests followed in almost every Middle Eastern country. In Egypt President Mubarak, in power for forty-two years, was prompted to resign by the military establishment. In Yemen urban protest against President Saleh’s long-standing autocratic rule worsened the stresses of long-standing regional and sectarian conflicts. In Bahrain the disadvantaged Shi’a majority challenged the ruling Al Khalifa family in demonstrations that mobilized as many as 100,000 people. In Libya urban protest escalated into east-west civil war. Protests in Syria against the repressive government of Basilar al-Assad began in the southern city of Daraa and, in reaction to the regime’s deadly responses, spread to cities throughout the country.

There Were other echoes of anti-government protest in almost every country in the region, from Morocco to Iran, with governments seeking to preempt them with a mix of concessions and arrests.

The outcomes of this wave of protest will be uncertain for some time, even in Tunisia and Egypt, where military officers are overseeing transitions to more participatory and reformist governments. From an analytic perspective, the primal cause of virtually all protests has been the cumulation of economic and political grievances, especially among the rapidly growing population of city-dwelling youth, against corrupt and repressive regimes and their sclerotic leaders.

Decades of research aimed at testing the Why Men Rebel arguments about the primacy of relative deprivation have foundered on the lack of reliable means of assessing the depth and content of grievances across diverse populations, especially in tightly controlled autocracies. Yet no close observer or distant analyst doubts the depth of smoldering anger and resentment among young people in Middle Eastern societies. It was the perceptions of aggrieved populations in the Middle East that changed in early 2011, not their objective situations. The power of the ideal of participatory democracy, spread through the global media and personal contacts with friends abroad, had gradually eroded the legitimacy of autocratic regimes. Government violence against protestors intensified anger and eroded the last shreds of legitimacy.

The trigger for Muslim youth was the demonstration effect of successful political action elsewhere—not Iran 2009, where protest failed, but Tunisia and Egypt, where it helped push entrenched leaders from power.

Mobilization, that is, the capacity of the pro-democracy forces to turn out tens and hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, developed very rapidly in response to external cues.

Newborn civil society organizations in most Middle Eastern societies had long been suppressed by autocratic rulers. Those that survived did so clandestinely, or, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, were constrained by harassment and sharp restrictions on their political activities. Political networks, facilitated by Internet-based means of social communication, provided an alternative basis for mass mobilization.

Max Rodenbeck reports that in Cairo an antigovernment protest group called April 6 had organized small, ineffective antigovernment demonstrations in 2009 and 2010. In January 2011 it linked up with a Facebook-based group of some 300,000 established the previous summer to protest the killing of a young businessman. Members of April 6, activists from the Muslim Brotherhood’s youth wing, and a mix of socialists and secularists called a protest for January 25 using the social media to spread the word. Between their planning session and January 25, protests in Tunisia led Ben Ali to resign. Rally turnouts were unexpectedly large—25,000 in Cairo, 20,000 in Alexandria. And they snowballed from there.

Once detailed accounts emerge from other countries in the region, we can expect similar accounts—the very rapid emergence of mass protest from informal networks that rely on social networking rather than formal organization.

The Cairo example also suggests the importance of new communication networks in shaping ideologies of resistance and persuading people of the feasibility of political action—the subjects of chapter 7 in Why Men Rebel.

Grievances about acts of regime violence are reinforced, successes elsewhere are publicized, scenarios for action are planned. Once mass demonstrations begin they become self-sustaining: they build solidarity and provide the protection of numbers, unless and until the regime responds with massive and deadly force. Solidarity provides normative satisfactions, numbers increase utilities—individuals feel safer about participation and more hopeful about winning.

The outcomes of pro-democracy protest are shaped by what are called “the coercive balance” between regimes and dissidents and their “balance of institutional support” (Why Men Rebel, chapters 8 and 9).

Protestors’ only significant coercive power is to paralyze cities, a short-term tactic that ultimately hurts them economically. But their symbolic power is enormous, an issue not much discussed in Why Men Rebel. They attract international media attention and generate political pressures on regimes, giving dramatic evidence that regimes lack the capacity to satisfy their subjects or to maintain public order. These pressures often reveal, or create, fissures in elite support for the regime. The loyalty of the military and security forces are critical: If they defect, or pressure autocrats to step down, the pro-democracy forces have won half the game.

A general autocratic fatigue effect also may be at work. The longer a Ben Ali, Mubarak, or Qaddafi is in power, the less effective he becomes and the more likely to be challenged by restless and ambitious members of his inner circle. Public protest thus can be a pretext for ousting him.

Iran in 2009 gives challenged autocrats in the Middle East one alternative scenario. The Ahmadinejad government, much younger than that of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, or Yemen, orchestrated a campaign of intimidation and repression that kept it securely in power. By contrast, Jordan’s King Abdullah II responded to the first evidence of protests in early 2011 by dismissing his cabinet and promising further reforms. Protests gradually diminished.

The countries that escaped serious protest in the first quarter of 2011 included Oman, led by a rapidly modernizing monarch; the prosperous Emirates of the Gulf; and Saudi Arabia.

Repression was the principal strategy of regimes in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, sometimes accompanied by proposals for reform. The risk is that concessions often signal regime weakness and embolden dissidents. Repression failed in Libya when the rebels violently ousted the Qaddafi regime in August 2011. The outcomes in the other three countries remain to be seen.

Why Men Rebel gives little attention to the effects of international intervention on the balance of coercion and institutional support between regimes and dissidents, or how it can shape outcomes. In the late 1960s there was little relevant scholarship or evidence on the issue, though it was commonly thought in U.S. and British policy circles that Communist-led rebellions could and should be defeated by military assistance to the regimes they attacked. Later empirical research, done in the context of the Cold War, suggested that military intervention on behalf of one party to an internal war was more likely to prompt reciprocal support for the opposing party and thus to lead to an escalating proxy war rather than a decisive outcome.

The post-Cold War experience is very diverse, and complicated greatly by international advocacy, and occasional practice, of “humanitarian intervention” justified by a normative responsibility to protect civilians.

It is far too soon to analyze or assess the effects of international responses to anti-government protests in the Middle East. When they began, most Western democracies gave them cautious symbolic support. When the Qaddafi regime responded with indiscriminate violence against civilians, international sanctions were imposed, followed by the UN-authorized imposition of a no-fly zone to shield civilians in eastern Libya. Western military intervention in support of the rebels was widely criticized as war without an exit strategy, but in fact it decisively tipped the coercive balance. It enabled the rebels to reorganize, arm, and mount a winning offensive.

Less attention has been given to the international response in Bahrain, site of a major U.S. naval base. The United States reportedly has encouraged the Al-Khalifa regime to make significant concessions. Some members of the ruling family favored this approach but they were overruled by hard-liners. The Saudis, fearing a new center of Iran-backed Shi’a influence in the Gulf, has sent troops to help maintain public order. In Bahrain, as in Syria, there is no basis for predicting outcomes.

Most conflict researchers cited here, including the author, try to be objective in their analyses. The ultimate normative purpose of this kind of conflict analysis, the objective that attracted most scholars to the subject, is to help all of us—political activists, policy makers, and scholars—understand how to build more just and peaceful societies. The Middle East example shows that protest movements, like internal wars, are now subject to major international influences at every level analyzed in Why Men Rebel. Analysis thus has become more complex and the goal of giving research-based guidance to those who would make peace is ever more challenging.

Ted Robert Gurr

Distinguished University Professor, Emeritus Founding Director, Minorities at Risk Project Center for International Development and Conflict Management University of Maryland

***

Introduction 1970

Do we really know so little about the causes of riot and rebellion that we must invoke contemporary exorcisms like “aggressive instincts” or “conspiracy” to explain them?

I think not.

Men have rebelled against their rulers for millennia, and during those millennia many perceptive observers have offered careful explanations of why they did so, in particular instances and in general. In a way we know too much about our inclination to violence. The accumulation of monographs and reports and data about this revolution and that, this theory and that, tends to obscure our view of some basic mental and social uniformities.

This study tries to identify and order some of those uniformities. Are men inherently aggressive, or aggressive only in response to specific social conditions? We will examine psychological evidence that suggests that men have a capacity but not a need for aggression, and other evidence about the patterns of social circumstance in which men exercise that capacity collectively.

Do some men learn to use violence? The answer is obviously yes; what is less obvious is why and how some groups adopt while others eschew violence. Certainly the use of public force to counter private violence, and the nature of human organization, make a difference in the shape and extent of violence. Here again we will discern patterns in much of the reporting and rhetoric; certain uses of force and some kinds of association among people have generally foreseeable effects on political violence.

This book is an exercise in simplification of the kind known as theory-building. I will try to point out the more important uniformities in the causes of violence in politics, drawing from the work of all the human sciences. I will attempt to be precise in describing and defining these uniformities, even at the risk of elaborating some truisms, on grounds that a precisely stated principle is a better tool for understanding than a dull analogy.

The uniformities are also documented with a sample of the evidence for them: the laboratory work of experimental psychologists, the speculation of grand and lesser theorists, the case studies of rebellions, the comparative evidence of those who count demands and deaths, and a measure of logical deduction.

The tentative explanations that emerge from this process are still complex, not simple. Violence, like those who use it, is complex, but it is not indecipherable. At least that is what I hope this book will demonstrate. A general explanation of political violence can become a guide to action as well as comprehension, even if it is not ideally precise. It can be used to evaluate, for policy purposes, the “revolutionary potential” of specific nations, and to estimate the effects of various actions on that potential.

This theory is not devised for these applications, but many of the characteristics that make it suitable for scholarly inquiry similarly suit it to policy purposes. Social theory can be put to unethical as well as ethical ends, and an author has little control over the use of his work short of refusing to publish. But I am persuaded that insofar as this study has policy uses, it should contribute more to the alleviation of human misery than its perpetuation. There is more than conceit in this concern.

The study’s impact can at most be marginal, but the world is large and “marginal” impacts can affect thousands of lives. This book is as likely to be read by rebels as by rulers and suggests as many courses of effective action for one as the other. Rebels should read it, for I think it implies means for the attainment of human aspirations that are more effective and less destructive to themselves and others than some of the tactics they now use.

The study will surely be read by men seeking means for the preservation of public order. They will find in it a number of implications for strategies to that end, but they will find little justification for reliance on tactics of repressive control. There is a wealth of evidence and principle that repressive policies defeat their purposes, in the long run if not necessarily in the short run.

The public order is most effectively maintained—it can only be maintained—when means are provided within it for men to work toward the attainment of their aspirations.

This is not an ethical judgment, or rather not just an ethical judgment. It approaches the status of a scientific law of social organization. Some kinds of force maybe necessary if revolutionaries or ruling elites are to create and maintain social order in time of crisis, so that constructive means can be established.

But exclusive reliance on force eventually raises up the forces that destroy it.

This study is in any case not designed for policy ends but for explanation, and that at a general level. If it clarifies the reasons for and consequences of men’s violent actions, it will have served its purpose.

The uses of illustrative materials in this study may require a note of explanation.

Many of the general relationships to be examined operate in the genesis of each occurrence of violent political conflict. No case of political violence is comprehensively described or analyzed, however. Particular aspects of many specific events, and comparative generalizations about sets of them, are cited to support or illustrate specific hypotheses. None of these references are complete descriptions of the events cited or, unless so specified, are they evidence that the aspects cited are more important than others.

For example, a phase of the French Revolution maybe summarized in one or two sentences without reference to the fact that it is only one of its facets. The study can justly be criticized according to whether such characterizations are true in the narrow sense. If it is criticized on grounds that specific events are misrepresented because only partly analyzed, the object of the study is misunderstood.

I am indebted to a number of scholars for their advice and criticism in the development of this study. My work on the subject began with my doctoral dissertation, “The Genesis of Violence: A Multivariate Theory of Civil Strife,” Department of Government and International Relations, New York University, 1965, work in which I was encouraged and guided by Alfred de Grazia and Thomas Adam.

My greatest obligation during the intervening years in which this study was written is to Harry Eckstein, who has been a consistent source of moral support and intellectual sustenance, and who provided detailed criticisms of a draft of the manuscript.

A number of other scholars at the Center of International Studies and elsewhere also provided thoughtful and useful commentaries, including Leonard Berkowitz, Mohammed Guessous, Chalmers Johnson, John T. McAlister, Jr., Mancur L. Olson, Jr., J. David Singer, Bryant Wedge, and David Williams. William J. McClung of the University Press gave especially helpful and competent editorial guidance.

Responsibility for inadequacies of fact, interpretation, judgment, and logic is of course my own, and in a study of this scope they will no doubt be found in some measure.

I also wish to thank June Traube and Mary Merrick of the staff of the Center of International Studies, who spent many laborious hours preparing the manuscript, and James Bledsoe and Mary Fosler, who helped prepare the bibliography.

Initial theoretical work was supported by an award from a National Science Foundation institutional grant to New York University. Empirical work, which contributed to some of the revisions in the theoretical framework, was supported by the Center for Research on Social Systems (formerly SORO) of American University.

Writing of the final manuscript was made possible by support of the Center of International Studies and by a basic research grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. Support from the last source implies neither that agency’s acceptance of this study and its conclusions nor my approval of policies of the U.S. government toward political violence.

*** 

WHY MEN REBEL

1. Explanations of Political Violence Conflict … is a theme that has occupied the thinking of man more than any other, save only God and love. Anatol Rapoport, Fights, Games, and Debates

THE INSTITUTIONS, persons, and policies of rulers have inspired the violent wrath of their nominal subjects throughout the history of organized political life. A survey of the histories of European states and empires, spanning twenty-four centuries, shows that they averaged only four peaceful years for each year of violent disturbances.

Modern nations have no better record: between 1961 and 1968 some form of violent civil conflict reportedly occurred in 114 of the world’s 121 larger nations and colonies. 

Most acts of group violence have negligible effects on political life; but some have been enormously destructive of human life and corrosive of political institutions. Ten of the world’s thirteen most deadly conflicts in the past 160 years have been civil wars and rebellions; 3 since 1945, violent attempts to overthrow governments have been more common than national elections.

The counterpoise to this grim record is the fact that political violence has sometimes led to the creation of new and more satisfying political communities. The consequences of the American, Turkish, Mexican, and Russian revolutions testify in different ways to the occasional beneficence of violence.

In this study political violence refers to all collective attacks within a political community against the political regime, its actors —including competing political groups as well as incumbents —or its policies. The concept represents a set of events, a common property of which is the actual or threatened use of violence, but the explanation is not limited to that property.

The concept subsumes revolution, ordinarily defined as fundamental sociopolitical change accomplished through violence. It also includes guerrilla wars, coups d’état, rebellions, and riots. Political violence is in turn subsumed under “force,” the use or threat of violence by any party or institution to attain ends within or outside the political order.

The definition is not based on a prejudgment that political violence is undesirable. Like the uses of violence qua force by the state, specific acts of political violence can be good, bad, or neutral according to the viewpoint of the observer. Participants in political violence may value it as a means of expressing political demands or opposing undesirable policies.

Limited violence also can be useful for rulers and for a political system generally, especially as an expression of social malaise when other means for making demands are inadequate.

Ethical judgments are held in abeyance in this study to avoid dictating its conclusions. But it does not require an ethical judgment to observe that intense violence is destructive: even if some political violence is valued by both citizens and rulers, the greater its magnitude the less efficiently a political system fulfills its other functions. Violence generally consumes men and goods, it seldom enhances them.

Despite the frequency and social impact of political violence, it is not now a conventional category of social analysis. Yet some common properties of political violence encourage attention to it rather than more general or more specific concepts. Theoretically, all such acts pose a threat to the political system in two senses: they challenge the monopoly of force imputed to the state in political theory; and, in functional terms, they are likely to interfere with and, if severe, to destroy normal political processes.

Empirical justification for selecting political violence as a universe for analysis is provided by statistical evidence that political violence comprises events distinct from other measured characteristics of nations, and homogeneous enough to justify analysis of their common characteristics and causes. For example, countries experiencing extensive political violence of one kind—whether riots, terrorism, coups d’etat, or guerrilla war—are rather likely to experience other kinds of political violence, but are neither more or less likely to be engaged in foreign conflict. 

The properties and processes that distinguish a riot from a revolution are substantively and theoretically interesting, and are examined at length in this study, but at a general level of analysis they seem to be differences of degree, not kind.

The search for general causes and processes of political violence is further encouraged by the convergence of recent case, comparative, and theoretical studies. One striking feature of these studies is the similarity of many of the causal factors and propositions they identify, whether they deal with revolution, urban rioting, or other forms of political violence. This similarity suggests that some of their findings can be synthesized in a more efficient set of testable generalizations.

However good the prospects seem for a general analysis of political violence, research on it has been quite uneven, both in substance and in disciplinary approach. There is considerable European historical scholarship on segments of the subject, notably the peasant rebellions of the twelfth through nineteenth centuries and the great revolutions of England, France, and Russia. American and European scholars, most of them also historians, have in recent years contributed a modest case-study literature. American policy scientists have written a small flood of treatises on the causes and prophylaxis of subversive warfare, most of which seem to have had neither academic nor policyimpact.

The lapses of attention are striking by comparison. Of all the riotous mobs that have clamoured through the streets of history, only the revolutionary crowds of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe and the ghetto rioters of twentieth-century America have attracted much scholarly attention. There are relatively few case studies of political violence in the non-Western world, and fewer systematic comparative studies or attempts at empirical theory. Experimental studies dealing with social-psychological mechanisms of collective violence can be counted on one hand.

Among social scientists the historians have been by far the most active; American political scientists have until recently neglected the subject. Of 2,828 articles that appeared in the American Political Science Review from its establishment in 1906 through 1968, only twenty-nine appear from their titles to be concerned with political disorder or violence. Moreover twelve of the twenty-nine were concerned specifically with revolution, and fifteen appeared after 1961.

Political scientists might be expected to have a greater concern with political violence than others. Authoritative coercion in the service of the state is a crucial concept in political theory and an issue of continuing dispute.

Some have identified the distinctive characteristic of the state as its monopoly of physical coercion. Max Weber, for example, wrote that violence is a “means specific” to the state and that “the right of physical violence is assigned to all other associations or individuals only to the extent permitted by the state; it is supposed to be the exclusive source of the ‘right’ to use violence.” 

Thomas Hobbes, dismayed by the brutish anarchy of men living outside the restraint of commonwealths, conceived the sovereign’s control of coercion to be the foundation of the state and the social condition.  Schattschneider sees conflict, which subsumes violence, as the central concept of political science.

Nieberg emphasizes the positive functions of non-authoritative violence and its threatened use as an instrument of social change.

From any of these perspectives the occurrence of collective, nonauthoritative violence appears to pose two fundamental questions for political science: From what sources and by what processes does it arise, and how does it affect the political and social order?

What Is to Be Explained?

This study proposes some general answers to three basic questions about our occasional disposition to disrupt violently the order we otherwise work so hard to maintain:

What are the psychological and social sources of the potential for collective violence?

What determines the extent to which that potential is focused on the political system?

And what societal conditions affect the magnitude and form, and hence the consequences, of violence?

The study has four primary objects of analysis. Two are intervening variables: the potential for collective violence and the potential for political violence. Propositionally, potential for collective violence is a function of the extent and intensity of shared discontents among members of a society; the potential for political violence is a function of the degree to which such discontents are blamed on the political system and its agents.

The remaining objects of analysis are dependent variables: the magnitude of political violence and the forms of political violence, both of which are discussed below.

Theories of revolution are usually concerned with specifying a relationship between some set of preconditions and the occurrence of revolution. Political violence, however, is a pervasive phenomenon, as was suggested above: few contemporary or historical societies have been free of it for long. It may be useful for microanalysis to specify whether political violence is likely in a given society at a particular point in time.

For macroanalysis, however, the more interesting questions are the determinants of the extent of violence and of the forms in which it is manifested. If one’s interest is the effects of political violence on the political system, the questions of its magnitude and kind are both highly relevant. And if one is concerned in an ethical way with political violence, then almost certainly one wants to assess its human and material costs, and consequently the determinants of its magnitude.

Various measures of the relative extent of political violence have been used in recent comparative studies. Sorokin combined measures of the proportion of a nation affected (social area), proportion of population actively involved, duration, intensity, and severity of effects of violence in assessing the magnitude of internal disturbances. Tilly and Rule make use of man-days of participation. Rummel and Tanter have used counts of numbers of events. The Feierabends have developed a scaling procedure that takes account of both number of events and a priori judgments about the severity of events of various types.

Some researchers have used the grisly calculus of number of deaths resulting from violence.

The proposed relation between perceived deprivation and the frustration concept in frustration-anger-aggression theory, to be discussed in chapter 2, provides a rationale for a more general definition of magnitude of violence and a more precise specification of what it comprises. The basic frustration-aggression proposition is that the greater the frustration, the greater the quantity of aggression against the source of frustration. This postulate provides the motivational base for an initial proposition about political violence: the greater the intensity of deprivation, the greater the magnitude of violence. (Other perceptural and motivational factors are also relevant to political violence, but many of them can be subsumed by the deprivation concept, as is suggested in chapter 2.)

Intense frustration can motivate men either to intense, short-term attacks or to more prolonged, less severe attacks on their frustrators. Which tactic is chosen is probably a function of anticipated gain, opportunity, and fear of retribution, which in political violence are situationally determined. Hence the severity of deprivation affects both the intensity of violence, i.e. in the extent of human and physical damage incurred, and its duration. Moreover there are evidently individual differences—presumably normally distributed—in the intensity of frustration needed to precipitate overt aggression.

Extension of this principle to the deprivation-violence relationship suggests that the proportion of a population that participates in violence ought to vary with the average intensity of perceived deprivation. Mild deprivation will motivate few to violence, moderate deprivation will push more across the threshold, very intense deprivation is likely to galvanize large segments of a political community into action.

This argument suggests that magnitude of political violence has three component variables that ought to be taken into account in systematic analysis: the extent of participation within the political unit being studied (scope), the destructiveness of action (intensity), and the length of time violence persists (duration).

Sorokin’s empirical work takes all three aspects into account; so does mine.

The intensity and scope of relative deprivation and magnitude of violence are unidimensional variables. Theoretically, and empirically, one can conceive of degrees or quantities of each in any polity.

The forms of violence, however, are attributes that do not form a simple dimension. A society may experience riots but not revolution, revolution but not coups d’état, coups d’état but not riots. Hypotheses about forms of violence as dependent variables thus are necessarily different from those about deprivation and magnitude of violence. They are expressed in terms of probabilities (the greater x, the more likely y) rather than strict concomitance.

The question is how many forms of political violence ought to be accounted for in a general theory. The principle of parsimony, which should apply to dependent as well as independent variables, suggests using a typology with a small number of categories, events in each of which are fairly numerous. Conventional taxonomies, of which there are many, provide little help. Some, like that of Lasswell and Kaplan, provide simple typologies for revolutions but not for political violence generally.

Eckstein proposes a composite typology comprising unorganized, spontaneous violence (riots), intraelite conflicts (coups), two varieties of revolution, and wars of independence.

Perhaps the most complex typology is Rummel’s list of twenty-five types of domestic conflict, the analysis of which provides an empirical solution to the problem of a parsimonious typology. In Rummel’s analysis, and in a number of subsequent studies, data on the incidence and characteristics of various types of political violence were collected and tabulated by country and the “country scores” (number of riots, assassinations, coups, mutinies, guerrilla wars, and so on, in a given time period) were factor analyzed.

Whatever the typology employed, the period of reference, or the set of countries, essentially the same results were reported. A strong turmoil dimension is characterized by largely spontaneous strife such as riots and demonstrations. It is quite distinct both statistically and substantively from what can be called a revolutionary dimension, characterized by more organized and intense strife.

This revolutionary dimension has two components that appear in some analyses as separate dimensions: internal war, typically including civil war, guerrilla war, and some coups; and conspiracy, typically including plots, mutinies, and most coups.

These types are not absolutely distinct. The analyses mentioned on pp. 4-5 indicate that, at a more general level of analysis, political violence is a relatively homogenous universe. Within that universe, however, some kinds of violence tend to occur together, and the occurrence of some types tends to preclude the occurrence of other types.

The principal distinction between turmoil and revolution is the degree of organization and focus of violence, a distinction also made by Eckstein in his composite typology.

A major difference between the internal war and conspiracy components of the revolutionary dimension is one of scale. General definitions of the three forms of political violence examined in this analysis are as follows:

Turmoil: Relatively spontaneous, unorganized political violence with substantial popular participation, including violent political strikes, riots, political clashes, and localized rebellions.

Conspiracy: Highly organized political violence with limited participation, including organized political assassinations, small-scale terrorism, small-scale guerrilla wars, coups d’etat, and mutinies.

Internal war: Highly organized political violence with widespread popular participation, designed to overthrow the regime or dissolve the state and accompanied by extensive violence, including large-scale terrorism and guerrilla wars, civil wars, and revolutions.

In summary, this study is an attempt to analyze, and develop testable general hypotheses about, three aspects of political violence: its sources, magnitude, and forms. The processes by which the potential for violence develops and the kinds of conditions and events that channel its outcome are examined as part of this analysis.

Two topics often examined in theories of revolution are examined here only in passing: the immediate precipitants of violence, about which most generalizations appear trivial; and the long-run outcomes of various kinds of political violence, about which there is little empirical evidence or detailed theoretical speculation.

Toward an Integrated Theory of Political Violence The basic model of the conditions leading to political violence used in this study incorporates both psychological and societal variables. The initial stages of analysis are actor-oriented in the sense that many of the hypotheses about the potential for collective action are related to, and in some instances deduced from, information about the dynamics of human motivation. The approach is not wholly or primarily psychological, however, and it would be a misinterpretation of the arguments and evidence presented here to categorize it so.

Most of the relationships and evidence examined in subsequent stages of analysis are those that are proposed or observed to hold between societal conditions and political violence. The psychological materials are used to help provide causal linkages between and among societal variables and the dependent variables specified above: the potential for collective and political violence; the magnitude of political violence; and the likelihood that political violence will take the form of turmoil, conspiracy, or internal war.

Use of psychological evidence in this way makes certain kinds of social uniformities more clearly apparent and comprehensible, and contributes to the simplification of theory. At the same time the analysis of societal relationships is crucial for identifying the sources of some common psychological properties of violence-prone men and for generalizing about the many facets of political violence that have no parallels in psychological dynamics.

The goal of this analysis, at best only partly realized, was proposed by Inkeles in the context of a discussion of social structure and personality: “What is required … is an integration or coordination of two basic sets of data in a larger explanatory scheme—not a reduction of either mode of analysis to the allegedly more fundamental mode of the other.”

The outlines of the theory can now be sketched briefly.

The primary causal sequence in political violence is first the development of discontent, second the politicization of that discontent, and finally its actualization in violent action against political objects and actors.

Discontent arising from the perception of relative deprivation is the basic, instigating condition for participants in collective violence. The linked concepts of discontent and deprivation comprise most of the psychological states implicit or explicit in such theoretical notions about the causes of violence as frustration, alienation, drive and goal conflicts, exigency, and strain (discussed in chapter 2).

Relative deprivation is defined as a perceived discrepancy between men’s value expectations and their value capabilities.

Value expectations are the goods and conditions of life to which people believe they are rightfully entitled.

Value capabilities are the goods and conditions they think they are capable of attaining or maintaining, given the social means available to them.

Societal conditions that increase the average level or intensity of expectations without increasing capabilities increase the intensity of discontent.

Among the general conditions that have such effects are the value gains of other groups and the promise of new opportunities (chapter 4). Societal conditions that decrease men’s average value position without decreasing their value expectations similarly increase deprivation, hence the intensity of discontent.

The inflexibility of value stocks in a society, short-term deterioration in a group’s conditions of life, and limitations of its structural opportunities have such effects (chapter 5).

Deprivation-induced discontent is a general spur to action. Psychological theory and group conflict theory both suggest that the greater the intensity of discontent, the more likely is violence. The specificity of this impulse to action is determined by men’s beliefs about the sources of deprivation, and about the normative and utilitarian justifiability of violent action directed at the agents responsible for it.

Societal variables that affect the focusing of discontent on political objects include the extent of cultural and subcultural sanctions for overt aggression, the extent and degree of success of past political violence, the articulation and dissemination of symbolic appeals justifying violence, the legitimacy of the political system, and the kinds of responses it makes and has made to relative deprivation (chapters 6 and 7).

The belief that violence has utility in obtaining scarce values can be an independent source of political violence, but within political communities it is most likely to provide a secondary, rationalizing, rather than primary, motivation. Widespread discontent provides a general impetus to collective violence.

However, the great majority of acts of collective violence in recent decades have had at least some political objects, and the more intense those violent acts are, the more likely they are to be focused primarily or exclusively on the political system. Intense discontent is quite likely to be politicized; the primary effect of normative and utilitarian attitudes toward violence is to focus that potential.

The magnitude of political violence in a system, and the forms it takes, are partly determined by the scope and intensity of politicized discontent. Politicized discontent is a necessary condition for the resort to violence in politics. But however intense and focused the impetus to violence is, its actualization is strongly influenced by the patterns of coercive control and institutional support in the political community.

Political violence is of greatest magnitude, and most likely to take the form of internal war, if regimes and those who oppose them exercise approximately equal degrees of coercive control, and command similar and relatively high degrees of institutional support in the society. The coercive capacities of a regime and the uses to which they are put are crucial variables, affecting the forms and extent of political violence in both the short and long run. There is much evidence, some of it summarized in chapters 8 and 10, that some patterns of regime coercive control increase rather than decrease the intensity of discontent, and can facilitate the transformation of turmoil into full-scale revolutionary movements.

Dissidents, by contrast, use whatever degree of coercive capacities they acquire principally for group defense and for assaults on the regime. The degree of institutional support for dissidents and for regimes is a function of the relative proportions of a nation’s population their organizations mobilize, the complexity and cohesiveness of those organizations, their resources, and the extent to which they provide regularized procedures for value attainment, conflict resolution, and channeling hostility (chapter 9).

The growth of dissident organization may in the short run facilitate political violence, but it also is likely to provide the discontented with many of the means to alleviate deprivation in the long run, thus minimizing violence.

The preceding paragraphs are an outline of the framework in which the hypotheses and definitions of this study are developed, and a summary of some of its generalizations. The hypotheses and their interrelationships are summarized more fully and systematically in chapter 10.

The Appendix lists all hypotheses developed, categorized according to their dependent variables, and the chapters in which they are proposed. The three stages in the process of political violence—those in which discontent is generated, politicized, and actualized in political violence—are each dependent on the preceding one, as the outline indicates.

It is likely but not necessarily the case that there is a temporal relationship among the three stages, whereby a sharp increase in the intensity of discontent precedes the articulation of doctrines that justify politically violent action, with shifts in the balances of coercive control and institutional adherence occuring subsequently.

The conditions can be simultaneously operative, however, as the outbreak of the Vendee counterrevolution in 1793 demonstrates: implementation of procedures for military conscription intensified the discontent of workers and peasants already sharply hostile to the bourgeoisie and the government it ruled. Mass action against the bourgeoisie began in a matter of days; the social context for dissident action was provided in part by preexisting communal and political organization, action that was facilitated by the concurrent weakness of government forces and institutions in the region.

The point is that many of the attitudes and societal conditions that facilitate political violence may be present and relatively unchanging in a society over a long period; they become relevant to or operative in the genesis of violence only when relative deprivation increases in scope and intensity.

Intense politicized discontent also can be widespread and persistent over a long period without overt manifestation because a regime monopolizes coercive control and institutional support. A weakening of regime control or the development of dissident organization in such situations is highly likely to lead to massive violence, as it did in Hungary in 1956 and China in 1966-68, and as is likely at some future date in South Africa.

The concepts, hypotheses, and models of causes and processes developed in the following chapters are not intended as ends in themselves. Intellectually pleasing filters through which to view and categorize the phenomena of a disorderly world are not knowledge. Systematic knowledge requires us to propose and test and reformulate and retest statements about how and why things happen. We know enough, and know it well enough, only when we can say with some certitude not just why things happened yesterday, but how our actions today will affect what happens tomorrow, something we can always hope to know better, though never perfectly.

This analysis may demonstrate that too little is known about the violence men do one another, and that it is known too weakly and imprecisely. It is designed to facilitate the processes by which that knowledge can be increased. 

*

from

Why Men Rebel

by

Ted Robert Gurr. 

get it from Amazon.com

WHY THE LEFT LOSES.  The decline of the centre-left in comparative perspective – Rob Manwaring and Paul Kennedy. 

Foreword 

Sheri Berman 

The decline of the centre-left over the past years is one of the most alarming trends in Western politics. During the latter part of the 20th century such parties either ran the government or led the loyal Opposition in virtually every Western democracy. 

Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), once the most powerful party of the left in continental Europe, currently polls in high 20s or 30s. The French Socialist Party was eviscerated in the 2017 elections, as was the Dutch Labour Party. Even the vaunted Scandinavian social democratic parties are struggling, reduced to vote shares in the 30 per cent range. The British Labour Party and the US Democrats have been protected from challengers by their country’s first-past-the-post electoral systems, but the former has recently taken a sharp turn to the hard-left under Jeremy Corbyn, while the latter, although still competitive at the national level, is a minority party at the state and local levels, where a hard-right Republican Party dominates the scene. 

The decline of the centre-left has hurt Western democracy. It has left voters free to be captured by extremist parties, particularly of the far-right populist variety, which threaten the liberal and perhaps even democratic nature of Western politics. In addition, centre-left parties played a crucial role in creating and maintaining the post-war order on which stable democracy was built following the Second World War. Without a revival of the centre-left, it is hard to see how this order and perhaps even well functioning democracy can be resuscitated. 

This book analyses the decline of the centre-left, and in so doing, may provide its supporters with the insights necessary to revitalise it. Why the left loses focuses on three main issues the centre-left must confront: leadership, institutions/ structural change and message/ vision. 

The first is the most straightforward, but nonetheless crucial. Leaders represent and personify what parties stand for; in order to win, the centre-left needs leaders who can connect to a diverse and demanding electorate, and attractively, forcefully and effectively convey their party’s messages. 

Attracting such leaders does not, of course, happen in a vacuum. Talented and ambitious individuals are drawn to parties they believe can deal with the challenges of the day. 

This brings us to issues of institutions/ structural change and message/ vision. Institutional and structural changes over the last decades in domestic and international political economies have created major challenges for all traditional political parties, but particularly for those of the centre-left. 

After 1945 in Western Europe (and beginning with the New Deal in the US), the West began constructing a new type of political economy, one that could ensure economic growth while at the same time protecting societies from capitalism’s destructive and destabilising consequences. 

This order represented a decisive break with the past: states would not be limited to ensuring that markets could grow and flourish, nor would economic interests be given the widest possible leeway. Instead, after 1945 the state was to become the guardian of society rather than the economy, and economic imperatives would sometimes have to take a back seat to social ones. 

This post-war order represented something historically unusual: capitalism remained, but it was capitalism of a very different type than had existed before the war – one tempered and limited by the power of the democratic state, and often made subservient to the goals of social stability and solidarity, rather than the other way round. This was a farcry from the revolutionary destruction of the capitalist order that orthodox Marxists, communists and others on the far left had demanded during the pre-war period, but it still varied significantly from what liberals had long favoured – namely, giving as much free rein to markets as possible. 

This was, in short, a social democratic order – and it worked remarkably well. Despite fears after the war that it would perhaps take decades for Europe to recover economically, by the early 1950s most of Europe had easily surpassed interwar economic figures, and the 30 years after 1945 were Europe’s fastest period of growth ever. 

The restructured political economies of the post-war era seemed to offer something to everyone, and this, in turn, helped to eliminate the belief – long held by liberals, Marxists and others – that democratic states could not or would not protect particular groups’ interests. 

Because the centre-left was most closely associated with this order and the most determined defender of it, it had the most to lose from its demise. And so the pressures put on this order since the 1970s by increasing globalisation, growing government deficits and the neoliberal and eventually austerity policies adopted by the European Union (EU) have left the centre-left scrambling to come up with new strategies for getting economies moving again, while also ensuring that democratic states continued to protect citizens from the changes brought by ever-evolving capitalism. 

Alongside changes in domestic and international political economies, centre-left parties have also been challenged by social and cultural shifts that began in the 1960s and threatened traditional identities, communities and mores – a process further exacerbated, particularly in Europe, by growing immigration. Together these trends helped erode the social solidarity and sense of shared national purpose that had supported the social democratic post-war order and helped to stabilise European democracies in the decades following the Second World War. 

The US faced its own version of this with the growing political incorporation and mobilisation of minority groups since the civil rights era, and the increasing shift towards a non-majority white population destabilising traditional social and political patterns. 

But economic, social and cultural institutional and structural changes have not doomed the centre-left to oblivion. They represent challenges, and how the centre-left (or any other party) responds to challenges determines how voters react and political systems evolve. The problem for the centre-left, in other words, is not merely the challenges it has faced over the past decades so much as its lack of convincing and coherent responses to them. 

Here is where Why the left loses‘ third issue comes in: message/ vision. After the 2008 financial crisis many observers expected a significant swing to the left among Western electorates, since many blamed the economy’s problems on the neoliberal policies that had proliferated during the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries. 

But the centre-left lacked a convincing message for dealing with the crisis, or a more general vision of how to promote growth while protecting citizens from the harsher aspects of free markets. Instead, it kept on trying to defend out-dated policies or proposed watered-down versions of neoliberalism that barely differentiated it from the centre-right. 

The centre-left also lacked a convincing message about how to deal with increasing diversity or a vision of social solidarity appropriate to changing demographic and cultural realities. Instead, the centre-left either ignored the challenge of diversity or especially among the intellectual left, put forward a message of ‘multiculturalism’ –neither of these responses was able to stem social conflict or electoral flight from the left, especially on the part of the working class. 

It has now become fairly commonplace to note the support given by traditionally centre-left voters to the populist right. This connection was on obvious display in the Brexit referendum, where many traditional Labour strongholds and supporters voted to leave the EU, and it has been a prominent feature of elections in Europe as working-class voters have flocked to right-wing populist parties. And, of course, a version of this was present in the US, where Donald Trump garnered disproportionate support from less-educated and working-class voters. 

What is still worth stressing, however, is the causal connection between the failures or missteps of the centre-left and the rise of right-wing populist parties that offered simple, straightforward messages in response to citizens’ economic and social fears. 

Economically, the populist right promises to promote prosperity, via increased government control of the economy and limits on globalisation. Socially, the populist right promises to restore social solidarity and a sense of shared national purpose, by expelling foreigners or severely limiting immigration, diminishing the influence of the EU and globalisation, and protecting traditional values, identities and mores. 

For those who bemoan the decline of the centre-left and the rise of the populist right, the challenge is clear: you can’t beat something with nothing, and if the centre-left can’t come up with more viable and attractive messages about how to solve contemporary problems, and a more attractive vision of the future than those offered by its competitors, it can expect to continue its slide into the dust heap of history. 

The following chapters provide an excellent starting point for the debate about the centre-left’s future. 

*

ONE 

Why the left loses: understanding the comparative decline of the centre-left.  

Rob Manwaring and Paul Kennedy 

Introduction 

Since the global financial crisis (GFC), if not before, there has been a general decline in the fortunes of social democratic and labour parties. Against these recent developments, there is a long-standing literature that appraises the electoral performance and impact of the left more broadly (Przeworski and Sprague, 1986; Kitschelt, 1994; Moschonas, 2002). 

Much of the literature on social democracy tends to be pessimistic, and there is a plethora of research that denotes recent developments as a ‘crisis’, on the ‘back foot’, ‘in retreat’, and perhaps most arrestingly, as ‘dead’ (Gray, 1996; Pierson, 2001; Keating and McCrone, 2013; Lavelle, 2013; Ludwigshafen et al, 2016). 

In a prescient address at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in 2011, David Miliband catalogued the general wreckage of the electoral fortunes of the centre-left across Western Europe. In his critical survey of European social democracy, he noted: 

• The UK General Election in 2010 – the second worst result for Labour since 1918. 

• Sweden, also in 2010 – the worst result since 1911. 

• Germany in 2009 – the worst result since the founding of the Federal Republic, with a greater loss of support than any party in the history of the country. 

• France in 2007 – the worst result since 1969. 

• The Netherlands in 2009 – a traumatic transition from a junior coalition partner to Opposition. 

• Italy – a yo-yo in and out of power, with personal and political divisions disabling opposition to Berlusconi. 

More recent results generally confirm this overall trend, with British Labour losing both the 2015 and 2017 general elections. 

The Dutch general election in early 2017 saw the worst-ever result for the Dutch Labour Party (PvDA, Partij van de Arbeid). The PvDA lost 29 seats, only holding 9 in the 150-seat Parliament. The Dutch result is something of an outlier for the misfortunes of the centre-left. 

Later in this chapter we survey the state of the left more widely. This collected volume investigates the electoral fortunes of the family of centre-left labour and social democratic political parties. In this chapter we set out the aims and scope of the volume, and its contribution to understanding the comparative political decline of the centre-left. 

After mapping the electoral fortunes of centre-left political parties, we then locate this volume in the current literature, and set out the distinctive approach offered here. From our perspective, one of the deficiencies of the current literature is that it focuses almost exclusively on the family of (mostly Western) European social democratic and labour parties. While much of this literature is incisive and important, we have a nagging concern that this narrow focus is missing a key part of the wider story. 

As we outline below, we need to expand the explanatory universe to better understand the current plight of the centre-left. 

We have been a little mischievous in the title of this volume – Why the left loses –and it would be useful here to clarify the book’s scope. The volume is not called ‘Why the left always loses’ or ‘Why the left will never win again’. Rather, the focus is on examining the current electoral performance of a cohort of the family of social democratic and labour political parties within a specific timeframe (broadly, 2008-16). 

The title of the volume is deliberately provocative, in part, because we hope that it will reach a wider readership than just the academy. The term ‘left’ is deployed here as a proxy for these groups of political parties. 

Our focus remains their fate of – often, but not always – the main carriers of wider social democratic values. The book does not seek to argue that the values and ideas associated with the ‘left’ are in decline –indeed, we argue that in a number of cases the opposite is true, that they have been readily co-opted by a number of parties on the centre-right, and other populist challengers. Nor are we suggesting that there are common or single causes for the current state of the full suite of centre-left political parties. And to be clear, by ‘left’ we mostly focus on the long-standing social democratic and labour parties rather than some of the alternative ‘socialist’ or ‘left’ parties such as Die Linke established in Germany in 2007. 

The social democratic parties remain important political actors, even if they are not in the best of electoral health. The risk with the title Why the left loses is that by the time the volume is published, there will have been a turnaround in the electoral fortunes of the social democratic parties. Indeed, it was just at the point of Blair and Schröder declaring the hegemonic victory of the Third Way/Neue Mitte that the fortunes of the left began to decline. 

As Ralf Dahrendorf noted in a telling intervention, the highpoint in the late 1990s for the centre-left masked other key changes in the party systems of the advanced industrial democracies: The real trend – which is underlined by the European elections – is towards non-traditional parties, many of which did not exist 20 years ago. (Dahrendorf, 1999) 

The key issue is that while the late 1990s may have signalled something like the ‘magical return’ of social democracy, we are more circumspect in predicting a ‘second coming’ by the time this volume is released. 

Moreover, if there were to be a revival of the centre-left, and clearly many of the writers in this volume would welcome a return to a more full-bloodied variant of social democratic politics, it would not necessarily undermine the central focus of the book. We look to explain why the left has been doing poorly in this period under review. Indeed, in one of our cases – state Labor in Australia – there has been something of a revival of the centre-left. 

Overall, we focus predominately on the period from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s. The crucial event here is the impact of the global financial crisis (GFC), and the response of the parties to this latest rupture in the global capitalist system. The response has not been overwhelming. 

The state of the left

There have been a number of recent surveys of the family of social democratic parties (Keating and McCrone, 2013; Bailey et al, 2014, p 8), with the focus predominately on the European parties. Here we offer a related, but broader, survey. 

While there is no clear, uniform trend, the overall picture is rather dismal for centre-left parties (see Table 1.1). In France, the 2012 presidential election win proved a temporary highpoint for the Parti socialiste (PS) under François Hollande. Indeed, the seven-year term of the presidency arguably overstates the dominance of the PS. 

As outlined by Sophie Di Francesco-Mayot (see Chapter 10), there is a strong case that while the left was in office, it was ‘losing the battle of ideas’. It was striking, and perhaps not that surprising, when Hollande announced that he would not be contesting the 2017 presidential elections –the first post-war president not to seek office. Strikingly, PS did not make the second round run-off in the 2017 presidential election, much like the dismal 2002 election. Indeed, the Macron phenomenon would suggest a further decline and fragmentation of the centre-left. 

Table 1.1: Centre-left parties in Office and Opposition (2008-16)

Note: In Canada Justin Trudeau took the Liberal Party into office. There is a dispute as to whether to categorise the Liberals as centrist or social democratic, given the New Democratic Party espouses the clearest social democratic programme in Canada. Source: European data drawn in part from Bailey et al (2014, p 9) 

In Germany, the centre-left SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, or Social Democratic Party of Germany) has been unable for quite some time to puncture the dominance of Angela Merkel’s CDU (Christian Democratic Union). Since 2005, Merkel has been unassailable in German politics, with the SPD first as a junior coalition partner, then back in Opposition. At the 2013 election, Merkel reluctantly turned to the SPD as junior partner once again. 

In Uwe Jun’s account (see Chapter 7), the factors for the SPD’s electoral health are examined. What is striking about the SPD is that like other cases considered here, its troubles pre-date the GFC. To a large extent, the SPD, like the SAP (Swedish Social Democratic Party) and the UK Labour Party, is experiencing a prolonged hangover from its turn to the Third Way. 

In Spain, the picture is arguably more pessimistic for the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party). Since losing office in 2011, the party has lost consecutive general elections in 2015 and 2016, and, as Paul Kennedy outlines in his overview (see Chapter 9), it faces a range of pressures, not least the emergence of the left-populist Podemos party in 2014. Over this time, the PSOE has been haemorrhaging votes. As Kennedy notes, while the PSOE has not yet faced its own version of ‘Pasokification’ (the ultimate destruction of the once dominant Greek social democrats), its future is far from assured. 

In Sweden, often claimed as having the purest form of social democracy, the SAP finds itself in turbulent times. It was in office from 1994 to 2002; it then lost both the 2006 and 2010 elections, and narrowly won the 2014 election, governing in coalition with the Green Party. The 2014 results obscure the thinness of SAP’s victory with only a minor improvement of its vote, at 31 per cent. 

Here, we see a clear example of arguably a structural trend facing centre-left parties –a narrowing of its voter base. Whereas the PSOE faces a left-populist challenge, the striking characteristic of the Swedish party system has been the emergence of the nationalist right-populist Swedish Democrats. As Claes Belfrage and Mikko Kuisma argue (see Chapter 8), the SAP is confronted by long-standing economic constraints imposed by the capitalist system and is playing something of a ‘losing game’. It remains unclear how far the 2014 result signifies a meaningful revival of the centre-left. 

While this volume confines its European focus to these countries, the outlook for the centre-left across Europe is mixed, at best. In Italy, the fortunes of the centre-left have been –in David Miliband’s words –something of a ‘yo-yo’. The centre-right was dominant from 2001 to 2006. Under Romano Prodi, the centre-left briefly resumed office (2006-08), before losing again to the centre-right in 2008. It is telling that after the GFC, the Italian electorate placed its faith in the ‘technocratic’ government of Mario Monti, until the centre-left bloc took over in 2013. This recent development, however, can hardly be considered stable government, and the development of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement presents another populist challenge to both left and right. 

In The Netherlands, the 2017 election was catastrophic for the PvDA. Prior to this calamity, it was in Opposition between 2002 and 2006, and again between 2010 and 2012. At the 2012 elections it entered as a junior partner in coalition with the centre-right VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy). In the multi-party Dutch system, the PvDA has been unable to secure a firmer electoral base, and again, a xenophobic populist party – in this case, led by the ubiquitous Geert Wilders – poses both a strategic and ideational dilemma for both left and right. It appears that the left not only loses elections; it can’t win them outright either. 

In Austria, while the SPŐ (Social Democratic Party of Austria) has been the largest partner (just) in a grand coalition, Austrian politics has seen the emergence of the far-right, and both major parties recorded their worst ever results at the 2008 legislative elections. 

In Norway, Jens Stoltenberg’s Labour party (AAP) was a dominant force from 2005-13, but lost power to the centre-right bloc. 

While these cases are not considered here, they remain emblematic of a range of problems and dilemmas facing social democratic and labour parties, especially in the context of a shifting party system, with new populist challengers. 

We also include and survey the fortunes of the centre-left in the Anglosphere, and here we focus our attention on Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK. Controversially for some, we locate the UK Labour Party outside the core European family of social democratic parties (although the Brexit result provides further support for this case). 

As a range of writers and indeed, Labour figures, have pointed out, the UK Labour Party often has more in common with its Antipodean Labour sisters than its European social democratic counterparts.

 As Rob Manwaring and Matt Beech outline in Chapter 2, the picture here is fairly dismal for the centre-left. Labour has experienced ‘Pasokification’ in Scotland, and since the fall of New Labour in 2010 has been unable to claw its way back into power. While the 2010 result was widely anticipated, Labour’s loss to the Conservatives in 2015 was not. While Corbyn-led Labour secured a better-than-expected result at the 2017 general election, Labour has now lost three elections in a row since Tony Blair stepped down as leader. 

Elsewhere, there is a catalogue of defeat for the left. In two different contexts, Canada and New Zealand, there has been a dominance of the centre-right. From 2008-15, Stephen Harper’s Conservative party has dominated Canadian politics, and it is only with the recent win of Justin Trudeau that there has been some shifting back to a more left-leaning position. Yet, as David McGrane outlines in Chapter 3, the fate of the NDP (New Democratic Party) illustrates the difficulty of seeking to impose a social democratic settlement at a time of Liberal Party resurgence. Strikingly, at the 2011 election, the NDP seemingly made a key breakthrough under the leadership of Jack Layton, but the fortunes of the NDP have since declined. 

Likewise, in New Zealand, the NZ Labour Party has been unsuccessful in dislodging the centre-right National Party under the dominant leadership of John Key. Labour lost three straight elections, and despite the unexpected resignation of Key at the end of 2016, its chances of winning at the 2017 general election look marginal at best. Grant Duncan surveys the wreckage of the NZ Labour Party (in Chapter 4), and what is striking here is the flexibility of the centre-right, and, most notably, a shift away from a strident form of neoliberal politics. 

Finally, in Australia, after 11 years in the wilderness, the ALP (Australian Labor Party) took office under the, initially, strong leadership of Kevin Rudd. Yet, within the space of a few years, the ALP turned in on itself, and Julia Gillard (just) secured a minority government in 2010. And in another rancorous turn, the ALP ditched Gillard weeks before the 2013 election. Since then, despite a promising election campaign in 2016, the ALP remains in Opposition. 

As Carol Johnson examines in her chapter on the ALP (see Chapter 5), Labor was beset by a range of both institutional and ideational problems. Most critically, Johnson examines the central dilemma facing centre-left parties in the capitalist system. 

We also include in this volume a chapter on a much neglected story of the centre-left – the Australian state Labor parties (see Chapter 6). During the mid-2000s, a rather intriguing phenomenon occurred when Labor held office in every single state and territory. Since then state Labor has been on the back foot. The chapter therefore offers the reader a clear comparative case study of sub-national social democracy to illuminate why the left loses elections. 

If time and space permitted, we might also look beyond our cases and see the, at best, mixed picture for the centre-left. Critically, the 2016 presidential election victory by Donald Trump in the US seems to encapsulate many of the current dynamics of the modern party system, with a populist backlash against both major political parties. 

In Latin America, left-ist parties have also suffered setbacks (Aidi, 2015), although the extent to which we locate them in the ‘social democratic’ tradition is contested. 

The key issue from this brief survey is that the left is currently losing, or not winning well, and also recording some record losses in the period from the GFC to 2016. The aim of this volume is to explore and examine, comparatively, the reasons for this current state of play. 

It is worth making a few caveats to this overall survey. 

First, most liberal democracies in advanced industrial settings operate on some turnover of governments. We are circumspect in over-emphasising any ‘trend’ of the ‘left losing’. 

Second, in many cases, the left losing is, indeed, a noted part of their histories. To take the UK Labour Party as a prominent example, until New Labour, its electoral record was patchy at best (between 1945 and 1997 it held office for just 17 of those 52 years). 

Third, while we make comparative judgements, and see some common themes, such as populism, Third Way hangovers, out-dated political economic models, changing class patterns, and so on, there are specific conditions playing out. The left loses, but not always for the same reasons.

*

from

WHY THE LEFT LOSES.  The decline of the centre-left in comparative perspective

Edited by Rob Manwaring and Paul Kennedy. 

get it at Amazon.com

Populism is the result of global economic failure – Larry Elliott. 

The rise of populism has rattled the global political establishment. Brexit came as a shock, as did the victory of Donald Trump. Much head-scratching has resulted as leaders seek to work out why large chunks of their electorates are so cross.

The answer seems pretty simple. Populism is the result of economic failure. The 10 years since the financial crisis have shown that the system of economic governance which has held sway for the past four decades is broken. Some call this approach Neoliberalism. Perhaps a better description would be unpopulism.

Unpopulism meant tilting the balance of power in the workplace in favour of management and treating people like wage slaves. Unpopulism was rigged to ensure that the fruits of growth went to the few not to the many. Unpopulism decreed that those responsible for the global financial crisis got away with it while those who were innocent bore the brunt of austerity.

Anybody seeking to understand why Trump won the US presidential election should take a look at what has been happening to the division of the economic spoils. The share of national income that went to the bottom 90% of the population held steady at around 66% from 1950 to 1980. It then began a steep decline, falling to just over 50% when the financial crisis broke in 2007.

Similarly, it is no longer the case that everybody benefits when the US economy is doing well. During the business cycle upswing between 1961 and 1969, the bottom 90% of Americans took 67% of the income gains. During the Reagan expansion two decades later they took 20%. During the Greenspan housing bubble of 2001 to 2007, they got just two cents in every extra dollar of national income generated while the richest 10% took the rest.

The US economist Thomas Palley says that up until the late 1970s countries operated a virtuous circle growth model in which wages were the engine of demand growth.

“Productivity growth drove wage growth which fueled demand growth. That promoted full employment, which provided the incentive to invest, which drove further productivity growth,” he says.

Unpopulism was touted as the antidote to the supposedly failed policies of the postwar era. It promised higher growth rates, higher investment rates, higher productivity rates and a trickle down of income from rich to poor. It has delivered none of these things.

James Montier and Philip Pilkington, of the global investment firm GMO, say that the system which arose in the 1970s was characterised by four significant economic policies: the abandonment of full employment and its replacement with inflation targeting; an increase in the globalisation of the flows of people, capital and trade; a focus on shareholder maximisation rather than reinvestment and growth; and the pursuit of flexible labour markets and the disruption of trade unions and workers’ organisations.

To take just the last of these four pillars, the idea was that trade unions and minimum wages were impediments to an efficient labour market. Collective bargaining and statutory pay floors would result in workers being paid more than the market rate, with the result that unemployment would inevitably rise.

Unpopulism decreed that the real value of the US minimum wage should be eroded. But unemployment is higher than it was when the minimum wage was worth more. Nor is there any correlation between trade union membership and unemployment. If anything, international comparisons suggest that those countries with higher trade union density have lower jobless rates. The countries that have higher minimum wages do not have higher unemployment rates.

“Labour market flexibility may sound appealing, but it is based on a theory that runs completely counter to all the evidence we have,” Montier and Pilkington note. “The alternative theory suggests that labour market flexibility is by no means desirable as it results in an economy with a bias to stagnate that can only maintain high rates of employment and economic growth through debt-fuelled bubbles that inevitably blow up, leading to the economy tipping back into stagnation.”

This quest for ever-greater labour market flexibility has had some unexpected consequences. The bill in the UK for tax credits spiralled quickly once firms realised they could pay poverty wages and let the state pick up the bill. Access to a global pool of low-cost labour meant there was less of an incentive to invest in productivity-enhancing equipment.

The abysmally low levels of productivity growth since the crisis have encouraged the belief that this is a recent phenomenon, but as Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, noted last week, the trend started in most advanced countries in the 1970s.

“Certainly, the productivity puzzle is not something which has emerged since the global financial crisis, though it seems to have amplified pre-existing trends,” Haldane said.

Bolshie trade unions certainly can’t be blamed for Britain’s lost productivity decade. The orthodox view in the 1970s was that attempts to make the UK more efficient were being thwarted by shop stewards who modeled themselves on Fred Kite, the character played by Peter Sellers in I’m All Right Jack. Haldane puts the blame elsewhere: on poor management, which has left the UK with a big gap between frontier firms and a long tail of laggards. “Firms which export have systematically higher levels of productivity than domestically oriented firms, on average by around a third. The same is true, even more dramatically, for foreign-owned firms. Their average productivity is twice that of domestically oriented firms.”

Populism is seen as irrational and reprehensible. It is neither. It seems entirely rational for the bottom 90% of the US population to question why they are getting only 2% of income gains. It hardly seems strange that workers in Britain should complain at the weakest decade for real wage growth since the Napoleonic wars.

It has also become clear that ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing are merely sticking-plaster solutions. Populism stems from a sense that the economic system is not working, which it clearly isn’t. In any other walk of life, a failed experiment results in change. Drugs that are supposed to provide miracle cures but are proved not to work are quickly abandoned. Businesses that insist on continuing to produce goods that consumers don’t like go bust. That’s how progress happens.

The good news is that the casting around for new ideas has begun. Trump has advocated protectionism. Theresa May is consulting on an industrial strategy. Montier and Pilkington suggest a commitment to full employment, job guarantees, reindustrialisation and a stronger role for trade unions. The bad news is that time is running short. More and more people are noticing that the emperor has no clothes.

Even if the polls are right this time and Marine Le Pen fails to win the French presidency, a full-scale political revolt is only another deep recession away. And that’s easy enough to envisage.

The Guardian

An Example for NZ. The Dutch GreenLeft party shows new ideas can turn the tide of populism – Rutger Bregman. 

Wake Up Andrew! Labour is fast becoming irrelevant. 

Let’s be honest, rightwing, anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders is this election’s real winner.

We seem to be forgetting that his party gained five additional seats in the Dutch parliament. And more importantly: over the past 10 years, Wilders has wrenched most of the other parties toward his position on the fringes – particularly the fiscally conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the culturally conservative Christian Democratic party (CDA), both mainstream parties with widespread support.

Suppose a denizen of the 1980s had stepped into a time machine and travelled to watch the runup to these Dutch elections. Imagine how surprised – or, more accurately, dismayed – they would be. So-called progressive and moderate politicians are currently making pronouncements that would have put them behind bars for inciting hate 30 years ago.

In 1997, a Dutch judge sentenced the far-right politician Hans Janmaat for saying “As soon as we have the power and the opportunity, we will eliminate multiculturalism.” Pretty tame compared to Wilders, who’s constantly denouncing “palaces of hatred” (mosques) and “Street terrorists” (Moroccan youth).

At the start of his campaign, current prime minister Mark Rutte of the VVD said he hated the idea of a “multicultural society”. Rutte hasn’t prevailed over the populist right, he has joined its ranks.

Remember: real politics isn’t about figureheads and seats in parliament. Real politics is about ideas. And there can be no doubt regarding the extreme ideas that have been gaining ground in the Netherlands for decades.

This election’s outcome also offers little that’s new on the economic front. A neoliberal, technocratic cabinet is departing, and a new one will take its place.

As always, the business-friendly VVD will cater to the banking and tobacco lobbies, big business and high finance. The more progressive D66 is still toeing the economic line of the 1990s. And this election barely touched on the real challenges of the 21st century: climate change, growing inequality and the rot at the heart of our banking industry.

So is there no hope? There’s always hope.

The Netherlands’ proportional democracy offers a wide menu of political flavours, and it functions significantly better than the US and British systems. And the party with the gravest dearth of ideas – the social-democratic Labour Party (PvdA) – has been mercilessly punished for it. Never before in Dutch history has a party lost so many seats.

Meanwhile, the big winners on the left are GreenLeft and the radical Party for the Animals (PvdD). Their victory isn’t enough to compensate for the swerve to the right, but it has increased the chance that the Netherlands will take serious new steps toward a sustainable economy.

The big question now is how we can turn the tide. How can history once again move in the other direction – the direction of bridges over walls, open over closed? As always, change will have to start with new ideas. Radical ones, because ideas tempered by “as long as” and “except for” won’t change the world. We now know where the strategy of the middle, of the Hillary Clintons, Tony Blairs and Lodewijk Asschers (the leader of the Dutch Labour party), leads: nowhere.

New ideas rarely come from the moderate parties in The Hague or Washington, in Brussels or Westminster. The world’s political centres are not the breeding ground for true change, but rather where it comes home to roost. Just as Wilders has been yanking the Netherlands rightward for years, Dutch politicians such as GreenLeft’s Jesse Klaver and Marianne Thieme of the Party for the Animals can pull things in the opposite direction. To do so, they can draw on new ideas – from a participatory democracy to a universal basic income, from a progressive system of taxation to a healthcare system based on cooperation and trust.

“This is not the end, but the beginning of our movement,” Klaver wrote yesterday. But for that to be true, it’s essential to avoid the freefall that has plagued the country’s Labour party since it joined the ranks of those in power: the plunge into moderation, into monotony, into wine watered down to the point of tastelessness.

Today, in the afterglow of the people’s endorsement, the heady aroma of power is understandably intoxicating. But consider this: the most influential Dutch politician of the past 15 years – Geert Wilders – has never been a part of the country’s ruling coalition.

.

Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists: And How We Can Get There

The Guardian

The 1930s were humanity’s darkest, bloodiest hour. Are you paying attention? – Jonathan Freedland. 

Even to mention the 1930s is to evoke the period when human civilisation entered its darkest, bloodiest chapter. No case needs to be argued; just to name the decade is enough. It is a byword for mass poverty, violent extremism and the gathering storm of world war. “The 1930s” is not so much a label for a period of time than it is rhetorical shorthand – a two-word warning from history.

Witness the impact of an otherwise boilerplate broadcast by the Prince of Wales last December that made headlines. “Prince Charles warns of return to the ‘dark days of the 1930s’ in Thought for the Day message.” Or consider the reflex response to reports that Donald Trump was to maintain his own private security force even once he had reached the White House. The Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s tweet was typical: “That 1930s show returns.”

Because that decade was scarred by multiple evils, the phrase can be used to conjure up serial spectres. It has an international meaning, with a vocabulary that centres on Hitler and Nazism and the failure to resist them: from brownshirts and Goebbels to appeasement, Munich and Chamberlain. And it has a domestic meaning, with a lexicon and imagery that refers to the Great Depression: the dust bowl, soup kitchens, the dole queue and Jarrow. It was this second association that gave such power to a statement from the usually dry Office for Budget Responsibility, following then-chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement in 2014. The OBR warned that public spending would be at its lowest level since the 1930s; the political damage was enormous and instant.

In recent months, the 1930s have been invoked more than ever, not to describe some faraway menace but to warn of shifts under way in both Europe and the United States. The surge of populist, nationalist movements in Europe, and their apparent counterpart in the US, has stirred unhappy memories and has, perhaps inevitably, had commentators and others reaching for the historical yardstick to see if today measures up to 80 years ago.

Why is it the 1930s to which we return, again and again? For some sceptics, the answer is obvious: it’s the only history anybody knows. According to this jaundiced view of the British school curriculum, Hitler and Nazis long ago displaced Tudors and Stuarts as the core, compulsory subjects of the past. When we fumble in the dark for a historical precedent, our hands keep reaching for the 30s because they at least come with a little light.

The more generous explanation centres on the fact that that period, taken together with the first half of the 1940s, represents a kind of nadir in human affairs. The Depression was, as Larry Elliott wrote last week, “the biggest setback to the global economy since the dawn of the modern industrial age”, leaving 34 million Americans with no income. The hyperinflation experienced in Germany – when a thief would steal a laundry-basket full of cash, chucking away the money in order to keep the more valuable basket – is the stuff of legend. And the Depression paved the way for history’s bloodiest conflict, the second world war which left, by some estimates, a mind-numbing 60 million people dead. At its centre was the Holocaust, the industrialised slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazis: an attempt at the annihilation of an entire people.

In these multiple ways, then, the 1930s function as a historical rock bottom, a demonstration of how low humanity can descend. The decade’s illustrative power as a moral ultimate accounts for why it is deployed so fervently and so often.

Less abstractly, if we keep returning to that period, it’s partly because it can justifiably claim to be the foundation stone of our modern world. The international and economic architecture that still stands today – even if it currently looks shaky and threatened – was built in reaction to the havoc wreaked in the 30s and immediately afterwards. The United Nations, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, Bretton Woods: these were all born of a resolve not to repeat the mistakes of the 30s, whether those mistakes be rampant nationalism or beggar-my-neighbour protectionism. The world of 2017 is shaped by the trauma of the 1930s.

The international and economic architecture that still stands today was built in reaction to the havoc of the 1930s

One telling, human illustration came in recent global polling for the Journal of Democracy, which showed an alarming decline in the number of people who believed it was “essential” to live in a democracy. From Sweden to the US, from Britain to Australia, only one in four of those born in the 1980s regarded democracy as essential. Among those born in the 1930s, the figure was at or above 75%. Put another way, those who were born into the hurricane have no desire to feel its wrath again.

Most of these dynamics are long established, but now there is another element at work. As the 30s move from living memory into history, as the hurricane moves further away, so what had once seemed solid and fixed – specifically, the view that that was an era of great suffering and pain, whose enduring value is as an eternal warning – becomes contested, even upended.

Witness the remarks of Steve Bannon, chief strategist in Donald Trump’s White House and the former chairman of the far-right Breitbart website. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bannon promised that the Trump era would be “as exciting as the 1930s”. (In the same interview, he said “Darkness is good” – citing Satan, Darth Vader and Dick Cheney as examples.)

“Exciting” is not how the 1930s are usually remembered, but Bannon did not choose his words by accident. He is widely credited with the authorship of Trump’s inaugural address, which twice used the slogan “America first”. That phrase has long been off-limits in US discourse, because it was the name of the movement – packed with nativists and antisemites, and personified by the celebrity aviator Charles Lindbergh – that sought to keep the US out of the war against Nazi Germany and to make an accommodation with Hitler. Bannon, who considers himself a student of history, will be fully aware of that 1930s association – but embraced it anyway.

That makes him an outlier in the US, but one with powerful allies beyond America’s shores. Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale and the author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, notes that European nationalists are also keen to overturn the previously consensual view of the 30s as a period of shame, never to be repeated. Snyder mentions Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, who avowedly seeks the creation of an “illiberal” state, and who, says Snyder, “looks fondly on that period as one of healthy national consciousness”.

The more arresting example is, perhaps inevitably, Vladimir Putin. Snyder notes Putin’s energetic rehabilitation of Ivan Ilyin, a philosopher of Russian fascism influential eight decades ago. Putin has exhumed Ilyin both metaphorically and literally, digging up and moving his remains from Switzerland to Russia.

Among other things, Ilyin wrote that individuality was evil; that the “variety of human beings” represented a failure of God to complete creation; that what mattered was not individual people but the “living totality” of the nation; that Hitler and Mussolini were exemplary leaders who were saving Europe by dissolving democracy; and that fascist holy Russia ought to be governed by a “national dictator”. Ilyin spent the 30s exiled from the Soviet Union, but Putin has brought him back, quoting him in his speeches and laying flowers on his grave.

European nationalists are keen to overturn the view of the 1930s as a period of shame, never to be repeated.

Still, Putin, Orbán and Bannon apart, when most people compare the current situation to that of the 1930s, they don’t mean it as a compliment. And the parallel has felt irresistible, so that when Trump first imposed his travel ban, for example, the instant comparison was with the door being closed to refugees from Nazi Germany in the 30s. (Theresa May was on the receiving end of the same comparison when she quietly closed off the Dubs route to child refugees from Syria.)

When Trump attacked the media as purveyors of “fake news”, the ready parallel was Hitler’s slamming of the newspapers as the Lügenpresse, the lying press (a term used by today’s German far right). When the Daily Mail branded a panel of high court judges “enemies of the people”, for their ruling that parliament needed to be consulted on Brexit, those who were outraged by the phrase turned to their collected works of European history, looking for the chapters on the 1930s.

The Great Depression

So the reflex is well-honed. But is it sound? Does any comparison of today and the 1930s hold up?

The starting point is surely economic, not least because the one thing everyone knows about the 30s – and which is common to both the US and European experiences of that decade – is the Great Depression. The current convulsions can be traced back to the crash of 2008, but the impact of that event and the shock that defined the 30s are not an even match. When discussing our own time, Krugman speaks instead of the Great Recession: a huge and shaping event, but one whose impact – measured, for example, in terms of mass unemployment – is not on the same scale. US joblessness reached 25% in the 1930s; even in the depths of 2009 it never broke the 10% barrier.

The political sphere reveals another mismatch between then and now. The 30s were characterised by ultra-nationalist and fascist movements seizing power in leading nations: Germany, Italy and Spain most obviously. The world is waiting nervously for the result of France’s presidential election in May: victory for Marine Le Pen would be seized on as the clearest proof yet that the spirit of the 30s is resurgent.

There is similar apprehension that Geert Wilders, who speaks of ridding the country of ‘Moroccan scum”, has led the polls ahead of Holland’s general election on Wednesday. And plenty of liberals will be perfectly content for the Christian Democrat Angela Merkel to prevail over her Social Democratic rival, Martin Schulz, just so long as the far-right Alternative Fur Deutschland makes no ground. Still, so far and as things stand, in Europe only Hungary and Poland have governments that seem doctrinally akin to those that flourished in the 30s.

That leaves the US, which dodged the bullet of fascistic rule in the 30s – although at times the success of the America First movement which at its peak could count on more than 800,000 paid-up members, suggested such an outcome was far from impossible. (Hence the intended irony in the title of Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here.)

Donald Trump has certainly had Americans reaching for their history textbooks, fearful that his admiration for strongmen, his contempt for restraints on executive authority, and his demonisation of minorities and foreigners means he marches in step with the demagogues of the 30s.

But even those most anxious about Trump still focus on the form the new presidency could take rather than the one it is already taking. David From, a speechwriter to George W. Bush, wrote a much-noticed essay for the Atlantic titled, “How to build an autocracy”. It was billed as setting out “the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path towards illiberalism”. He was not arguing that Trump had already embarked on that route, just that he could (so long as the media came to heel and the public grew weary and worn down, shrugging in the face of obvious lies and persuaded that greater security was worth the price of lost freedoms).

Similarly, Trump has unloaded rhetorically on the free press – castigating them, Mail-style, as “enemies of the people” – but he has not closed down any newspapers. He meted out the same treatment via Twitter to a court that blocked his travel ban, rounding on the “so-called judge” – but he did eventually succumb to the courts’ verdict and withdrew his original executive order. He did not have the dissenting judges sacked or imprisoned; he has not moved to register or intern every Muslim citizen in the US; he has not suggested they wear identifying symbols.

These are crumbs of comfort; they are not intended to minimise the real danger Trump represents to the fundamental norms that underpin liberal democracy. Rather, the point is that we have not reached the 1930s yet. Those sounding the alarm are suggesting only that we may be travelling in that direction – which is bad enough.

Two further contrasts between now and the 1930s, one from each end of the sociological spectrum, are instructive. First, and particularly relevant to the US, is to ask: who is on the streets? In the 30s, much of the conflict was played out at ground level, with marchers and quasi-military forces duelling for control. The clashes of the Brownshirts with communists and socialists played a crucial part in the rise of the Nazis. (A turning point in the defeat of Oswald Mosley, Britain’s own little Hitler, came with his humbling in London’s East End, at the 1936 battle of Cable Street.)

But those taking to the streets today – so far – have tended to be opponents of the lurch towards extreme nationalism. In the US, anti-Trump movements – styling themselves, in a conscious nod to the 1930s, as “the resistance” – have filled city squares and plazas. The Women’s March led the way on the first day of the Trump presidency; then those protesters and others flocked to airports in huge numbers a week later, to obstruct the refugee ban. Those demonstrations have continued, and they supply an important contrast with 80 years ago. Back then, it was the fascists who were out first – and in force.

Snyder notes another key difference. “In the 1930s, all the stylish people were fascists: the film critics, the poets and so on.” He is speaking chiefly about Germany and Italy, and doubtless exaggerates to make his point, but he is right that today “most cultural figures tend to be against”. There are exceptions – Le Pen has her celebrity admirers, but Snyder speaks accurately when he says that now, in contrast with the 30s, there are “few who see fascism as a creative cultural force”.

Fear and loathing

So much for where the lines between then and now diverge. Where do they run in parallel?

The exercise is made complicated by the fact that ultra-nationalists are, so far, largely out of power where they ruled in the 30s – namely, Europe – and in power in the place where they were shut out in that decade, namely the US. It means that Trump has to be compared either to US movements that were strong but ultimately defeated, such as the America First Committee, or to those US figures who never governed on the national stage.

In that category stands Huey Long, the Louisiana strongman, who ruled that state as a personal fiefdom (and who was widely seen as the inspiration for the White House dictator at the heart of the Lewis novel).

“He was immensely popular,” says Tony Badger, former professor of American history at the University of Cambridge. Long would engage in the personal abuse of his opponents, often deploying colourful language aimed at mocking their physical characteristics. The judges were a frequent Long target, to the extent that he hounded one out of office – with fateful consequences.

Long went over the heads of the hated press, communicating directly with the voters via a medium he could control completely. In Trump’s day, that is Twitter, but for Long it was the establishment of his own newspaper, the Louisiana Progress (later the American Progress) – which Long had delivered via the state’s highway patrol and which he commanded be printed on rough paper, so that, says Badger, “his constituents could use it in the toilet”.

All this was tolerated by Long’s devotees because they lapped up his message of economic populism, captured by the slogan: “Share Our Wealth”. Tellingly, that resonated not with the very poorest – who tended to vote for Roosevelt, just as those earning below $50,000 voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 – but with “the men who had jobs or had just lost them, whose wages had eroded and who felt they had lost out and been left behind”. That description of Badger’s could apply just as well to the demographic that today sees Trump as its champion.

Long never made it to the White House. In 1935, one month after announcing his bid for the presidency, he was assassinated, shot by the son-in-law of the judge Long had sought to remove from the bench. It’s a useful reminder that, no matter how hate-filled and divided we consider US politics now, the 30s were full of their own fear and loathing.

“I welcome their hatred,” Roosevelt would say of his opponents on the right. Nativist xenophobia was intense, even if most immigration had come to a halt with legislation passed in the previous decade. Catholics from eastern Europe were the target of much of that suspicion, while Lindbergh and the America Firsters played on enduring antisemitism.

This, remember, was in the midst of the Great Depression, when one in four US workers was out of a job. And surely this is the crucial distinction between then and now, between the Long phenomenon and Trump. As Badger summarises: “There was a real crisis then, whereas Trump’s is manufactured.”

And yet, scholars of the period are still hearing the insistent beep of their early warning systems. An immediate point of connection is globalisation, which is less novel than we might think. For Snyder, the 30s marked the collapse of the first globalisation, defined as an era in which a nation’s wealth becomes ever more dependent on exports. That pattern had been growing steadily more entrenched since the 1870s (just as the second globalisation took wing in the 1970s). Then, as now, it had spawned a corresponding ideology – a faith in liberal free trade as a global panacea – with, perhaps, the English philosopher Herbert Spencer in the role of the End of History essayist Francis Fukuyama. By the 1930s, and thanks to the Depression, that faith in globalisation’s ability to spread the wealth evenly had shattered. This time around, disillusionment has come a decade or so ahead of schedule.

The second loud alarm is clearly heard in the hostility to those deemed outsiders. Of course, the designated alien changes from generation to generation, but the impulse is the same: to see the family next door not as neighbours but as agents of some heinous worldwide scheme, designed to deprive you of peace, prosperity or what is rightfully yours. In 30s Europe, that was Jews. In 30s America, it was eastern Europeans and Jews. In today’s Europe, it’s Muslims. In America, it’s Muslims and Mexicans (with a nod from the so-called alt-right towards Jews). Then and now, the pattern is the same: an attempt to refashion the pain inflicted by globalisation and its discontents as the wilful act of a hated group of individuals. No need to grasp difficult, abstract questions of economic policy. We just need to banish that lot, over there.

The third warning sign, and it’s a necessary companion of the second, is a growing impatience with the rule of law and with democracy. “In the 1930s, many, perhaps even most, educated people had reached the conclusion that democracy was a spent force,” says Snyder. There were plenty of socialist intellectuals ready to profess their admiration for the efficiency of Soviet industrialisation under Stalin, just as rightwing thinkers were impressed by Hitler’s capacity for state action. In our own time, that generational plunge in the numbers regarding democracy as “essential” suggests a troubling echo.

Today’s European nationalists exhibit a similar impatience, especially with the rule of law: think of the Brexiters’ insistence that nothing can be allowed to impede “the will of the people”. As for Trump, it’s striking how very rarely he mentions democracy, still less praises it. “I alone can fix it” is his doctrine – the creed of the autocrat.

The geopolitical equivalent is a departure from, or even contempt for, the international rules-based system that has held since 1945 – in which trade, borders and the seas are loosely and imperfectly policed by multilateral institutions such as the UN, the EU and the World Trade Organisation. Admittedly, the international system was weaker to start with in the 30s, but it lay in pieces by the decade’s end: both Hitler and Stalin decided that the global rules no longer applied to them, that they could break them with impunity and get on with the business of empire-building.

If there’s a common thread linking 21st-century European nationalists to each other and to Trump, it is a similar, shared contempt for the structures that have bound together, and restrained, the principal world powers since the last war. Naturally, Le Pen and Wilders want to follow the Brexit lead and leave, or else break up, the EU. And, no less naturally, Trump supports them – as well as regarding Nato as “obsolete” and the UN as an encumbrance to US power (even if his subordinates rush to foreign capitals to say the opposite).

For historians of the period, the 1930s are always worthy of study because the decade proves that systems – including democratic republics – which had seemed solid and robust can collapse. That fate is possible, even in advanced, sophisticated societies. The warning never gets old.

But when we contemplate our forebears from eight decades ago, we should recall one crucial advantage we have over them. We have what they lacked. We have the memory of the 1930s. We can learn the period’s lessons and avoid its mistakes. Of course, cheap comparisons coarsen our collective conversation. But having a keen ear tuned to the echoes of a past that brought such horror? That is not just our right. It is surely our duty.

The Guardian

Europe’s Centre-Left Risks Irrelevance – Sheri Berman. 

JUST LIKE NEW ZEALAND’S, LABOUR NEEDS TO WISE UP!

Europe today is in crisis. Economically, much of the continent suffers from low growth, high unemployment and rising inequality, while politically, disillusionment with the European community as well as domestic institutions and elites is widespread. Partially as a result, right-wing populism is growing, increasing political instability and uncertainty even further. Although many have noted a correlation between the rise of populism and the decline of the social democratic or centre-left, the causal relationship between them has not been sufficiently stressed. Indeed, to a large degree the failures of the latter explain the surprising popularity of the former.

The historical role of the centre or social democratic left

Although the decline of social democracy and the rise of populism have become particularly noticeable since the financial crisis that began in 2008, the roots of both lie much earlier, in the 1970s. During this decade economic and social/cultural changes began unsettling long-standing voting and political patterns. Economically, the postwar order was running out of steam, and a noxious mix of unemployment and inflation hit Europe. However, social democrats lacked well thought out plans for getting economies moving again or for using the democratic state to protect citizens from the changes brought by ever-evolving capitalism.

Such plans, of course, had been precisely what social democracy had offered after 1945. Back then, social democrats had not only insisted that it was possible to reform and even improve capitalism – they devised concrete policy proposals for accomplishing this task. These policies enabled governments to contain and cushion the most destructive and destabilising consequences of markets without fettering them entirely. In contrast, during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, social democrats offered either rearguard defences of socioeconomic policies that may have made sense decades ago but which are now out of touch with the realities of a changing global economy, or else watered-down versions of neoliberalism (such as the English “Third Way” or the German “Neue Mitte”) that left many citizens wondering why they should bother to vote for the social democratic or centre-left at all.

The absence of a distinctive, effective social democratic response to economic problems allowed a neoliberal right that had been organising and thinking about what it saw as the drawbacks of the postwar order to begin freeing capitalism from many of the restrictions that had been placed on it beginning in the 1970s. And this unfettered capitalism, in turn, not only helped create the financial crisis of the early twenty-first century, it also drove many voters to the populist right which explicitly promised to reign it in and protect “true” citizens from its harshest effects.

At the same time that European economies were changing, so were European societies. Social and cultural changes unleashed in the late 1960s threatened traditional identities, communities and mores, a process further exacerbated by growing immigration. Together these trends helped erode the social solidarity and sense of shared national purpose that had supported the social democratic postwar order and helped to stabilise European democracies in the decades following the Second World War.

Historically, social democrats recognised and indeed promoted social solidarity and a sense of shared national purpose, identifying these as necessary to the legitimacy of high taxes and a strong welfare state. During the last decades of the twentieth century, however, this basic fact was all too often forgotten or wished away by a centre or social democratic left that lacked distinctive, effective responses to the social, cultural and demographic changes that weakened the sense of solidarity and shared national purpose across one European country after another.

The absence of a distinctive, effective social democratic response to growing diversity allowed the extreme or multicultural left to become the loudest left-wing voice on this issue. This camp tends to see society as divided into irreconcilable groups, with different values and traditions all around. Efforts to find common ground or ease differences, in this view, are undesirable and counterproductive.

This emphasis on the “politics of recognition” – as opposed to the centre-left’s traditional emphasis on the “politics of redistribution” – was bad for the left and bad for democracy. It led many intellectuals away from a focus on economic issues and fragmented the left in a way that makes it hard to build majority coalitions and win elections. It also makes it almost impossible to generate the social solidarity or shared sense of national purpose that is necessary to support the rest of the centre-left agenda or healthy democracy more generally. And of course, a stress on the primacy of racial, religious, or sexual identity over class or even national identity, along with the implicit and often explicit denigration of those worried about the rapidly changing nature of their societies, has also helped to drive many voters to the nationalist, populist right.

The current crisis

It is now fairly commonplace to note the support given by traditionally left or social democratic voters to the populist right. This connection was on obvious display in the Brexit referendum, where many traditional Labour strongholds and supporters voted to leave the EU, and it has been a prominent feature of elections across the continent as working-class voters in particular have flocked to right-wing populist parties. And of course, a version of this was present in the United States, where Donald Trump garnered disproportionate support from less-educated and working-class voters. What is still worth stressing, however, is the causal connection between the failures or missteps of the centre or social democratic left and the rise of right-wing populism.

During the decades following the Second World war, centre-left and social democratic parties offered attractive solutions to the economic and social challenges facing European democracies. They promised citizens an economic order that neither erased capitalism (as many on the far left desired) nor gave it free rein (as classical liberals and contemporary neoliberals favour). Instead, they promised citizens the benefits of capitalist economic dynamism and innovation as well as to shield them from capitalism’s sometimes destructive effects.

The centre or social democratic left also promoted social solidarity and a sense of national purpose – welfare states would protect the health and well-being of all citizens and government would commit itself to creating an equal and prosperous society that benefited all. By the last decades of the twentieth century, however, the centre or social democratic left no longer had convincing responses to the most pressing economic and social challenges facing European societies, and voters accordingly began looking for other political alternatives.

For many former or traditionally left voters, the most attractive alternative turned out to be the populist right, which offered simple, straightforward solutions to citizens’ economic and social fears. Economically, the populist right promises to promote prosperity, via increased government control of the economy and limits on globalisation. Socially, the populist right promises to restore social solidarity and a sense of shared national purpose, by expelling foreigners or severely limiting immigration; diminishing the influence of the European Union, and protecting traditional values, identities and mores.

For those who bemoan the rise of the populist right, the challenge is clear: you can’t beat something with nothing and if the left can’t come up with more viable and attractive solutions to contemporary problems than those offered by its competitors it can expect to continue its slide into the dustheap of history.
Social Europe

Donald Trump, Putin, Duterte: Dangerous, populist leaders a ‘threat’ to world – NZ Herald. 

Campaigns such as Brexit and the rise of populist leaders including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte have fuelled new levels of hate, intolerance and bigotry.

But the world will pay a heavy price for playing the politics of fear in 2017, a new report has warned.

The election of US President-elect Donald Trump after a “campaign fermenting hatred and intolerance” and the rising influence of political parties in Western Europe that reject universal rights pose a bigger risk to the world than ever before.

The Human Rights Watch 2017 World Reportreleased released today warns the politics of fear has allowed dangerous and popular leaders to flourish at the expense of the very people who elected them.

In the 687 page report’s introduction, HRW executive Director Kenneth Roth warns of “a new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights not as an essential check on official power but as an impediment to the majority will.”

NZ Herald

Containing The Populist Contagion – Harold James. 

Trump promised in advance that his victory would be Brexit in spades; and, indeed, when he won, Dutch and French far-right political forces immediately saw his election as a portent of what is to come. So, too, did the “No” campaign in Italy’s upcoming constitutional referendum – upon which Italian Prime Minister Matteo Rentier has bet his political future.

An obvious historical parallel for today is the interwar period of the twentieth century, when Vladimir Lenin presented Soviet communism as a global brand, and founded the Communist International. Benito Mussolini’s Italian Fascism, a response to Lenin’s movement, also adopted an internationalist stance: colored-shirt movements, imitating Mussolini’s Black Shirts, emerged in Europe, Latin America, and Asia, to elevate authoritarianism as an alternative model to liberalism.

While intensely nationalist movements such as Mussolini’s fascists and Adolf Hitler’s Nazis did compete with one another over who was more genuinely fascist, they ultimately united to oppose the liberal order.

Similarly, today’s political revolt may be following an unstoppable logic, whereby every country must close itself off to trade, migration, and capital flows, or risk losing out in a zero-sum game.

As countries reflect on these lessons, they could begin to form defensive regional blocs to protect themselves from the populist contagion. For example, China could start to speak for all of Asia; and the EU might finally find ways to unite against those who would tear it apart. At worst, this new regionalism could fuel geopolitical animosities and reprise the tensions of the 1930s; at best, regional integration could set the stage for sorely needed governance reforms, and thus clear a way out of the populist trap.

Social Europe