The pandemic has created a power vacuum for the left to fill, and it’s doing just that.
Following a contentious suspension earlier this month, the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee has reinstated Jeremy Corbyn to the party. In the immediate aftermath of the suspension, the right-wing press didn’t waste any time in pouncing on Labour as being in some sort of domestic crisis.
The provocative headlines
‘The shaming of Jeremy Corbyn sparks Labour civil war’, advertised The Telegraph; a sentiment shared by the Daily Mail, which relished in barking about Union boss Len McCluskey leading a so-called ‘hard-left revolt that could SPLIT the party’.
Nor did the right-wing media mince its words in showering contempt at the decision to reinstate Corbyn. The Express, for example, chose to mark the story with the headline that championed right-wing commentator Rachel Riley’s contemptuous disdain for Corbyn, preaching:
‘”Disgusting and ridiculous!” Rachel Riley erupts as Jeremy Corbyn let back in Labour Party’.
News of Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension was met with contempt by many on the left of the party, with discontented members exhibiting acts of solidarity for Corbyn on social media — such as the visible hacking of their membership cards.
2020 … a bad year all-round, but there’s hope
2020 has experienced synchronised crises in public health, equality, the global economy and climate change, and pulled them to the fore. As right-wing leaders fail miserably in their quest to control the pandemic, the corporate media has been quick to denounce the left of the Labour Party as being on the cusp of a great rebellion. Now couldn’t be a better time for the progressives to boldly shape the future.
Trump’s defeat in the election offers hope that the tide may be turning on the conservatives that have ruled the roost. Identifying himself as ‘centre-left’, Biden’s pitch is to restore environmental protections, healthcare rights, international alliances, and create new opportunities for workers.
While a moderate liberal centrist might be too tepid for progressives who were disappointed with the Obama-Biden administration and yearn for a more left-wing leader, it’s difficult to deny that the man of the moment Biden — who has long tapped into blue-collar concerns — offers a refreshingly more liberalist agenda than narcissistic Trump. Projections are even being made that Biden might be a more left-wing president than expected.
Additional elation was felt among the left when the right-wing US news outlets swiftly distanced themselves from Trump. The tide certainly looked like it had turned when Fox News, Trump’s greatest media ally, decided to be the first major outlet to declare Biden would win Arizona, sending the Trump administration into meltdown.
In the UK, the left is charting its own alternative vision for a fairer society
Writing for Tribune Magazine, Richard Burgon, Labour MP for Leeds East and secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, wrote about the need for the left to unite and to organise around an alternative vision for society that can win popular support, arguing:
‘The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the deep failings in our society caused by a decade of austerity and the four-decade domination of neoliberalism. A distorted economy, weak public services, broken social care system, woeful lack of workers’ rights and hollowed-out social security system have left us less dangerously unprepared to deal with this crisis’.
Talking of the need to urgently engage in debate about an alternative vision, Burgon added:
‘Socialists have a key role to play in leading the conversation, this must be our priority over the next period, given it will affect the lives of millions of people’.
In the current climate of social and economic desolation where the neoliberal right is void of answers, progressives are searching to accomplish an alternative vision.
As Burgon attempts to whip up a united Labour Party, unified by a socialist agenda, dialogue is gathering momentum about the formation of a new socialist party that marries left-wing, progressive, socialist, and green associates to overcome the deep failings of successive Tory governments and their commitment to austerity.
An alternative socialist vision committed to anti-austerity was achieved in Spain by the Podemos Unidos (PU) party. In January 2020, the radical-left party, which was formed in 2014 on the back of the anti-austerity 15-M Movement in Spain, made history when it founded a coalition government with the centre-left Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE).
A similar story took place in Austria when the environmentalist Greens formed a coalition with the conservative People’s Party. Such radical left-wing parties forming coalitions with governments in Europe has been described as a ‘test bed’ for a first possible Democratic-Green federal coalition in Germany in its 2021 general election.
2020 has been a year like no other. It has brought the failings of austerity and neoliberal capitalism to the fore, and paved the way for shifting political allegiances.
Trump’s defeat offers a heavy blow for right-wing populist leaders and their supporters worldwide. This heavy blow for right-wing populists poses new opportunities for left-wing progressives. As does the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn, which, despite his reinstatement, is further emblematic of the new situation facing the British left.
This unprecedented year has, for many reasons, altered the political atmosphere around the world, which had, until now, been tilting in the right’s favour. The emergent political climate presents opportunities for the bold left to chart an alternative vision for a fairer future.