Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Don't be fooled by Europe's mood. Globally, the left is reawakening

The political ructions of the past week can't hide a progressive resurgence - even in the belly of the capitalist beast

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday May 9, 2007
The Guardian

"It has not been a happy week for the left. The sharpest blow came on Sunday, no softer for being expected. Ségolène Royal's defeat will extend to 17 unbroken years the right's lock on the French presidency. Remarkable this, when you consider France's place in the progressive imagination as the great European bulwark against both globalisation and America's plans for unipolar world domination. Even in France, which stands up to Ronald McDonald and George Bush, the left cannot win.....

But look more closely. Behind those depressing headlines lurk some encouraging signs, hints that progressives might yet have their day again - some of them from the last place you'd expect......

Which brings us to the big surprise. Europeans speak of the Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-American model as a synonym for turbo-charged, take-no-prisoners capitalism. Yet there are some signs, tentative for now but noticeable all the same, that movement is under way even in the US, inside the belly of the capitalist beast. They come partly in reaction to the ever worsening state of inequality in that country.....

This talk connects to the world beyond America in two ways. First, some inside the US are beginning to see a global picture. A new book, Second Chance by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the cold war hawk who served as national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, includes a startling phrase. No leftist, Brzezinski detects what he calls a "global political awakening", a stirring across much of the developing world, among those who are "conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree and resentful of its deprivations and lack of personal dignity". Thanks to television and the internet, the global have-nots can now see all that the haves are enjoying at their expense. The hard-headed Brzezinski sniffs revolution in the air.

The second (and related) impact is on the status of the US as a model to the rest of the world. Last weekend a clutch of political scholars gathered in Oxford for a New York Review of Books conference on "The new face of American capitalism". Several suggested that, thanks to a weakening dollar and a narrowing in the performance gap between the US and Europe, the US model was beginning to lose its shine. The debacle in Iraq had also badly damaged American prestige......."

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