Tuesday, August 23, 2011

European and US Working Class Politics: Right, Left and Neutered

By James Petras


The US, in contrast to Europe, is experiencing a peaceful transition from neo-liberalism to far-right politics, where the working and middle class are passive victims rather than active combatants for either the left or the right. In Europe, the current crisis reveals a deep polarization between the radical left turn of workers in the South and the growing shift to the far right among workers in Northern Europe. The ideal of international worker solidarity is being replaced, at best, by regional solidarity among the workers of Southern Europe and, at worst, by a network of rightist parties in the Northern European countries. With the decline of international solidarity, chauvinist and racist tendencies are rampant in the North, while in the South workers’ movements are joining with a broad range of social movements, including the unemployed, students, small business people and pensioners.

While the electoral right is capitalizing on the disenchantment with the center-left in Southern Europe, they still face formidable resistance from the extra-parliamentary workers and social movements. In contrast, in Northern Europe and the US, the far-right faces no such conscious opposition - in the streets or in the workplace. In these regions only the breakdown of the economic system or a prolonged severe economic recession combined with devastating cuts of basic social programs and protections may set in motion a revival of working class movements and hopefully, it will be from the class-conscious left and not from the far right."

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