Its 2011. The US credit rating has been downgraded, Italy has a government with no elected MPs, the Euro is imploding and the organised left across the globe is mute. Its silence is almost deafening. In Britain, the Labour party talks about the squeezed middle but no over arching theories as the UK teeters on the edge of a double dip recession. In the US, there is mainstream agreement that the majority have have been left behind in the search for American dream as outlined by the various Occupy movements. However the Democratic party is either unable or unwilling to wholeheartedly articulate the movements message of frustration and anger into policy.
The last time the world entered a period where banks and nations went bust, there were three choices, Communism, more of the same or Fascism. In the 1930's you had, black and white with a little grey inbetween. Leaders offered not only hope, certainty and hate but also vision. They said things could and would get better. In mainland Europe the way to reinvigorate the economy was to build armaments and autobahns and to hate your neighbours, to build walls around your boarders, economy and your mind. This lead to gas chambers and world war. There was another vision, FDR dragged America from the brink of revolution with a concept of American expectionalism, that his nation could conquer its fears and its wild hinterland, that Americans could bring water to the desert, that ideas and its sweat could fertilise barren land. In the 30's leaders led.
Now with a failed Super Congressional committee, political deadlock in Greece, record levels of youth unemployment across Europe and with riot police pepper spraying college kids peacefully demonstrating, where is the vision to join the dots and explain the times? No political party the world over has a way out of the current morass and no one is willing or able to articulate a path back from worldwide economic stagnation. The best we have is pain now, probably tomorrow and for the immediate future. All strata of mainstream political thought seems to agree: lets pay bond holders not to foreclose on nation states, then get those nations to slash public services to pay the bond holders. Is there no other alternative? Japan entered a asset price bubble recession in 1991, similar to the 2008 crash, it's still mired in stagnation 20 years later. Our political elite has never looked so threadbare as today and in hock to money markets and speculators.
The situation for the right, whether it is The Republicans, The Conservatives in the UK or Christian Democrats across Europe is, either ignore the underlying issues of depression, stagnation and wealth inequality or to tinker around the edges. The Republicans running for the White House have gone for option one. "Get yourself a job" Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich shout. There must be 9 million jobs in the US somewhere doing a very good job of hiding themselves from all and sundry. In the UK Cameron has taken on the guise of a social liberal, "I'm for gay marriage", "I know there is an issue with Youth unemployment". But these attitudes mask any real substantive ideas or change, the autumn statement underlined that.
The position of the left is more worrying. If you can't make a coherent case for economic change when the bond markets are pushing up the interest rates on nation states to the point of bankruptcy, youth unemployment is rising throughout the Western world and governments have bailed out banks, it may be time to admit that the politicians of the left lack are ideology vacant. Or that the time is up for left of centre politics from Arizona to Australia.
The Occupy movements around the world have proved that there is deep mistrust of the economic status quo, they are a neat parallel to the Jarrow marches and the Hoovervilles of seventy years ago. With no elected leaders and without pointed prescriptions these movements have not only sprung up and weathered rain, ridicule and riot police but have done this with no left of centre party able to nail its colours to the cause and frame a set of polices to address their concerns.
The logical conclusion of the impotence of progressive policy makers is creating a vacuum in the political spectrum around the globe. This situation is almost Fukiyama-like, an "End of Politics". There is no left, no framing of a counter vision or set of ideas that people can rally to in the current crisis. The alignment of left and right, of western politics that started with the French revolution may well be over, now the only question is how reactionary are your policies? We are entering a world where only wealth matters and governments are headed by unelected officials and millionaires hell bent on managing the interests of the few and hoping that the many do not notice. Anyone for cake? Its 1789.
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