While the whole of Europe is tumbling over each other in political discourse, fear of the right wing and disastrous divide on the left, Portugal is quietly fixing its problems in a left-wing minority government. The Labour parties of Europe are slowly getting wind of the succes, but their attempts of copying it will fail unless they are willing to stop negotiating with the right and turn their attention to hard left.
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For too long, socialist parties have made concessions to the right and center in order to gain momentum. This has not worked. Their hard left supporters have felt betrayed and underrepresented, the right and center voters felt tricked and low-balled. Why vote for a vaguely left party that tries to adopt center-right ideas, when I have actual center right parties to vote for? Tony Blair’s Labour, the elitist and aimless PVDA in the Netherlands and the faceless, spineless Socialists of French president Hollande. All of them wanted to have it all and gained nothing. They succumbed to in-fighting, hollow promises they couldn’t keep and refusal to work with their peers. They were, bluntly put, arrogant, ignorant and too audacious to foresee their own falling from grace.
The reformist left has collapsed into a divided mess and the radical right is reaping the benefits. Nationalism, conservatism and xenophobia are running amok and scared for the future and their livelihood, people are reaching for their shotgun. But it’s not too late for Europe and the rest of the world yet. We can prevent a future with Wilders, Le Pen and the UKIP. The conflict in Syria can be defused, the damaged relationship with Turkey and Russia repaired and yes, we can find a home and life for every single refugee. We can even dethrone Donald Trump and keep Vladimir Putin out of our politics. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to succeed all at once, but it is possible. For that we have to believe in fundamental political theory. Say no to moderation, reforms and neo-liberalism. Forget coalitions and compromises with the right. The future is with socialism – in its purest and most rudimentary form. But we need to this together.
A left wing party is generally considered to be reformist once it starts conceding ideals in favour of populism and right-esque policies like austerity and low taxes in order to grow and get a realistic change of leading or taking part in government. A common side effect of such a tendency is that the party either develops internal factions that want to stick to their old socialist ideals, or disintegrates into splinter groups that form new hard left parties. Faced with criticism of the divided left, ring leaders are often calling for the small, radical parties to ‘get realistic’ and move up to the center in order to unite into a broad center-left coalition. This does not work! The only result is that the same failing reformist party is just getting bigger in numbers: they don’t change and they are not getting more popular.
The left needs to unite under a radical agenda, NOT based on reformist ideals like high taxation to counter income inequality and a generous welfare system to help out the poor. Those are palliative measures, meant to put slowing effect on the disastrous workings of capitalism. High taxes and other forms of powerful governmental regulation in society are similar to what protease inhibitors against HIV/AIDS. It’s fair and necessary within the context of the illness, but ideally speaking they should not have to be there. In a modern society we don’t need to have capitalism just like middle ages didn’t need feudalism and the antiquity didn’t need slavery, hence why they broke with these oppressive systems and replaced them something more progressive and fair.
These changes do not come overnight. We can’t expect a communist revolution to happen tomorrow and every left leaning politician to climb on the barricades and declare capitalism to be over. But everything starts with the right intentions, and this case a socialist world starts with a socialist agenda. The left should unite under a set of ideals and come forward together against the neoliberals, the austerity and the nationalists ideals. We should promote an agenda that includes self determination for the people, democratic ownership of companies and a basic income, housing and healthcare for everyone. The left should prioritise nationalisation of basic utilities, public transport and expropriate things like farmaceuticals, energy and financial aid from the hands of for-profit organisations. The ideals of the left should not be based on reactive counter-measures as stopgap to austerity and commercialisation, but sustainable ideas that are based on a rudimentary theory, and we should stand behind and stay behind this theory as a mass movement.
Portugal is showing the early beginnings of such a movement. It’s only in an infant stage of development, but a very important hurdle has been taken: the complete denunciation of neoliberalism and the refusal to compromise on anything centrist or centre-right. Disagreements on the left can be ironed out and agreed upon, socialism can develop and come to fruition. But an alliance with everything non-socialist is deemed to fail. As Rose Luxemburg said: “Socialism or barbarism.”