By B. Sivaraman
It is a spring back moment for the
global Left. It might not have reached a point of renascence yet. But the Left
revival, though inconspicuous and asymmetrical across countries, is
unmistakable. It is a bouncy aftereffect of the all too common right wing surge
all over the globe. Writing off the Left or berating it for inaction is passé.
The call of the hour is to seize the moment and grasp the less-noticed left
Is it alright to talk of a unified
global left, variegated as it is in innumerable shades? Yes, when confronted
with the common rightwing onslaught, it makes sense to talk in terms of a broad
global left convergence — inclusive of all its shades like the
social-democratic, the communist and the New Left, the ecosocialists, sectoral
movements like radical feminists, labour movements, including the alt-labour
movements of oppressed races, castes and ethnic minorities and other
anti-imperialist nationalists and, of course, the academic and media left.
After all, the challenges faced are common. The traditional lines of
demarcation need not get blurred but need to be moderated to suit the call of
And we are not talking in
generalities. If the tech workers of Amazon demand of their CEO Jeff Bezos that
he immediately stop selling facial recognition technology to the American
police lest they use it against the coloured people and migrants, if the geeks
of the Microsoft call upon their CEO Satya Nadella to cancel the $19.4 million
contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the US to provide
cloud-computing services to track illegal migrants and if the tech gurus at
Google prevail upon Sundar Pichai to call off the contract with Pentagon to
supply artificial intelligence algorithmic back-up under Project Maven to enable
it to carry on drone warfare, are they not early indicators of an oncoming
radicalisation of the cream of the millennial tech workforce?
If the participation in women’s
marches in January and March 2018 in the US adds up to an unbelievable 5
million, doesn’t it mark a refreshing revival of a tributary stream of the
popular left? The last the world witnessed such humongous mobilisations was in
1989 when the Soviet puppet dominoes in the Eastern Bloc fell like ninepins.
History repeats but it is also double-edged. It has come back to haunt the
bourgeoisie gloating over the end of history.
History repeats but not in copybook
monotony. Yellow vests of 2018 might be a pastel variant of the red bandanas of
1968. But in the times that have changed, they are colourful all the same. 50
years is a blip in history. The mighty Soviet power might have evaporated and
justifiably so. The Chinese might have embarked on a capitalist road to
socialism. So what? History marches on. Class struggles keep raging. The capital
needs their Erdogans, Modis and Trumps. The working people too need their left.
Even if the left is dormant, they are bound to give birth to the conditions of
its revival. That is precisely what is happening. Sceptical still? Go to JNU or
visit the lush green fields a few kms away to meet the farmers who marched on
Delhi in lakhs and one can sense the new mood.
Even the mainstream political Left
has become newsmakers here and there. Including in the USA, of all places! Just
Google it up to look for all the left ‘platforms” which, with their
unbelievable vibrancy, imparted a fascinating grassroots churn to the otherwise
dull politics of the Democratic Party and galvanised it to deal body blows to
Trump during the mid-terms.
Even as the liberal media completed
writing its epitaph on the alleged demise of European social-democracy after
the opportunist New Labour looked irredeemably lost, some Jeremy Corbyn springs
up on the scene and promises a rejuvenated left social-democracy 2.0!
The imperialistic far-right in
Europe and US might fear Putin as a born-again reincarnation of Lenin, causing
them a new nightmare. But even a clumsy Google Chrome translation of the daily
postings in Russian social media can tell you about the revival of “Dissenters’
Marches” of 2007–08 again in 2017–18 in St. Petersburg against despotic
strongman Putin, where the fledgling Russian Left, including the umbrella
platform the Other Russia, Eduard Limonov’s National Bolshevik Party, the
far-left Vanguard of Red Youth and the radical working class outfit Labour
Russia of Viktor Anpilov and many more have started marching in thousands,
often jointly with liberals like People’s Democratic Union of Mikhail Kasyanov
and even with not-so-liberal but popular Gary Kasparov and his United Civil
Front. They may be small but the discussions are intense and more mainstream.
True, they might be too marginal
still to effect an immediate turnaround at the macro-political level. But not
all alternatives begin with a bang. Country after country has an inspiring tale
to tell on new left stirrings. The corporate media has a different scale for
ranking. But for those reorganising the Left from the scratch, the measurement
might be different.
And the leftward shift in Europe is
no electoral capriciousness or mere fickle-minded mood swing of the electorate.
Rather, they are firmly rooted in the material conditions of austerity, not
only in Europe but even to some extent in America. Ten years of austerity as a
result of the Eurozone crisis has left the population reeling. Wage cuts became
the official wage policy in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain and real wages
fell. Wage freeze was witnessed in other countries of EU. Pension benefits were
curtailed even in supposedly affluent welfare states. There was a fire-sale of
public sector assets as neo-liberal doctrines became the gospel. Welfare
benefits eroded under tight fiscal austerity and the so-called Social Europe
was in tatters. Above all, Europe became a jobless Europe.
Austerity was not exclusive to
Europe. Japan has been sinking under its weight for more than a decade. Despite
rosy parameters of the current state of the economy, the US is not alien to it.
As on date, 420,000 federal employees in the US don’t know when they would get
their next pay cheques, thanks to the government shutdown. The funds crunch has
intensified the battle over spending priorities. If the gross public debt as a
percent of GDP at market prices touched an unsustainable 82.2% in Germany, the
economic power house of Europe, it hit an alarming 108% in the USA by 2012. In
fact, the developed world never fully recovered from the financial explosion of
2008. Neo-liberalism, far from solving the crisis of stagnation, only took the
developed world to the doorsteps of a sovereign fund crisis. Attacks on labour
in the name of labour reforms became the norm. The proliferation of left
networks is rooted in such grim realities.
Though embedded in local realities,
these mushrooming new left fora are not localist or nativist. Significant calls
for global solidarity among the Left are emanating. If Bernie Sanders, the
grand old man of the American Left, calls for a global united front, to be
echoed by Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister of Greece and a leader
of the leftwing Syrzia, and earlier Samir Amin, one of the prime architects of
the World Social Forum, pens a moving appeal a few days before bidding adieu to
all his comrades, calling for a new International, a World Social-Political
Forum so to say, then there must be strong objective impulses for a growing
international solidarity. (IPA Service)