Things are looking bleak in France this week. Since Nicolas Sarkozy defeated Ségolène Royal in early May, he has consolidated his political momentum and looks to gain a huge majority in the National Assembly in the second round of legislative elections this weekend. Although many uninformed Americans see France as some hotbed of radicalism, its post-World War II political tradition has been far more blue than red.** With the exception of Mitterand’s presidency and the Socialist legislative majority from 1997 to 2002, the Fifth Republic has had conservative governments since Charles de Gaulle’s putsch in 1958.
(** Good Lord! The American media has even taken away our revolutionary red from us. Ever heard of radicals waving a BLUE flag?? Blue has always been the color of royalists and reactionaries.)
But it’s not just France. Of the G-7 nations, all except Italy are trending more conservative. And Italy’s Roman Prodi barely defeated Silvio Berlusconi in the last election. Add to that the demise of Social Democratic traditions in Scandinavian countries, the extreme right-wing government of the Kaczynski twins in Poland, and the rightward drift of Labour under Dubya’s lapdog Tony Blair and the overall situation is disturbing.
Here is a chart of the G-7 governments plus Sweden since 1950.
I have used the traditional colors of red for the left and blue for the right.
Copyright – Johnnygunn
Released to the commons with attribution
One thing demands notice.
The last line.
Four of the countries have recently elected conservative governments. The right already governed in France. It is moving much further right. Germany’s Angela Merkel is poised to win the next election given her popularity and is simply biding her time for the most opportune time. Germany’s chancellors tend to last a decade. Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government in Canada is surviving – with polls indicating that the Liberals would not prevail. The longer Harper remains in office, the more likely the Conservatives will win after more than a decade of Liberal rule. Gordon Brown is likely to lose the next British election unless he disavows Blair’s foreign policy and domestic security programs.
What is even more disturbing is the trend in Scandinavia. Sweden – the dictionary definition of a social democratic state – now has a center-right coalition government under Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. The guy talks tax cuts and neoliberalism like the best of them and even campaigned for Dubya in 2000. Talk about Buddhist nuns! Who would have ever thought Swedish prime ministers would be part of Bushco?
India denies its tradition of non-violence by entering the nuclear club. China makes a mockery of the Communist Party by becoming the most extreme capitalist nation in the world. (Update) In Japan Shinzo Abe is very disturbing, too. After a short, but ineffective challenge to Liberal Democratic Party control in the 1990s, the LDP is back to one-party rule. Abe is CLEARLY the most militarist Japanese leader since WWII. He is dangerously revisionist concerning Japan's aggression in WWII.
The idealism of Julius Nyerere and Patrice Lumumba is replaced by the kleptocracy of Robert Mugabe and unending warfare in Central Africa. Nigeria is torn between shariah and oil money. In Latin America the rhetorical focus is on Hugo Chavez, but Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva's government in Brazil has backed away - far away from real reform, while the recent election in Mexico appeared to be a rerun of Florida 2000. Meanwhile peasants' milpas are converted to agribusiness.
Where is the left?
What has happened to the International?
Too often, there appears to be a focus on political trends within nations without considering larger international trends – Prodi/Berlusconi in Italy, Sarkozy/Royal in France, Brown/Cameron in Britain, Clinton-Obama-Edwards/Giuliani-McCain-Romney in the U.S. Look at the chart again. After the Reagan/Thatcher/Kohl 1980s there was a brief respite for progressives in the 1990s. That progressive trend is over. There is an international reactionary tide that is looming – dangerously looming.
Progressivism in one country won't work.