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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.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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.

Originally posted to johnnygunn on Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 10:58 PM PDT.

Poll

Which nation's conservative trend is most disturbing?

46%56 votes
3%4 votes
10%13 votes
3%4 votes
0%0 votes
2%3 votes
13%16 votes
9%11 votes
1%2 votes
3%4 votes
1%2 votes
0%1 votes
0%1 votes
3%4 votes

| 121 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

    •  Well I Think the Right Owns the Planet (11+ / 0-)

      so they typically hire a big chunk of the talent.

      I think the modern left is premised on the people owning major chunks of the economy. I'm not sure we had a "left" during feudalism. The first feudalism.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 11:04:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Of course, all those rightwing ... (11+ / 0-)

      ...governments in Europe would be out on their ears if they tried to dismantle, oh, say, universal health care in those countries. Or stopped subsidizing public transportation. Or engaged in the kind of union-busting that has broken the back of the union movement in this country over the past 30 years.

      Which is not to say that they aren't reactionary, with more than a tinge of ethnocentricity thrown in. Nor are they not problematic for their own lower classes. But, compared with the right wing here - at least the ruling right wing - most of these Euro-governments are socialist, whatever their neoliberal rhetoric.

      The question is, as you ask, how do we reinvigorate the left - leaving aside for the moment the whole issue of what that left label even means anymore. Latin America might provide an example. While all those Euro-governments were trending right, the Latin American governments have, in name at least, been going leftward. Perhaps because they've gotten a bit too much of the stick end of neoliberalism?

      •  Sarkozy - (7+ / 0-)

        Promises to "make France work" again.
        It doesn't sound good for poor people or immigrants.
        Whenever rightists talk about making people work -
        It is always somebody else who sweats the blood.

        Neoliberals are nothing if they aren't cunning.  If people like Sweden's Reinfeldt can succeed in severing the social welfare state from it tax funding, the entire system will likely begin to topple - much like if you pull too many sticks from the bottom of a Jenga stack.  Then they can point to the "failures of government" and dismantle with a vengeance.

        Sound familiar?

      •  Demographics? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johnnygunn, npbeachfun

        Isn't the population in almost all countries trending conservative older?  I don't know about Nigeria and India.

        Also, Europe seems to have a recent (in the last 20  years) substantial influx of immigrants.

        Just anecdotally (i.e., I probably don't know what I'm talking about), the mix of transitioning economies, aging populations, and influx of immigrants without citizenship possibilities seems like it could lead to more conservative politics (but nonetheless operating within the framework you noted).

        Blogatha! The political, the personal. Not necessarily in that order.

        by ksh01 on Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 11:41:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually - (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          litho, npbeachfun, tecampbell

          Only in the developed nations.
          In what used to be called the third world,
          the populations remain extremely young demographically.

          In the countries I have listed - yes - the average age in increasing.  But, in most democratic states, generational cohorts tend to maintain their voting behaviors lifelong.  Thus, in the U.S., Roosevelt Democrats tend to continue to vote Democratic - Reagan Republicans tend to continue to vote Republican.  For Europe, since the younger cohorts are smaller - a demographic analysis might suggest an even more disturbing trend.

          Thanks for the heads up.

      •  I have been traveling to Germany recently, and (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johnnygunn

        the rhetoric I've heard from 30 somethings is a bit disturbing.

        Talk of privatizing rail and subsidizing air travel was a shocker.

        I'm not sure how much they're interested in holding on to their social safety nets.

        It's so expensive, dontchaknow.

        I hope you're right, but I'm not too optimistic.

        Freedom is not a commodity. No Shit Sherlock

        by k9disc on Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 12:40:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I've been calling it the Rightwing Tide (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnnygunn, npbeachfun, Cronesense

      in comments and some of my blogs, but this idea really hasn't gotten much attention here.  And I really wish you'd included Japan, which is easily the most disturbing to me.

      I'd disagree that India is a non-violent nation, but it certainly didn't used to be so reckless.

      Japan on the other hand has had 50 years of surprisingly non-violent policy--anti-weapons, no standing military, et cetera--only to jump on the nation building bandwagon by sending police force to Japan and reconsidering the decent parts of its constitution, and some political leaders fond of revisionist history concerning Japanese autrocity in WWII.

      Japan has an extremely jungoistic side to it, which people will pass over cause they're so "polite".  Actually it's damned difficult for Koreans and Chinese people to live there, to the point that they change their names and hide their accents.

      Think Japan is a nice place to live? Try becoming a citizen and watching the red carpet welcome.  Which is not to say Japan is bad, but many non-Japanese are astonishingly ignorant of Japan's (among other countries) real cultural norms.

      Guiliani's a creep.

      by Nulwee on Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 11:36:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree - (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        npbeachfun, Nulwee, Cronesense

        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.

        I will add this to the main body of the diary.

    •  We refocus the international left (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnnygunn, tecampbell

      by electing a Democratic president and Congress in '08.

      I don't mean that as a panacea -- not by a long shot -- but rather as the most realistic, practical thing we can do.  Given our candidates, a Democratic president wouldn't be more than a very small incremental step in the right direction, but it would be a step.

      We also need to continue rethinking the left-right division in a post-industrial, post-Marxist globalized world.  Leftist orthodoxies were destroyed in the late-80s and we haven't yet constructed a compelling narrative to replace them.  In the meantime, the most forceful popular movements in the contemporary world are almost all religiously based.

      Back in the heyday of anarchism -- late 19th and early 20th centuries -- activists facing hostile local environments used to practice "boring from within."  They'd join local organizations (unions, mutual aid societies, volunteer fire departments) and talk up anarchist values.  Of course, they had a worked out, compelling ideology.  We've got little more than a set of values.  Still, it's something we can do.  Personally, I'm a schoolteacher.

      Think globally, act locally.

    •  Same recipe as in the US... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnnygunn, Cronesense

      ... but with less destruction at home and abroad, thank you very much. That would be nice.

      The past 6 years have been a disaster for the country but have made wonders for the Democrats. Leaner, bolder, meaner and on the offense for the first time in 30 years. This very site is the proof.


      Same thing in France.

      As an institution, the Socialist Party is a spent force with pretty much the same leadership as 20 years ago inherited from the Mitterrand coattails. Segolene Royal was not a fresh new face by any measure (and she was a pretty bad candidate, no matter what Jerome a Paris says).

      There is also a strong internal contradiction between the right wing of the party, which is pretty much social-democrat, and the left wing that resembles the Linkspartei in Germany.

      A "anything but the commies" party on the left made sense in the Mitterrand era when the Communist Party fully occupied the extreme left and raked 20% of the votes. Not anymore. The commies are dead as a political force with a good part of its working-class voters gone to Le Pen and the extreme right (reminds you something ?). What remains of that left is dispersed in small troskyist parties and the Greens. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party is itself flatly incoherent and unmanageable.

      Actually a split may not be a bad thing. It would allow the left wing to bring back the voters lost to the extreme left and the perfectly useless Greens and the right wing to chase the many voters who went for centrist Francois Bayrou. The coming 5 years in the dog house may finally give the French left a long overdue kick in the arse to redefine itself.


      By the way, Sarko campaigned more against Chirac than against Royal. Now, that was chutzpah but it worked. The French voted for him mostly as a change of generation more than an ideological choice, though I would make an exception for the immigration issue which was clearly a driver of the Sarko vote with the right of the right.

      Sarko in the Elysee Palace and a Deep Blue chamber is not a great result. It's not the end of civilization as we know it either. The French right is mostly economically defined. In the US, most of its elected officials would be flaming liberals on social issues. And it's not like the French are shy about throwing a good riot if things really go off tracks. So don't worry too much.


      Elsewhere in Europe, Sweden is just taking its regular breather from the Social Dems. No big deal. In UK, well, it looks like Gordon Brown is doing exactly what you suggest and throwing Bliar under the bus.


      I see a very bright future for progressivism and liberals and not just in the US.

      Gore 2008 ! Whether Gore likes it or not !

      by Farugia on Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 12:48:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks Farugia - (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Farugia, npbeachfun, Cronesense

        But I am less confident.
        The Belgians moved increasingly rightward last week, too.
        Nationalist, conservatives won.
        http://www.iht.com/...

        •  Belgian left is more or less in the same funk (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          johnnygunn, Cronesense

          Tired leadership, tired structures (and, I believe, corruption issues in the case of Belgium). Essentially, the 90s Third Way is going chapter 11 and we're seeing a change of leadership pretty much across the board on the left.

          I don't expect the left to remain on the sidelines for long.

          The problems that favor the left and require an active government are not going away : social inequality, health care, education, environment, energy, foreign trade, public infrastructure, etc.

          At the same time, the issues that favor the right are, I think, fading in the mid to long term. The "personal freedoms" issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) are not working as they used to be and if you believe the polls amongst younger voters, it's going to get worse and worse for the right. What we are seeing right now is mostly rear-guard from the courts and the legislatures, pretty much the same way liberal influence lingered well past its political peak in the 60s.

          Public security is also on the way out for the right. It's  completely bankrupt in that respect in the US and, save for the privacy angle, it's never really been a partisan issue in Europe.

          Moving forward, the real right-wing issue is going to be immigration on both sides of the big pond. The left would do well to preempt the issue some way or another.

          I'm not saying we can relax and enjoy the show. Outright authoritarianism is always possible in crisis situations (and the next two decades are going to be "very interesting"). But the trends are good for the left and social democracy.

          Now, it's up to us.

          Gore 2008 ! Whether Gore likes it or not !

          by Farugia on Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 12:59:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Very good diary, by the way (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          johnnygunn, npbeachfun, Cronesense

          and a very good chart.

          Thanks :)

          Gore 2008 ! Whether Gore likes it or not !

          by Farugia on Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 01:01:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  A very prescient diary. (6+ / 0-)

    While we're fighting our government's hellbent path here, progressives in other "dominant" nations are also in similar struggles to retain forward-thinking governments, and not localized versions of warmongering, health-privatizing neocons.

    This does bear thinking.

    Have bittorrent? See SiCKO! (Then see it in theatres June 29th!)

    by Diaries on Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 11:07:48 PM PDT

  •  Recommended.... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn, walkshills, Nulwee, Diaries

    Scary Graph: the world is Own by the same (25-50) families  and those families don't give a
    Shit about us...

    "Spell check helps, dyslexia still wins" got a problem/Take it up with Markos~

    by npbeachfun on Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 11:29:03 PM PDT

  •  Denmark. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn, npbeachfun, tecampbell

    with the destruction of Ungdomshuset and clampdown on Christiania.

    Democratic Candidate for US Senator, Wisconsin, in 2012

    Gravel for President, 2008

    by ben masel on Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 11:38:17 PM PDT

  •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn

    johnnygunn I LOVE the chart! but can you help a middle aged person out: add the countries names to the bottom?

    I feel old, and blind, sorry...

    "Spell check helps, dyslexia still wins" got a problem/Take it up with Markos~

    by npbeachfun on Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 11:39:17 PM PDT

  •  Here Are Some Leadership Groupings - (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    litho, npbeachfun

    Late 1950s - Big Five -
    Eisenhower, Macmillan, de Gaulle, Adanauer, Diefenbaker

    Late 1980s - New Right
    Reagan, Thatcher, Kohl, Mulroney

    Since 1950 there has NEVER been a time when the U.S., the U.K., France, and Germany have all had Dem/left governments.  There have been two short periods when three of the four have had Dem/left governments - the late 1970s and the late 1990s - both times when the Democratic president was under severe attack.

  •  I was in France in January/February. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn, npbeachfun

    It was pretty apparent how conservative the nation had become.  

    OMG I wore tennis shoes in public in Paris!  I felt like a rube.  It is a feeling you will never get if you only watch Faux news.  The feeling of being disconnected and 'uncultured'.

    I think there is an association in much of Europe between liberalism and a decline in social mores.  Perhaps this is a remnant of the reaction to May '68.  Nevertheless, it does not fare well for people fighting for better wages or better treatment of the immigrant population there.

    All those who voted for the Hague Invasion Act say 'Aye' so we know who not to vote for.

    by tecampbell on Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 12:14:33 AM PDT

    •  When in France - (4+ / 0-)

      Most definitely wear tennis shoes -
      big, fluffy crew socks - shorts - short-sleeved, plaid shirt -
      and make sure to have a camera dangling around your neck.

      It's fun to play reverse performance theory on people.
      Like the woman from Iowa I knew in Manhattan.  
      She loved to talk about hog farming
      just for the reaction it drew from horrified New Yorkers.

      •  Shorts in Paris... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johnnygunn

        you are brave!

        But I dare you to wear a nose ring and tat's!

        Not saying that I did... <-- such a coward... wore dress shoes till they hurt.</p>

        All those who voted for the Hague Invasion Act say 'Aye'... dangit, Santa wants a list of the naughty!

        by tecampbell on Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 12:50:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Been to any French demonstrations lately? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Farugia, johnnygunn

      If you image the French are incapable of protesting and looking like a bunch of fashion plates at the same time, you need to get out more!

      I still remember the young anarchist lady, her mouth hidden by a perfectly exquisite (not expensive, just well-chosen) scarf, wrapped casually to fall over her back just so...

  •  Immigration (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn, Alexander G Rubio

    I wrote the other day that immigration issue in the US is just the "flavor of the day"  for Republican fear mongers.

    However, I wonder.

    Might immigration become a kind of pan-national organizing principle for conservative movements in developed nations?

    I've lost my faith in nihilism

    by grumpynerd on Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 05:04:05 AM PDT

  •  The international left is reinventing itself (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn

    This is a huge topic on which I've spent quite a bit of time in the last year, here are just a handful of notes, a quick sketch, perhaps some starting points.

    The old dinosaurs of the state socialist era are passing on, but the newer forms aren't yet ready to assume power.  The origin of the new alternatives can be traced back to the Zapatista Encuentro in 1996, which spawned Peoples Global Actionm the prime mover in launching the anti-neoliberal movement that has become (misleadingly) known as the "anti-globalization" movement.  As in any young movement, the false starts and missteps are many, but through the MayDay Network and the Social Forums strong and lasting links are being built. Many are sinking deep roots, such as the COBAS The upcoming US Social Forum this month in Atlanta finally brings one of the main organizing bases of this movement to these shores.  Central to the political analysis and activism of this 21st century left movement is the concept of precarity, and saw its first significant victory in the popular resistance that forced the Chirac government to withdraw its "CPE" which would have institutionalized a two-tier labor force, denying those newly entering the labor force the protections that French workers have previously enjoyed.  Part of Sarkozy's programis to impose this again, even more stringently, and while he may be riding high in the polls now, how long that popularity will last when he tries to push through his super-CPE remains to be seen.  One should expect a massive social conflict.  

    A couple essays from Alex Foti, one of the prime movers of the new Euro left (parts of which will refer to itself as "post-left"):

    Demoradical vs Demoliberal Regulation
    The Pink Rebellion of Copenhagen

    •  I Agree - (0+ / 0-)

      The old has passed away - the new is yet to come.
      But in the meantime.

      One example.  With the collapse of communism the Italian Communist Party imploded.  (Who would have guessed that the Christian Democrats would collapse a few years later, too.)  Even though there were two successor parties - the Dem Party of the Left and the Reformulated Communist Party - they got far fewer votes than emerging center-right regional parties - notably the Northern League.  Thus, the entire spectrum in Italy was shifted 5% to 10% rightwards.

      The Italian example is also illustrative in that the right wing collapsed following the demise of the left.  Like two books leaning against each other, when one is removed - the other falls, too.  I have felt for some time that the triumphant neoliberalism of the past decade-plus is precisely that.  It has all of the hubris and conceit of its own undoing.  That is - - unless it becomes something even more oppressive.

      PS - Speaking of precarity - I've been precarious for some time now.  Adjunct faculty - zero benefits - no health care.  But boy am I expected to put out.  The McDonaldization of America.  George Ritzer was right on.

  •  On the other hand (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn

    What outside watchers of german politics usually miss is that the conservative party, Merkel's CDU, has considerably moved to the left during the last decade or so.

    Many of the left-wing issues that were controversial during the 80's and early 90's have become mainstream. Especially on social and environmental issues the standard right-wing position has essentially collapsed.

    This goes for many european countries. The main reason why conservatism is rebounding is that they accepted the new reality. Even Sarkozy is, for all his Kärcher-rhetorics, a pragmatist. He'll have to move carefully, too.

    •  Pragmatist? (0+ / 0-)

      "You've had enough of this gang of scum, haven't you?" said Nicolas Sarkozy to residents in a Paris suburb affected by rioting. "Well we're going to get rid of them."

      •  Well? Words are cheap. (0+ / 0-)

        We're talking France, not America. The U.S. fancy for ridiculous nit-picking over every word and phrase isn't in fashion everywhere.

        He spoke to people affected by pointless violence. I wouldn't be too happy about some thugs setting fire to my neighborhood either.
        Us vs Them is a long-standing rhetorical motif in french elections; this is not to be taken too seriously. Sarkozy knows bloody well the only way to deal with the banlieues issue is a comprehensive integration effort.
        He's far too smart to miss the lesson the riots of 2005 held for him.

        Lately he has changed his tone significantly. He promised to help the muslim immigrants making france their home, enracinée is the term he used.

        Let's see what comes out of it.

  •  Merkel, Sarkozy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn

    Merkel and Sarkozy have tried to pressure Bush on global warming (with the usual success that pressuring the petulant boy-king yields), and Sarkozy apparently has installed the first woman of color in France in his cabinet.  

    Dems in 2008: An embarassment of riches. Repubs in 2008: Embarassments.

    by Yamaneko2 on Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 07:00:37 AM PDT

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