The challenges of centre left politics

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Among the five core values which Paul Berenger highlighted in his public lecture on ‘‘le socialisme aujourdhui’’ stands prominently economic pragmatis. This issue needs further analysis not only in its global context but more importantly locally as it will impact on our development strategy in the years ahead. Your editorial piece (20th Aug) warned against utopian socialist ideology discredited in the eighties by Reaganomics and Thatcherism ; the emergence of a new economic model based on neoliberal ideology has dominated the Western economies until the financial crisis of 2008. This system which has produced great wealth and income inequality – the famous 1% versus 99% syndrome (concentration of wealth and income among the top earning 1% of the population of a country) is inherently political and involves corporate interests in policy making most specially the banking sector. The unreasonable returns of one sector – say finance – encourages far too many potentially productive young people in that area. In the U.S for example, there are too many investment bankers or hedge fund managers or lawyers or lobbyists gyrating around these activities to the detriment of society and economic growth.

The crash of 2008 and the ensuing economic and financial damage inflicted on many European countries appear not to have any influence on the policy makers. Many are still joining the 1% fraternity and are using their wealth to perpetuate the system. At the top of the scale plutocrats shape the policy by buying influential newspapers, TV channels or funding political campaigns. Not only bankers through their indecent bonuses, Ponzi schemers, drug barons, financial speculators and lately some professional footballers and atheletes are teaming up at the top of the pole.

Why have centre left parties been silent in denouncing these excesses? Will the narrow politics of austerity involving drastic spending cuts, driving the economy into recession, producing hefty current account deficits,slowing growth and increasing unemployment be the answer to the anger and frustration of the victims of such a system? Most centre left political parties are taking a hammering in the electoral processes in Europe. Yet no serious refl ection on the options and strategies are being formulated by socialist Leaders.

Last Monday president Hollande and his cabinet held a seminar on the vision of ‘‘France in 10 years time’’ mapping up for a better France by 2025. The German social democrats, SPD, with general elections next month are struggling to convince Germans of their political relevance. The British Labour Party is no better shape; it has alienated its core supporters – the trade union movement, lost a sizeable section of its members and still looking for a credible economic model.

What alternatives can centre left parties offer to those disillusioned with the neoliberal ideology? Solutions have to be credible to cut through the complex economic and political environment. A principled rejection of austerity is not enough, neither is the conventional fall back option of ‘‘spend and borrow’’. This is political reality and no going back over it. To seize the moment and rebuff the growing tide of populism fi ling this vacuum, progressive centre left will need to leave its comfort zone. It must pose critical economic questions: how to generate employment, support wages, invest in innovation and business and re-regulate the financial markets.

New poles of progressive governance based on novel ideas must be formulated. These could include among others:

1. Politics of growth, production and reform.

2. Lifting living standards and providing good jobs in an era of increasing global Competition.

3. Equipping our youth for the new economy and tackling youth unemployment.

Paul Berenger has initiated a discussion long overdue on a fundamental issue. Commentators and analysts could enrich the debate by meaningfully participating in the ensuing discourse .

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