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Leftist political parties abandoned the working class for globalization

Leftist political parties abandoned the working class for globalization
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Since the 19th century, the fundamental structure of politics in Europe and America has been the contest between left and right — liberal v. conservative — to shape and reshape the societies in which they operated. The historic mission of parties of the left — Socialists in continental Europe, Labour in Britain, Democrats in America — has been to champion and uplift the living conditions of the working classes who were the majority population in every country.

Today this traditional paradigm, by varying degrees, has fractured or even collapsed in nearly every Western country as political parties of the left become enablers of the new economic order we call “globalization.”       

In a seminal Guardian article in December 2018, French sociologist Christophe Guilluy wrote: “From the 1980s onward it was clear there was a price to be paid for Western societies adapting to a new economic model — and that price was sacrificing the European and American working class. No one thought the fallout would hit the bedrock of the lower middle class, too. It’s obvious now, however, that the new model not only weakened the fringes of the proletariat but society as a whole.”

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The economic condition and security of the working class steadily declined over decades as accelerating globalization undermined their well-being and political influence. Stagnating wages and disappearing jobs devastated a traditional way of life.        

As the workers’ fortunes declined, corporate interests gained in strength and prosperity through rapidly growing globalization. Jobs, and even whole industries in Western nations, could be relocated to foreign product centers where dramatically lower costs caused profits and wealth to soar. Additionally, globalization allowed money to move about the planet largely unhindered by national borders. In fact, nation-states and their onerous tax and regulatory regimes came to be seen by international corporations as positively malignant influences impeding the growth of the “New World Order.” 

Left-wing political parties throughout the West found their influence diminished. Disappearing jobs meant fewer supporters and shrinking private-sector union membership. The parties’ last bulwark were the politically potent public-sector unions whose security and benefits were shielded from the effects of competition.        

Over time, varying by country, the left concluded that the economic forces underlying globalization could not be halted — mitigated perhaps, but not reversed. Accordingly, accommodations were made; new alliances and understandings developed.        

Business interests perceived this attitudinal sea change and worked to nurture it politically and monetarily. The most graphic evidence of this development, well documented in both Europe and America, is the growth of money donated to leftist parties by business interests in general, and corporate interests in particular. Clearly, influence was being bought and muted left-wing criticism of globalization was increasingly in evidence. In many sectors, business donations to left-wing parties equaled or exceeded money traditionally given to right-wing parties.      

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This dramatic change of allegiance by the left could not be publicly acknowledged, of course. In fact, it had to be disguised and misrepresented. This occurred in two distinct ways.        

First, the working class was marginalized and, where possible, made invisible. They were declared to be mainly elderly, rural, a gradually disappearing demographic, poorly educated and manifesting retrograde cultural traits, i.e., conservatism, nationalism and xenophobia.  

Second, a new clientele had to be found to replace the one being abandoned. Thus, poorly paid and exploited foreign workers of color and migrants fleeing oppression became new causes to be uplifted by free trade and open borders.

Thus, the old clients of the left were demonized while the new clients were lionized. Mass media, celebrities and academia — themselves largely leftist — rallied behind the new storyline and relentlessly marketed it to the public as an unquestioned narrative to be accepted by socially conscious progressives everywhere.        

As the parties of the left made their historic change of mission and clientele, they believed they could do so without damaging their political strength. Their bedrock working-class supporters might be disgruntled, but as voters they could be taken for granted because they really had nowhere else to go, they reasoned. This proved to be wrong. Feeling disrespected by the elites and betrayed by those to whom they long had been loyal, large elements of the working class found somewhere else to go — new parties such as AfD in Germany, National Rally in France, Lega in Italy — and new leaders such as former President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Romney on NRSC awarding Trump: Not 'my preference' McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' MORE, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE and the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who responded to these voters’ economic and cultural alienation.

This monumental miscalculation would not only devastate the parties of the left but also transform the entire spectrum of Western politics as the economic forces unleashed by globalization proceeded to reshape society in unforeseen ways. This historic transformation is far from complete, but its direction is almost certainly irreversible. 

William Moloney, Ph.D., is a Fellow in Conservative Thought at Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute who studied at Oxford and the University of London. He is a former Colorado Commissioner of Education.