2007 - 2022

All Tomorrows Parties

IMG_3333I just completed a three-city tour of Stockholm, Malmö and Copenhagen to connect with other citizen journalist projects. It should have some good outcomes over the next few months for Bella as we try to build links to other movements and writers across Europe for content and syndication.

Like most folks who’ve been inspired by everything from Morten Harket to Nordic Horizons, Borgen, the Ystad Studios, or the Alternative over the last few years, I’ve been a cheerleader for all things Scandic. It was an eye-opener in terms of the complexity and dark and downside to the model – and we’ll be reviewing Dominic Hinde’s A Utopia Like No Other next week to explore this further.

A recurring issue over and over was the rise of the far-right in the form of the Swedish Democrats and the political failure to respond to the massive refugee crisis and offset a toxic nationalism. It was a debate sharpened by the local museum in Malmö celebrating the White Buses that saved thousands of people from the concentration camps and brought them to safety in the very museum building. As one Swedish blog writes:

“How do you save people from concentration camps when there’s a war raging across Europe and beyond? It’s a big question, but the answer sounds scarily simple: in the case of Scandinavia, you get permission from Himmler himself, then commandeer some buses, ambulances and trucks, collectively called the White Buses. You use a volunteer network to drive them from Theresienstadt, Dachau and Ravensbrück through war-torn Europe to the safety of Malmö’s medieval castle.”

Yet the irony was striking that only a few short months ago the Greens’ deputy prime minister, Åsa Romson, broke down in tears as she announced the measures to close the borders for further refugees (‘Sweden slams shut its open-door policy towards refugees’). It was said many, the final collapse of Green Party principle among many.

As the Greens founder under the crushing weight of compromise, discussions in Sweden turned to the state of European politics, perhaps accelerated by the Panama Papers. According to the perceptive writer and thinker Dougald Hine, now working with Sweden’s National Theatre, a new map of European parties can be drawn with four distinct groups emerging: the new right; the new left; the traditional and the non-aligned.

imagesWe can put Vlaams Belang, the Golden Dawn, National Front, Pagida, Swedish Democrats and some elements of UKIP and the Conservatives in the New Right. Labour, Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and the SNP form the traditional parties still wedded (to various degrees) to the same old economic models in the Traditional. The New Left comprises of Podemos, Syriza, RISE and others. The Non-Aligned consists of the Pirate Party, the Alternative and Five Star in Italy.

While the new right is characterised by an anti-immigrant, neo-fascist orthodoxy, a retreat into islamophobia and a reactionary response to the EU, the new left has emerged emboldened by the new brutalism of austerity Europe and has been boosted by a new generation  of people attracted to radical politics who have witnessed the institutions they grew up with collapsing around them.

The new political map is emerging because nobody knows what to do any more.

The days of auto-deference to bank manager, politician or policeman have been swept away in a tsunami of sleaze, failure and corruption, and a double-decade of banksterism of which Panama is only the latest exposure. The manifest failure of the traditional political parties to come to grips with the depth of the multi-crisis, instead mouthing bland platitudes into the autocue, convinces steadily fewer of us. With Drumpf the mouthpiece for the global redneck, a large but empty force of reactionary zealots can be inspired, but they are more ‘system failure’ than future pilots. Nobody actually expects Farage or his Eurotrash equivalent of the new right to solve anything other than their deep-seated psychological discomfort.

While the rise of the Pirates (Iceland), Five Star (Italy) and the Alternative (Denmark) offer up a fresh thinking, straight-talking alternative to the populist anti-politics of the far-right, they also have distinct issues of libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism to be resolved if they are not to be jettisoned (not released) from community, society and collective values. A Pirate victory in Iceland would be a victory for all, especially in light of Theresa May’s snoopers charter, but at some point the libertarianism of left and right meet in the middle.

A party and movement that can combine the innovation and language of today of the Non-Aligned with the values and solidarity of the New Left will make massive impact. The far-right are a sideshow of Anger Management, while the traditional parties are like the Jim Jones of contemporary Euro politics, supping on the economic Kool-Aid. Part of the problem about Scottish politics is it endlessly assumes exceptionalism and lacks wider context. It is useful to put our own debates in terms of the rest of Europe, particularly as we spiral towards Brexit against our will.


Comments (14)

Leave a Reply to Frank Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. kate says:

    there is no universal acceptance amongst the left that syriza is still part of the left . some socialists have called syriza’s capitulation to EU, combined with having no plan B & actually implementing EU/capitalist austerity in greece themselves, the biggest betrayal in the history of the left.

    It was at least another indicator to the public that the left cannot be trusted, more minor recent examples being the Greens in Sweden and Ireland, the French current ‘socialist’ govt etc – there is a long list before you get to the really big historical betrayals – China, USSR, Korea, Vietnam etc which often worsened or continued poverty of subordinate classes, combining it with the corruption of rich elites, democratic suppression & then finally tossing all of it for state capitalism without democracy. the way of the future!
    syriza is absolutely in the this trajectory of coming full circle.
    in my view praising syriza is identifying with a completely discredited force & with the ruling elites, which will compound suspicion of the left. syriza did reveal voting as worthless and trust in leftist leaders operating within the rules of capitalist democracy as worthless. the question is whether revolution is also worthless.

    1. Darby O'Gill says:

      I don’t think you’re being very fair. Syriza were up against the IMF, the World Bank and the ECB. What should they have done? Let the Greek people starve to death.

      1. kate says:

        that’s what they are doing.
        unless you count women prostituting themselves for a sandwich
        the people who are starving would have been behind radical options that were never taken up to and including revolution. regardless syriza should not have taken on austerity themselves. it is a clear message that once in govt the left cannot be trusted , even to resign in protest. syriza remain as parasitic instrument of the right that speak left wing words, retaining relatively affluent status as MPs in the process. even where they could act in leftist political ways they didn’t & continued military alliances with israel. they have also agreed to the EU policy of forced repatriation of refugees to turkey. then they complain about the bullets used, as if that were not already going on & implied by agreeing to use force anyway. this ‘left’ mocks us as surely as the tories

  2. George Gunn says:

    As the Panama leaks prove yet again, the global corruption is a singularity of cynicism. We, as citizens, have to protect our society from the corrosive effects of that singularity. Voting in Scotland is not useless: it is our vital primary political tool. In the US there is now a corporate patriotism emerging which signals the death of democracy in that place. In Scotland we have to create a new democracy and defend it rigorously in our lives and our culture. To activate this we need the new kind of journalism which Bella Caledonia aspires to and needs the resources to achieve. The selective and reticent attitude to the Panama stuff and to Cameron’s obvious truth bi-pass by the likes of the BBC and the Guardian makes the need for this new journalism ever more urgent. The ruling elites have no other opposition.

  3. Iain MacLeod says:

    Ten to fifteen years ago I spent a significant amount of time in Scandinavia. What always struck me was an absence of poor people and shoddy looking housing whilst an abundance of educated people and infrastructure people valued.

    I have admiration and respect for all the nations of Scandinavia.

    Scandinavians can appear on the surface to be overly slow and deliberate, but from my experience this is far from the case, they are very smart. They would give rise five minutes and then dismiss them completely for what they are, opportunists riding on the back of SNP success.

    The time politically for rise may come post independence, until that time they have a place to help form policy of the broader independence movement, but competing against the SNP merely divides the nationalist vote.

    Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland have their freedom, Scotland hasn’t, why risk the fight vote freedom on rise?

    1. Darby O'Gill says:

      Firstly, RISE are not competing against the SNP. They are attempting to support the movement for Independence by offering themselves as list candidates. As an example, if the SNP win all nine constituency seats in Lothian as expected, they will need 200,000 votes to gain one additional list MSP under the d’Hondt system. If they fail then it opens the way for Unionist candidates (Labour and Conservatives) It would only take 20,000 votes to get a RISE candidate elected. RISE candidates happen to believe inter alia that having 1 in 4 of our children living in poverty and that having 20 foodbanks in the second richest part of the UK – Edinburgh are a national disgrace and should be addressed.

      Secondly they are hardly ‘opportunists riding on the back of SNP success’. RISE comprises the SSP and socialists of RIC. You might recall that the SSP had an MSP between 1999 and 2003 and 6 MSP’s between 2003 and 2007 in which time they proposed more Bills than all the other parties combined. All were rejected by the Lab/Lib Government, with the exception of the Free Prescription Bill which was passed by the first SNP administration. The SSP manifesto included a referendum for independence and RISE has included one also – the only party to do so.

      The Radical Independence Campaign were part of the YES campaign and by mass canvassing were directly responsible for creating a record number of registered electors and a record turnout in the referendum. You only have to look at the numbers in favour of independence before they joined the campaign as against the 45% who actually voted YES.

      1. Frank says:

        The grandiose and self aggrandising claims made by RIC activists that they were responsible for registering the masses to vote, or responsible for the 45% vote, have been repeated so many times that they now constitute an objective truth on the left. Yet, the claims are not supported by any research only anecdotes by activists about mass canvases. It’s actually impossible to know why over 1 million people vote yes. Stop projecting your own feelings onto the masses RIC.
        I can also think of many local yes groups who engaged in mass canvases and thousands of voter registrations without any involvement from RIC. Also, it’s worth considering the fact that many people registered to vote all by themselves without the help of RIC because of the historical significance of the occasion.

        1. Have you read the academic study on which this is based Frank?

          1. Frank says:

            I try not to read academic studies Bella as I don’t want the facts to get in the way of my prejudices against the far left. Seriously though, do you have link to the research, I’d be interested in reading it.

  4. James_Mac says:

    I take it you will be having a go at the SYRIZA delegates for ‘passing on EU cuts’ or ‘not being radical enough’?

  5. Frank says:

    To put Rise in the same sentence as Podemos, Syriza and then claim that it represents a ‘new left’ is problematic. Syriza is actually in government with all the problems that brings, whilst Podemos was close to taking power. Rise on the other hand is still fighting it’s first election with no electoral representation and is by and large unknown to wider publics. Moreover, I’m not convinced that they constitute a ‘new left’ whatever that means, rather a re-alignment of a very older left – aka the SSP and SWP both of which have a very traditional (I would say outdated) analysis of politics. Most of what I see from Rise is an attempt to marry identity politics of new activists to a traditional class analysis, coupled with a participatory approach to decision making. This is admirable – although participatory approaches can also be used to facilitate new hierarchies; however, none of this is ‘new’.

    Rather than seeing the emergence of a ‘new left’, I’m beginning to worry that Scotland’s radical moment has passed – this can be evidenced by the very banal election we are witnessing, the pessimism felt by those not inside party politics and critically by the ways in which a centrist ‘social democratic’ party – the SNP, has recruited into it’s orbit social actors politicised by the referendum. Read this way, the SNP’s strategic conservatism, debated elsewhere on this site, rather than being a great political strategy represents the fact that Scotland’s political awakening is in decline.

    1. James_mac says:

      It was always going to happen. I don’t think the SNP can be blamed at all, it’s very difficult to work out what they can do. They were the ones who created the awakening in the first place. The fear was their vote would plummet after losing the referendum.

      I think the SNP should be making independence a core issue very soon, or at least continue pushing for more powers. The fact is, it is only when we debate important things, things that affect us, do people get involved in politics.

    2. JohnEdgar says:

      Frank, do not put the cart before the horse. Scotland’s reawakening was the push for independence. That was the initial, strategic first step and must remain so until the Westminster connection is broken. Unless Westminster goes or is voted out, Holyrood can only tinker with the powers it has.
      Whatever steps happen thereafter, will be determined from within and existing political groups and groupings will realign and readjust.
      With independence, all things are open. When you see how little the “left wing” Labour party of pfi fame ever achieved at Westminster with faux radicalism, then perhaps one can now grasp that first step is full sovereign power in Scotland.
      Commons gone, Lords gone and all the baggage of the Westminster set up. That is the real radical first step. The tectonic plates have started to shift. Look at this bit of evidence. Glasgow voted for independence. A former self-proclaimed Slab fiefdom. That was a radical move when decades of habit suddenly change. The SNP have to run the ship at present. They have shown what Scots can do within powers that are limited. But Holyrood is Scotland focussed; MSP’s are learning new skills. After 300 years of being subservient cottars in the UK and UK Empire, that is changing. The UK parties in Scotland are minor entities. To date msm has not grasped that. But they are. That is a first radical step too. One MP apiece at Westminster. That spells doom for them.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.