Geopolitics

Tsipras, Corbyn, Sanders: Rise Of The Pull-No-Punches Left

And watch out for Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain's leftist Podemos party.

Tsipras, Corbyn, Sanders: Rise Of The Pull-No-Punches Left
Alain Frachon

-OpEd-


PARIS â€" Self-proclaimed "Vermont socialist" Bernie Sanders was the first to hail the victory of ideological confederate Jeremy Corbyn across the ocean in London. But others soon followed suit after Corbyn, who's been described as "hard left," won the Labour Party’s leadership vote hands down. Speaking from Madrid, Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain's radical-left party Podemos, said he was pleased by this "step forward in Europe." In Athens, the Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras welcomed the news as a "message of hope."

The British lawmaker's rise is part of a new wave of political success for populist, liberal parties, not just in Europe but also in the United States. Call it the Western march to the left.

But each situation has its own specificities. Senator Sanders, 74, refuses any donations above $40 and suggests forcing Wall Street to its knees with strong fiscal pressure. Crowds flock to see him, and his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination is proving to be a real thorn in the side of presumed frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

At 66, meanwhile, Corbyn is resolutely defending the Labour program of the 1970s: He calls for nuclear disarmament, renationalizing part of the British economy, taking one step back from NATO and the EU, and is ever ready to unleash harsh criticism of U.S. foreign policy.

The surprising rise of Corbyn and like-minded lefties are a threat for center-left "government parties," the same ones that at various times were called upon to lead their countries after the 2008 financial crisis. They include the New Labour party in Westminster, the Pasok party in Athens, Spain's Socialist Workers' Party and the French Socialist Party.

Not one of these mainstream center-left formations has emerged unscathed. They tried to keep their massive debts in check in a context of chronically weak economies. And now they're being beaten by unapologetic progressives who mean to wring austerity's neck (debt isn't a priority) and who want to make major financial institutions accountable for the 2008 crisis, for which not one of Wall Street's big names has been punished.

Challenging free trade

The profile of this new left varies from country to country, given unique characteristics of each political situation. But all offer well-argued criticisms of free trade and opposition to major trade liberalization treaties put forward by President Barack Obama (the Trans-Pacific Parntership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). These movements strongly believe in governmental capacity to manage the economy, regardless of the economic revolution and globalization of trade.

Tsipras listens in. Photo: Matthew Tsimitak

The new left also sees current migration flows as something positive, and have found an unlikely economic brother-in-arms in Pope Francis, capitalism's sworn enemy.

What's attracting voters, however, may be less about ideology itself and more the people promoting it. Despite the differences in ages and careers, Sanders, Corbyn, Iglesias and Tsipras all share a bonafide dose of sincerity and authenticity. None is dependent on any economic lobbies or pushed to compromise their beliefs. They've had the same political views all their lives, and they don't betray their creed, unlike the more traditional politicians who are used to being in power and to abandoning certain principles and campaign promises once they take over the reigns of government.

But why is this movement only gaining traction now, rather than in the aftermath of the 2008 global economic crisis? Alexis de Tocqueville would note that it's precisely because the economy is starting to turn the corner. "It is then that a bitter sense of unequal distribution of rewards becomes potentially incendiary," historian Simon Schama recently wrote in the Financial Times.

The left of the left believes in the mute but very real anger provoked by globalized capitalism, where more than 30 years of growth have only multiplied inequality. Societies in which 10% of the population owns 50% of the national wealth just aren't going to feel effectively represented by center-right or center-left parties. They will instead vote for radical change.

But once it holds power, the radical left must grapple with an economic reality that reveals its true complexity and, often, its autonomy from the state. Promises and muscular demonstrations of political will have their limits.

Tsipras, whose own contradictions are more to blame than a Berlin-based conspiracy, was the first one to be tested. And though Syriza's victory this week in Greek elections have put him back in command, Spain's Pablo Iglesias wants to learn from the challenges leftists have faced in Greece once in power.

It's no use "creating a parliamentary group that just repeats how abject a system capitalism is," the Podemos leader recently told French magazine Politis. "To govern is to face the reality, and that’s more difficult."

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

[*Italian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

🇸🇩💥  IN OTHER NEWS

Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

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