The Worldwide Anti-Corporatist Backlash Has Begun
The great international backlash against corporatism has officially begun.
On Saturday, Jeremy Corbyn, a Member of Parliament for a small North London district called Islington North, officially won election as leader of the UK Labour Party, Tony Blair's old party, taking almost 60 percent of the vote in a four way race.
A 200 to 1 longshot when he announced his candidacy just a few months ago, Corbyn shot to the top of the polls, and eventually the top of Britain’s main opposition party, by embracing real progressive economics and attacking the failed politics of austerity.
His victory speech, in which he took aim at the “the grotesque levels of inequality” in British society, was a perfect microcosm of what made his campaign so popular with voters.
Corbyn has an uphill battle ahead of him if he wants to become Prime Minister, but progressives here in America should still pay close attention to the direction he takes the Labour Party.
That’s because for all intents and purposes, “Jez,” as his supporters call him, is the British version of Bernie Sanders.
Like Bernie, he’s a veteran politician who’s stuck to his core progressive values no matter what.
Like Bernie, he’s a democratic socialist who wants to put right-wing austerity out to pasture for good.
And just like Bernie, he’s been the target of a media ignore-and-then-smear campaign that’s tried to make him out to be an unelectable “crazy radical.”
In a recent piece for the Guardian, for example, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair - a member of the same Labour Party as Corbyn - said that if Corbyn were elected, Labour would face “defeat” and “annihilation.”
That’s right, annihilation!
I don’t know why anyone would listen to the guy who helped lie Britain into Iraq, but anyways, on Saturday, Labour voters saw through all the media hysteria and picked Corbyn as their leader.
And they did that because we’re currently in the middle of a great trans-Atlantic backlash against corporatism.
To understand what this backlash is and why it’s happening, you first need to understand something about the past 30 plus years of Anglo-American politics.
Ever since Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan rose to power in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the British and American political systems have been dominated by an extreme right-wing ideology.
This ideology says that in order to make an economy work, we should put the interests of the rich before the interests of working people, that we need to give the banksters control over our economy, and that we need to cut welfare programs that help the poor and working poor make ends meet.
In America we call this ideology “Reaganism” and in Britain they call it “Thatcherism,” but those are just two different words for the same thing.
Now, what normally happens when an extremist ideology takes over a political system is that people on the opposite side of the political spectrum - that would be Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK - those folks criticize the new ideology and fight it.
But that didn’t happen with Reaganism and Thatcherism.
Instead, the people on the opposite side of the spectrum - the Labour Party in the UK and the Democratic Party in the US - largely adopted the extremist ideology and made it their own.
They took the core right-wing beliefs of Thatcherism and Reaganism, swapped out social conservatism for moderate social liberalism, and sold the whole package to the British and American people as a new kind of “centrist” politics.
In Britain, the result was Tony Blair’s “New” Labour; in America it was Bill Clinton’s “New” Democrats.
These “new” political parties told people that they were a “Third Way” between the left and the right, and for a few decades, the people bought it, electing both Clinton and Blair repeatedly.
But now, with the benefit of hindsight, voters are realizing that Blair and Clinton were really just pushing the same old right-wing corporatism under the cover of “moderation.”
It was Bill Clinton, after all, who “ended welfare as we know it” and set the stage for the financial crisis by signing into law the end of Glass-Steigel so banks could get bigger and bigger.
Tony Blair did pretty much the same thing in the United Kingdom.
Until recently, it looked like the centrists - who were really just corporatists - would maintain their stranglehold over the Democratic and Labour parties.
Third Way Democrat Hillary Clinton looked set to coast her way to the Democratic nomination and Labour, which has now lost two straight general elections, looked poised to tap yet another Tony Blair clone as its leader.
But now, to paraphrase the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats, all is changed, changed utterly.
The rise of Bernie Sanders and the election of Jeremy Corbyn shows that Americans and Brits are getting sick and tired of corporatists running the show.
They want real progressivism and real change, not Reaganism-lite.
Stay tuned - the best is yet to come.