‘Millennial socialism’ versus capitalism

A new political term for me – Millennial socialism.

The Economist: The resurgent left – Millennial socialism

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the 20th century’s ideological contest seemed over. Capitalism had won and socialism became a byword for economic failure and political oppression. It limped on in fringe meetings, failing states and the turgid liturgy of the Chinese Communist Party.

Today, 30 years on, socialism is back in fashion. In America Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a newly elected congresswoman who calls herself a democratic socialist, has become a sensation even as the growing field of Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 veers left. In Britain Jeremy Corbyn, the hardline leader of the Labour Party, could yet win the keys to 10 Downing Street.

The ‘left’ in both the US and UK are being helped somewhat by dysfunctional right wing leaders and Governments.

Socialism is storming back because it has formed an incisive critique of what has gone wrong in Western societies. Whereas politicians on the right have all too often given up the battle of ideas and retreated towards chauvinism and nostalgia…

See “What the Kiwi way of life means to me’ – Simon Bridges and anything Winston Peters (it’s quite ironic that he has enabled the rise of Jacinda Aardern).

…the left has focused on inequality, the environment, and how to vest power in citizens rather than elites (see article). Yet, although the reborn left gets some things right, its pessimism about the modern world goes too far. Its policies suffer from naivety about budgets, bureaucracies and businesses.

The rest of that article is behind a paywall, but Peter Dunne comments in Government by worthy sentiment:

Last week, the Economist magazine noted the emergence of what it described as millennial socialism, as a reaction to the prevailing liberal democratic orthodoxy.

Millennial socialism, the Economist argues, is not socialism in the traditional sense, but a looser set of views around reducing inequality, reducing the power of vested interests, and greater emphasis on environmental issues like climate change that is capturing the interest of younger voters.

Whether their prescriptions for reform are attainable seems to run secondary to the fact that their issues are being raised in the first place.

Indeed, their essentially general nature as worthy sentiments makes it likely they will have crossover appeal in the wider community. However, as the rise and fall in the public standing of French President Emanuel Macron has shown, the bubble of optimism the millennials’ issues are at last on the political agenda bursts quickly when it comes to taking action.

It could well be the same in New Zealand too – although our national temperament makes it unlikely we will see our own version of the Gilet Jaunes (yellow vest) protest movement.

The emerging reality is that, despite some of the rhetoric, we are moving into an era where commitment to aspiration (prioritising empathy and compassion) rates more highly than action (prioritising evidence and achievement).

Time will tell how this plays out.

But there’s no doubt that those who vote for old school politics are reducing in number, and those who have only voted in this century are growing into a majority that has a different view of the world and of politics.

‘Millennial socialism’ is making a play, but it is far from success. Corbyn has been polarising and just seen his caucus split, with a number of Labour MPs jumping to an ‘independent’ ship. Ocasio-Cortez is making waves in the US but is a long way from tangible success.

Macron is struggling to make progress in France, and Justin Trudeau is not finding his brand of politics easy to sustain in Canada.

Jacinda Ardern is playing a ‘Millennial socialism’ card in New Zealand, but so far it is mostly superficial. Nothing significant has actually changed here yet. We may really see a revolutionary ‘wellbeing budget’ in May, but the lack of enthusiastic promotion of an already politically limited Capital Gains Tax and other tax reforms suggests the reality may be far less than the rhetoric.

As with many political shifts Millennial socialism may be gradual and partial, if it makes much impact at all.

Who knows – people in the US may wake up to how great Donald Trump says he is and swing things towards whatever he stands for instead.

Major protests in France, Belgium over green taxes

In what has been described as the worst unrest in decades in Paris protesters in France are revolting against carbon tax (fuel tax) rises, and growing dissatisfaction with the Government and President Emmanuel Macron. Protests appear to be rising from both the left and right of politics.

Reuters: France’s Macron learns the hard way: green taxes carry political risks

When Emmanuel Macron rose to power, he put the environment at the heart of his agenda. Eighteen months later, anger over those policies has stoked protests that are a huge challenge for the French president.

Rioters torched cars and buildings in central Paris on Saturday following two weeks of protests caused partly by higher fuel taxes which Macron says are needed to fight climate change. Some protesters called for him to resign.

Macron’s plight illustrates a conundrum: How do political leaders’ introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?

It is a question facing leaders across the world as delegates hold talks in the Polish city of Katowice this week to try to produce a “rule book” to flesh out details of the 2015 Paris Agreement on fighting climate change.

“Clearly, countries where inequalities are the highest are the ones where these kinds of push-backs are mostly likely,” Francois Gemenne, a specialist in environmental geopolitics at SciencesPo university in Paris, said of the political risks.

Naming Italy, the United States and Britain as countries where environmental moves could risk a voter backlash, he said: “I guess it’s one of the reasons why populist leaders tend to be very skeptical about climate change and environmental measures.”

Could anything like this happen in New Zealand. There has been some dissatisfaction over regional and excise fuel tax rises, and fuel prices rose to record levels, but the pressure was relieved when fuel prices dropped due to a slump in international oil prices.

In France Macron tells PM to hold talks after worst unrest in Paris for decades

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his prime minister on Sunday to hold talks with political leaders and demonstrators, as he sought a way out of nationwide protests after rioters turned central Paris into a battle zone.

After a meeting with members of his government on Sunday, the French presidency said in a statement that the president had asked his interior minister to prepare security forces for future protests and his prime minister to hold talks with political party leaders and representatives of the protesters.

A French presidential source said Macron would not speak to the nation on Sunday despite calls for him to offer immediate concessions to demonstrators, and said the idea of imposing a state of emergency had not been discussed.

Arriving back from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron had earlier rushed to the Arc de Triomphe, a revered monument and epicenter of Saturday’s clashes, where protesters had scrawled “Macron resign” and “The yellow vests will triumph”.

The “yellow vest” rebellion erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to some shopping malls, fuel depots and airports. Violent groups from the far right and far left as well as youths from the suburbs infiltrated Saturday’s protests, the authorities said.

The riots in France are spreading.

UK Sunday Express BRUSSELS IN FLAMES: French riots spread to Belgium – HUNDREDS go on rampage at home of EU

Hundreds of activists made Belgium’s political landmarks their target, marching between landmarks amid clouds of smoke from firecrackers and smoke bombs, as they were stalked by dozens of baton-wielding riot officers ready to pounce.

Protesters descended on the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, the heart of EU decision-making, as they created Belgium’s own ‘yellow jacket’ campaign against rising fuel prices and the cost of living. The EU Commission was forced to temporarily shut its doors as the building’s security guards refused to let anyone in or out while protesters marched passed.

The rises in fuel taxes have aggravated general frustration that had already been growing.

Trump dumps on France

Just after returning from a visit to France where Donald Trump had looked uncomfortable amid tensions between he ande Emmanuel Macron, and where macron had a dig at him over nationalism, Trump has let rip via Twitter in attacks described as lacking in common decency.

Four days ago Trump and Macron try to defuse tension: ‘We want a strong Europe’ – video (Guardian))

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron sought to defuse tensions on Saturday after comments made by both leaders threatened to cast a shadow over a weekend celebration marking 100 years since the end of the first world war.

Three days ago: Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism: Macron lectures Trump (Stuff):

By the grave of an unknown soldier, under Napoleon’s grand arch, at the centenary of the end of a great, terrible war, France’s president lectured the powerful.

His audience, metres away, included presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and Recep Erdogan.

Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism, Emmanuel Macron declared. A withdrawal into isolationism would be “a grave error that future generations would very rightly make us responsible for”.

In France Trump looked uncomfortable a lot of the time – except he lit up when Putin arrived at one event.

Trump likes being the big man, the US leader, the world leader, the big ego.

But he seems to treat ‘lesser’ leaders, and those who don’t stoke his ego, with disdain. He dislikes doing many of the the sort of things that any significant and effective leader has to do – deal with other people who may have different views and goals.

On Trump’s return to the US:  Days after visit, Trump blasts France’s Macron as relations sour

U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his French counterpart on Tuesday in a series of tweets that underscored how much the once-friendly ties between the two leaders have soured, just two days after returning from Paris.

In five posts sent on the same day that French officials marked the anniversary of the 2015 terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, Trump blasted the key U.S. ally over its near defeat to Germany in two world wars, its wine industry and Macron’s approval ratings.

White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp, meanwhile, cast Trump’s Paris trip in a positive light.

“It was clearly a successful trip,” Schlapp told Fox News on Tuesday, saying Trump and Macron “had a productive meeting” on trade and NATO.

“He has sent a strong message to our European allies. And we have seen some changes and some positive shifts coming from our allies to pay more to NATO. We need their support,” she said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday that Trump had isolated himself at one of the weekend events by deciding not to attend the Paris Peace Forum, which Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin attended.

Before his arrival, Trump had blasted comments that Macron made in a radio interview in which he appeared to cast the United States as a threat.

Both French officials and the White House said any misunderstandings had been cleared up after Macron and Trump held talks on Saturday.

It doesn’t look like things have been cleared up – it looks more like they have turned to mud.

That in particular is likely to fray raw nerves.

I guess Trump never claimed to be a diplomat, but this will be creating difficulties or US and French diplomats.

Guardian: He came, he sulked, he tweeted: preening Trump on parade in Paris

In political science classes in the decades to come, Veterans Day Weekend 2018 is bound to be popular essay topic in the course on the Narcissist Presidency.

It has all the hallmarks of the Trump era: a fabricated story that congeals as fact in the president’s brain and moments later is broadcast on Twitter. Countless diplomats and officials are sent scurrying to limit the damage, as the chief executive doubles down, refusing to admit a mistake.

On this occasion, after being generally complimentary to Macron during the trip, Trump woke up furious with the French president on Tuesday morning. He repeated the false claim about Macron’s intentions for a European army, and followed it up with the well-worn jingoistic claim that France would be speaking German if it had not been for US intervention in two world wars.

The president then pivoted, as he often does against domestic opponents, to deride the French president’s unpopularity and then signaled he would express his irritation through trade policy, claiming France imposed “big tariffs” on US wine and threatening retaliation. The tariffs on US wine are higher, but they are set by the EU, after trade negotiations with the US, not by France.

Over the first two years of his presidency, the point has been explained to Trump repeatedly. But in his outbursts against Germany, France and others, he ignores the distinction between the EU and its member states.

Whether Trump acts out of ignorance and deafness to expertise, or sheer political expediency has been much debated, but the distinction may not matter much. Raw attacks on other countries and talk of tariffs plays well with his base. Whether they are well founded or not does not matter.

At best, days of governmental effort will now be wasted, but no new tariffs will be imposed simply out of presidential ire. The outcomes could be far worse when it is not Emmanuel Macron on the receiving end of Trump’s petulance but say, Kim Jong-un after the honeymoon with the North Korean regime goes sour, and there are nuclear missiles rather than cabernet sauvignon at stake.

Who knows what trump may provoke internationally. He is very different to any world leader, past or present. His brashness, petulance and ego may shake some things up and do some good, but he is also high risk.

Trump looks to be a provoked disaster waiting to happen.

Macron: No planet B rebuke to Trump

A day after putting on a show of bonhomie and unity with Donald Trump the French President Emmanual Macron switched to plan B in a speech to the US Congress, criticising a number of Trump policy positions.

Macron spoke against isolationism and nationalism, and one of his biggest rebukes was over climate change, saying there was no planet B.

RNZ: Macron attacks nationalism in speech to US Congress

French President Emmanuel Macron has used his speech to the joint houses of the US Congress to denounce nationalism and isolationism.

Mr Macron said such policies were a threat to global prosperity.

The speech was seen as rebuking Donald Trump, who has been accused of stoking nationalism and promoting isolationism through his America First policies.

Mr Macron said the US had invented multilateralism and needed to reinvent it for a new 21st Century world order.

The French president was given a three-minute standing ovation as he took his place in the chamber for his speech.

On isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism:

Mr Macron said isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism “can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears. But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will not douse but inflame the fears of our citizens”.

He added: “We will not let the rampaging work of extreme nationalism shake a world full of hopes for greater prosperity.”

He said the UN and the Nato military alliance might not be able to fulfil their mandates and assure stability if the West ignored the new dangers arising in the world.

On trade…

…Mr Macron said that “commercial war is not the proper answer”, as it would “destroy jobs and increase prices”, adding: “We should negotiate through the World Trade Organization. We wrote these rules, we should follow them.”

On Iran…

…Mr Macron said his country would not abandon a nuclear deal with Tehran that was agreed by world powers when President Barack Obama was in office but which Mr Trump has branded “terrible”.

Mr Macron said: “This agreement may not address all concerns, and very important concerns. This is true. But we should not abandon it without having something more substantial instead.”

Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never.”

On the environment…

… he said by “polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying biodiversity we are killing our planet. Let us face it, there is no Planet B”.

Trump has not responded yet. Prior to Macron’s speech:

I haven’t heard that reported anywhere. Instead Washington is abuzz with Macron’s plan B.

Morgan and the Macron miracle

The UK vote for Brexit surprised, the election of Donald trump in the US shocked, and then Emmanuel Macron came from virtually nowhere to win the French presidency.

Then Theresa May destroyed a significant advantage to end a disastrous campaign still ahead of the rapidly improving left wing maverick Jeremy Corbyn but severely weakened, both in government and as Prime Minister.

Now France is voting for their Parliament, and exit polls suggest that Macron’s party En Marche will win a majority. Not bad for a party that didn’t exist at the start of last year.

So around the world voters are make decisions that seem to stick it to traditional politics and the status quo.

Could it happen in New Zealand?

Winston Peters and NZ First are often promoted as the king maker, with the baubles of power virtually a formality. But Peters is very old hat and has been there, done that before.

Will voters look for something different?

Barry Soper writes:  In politics anything is possible

Think about it, Prime Minister Gareth Morgan, leading a majority government with half of his MPs never having been elected to office before.

Sounds absurd? Yes well it’s highly unlikely to happen but these days in politics anything is possible as we’re seeing in France at the moment which has to be the political story to beat them all.

The 47 million French voters are again today going to the polls and are expected to give their new 39-year-old President Emmanuel Macron a healthy majority. It’s spectacular because Macron’s party was only founded by him in April last year.

After he won the Presidency last month he was on his own, he didn’t have one MP in the French Assembly. Since then he’s had to cobble together 577 candidates to stand for his party and after the first round of voting they led in 400 constituencies, more than half of them women.

And it looks like En Marche has succeeded.

Let Macron’s success be a warning to those established political parties who think elections are a walk in the park. The Socialists who ran the last French Government failed to scrape together even ten percent of the vote.

Here in New Zealand National obviously have the most to lose, but voters here have shown a reluctance to take big risks. They have preferred a stable government but without absolute power.

NZ First are in the box seat to hold the balance of power, but it’s possible a real alternative is considered.

The 5% threshold is a long shot for a new party, something that hasn’t been achieved before here.

The newly formed Conservative Party got a 2.65% in 2011, and increased to 3.97% in 2014, creditable but not enough. They are out of contention now after the political collapse of Colin Craig.

The only option looks to be TOP. Morgan doesn’t look like getting his party close at this stage, but there is three months to go.

Recent overseas elections have shown that anything is possible, even the unexpected, but a major surprise looks unlikely here.