‘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.