Thursday, May 05, 2005

Third Way

"Have you seen the stranded travellers on TV? Those left in Florida by the fake travel agency? 'WE WERE DEFRAUDED!', they cried. They just thought they have paid for cheap travel. Cheaper than the airline return ticket... but they cry, 'WE WERE DEFRAUDED!'"


Our electorate is like the man walking around and round a city block. Every time he steps into the doggie-do at one corner, he wonders why he got into such shit again... And the electorate cries, 'WE WERE DEFRAUDED!'" _Volker Pispers, 1998

One of those undying stereotopes that believers will always look and find evidence for, is that Germans don't have humour. (Then again, their private TV networks have no room for the multi-storeyed allusions and associations, not to mention relentlessly scathing and on-point political humour of a leading cabarettist like Volker Pispers, only mindless & harmless super-low-quality "comedy shows" by the dozen.)

Today Britain will re-elect Tony Bliar's New Labour government, despite its highly disliked foreign policy even among supporters, and domestic policies whose lack of success (at least in leftist terms) is only thinly veiled by massive spin and propaganda. Also, the leading opposition party will be one IMO economically less different from New Labour than Thatcher, which now tries to differentiate itself mostly with rhetorical excesses in xenophobia. Part of the reason is the first-past-the-post election system, which I blasted several times before, won't repeat here. But even so, at least 70% of the British voting/doggie-do-stepping population will have a chance to cry, 'WE WERE DEFRAUDED!' (Read Blood & Treasure's "fuck your misgivings" rant too.)

Still, I hope small leftist parties - Greens, Respect, Scottish Socialists - will do relatively well, and despite their even more mindless adherence to the free market idea than NuLab, the LibDems too - anything to weaken the two bigs if defeat is not realistic now.

Back to Third-Way-ism. It is often said thirdwayism doesn't have a real ideology, but I don't think that's the point. While caving in on fundamental issues is nothing new for social democrats (just think of WWI), I think what happened since the second half of the ninetiesis more fundamental, and just because of the ideological angle. We have to admit that it's not just the leadership: the party leaders led a great many people towards seeing everything in economic terms. (And to boot, in currently fashionable free-market economic terms.) To illustrate what I mean: for example, if there had been a 20% increase in the income of both the fast food industry and the fitness, fat-removing, cardiac-treating medical and pharmatic industries, even an old social democrat would have seen social decline, but a present-day one likely sees GDP growth.

The remaining strongly left Left (both 'radical' and what was just recently 'moderate') can't be content with just pointing out the broken promises of the "centre-left", the battle for ideology is as timely as ever.

To come full circle, back to Germany. While Tony Bliar's continued rule is the most significant influence of thirdwayism, with its ideological destruction and the bad role model Bliar has become for a lot of other SocDem top dogs, even bigger disaster for the broad Left is what is happening in Germany.

German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, tough called "Genosse der Bosse" (comrade of the bosses), was never as gifted as Tony. He was always a bungler who was lucky - being buoyed by the final frenzy of the New Economy bubble and such. (I for one never understood why he was popular in the first place.) The rare progressive successes of his government were mostly connected to the Greens, and then a few SocDem leaders always rose to brake out even those. And by now, the bungling has become an almost unbroken series of self-defeats, whether trying to lick the arse of foreign war criminals (from Putin to Bush), business interests or union archdukes. Meanwhile, with the burgeoing visa fraud scandal around (up until this) popular foreign minister Joschka Fischer, the in-charge "realo" fraction of the Greens reached the point where the public's diffuse sense of sympathy got exhausted. In short, this Red-Green government is on auto-pilot to self-destruction, almost certain to lose the elections in late 2006.

But German doggie-do-steppers won't return to circle the same city block they circled four times in the eighties & nineties. Old West German conservatives weren't as austere as their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, they were kind of like what Social Democrats have become now: a clique maintaining a cozy relationship with business captains, and the former getting some benefits for workers from the latter to maintain social peace. A system reaching its height under Helmut Kohl, who'd mostly do nothing but that with an air of authority.

But the new breed poised to take over is entirely different. They sound civilised, but lie with the zeal of a missionary. Berlusconi somewhat, the neocons a great deal they view for inspiration. Not so much for ideology, as for recklessness and technologies of power. But what they take over in ideology (pro-business, anti-jobless, 'war on terror', 'war of civilisations' elements) is enough to make me cringe, given where things already head with Schröder. These guys seem to me like engineers fighting over who should drive the train as it races down the valley towards a missing bridge, instead of applying the brakes and change the switch at the junction.

But, maybe the current fools' destruction on the Left wasn't big enough to foil a regrouping into something better by 2010.


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