November 18, 2016
Habermas on the role of the left in the rise of the right
Jurgen Habermas has, in our view, nailed the issue of why we are seeing a rise of what he calls "the authoritarian international". It is fundamentally a political failure of the centre-left to look after the interests of its own constituents, and a failure to bring about effective global governance regimes to counter the rise of the global transactional financial capitalism. The following extract from an interview originally published in German is a little longer than what we normally reproduce, but in our view this condenses the argument most effectively:
"The question is why left-wing parties do not go on the offensive against social inequality by embarking upon a co-ordinated and cross-border taming of unregulated markets. As a sensible alternative... I would suggest there is only a supranational form of co-operation that pursues the goal of shaping a socially acceptable political reconfiguration of economic globalisation. International treaty regimes are insufficient here; for, putting aside completely their dubious democratic legitimacy, political decisions over questions of redistribution can only be carried out within a strict institutional framework. That leaves only the stony path to an institutional deepening and embedding of democratically legitimised co-operation across national borders. The European Union was once such a project – and a political union of the eurozone could still be one. But the hurdles within the domestic decision-making process are rather high for that.
Since Clinton, Blair and Schröder social democrats have swung over to the prevailing neoliberal line in economic policies because that was or seemed to be promising in the political sense: in the 'battle for the middle ground' these political parties thought they could win majorities only by adopting the neoliberal course of action. This meant taking on board toleration of long-standing and growing social inequalities. Meantime, this price – the economic and socio-cultural 'hanging out to dry' of ever-greater parts of the populace – has clearly risen so high that the reaction to it has gone over to the right. And where else? If there is no credible and pro-active perspective, then protest simply retreats into expressivist, irrational forms."