In the modern world, the future can often seem bleak, especially for progressives and those on the left. The pandemic has exposed both how broken many systems of power are, and the failure of right-wing governments to effectively deal with the crisis. From Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil to Boris Johnson in the UK, and the infamously farcical response we saw from Donald Trump. Put simply: thousands have died unnecessarily from the negligence of the populist right, who were never suited to power.
Despite this, there is hope. After the 2020 election, President Biden signed an executive order mandating masks and restructuring the US’ public health organisation to help combat the pandemic, which is in stark comparison to his predecessors’ lacklustre response. As well as this, there have been calls for our society to be moulded into to a fairer vision after the destruction of this crisis. With the ‘Build Back Better’ slogan becoming a transatlantic rallying cry for reform that seeks to reduce inequality heightened by the pandemic.
In order for this to be realised however, the left must set out a vision for transforming the world after their decade of failure; to refuse to do this is to automatically surrender. The key to these changes is understanding people’s concerns and problems, in order to propose solutions to them without resorting to fear mongering and the tactics of the alt-right.
For example, the narrative in much of Europe in the last decade has focused on the refugee crisis; that has led to around 2.4 million refugees residing in the EU by the end of 2018, along with 860,000 pending cases of asylum. While the populist right stirred outrage and harnessed xenophobia and hatred against thousands of these vulnerable people, the political left did little to reassure that refugees were not a threat.
Ironically, the lead on this was taken by the conservative Angela Merkel; who, when faced with taking in hundreds of thousands of people responded “Wir Schaffen Das”- We can manage it. From this, we see how progressives must stand up for their principles in order to convince people to believe in their vision for a better future, otherwise they will buy into the irrational fears of others, in the absence of a hopeful narrative. From Brexit to Trump, and other right-wing gains over the last decade, it is clear they have all played on people’s fears in one way or another.
So what should the left offer people to prevent this happening again?
Well, the fallout from COVID-19 will be incredibly telling. A study by Oxford university on the effects of the pandemic in Europe explained that the results ‘indicate that the burden of the pandemic will be disproportionately borne by low-wage earners’, with the effects hitting hardest in Central and Eastern European countries. This demonstrates how flawed the rhetoric of nationalism leading to security is, because when push comes to shove millions have fallen victim to financial hardship.
The left now has an extra air of credibility against their opponents when it comes to putting people first. If they can seize the moment and actually work for change.
We have had too much of bigotry, such as that of Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister who has rolled back the rights of LGBT people and other minorities, and Andrezj Duda, the Polish President whose overseen a virtual ban on abortion. We need a new generation of leaders who are willing to campaign for better standards, not just pandering to hatred and oppressing people’s basic human rights.
The policy platform on which we do this should be bold and revolutionary. By following the Preston Model; which advocates for public institutions to kickstart community wealth building by investing in local businesses and cooperatives, this would allow for greater social cohesion and a new age in municipal socialism. This is modelled on a programme in Cleveland, Ohio, a state in which post-industrial areas increasingly turned Republican under President Trump.
Repairing the disconnect between rural voters and left-wing parties is also critical, with research from the University of York dictating that poverty outside of urban areas is an incredibly serious issue, and yet these areas in the UK typically return Conservative MP’s. That is not to say that more deprived rural areas don’t vote Labour locally, but that these people are disenfranchised from the narrative of political change.
Implementing a proportional representation voting system would allow individual voices an equal effect no matter where a person lived, allowing them to vote with conviction and peace of mind knowing that they have an effective say in politics. It is easy to see how, if offered a believable yet radical vision, millions of people could be empowered to vote for the left, knowing the lives of them and their family can improve.
The 2010’s were a dark time for many who experienced enhanced bigotry and discrimination as the right gained momentum globally. The 2020’s and every decade afterwards must be different, with the left gaining ground from Chicago to Chennai and beyond; we have a brilliant future on the line.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica Limited as a company.