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How globalism went from Right to Left

Will coronavirus lead to increased globalization, or empower nation-states and the solidarity that only they can foster? This is another question being debated in the tug-of-war between “right” and “left.” Theoretically, the Left is supposed to adhere to the idea of national solidarity, that is the tradition in Israel, and not only here. But the “progressive Left” has recently come to be identified with globalization. It supports increased free trade, the movement of assets, and an international supply and manufacturing chain. It is in favor of free immigration and the creation of a global employment market. It also prefers moves toward global control at the expense of democratic-national sovereignty.

Globalization comes on the back of increasingly internationalized manufacturing, employment, and trade until the 2008 financial crisis and the coronavirus crisis. But all these points have traditionally been espoused by the Right and consistently opposed by the Left. Why has the Right traditionally opposed the core of what is known as “globalization”?

First of all, because manufacturing spread throughout the world and unlimited immigration allow the exploitation of a cheap workforce. Secondly, because international trade and empowered international institutions make it possible to reduce the ability of formerly sovereign states to shape their economies and societies according to the interests of the voters, most of whom work in the private and public sectors. So weakening democratic nation-states restricts the ability of significant sectors to oppose right-wing ideology, which collects wealth in the hands of a few. Their main source of power, their existence as citizens in a democratic sovereign state, is being taken from them under the new world order.

This system of interests and values has been blurred by the project of privatization and wealth building. In the past, the same explanations that caused the Right to promote globalization, starting at the end of the 1960s, caused the Left to oppose it. But the opposition let up as the traditional Right started to win the battle. Large parts of the “Left,” rather than opposing the trends of privatization and globalization, took them so far that they approached post-nationalist tendencies, tendencies the Right was immune to because of its conservatism.

The result was the “progressive Left,” which adopted its rival’s values of individualism and even started to approach post-nationalism, and the new “populist Right,” which pushed the traditional Right aside and filled the social and national vacuum left by the Left. So the Right’s ideological victory is causing the “progressive Left,” which adopted an extreme version of right-wing values, to rise; as well as the new “populist Right,” which took a stance against both the traditional Right and the “progressive Left.”

On the Left, this process was represented by two radical leaders of our time – the American Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. At the start of his time in the US Senate, Sanders took staunch anti-globalist stances: he rejected President Clinton’s free trade agreements, he opposed unlimited immigration and even supported volunteer action to stop border-jumpers. But in the 2016 election, he veered sharply toward globalism and has done so even more in his campaign this year. He adapted himself to the “progressive Left” template, and would have been justifiably defeated by Trump had he won the Democratic nomination. Trump is leading a national-populist revolution in the Republican party, and taking it out of the hands of the traditional, globalist Right, and by doing so posing a challenge to the Democratic party.

In England, Corbyn saw an unprecedented defeat in working class districts in northern England. He also opposed globalism in the past, meaning he had reservations about the European bureaucracy that was forcing extreme neo-liberal policies under the non-democratic structure of the European Union. But like Sanders, Corbyn gradually adopted the path of the progressive Left and took an unclear line on the question of Britain leaving the EU, which led to his defeat. His opponent, Boris Johnson, took down the traditional Right in the Conservative party and established a clear line of standing up for a national democracy and leaving the EU. That is what gave him votes from the working class.

Trump and Johnson hemmed in the Left from the populist direction and stuck to democratic nationalism, whereas the Left embraced the traditional Right’s globalism and non-democracy, but took it too far, to an alienating policy of post-nationalism. That scared off left-wing voters, and this explains why the Left has been defeated. In England, in the US, and in Israel, the new populist Right is espousing national democratic values and rejecting globalism, and thereby winning the votes of poor workers. This trend won’t change because of coronavirus and the economic crisis that followed. The opposite – it will grow stronger.

Original: ISRAEL HAYOM – Prof. Avi Bareli