A view to 2016 | Graham H. Cox

by Graham H. Cox last modified 2016-01-05T10:27:07-04:00
While we do not do predictions here at Citizens' Press, it seems there are some themes that have come out of 2015. Reflecting on this over the break lead to some thoughts on how these themes may continue in 2016. To this end, here are some ideas of where the battle fronts could be in 2016 and where I will be focusing -- at least until something unexpected comes along.

Corbyn Continues to Dazzle

There are several elections facing the UK Labour Party with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm this year. Each will be framed as a test for the insurgent leader. The Left has a role to play in countering this narrative by turning it on its head. The test is to use these elections to roll out a combination of strong organizing techniques used both on the ground and online, while presenting a vision of broad politics that can capture mass appeal.

The Conservatives in the UK are driving the same agenda seen in Australia and Canada, attacking the support structure of the labour parties by attacking the labour unions. What these new Tory parties have forgotten is their own history: their nastiness is always their downfall.

The corporate shills in the media in Britain are in for a shock. While Labour may not win all these contests, it is likely to do better than its disastrous showing over the previous decade. Sustainable rebirth of a Labour Party based in its members must be the focus.

More wins towards a living wage

This past year saw the rise of guerilla organizing techniques in labour in the United States. Labour is facing annihilation in the face of proto-fascist laws that make it hard for local unions to collect fees from workers it protects. Something had to give and with the help of unique legal protections in the US that protect non-union workers acting collectively, the result has been some hope for workers.

These victories at the state level for statutory protections in the US won by activists will continue to build and become more sophisticated. Workers who are benefiting from these campaigns will find it rather easy to make the next step of just signing-up to the union that is backing basic rights.

Financialization will continue

Finance professionals (bankers) have been fighting to regain its once unassailable stature of masters of the universe since their greed caused the collapse of the world economy. Unfortunately, as we have seen in Ontario with the Hydro One sale and the introduction of Social Impact Bonds and other social finance initiatives, government officials are still in awe of bankers.

This financialization of the public service will continue and increase pace this year. Leftwing intellectuals within unions, law firms and the broader academy are going to have to build analysis and alternatives to financialization of public services. The movement's leadership and activists are in need of help to understand how financialization is a threat to sustainable social supports and the final hammer of liberalization.

Bubbles

The world economy collapsed in 2008 because advanced capitalist countries build bubble economies. The same financial instruments that lead to this collapse are back in fashion and new proxy investment products have been invented. Along with this, there has been a collapse of developing world economies caused by the economic levers the US controls to right its own economy -- including money printing and oil price wars.

Because of these economic shifts, the developing world will be subjected to pendulum politics this year. Current left-wing governments will be blamed for the faltering economy as much as right-wing governments. The challenge for activists is to highlight these issues and engage in sustained education campaigns on the fundamental causes of economic boom and busts.

Proto-Fascism in the United States of America

The rise of opportunist nationalist politics in the USA will not abate as some in the liberal media hope. This kind of nasty right-wing politics has a long history south of the border and with the widening income gap between the groups of poor, affluent and super rich is fertile ground for Trump copy-cats.

The only answer to this kind of politics is collective action and hope driven by solidarity. The opportunity exists for younger (and older) supporters of the politics of Bernie Sanders to see the way forward and reach out to disaffected workers. A politics not of the Democratic Party, but of ideology can face down the destructive influence of nationalisms.

Europe's Choice

The people of European countries have a choice, somewhat like in the USA. They can fall victim to the fear of the rise of the far-right, or they can embrace their historical roots in socialism. The rise of left-wing parties that have challenged the recently dominant centre is an opportunity, but it will take support of leadership who can tell the difference when it comes to governing.

Greece will continue its recession, France will see a confused and demoralized population in the face of no real alternatives and Portugal and Spain will rediscover their revolutionary roots. It will be a political shift that will be quiet, ignored by the likes of the Guardian newspaper, but it will be real and felt in the long-term.

Bumps in the road for China

China has been struggling with its economic liberalization. The abandonment of Marxist analysis has meant a wilful blindness to the contradictions of central command politics and economic free markets.

While this year may not see a substantial shift of political discourse in China, there is evidence that the growing power of the illegal independent trade unions has not been a temporary phenomenon. While the state grows its power, it is likely to overlook discontent.

NDP Difficulties

There is nothing like losing to drive wedges in political parties and no one does self-destruction like the left. Rumour on the campaign trail is that Mulcair has not dazzled when it comes to self-reflection and listening to its grassroots analysis of what went wrong in 2015.

The current leadership of the NDP will have difficulty to sustain interest in the party and sooner or later new leadership will have to be found. If the rational left of the party can keeps its head, this can be an opportunity for regrowth instead of destruction.

Labour unions as institutions in Canada have a reprieve from directed existential attacks. However, liberals are sly and will attack our members with a sophistication many have forgotten under Harper's rule. The goal for Canadian unions must be to learn from the lessons of around the world and help build a principled orientation to their party and offer a real vision for the future.

A personal note

New Year's resolutions are a tired tradition, but a sustained one. This year it will be important to take a positive view to the struggle. The reason for this is the opportunities that demographic shifts will present the Left in Canada. Retirements from leadership positions will continue apace as well as new insurgent movements driven by those who are not shacked by political baggage of decades of losses.

Here's hoping for a good year of struggle and some interesting and new projects.

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