The Week So Far

1. Europe
In France, the far-right National Front gained ground in local elections on 20 March, with results for the first round putting the party just 2 points behind Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right UMP. Marine Le Pen, the party's leader, said the results showed that "this is no longer solely a protest vote".

2. Middle East
The former Israeli president Moshe Katsav has been sentenced to seven years in prison for rape and other sexual offences. Katsav, who was president from 2000 to 2007, said that he was innocent and being persecuted by Israeli society. He is expected to appeal.

3. Asia
Technicians at the power plant at the centre of Japan's nuclear crisis repeatedly failed to carry out mandatory safety checks, according to documents from the reactor's operator. The Fukushima Daiichi plant also contained far more spent uranium fuel rods than it had been designed to store, which raised the risk of a leakage of radioactive steam.

4. South America
The Guatemalan president, Álvaro Colom, and his wife, Sandra Torres, have filed for divorce so that she can stand for election
to succeed him. The country's constitution bans close relatives
of the president from standing. The main opposition candidate, Otto Pérez Molina, has accused the couple of seeking to defraud the system.

5. Africa
Two days of fighting between the South Sudan army and fighters loyal to the rebel leader George Athor have killed about 70 people. After similar clashes in mid-March, the southern government accused the north and President Omar el-Bashir of seeking to destabilise it. South Sudan will become independent in July, after decades of north-south conflict.

6. Science
Religion is set for extinction in nine countries, according to a study of census data from the past 100 years. Researchers say that in Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland, following a faith is becoming ever less attractive.

7. Entertainment
Radio 3 is to air an adaptation of Emily Brontë's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights - with added swearing. The writer, Jonathan Holloway, said he wanted to "capture the shock" of the book's original publication. The broadcast is at 8pm on 27 March.

8. Technology
The internet overseer Icann has approved the .xxx domain for pornographic websites. Supporters say it will make it easier to filter out inappropriate content, but others are concerned that it will ghettoise the industry. Icann has reported that there are already more than 100,000 reservations for a .xxx domain.

9. People
Downton Abbey's writer, Julian Fellowes, is writing a miniseries about the Titanic. It will be filmed in Hungary in the spring and is due to air next year on ITV.

10. Education
The biggest debt owed to the Student Loans Company is currently £66,150, a Freedom of Information request by the BBC has revealed. The sum of the 20 largest debts is over £1m and all but one of the students were at London universities.

This article first appeared in the 28 March 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Why Libya? Why now?

Getty
Show Hide image

The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times