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Social democratic politicians continue to walk the plank – into oblivion

Summary:
It is Wednesday, so only a snippet of a blog about a few things that caught my interest recently. Words have meaning and concepts have meaning. That is, until you are a social democratic politician in Europe. Then meaning goes out the window as does mission – unless the mission is power at all costs. Social democratic values and views do not resemble neoliberal economic or right-wing social agendas at all. Yet in the hurly burly of European and British politics that is what has been happening. Across three nations (Sweden, Germany and Britain) we have seen this trend in the last few days. The claim is that it is clever politics to shift into the ‘centre’ and take back voters from the conservatives. The problem is that the centre moved significantly to the right over this neoliberal era.

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It is Wednesday, so only a snippet of a blog about a few things that caught my interest recently. Words have meaning and concepts have meaning. That is, until you are a social democratic politician in Europe. Then meaning goes out the window as does mission – unless the mission is power at all costs. Social democratic values and views do not resemble neoliberal economic or right-wing social agendas at all. Yet in the hurly burly of European and British politics that is what has been happening. Across three nations (Sweden, Germany and Britain) we have seen this trend in the last few days. The claim is that it is clever politics to shift into the ‘centre’ and take back voters from the conservatives. The problem is that the centre moved significantly to the right over this neoliberal era. Now we have so-called progressive politicians who three decades ago would have looked like conservative right-wingers. It is not clever politics at all. They just lock themselves into positions that make it very hard to pursue true progressive policies. Meanwhile, the people they claim to care about are forced to endure damaging economic policies. Stupid all round.

The demise of social democrats

There was a report in the Swedish English News media – The Local (January 31, 2018) – Social Democrats to fight election on right-wing turf – which tells us that:

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats have announced a plan … [which will see] … the party move decisively onto traditionally right-wing territory …

We have a political agenda today which is in some sense is authoritarian.

Yes, Anti-Migrant, strong on law and order, faster integration (abandonment of multiculturalism).

The spokesperson said that:

Safety has been reduced and a new type of criminality is attempting to take root.

So instead of announcing large-scale job creation to redress the disadvantage and poverty endured by new migrants, the social democrats in Sweden are going in the opposite direction.

More police to bash them and lock them up.

More xenophobia.

The social democrats certainly have their fingers on the pulse!

Meanwhile, I saw the latest INSA/YouGov poll of voting intentions in Germany this morning. You can download the entire dataset – HERE.

This graph shows the movement in voter intentions from September 28, 2009 to the latest poll on February 5, 2018. I have left out a few of the smaller parties which have either been stable in attracting voter preference (for example Sonstige Parteien, which gets around 3 or 4 per cent) or have not featured in recent polls (for example, Piratenpartei Deutschland).

The vertical red line denotes when the general elections were held.

The respondents were responding to the question: “Who would you vote for if the Bundestag election was tomorrow?”

The parties plotted are:

AfD = Alternative für Deutschland
CDU = Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands
CSU = Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern e. V.
SPD = Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
GRÜNE = BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN
FDP = Freie Demokratische Partei
LINKE = DIE LINKE

The patterns are fairly clear.

Social democratic politicians continue to walk the plank – into oblivion

The loss in SPD (under Martin Schulz) is stunning. The blip in support upwards before the election was an anomaly. SPD have been trending down for the last 6 years and are now at historic lows.

The February 5, 2018 poll found that they attracted just 17 per cent of the voters, whereas the hard-right party AfD are up to 15 per cent.

There is only 2 per cent gap between them. That is a remarkable shift in the political terrain and demonstrates the bereftness of the social democratic political movement in Germany.

By playing along with Merkel’s conservatives and pushing a strong Europhile sentiment, the SPD has opened the door for the AfD, which is exploiting the hardships that people are feeling as a result of Germany’s economic policies among other things.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn thinks it is useful to pump out fake knowledge to win votes.

He tweeted this on Monday (February 5, 2018). I know Donald Trump is using Twitter to pump out lies but I would have thought Jeremy Corbyn would do better.

Whoever is advising him needs to be sacked and Jeremy Corbyn needs to start telling the truth to the British people. Who knows, he might just shift the debate a bit in the direction he favours.

Social democratic politicians continue to walk the plank – into oblivion

And the 2,812 people who liked this Tweet need to reassess their understanding (or total lack of it) of macroeconomics. I know that many will say that Jeremy Corbyn is just neutralising issues politically to make points that will gain him popularity.

But that is a tired old line. By playing the neoliberal macroeconomic card and playing along with the neoliberals the progressives just corral themselves into spaces that they can never get out of. They end up having to abandon a progressive agenda and looking like the conservatives.

It is not a smart long term political strategy at all.

Reclaiming the State – French Review

Our latest book, Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017) – received more favourable coverage in the French press this week.

In the review section of Le Monde diplomatique article (February 4, 2018) – L’État, c’est nous (The State is Us) – Aurélien Bernier considers our book in the context of Brexit.

He discusses our call for progressive governments to abandon their Monetarist/neoliberal leanings and restore a progressive path where the fiscal capacity of the government is used to advance the well-being of the people rather than serve the interests of the corporate elites.

He concludes with this:

Un plaidoyer qui résonne comme un appel au Parti travailliste de M. Jeremy Corbyn à saisir une occasion historique.

Which, in the context of Jeremy Corbyn’s tweet above is very apposite.

Go on, Jeremy, “seize a historic opportunity” (“à saisir une occasion historique”). Just this time, do it!

On the Reclaiming the State theme, I will be visiting Europe in a few week’s time.

Two events might be of interest:

1. Helsinki, February 27, 2018 – I will be giving 6 lectures on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) at the University of Helsinki in late February and early March as part of a new international studies program. The first lecture will be a public event and will be held on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.

2. Barcelona, March 2-3, 2018 – I will be speaking at events organised by the Catalonian-based Ekona coop, which aims to promote innovation in the public and community sphere to move towards a new democracy. It is particularly focused in influencing the European Left to abandon their neoliberal ideas about economics.

I will circulate more details soon of both events.

Follow-up on Visitor Economy blog

To follow up on yesterday’s blog – The blight of the visitor economy – I took the photo this morning while I was out running around the beaches and harbour.

This shows what used to be called Nobbys Foreshore Park – which is 50 metres from the beach and an area that families used for picnics and other recreation while spending a day at the beach. It was regularly well patronised.

Now it is no more. It was dug up to build a hairpin for the Supercars race and is now destroyed as a recreational space.

So the citizens lost a valuable community resource and the corporation running the race made huge profits on the back of large government subsidies.

That is visitor economy nonsense – it is hard to be optimistic about that – no matter how old one is or what their background is.

Social democratic politicians continue to walk the plank – into oblivion

This map shows what the area used to be like before the government handed it over to the Supercars to build their hairpin and effectively destroy the park forever.

Social democratic politicians continue to walk the plank – into oblivion

What I am listening to as I work today

This song – Almost Blue is by the incomparable Chet Baker and was written by Elvis Costello. It is from the album – Chet Baker in Tokyo (King Records) and was recorded in June 1987.

This song was taken from the concert, which was just 11 months before he died at the age of 58, lying on the street in Amsterdam after falling from his hotel room. He was a lifetime heroin addict.

Sombre and flowing. He was a physical wreck by the time this concert was held but could still play exquisitely.

Here is an interesting New York Times review () of the concert – A glorious moment in Chet Baker’s twilight.

The lyrics are:

Almost blue
Almost doing things we used to do
There’s a girl here and she’s almost you
Almost
All the things that you promised with your eyes
I see in hers too
Now your eyes are red from crying

You can hear the whole live concert – HERE.

The musicians in the quartet were:

Harold Danko – piano
Hein Van Der Geyn – bass
John Engels – drums

The songs were (with times during the video):

00:30 Stella by starlight
11:25 For minors only
19:50 You’d be so nice to come home to
30:30 Arborway
44:27 Four
52:40 Almost blue
1:00:52 Beatrice
1:07:46 My funny valentine
1:20:39 Seven steps to heaven

MMT University Logo competition

I am launching a competition among budding graphical designers out there to design a logo and branding for the MMT University, which we hope will start offering courses in October 2018.

The prize for the best logo will be personal status only and the knowledge that you are helping a worthwhile (not-for-profit) endeavour.

The conditions are simple.

Submit your design to me via E-mail.

A small group of unnamed panelists will select the preferred logo. We might not select any of those submitted.

It should be predominantly blue in colour scheme. It should include a stand-alone logo and a banner to head the WWW presence.

By submitting it you forgo any commercial rights to the logo and branding. In turn, we will only use the work for the MMT University initiative. It will be a truly open source contribution.

The contest closes at the end of March 2018.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Bill Mitchell
Bill Mitchell is a Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. He is also a professional musician and plays guitar with the Melbourne Reggae-Dub band – Pressure Drop. The band was popular around the live music scene in Melbourne in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band reformed in late 2010.

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