Australia: Rising threat of the activist Left

Australia: Rising threat of the activist Left, by Brian Loughnane.

As Australia returns to work and the parliamentary year begins, there are signs our economy is benefiting from the Trump tax and business agenda. The Coalition’s political fortunes are also improving or, to be more precise, there are indications that Labor, after a complacent 18 months, is beginning to lose ­momentum. …

The effects of central bank mismanagement of the last decade are booming asset prices but low interest rates and low wage growth:

In most major economies, there is now a large group, in some cases a majority, of people who, despite the generic strength of their economy, find they are treading water or slipping behind. There are multiple examples around the world of this group rebelling at the ballot box.

Finding practical and effective policies that can quickly assist in improving this situation is now a big challenge for political parties, particularly those of the centre-right. It is central to reducing the political ferment that has driven politics in recent years.

In Australia, as this newspaper’s economics editor David Uren recently wrote: “For 15 years following the election of the Howard government in 1996, living standards rose by a steady 2.5 per cent a year … by 2011, the average household had a living standard more than 40 per cent higher than in the mid-1990s.”

However, he went on to report that, more recently, “… After adjusting for living costs, interest and taxes, average earnings in the three months to ­September (2017) were 0.7 per cent lower than in the same period of 2011.”

Labor is increasingly run by its angry activists:

Labor is being pulled to the left and the ­indications are a future Labor ­government will be significantly more left-wing than the Hawke-Keating and the Rudd-Gillard ­governments.

This echoes the reasons driving similar moves to the fringe in mainstream left parties across the democratic world: the traditional moderating right-wing strand within left parties is disappearing.

These parties are now dominated by the progressive, activist left. This is the culmination of more than 50 years of growth in extra-party political activity on the left in all Western countries.

Since the Vietnam War (at least) a structure and framework has grown outside the major centre-left party in most democracies. This moved from anti-Vietnam War activism to a general anti-Americanism and nuclear disarmament, environmentalism and much more. Fifty years on, this is a massive, co-ordinated and well-resourced network of activists, think tanks, and specialist and innovative campaigners who are now moving directly into large political parties. This group is the base behind the successes of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. They have recruited this activist campaign architecture into their parties, with consequent results for policy, candidate selection and so forth. It is the reason for their ­internal successes.

This shift is now taking place in the ALP. Sally McManus, I suspect, now better represents the true heart of the Labor Party than Bill Shorten. Although employed by the traditional union base of the party, McManus is an archetypical progressive left activist with a full, clear and very aggressive agenda to move Labor to the left.

Society divides:

The growth of the activist left is driving another, deeper phenomenon in Western societies. In fact, it is challenging the very concept, at the political level, of societies. …

Americans are withdrawing into like-minded tribes at the cost of a clear national consensus on many previously undisputed issues. It is no surprise congress is divided and frequently log-jammed on matters that in the past were negotiated to resolution. There is little published research on this in Australia but I have no doubt the broad trend is similar.

I suspect this phenomenon is largely driven by media misinformation. It’s not so much conservative versus left and more, but reality versus politically correct. Which version of the world you understand is largely influenced by which media you choose to consume. The PC world of fantasy appears mainstream, and is comfortable because it is so socially acceptable — but it is unsustainable, and it is wrecking western civilization. Realist views make you a deplorable in the eyes of most of those currently running today’s west.

hat-tip Stephen Neil