Japan votes left: the political consequences of recession
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) seems to have won a landslide in this weekend’s General Election, displacing the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which, more than any other around the world, represented liberal capitalism. The DPJ is not a socialist party by any means, but in today’s crisis-ridden world, its victory is still enormously important (it is closer to the Japanes trade unions than the LDP ever was, and is arguing for more action on climate change, a more independent foreign policy, and policies to tackle growing inequality).
Following the continuing shift in the USA towards the Democrats (and President Obama’s election to the White House less than a year ago), the non-European left seems to be more resurgent than anyone expected before the crisis began: the G20 which meets in Pittsburgh next month will now have more left leaders than ever. So those who have been asking “why hasn’t the left benefited from the crisis of capitalism” may now have their answer. Generally speaking, the world continues to shift leftwards – from Latin America where the left is now more dominant than at any time in history, through South Africa, Australia, and into the far east. But why not in Europe?
Of course, electoral cycles matter – left parties in Government when the recession started may not be best placed to capitalise on them – and several European countries have left parties which have made major tactical mistakes. Part of the answer lies in the way that right-wing parties in Europe (not generally that right-wing by global definitions, but only by the standards of a generally liberal part of the world) have responded to the recession by adopting an approach generally associated with the left: namely massive Keynesian state intervention.
What else is going on? Why is Europe still bucking the worldwide trend leftwards?