We’ve had neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism, neither of which has much advanced the interests of ordinary people. Neo-conservatives give us endless wars with (literally) no outcomes other than the advancement of what President Eisenhower termed the military-industrial complex. Neo-liberalism, through its embrace of the unholy troika of privatisation (see footnote), outsourcing and new public management within the bureaucracy, has given us inadequate public services and infrastructure run by globalist, woke, green corporates without the fiscal continence, personal freedom and small government that was promised.
But now we have a new “neo”, as it were, and I am not just talking about the now passe 1980s-style neo-Marxism, with all of its overtones of post-modernism and cultural orientation. In the 2020s, neo-Marxism is now not the main leftist game. Today’s leftism is an entirely different beast — a beast no one ever saw coming. It has completely new preoccupations. And it is devouring those whose interests the old Left used to champion.
Surely, a generation ago, no one would have anticipated the abandonment by the Left of the working class whose interests, since the days of Karl Marx, it had claimed to represent. Who could have predicted that the leftist media which once challenged the capitalist class would cheer on greedy multinationals (aka Big Pharma, for instance) bent on injecting experimental drugs into workers’ arms and having those workers sacked if they didn’t get the jab? And that they – think the BBC and The Guardian – would have accepted funding from former tech oligarchs (specifically, Bill Gates) who would then insist on those media outlets publishing his party line.
The neo-left loves the rich. Many of them are rich themselves. Like the Chinese, leftists have embraced wealth and capitalism. The uber-rich have embraced socialism, though not for themselves. It is a crazy ideological world.
Who could have anticipated that modern day “leftist” parties would happily see workers’ power bills become so unaffordable that people would have to choose between eating and heating? Who would have thought your modern-day leftist would be on the same page, in relation to the unilaterally and baselessly declared “climate emergency”? Or what of tech billionaires who make dissident voices simply disappear via shadowbanning and the like and the private equity magnates who now run the world through outfits such as Blackrock, not to mention the inevitable, persistent Rockefellers whose shadowy philanthropy does so much harm to ordinary people?
What about the rich leftists’ support for mass migration, the result of which is a rising tide – no, let us call it what it is, a tsunami – of post-colonial refugees landing in Western countries, resulting in the crushing (in the US, certainly) of native workers’ opportunities for escaping poverty. The brand new US Senator from Ohio, JD Vance, has had something to say about this. The unskilled workers who land in their new countries tend end up doing all the unpleasant service jobs that natives won’t do. The neo-leftists, don’t seem to give a toss about this. So long as they don’t move to Martha’s Vineyard!
Then there is the twenty-first century neo-left’s astonishing abandonment of civil liberties in the face of the corporatist state. Vaccine mandates? No problem. De-platforming by rich-kid tech types? Oh, we love that. Shut those Deplorables. Err, weren’t the Deplorables the people leftists used to love? Not anymore. Let them cling to their religion and their guns. The left elite don’t like religion unless it is that of Gaia and the church of woke.
Two key questions: First, how did all this come about? And second, is neo-leftism really socialism, or is it something else, an entirely new ideological form? If so, what are its core elements?
Kim Beazley Sr, a Whitlam era minister once described the process of decay on the left as the cream of the working class being replaced by the dregs of the bourgeoisie. Most members of the low information millennial generation would probably have to use a search engine to find out what these two terms (working class and bourgeoisie) even mean. Other observers of the re-invention of the old left have pointed to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in the early 1990s as a dividing line whereby those that had actually cheered for socialist regimes, despite those vicious, utopian regimes utterly letting down the working class, had to find a new approach and a new angle in order to find a new base of support. Hence, the left went green and so, at a single stroke, said goodbye to any meaningful sense of representation of its former working-class base. Still others speak of cultural Marxism adopting the Antonio Gramsci playbook and replacing the original recipe of a working-class revolution. One thing is clear, getting rich and staying rich is no longer a problem for the twenty-first century socialist. It is as if Jürgen Habermas met Hayek and found that they had much in common after all.
The new ideology is thoroughly embedded in both major political parties. Back in the 1970s, the term “tweedledum and tweedledee” was coined (by political scientists Bob Catley and Bruce McFarlane) to describe the wafer-thin difference between the major political parties of the day. Following the ritual execution of yet another British Prime Minister just recently, one commentator over there (Leilani Dowding) colourfully termed the choice facing voters as “two cheeks of the same bottom”. (Given what most voters now think of all mainstream politicians, her imagery is probably in the right territory). In Australia, the estimable Lyle Shelton has termed the big four new-left parties in Australia – the Liberal/Nationals, Labor, the Greens and the Teals – “the quad”. Clearly, there is a lot of shared territory, despite what each of these parties says about the others. The differences among them are merely matters of degree, with some rushing towards the cliff at the speed limit while others substantially exceed it.
The point is that each of the major parties, both in the UK and in Australia (at least), has absorbed the core policies of the other side and the differences between them have shrunk to something very close to zero. The right’s willingness to accept big government, high taxes, green energy and the defenestration of fossil fuels, the woke social agenda and middle-class welfare has been matched by the neo-left’s embrace of capitalism (especially capitalism of the crony variety) and capitalists, and its abandonment even of the pretense that it values the working class and the core belief system of workers.
As to the second question, whether the new form of leftist ideology is really socialism, this is where it gets rather complicated. There has been a massive ideological cross-over taking place, driven through a number of parallel processes. The new beast has been assigned a variety of names, as well. Catherine Austin Fitts terms it “Mr Global”. CJ Hopkins calls it “Globocap”. Klaus Schwab calls it “stakeholder capitalism”, a beast that he can plausibly claim to have invented. The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has called it “communist capitalism” embraced by what we might think of political metrosexuals.
Michael Rectenwald – whose forthcoming book, The Great Reset and the Struggle for Liberty: Unravelling the Globalist Agenda, should be a must-read – has a number of names for neo-leftism. One is “corporate socialism”. Here is Rectenwald, revealing the extent to which the core philosophies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have found common cause with the new Western ideological hybrid:
Another way of describing the goal of the Great Reset is “capitalism with Chinese characteristics”—a two-tiered economy, with profitable monopolies and the state on top and socialism for the majority below.
With apologies to Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, you might wish to think of this model as poverty and misery for the rest of us. Or, for-profit economics combined with totalitarian politics. As close as it gets to real fascism, incidentally. Agamben nails it wonderfully:
The form of capitalism that is being consolidated on a planetary scale is not that which it had assumed in the West: it is, rather, capitalism in its communist variation, which unites an extremely rapid development of production with a totalitarian political regime. This is the historical significance of the leading role that China is taking on, not only in the realm of the economy in a narrow sense, but also – as the political use of the pandemic has so eloquently demonstrated – as a paradigm for the government of men. That the regimes established in so-called communist countries were a particular form of capitalism, specially adapted for economically backward countries and thus labelled ‘state capitalism’, was perfectly clear to anyone who knows how to read history; what was entirely unexpected, however, is that this form of capitalism, which seemed to have exhausted its function and was thus now obsolete, was instead destined – in a technologically updated configuration – to become the ruling principle of the current phase of globalized capitalism.
What has been the political response to these developments?
The ascendancy, on the right, of neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism, and the emergence on the (sort-of) left of Mr Global, has led to a backlash and the emergence of right-of-centre alternatives, such as the now defunct Australian Conservatives, the United Australia Party, the Liberal Democrats and One Nation. They don’t agree on everything, but there is a shared perspective on the vile excesses of the COVID State, the horror embrace of climate madness and the dangers to traditional thought and lifestyles posed by the woke revolution. They now harvest over a million votes between them, but with the preferential electoral system in Australia, they remain largely voiceless. Reform UK faces the same electoral Everest in Britain with its first-past-the-post voting.
On the left, there has been no pushback whatsoever against the recent developments in Australia. Many of those who leave the Labor Party for ideological reasons tend to go even further “left”, in the new sense of that term. These folks are rich, entitled, metropolitan, green (of course) and extreme social liberals. For many, the word “family” now means “two gays and a cocker spaniel” (to reprise one of Paul Keating’s more colourful lines). Those in the old Labor heartland merely stick with the ALP and otherwise remain silent. (In the 1950s, Laborites who viscerally opposed communism went to the Democratic Labor Party). Yes, there have been the Reagan Democrats in the US, Boris Johnson’s “red wall” (now utterly abandoned by the Tories, with the electoral consequences for so doing still to come) and the Howard battlers here (sometimes called “the silent Australians”), but these voters transitioned to conservative parties that then reflected their values. Now they don’t. These same parties can no longer offer a safe haven for the disillusioned, old-style social democrats. And yes, some old-style Labor voters have no doubt joined Mark Latham in his own journey to One Nation. After the same-sex marriage debate of 2017, some might also have found a temporary home with Cory Bernardi. It didn’t last. By and large, even right-to-life stalwarts like Greg Donnelly in New South Wales, stay with Labor. (Some right-to-lifers in South Australia have left Labor and formed a new party of old style family values. But even the family party vote is split several ways).
But we have nothing that, for example, resembles Paul Embery’s “blue dog labour” crusade in the United Kingdom and his spirited attempt to recapture traditional values. He is a proud unionist who has pushed back against gender extremism (as one example) on the left. His book was titled Despised: Why the Modern Left Loathes the Working Class. The book’s sales pitch and its core argument state:
The typical contemporary Labour MP is almost certain to be a university-educated Europhile who is more comfortable in the leafy enclaves of north London than the party’s historic heartlands. As a result, Labour has become radically out of step with the culture and values of working-class Britain.
Drawing on his background as a firefighter and trade unionist from Dagenham, Embery argues that this disconnect has been inevitable since the left political establishment swallowed a poisonous brew of economic and social liberalism. They have come to despise traditional working-class values of patriotism, family and faith and instead embraced globalisation, rapid demographic change and a toxic, divisive brand of identity politics. Embery contends that the Left can only revive if it speaks once again to the priorities of working-class people by combining socialist economics with the cultural politics of belonging, place and community.
Embery’s theory is indeed a case of the Kim Beazley Sr formulation. Education, for example, has transformed the lives of the old working class, but not in the way its old-style leftist proponents imagined. Higher education in particular transformed working-class children into entitled yuppies who have passed on their new values to their even more entitled children. (Those who still have children, that is).
The modern leftist is simply unrecognisable from his or her earlier self. There is not the remotest resemblance, and a new ideology has emerged – let us call it neo-leftism – that is as much a travesty of the left’s former core values as neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism are on the right. That the old Labor right doesn’t seem to know what to do about this, at least not in a voting sense, means that it is the alt-right that is doing the heavy lifting in the emerging war on the weird globo-capitalism/leftist corporatism that now so ails us all.
FOOTNOTE: Like many, I was once a devotee of privatisation, but the way it has been used to garner buckets of funding for the political classs (as in NSW), who then dish out to favoured electorates and interest groups has greatly diminished its appeal. We were conned, I think. As voters we also lose the capacity to control or influence decisions about services made by the new look woke, green, globalist corporates. Especially with overseas ownership, including by the CCP and its various corporate arms. Privatisation assumed good private sector actors. Privatisation’s selling points are far less compelling in the new corporatist world.