The left-wing rogues’ gallery
Tuesday 04 August 2009
It’s a sad truth that some of the biggest enemies of progressive socialist causes have not been those on the right but those who claim to be on the left.
All over the world, some of the most reactionary anti-working-class policies have been carried out by governments which go under a “socialist” or “social democratic” label.
In eastern Europe for instance, nominally leftist governments have presided over mass privatisation and cutbacks in health and welfare provision since the fall of communism 20 years ago.
And in Britain, new Labour has sided with global capital against the interests of ordinary working people as well as supporting illegal imperialist wars of aggression in the Balkans and the Middle East.
New Labour claims to be a left-of-centre party but, as Labour veteran Tony Benn recently stated, in fact it is to the right of the positions taken by old-style “one-nation” Tory figures such as Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan.
They accepted the progressive mixed economy/welfare state consensus of the post-war period and did not believe that market forces should be allowed to rule every aspect of our lives.
So here is a “rogues gallery” of 10 political figures who, while campaigning under a left or progressive banner ended up siding with capitalism and betraying the very people – and the causes – their parties were supposed to represent.
At the 1995 Labour Party conference, the new Labour leader promised a “publicly accountable, publicly owned railway” if his party returned to power.
It was the first of many promises he was to break.
In fact, Blair extended the Tory policy of privatisation into new areas such as air traffic control. An enthusiastic globalist, Blair showed where his loyalties were when he told the bankers of Goldman Sachs that he supported British companies “letting some jobs migrate” to India and China.
In foreign policy, Blair ditched Labour’s traditional scepticism of foreign adventures and respect for the United Nations and enthusiastically supported illegal attacks on Iraq and socialist Yugoslavia.
The man who in his maiden speech in Parliament declared that he was a socialist because “socialism corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral,” currently earns around £2 million a year from US bank JP Morgan Chase and receives up to $250,000 (£147,600) for a 45-minute speech on the US lecture circuit.
A former Hungarian Communist youth leader, Gyurcsany made his fortune from privatisation deals in the early 1990s.
On becoming “socialist” prime minister in 2004, he presided over a large-scale privatisation programme and cutbacks in Hungary’s health and welfare programmes which led to a sharp rise in poverty.
In 2006 he provoked riots when a tape in which he admitted lying “morning, noon and night” to the electorate was leaked to the media.
But while he is [a] hate figure for most Hungarians, others hold a more positive view. “Gyurcsany is our kind of socialist,” was the verdict of a US junk bond trader.
The first ever Labour prime minister sided with the bankers in the economic crisis of 1931, betraying his party and Britain’s working class by forming a Tory-dominated “national government” which introduced swingeing cuts in unemployment pay and the pay of public-sector employees. Macdonald’s treachery led to riots in Glasgow and Manchester.
Lange’s New Zealand Labour government of the 1980s was a forerunner of Britain’s new Labour.
Lange’s finance minister Roger Douglas carried out a programme of privatisation and deregulation which was lauded by free-market economists and big business but alienated the party’s traditional supporters and led to a sharp rise in unemployment and inequality.
Jose Marie Barroso
A former leader of an underground Maoist grouping, the leader of Portugal’s Social Democratic Party and prime minister from 2002-4, Barroso hosted the infamous meeting at which he, George Bush, Blair and Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar made the final plans for the illegal invasion of Iraq.
In office, Barroso pursued neoliberal policies, which he has continued as head of the European Commission.
The former Communist minister morphed into a hawkish pro-NATO Polish president, supporting the US-led bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the invasion of Iraq four years later. A strong globalist, he is a board member of the Atlantic Council of the United States.
In 1994, after four years of economic hardship, the Hungarian Socialist Party won a convincing election victory on a programme of retaining the best features of the popular “goulash communist” system of the Janos Kadar years.
Western elites were horrified, but when faced with the choice of defending the interests of ordinary Hungarians who had voted for him or siding with the international money men, Horn chose the latter.
He sacked genuinely socialist ministers and appointed wealthy banker Lajos Bokros to introduce a swingeing programme of cuts in public spending and welfare provision.
The “Iron Chancellor” in Ramsay Macdonald’s 1929 Labour government, Snowden blocked plans for a socialist reflation of the economy and joined Macdonald in defecting to a Tory-dominated national government formed in August 1931.
In the election campaign later that year he turned on his former comrades, calling Labour’s pro-working-class policies “Bolshevism run mad.”
He ended up as “the first viscount Snowden” – not bad for a weaver’s son from West Yorkshire.
Austrian Socialist Party politician who, under the pretext of “modernisation” moved his party away from the unequivocally socialist positions it took under the leadership of the popular Bruno Kreisky to adopt a more pro-capitalist stance.
During his period as Austrian chancellor from 1997-2000, Klima privatised publicly owned assets and cut back on welfare provision. His policies undoubtedly aided the rise of far-right politicians such as the late Jorgen Haider.
Leader of the Serbian Socialist Party who last year took his party into a coalition with the Democratic Party of Serbia, whose former leader Zoran Djindic had been responsible for founder of the Serbian Socialist Party Slobodan Milosevic being kidnapped and sent to The Hague.
Dacic’s decision to enter a neoliberal, pro-privatisation coalition with his party’s most bitter enemies was condemned by the party’s traditional supporters who saw it as a betrayal of everything it had claimed to stand for.
Neil Clark is co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership campaign
On December 16 of last year, Egor Gaidar died of a heart attack at his dacha outside of Moscow at the age of 53. He was a leading figure in the implementation of market “reform” in Russia, which had a disastrous impact on the country and resulted in an immense growth in social inequality: here.