The cycle

Has the golden age for right-leaning capitalist politics come to an end or has it merely become a little less golden and a lot more tarnished? The recent downfall of a once steady global economy almost single-handedly brought down by big businesses themselves may suggest that thirty years of laissez-faire capitalism is writing its final chapter in the political cycle.

It is said that history repeats itself. Particularly, what is known as a 'zeitgeist' or 'spirit of the age and its society' goes through cycles. Capitalism was born during the early Renaissance when mercantilism was the order of the day for prospering nation states and became a formidable order in the industrial revolution of the 18th/19th centuries when vast amounts of capital were amassed by factory owners. It then saw a steep decline in power during the Great Depression of the 1930's and in the post-war era, only to rise once more as the brainchild of none other than Ronald Reagan in the US and Margret Thatcher in the UK in the early 80's. Parallels can also be drawn in the Maltese scenario with the decline of the socialists (MLP) and the rise of the christian democrats (NP) during this period (1987).

The surge of right-wing populism has seen little to no resistance in Europe, give or take a few member states, leaving moderate and far left-wing parties doing a lot of soul searching for the past two decades. Again parallels can be seen in the Maltese political system where the MLP has been confined to the opposition benches for approximately twenty years. Yet the recent economic disaster, the worst of its kind since the 30's, has left laissez-faire capitalist advocates doing some soul searching of their own and low to middle income earners fearing the worst.

Could this be the transition point between one cycle and another? Has the capitalist-dominated zeitgesit become stagnant and out of date? Is it now the turn for socialists and progressives to take over the reins and end the greed that has led to the self destruction of the global economy? I am fairly optimistic that will eventually happen but it is not all that rosy for the left. Next month could see Obama elected as US president and I believe that this would be the prologue of the new cycle which would set the wheels in motion. One can even argue that in actual fact the first steps where actually taken in South America which has seen a huge resurgence of socialism.

But in Europe things are still bleak. I strongly suspect that the British Labour party will suffer a heavy defeat in the next election and will remain in opposition for at least a decade. Things are also looking considerably dreary for the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE). They say that the European's Peoples Party (EPP) is set to make further gains in the next MEP elections whilst the Barroso Comission, which has made Europe less and less social, is strong. Other factors, such as the immigration phenomenon, has seen far-right parties and coalitions set the agenda by directly confronting the situation (and using racist sentiments to their advantage) leaving social democrats and conservatives questioing their next move or even sublty following in the footsteps of the far right.

But if the cards are played right hope remains for Europe and indeed the rest of the world which is yearning for a new cycle to begin. The life-blood of the global economy has been sucked dry and it must be replenished. That the left wins just to change the cycle is not enough, refreshing as it may be. It is very important for social democrats and progressives to find new, efficient and also attractive solutions to the current economic and social policy problems whilst placing the environment equally high on the agenda.

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