Constructing the Progressive Left

The construction of a progressive movement may be Muscat's greatest ambition and ultimately the largest 'earthquake' on the richter scale. Unfortunately, in a country which has become somewhat infamous for being thirty years behind every other and in which politics is characterised by tribalism, parochialism and the exploitation of ignorance it is no surprise that this grand project has been met with a great degree of cynicism by many who profess to be progressive, including myself. The greatest spoke in Muscat's wheel is undoubtedly from within Labour itself which houses some of the country's staunchest conservative politicians and which at times finds itself on a fast-forward march towards a brand of excessively populist and nationalist-oriented politics instead of building upon the basic ideals that characterise the left.
Possible or not, the idea is a good thing in itself, not just for Malta but for the rest of Europe where social-democratic, labour and green parties are finding it hoplessly difficult to overcome the neo-liberal mainstream. Unless things do not change we will soon see the rise of the Tories in Britain, the fall of Zapatero in Spain and fascist parties across Europe going from strength to strength with victories for the left becoming far and few between (one hopes that PASOK will emerge triumphant in Greece). Meanwhile, Germany's Merkel, France's Sarkozy and Italy's Berlusconi are not set to leave the political climate any time soon. This is not a rant but a wake-up call for progressive parties across Europe to do something about it.
The primary starting point for constructing a progressive coalition of the left is to reconsider this strong infatuation with Giddens-inspired 'third way' which made Clintion and Blair role models for social democrats and progressives across the Western world back in the mid-90's. However, main-land Europe now finds itself in a situation with no distinguishable political platforms when you consider that social-democrats are just as equally free-market oriented as conservative neo-liberals and conservative neo-liberals tend to be just as socially-liberal as social democrats (Sarkozy comes to mind). The differences have become so minimal that it is no surprise that the Greens have (thankfully) emerged as a considerably strong force by proposing new and ambitious ideas such as 'The Green New Deal' which seeks to create millions of jobs by harnessing the earth's sources alternative energy; a great response to rising unemployment and a global environment in peril. The problem is that the greens cannot bring about change alone, which brings me to my next point.
It is time to realise that no political party enjoys a 'monopoly of wisdom'. The my-way-or-the-highway mentality must be eradicated once and for all. To form a popular progressive movement, progressive parties should respect the premise that 'we are all in this together'. A pluralistic approach should become the core of the progressive left. This does not mean that progressive parties and their supporters should abandon their ideals for the sake of forming one popular front. It is about respecting our differences as well as our common vision. Britain's Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob explains that "We all have our loyalties and allegiances and it is futile to demand from each other that we renounce them as a pre-condition for unity. On the contrary, we need to find new ways to exert pressure on the political establishment, and forge new alliances that bring together a progressive coalition that can start to shift the political centre of gravity to the left." Left academic Pat Devine wrote in Red Pepper that "one way forward is to work towards the formation of a loose-knit electoral alliance united in opposition to the neoliberal mainstream and dedicated to campaigning for electoral reform and a green new deal."
A progressive coalition musn't become a militant minority which is hardly able to converse with anyone beyond its patchwork of colour but a progressive majority for change. The plural left should thus strive to move social democratic and green values to the mainstream where they belong as opposed to being occasionally hip sound-bites, disconnected from everyday and everybody. For privatising idealism and comfortably preaching to the already-converted will only lead to many progressives finding themselves politically unrepresented and cursing in anger at a world they thought would be different.
This post has been largely inspired by Mark Perryman's critique "We’re all in this together: - Towards the political practice of a Plural Left" published by Compass think tank (UK).

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