A Global New Deal

by Dave Anderson

The two major parties will have to change, or they are likely to be
changed by voters who have had enough,” the Reverend Jesse Jackson
said recently. He knows about the impact of grassroots discontent
because he ran an unexpectedly strong progressive populist campaign
for president in the Democratic primaries in the 1980s which was very
similar to Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

Quite a few U.S. labor union leaders are alarmed at Trump’s popularity
among too many workers. On May 9 and 10, Trump was a focus of concern
at an international conference in Washington D.C. on rising far right
populism in the U.S. and Europe. It was sponsored by the AFL-CIO (the
largest federation of unions in this country), Working America (the
federation’s outreach arm to non-union workers) and the Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung (a German foundation associated with the Social
Democratic Party).

With Donald Trump as its presumptive nominee, the Republican Party is
changing to address the fears of economically insecure Americans with
a cynical and phony populism. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic
nominee, how will she respond? Mainstream pundits (and most likely
rich donors) urge her to “pivot to the center” and focus on attracting
affluent Republican suburbanites who are leery of Trump.

Labor people came from France, Germany, Belgium, Canada, the
Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. The conference was a
response to the ascendancy of not only Trump in the U.S. but also the
National Democratic Party in Germany, the National Front in France,
the Golden Dawn in Greece and others.

“Too many politicians in the U.S. and Europe are exploiting our
differences and inciting hate and division,” said Richard Trumka,
president of AFL-CIO. “…Political tactics that scapegoat hardworking
immigrants and refugees only serve to pit workers against one another,
while ignoring the corporate excess that created these problems.”

Speakers placed a good deal of blame for the far right’s rise on the
center left parties’ embrace of “neo-liberalism,” an ideology
pioneered by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Later, a cuddlier
version was offered by Bill Clinton’s “Third Way” Democrats and Tony
Blair’s “New Labour” in the U.K.

Damon Silvers, director of policy at the AFL-CIO, said: “Starting
around 1980 in the United States and the United Kingdom, and in the
1990s in the larger European Union, the idea that governments should
not act to help people in economic pain, or to right imbalances in
economic power, became gospel, not just among the right, but among
parties that identified themselves as the center-left.

“The idea was that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were
going to have a market-based Utopia, where the problems that had
plagued market societies in the 20th century were no longer going to
exist. So the institutions and politics that had come into being to
address the injustices and instabilities of market societies could be
dismantled without fear of what would happen next. …

“But instead of ushering in a market-based era of growth and good
feeling, neo-liberalism brought back the economic pathologies of the
pre-New Deal era — runaway inequality and financial boom and bust
cycles on an epic scale. And politically, the neo-liberal consensus
opened the door to a monster that many had thought had been driven
permanently into the outer darkness of democratic politics—the racist,
authoritarian right.”

Silvers warned that “we should have learned from the 1930s that if the
public is offered two choices — democracy and austerity, or
authoritarianism and jobs — a lot of people will choose
authoritarianism.” Those who live in comfort rightly condemn such a
choice, he said, but anybody who wants to lead a democracy should
“make sure that democratic governance provides economic justice and
economic security.”

Silvers said it is tempting to “bite our tongues and join in the
neo-liberal consensus in the hopes of gaining powerful allies against
right-wing authoritarianism from among the 1 percent. But this
approach will only feed the authoritarian right by proving the
argument they make to working people that ‘the politicians don’t care
about you.’”

Instead, Silvers said the labor movement must demand that politicians
and parties they support be advocates for ambitious policies which
produce broad-based economic growth driven by rising wages.

He insisted that the politicians support “a global New Deal — a plan
to get us out of global economic stagnation driven by downward
pressures on wages — and into a virtuous cycle of rising wages driving
investment that drives productivity.”

To defeat Donald Trump, we need to confront his racism and sexism but
also offer a transformational vision of a more decent and caring
society.

This essay originally appeared as one of the author’s weekly opinion columns in the Boulder Weekly.

One Response

  1. ….b..b…but – when wages go up, prices go up – on rent, bread, public transportation, all the stuff we make and can’t afford to buy back….
    Wages is the tool of capitalism. Jobs is its mechanics.
    Yes, you know that, and stand for the interim necessary actions – . Can we think of and say qualifying comments as we do that? instead of letting it stand unchallenged?
    Among our input can we not advocate for growth, a totally capitalist idea that’s killing the Earth we need and like – and us ….?
    Norma

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