One of the most striking changes in the political landscape during my lifetime has been the bizarre reversal of priorities on the part of both the Left and the Right. In particular, the reversal of priorities on economic issues.
From the end of the Second World War up until the 1970s the Left in general was absolutely passionate about economic issues. The Right by contrast tended to be less passionate and much less dogmatic on such issues. Everyone on the Left was essentially a socialist. The differences on the Left were between those who wanted socialism right now and those who wanted to see socialism imposed gradually. There were also differences between those who wanted full-blown absolute socialism and those who were prepared to tolerate a strictly limited degree of small-scale free enterprise – between those who wanted everything owned by the state and those who would allow the survival of small businesses (although naturally highly regulated small businesses).
In the same period the Right generally speaking favoured moderate centrist economic policies. Almost everyone on the Right accepted that the welfare state was here to stay, and most right-wingers thought that was a good thing. Where they differed from the Left was in believing that the welfare state needed to be kept within strict bounds. They were opposed to large-scale expansion of the welfare state but very few would have considered the abolition of the welfare state to be either practical or desirable. Most of those on the Right believed in free markets, but only up to a point. They were concerned about monopolies and they disapproved of cartels. They felt that some degree of government intervention in the economy was necessary. They were generally speaking suspicious of free trade on the grounds that national security required the existence of a healthy industrial base, and on the grounds that it would cause unemployment and other undesirable social consequences. Right-wingers in general were pragmatic on economic issues.
The situation today is dramatically different. The Right is divided into those who worship free markets and globalisation with obsessive zeal and those who favour Big Government because Big Government is good for Big Business.
The Left today on the other hand seems to have zero interest in economic matters. They pretty much go along with the idea of a partnership between Big Government and Big Business because that’s the policy favoured by the people who provide the funding for leftist parties. Modern mainstream leftist parties are very much parties of Big Business. In fact even the lunatic fringe of the Left is mostly funded by Big Business. As a result economic issues are now a forbidden zone for the Left.
The Left today is entirely focused on social issues. That suits Big Business perfectly. The one thing Big Business does not want is for anyone to start asking awkward questions about economic policy. People might start to notice that what is good for Big Business is not necessarily good for the country or for ordinary people. The CEOs of mega-corporations are absolutely delighted to see political debate as long as it’s confined to issues like same-sex marriage and other “social justice” issues. They don’t give a damn about social justice or same-sex marriage but these things serve the very useful purpose of diverting the attention of the media and the populace away from the subjects that might prove embarrassing, like the fact that their products are now manufactured by virtual slave labour in the Third World.
The Left’s abandonment of economics amounts to one of the greatest political betrayals in history. Leftists love to talk about how much they care about the marginalised and the vulnerable but the marginalised and the vulnerable are the people the Left has sold out.
Of course the Left has never really liked the working class. This goes back to the First World War when the working classes chose love of country over world revolution. The Left elites have hated working-class people ever since. Marxism always has been an ideology for the elites. This is one of the reasons leftists are so strongly in favour of immigration – it’s a way to punish working-class people. It’s also why the Left lost interest in economic policies that might help the working class and turned instead to manufacturing more politically reliable victim groups. Modern leftists are overjoyed by globalist capitalism because it destroys the working classes.
The leftists of the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s may have been blinded by ideologies that were never going to work in practice but at least they believed in something. They may have been wrong about many things but they were not unprincipled. The leftists of today are merely the tools of ruthless mega-corporations. The bizarre thing is that very few people seem to have noticed this happening.