Could Brexit Breathe New Life Into Left-Wing Politics?

Late in his life, Freud asked the famous question “Was will das Weib?”, “What does a woman want?”, admitting his confusion when faced with the enigma of the feminine sexuality. A similar perplexity arouses today, apropos the Brexit referendum—what does Europe want?

The true stakes of this referendum become clear if we locate it into its larger historical context. In Western and Eastern Europe, there are signs of a long-term re-arrangement of the politica. Until recently, the political space was dominated by two main parties which addressed the entire electoral body, a Right-of-centre party (Christian-Democrat, liberal-conservative, populist) and a Left-of-centre party (socialist, social-democratic), with smaller parties addressing a narrow electorate (ecologists, neo-Fascists). Now, a singular party is emerging which stands for global capitalism as such, usually with relative tolerance towards issues such as abortion, gay rights, religious and ethnic minorities; opposing this party is a stronger anti-immigrant populist party which, on its fringes, is accompanied by directly racist neo-Fascist groups.

Poland is a prime example—after the disappearance of the former Communists, the main parties are the “anti-ideological” centrist liberal party of the former prime-minister Donald Tusk (now President of the European Council) and the conservative Christian party of Kaczynski brothers (identical twins one of whom served as Poland’s president from 2005-2010 and the other as its prime minister 2006-2007). The stakes of Radical Center today are: which of the two main parties, conservatives or liberals, will succeed in presenting itself as embodying the post-ideological non-politics against the other party dismissed as “still caught in old ideological specters”? In the early 90s, conservatives were better at it; later, it was liberal Leftists who seemed to be gaining the upper hand, and now, it’s again the conservatives.

[Extract. Appeared in Newsweek on June 24th 2016]

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