Of old men and mass meetings

11 June 2017

Of old men and mass meetings

We saw it in the US with Bernie Sanders, with Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France, and this week in Great Britain with Jeremy Corbyn: old men who have managed with their socialist message to attract thousands of young people. Change is in the air and the end of neoliberalism appears to be in sight. In Brussels such things are not dwelt upon: people would rather look to a restored Franco-German axis. This will turn out to have been a fatal error: if the EU continues to ignore the call for change, it’s doomed.

It’s really inspiring to see how in ever more countries young people are springing into action en masse during national elections. Rather than standing watching from the wings, they are making their voices heard. Now mass movements are one thing, but if you want to truly change society, you need to stick at it on a daily basis. Just ask the SP activists who work so hard in the neighbourhoods. If everyone who came to a mass meeting would also take the fight back to their own neighbourhoods, things would definitely change.

All of this escapes the Brussels bubble, where the success of Labour in the UK, with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, is seen principally as a rejection of a hard Brexit. As with everything, Brussels looks at election results mainly in terms of what they might mean for the interests of the established order. With every reflection document from the European Commission, we’re presented with a vision of a stronger and more closely-knit European Union, one which can meddle in even more matters than now or in the past. All that’s needed is for the member states to be more europhile, or at worst not put the brakes on. And that’s where the new French president Emanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are destined to play an important role.

The weakness of this analysis is that both Macron and Merkel still belong to the neoliberal elite. They are a million miles from Sanders, Mélenchon and Corbyn who want to see less influence of the market and more for ordinary people. The new left is not advocating a national superstate, let alone a European superstate. At the mass meetings what concerns people is their own power – at work, in education, in their neighbourhoods. At the meetings, people are calling for such power to be grasped. This is the new wind blowing through the western world and through Europe: young people want to be heard. Older people have long wanted the same thing, but have been snowed under by market think. And if there are still after all these old men who are polishing up apparently forgotten ideals, a new alliance between the generations is suddenly being born. That alliance, not the European blockage, is the future. It’s about time awareness of this penetrated even the Brussels bubble. If this doesn’t happen the EU is doomed.

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