The decline of left-wing political parties in Europe must now be fully recognized. The French Socialist Party came in fifth place in April’s presidential election, the Dutch Labour Party came in seventh place in March’s parliamentary election, both with around 5-6 percent of the popular vote.
We should not be under any illusion that the British Labour Party will be saved from a colossal defeat in the upcoming U.K. general election, as Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues drag the party, kicking and screaming, to the far left of the political spectrum.
The Labour Party has been an incredibly influential political force in British politics for almost a century, with the exception of the dark days of the 1980s under the leadership of Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock.
That being said, the party has been in slow decline since peaking in its glory days under Tony Blair. The Labour Party thrived when it seized the center ground, moving away from its infatuation with socialism and focusing instead on pragmatic issues and pro-growth economics.
Jeremy Corbyn has signaled that he has no intention to step down. One aide revealed that he may only do so if Labour gets less than 20 percent of the popular vote. However, even if Corbyn was ousted somehow, the electorate that chose him would remain; this is his die-hard, left-wing supporter base, and their concern is not with winning elections.
The young, quixotic and radically left-wing grassroots members who placed Corbyn in his position of power are more interested in purging “Blairites” than winning elections. With their mandate, Corbyn is content to allow the Labour Party to perish for his own benefit.
Corbyn’s supporters do not regard record-low poll ratings as problematic but instead as a breakthrough phenomena which no British Trotskyist movement has ever achieved. Their interest is not in holding the reins of parliamentary power because they have a deep loathing for this institution which they regard as a tool of the bourgeoisie.
At this stage, perhaps the only way the center-left can re-emerge from this socialist highjacking is to split. If this was to happen, it would most likely reflect the kind of split we saw within the French Socialist Party, whereby Emmanuel Macron and the moderate politicians formed a separate breakaway political party. Such a phenomenon is increasingly likely. If the results of the general election are as calamitous as pollsters suspect, then we may well see a Blairite breakaway within the Labour Party.
Socialism struggles for a reason to exist in the 21st Century
Political parties created during the age of mass industrialization are struggling for relevance in today’s changing labor market, as more people are self-employed and technology continues to replace unskilled labor.
While the factory and the railways forged the age of the worker; the internet has swung the pendulum back in the other direction, making today the age of the consumer. As the Labour Party remains under the occupation of an aggressive, hard-left elite from the politics of yesteryear, the party will continue to decline as a serious force in British politics.
Even for opponents of socialist economic planning, this is a sorry state of affairs. Without a strong opposition, the Conservative Party is likely to go astray from its market principles and venture into the protectionist realm of center-left politics.
The quicker the Labour Party rids itself of its far-left leanings, the sooner Britain can have a decent opposition force in parliament again.
Jack Salmon is a Washington, D.C.-based researcher focused on federal fiscal policy. Salmon holds an M.A. in political economy with specializations in macroeconomics and comparative economic analysis from King’s College London.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.