Stale ponds – fresh ideas…

Baby-boomers might just  identify with the description of this country:

300px-Rådhuspladsen_-_Vartorv…’it maintains a welfare state — a set of government programs designed to provide economic security — that is beyond the wildest dreams of American liberals. It provides universal health care; college education is free, and students receive a stipend; day care is heavily subsidized’.

The country is Denmark. The writer is American Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner for Economic Sciences.   And many of those state-funded programmes paid for by taxpayers were once also ours before the 1984 election.

Krugman, writing in alternet.org was defending the ideas of   Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders – a rarity in American politics. He proudly declares that he is a Socialist,   a position regarded as politically suicidal in the States. But the people have come out in their thousands to hear him speak in cities across the country.

The Observer noted in August that in two appearances in Washington State and Oregon, Sanders drew massive crowds of supporters that were larger—for these two speeches alone—-than the combined crowds of every Republican and Democrat running for president added together over the entire weekend.

That’s impressive in a country wedded to a pitiless brand of capitalism, and one in which the commentariat has   confused socialism with Communism. The result is that its ideals are not only marginalised, they are not even understood, which is why Krugman tried to set the record straight.

In a debate with Hillary Clinton and other Democratic hopefuls, Sanders summarised his socialist beliefs saying:   ” What democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one tenth of one percent in this country own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%”. He added: “That is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57% of all new income is going to the top one per cent”.

A Washington Post columnist wrote later that Sanders could never be elected President because ‘capitalism remains a pretty popular concept – especially when compared to socialism’ though once again the concept was dangling out of context. A glance across the Atlantic might have shown the   benefits of Socialism in thriving Nordic countries.

To support his argument he quoted from Pew Research Centre findings which showed strong support for a Catholic President (93%); a woman; (92%) a black (92%) Hispanic (91%) and Jewish (91%). A socialist (47%) came last, after atheist (58%) and Muslim (60%).

So far so bad for socialism it seems – yet a mild form socialism has been practised for decades in Nordic and other countries with stunningly positive results for both markets and society. Both can and have happily co-existed.

It’s not hard though to see the stirrings when one (the Market) is allowed to dominate. The populist movements   across the world are there for all to see. In the UK, against all the odds,   Jeremy Corbyn became Britain’s Labour Leader, with a strongly socialist agenda.

In   Canada, the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau, has just taken power after ten years of hard right Conservative rule. Trudeau promises to raise taxes on the rich and to run deficits for the next three years to boost government spending, according to AP.   That’s anathema to neocons.

And   in Greece   the left wing, anti-austerity Syriza Party remains the Government, having swallowed the   hemlock of austerity. Still, if nothing else, the Party’s official colours symbolize some of its policy directions. Wikipedia says they are red ( for left-wing politics), green (green politics), and purple (social movements).

In Spain another anti-austerity movement Podemos, now rules Madrid and other cities according to the Economist.     It may not be old style socialism yet, but much of it represents fresh ideas – and a challenge to Market mentality.

Do Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn and Spain’s Indignados represent the beginning of something resembling some,   if not all of the elements embodied in Syriza flag colours?

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.