Saturday, May 07, 2005

Make Capitalism Gay

Simon Jenkins opined before the British general election: "How to vote in next week’s general election is easy. If you want a Labour government, vote Liberal Democrat. If you want a Conservative government, vote Labour. If you want a Liberal Democrat government, vote Tory. Recite that every morning for a week" (Simon Jenkins, "For Red, Vote Yellow. For Blue, Vote Red. For Yellow, Vote Blue. Got It?" The Times, 27 Apr. 2005). According to the Jenkins formula, the British electorate ended up with a Conservative government: "Labor had won 355 seats -- down from 412 in 2001 -- while the Conservative tally increased by 31 to 197" (Alan Cowell, "A Wounded Blair, Rivals Strengthened, Begins Third Term; Tory Leader to Step Down," New York Times, 7 May 2005). Labour won only 36.1% of the total vote (out of the turnout of 61%, which makes the Labour vote less than a quarter of the eligible electorate), "one of the lowest proportions ever recorded by a winning party," but the Liberal Democrats (22.6%, up 4 percentage points since 2001) failed to even overtake the Conservatives (33.2%, up 1.5 percentage points since 2001) (Cowell, 7 May 2005).

The impact of the Iraq War on electoral politics in "the coalition of the willing" has been mixed. So far, the only ruling pro-war parties that suffered a decisive loss are the Popular Party in Spain and Forza Italia in Italy. The others (some of which are on the right and others "center-left" for lack of a better term) have either made electoral gains or managed to hang on to power:
  • Japan: Junichiro Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party won "only 49 of the 121 seats up for reelection in the 242-seat upper house," a major decline since April 2001 when it won "64 of the 121 seats," but "[t]he LDP’s coalition partner New Komeito increased its seats by one, from 10 to 11, and the ruling coalition retains a comfortable 139-seat majority in the upper house," though Minshuto [the Democratic Party of Japan] "increased its 38 seats by 12 to 50 and now holds 82 seats in the upper house," the major losers being the Japanese Communist Party [JCP], which won "only 4 of the 15 seats it had up for re-election," and the Social Democratic Party [SDP], which is down to "just 2 seats" (Joe Lopez, " Ruling Coalition Suffers Backlash in Japan’s Upper House Election,", 28 Jul. 2004).

  • Australia: "Howard won his fourth consecutive election as Liberal leader, increasing the coalition’s primary vote by more than 3 percent, to 46.6 percent, largely as a result of the disintegration of the right-wing populist One Nation party, while the Labor Party primary vote remained at just over 38 percent—the second lowest result since 1931. After the distribution of preferences the result was a victory for the Howard government by 52.6 percent to 47.4 percent—representing a swing of just under 2 percent to the coalition" (Nick Beams, "Australia: Howard Government Returned, Courtesy of Labor,", 11 Oct. 4).

  • South Korea: The Uri Party trebled its seats from 49 to 152 in April 2004 (Peter Symonds, "South Korean Voters Reject Right-wing Establishment Parties," 17 Apr. 2004) but went down to 146 on April 30 this year ("Park Basks in Election Win," The Korea Herald, 5 May 2005).
Besides, the Iraq War didn't differentiate the major electoral parties in all of the nations in "the coalition of the willing." In the United States, both George W. Bush and John Kerry pledged to "stay the course," while, in Ukraine, both the major candidates (one backed by Washington, the other by Moscow) advocated withdrawal from the Iraq War.

What can we say about the results? The electoral parties on the left (as well as labor movements) in the Anglo and Asian countries are clearly feebler than their counterparts in the Latin nations in "the coalition of the willing." Moreover, historically speaking, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and South Korea (two of which joined the US in the Vietnam War) have been more closely integrated into the US empire than Italy, Spain, and France (where even the ruling party on the right has refused to participate in the Iraq War), though, in the case of South Korea today, it may be more accurate to say that the Uri Party has paid for peace in the Korean peninsula by SK troops in Iraq. Lastly, the anti-war oppositions that did beat the ruling pro-war parties (in Spain and Italy) incorporated a boldly progressive gay political agenda, unlike the oppositions that continued to lose (in the US, the UK, Australia, Japan, and South Korea). Gay men, lesbians, and transgender/transsexual individuals are the only segment of population whose most basic civil rights, which can be won under capitalism, have yet to become social and legal norms, so the GLBT rights movement still has a significant momentum. If electoral parties on the left have to (like the Socialist Party in Spain) push or (like the Refondazione in Italy) live with neoliberal capitalism, the least they ought to do is to make capitalism gay. Parties that fail to do even that surely deserve to lose.

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