In The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels warned that the ‘spectre’ of class war loomed over a rapidly industrialising capitalist world. Today, the neoliberal world is increasingly haunted by a similar spectre, this time of a global class conflict.
This conflict was evident at the recently completed COP27 gabfest-turned-guiltfest. Having exhausted their apocalyptic pronouncements, the assembled woke corporations, bureaucrats and obscenely financed nonprofits have now been compelled to offer reparations to poorer countries for their carbon sins. They call it ‘climate justice’.
Climate reparations may appeal to the perennially virtuous elites of the EU, the UK and, most of all, the US. But not so much to the middle and working classes, who will suffer the consequences in terms of higher taxes and the loss of decent jobs in industries like logistics, manufacturing and energy during what could turn brutal in any coming downturn. The US alone has pledged up to $1 billion to mostly corrupt Third World countries. But it is unlikely to be popular among hoi polloi. Moreover, much of this ‘blood money’ will simply line the pockets of kleptocrats at the helm of many countries. And so far, oddly, nothing is being demanded of China, the world’s preeminent and growing emitter of greenhouse gases.
For their part, the middle and working classes in the developed world may not be experts on geopolitics. But they likely know a scam when they see one, particularly given they will be the ones paying for it.
As is now clear, voters in ‘rich’ countries will put protecting themselves and their families over assuaging the consciences of the upper echelons. We can see this in many countries. In the recent US Midterms, the GOP may have messed up tactically, but it still won the popular congressional vote by a surprising margin. If the increasingly marginal Donald Trump and his idiot enablers in places like Pennsylvania had not ruined the ‘red wave’, we would likely be looking at strong Republican control of both houses.
Remarkably, the Republicans even made advances in cities and among Hispanics, Asians and African Americans, while maintaining a near two-thirds edge among white working-class voters. This is not the old right, based on religious or market fundamentalism. Many of these new Republicans used to be Democrats, and a large segment consists of small-business owners. They clearly are turned off by the incessant anti-family identity politics of the left, but they are also worried about the economy, and the rise in rent and food prices. Some 60 per cent of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.
On paper, the left should be in a position to benefit from the looming recession. But for now, it has abandoned the essential economics of traditional social democracy. Climate change may be a fixation among the chosen of global capitalism and their massive nonprofits, but it remains a marginal issue among the voting public. As Gallup notes, most people are far more concerned about inflation, crime and immigration.
This new class conflict is redefining politics across the West, and it may become more intense with the onset of winter. We can also see its emergence in Europe, where Italy and Sweden have shifted to the right, as well as in Poland, where 80 per cent of the population favours nuclear power. Even in France, President Emmanuel Macron is now favouring the reopening of nuclear power plants and is trying to crack down on immigration. He increasingly sounds more like Marine Le Pen than his left-wing challenger, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
In much of Europe, the right is not the fascist movement that the mainstream media imagines. Most right-wing parties are not even that illiberal. They support, as commentator Dominic Green suggests, the policies of Europe’s old ‘centre right’, committed to constitutional norms and the maintenance of the welfare state. Similarly, in prosperous East Asia, notably in South Korea, and Japan, the trend is towards conservative nationalism.
Read the rest of this piece at Spiked.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.