History | PSHE

Return of the Left in Colombia and France

Are we at a political turning-point? After a recent wave of right-wing nationalism around the world, two elections this week have seen a surge of support for left-wing candidates. “Free yourselves from your prejudices, from greed, from contempt. Free yourselves, to free society!” That was the stirring cry of French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon after his left-wing alliance inflicted a stunning setback on President Emmanuel Macron, depriving him of a majority in the National Assembly.  Now, with 131 seats, Mélenchon’s alliance is set to become the official opposition. That could be the platform he needs to secure the top job next time round. Meanwhile, more than 5,000 miles away, another country felt a seismic shift. In Colombia, Gustavo Petro, a former guerrillaA type of warfare in which small groups use their mobility and knowledge of the terrain to harass much larger forces, attacking their supply lines and reconnaissance missions. The term means "little war" in Spanish. fighter, became the country’s first ever left-wing president. The last year has also seen shock wins by left-wing candidates in Peru and Chile, both countries with a historically right-wing political culture, as well as in Honduras. And it is likely that the left will triumph in the Brazilian elections in October. In the past, Latin America has been a bellwether of global political movements. In 1972 in Chile, Augusto Pinochet seized power in a bloody US-backed coup. He introduced a new kind of economic policy, known as neoliberalism.  In the next twenty years, almost every other country in the world began to introduce neoliberal policies. These right-wing governments were initially popular because they lowered taxes and kept down inflation. However, their policies also led to enormous economic inequality. Now a new generation feels shut out of this economy. Younger voters are stuck in low-paying, precarious work. They can no longer afford their own homes. Everywhere that the left is sweeping to power, they have been driven by this generation of frustrated young people. Now some think they may push the world into a new era of left-wing politics. Are we at a political turning point? Counterpoint Yes: The current order is clearly unsustainable. Too many people cannot get ahead in the economy. Support for left-wing parties calling for it to change will only continue to grow. No: Left-wingers may be scoring limited victories but they have also been squashed in Britain, the USA, Germany and Spain. Across most of the world, right-populists are still in the ascendant. Or… The rise of the left is real, but it is likely to fuel the nationalists still further. If they seem like the main bulwark against the left, the centre-right might vote for them just to keep left-wingers out of power. KeywordsGuerrilla - A type of warfare in which small groups use their mobility and knowledge of the terrain to harass much larger forces, attacking their supply lines and reconnaissance missions. The term means "little war" in Spanish.

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