At the European Parliament this week, the radical left, led by Gabi Zimmer, MEP, set out its stall ahead of a Round Table in Parliament which sought to challenge corporate power, investment and impunity in an era of crisis. Speakers detailed the Lonmin mine massacre in South Africa and demanded a living wage for the miners and millions like them, suffering throughout the world. They are right to do so.
The nobility of purpose championed by GUE/NGL is almost consistently unquestionable by morally sensitive citizens. So, why is it, that determination to stand in the face of aggressive businesses and governments, is not matched by a rigorous and forcible application of the law to achieve greater social justice?
The Left argues that the system is corrupt, rigged in favour of elites, governed by illicit cash and the unbridled greed of the morally bankrupt. It isn’t. It looks like it, it feels like it, but it isn’t.
The modern world has advanced systems of justice far beyond the expectations of those elite, greedy, out of touch Romans. Yes, Caesar was a little less indulgent of striking workers than Olli Rehn, wait, Caesar was also quite keen on striking workers… Anyway, Olli never knowingly stuck a worker in his life that we are aware of. Which undermines something of the Left’s dash to create a Treaty of the People, a treaty presumably for the people, and by the people; because there is nothing new in financial tyranny, but we now have strong instruments with which to defend ourselves and weaken those who seek to exploit the weak.
The Left’s plan is doomed from the start. As a global movement, the Left is dynamic and articulate, but it is too often self-indulgent, misunderstanding the aspirational values which preserve a capitalist system with all its faults.
To win big, pay for good lawyers, fight legal fire with legal fire. If the Left wants to take on the worst excess of the 700 global businesses calling the shots, they better have lawyers at least as good as the opposition, and they come at a price. For street protests and strikes, the Left is unrivalled, but that is seldom where the struggle is won.
It’s time for the Left to focus on existing laws, using current national and international legal frameworks, to challenge and bring change. This isn’t pro bono work, it’s not a shoestring campaign, this is Napoleon vs. Wellington – the overly ambitious always overreach, and therein lies their weakness. If the Left is to trim the excesses of corporate power and challenge the impunity of entrenched elites, it must swallow its pride, hold its nose, and hire better lawyers. Solomon understood that with patience a ruler can be persuaded. There is nothing new under the Sun, not even in Rome.
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