Davos: The Left Didn't Eat the Rich. The Rich Ate the Left. | Opinion

On September 11, 2000, the "S11 Alliance," comprised of Australia's Democratic Socialist Party, the International Socialist Organization, the Socialist Alternative, the Workers' Power and an assortment of other socialist, environmental and anarchist groups, participated in one of the largest-ever protests against the World Economic Forum.

Over the course of a few days, over 10,000 people—overwhelmingly from the political Left—descended on the Crown Towers and the surrounding areas, where Klaus Schwab's World Economic Forum (WEF) was hosting its Asia-Pacific Economic Summit.

Though the Alliance's stated goal to stop the conference in totality was never realized, activists took solace from the large turnouts, the police confrontations that highlighted the state's defense of corporate attendees and a large-scale public awareness campaign that ensued as a result of their direct action.

On the back of then-recent protests in London, Seattle and Melbourne, the self-proclaimed "anti-globalization" movement had the wind at its back.

Interestingly, the (far-left) S11 Alliance sounded somewhat similar back then to the homepages of The National Pulse (where I now serve as editor in chief), Breitbart or Human Events today. Unfortunately, at that time, much of conservative media was more concerned with defending corporate interest and assailing the much-hated "crusties."

In the years proceeding, the Left has become far less robust in its critique of corporate greed, and most yesteryear "crusties" now take a fairly pro-globalization position. Curious, that.

"When the people shall have no more to eat, they will eat the rich," goes the old Rousseau quote truncated for the placards of the dreadlocked white boys from the early 2000s. Instead, it was the Left that got eaten by the rich, who, between 9/11 and the Great Recession, caught populist-left politicians licking their lips and sharpening their knives. Very quickly, though, "corporate social responsibility" took center stage. Soon after, there were Pride flags on every brand's logo. This year, there was a humiliatingly tepid showing of "dozens" of left-wing protesters at the WEF's Davos forum.

Take Nandor Tanczos, for instance. Tanczos was one such of the aforementioned dreadlocked white boys, elected to the New Zealand Parliament in 1999 and caught up in the violence between police and protesters outside the WEF event in Melbourne.

By 2008, Tanczos was giving his final address to Parliament, wherein his tone had shifted significantly from his kale salad days.

"I came to Parliament thinking you're all a bunch of bastards. ...And I was wrong. There are many good people here. The very notion that all politicians are dishonest is misconceived."

Two years after this, even the dreads were gone. Perhaps this was "growing up," although the former New Zealand MP's watch-smashing antics, declaring himself "independent of time," would suggest otherwise. In reality, it was pure defeat—or, perhaps, ideological capture.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the assembly
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the assembly during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on May 26, 2022. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

The Red Flag Australian website admitted the castration in 2020:

The [Australian Democratic Socialist Party] and Resistance are no more—they were liquidated into the Socialist Alliance in the late-2000s, an organization that, today, would be lucky to have more than 100 real members nationally. The [International Socialist Organization] claimed to have recruited at least 50 people at S11, but shortly afterwards went into rapid decline, losing a large chunk of its membership in the period of the anti-war movement from 2001-2003. Today, its remnants are part of Solidarity, a group with an active membership of no more than 50.

The picture is similar with the anarchists, environmentalists and activist student collectives. The Greens have long since turned away from serious involvement in radical street protests and today present themselves mainly as a respectable parliamentary alternative for progressive white-collar professionals.

So what happened to the chants of that day? "Our world is not for sale!" Or, "The people, united, will never be defeated!"

Well, as far as its own admissions make clear, the Left has failed to remain united.

More importantly, the Left decided that the world was, in fact, for sale. With great corporate greed came great corporate largesse—which meant a reprieve for those willing to pipe down, and cash for those willing to become complicit in corporate globalism. Despite Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes's (D-NY) left-populist tub-thumping, her "Tax the Rich"—rather than "Eat the Rich"—dress at the 2021 Met Gala was emblematic of her side's neutering. In just 22 years, we've watched the Left go from "targeting" McDonalds, in their own words, to cheering on the corporate giant for refusing to sell Big Macs to hungry Russians.

For Schwab and his WEF, this was cause for relief. Right-wing activists who feel similarly about globalization are viewed as less likely to smash up whatever city his conference is held in, and certainly less intent on confronting the police protecting them. Much of the media's outrage about January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. was the disbelief that some right-wingers would adopt a similar mob mentality to the Left's own rank and file.

And while most of the political Right would currently rather BE the rich than EAT the rich, what they might just do along the way is eat the Left's populist lunch.

This week's brief detention of right-wing reporter Jack Posobiec in Davos, coupled with its current near-monopoly on anti-globalist rhetoric, reveals how the modern Right is far more potent a threat to the WEF and its interests than the modern Left will be for a long time—if ever again. Too busy enjoying the spoils of their manifold failures, one supposes.

In Melbourne, the Left had GeoCities websites and meeting points for those without cell phones. In just 72 hours, they humiliated local authorities, shone a powerful light on the WEF and bought themselves no small amount of political capital.

If the Right really wants to rein in Western oligarchs, it must learn the right lessons from the populist Left's failures and refuse to be bought off with political donations, California mansions and government grants. The anti-globalization fight is now the Right's to lose. If we fail, corporate global leadership—in Schwab's own words—wins.

Raheem Kassam is the editor in chief of The National Pulse, a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute and a senior fellow at the Bow Group in London.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.