2012 was a grim year by any measure. In Britain, Tory austerity cut deeper, its "millstone of debt" fiscal alibi looking more and more threadbare, its ideological motivation - class war from above - more and more apparent. A new justificatory spin was rolled out, the cruel narrative of "strivers" and "skivers", a politics of contempt, to attempt to bring the squeezed middle back into the abandoned Coalition tent, while across the country hospitals were closed, redundancies spread, the unemployed and disabled forced on to demeaning workfare programmes and vital services reduced.
Particularly depressing in this context is that the movement against the cuts has failed to grow. We have failed to foster the spirit of solidarity that can overcome petty divisions between those in work and those out of it, between public sector and private sector, between migrant and native-born.
In America, the best that can be said is that the least bad presidential candidate won. A Republican Party in the grip of a deranged movement conservatism, espousing a nineteenth century sexual politics and an ethics of contempt for the less wealthy half of the American mainstream, was unable to win out over the cynical playing of the demographic game by a Democratic Party dominated by a movement liberalism out of touch with most citizens' concerns. The American left, entangled in identity politics and cultural battles, seems in even worse health than the British left.
The austerity in the UK was of course nothing compared to that enforced in much of Europe. The narrative of crisis posed European electorates the empty choice of anti-democratic technocrats managing the rolling back of the social state, or populist demagogues performing hollow gestures of rejection to the austerity consensus.
The upward curve of xenophobia and intolerance steepened across the continent, with hostility (and increasingly violence) towards various combinations of migrants, Muslims, Roma and Jews. The liberal consensus imagines crisis automatically breeds "extremism", but this assumption was refuted by the relatively low level of far right mobilisation in Italy, Spain and Portugal, contrasted to the peaking xenophobia of economically resilient Scandinavia It takes political entrepreneurs among elites - far right political parties, or, as in the case of Britain, the mainstream media - to feed this sort of sentiment.
The drift to authoritarianism has been even stronger beyond Europe. 2012 saw the further rise and rise of the "democratators", elected heads of state whose executive power and disregard for the rule of law makes them effectively dictators, with Vladimir Putin as the archetype. Hugo Chavez's election is emblematic of the continued rise of the democratators. Their ranks were joined in June by Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, derailing an inspiring movement against authoritarianism there.
Despite the continuation of 2011's massive pro-democracy movements in many regions of the world, 2012 saw a retrenchment of executive state power, with rigged elections in Venezuela and Ukraine, assaults on freedom of the press in Turkey, erosion of academic freedom in Israel, criminalisation of social media dissent in India and the Gulf states, legal attacks on the NGO sector in Russia and Israel, mass imprisonment of dissidents in the Gulf states and Russia etc etc.
One of the disturbing trends was the use of "religious hatred" and blasphemy laws to criminalise free expression, as in Russia, the Gulf and Pakistan. Elsewhere, including Cuba, China and North Korea, as well as across Africa, but most grimly in Syria, party and personal dictatorship does not bother with the façade of electoralism.
Religious and ethnic intolerance has risen too. "Modernising" theocratic movements among the main winners from the turmoil of the fragile transition to democracy across the Middle East, under the banner of Turkish-style "moderate" Islamism that combines neo-liberal technocracy with religious authoritarianism. Elsewhere, more murderous varieties of Islamism - the Taliban and its analogues in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq - continue to slaughter fellow Muslims on a daily basis. Nationalism in all its forms - including its Hindu variety in India, its Buddhist variety in Sri Lanka - continues to be the only ideology able to compete on a mass scale with religious ultra-conservatism in the political market.
Thus the xenophobia and intolerance of Europe mirrored elsewhere, as in the violent anti-foreigner incidents in Israel. Elsewhere, with relatively little public attention, we have seen waves of violent ethnic cleansing, such as of Muslim Rohingyas in Burma, of Christians and Ahamadis in Pakistan.
Theocratic and nationalist ideologies have also underwritten what seems almost a pandemic of violence against women in 2012. Rape has been a major weapon of war in Syria and in central Africa. The revulsion in India in the last few days against horrific and ultimately murderous cases of gang rape might signal that 2013 will see the tide turning, but the ingrained everyday sexism and trending postmodern rape culture in the heart of the "liberal" West gives little cause for optimism. Nor does the casual apologetics and denialism from the luminaries of the British and global left.
In the face of all this, there has been a catastrophic failure of international solidarity from the Western left. The left remains gripped by an anachronistic pseudo-"anti-imperialist" agenda which locates all evil in America and its allies, despite the evident decrease and increased benevolence of Western imperial power and the evident rise and increased malignancy of Russian and Chinese imperial power. Large sections of the left have sought coalitions with the theocrats and/or the authoritarians or apologised for them and relativised them away, or even acted as cheerleaders for them.
This failure of solidarity is best exemplified by the fact that deaths caused by Israeli rockets on Gaza - a human tragedy no doubt - have been the only deaths to provoke demonstrations in Western capitals, while the 40,000 killed by the regime in Syria have been ignored and even approved. A rekindling of the spirit of solidarity is urgently needed - starting with grassroots solidarity with the trade union and women's movements in countries on the frontline, as the only reliable forces against the forces of repression.
I'd like to think we can do better in 2013, on all these fronts, but I'm not optimistic.