Monday, 7 December 2009

The Komissariat Strikes Back

A stab in the back? What better way of ensuring that Phil Goff loses the 2011 General Election than by publicly challenging his policies and fostering the fatal perception of internal division and dissent within Labour's ranks?

WELL, the first thing we can say about the furore which has blown up in the Labour Party over Phil Goff’s "Nationhood" speech is that his strategy must be working.

Why else would Labour fellow-travellers among the Komissariat be willing to risk the odium that inevitably attaches itself to political parties which openly engage in internecine blood-letting?

What do Wellington central MP, Grant Robertson and Labour Party President, Andrew Little – the two individuals identified as leading the charge against Goff – fear the most?

That’s easy.

They fear that Goff’s strategy of putting pressure on the Maori Party by alerting Pakeha and Maori workers to the dangers posed by neo-tribal capitalism will prove successful.

And if Goff’s Maori Party strategy is successful, then there is every prospect that his broader strategy of sharply refocusing Labour’s message around the material needs of low and middle income earners (as opposed to ticking off the remaining items on the social-liberals’ legislative agenda) will also prove successful.

This is why I believe Robertson and Little (both spoken of as future leaders of the Labour Party) are speaking out against Goff.

Let’s take a look at where they come from.

Robertson’s power-base in the Labour Party, until his election to the seat of Wellington Central in 2008, was the Rainbow Sector Council. (Although it’s probably safe to say that his years on the 9th Floor of the Beehive didn’t exactly hurt his political career.)

Little’s power-base is in Labour’s trade union affiliates.

Though nowhere near as powerful as they were in the 1980s (when the Affiliates Council commanded nearly half the card votes on the floor of Labour’s annual conference) the unions (dominated by Little’s own EPMU) are able to exert a powerful influence over who sits on the Party’s ruling bodies, as well as who gets what position on the all-important Party List – especially when allied with the Women’s and Rainbow councils.

A powerful Labour leader with ambitions to construct a stronger, more "organic" (in the Gramscian sense) relationship with the economically radical, but socially-conservative New Zealand working-class, would pose a deadly threat to the power-bases of both Robertson and Little.

If concentrated in a rejuvenated branch structure, the social conservatism of ordinary working-class Labour members would make it much harder for the Rainbow Council to secure the electorate selection and List placement of additional gay and lesbian candidates – thereby weakening the long-term position of Labour's gay and lesbian MPs.

A shift to the Left, in terms of demanding a rise in the living standards of ordinary working-class Kiwis would, similarly, compromise trade union officialdom by making it much harder for them to engage in the kind of concession bargaining that has become the norm among New Zealand trade unions (particularly the EPMU) since the passage of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991.

The rapturous response to Phil Goff’s address to the Auckland rally of striking Service and Food Workers Union members on Friday, 27 November, during which he urged them to "use their union to fight for a decent wage increase" demonstrated how effective this direct approach might be in reconnecting with Labour’s working-class base – and how much pressure it could end up placing on "moderate" unions, like Little’s EPMU, to "deliver".

If you were a potential future leader of the Labour Party, and your power-base was located in the Rainbow and/or Affiliate sector groups, all of the above might be considered a powerful argument for derailing Goff’s electoral strategy. Indeed, you might well think that your chances of getting to the top of the greasy pole would be considerably enhanced if Goff and his supporters were to fail dismally in 2011.

And, what better way to ensure that failure, than by publicly dissenting from your own leader’s policies and fostering a perception of internal division?

Can you think of any course of action more likely to guarantee Goff’s electoral defeat in 2011?

55 comments:

Lew said...

Yes: further alienating tangata whenua and the liberal left. The one has caused the other, though, so it may be impossible to separate their effects.

L

Anonymous said...

Chris

there prpbably fewer rank and file blue collar Labour party members than there are liberal pc commissars.

it may astonish you but not every blue collar worker is a screaming homophobe.

a rah rah speech to a union rally from a Labour leader when National is in power is neither a rare occurrance, nor is it of any real value.

Grant Robertson said...

Chris

This is getting silly. It seems to me that you are the only person who is dividing up the left on the grounds that you outline. I have to say that I personally resent being put in an ideological box by you as a result of my sexuality. Why pray tell me do you think my interests as someone who happens to be a gay man is mutually exclusive from “ordinary working class Kiwis”? I got into politics because I believe in social justice and I want to work towards a fairer more equitable New Zealand- for everyone.

I believe that one of the great strengths of the modern Labour Party is its ability to bring together people from across the left/progressive spectrum. If we are to return to lead a government that will develop a fairer New Zealand then we need support from across that spectrum. To me it is not some kind of zero sum game, where the ‘Liberal Left’ as you call it is set in diametric opposition to a more traditional working class base. Actually those definitions rarely reflect where each individual is coming from in any case, including me. By working together we will build a Party that represents a modern New Zealand with all the traditional values of the Labour movement. That is what I am working for, and I kind of hoped you were too Chris.

Let’s be clear, the notion that I am somehow ‘leading the charge’ against Phil is fanciful. He has my total support as leader of the Labour Party. I could not agree more with you that disunity is the road to ruin in politics, and Labour learned that lesson with much pain in the 1990s. If you read the article in the Dominion Post you will see that I declined to comment about what I had said or planned to say in Caucus. This is because we have rules about not talking about what is said in Caucus, in the name of unity. Every political party will have debates inside its Caucus about particular issues (and that is actually healthy), and that is the correct place to have those debates, not in the public arena. And for what it is worth the Caucus meeting in question was actually before the speech.

As for the speech itself I was actually one of the MPs who saw a draft in advance. That does not mean every word or phrase in the final speech is how I would have put it, but neither would I expect that. I back Phil on addressing the issues raised in the speech. They are important. We need to draw attention to the ETS deal that will move the burden from corporations to ordinary taxpayers. We need to call National on repealing the Foreshore and Seabed Act without having an alternative, and we need to show as MPs that we don’t accept Hone’s actions and words.

I am really saddened by these posts Chris. Maybe we can have a beer and talk about it sometime.

Idiot/Savant said...

WELL, the first thing we can say about the furore which has blown up in the Labour Party over Phil Goff’s "Nationhood" speech is that his strategy must be working.

What I'm hearing about polls suggests otherwise - though publication of the data will tell us the truth on that.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear Grant!

Anonymous said...

Farewell to verdant Maori Seats,
Farewell the state that's nanny;
The thin-lipped,denimmed virago,
Who squats in Aro Valley;
The Grey Lynn Latte drinker,
With fashionably good intentions
And many another liberal,
Too soft to merit mention.

We seek a new heroic
That's firmly proletarian,
A zeal for new Jerusalems,
That's almost millenarian.
But where to find the Stakhanovite
To save us from the Blue?
He left for Northern Queensland
In 1982!

Sorry Chris....I know this is a caricature of your views (at least I hope it is) but I couldn't resist it.

Victor

Chris Trotter said...

Let me say, up front, Grant, that I am delighted to hear that you are backing Phil.

There are, of course, deep and worrisome rumblings emanating from the Labour Caucus, and I think it's fair to say that some of your colleagues share my concerns.

I do not for a moment mean to suggest that it is somehow impossible for a gay man to be a friend of the working-class - that would be to cast a slur upon one of its wittiest champions, Oscar Wilde.

It is, however, a fact that the Rainbow Sector Council is a real and important player in Labour Party politics, and that in 2006 you were its representative on Labour's Policy Council. And, if gay and lesbian Labour politicians did not wish to be distinguished from their comrades in the unions, or the youth, women's, Pasifika and Maori sector groups, then surely they wouldn't have set up the Rainbow Council in the first place.

I will also concede the need for all political parties to engage in robust debate within the four walls of the caucus-room. But, here I would also say, that there are debates - and then there are "debates".

In my experience, anything which could be construed as a thrust against the leader of a party very quickly escapes the caucus's "cone of silence" and finds its way to the news media.

You have been around long enough to know this. Which is why I took such umbrage and came out swinging.

I think very highly of you, and see you as one of Labour's most exciting new MPs. Which is precisely why I saw method, rather than madness, in your criticism of Phil's speech.

The headline in today's NZ Herald, and Andrew's curious comments, only reinforced what I saw as the "methodical" aspects of a worsening situation.

If I may paraphrase Mr Wilde: "To have Phil menaced by one member of Caucus, Mr Robertson, may be regarded as a misfortune; to have him menaced by the President of the Party looks like a plot."

Clearly, looks can be deceptive!

I'll look forward to that drink.

Chris Trotter said...

To Victor:

Ah, that's grand! Takes me back to the 1980s, when a group of us young lefties delighted in penning such wicked verse.

In those days, of course, it wasn't the liberals - but the neo-liberals - who drew our fire.

To be the inspiration for such fine political versifying 25 years later is fantastic!

Keep 'em coming.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your inspiration

Victor

Lew said...

Much as I might disagree, Victor, that's genuinely excellent.

L

Julie said...

Go Grant!

Chris seems to do this periodically, decide that some section of the Left that he doesn't like this week is somehow Not Left Enough. He labelled me and my fellow bloggers at The Hand Mirror faux-feminists, and Idiot Savant half right (see what he did there?) back when he was first getting going.

Chris, I was at the SFWU rally too and Goff got a huge cheer before he said a word, as he walked up to the mic. Yes there was a good response to what he said, but I don't think, especially given the largely brown audience, that you can fairly claim that it's because he transcended identity politics. One of the key aspects of recent recruitment and organising successes within unions like the SFWU has been recognising the importance of identity politics to their members - and to organise accordingly, e.g. getting a Pasifika woman to lead the organising of the largely female PI cleaning workforce of Auckland, not as a token but in recognition of the usefulness of having someone who understands that community, and can speak some of their languages, working with them.

It's no surprise to me that you've chosen to illustrate this post with a picture of a white man in a suit being stabbed in the back.

Chris Trotter said...

Hey, Julie. Good to see you again.

I'll tell you what struck me most forcefully about that SFWU rally.

All workers - brown. All officials - white.

Colonialism dies hard - don't it?

Anonymous said...

It's meant to be satire , Lew

I think Chris has identified a genuine issue but massively overstates it

Victor

Lew said...

Victor, I know. It's a great example of the form.

L

SHG said...

Two words: wreckers

Julie said...

All officials white Chris? Guess you don't know all the union officials in Auckland then. Not even all the union organisers at that rally.

In fact I even mentioned in my first comment that the SFWU have had a Pasifika woman leading the cleaning campaign - Fala has been there over six years now, and perhaps you didn't recognise that she was an official because you had your sunglasses on? She's not the only one of course. Just as there are more women union officials now than ever before, but then that would be identity politics to note that wouldn't it?

And for the record I saw white workers too, in a largely brown audience.

How about Pakeha like me stop organising workers when you stop singing to them?

Chris Trotter said...

Wasn't wearing sunglasses, Julie. And I was only looking at the stage.

But, refresh my memory, if you would. The SFWU has how many regional secretaries, and how many national secretaries, who are brown?

Actually, don't bother - I've remembered. None.

And the thing about singing, Julie, is that, unlike some "organising" I've seen, it never did anybody any harm.

Anonymous said...

"I'll tell you what struck me most forcefully about that SFWU rally.

All workers - brown. All officials - white.

Colonialism dies hard - don't it?"

Beautifully put. Union Fees are just another Tithe to those workers. It disgusts me how little Labour did for them over nine years.
Do you think we will ever see a Labour Party which cares more about whats good for NZers than whats good for the Labour Party?

Julie said...

You were only looking at the stage when you were singing to the crowd? Way to get a crook in the neck, dude.

Ah so the only people you meant by union officials were actually those in the elected leaderships and senior management of one union, namely the SFWU? Perhaps you could have been a wee bit more precise with your language then.

What's the pathway to getting more diversity in union leadership?

Idiot/Savant said...

WELL, the first thing we can say about the furore which has blown up in the Labour Party over Phil Goff’s "Nationhood" speech is that his strategy must be working.

The latest Roy Morgan poll shows Labour down 2.5% (and the Maori Party up 1.5%, Greens up 0.5%)

Goff's speech would only have affected the last 3 days of the polling period, so its not conclusive. But there'll apparently be a 3 News Poll out this weekend which will provide some solid empirical evidence one way or another. Then we can see whether your empirical claim above is justified.

Chris Trotter said...

That's not the way it works Idiot/Savant. But, hey, if it makes you feel better - you just go for it.

Tauhei Notts said...

Chris' comments reminded me of about September 1972 when Norman Kirk finally worked out why Muldoon was working overtime to wreck Jack Marshall's chances. As was recorded in Margaret Haywood's book, Kirk realised that by 1978 Muldoon would be too old to lead the National Party, so he had to get Marshall beaten in 1972 so that he could have a go at the leadership leading up to the 1975 election.

Jordan Carter said...

Chris, I am sad about your post.

As one of these Rainbow people whose political foundation was the (white lower-middle class in my case) experience of growing up in Manurewa, I find the claim that LGBT organisation is inimical to connecting with working class voters impossible to comprehend.

Like Grant, I fully back Phil's leadership. The tack of Labour towards a sharper focus on bread and butter issues is no problem for me - political parties have to focus on the issues their voters care about most. And sharp messages are vital to getting people to listen to you.

Sharp messages don't need to, and don't, draw false conflicts between our social liberal and our economic progressive record. I can't think of anyone I know across the organisation who thinks these tendencies are opposed. It is only people outside who seem to feel that there is some enormous divide between some kind of imagined effete urban liberalism (with all the homophobic undertones that that carries), and some kind of idealised working class past golden age.

So to be clear. Labour has to reconnect with more voters to get more votes. A focus on bread and butter issues is no problem. The party is a solid fusion of liberal and social democratic elements and that is why it can put together governing majorities.

Labour needs liberals as much as it needs social democracts to win. I am a member of the Rainbow Sector Council, and (not but, and) my first loyalty is and always will be with the social democratic tendency rather than the first if there to have to be a choice.

But BOTH are vital to what our party stands for (equality, remember?). And they are not in opposition to each other, either in reality, or in the experience of Labour voters, Labour organisers, or Labour MPs.

Your project to try and draw distinctions and divisions that do not exist can't help the task of Phil Goff or the rest of us in kicking out the current government and bringing together a new Labour administration. Which is why I am mystified as to why you have embarked on it.

Jordan Carter
Wellington

Idiot/Savant said...

That's not the way it works Idiot/Savant. But, hey, if it makes you feel better - you just go for it.

Sorry, I'd taken your opening paragraph at face value, and thought you were making an empirical claim that Goff's strategy was "working". If that was not what you intended to convey, then perhaps you should have said something different.

Chris Trotter said...

To Idiot/Savant:

What I meant by "working" was that Goff's speech was generating so much opposition from both the Komissariat and the National Party-supporting news media that it was clearly striking a chord with people hostile to both.

The ideological re-orientation of a political party is not something to be achieved in the short interval between public opinion surveys.

For this sort of work "poll-driven fruitcakes" need not apply.

Chris Trotter said...

To Jordan Carter:

You are quite right, Jordan. There is no contradiction whatsoever between being a supporter of civil equality for LGBT citizens AND being a social democrat.

Neither is there anything wrong with organising politically to advance the cause of LGBT members within the Labour Party.

All I ask is that those who do this, often at the expense of other party members, own their activity. And that means not crying "Homophobia!" every time somebody points it out.

Nor is it homophobic for members of other Labour Party sectors to organise to out-vote the candidates backed by the Rainbow Sector Group - if that is what it takes to advance the issues and individuals they believe in and support.

Civil equality means being willing to lose - as well as win - in a free, equal and open political contest.

Julie said...

How is organising politically to advance the cause of LGBT members within the Labour Party at the expense of other party members?

Will you make the same criticism of the Affiliates who organise politically to advance the cause of their members within the Labour Party?

You seem to be going back to this idea that somehow the Rainbow Sector is supporting policies and people who are agin the general values and principles of Labour and of the broader Left. How so? Perhaps you might like to give an example or two.

burt said...

Labour had courageous corruption with Clark and you though it was fantastic that silly little principles like following conventions of parliament or adhering to the law could be so easily cast aside to ensure a Labour victory. Now you seem to be all a flutter and happy that Goff could be such a blatant racist. I’ll hazard a guess and say that you really don’t care how divisive and destructive Labour are do you – all you care about is a red flag in power and the costs and consequences of putting it there are justified.

Keep it up Chris, the more you justify the bad stuff the less we listen to you about the good stuff.

Chris Trotter said...

Burt, still beating the same old drum - as curiously and unimpressively as ever.

Chris Trotter said...

Jeez, Julie. Do the math. If there are only 20 winnable places on the Party List, and thanks to a deal struck between the Rainbow Sector, The Affiliates' Council and the Women's Council only LGBT, Unionist and female candidates make it up, might that not be at the expense of candidates who aren't LGBT, unionists or women? Huh? Ya think?

Julie said...

But that hasn't actually happened Chris - no deal has been made and no outcome of that nature has occurred. Of course there is horse-trading in a list selection process, but nothing of the scale you are alleging. In fact IIRC the highest ranked list candidate at the last election, who wasn't in a safe seat, was in fact a heterosexual Pakeha male intellectual, namely Dr Michael Cullen.

You seem to be seeing conspiracy where there is none. If that's the best example you can muster, something hypothetical, then that's pretty poor evidence in the Case Against Identity Politics Within Labour.

I'd really like you to answer how the policies and people that the Rainbow Sector support are opposed to the values of the Labour Party membership at large and/or the broader Left.

Upthread you reckoned all the workers at a rally were brown and all the union officials white, when that wasn't the case, but now you are counselling others on the need to learn to count. Irony much?

Anonymous said...

Chris, it sounds like you've been talking to someone inside the NZLP that resents all the sectors- come on then, name your source if you're so sure of what's going on.

Anonymous said...

Chris that latest comment requires fisking. Here are the newest Labour MPs, and I've tagged those who would be strongly recognised as women, union (as part of the affiliates) and rainbow.

Worth pointing out that 4/14 of the newbies were women. That's 29%.

I don't think I need to spell out to you how crap your argument on this point is....Rachel B-M

Jacinda Ardern (woman)
Carol Beaumont (woman, union)
Brendon Burns
Clare Curran (woman)
Kelvin Davis (maori)
Chris Hipkins
Raymond Huo
Iain Lees-Galloway
Stuart Nash
Rajen Prasad
Grant Robertson (rainbow)
Carmel Sepuloni (woman)
Phil Twyford
David Shearer

Chris Trotter said...

Rachel, I'd be interested to see that list minus the electorate MPs - and with the remaining List MPs rankings alongside their names.

Julie, what do you think "horse-trading" is exactly?

Anon, enough division in Labour this week without me opening that particular can of worms!

Julie said...

Horse-trading is not wholesale "let's shut the hetero white men out", which is what you are implying it is. My perception, as an outsider but keen observer of the machinations of the Labour Party, is that groups within the membership will pick usually one candidate that they want to get up the list into a winnable spot. They'll support them. They'll lobby for them with those on the selection committee. And that's about it. No nefarious master plan to keep other people out, but instead a positive focus on getting their person in.

And you still haven't answered my query, which I'll ask now for the third time:
I'd really like you to answer how the policies and people that the Rainbow Sector support are opposed to the values of the Labour Party membership at large and/or the broader Left.

Anonymous said...

Done. Interestingly enough, none from Rainbow. There blows your argument.

3/8 are women. Still less than the general population.

Oh and let's look at those electorate seats. All white males bar one.

The whole point of the list process is to increase diversity within Parliament, a la MMP.

For someone who considers themselves a political analyst you're showing a disturbing trend to ignore the actual evidence and numbers, despite the fact that you damn well know all this and don't need a rank and file member to point out the inaccuracies within your rhetoric.

I used to respect you Chris, now, I'm really not so sure....Rachel B-M.

Jacinda Ardern (woman)
Carol Beaumont (woman, union)
Kelvin Davis (maori)
Raymond Huo
Stuart Nash
Rajen Prasad
Carmel Sepuloni (woman)
Phil Twyford

Patrick Hine said...

The analysis offered by Chris is too concerned to find social, economic and political blocs, factions, strata etc and identify conflicts between them. It is looking for things that aren't there. But I sympathise, because one of the frustrating things about New Zealand society is that in spite of its unequal economy it is not especially polarised and so defies these sorts of attempts at theoretically structured analysis of 'clashing forces' which can reassuringly steer left-wing strategy. I guess Chris would argue that moderate Labour is largely responsible for that deradicalisation, but if it is the damage was done about 70 years ago, not in the social liberal era.

If the nationhood speech were given a re-run I would like the stress on a 'poor Maori/rich Maori' divide emphasized. I think it is legitimate for a Labour leader to ask who the Maori Party is representing in class terms, although equally I have always felt it is important for Labour to accept the Maori Party's success with good grace. This is the stress within the speech Chris seems to support. But the media coverage seemed to stress the Maori/Pakeha divide.

Chris Trotter said...

Rachel, you forgot the list rankings. (Just kidding!) Actually, from my own perspective, it looks pretty convincing.

Julie, it's just been too long a day, and this isn't a POLS tutorial.

Jordan Carter said...

Chris - the problem is that me and most of my colleagues in the RL sector would advance a progressive left wing candidate before we'd advance a less progressive right wing candidate who happened to be Labour.

IE the social democratic politics of candidates tends to come first.

Others here have made the point as well and have pointed out the numbers of what actually happened. I just think you are off the mark.

Anonymous said...

"this isn't a POLS tutorial"

But who's just been schooled in fact-checking?

AW

Chris Trotter said...

Jordan: I think you mean LGBT - not Labour. Teensy Freudian-slip there comrade ;-)

And to the rest of you: I've just checked back through this thread to reassure myself that at no time have I offered anything other than hypothetical responses to questions posed by Grant, Jordan and Julie. Unfortunately, these have been wrongly construed as statements of fact.

So, will all you busy little picadors and matadors kindly reserve your lances and swords for another bull - or at least another arena.

Giovanni said...

"A powerful Labour leader with ambitions to construct a stronger, more "organic" (in the Gramscian sense) relationship with the economically radical, but socially-conservative New Zealand working-class, would pose a deadly threat to the power-bases of both Robertson and Little."

That's a terrific strategy, if your aim is to lead the Italian Communist party to electoral victory in 1975. That was the party that expelled Pier Paolo Pasolini for being gay and systematically marginalised its feminists. And it was doing well in the polls, it really was, until society decided it had had enough of that crap. The idea that you can somehow resurrect that project thirty years later and still call yourself a progressive would be laughable if it wasn't so despairingly sad.

Chris Trotter said...

Well, well, well "Giovanni", that's a very interesting comment.

I'm guessing you're relying (and probably quite correctly) on the readers of this blog not knowing very much about the political history of Post-War Italy.

Anyone unaware of what happened in Italy - especially on the Left of that country's politics - in the mid-to-late 1970s will probably read your words and think: "Aha, another telling blow struck against the arch-reactionary Chris Trotter!"

But, how wrong they would be.

The mid-to-late 1970s was a tragic period for the Italian Left. On the cusp of being drawn into government by the courageous and generous Christian Democrat, Aldo Moro, the Communist Party of Italy (PCI) was robbed of what was to have been its "historic compromise" with Italian capitalism by a combination of left-wing and right-wing terror.

If readers of this blog really want to understand how much damage a reckless "Komissariat" can inflict on a nation, they need only study the history of the "Red Brigade".

These were the far-Left "revolutionaries" who, terrified at what the "Eurocommunism" of the PCI's leader, Enrico Berlinguer, might achieve for the Italian people (thereby rendering their own ultra-Left perscriptions irrelevant) kidnapped and murdered Aldo Moro - dumping his body mid-way between the headquarters of the PCI and the Christian Democrats.

Left-wing terror inevitably spawned Right-wing terror - the latter's "strategy of tension" putting paid to any chance of a successful re-drawing of the rules of democratic-socialist engagement in the Capitalist West.

It wasn't "society" that decided it "had had enough of that crap", Giovanni, but a tiny, self-righteous, and ultimately murderous minority of ultra-Left intellectuals, and an equally small number of right-wing power-brokers and killers.

What is "despairingly sad", comrade, is that some people still try to present this kind of political madness as some sort of blueprint for "progressive" politics.

Giovanni said...

It wasn't "society" that decided it "had had enough of that crap", Giovanni, but a tiny, self-righteous and ultimately murderous minority of ultra-Left intellectuals, and an equally small group of Right-wing power-brokers and killers.

I think you'll find your timeline's a tad off, comrade Trotter. The Communist Party had its best result in the European Elections of 1984, just after the death of Berlinguer, well and truly after the year of lead were over. Only at that point it started slowly bleeding voters, in spite of continuing the policies of Berlinguer under Natta. It has in fact always insisted - even after it abandoned its revolutionary ideas - not to concede an inch to the liberal left, and is to this day more socially conservative than the National Party of New Zealand. Its results at the polls over the last twenty years have been disastrous, even when it was gifted victory by the most improbable Right-Wing coalitions it managed to crumble in time for the next round of elections. It is currently a complete shambles. Although, I guess it is so organically, in a Gramscian sense... (God, Antonio must be spinning faster than usual today.)

Left-wing terror inevitably bred Right-wing terror - the latter's "strategy of tension" putting paid to any chance of a successful re-drawing of the rules of democratic-socialist engagement in the Capitalist West.

I know it's a threadjack, but this cannot be allowed to stand: you've got it completely backwards. The historical compromise was mooted precisely as a response to terrorism, and right-wing terrorism predated left-wing terrorism (one could go as far back as Portella, 1947, but even being charitable the first event in the series is the Piazza Fontana massacre of 1969). The Brigate Rosse bought into the strategy of tension, not the other way around.

Olwyn said...

Chris: I am trying to get my head around the current flurry of feathers in the left wing blogs. I take it that the people you call "commissars" and "the liberal left" are people who you suspect of putting narrow interests ahead of broader ones, and jockeying for positions from which to do so. Which, if you are right, renders the left irrelevant to those who don't share their interests, and provides fodder for those apt to cry "PC" and "nanny state" from their columns and editorials.

As I have said before, the liberal path is an easy default - it evokes derisive cartoons but doesn't really rock the boat, and readily reduces the debate to two middleclass voices arguing about what to serve for lunch and who to invite, with the gardener being excluded in both accounts.

That said, if we are to win an election any time soon, we need to discover and build on our common ground, which in the end is social justice, and the good of our citizens, whatever sort of left we think we are.

And in fact, if we win an election under Phil Goff, it will probably involve liberals, workers and the productive business sector batting for the same team. While the mainstream media did not, from what I saw, pick up on it, Phil's speeches around the time of the controversial one seemed designed to drive a wedge between the financial and productive supporters of National (projected changes to reserve bank act) and the elite and working class supporters of the Maori party. If I am right, he would have been well-advised to leave Hone out of it - while it is true that a Maori politician should be held to the same standards as any other, this did provide his enemies with a red herring.

Julie said...

Social justice is at the heart of socially liberal causes like an end to homophobia, pay equity for women, etc. And social justice should be at the heart of any future centre-left (or, dare I hope, left!) government. I think you're setting up a false dichotomy Chris, and when I've asked you for examples of how they are at odds you've failed to deliver the goods. I'm starting to think that it's less than you won't answer than that you can't answer.

Chris Trotter said...

Such a dtermined matador, Julie!

Okay, here's a quick one.

Labour's caucus was quite prepared to wear the fury of their working-class supporters rather than allow a conscience vote on Sue Bradford's s59 legislation.

Staunch!

But, in nine years of power, they were never willing to wear the wrath of the employers by restoring the right of workers to strike over social, economic and political issues.

A centre-left government should have had no difficulty in (as you say) doing both. And yet, in choosing between them, Labour MPs opted for a social reform that was driven by a small minority of middle-class campaigners, over a change that would have restored real power to working-class people and their unions.

And that's really the only point I'm making Julie. That the Komissariat consistently privileges the concerns of middle-class reformers, while evincing deeply conflicted attitudes towards empowering working people.

Could it be that, when you analyse where the Komissariat actually works in the modern capitalist state, it is precisely in those jobs that involve managing the working-class: teachers, social workers, probation officers, counsellors, psychiatrists, doctors, civil servants, and - yes - even trade union officials.

Just a thought.

Giovanni said...

But, in nine years of power, they were never willing to wear the wrath of the employers by restoring the right of workers to strike over social, economic and political issues.

How about this: in nine years in power, Labour enacted working for families and raised the top tax rate, but was never willing to wear the wrath of social conservatives by passing a proper marriage-equality law.

You can slice it either way, but it seems to me that Clark's government eschewed radical reforms in both the economic or the social sphere. If anything, I'd say its increase in welfare spending and savings provisions have outweighed the social legislation. Either way, you haven't proven at all that the two sets of aspirations are mutually exclusive, and indeed I'd like to have some indication - any! - that Prime Minister Phil Goff would be any closer than my orthodox Marxist heart than Clark was.

AWicken said...

Chris,

Labour supported the s59 legislation because it had a real and immediate need for Green support in other matters. Failure to give this (and other small contextual issues like MMP and geopolitics) due recognition seems to leave you asking "why did Labour do this?" and constantly answering "internal power blocs".


Sooner or later there will be a real back-room leadership challenge in Labour - but you run the risk of being the boy who cried "conspiracy".

As to the 2011 election, if Labour lose, Goff will probably be gone and the nats will crow about "mandates" and "public support", but frankly I think a good proportion of the swing will rest entirely on whether the ABs win the cup that October ;)

Julie said...

Don't think very highly of the working class do you Chris? Where's your evidence that it was predominantly working class Labour voters who were opposed to the reform of s59? And apparently working class people are easily manipulated by the petty bourgeoisie (forgive my spelling) in the interests of the bosses too.

I share your frustration that Labour was not prepared to take on the employers more. I'm not sure however that it was the homosexuals, trade unionists and feminists within Labour who were dampening down moves to reinstate the broad right to strike. In fact those who are generally considered to be more rightward within Labour are predominantly people like Clayton Cosgrove, George Hawkins, and Goff himself, who don't really operate within sector groups like Rainbow Labour...

Are you seriously suggesting that only those who come from manual work backgrounds are suitable for Labour MPs, as that seems to be what you are implying in your last bit.

Not sure if you are aware of this Chris, but bull fights generally end badly for the bull.

Jordan Carter said...

Chris - in respect of using "Labour" instead of "rainbow" - the fault of late night typing on the wrong side of the world.

I fail to see how it could have been Freudian, unless it was my long ago choice of joining Labour instead of the Alliance coming to the surface. Could you give me a hint?

If you wish to say that Labour in the 00s should have done more on the "economic" side and less on the "liberal" side of progressive politics, then I have some sympathy for that argument and I did at the time, too.

Rubbishing the liberal record, or drawing out supposed but not really existing splits, doesn't chime with the mood inside most of the Labour Party. It might make a few feel better but it certainly isn't the way to get us back into government - any more than pretending carrying on just as we were when we lost would be, either, I might add.

markus said...

Julie's on to something when she implicitly questions the widespread belief that working people are inherently socially/morally conservative and authoritarian. And, indeed, that the dear old middle-classes are wonderfully liberal, tolerant and enlightened. (I'm not suggesting you necessarily hold these views, Chris).

Anyone have any evidence that this is so ? (apart from "It's common knowledge"). I grew up in a leftist blue-collar family that also happened to hold very liberal views (members were involved in the equal pay campaign, sympathy for homosexual law reform, marched against the Vietnam War as early as 1965 and against Springbok tours of 1976 and 1981. My parents were never smacked by their working-class parents and neither were we).

Was our family atypical of blue-collars ? I don't know but - having recently researched the demographic breakdowns of 1970s/1980s polls on various social/moral/foreign affairs issues - I can say that class was nowhere near as important (in determining liberal and conservative positions) as people (particularly the middle-class commentariat) would have us believe.

I suspect this idea of "deeply conservative working-class battlers" actually describes, first and foremost, the classic "working-class Tory", voting against their economic interest due to conservative/deferential values. Labour-voting blue-collars, I'd suggest are a little more varied in their social/moral attitudes. Similarly, I'd suggest the middle-classes are riven by a range of attitudinal differences.

Idiot/Savant said...

Jeez, Julie. Do the math. If there are only 20 winnable places on the Party List, and thanks to a deal struck between the Rainbow Sector, The Affiliates' Council and the Women's Council only LGBT, Unionist and female candidates make it up, might that not be at the expense of candidates who aren't LGBT, unionists or women? Huh? Ya think?

Participate or perish! If people who aren't who aren't LGBT, unionists or women make up a majority of the party, but lose because they are out-organised by those groups, they have no-one to blame but themselves.

Idiot/Savant said...

What I meant by "working" was that Goff's speech was generating so much opposition from both the Komissariat and the National Party-supporting news media that it was clearly striking a chord with people hostile to both.

"People oppose me so I must be right"? There's a very obvious alternative hypothesis there.

The ideological re-orientation of a political party is not something to be achieved in the short interval between public opinion surveys.

But apparently something which can be achieved in the short interval between blog posts, at least enough to judge whether it is "working" or not. Interesting.

Personally, I prefer to judge claims of political success against the metric that matters: public opinion. It's not "poll driven fruitcake"-ery, it's simple empiricism (you know, being interested in the Real World, rather than some Faith-Based "reality"). And on that. the first piece of rela empirical evidence shows that pandering to racists is worth a 4% uptick on a poll that was almost certain to rise anyway (National having been at a historic high, and Labour at a historic low in the previous poll). Worth it?

Anonymous said...

Chris

Have I misunderstood you or are you actually comparing New Zealand's identity politics liberals to the Red Brigades?

What next? Is Russell Norman really Ulrike Meinhoff in drag?

Victor