Saturday, 31 May 2014

Authoritarian Labour: Why Kelvin Davis Needs To STFU - Right Now!

One Angry Man: For a person who attaches so much importance to the concept of "respect", it's a pity Kelvin Davis seems utterly incapable of respecting other politicians and parties on the Left. If Labour continues to behave as if it has no need of allies, it's chances of winning the election are nil.
 
DAVID, MATT, SOMEBODY – PLEASE! Tell Kelvin Davis to pull his head in. His outburst on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report this morning was way beyond embarrassing. The ill-considered slagging of Hone Harawira and the Internet-Mana Party (IMP) not only reflected poorly on his own political skills, but it also raised doubts about Labour’s overall ability to read what is happening in the run-up to 20 September.
 
It wasn’t just the absence of any semblance of strategic – or even tactical – understanding that was so worrying about Davis’s performance this morning, it was his barely concealed aggression. There is an anger in Davis that calls into question his suitability for any kind of public office. Anger, and what appears to be a classic authoritarian character structure (the two often go together).
 
Just listen to how he describes his family in the potted biography Labour has displayed on its website. Davis tells us that he is “married with three beautiful, intelligent and respectful children”. It’s the use of the word “respectful” that gives him away. Such a public declaration of the importance Davis attaches to the concept of respect is a very telling character marker. It tell tells us a lot about his personality and where he most likely fits on the Left-Right/Authoritarian-Libertarian grid.
 
My guess is that he occupies a position that places him towards the Authoritarian end of the Authoritarian-Libertarian gradient and on the right of the Left-Right spectrum. He is very far from being the first Labour MP to be so located. Indeed, it would have been impossible for the Clark-led Government to have introduced so many pieces of reactionary Corrections and Justice legislation without the presence of a solid rump of such individuals in Labour’s caucus.
 
The authoritarian character structure does not, however, confine its political influence to law and order issues. Authoritarians tend to be threatened by just about any form of behaviour which deviates from what they define as “normal”. If required to do so they will tolerate “deviant” behaviour and life-styles, but their toleration should never be mistaken for acceptance. In the company of trusted “normal” colleagues, their true feelings will be aired – and seldom in a tolerant or accepting way!
 
The other give-away contained in Davis’s biography is his almost total reliance on education as a means of lifting families out of poverty. “Kelvin is passionate about improving outcomes for Maori and believes education is the vehicle that will enable Maori to fulfil their aspirations.” While no one can sensibly dispute the role education plays in enabling social mobility, when it is held up by politicians as a universal panacea, then their advocacy usually merits closer scrutiny.
 
Does Davis believe education is the Maori people’s best hope because, liberally interpreted, education draws forth from every individual both the self-knowledge and the self-confidence needed to live a full and self-determined life? Or, does he measure the value of education in terms of its ability to inculcate the social, political and economic values of those who control capitalist societies like our own? And because this latter type of education turns out individuals who are “fit for use” by those whose business it is to use them?
 
My concern is that Davis belongs in the second camp. How else should we interpret the statement that: “He believes that Treaty settlements are but the cream on the cake, and not the cake itself - he believes that education is that path that Maori need to take to enable us all to achieve greater health, wealth and happiness.”?
 
Surely this is an assimilationist view of Maori development? And isn’t the word “education” being used here by Davis as a sort of code for “equipping Maori for a place in the world that global capital is daily reconfiguring”? Is he not lining up alongside those who insist that Maori cultural identity is best relegated to a subsidiary, “off duty”, status? That Maori are best advised to let the sugared cream of monetary compensation, via the Treaty settlement process, obliterate the bitter taste of their people’s defeat and dispossession?
 
If this is, indeed, Davis’s view, then his barely concealed aggression towards Hone Harawira is readily explained. Not only is Harawira’s warrior persona an affront to the former intermediate school principal’s sense of order, but Harawira’s vision of a decolonised – an emancipated – Maoridom, is diametrically opposed to Davis’s vision of a New Zealand in which the well-paid servants of global capital might just as well be Maori as Pakeha.
 
Bluntly stated, Hone stands for everything Kelvin despises. Moreover, in the eyes of this angry representative of authoritarian Labour, the IMP can only be seen as a deeply subversive assault upon neoliberal capitalism’s core ideological values.
 
And what can Davis possibly make of Kim Dotcom? A highly successful capitalist who refuses to take the power of money seriously? A capitalist who plays with his money, makes merry-hell with it, and, now that the Powers-That-Be have come after him with armed policemen and extradition orders, is using it to carve a path to power – using Hone Harawira, Laila Harre, Annette Sykes and John Minto as his hammers and chisels.
 
Labour needs to decide – and quickly – if the authoritarian Davis really is the very model of a modern Labour MP that he (along with many others in the party and the news media) sees himself as representing. If he is, then it will be war in Te Tai Tokerau and throughout the country, and John Key will win the election. If he is not: if Labour wants to be seen as something more than an aggressive hard-man bereft of all strategic and tactical understanding; then someone has got to make Kelvin Davis STFU – right now!
 
A version of this essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 30 May 2014.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Heard on RNZ last year, too, tragically whinging 'bout Kelvin doing all the heavy lifting up here, while Hone gets all the gravy.

TM said...

So it begins... The splintering of the left. This will surely end up giving National a "mandate" to carry out Abbott-like reforms in their next term.

Davo Stevens said...

I don't know about our Mr. Davis. I suspect he's another Shane Jones, that is a rightwing socialist!

JanM said...

Does Davis believe education is the Maori people’s best hope because, liberally interpreted, education draws forth from every individual both the self-knowledge and the self-confidence needed to live a full and self-determined life? Or, does he measure the value of education in terms of its ability to inculcate the social, political and economic values of those who control capitalist societies like our own? And because this latter type of education turns out individuals who are “fit for use” by those whose business it is to use them?
Bravo, Chris!

Dave_1924 said...

Chris - was this piece meant to be a little humorous???

Calling someone Authoratarian and then proceeding to tell them how to behave and what to do is quite funny....

But seriously - if Kelvin wants to get into parliament, which he obviously does having had a few cracks at it, then why shouldn't he fight like hell for Te Tai Tokorau? Its his rohe and he wants to stand for the mana of his people

Given Labour's factions dictate the list seeding he has no chance on the list.

If Labour didn't want to win TTT then they should have selected a spineless jellyfish who would do what he/she is told and run a weak campaign.

Hone is a racist in my view, he calls europeans white mofos and he has stated he wouldn't want his kids bringing home european partners/spouses is evidence to support that belief. He is not fit to be in parliament. So why are you backing him over Kelvin?

jh said...

"If this is, indeed, Davis’s view, then his barely concealed aggression towards Hone Harawira is readily explained. Not only is Harawira’s warrior persona an affront to the former intermediate school principal’s sense of order, but Harawira’s vision of a decolonised – an emancipated – Maoridom, is diametrically opposed to Davis’s vision of a New Zealand in which the well-paid servants of global capital might just as well be Maori as Pakeha."
......
So we can all be as different as we like and we are at the same time all part of some great communal whole held together by God knows what?

Anonymous said...

"Authoritarians tend to be threatened by just about any form of behaviour which deviates from what they define as “normal”."

Well, he is a school teacher, for god's sake.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Well, he is a school teacher, for god's sake."

I wonder how long you'd last in front of the year 10 class in a decile 1 or 2 school :-)?

thor42 said...

@Dave_1924 - "If Labour didn't want to win TTT then they should have selected a spineless jellyfish who would do what he/she is told and run a weak campaign."

I agree Dave!
I strongly suspect that it is the threat of Davis winning the seat (and thereby snuffing out the Mana/Internet Party challenge) that is behind this very strongly-worded column by Chris.

I don't blame Davis at all for not wanting to lie down and just "take one for the Party". I suspect that his stroppiness will go down well up north and will gain him many votes.

Anonymous said...

Seems a bit harsh to portray Kelvin as an authoritarian on the basis of a couple of comments made on his website...

And to be honest Chris, as much as I respect you, many of your own public comments have done a lot of damage to Labour and the Left as well by continually undermining them and providing fodder for the right-wing media.

Whilst I share some of your criticisms, I take the view that it's better to shut up and keep my thoughts to myself sometimes, rather than risk people NOT voting for the lesser of two evils.

Labour is stuck between a rock and a hard place with the Internet Party. If they allow them to win Te Tai Tokerau, they'll be accused of a dirty deal, while National-ACT is given a free ride over Epsom by the media. If they fight for the seat, they could potentially lose the election.

Let's be real, many traditional Labour supporters will not be happy to see Hone Harawira back in Parliament after his outrageously racist comments in the past. Like you, I understand where some of Hone's anger comes from, but he misdirects it at poor white folks who have no more power or wealth or connections than poor brown folks, and his polarising personality has never been well suited to Parliament, where you need some diplomacy.

For god's sake, can you please just focus your attacks on undermining National for a change, instead of Labour?

Scouser said...

Not sure about the strategic reference - he's only wrong if Labour decide to sidle up to IMP - I suppose Labour may have taken an ignore them completely or neutral approach to the Hone/Kim party but I cannot see that helping out Labour. I certainly would put IMP at barge pole length if I was in the Labour leadership. He's probably jumped the gun but then again he's in a Maori seat.

I see the cringeworthyness of Davis but then again Cunliffe is equally cringeworthy e.g. owning a 'do up' in millionaires row.

He certainly comes across as Authoritarian but so do the Greens and the more ideological of the left and let's not be unfair this is not a left-right thing there are plenty of the similar excesses of the right who would like to dictate to the rest of us.

However, his mindset fits the more, still, tribal and male influenced politics of Maori and he likely fits quite well with many of his target electorate.

On the separate concept on his major focus on education I'm on his side not yours. It worked for my extended large Catholic working class family out of Anfield Liverpool - look up the demographics of Anfield Liverpool. Crudely put - high crime - high unemployment - poor education. Makes South Auckland look like a holiday home for softies. My family got out predominantly for what would be now called asian attitudes to education. If that's his push, based on my personal experience, he's on the right tack.

I suspect your article is based on a personal dislike of an authoritarian approach, which I share, and a desire to support a potential new source of MPs on the left. The latter intent I don't share if it involves KDC. He makes Winston look honest, an impressive feat.

The Veteran said...

The more I know about Maori politics the less I know.

If the Maori Party wants to continue as a political force then getting rid of Hone should be its prime objective.

To do that all they needed to do was to make a pragmatic decision not to contest TTT. One on one KD would have a good chance of defeating HH.

But no, the Maori Party puts up an unknown Reverend who will split the vote and allow Hone to coast in on the back of crim.com's dosh.

As for KD ... the way it looks Labour is looking straight in face of electoral disaster. It is a moot point whether they will get close to the % support they got last time. It is a fact that those on the right wing of Labour get dealt to on their list.
KD, good guy as he is, could well find himself whistling Dixie at the end of the day.

sad

CarbonGuilty said...

My wife is a Scouser too, Scouser, from her Dad’s side who came from a pretty tough background. But they are Jewish so guess what their priority was? Education. ‘My son/daughter the Doctor/Lawyer’ was and still is the Jewish parent’s favourite refrain. And being Jewish immigrants was not exactly easy street yet they have done well.
So can education be assimilation? It has not been for Jews, and assimilation is a huge topic for them. Assimilation is fought in other ways but mostly boils down to valuing your culture, teaching it to your children & adapting it enough over time to fit with modernity. That way you may encourage your children to marry in. The alternative is to form a Ghetto and force them to marry in. That is the authoritarian way which I reckon Hone’s lot favour. Isolation & ignorance actually. The Taliban & co have the same impulse and guess what their policy on education is?
Maybe even capitalist Pakeha education is better than remaining an uneducated victim of a failed culture though? By which I mean the culture up there in Honeland, not Maori culture in general. In the south we have Ngai Tahu doing well as their culture has adapted well to modernity, the rule of law and property rights. But NT are clearly Pakeha too, truly bicultural Kiwis.
I reckon most Maori in Honeland are bicultural too, it’s just that he does not want them to realise it let alone celebrate it. Kelvin would better represent them because he clearly accepts he is of two cultures and wants the rest of those people who have some Maori among their ancestors to get on with life and stop denying, even spitting on their Pakeha ancestors, often the majority of their ancestors. Indeed plenty of aggrieved Maori have more colonising Pakeha ancestors than I do and I’m 5th generation Pakeha (nearly all my ancestors came after colonisation).
In reality there are not many Maori like Hone any more. Most are now better described as New Zealanders with some bi-cultural characteristics.
We are no longer different races facing off in 1840 behind the men with guns and accepting a treaty that said only one thing really: ‘we are one people now, so let's not kill each other, let’s make love’. We were not one people then but we are pretty much one now and more so every day. Democracy plus the bedroom means the Treaty has passed its use by date. It was a good start but is no longer relevant, a truth yet to be fully articulated of course. NZ now is not ‘bicultural’ any more but there are citizens who are of two cultures so they are bicultural people. The exceptions are a few old dinosaurs like Hone. His children will probably marry out and fix that, since he has in his authoritarian way ordered them not to. Kiwis are contrary buggers eh. Go Kelvin!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I reckon most Maori in Honeland are bicultural too,"

The only way you could operate in New Zealand and be monocultural would be to completely adopt Pakeha culture. If you are Maori you are forced to be bicultural pretty much. Hone is bicultural. Far more bicultural than 99 percent of all Pakeha. And I don't blame them for wanting to hold on to their culture, and the treaty. Because they regard the treaty at least as a protection against Pakeha rapacity. Such as it is. And in fact if you look at the history Maori were adapting quite well to Pakeha culture before they had their land taken off them. They were well entrenched in industry agriculture and trade.

Anonymous said...

The tighter an election competition appears to be the more likely people are to turn out to vote.
Putting aside his rather unpleasant attack on Hone, Kelvin is absolutely correct to insist on giving voters a legitimate choice between the quite different policies and personalities in Mana and Labour, even if they both like to see themselves as left.
Those on the left who insist the only way forward is to game the system, regardless on how many people are burned off and refuse to participate in a cynical form of politics in the future, are just as authoritarian and anti democratic as the right.
Parliamentary politics are meaningless enough as it is without trying to bully candidates into pulling their punches in the name of some sort of phoney unity, which at its best can only lead to a different configuration of capitalists in charge.