Friday, 13 January 2017

Status Quo In No Danger From The "Left".

True Colours? The transgressive, system-challenging Green Party that marched into Parliament in 1999 has gone. In its place we find a slick, professionalised operation that has stood down the uncompromising passions of Rod Donald in favour of the sleek corporate reassurances of James Shaw.
 
IT’S THE LIES we allow ourselves to believe that cause the most harm. If the year just past has taught us anything at all, then surely it has taught us that. Never has the ability to separate objective facts from unabashed appeals to our emotions been more important. The alternative is to embrace “post-truth” (the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2016 international word of the year) as the norm – and that way lies madness.

This ability to separate truth from falsehood is much more important to those on the left of politics than it is to those on the right. Preserving and strengthening the status quo has always been the right’s prime objective. And since recognising things as they are is a lot easier than imagining things that could be, the right’s political road is the easier to travel.

The left’s considerably more daunting challenge is persuading people to embrace change. This requires creativity, organisation and raw political courage on a scale the right is only rarely called upon to provide. The first priority for left-wing voters, therefore, is to correctly distinguish political parties committed to defending the status quo from parties committed to its demise.
 
Accordingly, the critical question for left-wing voters in 2017 is a simple one: “Are Labour and the Greens parties of change, or parties of the status quo?”
 
The answer, sadly, is that both parties are committed to very few policies that involve more than marginal changes to the status quo. And even these minimal reforms are best characterised as policies designed to repair and strengthen New Zealand’s existing economic and social institutions – not replace them.
 
The Housing Crisis, for example, is resolvable only by a massive shift of resources in the residential construction sector from private to public. The scale of state intervention required to meet the needs of those currently denied access to safe and affordable accommodation would, however, have far-reaching effects on the wealth and status of middle-class New Zealanders. A private construction sector starved of resources would produce swift and serious knock-on effects for speculators, developers, landlords and, ultimately, home-owners.
 
Given the level of both the Labour Party’s and the Greens’ electoral dependence on important groups within the middle class (salaried professionals, small and medium-sized enterprises) and acknowledging the enormous difficulties associated with mobilising the marginalised communities most likely to benefit from a state-led solution to the housing crisis, the modest (and wholly inadequate) housing policies of both “left-wing” parties make perfect sense.
 
This same, class-based, reticence is evident across the whole of Labour and Green policy-making. In the case of the former, it is observable in the party’s labour relations policies. The reconstitution of working-class power by restoring universal union membership is simply off the agenda. Similarly, the tax increases required to substantially increase the level of government support for working families, beneficiaries and tertiary students forms no part of Labour’s fiscal policy.
 
Such policy initiatives as have been announced, the Future of Work exercise particularly, present an “adapt or perish” approach to the demands of twenty-first century capitalism. John Harris, writing in The Guardian, illustrates the cultural gap between contemporary Labour’s professionalised politicians and its increasingly marginalised core voters with the following, chilling, quotation from Tony Blair adviser, Charles Leadbeater:
 
“Strong communities can be pockets of intolerance and prejudice […] Settled, stable communities are the enemies of innovation, talent, creativity, diversity and experimentation. They are often hostile to outsiders, dissenters, young upstarts and immigrants. Community can too quickly become a rallying cry for nostalgia; that kind of community is the enemy of knowledge creation, which is the wellspring of economic growth.”
 
How long will it be before the Greens in New Zealand begin nodding their heads in agreement with such paeans to entrepreneurship and innovation?
 
Not long. Because the transgressive, system-challenging Green Party that marched into Parliament in 1999 has gone. In its place we find a slick, professionalised operation that has stood down the uncompromising passions of Rod Donald in favour of the sleek corporate reassurances of James Shaw. Worried about the looming apocalypse of runaway climate change? Then worry no more. The Greens will ride to our rescue with the mother of all technical fixes!
 
The status quo is under no threat in 2017 – not with New Zealand’s three largest political parties committed to its continuing renovation and repair.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 13 January 2017.

20 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I don't know about the Greens. To me they've always been a middle-class/small-business party that has issues with the environment. Conservatives who want to swim in the rivers, rather than smoke dope and get laid, as was said about libertarians. (Mind you many of them in my day wanted to smoke dope as well.) And when you put them under pressure or as they get more prosperous I suspect they will revert to normal middle-class behaviour and attitudes. Maybe not as extreme as some, but money does tend to make you less empathetic. Just a thought.

Polly said...

By golly, you are 'wearing your heart on your sleeve' with this post.
Whoever first coined 'National Lite' to describe Labour was in my opinion stating a truth. Your post now puts the Greens under the same banner.
A very observant post.

You will need broad shoulders for the future, good luck and well done.

Jens Meder said...

Well, is that all not evidence or a statement in favor of the vision, that the future of all the major political parties in an open and free democracy is via the all-inclusive "Third Way" of the Centre ?

Pablo said...

Well said. Sounds like something I wrote a while back.

David Stone said...

G S
Whoever said that Greens don't want to smoke dope and get laid ? I'm sure they mostly still do.

Chris I doubt that any but a very small minority of our community would be opposed to such a social housing initiative .
Government doesn't have to employ individual builders and make them all govt employees. It should be great for the building industry, and probably there could be openings for developers too depending on how it was organised. Also the majority of middle class baby boomers profiting (on paper) by house price escalation all have children on the other side of the equation and would gladly forgo the inflation of their own homes for the sake of their children being able ever to own one. The only losers from such a policy would be the mostly overseas speculators and this is the community that all our political parties seem to want to serve.

We need a new party and I don't think it's the opportunities party, but perhaps we should watch as their policies are revealed.

Cheers David J S

peter petterson said...

Wasn't National described as Labour-lite during its first term? And I thought, you stupid buggers!

pat said...

struck a purple patch Mr Trotter......indeed it does not bode well, even should Bill and Paula stumble.

greywarbler said...

GS at 13/1 11.30
It sounds as if you are comparing Greens with the hippies of the 60's who are said to have been involved in a sweep of 'im-moral outrage' that passed off and many settled down to be stockbrokers and so on.

Surely Greens are better than that in their outlook? But after reading the book Affluenza I have to agree that being middle class influences people to concentrate of solidfying their improved financial and material status. And in the process, many lose touch with others' reality who are termed 'strugglers' in socio-economic terms. When doing social work training people should be given as part of their training, the experience of being deprived in some way, often it will be being blindfolded and having to rely on a guide, deaf etc, but the myriad ways that lacking money and time and housing and transport security do impact together to limit people's lives, opportunities and ultimately, spirit.

Jack Scrivano said...

Many years ago, someone (Eric Julpe, perhaps?) suggested that: 'People become conservatives the moment that the have something to conserve.'

Victor said...

Only the totally un-sleek and non-corporate could possibly see James Shaw as sleek and corporate.

Take a look at those socks!

Brendon Harre said...

The problem with New Zealand's housing crisis and the status quo is that if there is no change in the trajectory in the way housing is provided then future generations will have Dickensian levels of wealth inequality......

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Looks like it can be done. At least locally.
http://www.salon.com/2017/01/15/from-company-town-to-rebel-city-california-town-shows-how-progressives-can-win_partner/

peter petterson said...

https://petesnewhangout.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/fat-cats-getting-even-more-obese/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

Charles E said...

I like most of it and agree the Greens are fakes. But just one tiny quibble.
About your argument you state as follows:
'This ability to separate truth from falsehood is much more important to those on the left of politics than it is to those on the right. Preserving and strengthening the status quo has always been the right’s prime objective. And since recognising things as they are is a lot easier than imagining things that could be, the right’s political road is the easier to travel.
The left’s considerably more daunting challenge is persuading people to embrace change.'

Leaving aside how stonkingly arrogant this is, if it is true, and you being left wing should know apparently, Trump must be a left winger. Hitler too…

So it's not true is it. What you perhaps could have got away with would be to observe that changing the status quo is mostly what the left is about. Trouble is, it’s so EVEN when the status quo is working perfectly well. EVEN when millions are blighted or killed by such reckless unnecessary, destructive change.

The fact that the left is doing so badly most everywhere these days, merely reflects that the status quo is mostly better than it has ever been then.
So the left’s prime hope, prime reason to carry on, is the hope that things will go really bad. That's a good part of why I'm not one of you and wish you the worse of luck, forever. For the sake of mankind.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Trouble is, it’s so EVEN when the status quo is working perfectly well."

Tell that to the forty+ thousand people who don't have a home. The problem with conservatives is that when they say something is working well, they mean "working well for me." Everyone else can go hang.

Charles E said...

Gs: You make my point:
40k is under 1%

Charles E said...

No seriously, I was being extreme. Unfair.
This is an important theory or idea, that one side is about creative change and the other wants little or no change, certainly not major change.
Conservatives range from none, to constant but 'safe' rates of change. Organic change is preferred, ie not planned or pushed by the planners. We fear disruptive, violent, ill considered, uncalled for change. Change as an urge or itch or fashion.
The left wants significant, decisive, telling and transformative change.
My side thinks that does more harm than good and if actually revolution, always ends in disaster.
But this may be the norm yet today we see the left pinning for the past at times and the right seeking near revolution here and there. Look at Trump. He wants to upturn the table. Hillary wanted steady as she goes. Brexiters? Left wing disruptives? So the division is not left and right at all. It is evolutionaries and revolutionaries.
Ah it's a funny world that does not fit our generalisations currently. Is the old order passed?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Under 1% of people living in cars? That's just the people who don't have somewhere to live, not the poor. The number of people who don't have somewhere to live should be zero. So no I don't make your point at all Charles.

Bushbaptist said...

You raise some interesting points Charles and fair comment too.

Let me analyse them a bit;

Conservatives want a slow incremental rate of change; how long do people have to wait until that change effects them? 10 years? 20 years? Grow old and die before it reaches them?

The left wants significant, decisive, telling and transformative change; You mean like Roger Douglas did?

If conservatives believe that their way is so good for everyone, why are there people who are working but having to live in garages, sheds and cars because they can't afford the rent? Why is it that so many people have to work 3, 4, sometimes more jobs so they can make their landlords rich? Something is seriously out-of-whack there!

What the "left' wants is a fairer and more equitable society where people are treated with dignity and respect, not looked down on. The 'left' wants people to be able to work one job and have enough to live on with a little over to save. Is that so much to ask?

The 'left' want a fairer tax system so that the wealthy pay their fair share supporting the society that they make so much money out of instead of loading down the middle classes.

Is that too much to ask?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Is that too much to ask?"
Shouldn't be. Seems to be.