Saturday 28 October 2017

Socialism and Populism: The Party is Just Beginning!

Let's Do This! Back here in God’s Own Country, though, I’ll go on looking at the clips of Prime Minister Ardern being welcomed back from Government House by thousands of delighted New Zealanders. I’ll listen again, as she promises to lead “a government of kindness”, and I’ll wish her – and the 72-year-old patriot who gave progressive New Zealand the votes it needed to govern – all the success that “socialism and populism” can bring.

ZACH CASTLES is sitting, gutted, in a café overlooking the Thames. The former “National ministerial adviser”, no longer having any National ministers to advise, has clearly relocated himself to a more promising political marketplace. Even so, our brave young capitalist has taken the time to share his thoughts with The Spinoff. (Who else!) And, oh, comrades, what thoughts they are!

He begins by imploring National to defend capitalism from “the coalition of socialists and populists” who are attempting (apparently Jacinda hasn’t quite got the hang of this yet) to unleash class war across New Zealand’s green and pleasant land. Poor Zach, it’s the sheer ingratitude of the Left that upsets him the most. Don’t these ingrates realise that “nearly one billion people over the last 20 years [have] been lifted out of poverty because of it.”

Really, Zach? The dragooning of millions of subsistence farmers and their children into the factories, warehouses and shops of China, India and Brazil. The super-exploitation perpetrated by the burgeoning bourgeoisie of these countries. The impossible working conditions. The relentless speed-ups. The graft and corruption upon which so much of their “economic growth” depends. The unbelievable environmental despoliation left in its wake. This is what you call being “lifted out of poverty”? This is what you are asking National to defend?

It sure is. In fact, according to Zach: “the very ‘neoliberalism’ the incoming prime minister criticises, and yet refuses to define [Oh, for God’s sake, just look it up on Wikipedia, man!] has helped many Kiwis out of a life of welfare dependence and into the dignity of a job.”

Ah, but there’s a big difference, isn’t there, Zach, between the sort of job you’re heading for in London and the jobs which beneficiaries are forced to accept, or face being sanctioned into abject poverty. Pumping gas for the minimum wage. Or being paid $17.00 an hour to stand all day behind a till while your feet swell and your calves cramp-up. That’s not the sort of job you’re about to take up – is it Zach? And those are most certainly not the sort of wages you’re anticipating from whatever right-wing political party or think-tank you’re about to be snapped-up by. It just wouldn’t be dignified. Not for a man of your talents. Would it Zach?

But, then, Zach isn’t accustomed to thinking about such matters. If he was, then he simply couldn’t write a paragraph like this:

“The return of the left to government now means everything that makes New Zealand such a role model, at a time of supposed global despair, now hangs in the balance. We were meant to be the poster child for globalism, free trade and ambition; now we are being set up as the test flight for a return to the 1970s. A world Jacinda Ardern’s own voters have never actually known.”

“Never actually known”? Really, Zach? I’m well aware that most Kiwis over 55 voted for your lot, but most is not the same thing as all. (Just as receiving most of the votes cast is not the same as receiving a majority of the votes cast!) I was very much alive and kicking in the 1970s, and let me tell you, those were great years to be young.

There were jobs for everyone – at good, union-negotiated, wages. The state loaned young couples money, at 3 percent interest, to buy their own home. All mothers received a generous Family Benefit. Tertiary education was as close to free as makes no difference. Ah, Zach, the manifold evils of socialism and populism!

Zach claims the National Party subscribes to the ideas of Edmund Burke, but this attempt to drape the clothing of a respectable political philosophy over National’s naked worship of power, simply will not wash. Burke understood the critical importance of tradition, and the wisdom it was able to impart to generations raised in its embrace. But National has never been a respecter of tradition – at least not of the core New Zealand traditions of fairness and decency. Indeed, the party was founded with the express purpose of thwarting the organised political expression of fairness and decency.

Presumably, that is why Zach can hail the “radicalism” of Ruth Richardson; and why he speaks glowingly of his party’s role in “leading transformative social and economic change”. Transformative, eh? Well, yes, as someone who remembers a New Zealand in which everyone worked, was comfortably housed, and could look forward with confidence to their children living in a happier more prosperous world than the one in which they’d been raised, I’d have to say that “transformation” is exactly the right word. What I’m much less certain about, however, is whether Kiwis sleeping in cars, while their children go hungry, was the change most New Zealanders were looking for.

So, you go on looking out over the Thames, Zach. And, by all means, urge your National Party comrades to seize this wonderful opportunity to “make capitalism cool again”. Back here in God’s Own Country, though, I’ll go on looking at the clips of Prime Minister Ardern being welcomed back from Government House by thousands of delighted New Zealanders. I’ll listen again, as she promises to lead “a government of kindness”, and I’ll wish her – and the 72-year-old patriot who gave progressive New Zealand the votes it needed to govern – all the success that “socialism and populism” can bring.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Saturday, 28 October 2017.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Chris for saying all I felt, but couldn't articulate after reading Zac's article.

Unknown said...

Yes, the 70s was a great time to be alive. I'd welcome it back any day. Zach Castles' ignorance of the period is woeful.
What young Zach Castles doesn't appreciate is that this new government will make life better for everyone, including this silly ignorant boy.
No amount of privilege and wealth can insulate those, lucky enough to be born into such a life, safety from social disharmony, which is what his beloved neo liberalism eventually creates.

Exkiwiforces said...

Well said Sir, I left NZ back in 98 and I haven’t a bloody good reason to comeback came close in 2006. But this time could it may happen?

David Stone said...

I reckon Andrew Little is as pleased with his enlightened and generous decision as Winston is with his.
It was pretty amazing hearing Grant Robertson announce the end of lasses faire, and that fiscal responsibility was subject to social equity in essence. How true that will be remains to be seen but the rhetoric so far is astonishingly encouraging.
The goodwill that Jacinda begins her tenure with gives her a power that no NZ leader in my lifetime has enjoyed. Media that continue to to disparage will not be read or watched or listened to and they will quickly change their tune. Colleagues will co-operate if they possibly can.
If she can get her decisions mostly right, and return us to a proper social democracy she will be a very rare creature . A leader that is adored by the vast majority of her people.

peteswriteplace said...

Don't bother returning.

David Stone said...

A corollary to the above...

In the unlikely event that Jacinda or an agent should read this, If your not already there,Please Please Please become thoroughly conversant with the world's monetary and banking system. I know your job is primarily to delegate and oversee, But this is the key to everything you want to achieve,the bottom line. If you are to capture the success that's in your reach it won't be enough to delegate this responsibility to anyone else. I'm not saying you have to be minister of finance but you must understand what he or she is doing and what effect it will have. It's no use to accept that Grant knows what he is doing though he might well, it's not good enough to trust what Michael Cullen says, not even what Winston or Yanis Varoufakis says, or Chris Trotter, and certainly not me. You must understand how it works. Elsewise someone else will fail and you will get the blame and all our hopes will be dashed.
Cheers David J S

sumsuch said...

Your caption even... I'm happy.

Just as I and everyone--'everyone' in this definition requires recognition of everyone--was happy in '99 and for many years after: the relief from the rule-direct of the rich.

I recognize the uplift of the international poor from the freemarket, yet I'd rather not 'think of England' as they grab all of m'own innards ever again.

I don't much respect Burke, but can see it was a smoother road to democracy overall in the UK than France. He was just, novo homo or not, a ruling thug.

In all the anglophone countries the line should be drawn against neoliberalism . That's the problem with the Trump opposition in America, despite its brilliance.

Victor said...

"A government of kindness"

What a wonderfully good and simple thought.

It's a long time since I heard a political leader articulate something so elementally decent.

Maybe it's finally time to say "Goodbye Tina"!

Let's hope Murphy and his law aren't hanging around.

jh said...

Pete George has a post on how bad housing in Dunedin was (once). He compares it to the present with the message that "while there is good cause for concern now, conditions have been much worse in the past".
I'm hazy on just how good our housing was but, in thinking about Riccarton (Christchurch) you had a lot of small houses on smaller sections but with room for a vege garden. These were for workers at the Addington Railway Workshops. Today's housing issues are directly the result of globalisation.
On another note "According to Derek Wall, a prominent British Green proponent, there are four pillars that define Green politics:[2]

Ecological wisdom
Social justice
Grassroots democracy
Ecological Wisdom is a sound basis for some social justice and I can think of many examples but this one will do for now
"“Our story of bus drivers reveals the existence of the proverbial elephant in the room. It shows that the living standards of the huge majority of people in rich countries critically depend on the existence of the most draconian control over their labour markets – immigration control. Despite this, immigration control is invisible to many and deliberately ignored by others, when they talk about the virtues of the free market.” 
― Ha-Joon Chang, Twenty-Three Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism.
And while there are other aspects to social justice the Greens tend towards the rights of women to choose their family size and demand welfare and the rights of cultures to choose family size and demand welfare (according to need).

Bellringer said...

Yes the 70's were great.

Sport was largely amateur; not held to ransom by broadcasters and corporate sponsors.

Nobody had a $600k mortgage and was working 60+ hours a week to service it.

Weekends were time to not work ie enjoy your own interests & leisure.

People had houses with big sections with big vegetable gardens and fruit trees.

People weren't consumerist 'rats on a tread mill' that couldn't get off.

People could occupy, amuse, and entertain themselves for free.

Those were the days.

jh said...

What do you think of the Greens interpretations of free speech Chris

Chris Trotter said...

To: Jens Meder.

It really is time you started your own blog, Jens, instead of piggy-backing on Bowalley Road.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I liked the 70s. I looked bloody good in bell bottoms.

aberfoyle said...

So much to do,and a meager three years to achieve impossible.Where to start,children and their families,bring care hope back to the family table of those hard penury by a nine year neglect reliant on market economy rules of dubious credentials.Stepping stones already taking place,Pike River entry drifting that way,minimum wage raise all but done,three strikes gone,shifting port floating around,doctors fees all but done.

Shit,they have been their only a week,three years,like to see how they are going to train our children, to build this country,looking back at CHCH seven years and see what the free market dubious theory has delivered,Haiti in its time of a disaster simlar that of ours how quickly they rebuilt compared to CHCH,THATs Dresden looking in places.

greywarbler said...

How did you have your hair then? In those days it wasn't fashionable to go round with a completely bald head. Nowadays people must be more hot-headed.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Long with muttonchops ..... I still have the photos ...hidden away.:)

jh said...

What do you think of the Greens interpretations of free speech Chris
Let me answer for you jh

After viewing their website (which is brief) I see two thinks: "the meme of "white genocide" and "repatriation".

"White genocide" I have sympathy with. There is plenty of evidence that elites welcome the day when this happens: One demographer, who does not want to be named for fear of being called racist, says: 'It's a matter of pure arithmetic that, if nothing else happens, non-Europeans will become a majority and whites a minority in the UK. That would probably be the first time an indigenous population has voluntarily become a minority in its historic homeland'. Richard Bedford. I think it is dangerous to discount human nature.
On the other hand only a tiny minority would consider "repatriation".
Suppose they have their demonstration un hindered on Parliament grounds. Let's see how much support they get? The protestors forced them out (and got a lot of coverage for their own views in the process). But what message does it send that they needed to be forced out? In a way it is a slur on the rest of society and their views? It suggests that they nipped something in the bud. Having said that they have a broad definition of what is racist and unacceptable and perhaps that explains their fear. In which case they aren't protesting the national Front but trying to stop legitimate protest?