Thursday 23 November 2017

Communist In All But Name! Is Jacinda About to Oversee the Second Peaceful Transition to Kiwi Socialism?

 That's One Scary Lady! For all its bluster and bullshit, Neoliberalism turns out to be a remarkably fragile ideology. So much so, that the election of Jacinda Ardern – the Kiwi politician who dared describe Capitalism as “a blatant failure” – was enough to give Forbes magazine's readers the heebee-jeebees.

TO HEAR FORBES MAGAZINE TELL IT, socialism was achieved in New Zealand during 1960s and 70s, without bloodshed. In an opinion piece published by Forbes on Monday (20/11/17) former Lehman Brother’s staffer, Jared Dillian, put it like this:

“Not long ago, [New Zealand] was one of the most unfree economies that was not actually Communist in name. Most industry was nationalized, from telecommunications and transportation, to banks and hotels.”

This description is intended to – and probably will – shock the One Percenters who subscribe to Forbes. I, however, would happily wear Mr Dillian’s description of pre-1984 New Zealand as a badge of honour.

Most right-wingers insist that socialism can only be imposed on a country by force. They point to Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba and, more recently, to Chavez’s and Maduro’s Venezuela, as proof that the slightest deviation from the shining path of Neoliberalism can only end in tears – and firing-squads. And yet, according to Dillian, New Zealand cracked it! Accomplishing its transition from Capitalism to Socialism through free and fair elections, and without the need for a single gulag, or a single shot being fired.

Naturally, Dillian does his best to paint for his readers the most lurid picture possible of life under New Zealand’s democratic-socialist regime. One can only imagine his millionaire readers shuddering with fear upon learning that:

“There were strict capital controls and prohibitions on owning foreign assets. And of course, punitively high tax rates, inflation, and extraordinary levels of government debt.”

Now, high inflation and crippling government debt were all-too-common afflictions during the 1970s, and by no means confined to “unfree economies” like New Zealand. The oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 had destabilised the “free” and “unfree” economies of the world with admirable even-handedness.

Not that Neoliberal boosters, like Mr Dillian, will ever admit that these sudden and dramatic increases in the price of industrial capitalism’s most indispensable commodity offer a far better explanation for the demise of post-war prosperity than the Right’s “usual suspects” – meddling politicians, self-serving bureaucrats and out-of-control trade unionists.

Like all good fairy stories, however, Mr Dillian’s has a happy ending:

“The 1980s saw an enormous rollback in the size and scope of government, and the beginning of a supply-side revolution. Of course, economic liberalization was happening around the world at that time, but it was most dramatic in tiny New Zealand.”

On that Mr Dillian and I find ourselves in agreement!

A few sentences back, I made reference to Mr Dillian’s happy ending: in that regard, it seems, I was a little premature. For all its bluster and bullshit, Neoliberalism turns out to be a remarkably fragile ideology. So much so, that the election of Jacinda Ardern – the Kiwi politician who dared describe Capitalism as “a blatant failure” – was enough to give Mr Dillian (and no doubt a good many of his readers) the heebee-jeebees:

“It seems likely that New Zealand will experience a recession during Ardern’s term. Nobody is predicting a return to the bad old days of the 70s, but New Zealand will probably lose its status as one of the most open, free economies in the world. It takes decades to weaken an economy, just like it takes decades to strengthen it. But investors will probably want to avoid New Zealand for the time being.”

For my money, that’s the most heart-warming endorsement of our new Labour Prime Minister that I have read to date. If Jacinda, with just two words, can shake the very foundations of Wall Street, then it’s possible that a “return to the bad old days of the 70s” may turn out to be something more than this old socialist’s pipe dream.

According to Mr Dillian, we Kiwis have pulled off a peaceful transition to something approaching “Communism” (although we didn’t call it that!) once before. If he’s right about that, then who’s to say that he isn’t also right about our new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, being just the person to do it again!

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 23 November 2017.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

The extreme right in America (correct that, the ordinary right in America, because the extreme right is really, really extreme.) Label anything the government does as communism. Or socialism, which seems to have the same cachet over there. They don't seem to have heard of something called "social democracy". It's how they keep their constituents scared and voting Republican. It's a little bit similar to the NRA's policy on guns. Keep them scared, keep them ignorant.

Kat said...

People like Jared Dillian just don't have a clue. Its only when they come to NZ spend some time here and get to know the real history do they start to have an insight into what makes this country tick.

New Zealanders have a reputation for being early adopters. Good or bad. We have made mistakes and had failures but we have had far more successes. Its the weave of the fabric this country continues to be built on. In the end we do things our way and we just get on and do it.

This new govt led by Jacinda Ardern has just plain Kiwi stamped all over it. We are a unique people in the world and we stand tall and punch way above our weight. That is why the likes of Jared Dillian find it impossible to pigeon hole New Zealand.

greywarbler said...

Forbes on NZ, passing judgment:
“Not long ago, [New Zealand] was one of the most unfree economies that was not actually Communist in name. Most industry was nationalized, from telecommunications and transportation, to banks and hotels.”

Most industry was nationalised. What? We didn't nationalise anything, it was owned by those who had invested in it, and it happened that the people had invested in themselves, sort of like a private family company, or private equity.

Forbes on the Du Pont family:
Du Pont family - Forbes
The du Pont fortune dates back more than 200 years and is shared among an estimated 3,500 family members. A prisoner during the French Revolution, E.I. du ...

Some info on the Du Pont family:
They are worth $152 billion, $63 billion more than the second richest family, headed by the politically active and often controversial Koch brothers. The three richest families are worth $301 billion, one fourth of cumulative net worth of all the wealthiest families.Jul 8, 2014

[The Du Pont family have been building up and containing their control over their holdings since they went to the USA from France in 1800. One began a gunpowder mill in 1802 and that helped them to prosper, still does. One went into a drapery business, not so much profit there. Small beginnings but they stuck together.]
Refer to:

So little NZ trying to hold onto our small gains is ludicrous and wrong!
Very rich people trying to get their hands into other people's pockets are just so right. And they have better standards of largesse as well I think.

countryboy said...

" ... unfree economy..."
Jared Dillian huh? It's almost as if he's had a phone call from one of our crooked fuckers.
That, dear friends, is a classic hyper normalised, logical fallacy. It's precisely how the ' right wing' have dislodged our logic and common sense in preference for their carefully supplanted and perverse abuse. The term ‘ Right Wing’ itself is a logical fallacy. Certainly, our Right Wingers are not an opposition group who think they have a better idea of how best to serve us, the people who elect them, also those who work to pay taxes and create an on-going plan on how to best serve us as a whole. To me, ‘ Right Wing’ is simply another way of writing ‘ crook’, ‘swindler’, ‘ liar’, ‘carpet bagger’ , ‘cheat’, ‘thief’ etc. The only agenda the Right Wing have is for their personal wealth creation, which, of course means they must find ever more creative ways to keep us, the Masses from finding out that we’re politely enslaved and doomed to forever run flat out on a treadmill churning out wealth for our privileged 1%ers.
Jacinda Adern, it’s worth pointing out, should ponder, of an evening, that our Right Wing have our primary industry by the throat and up against a wall.
Throw our primary industry a life line ( Perhaps in the form of a government ministry overseeing a peer to peer primary industry banking system? After all, we already have a ministry of foreign affairs and trade and that begs the question; What the fuck are they doing? They’ve clearly got time on their hands to do something worthwhile for a change. ) and see how the Right Wing react then. My guess would be unfavourably.

By the way? What’s little timmy grosser up to these days?

He was born in Perth, Scotland and came to New Zealand with his parents in 1958.[2] After completing his education at Victoria University of Wellington he served as a policy adviser in a number of key departments including Treasury, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Prime Minister's Advisory Group under Robert Muldoon.

See? All you need is the sociopathic and narcissistic mindset of a white collar crook powered by a advantageous education and the political world opens up to present perfect opportunities for the aforementioned criminals to plunder it.

peteswriteplace said...

Hope it happens the way you predict Chris. This old-time social democratic unionist doesn't realise how communist he was back in the 70's and early 80's and how well he was terminated by the neoliberalist champions for freedom in the early 90's?

Polly. said...

Chris, re your article and its last paragraph.
It will not happen in New Zealand.
The political leadership of New Zealand is neoliberal.
We are major cities of $1M homes.
Countless $millions in farms/ land.
Much work to those who seek.
Yes there are people who need help and we should assist.
If Labour wishes to continue its leadership through a 3 partner coalition then it must be rational in its approach to the many and not continue to pay to others (in gay abandon) to stay put.
A smart political leadership looks after every one, and grows everyone.
Leftist pure doctrine is not the answer, its the curse.

Nick J said...

Socialism got a well deserved very bad name engraved into historic record with every death in the gulag, or in a purge or famine. Every time we hear somebody propose that real socialism was never tried or some similar excuse the memory and respect for the victims is tainted. The evil that occurred under the term "socialism" is associated forever yet we leftists deny it, excuse it. We don't excuse Nazis or the Holocaust but we seem set with our own double standard.

Capitalism has a better press and as vile a record. Yet we fail to tag it with the guilt it deserves.

I'm suggesting we need to redefine our left position in a way that is defensible.

Jens said...

Unless Socialism - social ownership (monopoly?) of the means of production capital - is redefined (to say, "socially concerned?), we should be reminded that the social democratic welfare concept broke away from Socialism over 120 years ago, as the "Third Way"of mixed capitalism between the extremes of Socialist and feudalistic capitalism - and that at least the success of Social Democracy in Sweden is, according to Swedes themselves, financed by profitable mixed capitalism.

So, it cannot be the fundamental economic concept of capitalism - the saving and investment of capital - that can fail (like say the saving of grain to grow a crop)- but the way it is done, or applied.

Free market neo-liberalist capitalism is failing by leading to increasing socio-economic polarization into have-nots and haves amidst plenty, and Social Democratic and Socialist capitalism can fail if leading to a higher consumption rate than what the true profits of capitalism and labour are producing.

kaya said...

One very large problem in your lovely scenario Chris. Jacinda is hell bent on signing TPPA (or whatever they want to call it these days). TPPA with ISDS clauses intact renders everything else she may try and achieve totally meaningless. If you don't see that then you too need to get the Jacinda glitter out of your eyes.

Anonymous said...

The New Zealand of 1949-1984 spent all but six of its years under conservative governments. That Forbes would consider it socialist really says much about (neo-)liberalism's lack of imagination. Economic interventionism does not, in itself, mean socialism.

David Stone said...

So true Nick J

Socialism brought into existence democratically by an informed electorate would be a completely different thing to one that has to be imposed by brutal dictatorship and violence from the outset.

But capitalism in it's place is a basic natural instinct within human society. Perhaps it is also a word that has been debased and needs carefully defining or a replacement. I don't believe any human society has been entirely without it and a complete eradication of capitalism will never be voted in by an informed electorate.

The critical issue is that capitalism must not be in control of society. It must be subordinate to societies' needs, the servant not the master as I think Jacinda herself has said.

As Chris says the mix of state ownership and operation of services that are natural monopolies , like post used to be, like our power hydro generation requiring once only massive alteration of the natural environment as a hydro dam does, and above all banking and the money supply as was planed here once , mixed with freedom to chose a profession and compete within a framework that leaves opportunity for everyone is what a government needs to do.
We had as close to an ideal balance of these things in New Zealand before Rogernomics as any country in the world has ever had. It wasn't perfect but it always had the means to improve from within. It still has that.

Cheers D J S