Sunday, 16 December 2018

Lashing Back.

Right Back At You: There is a fond assumption among a great many progressive activists that, having seen their cherished social reforms enacted, they can relax – confident that they will remain in place indefinitely. History’s clock moves only forwards, they reassure themselves, never backwards. Unfortunately, that isn’t true.

SEPTEMBER-ELEVEN was a day of disaster long before 2001. Twenty-eight years earlier, another day, 11 September 1973, was seared into the memory of every Chilean as indelibly and irrevocably as 11 September 2001 burned itself into the retinas of every American.

Skyhawk jets streaked over the Presidential Palace in Santiago and battle tanks rumbled through the capital’s streets. Salvador Allende, Chile’s democratically elected socialist leader, died in his palace. The Chilean people would have to wait seventeen years for the opportunity to choose another.

There were countless tales of violence and oppression on 11 September 1973, but the report which stuck in my memory involved a young woman stopped on the street by a squad of young, keyed-up, soldiers.

“What do you think you’re wearing?” One of the soldiers demanded.

The young woman was at a loss. It was 1973 and she was dressed fashionably in a T-shirt and flared trousers.

“Go home and change into something more befitting a decent young woman.” The oldest of the soldiers gestured with his rifle at the young woman’s trousers. “The days of women dressing like communist whores are over.”

The overthrow of Allende was about a great deal more than his Popular Unity government nationalising Chile’s American-owned copper mines. His democratic socialist policies had generated social changes every bit as radical as the changes unleashed upon the country’s capitalist economy. Women swapping their skirts for trousers was but one of the many challenges to the cultural hegemony of Chile’s profoundly conservative social and religious institutions.

Allende’s government had fatally underestimated the political impact of its cultural challenges. He and his followers had no idea how lightly their changes rested on the popular masses they fondly believed to have been convinced and converted by their policies.

They would find out soon enough. What happened in Chile in the months and years that followed General Augusto Pinochet’s military coup of 11 September 1973 wasn’t quite on the scale of The Handmaid’s Tale, but the conservative cultural backlash it unleashed left the Popular Unity government’s emancipatory social programmes in ruins.

There is a fond assumption among a great many progressive activists that, having seen their cherished social reforms enacted, they can relax – confident that they will remain in place indefinitely. History’s clock moves only forwards, they reassure themselves, never backwards.

Unfortunately, that isn’t true.

The economic hierarchies of capitalist society are the least of progressivism’s worries. Older, and much more difficult to eradicate, are the hierarchies of race and gender. Not all Whites can be rich, but on the ladder of racial privilege they have long celebrated their “superiority” to people of colour. A black man’s path to equality may be blocked by the racial prejudices of his white brothers, but that in no way guarantees he will acknowledge the rights of his sisters.

At a post-SNCC Conference party in 1964, the black activist leader, Stokely Carmichael, infamously described the position of black women in the American civil rights movement as “prone.”

Many progressives do not appreciate how deeply these racial and gender prejudices are embedded in the minds of their fellow citizens. With the power to legislate in their hands, and a like-minded news media happy to promote their causes, progressive political parties are often tempted to overestimate the transformational power of their reforms. The embittered silence of those who feel that their most cherished beliefs have been overridden and ignored is all-too-easily mistaken for consent and approbation by progressive campaigners. It is neither.

To date, New Zealanders have been extremely fortunate in the generally benign character of their country’s dominant populist party – NZ First. Winston Peters is no Viktor Orban; no Rodrigo Duterte; no Jair Bolsonaro. And for that we should all be extremely thankful.

It is by no means certain, however, that this country will be spared the malign effects of vicious right-wing populism forever. A significant downturn in the New Zealand economy; one jarring social reform too many; and, who knows, a frightened, angry and culturally displaced mass of New Zealanders may find their “drummer”.

Nowhere is it written that such politicians are bound to observe the democratic niceties. Indeed, in circumstances where large numbers of New Zealanders believe themselves to be the victims of an arrogant and uncaring “political class”, democracy may be perceived as the problem.

Yellow Vests anyone?

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 14 December 2018.

18 comments:

greywarbler said...

Write us something nice for the Christmas week Chris. We can only stand a certain amount of Deep Truth. Jingle your bells and play the fool for us won't you for a short time. Give us some circus please, the bread part will be dealt with by the Christmas Day goodies.

The forces held off at Christmas in WW1 to give the battlers time for some frivolity. On reading your very thoughtful and apt essay on Chile, I think 'enough' for 2018. Let BAU resume beyond the line in the sand of Christmas-New Year.

In the meantime a little of our past history re Chile and possibly unrepeatable in today's 'better' times.
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/107529839/flashback-kiwi-diplomats-sheltered-trade-unionist-in-chile-during-pinochets-1973-coup

Anonymous said...

Many small things can lead to a government perceived of being arrogant - Louisa Wall and her aim of banning smoking in private homes, a persons refuge from the state. A light bulb moment, perhaps......

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Do you really think there is any risk of a New Zealand government becoming a socialist government? And attracting sufficient attention from the CIA to require the kind of operation that ended Allende's experiment? I doubt it. There are sufficient contemporary examples of what happens to socialist governments e.g. Syria and Venezuela , and probably Brazil t mention a few, to keep us reminded which side our bread is buttered on.
There always seems to be some faction or other for agents of discontent to work on when the need arises. I'm not sure that our conservatives would be the most obvious target for CIA attention of that kind if they should find it necessary to apply the programme here though. I think there might be more fertile ground for them to till.
D J S

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I wouldn't have thought – having seen the results of Ronald Reagan's, Margaret Thatcher's, Roger Douglas'policies – that any progressive would be so naïve as to think that we can't move backwards.
As to the yellow vests, no one has given me any convincing evidence that they are all incipient fascists, or for that matter communists. Seems to me more like people who are struggling to make a living, and finding it hard because of the policies of Ronald Reagan et. al. And being French and having a long history of getting off their arses and demonstrating when they think something is wrong with society they've done just that.
The rest of the Western world has been much slower to recognise that inequality is growing, and that it's a bad thing, and is much more apathetic if they even do realise it. God help us, we couldn't even organise a general strike against Douglas's anti-union policies.
It's human nature then to start looking around for someone to blame, and it should be progressive activists'jobs to make sure that they don't start blaming "the other" but put the blame firmly where it belongs, on the political elite. Unfortunately not just National but also the Labour Party.
If they're anything like me, they've become cynical. The extent of my politics these days is voting, and commenting here. Maybe there's hope for the young. I do have some confidence in them, but they are the result of 30+ years of social engineering, and it's gonna take a lot of impetus to overcome that drag.

sumsuch said...

Shit happens where democracy doesn't poke up its head. Specially where the official representatives 'manage' (as per Helen) rather than 'speak'.


All the speakers back pre-35 were personally dubious but they gave us 'fairness'. Our real creed, though it only extended half way to Maori.

Jens Meder said...

Well Guerilla Surgeon - If you are in search of a political motive on the democratic principle of universal participation in the economic efforts, risks, responsibilities, rewards, opportunities, prosperity and power which comes through personal capital ownership and useful management -

why not have a discussion and debate on the pros and cons of policies leading towards at least a minimally meaningful level of personal (retirement) capital ownership by all citizens eventually ?

This is not a revolutionary "anti-social" proposition at all, because is not the capital of at least a modern home ownership basically needed and desired by and for each individual, and would that not resolve of what has been attempted to be achieved through state housing by our welfare state of 70 years ago ?


Tom Hunter said...

It's always interesting to play hypothetical historic scenarios.

Let's try this one on for size. Salvador Allende was the 1970's Hugo Chavez. The claim of many Leftists has long been that Allende was merely a "social democrat". Even I believed that for a couple of decades. What rubbish. It was a facade, as he agreed with most of the objectives of the Chilean Communist Party, which is why they supported him. How similar is this to the Chavez model, from Wikipedia:

This included nationalization of large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking), and government administration of the health care system, educational system (with the help of a United States educator, Jane A. Hobson-Gonzalez from Kokomo, Indiana), a programme of free milk for children in the schools and shanty towns of Chile, and an expansion of the land seizure and redistribution already begun under his predecessor Eduardo Frei Montalva,[32] who had nationalized between one-fifth and one-quarter of all the properties listed for takeover.[33] Allende also intended to improve the socio-economic welfare of Chile's poorest citizens;[34] a key element was to provide employment, either in the new nationalized enterprises or on public work projects.

Aside from the usual Leftist fantasies where such ideas work, the result would have destroyed Chile, just as they've destroyed Venezuela today.

And note another aspect, for all the Far Left screams of Pinochet's use of murder, detention, and torture - all used by every Communist regime that's ever existed - the fact is that Pinochet eventually left the scene and the result today is a country that has moved beyond both Pinochet and Allende.

Whereas Venezuela, even as it falls into complete and total economic and social collapse, still cannot escape the iron grip of Communist security control of the military and security services. They continue to murder, detain and torture at will, to silence from most of their former supporters, or abject rationalisation and excuses from a tiny slice.

Venezuela today is what Chile would have become had Allende remained in power. For all the yowls about the Great and Terrible USA and its CIA, the pity is that the same fate did not befall Hugo Chavez and his thugs before they destroyed Venezuela. The reason the USA did not make even close to the same level of effort in 2002 that it did in 1973, was simply because the USSR no longer existed, so if morons like Chavez wanted such policies, and if the low information voters of Venezuela wanted them, then that did not represent any great threat to the USA. The usual links with Cuba now resulted in rolled eyes and chuckles in D.C. rather than fear.

Seems to me more like people who are struggling to make a living, and finding it hard because of the policies of Ronald Reagan et. al.
In France? Seriously? Ah, well you're "Guerilla Surgeon" and no Leftist fantasy is beyond you. The French economy, government and bureaucracy in 2018 is a result of thirty years of the application of Reaganism and Thatcherism? Really? Do you know any French people to present this theory to? Perhaps you can do so in a way that won't suggest that you actually believe this, thus saving yourself from humiliating ridicule.

FFS. These protests and riots arise from middle class and working class people who have been steadily ground down by decades of the endless expanse of the French state in taxes, regulations and other controls. A story as old as France itself, complete with a trans-version of Marie Antoinette at the top.

peter petterson said...

Any future changes won't be some rightwing reaction. There is an undercurrent of increasing support for past social and economic injustices to be rectified in NZ - and add Aotearoa. it will come from the young when they gain some traction, not old fogies like me. I won't be too worried or aware anyway.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"In France? Seriously? Ah, well you're "Guerilla Surgeon" and no Leftist fantasy is beyond you. The French economy, government and bureaucracy in 2018 is a result of thirty years of the application of Reaganism and Thatcherism? Really? "

No. And I thought you might have had the wit to realise that. But you are Tom Hunter, and .... well best left unsaid perhaps. The protests are the result of the policies of Macron who while touted as a centrist seems to have inherited much of the philosophy of Reagan and Thatcher. In fact your co-conspirator Charles did say that the French have decided they want a centrist – to which I replied until they see what his policies are going to be. And it has come to pass.

"FFS. These protests and riots arise from middle class and working class people who have been steadily ground down by decades of the endless expanse of the French state in taxes, regulations and other controls."

Then why is the standard of living in France much higher than it is in New Zealand where we have fuck all in the way of regulations? The main reason for any drop-off in economic performance in France has been the euro. And its economic performance has been way better than Britain's. It was 5.8% of the world's economy in 1969 and has fallen to about 3.5. Britain's fallen from 6.8 to 3.4, much of that under Thatcherite governments of one sort or another

And if you continue to link me and other left of centre people to dictators like Chavez then I think it's about time we started linking you to people like Pinochet, Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler, and a tip of the hat to your man Trump.. Makes about as much sense.
All this continuous reference to "would you like to live under Chavez?" Of course I fucking wouldn't. But I quite like to live under Juha Sipilä who is a proper centrist but who you probably consider some sort of fucking raving loony communist or Stefan Löfven – similar.

Tom Hunter said...

Then why is the standard of living in France much higher than it is in New Zealand
It's not.
https://countryeconomy.com/countries/compare/france/new-zealand

We actually have higher per capita GDP and are better on almost every measure except having a slightly lower average wage - although that's negated by France's seemingly permanent higher unemployment rate. It's been between 5-10% for my entire adult life, and even that hides the even worse stat that youth unemployment has been around 20-25% for more than two decades now. Not to mention their deficits and debt situation, which is far worse than ours. As numerous commentators have noted, even though our productivity has sucked for a long time, France's economy is best described as sclerotic.

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_countries_result.jsp?country1=New+Zealand&country2=France
Not much on that table of goods and services that is not more expensive in France, and their wages are not far enough ahead of ours to compensate.

...where we have fuck all in the way of regulations Clearly it's been a long time since you ran business (if ever), built or modified a house or did anything really. We're not as bad as we were in the 1970's, but I have far more regulations to deal with than my dad did in the 1950's, in virtually every area of my life.

Macron who while touted as a centrist seems to have inherited much of the philosophy of Reagan and Thatcher.... As a "centrist" he talked about reforming the unions and trying to light a fire under the French state, which is also what Hollande and Sarkozy said they'd do. And just like them he's now retreated on all that before he even got started. Some influence. His recent announcements of massive lifts in State mandated wage rates - with no plan to pay for them - is about as far from Reagan and Thatcher as can be imagined. Similarly, the state still occupies 55% of the economy, with no prospect of change.

And if you continue to link me and other left of centre people to dictators like Chavez...
Any fool can now deny Chavez and his idiot successor, Maduro, but the key was whether you supported him in the beginning, and given the policies he implemented through the 2000's, including nationalising industries, sticking it to "the rich", and handing out freebies to "the poor", I see no reason why you would not have been a cheerleader for him, especially in the face of Righties like me who tried to tell Lefties like you, where all that nonsense would eventually lead, with a collapsing economy and a state trying to "fix" the problems they created by becoming increasingly authoritarian.

It was as predictable as the sun setting. Happens every time. But I'll bet that when another Chavez pops up somewhere else in the world, with the same policies, you and the likes of The Guardian will cheer him on again. Almost every Leftist I know has done so multiple times in my lifetime.

... then I think it's about time we started linking you to people like Pinochet, Mussolini,
Started? Ha! Regular as clockwork for me and other Righties to be compared and linked to such, usually implicitly. Comes with the territory.

Anonymous said...

TOP Wants to work with Māori Party for 2020 election
https://www.maoritelevision.com/news/politics/top-wants-work-maori-party-2020-election?

Now there is someone with political smarts

Unknown said...

It is by no means certain, however, that this country will be spared the malign effects of vicious right-wing populism forever. A significant downturn in the New Zealand economy; one jarring social reform too many; and, who knows, a frightened, angry and culturally displaced mass of New Zealanders may find their “drummer”.
...........
Chinese are pushing New Zealanders out of the tourist industry.
Tourism employs 1 in 7 (directly).
Real wages are falling in tourism (and hospitality).
More and more people are waking up to the fact that the world they see isn't as rosy as that depicted in the media.
Add housing to that
and quality of life
and a loss of identity. "our values" are what?
Auckland is a "worse place to live"
Lianne Dalziel has ambitions of a thriving 2 million in greater Christchurch.
.............
And hasn't Winston been a phoney - only interested in power.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Tom. If you could only avoid the strawmen, stereotypes, assumptions, and cheap shots then you might hoist yourself a rung or two above the knuckle draggers on Cameron Slater's blog.

Anonymous said...

Look forward to your post on Peters Chris

J Bloggs / December 20, 2018
This is quite possibly the best sign Winston’s given that he intend to finish his political career at the end of this term.

If, as I suspect, he is not returning to parliament again, then there is no reason for him to keep the NZ First ship afloat. And with this move he’s well and truly torpedoed it for any potential successor. I can’t see Shane Jones or Ron Marks pulling the party out of the death spiral from this one.

12 2 Rate This
Reply

Gezza / December 20, 2018
And the really sweet thing about it all is, to rub his “Thanks suckers, I’ve had a ball” in their faces, he’ll be picking up a knighthood on the way out. 😀
https://yournz.org/2018/12/20/response-to-winston-peters-support-of-un-migration-compact/

Tauhei Notts said...

"The imbittered silence of those who feel their most cherished beliefs have been overridden and ignored is all-too-easily mistaken for consent and approbation by progressive campaigners. It is neither"
Then I thought of same sex marriage. My dislike of Gays is that they drink too much of my expensive wine when they come to visit and make condescending remarks about our home décor, but their humour is priceless.

KJT said...

Tom Hunter.

Or. We can look at real life examples instead of hypothetical's.

Such as real life Costa Rico and even Cuba, compared with the rule of right wing Governments. The right wing is extremely quiet about the failure of their ideal, right wing, deregulated State. Honduras. The source of Trump's refugee problem.

Of course quote Venezuala and Greece. Decades of right wing corruption adopted by many as the normal state of things, and tax avoidance by the rich, have nothing to do with their present state, of course?

We even have the example of USA's blue States vs red States. The red States are being propped up by the "over-regulated socialists" in the "blue States. The only successful blue State is North Dakota, with their State controlled banking system.

The overall success of the Scandinavian "welfare States", new deal USA and 60's New Zealand, are even more proof that you are talking nonsense.

KJT said...

Except, in New Zealand the majority supports human rights for minorities'.

It is the "rednecks" in Te Atatu who voted in the first openly gay MP.
And the farmers of Carterton, a transvestite!

NZ is much more socially liberal than most.

The backlash may come when workers loose to much wages, jobs and social conditions because of a huge influx of immigrants designed to do just that.

Unfortunately immigrants will probably be blamed, not the people who allowed them in so they can make more money exploiting them.

greywarbler said...

Tauhei Notts
Gays - sharp as tacks eh. The wit of Oscar Wilde certainly lights up the discourse still today. They seem to add a level of astringency wherever they go. Also I find them rather self-centred; not interested too much in the problems of parents and growing families; rather boring, too ordinary?