Tuesday, 4 August 2020

The Third Referendum.

Let's Do This Again: What else can Jacinda do in a political environment so bereft of imagination and courage but seek a continuance? If she trades upon the extraordinary personal qualities that she has, miraculously, carried with her into the office of Prime Minister, then I, for one, will offer no criticism. In the absence of the great collectivities upon which the historic Left relied to enrich the poor and make the weak strong, progressive New Zealanders are left with an intelligent, kind, brave, and very competent young woman.


JACINDA ARDERN’S STRATEGY for this election is now clear. She will be inviting New Zealanders to vote in three referendums. The referendum on Cannabis. The referendum on Euthanasia. And the referendum on her government’s handling of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Otherwise known as the General Election, this third referendum will be presented as an opportunity to endorse the course Jacinda has set for the country. While a reasonable amount of doubt surrounds the outcome of the first and second referendums, the outcome of the third is regarded as a “dead cert” by most voters. “Captain Jacinda” and her Labour crew will be urged to “stay the course” and sail the good ship New Zealand safely home.

 Many on the Left, caught up in the excitement of a prospective electoral victory so emphatic that Labour may be in a position to govern alone, are imploring the party to seize the time and enact the most comprehensive reform of New Zealand institutions since 1984. All the things the Left was hoping for: the “transformation” promised by Jacinda but countermanded by Winston Peters; will become possible in a House of Representatives dominated by Labour and the Greens.

 Really? How much is the New Zealand Left (as it used to be understood) willing to bet? Which of those institutions that, historically, have been thought of as “progressive” (left-wing political parties, the trade unions, universities, the teaching profession, tertiary student bodies and the arts community) will step up to insist that Jacinda and her ministry enact a genuinely transformative programme? Let’s examine each of these collectivities in turn.

 It is a sad – but entirely fair – question: Do any left-wing parties still exist in New Zealand? Over the course of the past thirty years, the number of political organisations dedicated to the full emancipation of working people and their families and committed to an unequivocally internationalist and anti-imperialist foreign policy, has shrunk uncomfortably close to zero.

 In the 1990 general election, two such parties – the NewLabour Party and the Greens – between them accounted for a very respectable 12 percent of the popular vote (219,086 votes). Three years later, those same two parties, now united in the Alliance, won 18.21 percent support (350,063 votes) and two parliamentary seats. (A remarkable feat under the then prevailing First-Past-the-Post electoral system!)

 By 1990, Labour, which had once been included among the parties of the New Zealand Left, could no longer be accounted such. Following the policy “revolution” unleashed by David Lange and Roger Douglas, the party had shrunk very rapidly to the point where it could no longer be considered a mass party. The split which gave rise to NewLabour in 1989 left it smaller still.

 Perhaps the best that can be said of Labour in the years following 1984 is that it remained relatively progressive on social issues. On the all-important issues of working-class emancipation, redistributive economic justice and anti-imperialism, however, it had shifted decisively to the right – and remains there.

 The secret of Labour’s survival as a viable political party, and the reason why so many New Zealanders still think of it as “left-wing”, is due to it being the party people vote for to keep the much more recognisably right-wing National Party out of government. It is this core electoral function which gives it so much political gravity. Inevitably, all its smaller rivals become either orbiting moons (the Greens) or are spun off into the inter-stellar darkness (New Labour).

 In other words, Labour, like National, is defined almost entirely by what it is not. The moment either party abandons this essentially negative function – as Labour did between 1972 and 1975, and National did between 1990 and 1993 – they are instantly perceived as threats. Those deemed responsible for turning their parties “rogue” are either removed or tamed. New Zealand democracy, in its essence, is about the voting public enforcing political restraint. Politics as a process of driving radical economic and social change is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 All those other “progressive” institutions – unions, universities, students associations, the arts – drew their social and economic power from the radical changes ushered in by the first and second Labour governments. For fifty years these bastions of progressivism acted as the guarantors of the social-democratic reforms that gave rise to the Welfare State. It was precisely because they served as social-democracy’s bodyguards that the instigators of the neoliberal counter-revolution of the 1980s and 90s, like so many Mafia hit-men, made it their business to take them out of the picture.

 What are the unions of today? Fighters for the rights and living-standards of their members? Hardly! Today’s union is a structure filled with well-remunerated officials holding convivial negotiations with the bosses whilst perched on the backs of workers who have never been so carelessly exploited – nor so indifferently defended.

 And the universities? Do they still act as havens for inquiring minds? Are they the fiercely independent guardians and disseminators of their civilisation’s canonical truths? Not really. Today’s university is a white-anted corporate ruin which is only prevented for collapsing into post-modern sawdust by all the neoliberal termites holding hands. Students are paying customers – nothing more.

 And the Artists? What have they become? Idiots telling tales only the rich can afford to listen to, and from which the state’s cultural commissars have extracted every last drop of power and pity. In the immortal words of the Kiwi poet A. R. D. Fairburn: “The mushroom grows in the open ground; the toadstool under a tree.”

 What else can Jacinda do in a political environment so bereft of imagination and courage but seek a continuance? If she trades upon the extraordinary personal qualities that she has, miraculously, carried with her into the office of Prime Minister, then I, for one, will offer no criticism. In the absence of the great collectivities upon which the historic Left relied to enrich the poor and make the weak strong, progressive New Zealanders are left with an intelligent, kind, brave, and very competent young woman.

 To the question posed in the Third Referendum: Should Jacinda stay at the helm of our ship of state – yes or no? I’ll be standing on my desk and shouting: “Oh captain, my captain, yes, stay!”


This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 4 August 2020.

16 comments:

Len Richards said...

Chris's left pessimism rules. No Left Turn is ever possible. Well he is right as far as the Labour Party is concerned. Left boldness is an ever retreating chimera.

Andrew Nichols said...

Perhaps the best that can be said of Labour in the years following 1984 is that it remained relatively progressive on social issues. On the all-important issues of working-class emancipation, redistributive economic justice and anti-imperialism, however, it had shifted decisively to the right – and remains there.

Common to all the old Labour parties of the commonwealth and euro socialist social democratic parties, Identity politics at the expense of the class war.

That's why the Stalinist political assassination of Jeremy Corbyn was so tragic. Had he won and become Brit PM of a genuine socialist mandate, it would have given licence to all these other parties to become genuinely transformative.

Nick J said...

Andrew, you call out the current heresies beautifully. There are some counter instinctive realities going on.

Emancipation from the Right. The workers voted for Trump and Boris, who are just as unlikely to emancipate them as the Left. The current Left represents who? I'm not sure.

Class politics versus identity politics, another heresy. Basically the concentration on the personal and marginal at the expense of bigger broader issues that impact everybody. Its real divide and conquer and as you rightly state very Stalinist. Poor Jeremy, an opportunity lost indeed.

Jens Meder said...

All ye Socialists apparently are still unaware of the reality, that Socialism is nothing but totalitarian State Monopoly Capitalism - and not Social Democratic "Welfareism", the success of which is delivered by widespread participation in profits dependent and delivering private (people's) capitalism.
Remember, that without genuinely profitable productivity there can be only economic stagnation or even widening poverty, regardless how hard or long you work.

Therefore - is not profitability (or the ability to create or deliver surpluses?) the key to economic progress and prosperity ?

Phil S said...

All social democratic and Labour parties have been challenged by globalization since the 1980s. Some disappeared (Italy, Greece). Some have flourished (Spain, NZ). Some have floundered (uk, Germany, France). Be grateful you're here, Chris and others.

kiwidave said...

Just read an interesting Essay by Zaid Jilani on recent research into the left/right/authoritarian/libertarian dispositions.

https://quillette.com/2020/08/03/the-woke-left-v-the-alt-right-a-new-study-shows-theyre-more-alike-than-either-side-realizes/

"Until now, the personality linkages between authoritarian right-wing and authoritarian left-wing individuals was based largely on informally pooled anecdotal observations. This is perhaps the first time that the personality congruence between these two emerging groups—nominally progressive Politically Correct Authoritarians, and alt-right White Identitarians—has been studied systematically. And the results reinforce the social sense that many of us get from our most ideologically intolerant co-workers and social-media contacts: Notwithstanding their diametrically opposed political postures, both hard Left and hard Right seem disproportionately populated by individuals who are impelled to control others’ behavior, and draw attention to themselves.

The problem, of course, is that it has been the PCA branch of progressivism that have been ascendant in recent years, at least in the United States. Whereas the dominant strain of cultural leftism once was primarily characterized by a spirit of compassion, it increasingly has come to be dominated by intolerant scolds who seem more eager to shame heretics than to do actual good in the world. Studies like this one should serve as a wake-up call: Given the strident manner with which progressives denounce bigotry, it surely should trouble them to know that, where underlying personalities are concerned, priests and heretics look very much alike."

Brendan McNeill said...

For the best part of 60 years, the Left has been repudiating the foundations of what we once understood as Western civilisation. They have been very successful in doing so, largely by occupying our Universities, and being overwhelmingly represented in the bureaucratic arm of Government.

Consequently, those who have been ‘educated’ into understanding the ‘evils’ of colonialism, Christianity, the patriarchy, the police, all forms of authority, and more recently ‘whiteness’ are committed to destroying what remains of ‘the edifice’ eagerly awaiting a golden utopia to emerge from the ashes.

The political process is rapidly becoming defunct, with democracy being just one more institution, like the church, that has lost its moral authority.

Culture is upstream from politics, so it matters little who wins here or in the USA later this year. We have educated ourselves into imbecility and the barbarians are calling the shots. Who would have thought that any Western City Council would be voting to disband their police department? Yet that’s exactly what the city of Seattle is about to do, and to replace them with….. community social workers. That’s the revolution comrades, right there. It seems that Portland and other cities governed by the Left will not be far behind.

If you think such lunacy is confined to America, think again.

It takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds for light from the sun to reach earth. We are living in days when the light of western civilisation has been extinguished not only in the hearts and minds of students, but of those Left leaning governing authorities that we formally relied upon to be the adults in the room.

We are somewhere in the 8:20 window.

greywarbler said...

Interesting kiwidave thanks. Reminds me of what Victor Klemperer, a Jewish survivor of Dresden in WW2 said; he had been employed at a university before the war, and went back to his job there under Communist rule. He said that their system was just the same as previously.

The general ideals espoused to control behaviour and methods are often more spoken of than followed, so perhaps the dominant always rise to the top. This could be where Bertrand Russell's musing would apply:

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

Bertrand Russell
Author Profession: Philosopher
Nationality: British
Born: May 18, 1872
Died: February 2, 1970

aberfoyle said...

In town yesterday, walking doon the street comes to a four corner cross lights section, to my left used to be a shop been empty for a while, so surprised to see it full of National Party Propaganda eh! their new electrol headquarters and cleaver position really, for across the intersection are four empty main street shops to the left six to the right three and direct across a large $2 shop. So walking down another hundred yards is a wee shop, and there is the Labour Party headquarters, have a look in there,three my age around one male two ladies. Asking them how!s the support holding up, and across the wall is all phot!s of Labour Party Prime Ministers, ending with a perfect photoshop pic of the Present Prime Minister, was going to say wheres Bill Rowlling, wheres Geof Palmer, where!s Mike Moore, didny though to churlish. The chap said they are all talking looking at Jacinda, they are all flocking to her, young old all of various political opinions. Who says the cult of personality is dead.

Geoff Fischer said...

Dr Bloomfield's reported statement that it is not a case of "if" there is community transmission (of Covid-19 in New Zealand) but "when" and that community transmission is "inevitable" changes the picture. For Dr Bloomfield it was a judicious claim. If there is a second wave (which is not quite the same thing as community transmission) then no one will be able to blame him for failing to prevent the inevitable. Ashley Bloomfield will remain the patron saint of Alert Level 4.
But what about the Labour government, whose political future would seem to hang on avoiding community transmission and a second wave? Even the notion that the weeks of isolation, the loss of jobs and income have all been for nought, could be enough to scuttle Labour's chances in the "third referendum".
This time it is the Director-General who has thrown his minister under a bus.
All the signs are that Labour can win the third referendum on the strength of its performance to date. But it is staking everything on that single issue. It has little else to show for three years in government and nothing to promise for the next three years. A second wave before the election would dash its hopes. Even a self-interested comment from the Director-General of Health might.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"A questionable source exhibits one or more of the following: extreme bias, consistent promotion of propaganda/conspiracies, poor or no sourcing to credible information, a complete lack of transparency and/or is fake news. Fake News is the deliberate attempt to publish hoaxes and/or disinformation for the purpose of profit or influence (Learn More). Sources listed in the Questionable Category may be very untrustworthy and should be fact checked on a per article basis. Please note sources on this list are not considered fake news unless specifically written in the reasoning section for that source. See all Questionable sources.
 Overall, we rate Quillette Questionable based on the promotion of racial pseudoscience and the use of poor sources."

Geoff Fischer said...

Kia ora Brendan MacNeil
Disbanding the police department does not signal the end of civilization. Police forces are a nineteenth century innovation, therefore very recently arrived on the scene. We didn't have one here until after the establishment of British government, and the first task of the new "Armed Constabulary" was to dispossess and suppress our people.
You won't find a police force mentioned in the Bible. The closest you would come to it are the Roman legions who crucified our Lord.
Which is not to say that we judge all police officers harshly. Most have good intentions. Unfortunately, however, they are obliged to serve the interests of the British Crown in New Zealand.
So I really think you need to choose where your own loyalties lie. With Ihoa o nga mano and Ihu Karaiti or with the British crown and its system of exploitation and control? With Christianity or colonialism? As Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters".

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Who would have thought that any Western City Council would be voting to disband their police department?"
The city of Camden New Jersey disbanded its police department. The crime rate went down.

Seattle is not going to instantly disband its police department, but is planning to defund it to some extent and put that money into "social workers" as you describe them – not quite accurate but never mind – partly because more than 50% of the calls to the police are of a noncriminal nature. And given the reaction of American police to people with social problems which seems to be shoot first and ask questions later this will probably improve things as well.
"Defund the police" does not actually necessarily mean disband them but usually means they stop letting them spend money on military style hardware which they don't really need, and the appearance of which often make situations worse.
You do tend to leap in without much investigation Brendan. And you tend to operate on emotion rather than reason I'm afraid.

Nick J said...

So Geoff where do you think that the term sheriff comes from? Try shire reeve, a role that encompassed arresting people and having men at arms as constables to keep the Kings Peace in medieval times. Policing in the John Peel manner replaced earlier policing practices in response to modern urban growth. There have always been police.

Brendan McNeill said...

Good morning Geoff

Thank you for your thoughtful response to my comments on Chris’s post. It is true we don’t see an explicit description of a police force in the Bible, but equally we don’t see a State funded welfare system either. What we do see in the first half of Romans 13 is a legitimisation of civil authority, and instructions to submit to that authority not only to avoid punishment but for the sake of conscience. Note well, this was written at a time when the Romans occupied Israel and were very much a colonial power throughout much of the known world.

The ability to impose a punishment presupposes the existence of a justice system of some kind, and the means to capture, restrain, try and (in some cases) execute offenders. That’s definitely in the Bible as expressed in Romans 13.

The Scriptures also teach us about the heart of man, from the story of Kane and Abel through to the mob calling for Jesus crucifixion, a man whose only ‘crime’ was to offend the religious leaders of the day. Therefore, we need to be defended against the evil intentions of Kane, and protected from the dangers of mob justice. Who is going to do that if not some form agency in the form of a police force?

Geoff, you posit an either / or challenge at the end of your response. I wonder if being one of the people, a servant of Jesus Christ, and being a good citizen and a subject of the British Crown are mutually exclusive propositions as you appear to suggest? We have many Maori in our police force, and in our armed services, some of whom I presume will also be Christians? Are they siding with the ‘colonialists’? Should their service to their local communities and our nation be disparaged?

Geoff Fischer said...

Kia ora Brendan
You have the story of Cain and Abel back to front. If you know your Bible symbology you will know that Cain (the tiller of soil and builder of cities) represents civil society while Abel (the shepherd or pastor) represents the spiritual power. So the state and its police force are the descendants of Cain, who are protected from the peoples anger by the "mark of Cain" which is God's recognition that the civil power is, if you like, a necessary evil.
Romans 13 "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God".
But how do you know who is "the governing authority" in a time of civil war or constitutional conflict?
Clearly, the legitimate authorities are those whose authority has been "established by God". Rangatiratanga was established in Aotearoa by God Almighty, Ihoa on nga mano who makes repeated reference to that system of government in the Holy Gospels. By contrast te Kawanatanga - colonialism and British sovereignty - was imposed by force of secular arms and has no place in God's plan for our nation. So if you are going to follow Romans 13 you will submit to rangatiratanga and reject the colonial kawanatanga.
Those who serve the British crown in New Zealand are colonialist regardless of ethnicity. However that does not mean that we need to "disparage" or judge those who serve the colonial regime through its police force or armed services or in any other capacity. After all the apostle Mathew although a tax collector and servant of the Roman empire was at heart a good man who became a servant of the Lord.