Thursday 15 February 2024

Are You A Leftist?

Nothing To Lose But Our Chains: The emancipatory movement which the Left, understood correctly, has always been, cannot accommodate those who are only able to celebrate one group’s freedom by taking it from another. The expectation, always, among leftists, is that liberty enlarges us. That striking-off a person’s shackles not only frees the person who wore them, but also the person who fastened them in the first place.

THERE WAS A TIME when a leftist’s definition of “leftism” corresponded pretty closely to everybody else’s definition. The term identified a coherent world view – to the point where knowing where someone stood on one issue enabled others to predict with surprising accuracy where they stood on a host of others. If a person was opposed to the death penalty, then the chances were high they were in favour of free speech. If they believed in the closed union shop, then they probably also believed in the public ownership of natural monopolies like power and water. It wasn’t easy being a left-winger – especially during the Cold War – but it was remarkably easy to define what it meant.

Today, the term “left-winger” is applied to persons holding an impossibly diverse and self-contradictory set of beliefs. From the traditional leftist who insists that the content and direction of policy should be informed by science; to the contemporary “leftist” who insists that: “Trans women are real women.” From left-wing parties determined to reinvigorate the public sector; to “left-wing” parties with neoliberal economic agendas indistinguishable from those of their right-wing competitors. From leftists who stand firm on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; to “leftists” who insist that “Hate Speech” be criminalised.

The use of scare quotes is, of course, intended to communicate the author’s rejection of the term leftist being applied to any person or party guilty of rejecting science, endorsing laissez-faire capitalism, or favouring the ideologically-driven restriction of their fellow citizens’ freedom.

There is one more test for determining whether or not one is a leftist – the History Test. If the study of history is reduced to little more than a search for evidence of the crimes of pre-ordained “enemies” and “oppressors’”, then by no means can the “historians” doing the searching be accurately described as left-wing. Indeed, those attempting to harness history to ideology are much more likely to be radical nationalists than radical democrats. Always remembering that another name for radical nationalism is “fascism”.

Leftists underserving of scare quotes regard history as a teacher, not a prosecutor; as a well, not a syringe. Ideology retreats before history in the same way that contaminated judgement retreats before the advance of uncontaminated evidence. Nothing gives away fake “leftism” more irretrievably than its deliberate falsification of history in the name of “social” or “national” justice.

A word or two needs to be inserted here to distinguish “leftism” from its numerous component ideologies: social-democracy, socialism, communism and anarchism. In brief: social-democracy seeks to significantly restrict the size of the capitalist marketplace; socialism attempts to extinguish the capitalist marketplace altogether; communism promotes a state dedicated to operationalising the principle “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”; and anarchism seeks to eliminate the state altogether.

As the world discovered, socialism and communism, precisely because they both sought to replace the economic and social structures with which most human-beings were familiar, provoked a great deal of resistance. In crushing that resistance, the socialists and communists were increasingly driven to rely on state-directed repression and terrorism. Consequently, the states which emerged from these struggles, although proudly describing themselves as socialist democracies, were in fact the cruellest of tyrannies, far removed from the emancipatory well-springs of the radical-democratic project called leftism.

That word, “emancipation” is crucial to a proper understanding of leftism. In societies where power and wealth are distributed in such a way that huge numbers of people are rendered economically, socially and politically defenceless, freeing the oppressed must always take priority.

The working-class, whose subsistence depends upon permitting the tiny capitalist minority who pay them to appropriate the “surplus value” of their labour. Women, denied their rightful share of life’s bounty by the systemic and oppressive violence which characterises societies dominated by men. Diverse ethnic communities, economically and culturally subjugated by those who claim superiority over all other ethnicities and who have shaped their societies to reward their prejudices. LGBTQI+, discriminated against because their behaviour challenges society’s gendered norms. One way or another, all these groups seek emancipation. Leftists are committed to making a world fit for free people to live in.

But, the emancipatory movement cannot accommodate those who are only able to celebrate one group’s freedom by taking it from another. The expectation, always, among leftists, is that liberty enlarges us. That striking-off a person’s shackles not only frees the person who wore them, but also the person who fastened them in the first place.

A fair redistribution of wealth and power ultimately liberates the capitalist as well as the worker. By ceasing to be men’s slaves, women make it possible for men to cease being their masters. The emancipation of the queer marches hand-in-hand with the liberation of the straight. Only by freeing the oppressed can the oppressors themselves become free. Slavery invented the whip, only freedom can make it disappear.

Applying these ideas to the salient political issue of the hour – how best to protect and/or give expression to Te Tiriti o Waitangi – where are the leftists to be found? Are they located at the side of those Māori who insist that Te Tiriti is sacrosanct, and must remain inviolate; that the descendants of those who signed the document 184 years ago – Māori and Pakeha – have no right to interrogate its meaning and relevance in the Twenty-First Century?

The answer can only be “No.” To treat Te Tiriti in this way is to fetishise it and, by doing so, eliminate its power, as a living document, to guide the New Zealand people. It would also entail ignoring the historical fact that notions of the Treaty of Waitangi’s intentions have changed radically over the years. Even worse, it would require leftists to turn a blind eye to the blatant revision of the Treaty’s meaning and purpose by Māori-aligned historians and jurists to facilitate the ideological aims and objectives of Māori irredentism.

If the leftist’s goal is emancipation, then the leftist’s role in this issue is to open up the space for a respectful, but open-ended, national debate on Te Tiriti – beginning, ideally, with the ideas contained in Margaret Mutu’s and Moana Jackson’s “Matike Mai Aotearoa”, and the “He Puapua Report”, and expanding outward from there.

To attack the idea of progressing a national debate on New Zealand’s “foundation document” is to expose oneself as someone who elevates ethnic identity above democracy, and, in the context of the current “official” understanding of Te Tiriti, honours the concept of “rangatiratanga” (chiefly leadership) above the democratic rights of individual citizens. Set within the context of the last 100 years of world history, these beliefs could not be defined, even vaguely, as left-wing – quite the reverse in fact.

This essay was originally posted on The Democracy Project of Thursday, 8 February 2024.


greywarbler said...

There is a fear that in re-examining Te Tiriti o Waitangi, people will exchange confused and biased ideas and present them with a coating of rationality and iron precision about how everything should work, cementing in bad attitudes and sterility. Then any efforts to change slightly or advance people who have been mentally abandoned by those higher up the ladder will be met by uncompromising fences. It's a reasonable fear.

Some scholarly thinking about the rule of law, rule by law, rule of power etc.
In studying law there is some philosophy also, though is it encouraged going forward, for further thought?

Holding our democracy to account: The rule of law vs. the ...
The Law Society of British Columbia › initiatives › Rule PDF
Rule by law is the opposite of the rule of law. In a society where rule by law applies, those in power choose which laws to apply — or not apply — against ...

What is the theory of Hart and Fuller?
According to Hart, the content of the law is determined by the rules of recognition, which are the social rules that determine which norms count as legal norms. These rules are created and enforced by human authorities, such as courts and legislatures. In contrast, Fuller argued that law and morality are inseparable.16 Feb 2023
Hart-Fuller Debate - UOLLB First Class Law Notes® › blog › law › hart-fuller-debate

(UOLLB® is a global leader in legal education, offering unparalleled learning resources, careers advice, and study tips for law students and legal professionals worldwide.)

(USA, Illinois reflections on law on the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Sept.2020)
The Rule of Law vs. the Rule of Power: a Reflection
farmdoc daily › 2020/09 › the-rule-...
by J Coppess · 2020 — The rule of power is its opposite. Our system of government was designed to guard against the arbitrary creation and application...

Law vs Persons: why legal rules matter
NZ/AO - AUT › news › stories › law-vs-person...
22 Nov 2023 — This is the opposite of the “rule of persons”, in which the rulers have arbitrary power: they have the authority to force you to do things ...

But then who makes the laws and enforces them? Do the people have a say and then if we do, are we able to be both rational and fair?

Lastly this from Quora to the question 'What is the absence or the rule of law?'which appears to be from AI: Assistant - a Bot

The absence of the rule of law refers to a situation where there is no effective legal framework to govern a society. This can lead to arbitrary rule, lack of legal protections for individuals, and a lack of accountability for those in power. In such a situation, the principles of fairness, justice, and equality before the law may be disregarded, leading to instability and insecurity.

So some thoughts from 'the AI machine' and from entities like universities and scholars set up within our 'machinery' of higher education, for people. Will these thoughts help in calm and fair consideration for Maori and Pakeha agreement on mutual law. I hope so, but there must be a fervent wish to accommodate ideas and wishes from both cultures.

Anonymous said...

NO!! I am a woman who tries to think - to reason. I know I need to read and listen and learn, but bottom line to wrestle with facts and loyalties and prejudices, history - mine and societies'. I have no respect at all for people who vote as they have always done, feel comfortable going with the crowd. I believe it is not only truly erroneous, but stupid, to maintain this old structure and its terminology.

DS said...

You're overlooking another type of Leftist: one who regards the endless natter over the Treaty as tiresome and utterly irrelevant to one's day-to-day life. And that goes for the wall-to-wall right-wing hysteria as much as it does the puritanical social activists.

The sooner we can get back to economics - the only thing that matters - the better. As it is, culture war can only ever be the ally of right-wing economics. Once upon a time, I would have thought you would have recognised Seymour's Treaty nonsense or Peters' embrace of TERFdom for what it is. Now it looks like you've bought into this culture war: hook, line, and sinker. How long before your economic views start drifting too, I wonder?

LittleKeith said...

Am I a leftist? No longer. The modern left concerns me greatly.

The now dead Labour Green government changed me politically. A government that spoke with a forked tongue, it was secretive and highly manipulative. The hang overs are still giving.

Whether it was laughy Uncle Willie's $50 million media purchase for propaganda purposes or the real purpose of 3 Waters of control of an essential commodity, to that legislations super majority slipped in only for the dishonest bastards to be caught with their fingers in the till forcing a back peddle, Labour broke my trust.

A perfect example is the latest blow up with Auckland Transport this week with their 28 traffic impediments costing 10's of millions of dollars in Pt Chev. A line in a Herald article gave the game away and finally established why this dumb animal of an organisation does what it does. Labour secretively set a condition, as a priority, that the fuel tax fleeced off Auckland motorists would only be given to AT if they built the traffic impediments, cycle lanes and 30kmhr zones that are routinely hated in Auckland. As the left hate cars vis a vis freedom of movement which goes hand in hand with their climate change religion, Labour knew their ideology was loathed but these narcissists were smart enough to put AT firmly in the front line of blame. Innocent Labour sat quietly by knowing AT wouldn't out them and wrongly thought the anger would not be attributed to them. The problem with that was the left were pissing off voters with so many other woke causes, voters realised the only way to stop the madness was to boot Labour out.

The left are the woke, radical Greens woke or shifty dodgy liberal Labour Grey Lynn woke, they are all the same.

The left are convinced that they're right to the point of believing righteous manipulation is a justifiable means to an end and have become increasingly authoritarian. Dishonesty is part of that. And with that knowledge how could anyone vote Labour again? Or the left!

The Barron said...

This is the latest in a series in which you expound NZ First positions while trying to tie it to your previous political beliefs. To do so you employ false dichotomies. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not exclusive of 'Hate Speech" restrictions, and is in many cases complementary. Gender identity variations are common place in pre-industrial communal societies. The "working class" has always disproportionately included women and ethnic minorities.

Wealth gives options and protection. We simply need to look to British class system to show the level of same sex behavior in the upper-classes and elite schools, while legislating against the same and exploiting the poor. It is the role of the left to give to all the same options and protection as those at the top have. We should also examine the levers of excluding others from power and resources. Gender and ethnicity have been factors of exclusion, nd the left must redress this. You can not have equality by freezing inequality, and continuing the model that enabled that system. That is why the left should be discussing equity as a process for moving towards equality.

I am continually astounded by the lack of credible analysis concerning the Treaty. It is in essence about the right to maintain a system of rights, resources and governing of the NZ state (which Maori are stake holders and participants) and a system of rights, resources and governing for the descendants of te Iwi Maori. The left should fight for and ensure empowerment for the working class, with and inclusive of Maori, within the NZ state. Within the Maori side of te Tiriti, the Maori working class have fought (and largely won) emancipation.

Despite this blog being full of uneducated and patronizing comments on Maori 'elites', te Iwi Maori organizations are highly democratic and have wide communication with members. There may still be some issues remaining, but that is for the Maori left and working class to resolve. Given the disproportionate negative statistics Maori have within the state side of the Treaty, I think it is disingenuous to criticize Maori service and resource distribution. Chris' view that Maori conceptionalisation that “rangatiratanga” is frozen in time and that Maori are not a developing people that have incorporated tradition and change into todays Maori ontology is profoundly worrying. I doubt if he would apply the same to Irish or Scottish nationalism.
Rangitiratanga is based on leadership maintaining mana tangata. Whether invested in a person or organization, here is no rangitiratanga without the will and support of the people. Chris' assertion - "the concept of “rangatiratanga” (chiefly leadership) above the democratic rights of individual citizens" is anachronistic and imposing western egocentric concepts over Polynesian sociocentric world views, without understanding either the base linguistic origins, cultural development or basic anthropology.

I have commented elsewhere, and at length, why there is no right to be debating and revisiting te Tiriti. I will not repeat that. What I would ask the left to note was that when the Foreshore and Seabed decision was released, the then Labour government panicked. The Queens Chain must be maintained the left cried. Then it was clear that vast areas of our sea and lake coastal land was in the ownership of rich capitalists. The party of the working people still legislated to prevent Maori claims, while leaving the Queen's Chain broken by the empowered and the people excluded. When there is a chance for resources to be returned to a working class people that are Maori, the left hides.

swordfish said...

Which is why I call myself a traditional Social Democrat ... and why I refer to Bourgeois Woke Identitarians as self-interested frauds and charlatans ... scapegoating (while gaslighting) whole swathes of the Left's tradtional constituency - low & low-middle income Non-Maori - into a degraded second-class citizenship on ethnic/racial/cultural grounds.

Tom Hunter said...

Chris' assertion - "the concept of “rangatiratanga” (chiefly leadership) above the democratic rights of individual citizens" is anachronistic and imposing western egocentric concepts over Polynesian sociocentric world views, without understanding either the base linguistic origins, cultural development or basic anthropology.

It's amazing to me how this sort of anti-Western guff has become such a part of the mindset of guilt-ridden Western whites.

There is nothing basically different about "Polynesian sociocentric" world views than those of any other tribal societies around the world going back thousands of years. My Scottish and Irish clans had similar views and operations, including a pseudo democracy where the Chiefs got some input from the next level down - but no further than that. And naturally endlessly squabbling, tribal warfare was a part of that.

The key break from this came in Greece with the realisation of Cleisthenes, building on the ideas of Pistratus and Solon (and admittedly pushed to save his own skin from potential exile amidst the ongoing warfare of the Greek family tribes and clans) of "the demos" having not just a say but a vote on the kratos (power) in key matters of the society, irrespective of class or wealth, even if it only started with property -owning men.

It was the key that broke the power of the tribes and clans and offered a possibility of joining a greater and larger community. It's from this - and it is ultimately an "egocentric" concept - that Western society has developed and enveloped so many cultures, ethnicities and societies, including Maori tribes.

And of course the reason that all too many Lefists around the world have pushed back on this in recent decades and jumped on this anthropological bandwagon of Non-Western tribes having some special and superior form of governing - whether Native American Indian, Aborigine, Maori or Amazonian tribes - is that their own Western "sociocentric" (meaning collectivist) efforts have been stopped and even turned back by the West's relentless focus on the "egocentric"(meaning individual).

I'll bet 2,500 years of that advance against some reactionary call back to tribalism.

David George said...

Peters & Co have now said they would consider voting for ACT’s referendum Bill if a commonsense position can be found at Select Committee.

That's entirely reasonable, National need to see the sense of that position as well. A citizens initiated referendum is always an option though.

LittleKeith said...

Listening to your interview with Sean Plunkett explaining the new left answered my previous comment perfectly. A top down extremely politicised public service led implimentation of the lefts ideology.

The left that we experienced especially from 2020 to 2023 was all of that, combining the worst features of academia, the judiciary, the media and the willingness of some in the public service to force upon the people of this country, Labour Green ideology. The real estate agent who may lose her livelihood for refusing to do a Te Tiriti course is Orwellian which makes me despise the left even more. Without brutal force you cannot impose your will on any person, and even with force, the dam holding back the resentment can only hold so much. Labour Green forgot that.

Ideology implementation was done with stealth and layers of cover to not directly link any minister to it, covering the government's tracks (hence my AT Pt Chev comment) and if all else failed, plain old lying and deception. But whatever they did, never once did they intend on taking the people with them by consent. Nor trying to explain the inexplicable, like co-governance. They are right, even if they are wrong, not that anyone can question it. That is dangerous! That is the left.

As a nation NZ is probably one of the first to go down this rabbit hole and one of the first to reject it. Canada is struggling to free itself of similar, the US it appears would rather elect someone like Trump than continue with the Democrats version of it and the UK looks as though it's about to embrace the new left that is a far more virulent strain than anything NZ had but I'm guessing voters, tired of a very tired Conservative government, don't know what's in store. It will be an extremely interesting to see where that country lands at the end of it. I strongly suggest it will be for the worst.

The Barron said...

Sorry Tom, I think I was a little technical for you. The first point is that your a little insecure and defensive, and I apologize if I sparked your latent guilt. I did not make an anti-western comment. Being able to have better understanding of the ontology of one people and the language, is not a value judgement against another cultural value systems.

Maybe I should baby step you through the sentence you quoted. Rangitiratanga is a word from outside the English language and has conceptional meaning which come from a different language, especially that cannot be directly translated into English. In anthropology the term sociocentric is used to understand that there are societies, primarily in the east, pacific and the Americas, in which the self-perception of the individual is subsumed within the wider communal structures. Conversely, the society, be it village or state, is structured with this interrelationship with the members.

While your example of the Celtic clan system touches on this, it is not as all consuming as the eastern ontology. I do acknowledge that you refer to this as similar. I also acknowledge that you seem to be saying that western colonialism left many of these societies taking on more aspects of ego-centrism. You also give an account of the development of western ego-centrism. I have no problem with this and the ancient Greeks maintained tribal divisions as legend to give eponymous explanations and alliances, as did the ancient Judeans with the 12 tribe mythology. Neither of these could be seen as socio-centric as the remaining literature show.

You then, again, launch into claims that value judgements are made in regard to pre-European societies. No such judgement is made. What I am raising is language and the relationship to the ontological understanding of the people. An example of this is that kawanatanga is transliteration from Governor. This is Biblical or Missionary Maori and to understand how early 19th century Maori understood this term we would look to the biblical use, this is mainly used for Pontius Pilate. He governed Judea, but the judiciary and services were still provided by the local infrasture. It is reasonable to conclude that at Waitangi, if kawanatanga was understood by the ceding party, it was likely to be in line with the understanding of Pilate. Some at Waitangi had also visited NSW and Norfolk, there is another argument that this term may have been the transliteration used for Governor and that influenced some understanding. '

Rangitiratanga is not a transliteration. It is a term that comes from te reo Maori. Rangitira means Chief in a simple translation, 'tanga' is a qualifier, and if used 'tino'is an amplifier. Therefore, Chris suggesting it means chiefly leadership, is not without merit. However, most Maori would give as a simplified translation absolute ('tino') sovereignty (rangitiratanga). This is because while at the time of signing rangitira were holding authority on behalf of the people. Please note my comments as to mana tangata, the support of the people.

Indeed, we have the famous example of Titokowaru loosing mana and the support of the people before a proposed battle and therefore loosing authority. The warriors went home. He had to rebuild his mana later as a spiritual leader at Parihaka.

Chris's view that Rangitiratanga means 'Çhief' rather than 'Chieftainship' allows his argument that authority is somehow in an inherited position of an individual. This is where he has failed in terms of socio-centric ontology. The Crown is the NZ state, not an aged Englishman. Within the simplified translation of Chieftainship, this is about a body supported and upheld by the people that exerts sovereignty. It is simply a term for the leadership which within Maori ontology cannot be leadership unless it has mana tangata.

The Barron said...

I should point out - I am Pakeha and cannot speak te reo. I do have qualifications in anthropology and history. I also draw from Maori and Pasikifa sources. There are those with greater proficiency than I do as to understanding and explaining the way Maori and Pasifika use language conceptionally. I urge those on this blog to seek them out before comment or imposing on the language.

Tom Hunter said...

I do have qualifications in anthropology and history.

Oh dear. You should have stated that up front before trying to be intellectually superior, which is rather hard to do when people are laughing at you.

It also explains the verbosity in converting collectivism into "sociocentric" and individualism into "egocentric". No wonder we STEM majors looked down on anthropology at varsity. At least historians are careful about how their biases and prejudices impact their research, as well as being on guard against sophistry.

Speaking of which...

Rangitiratanga is not a transliteration. It is a term that comes from te reo Maori.

This may come as a surprise to you (I imagine many things do), but that language existed only in an oral form - with all the definitional problems over time they incorporate - and had to await British linguists turning up to perform the hard work of converting it into a written language and thus defining the meaning of the oral terms.

Given claims such as yours about the benighted incapabilities of English linguists in translating Maori terms, plus your "academic" background, I suspect we'll soon be hearing from you about the superiority of "indigenous knowledge" to Western knowledge.

The Barron said...

Oh, Tomiti. I have explained, I use the terms that are appropriate. Your understanding of language and a view that oral language does not have understood and shared meaning is sad.

Your obsessed with trying to suggest those that show difference are advocating that there is a superiority. I can only put it down to your own cultural insecurity. If I was to note, as most linguists do, that there are words in German that have no equivalent in English, despite both being Germanic language, I doubt even you would have a problem. That Maori have a different ontology and language reflects that, should be obvious. That simple translation outside the cultural framework is problematic is equally obvious.

As for knowledge, my recommendation is you try it out.

Ian said...

"A fair redistribution of wealth and power ultimately liberates the capitalist as well as the worker."

Does the capitalist also need to be re-educated in order to recognize that they have been liberated by their loss of wealth and power?

Hence the lack of such realisation (or re-education) that they have been liberated by the Left leads the Capitalists to roll back the gains of Left whenever they win at the ballot box.