Sunday 30 June 2024

The Buggers Who Complain.

Problem Solved? When all other options are exhausted, the firing squad remains. As Joseph Stalin is said to have declared: Eliminate the person, eliminate the problem.

THE BEST GUESS I can offer as to the author of the line is William Brandt. He wrote scripts for the 1990s New Zealand television crime series “Duggan”, starring John Bach as an introverted police inspector brooding morosely over the Marlborough Sounds. What was the line? As I recall, it was put in the mouth of an ageing communist, who had reduced his entire ideology to one brutal sentence: “Nationalise everything – and shoot the buggers who complain!”

As an honest summation of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, that line (whoever wrote it) is pretty hard to beat. Indeed, anyone who seriously proposes socialism as a solution to the world’s woes is being disingenuous if they suggest that the Red Dawn, should it ever arrive, will be the product of anything other than crushing centralised control and many, many, executions.

The problem is that it is difficult to present a society in which the local hairdressing salon has 150 chairs, and where critics of the government regularly disappear, as the sort of country in which anybody with a yearning to breathe free, or wear a striking hair style, would ever want to live.

If you’re a socialist living in a liberal democracy, the problem is compounded ten-fold. In those circumstances, the socialist paradise that must be painted has to strike one’s audience as appreciably better than the capitalist economy they currently inhabit. How is the orthodox comrade supposed to answer when asked: “Why would we trade games-consoles and Gucci fashion accessories for the guns and gulags of totalitarian communism?”

Not honestly, for a start. Or, at least, not when you’re addressing anyone who isn’t already so far ground down by the cruelties of capitalism that “guns and gulags” present themselves as intriguing possibilities.

For everyone else, the party line is simple. Guns and gulags are the inevitable outcome of revolutions that take place in under-developed peasant societies where freedom and prosperity have, for centuries, been the stuff of dreams. Socialist revolutions in advanced capitalist societies could only be expected in the most evolved democratic states. What need would the “democratic socialists” growing up in such states have of guns and gulags? Who needs the grim instrumentation of coercion when one’s society is already blessed with a modern and “progressive” education system?

Ah, “Education” – the answer to every problem. Whenever I queried my left-wing comrades about the fate of “the buggers who complain”, a steely glint would, for the briefest of moments, enter their eyes (as if they were picturing the people’s firing-squads in action) only to be followed, just as quickly, by an expression of kindly warmth.

“What would people have to complain about in a society where, thanks to an education system dedicated to undermining the hegemony of all oppressive structures, social justice can flow down like streams from the mountains?”

Such faith in the power of pedagogy! How proudly these comrades would describe their future Commonwealth of Unanimity, in which all accept the truths of socialism, and where teaching is the most revered profession.

And those issues which have always divided humanity: the limits of freedom; the morality of coercion; the inviolability of the individual human conscience; the sanctity of human life; the claims of the divine. How would our kindly socialist teachers prevent these profound questions from tearing their treasured Commonwealth of Unanimity apart?

Not an original question. And their answers were also lacking in novelty. Any failings in the process of eliminating the systems of oppression would have to be rectified by re-education.

And that is where the socialists’ castle in the air begins to disintegrate. Because that word, “re-education”, so often paired with “camp”, cannot help but draw a veil of darkening clouds across the future’s bright sky.

Ask the Uighurs of Xinjiang about the perils of “rectification through re-education”. Ask them about the high-rise complexes in which the tens-of-thousands giving incorrect answers to socialist questions are required to submit themselves to the pedagogy of raw political power. Day after day, week after week, until the lessons are mastered, and the rectified Uighur students are released into the warm embrace of the Peoples Republic’s agreed answers.

And the ones who refuse to submit to this nationalisation of their conscience? The buggers who keep complaining?

We all know the answer to that question.

They are shot.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 21 June 2024.


Don Franks said...

" anyone who seriously proposes socialism as a solution to the world’s woes is being disingenuous if they suggest that the Red Dawn, should it ever arrive, will be the product of anything other than crushing centralised control and many, many, execution" Goodness me. Well, guilty as charged, sort of. Sometime in 1972 I formed the opinion that capitalism was the source of most serious social problems - inequality, war, pollution- and that the international working class held the key to redressing this situation.I hold those same views today, in both hands. Certainly, many evils have been committed in the name of socialism, as they have been in the name of every other political label. What has truncated over the years has been any capitalist sanctioned vision of a civislised humanitatrian future. Left wing social democracy was once a real thing. Today, that camp is peopled entirely with cynical careerists. Indtisguishable from their fellow horse traders on the cross benches.

The Barron said...

Guns and Gulags and Education, Oh my.

Czarist Russia. Communist Soviet Union. Putin's Russia. I guess the difference today is that 100,000 of the prisoners are now given guns and sent to Ukraine.

Totalitarianism is about control. Socialism is an ideal. State ownership of crucial infrastructure, state living support, fair wealth distribution, equitable health and education provisions, the right to housing . . . None of this requires pervasive loss of civil or personal rights.

I remember that during the Nicaraguan revolution, a 'peasant' was interviewed. He told the documentarians that part of his job was to tend to the dogs at the mansion of one of the ruling elite. He had to feed these dogs the top prime steak available, then go home to watch his own children go hungry. Yet, if that bugger complained...

Larry Mitchell said...

Mmmm Communism ... or the more radical socialism is so "not NZ circa 2024".

So much so, that the subject today is rarely the subject of popular discussion and debate.

To this point ... that Chris Trotter may still air these antique issues but the proles could not care less.

It seems doubtful... alien Chinese? invaisons aside, if we in our lifetimes need to seriously debate the Communism V Capitalism contest.

That train left the station when we were offered free education and health care and we all could afford a colour TV and a Morris 1100 family Sedan ... back in the sixties.

David George said...

Thank you Chris, great essay.
Genuine diversity is a real problem for the collectivists - despite their claims to the contrary. If your Utopia requires Guns and Gulags or censorship and "re-education" it's bound to fail.

Pageau and Peterson on the growing polarisation of identity between the poles of the atomised individual and totalising state, and how subsidiarity offers an alternative, richer vision of identity and belonging.

"The modern and postmodern ages alike were and are characterised by an increasingly simplified and starkly dichotomous notion of human existence and development. The simplest overarching conceptualisation of human identity separates and divides the person into the opposing poles of sovereign individual and faceless automaton of the state.
In doing so, the complex internal hierarchy of the person — all the intrapsychic elements warring within, different motivations, emotions, drives, and impulses; different subordinate physiological, physical, biological, and chemical subsystems; the host of fractious psychological complexes and spirits—are collapsed to the singularity of autonomous liberal man, imbued mysteriously with intrinsic rights, and segregated in essence from any broader social context.

That broader social context is then, likewise, collapsed: couple, family, neighbourhood, workplace, city, province and nation are subsumed into society, or collective, or the state, separate from, antithetical to, or even superordinate above the individual. Those who worship power trumpet the former; those who worship whim elevate the latter. The individual, thus collapsed, is all-too-easily viewed in opposition to the collective, leading those who favour self to view all social bonds as contrary to the call of freedom or even indistinguishable from oppression, while those who favour society view individual existence itself as naught but impediment to the establishment of the utopian collective."
Follow the link to the remarkable research paper itself.

Chris said...

Capitalism is consumption unfettered. It spreads its wings and finds its natural partners where pollution and corruption are the products of imperialism, exploitation and greed. Capitalism was courted and adopted by our colonialial predecessors and continues unabated. Uninvited unwanted invasions by a select few on the pretense of being the civilized, the good guys,the arbiters of free exchange and free speech. Yet when it comes to the crunch like their communist cousins, they are cynically very selective about who enters their club.It depends on who they like, who they determine as the good guys. Examples abound - US interference and destabilization of states in Asia,Latin America, Africa,the Middle East and now the Pacific. Chinese imperialism and opression of its minorities and neighbours. Russian nepotism and so we go on. Capitalism finds easy bed partners with authoritarian regimes. Again look at China, Russia, Chile under Pinochet... Capitalism gives lip service to human rights, freedom of speech and democracy while it allows its institutions to be corrupted by the greedy and powerful. Just look at the US, the current growth of fascism and the far right in Europe, all products of dysfunctional capitalist mischief making. So what is the left or right? Perhaps we are talking a myth, a figment of our imaginations. Something that gives us permission to hate, for tribalism to encroach and usurp our neighbours, reinforcing our own deluded insecurities. Perhaps the left and right are dysfunctional family members and not so far apart after all. Perhaps this debate is a distraction that helps us choose the bad guy, allows us to throw a few bombs and like the school bully feel satisfied that we have beaten the shit out of any useless bugger that dares challenge our own perverted view of the world. Just saying....

Anonymous said...

I read an article the other day claiming that Tikanga is the supreme law in New Zealand. Per the article it sits above both the courts and Parliament. If that is really the case we are not a liberal democracy. What the article didn't discuss is who pulls the levers of Tikanga.

David Stone said...

Communism , or the conception of it suffers from the fact that it has never been applied in a democracy. It has always had to be imposed on the population by military force. So it is always associated with despotic rule. It would have a chance if it could ever be introduced by popular agreement but that is hard to imagine as the day to day decisions about who will do what and how they are remunerated by necessity has to be made for the whole comunity by some central power . What a nightmare job.
The fact of the matter is that capitalism , to the degree that it can be regarded as synonomous with private enterprise, is basic human nature. We all want as much choice in our lives about how we earn a living and where we live as a reasonable need to intergrate with other people as we can have, And that means some form of capitalism , though the word itself implies that capital controls everything and hence those that control the capital control the society. Which certainly has been increasingly the case over the last 40 years.
The way I see it is that the elected state shold control capital ; and the capital infrastructure that we all need ; power, roading, etc and the other things that require the utilisation of vast natural resources, should be owned by the community through the state . Just like it used to be as only the state could finance such infrastructure. Everything else should be private enterprise but with some controls against monopolies to maintain an equal oportunity for new people to enter the market place. Capitalism is a good servant but a bad master. Neoliberalism makes it the master.

DS said...

Fascism is on the march throughout the Western World, and yet you think attacking whatever elderly members of the Socialist Unity Party or the CPNZ still exist is somehow the pressing issue? Someone has misplaced their priorities.

The Barron said...

I have not seen the article, but tika means correct add the suffix and tikanga is about a correct way of doing things. All nations have processes that have developed or evolved with ceremonial part of process and an agreement as to the formal requirements of the process.
You mention the courts, we have an accepted tikanga as to court or Parliamentary processes and ceremonial practice.
What you seem concerned about is that we incorporate tikanga Maori into the current customary practice. Again, using court tikanga as the example, we are aware that the custom practice has changed and adapted without tikanga Maori being the catalyst. That ìndigenous tradition is being used and adapted to be integrated in some change would seem natural. Court tikanga preexisting, and now incorporates a developed tikanga which includes an acknowledgment of tikanga Maori.
Of course both the tikanga of the courts a d tikanga Maori are more than ceremonial, the substance should also have mutual development
That is integrating tikanga Maori with the options available to the courts. In this, the correct way of behavior is for solutions for Maori to be considered for a court understanding of solutions within tikanga Maori, by Maori and for Maori.
Of course, the courts new incorporated tikanga broadens views and opinions for all.

new view said...

Socialism and Communism, going by their names, gives the impression of togetherness and social responsibility. IMO that can only be possible if those in power are interested to make that happen, or have the ability to make it happen. Even then, as in the case of Russia and China, a corrupted leader and their inner circle together with unbridled power, get to do what they want. Both Russia and China have succeeded in retaining their convenient political systems not because they are good systems but because they recognised capitalism and economic growth are required in the modern world and they have adopted them while retaining absolute power. Something some of their failed predecessors didn't think necessary. Democratic political systems have the potential to be just as corrupt, but they also have other safeguards that make the shift to authoritarianism harder. I guess what Im trying to say here is that it's the leaders of political systems who have the power to make them work but who fail because power becomes more important to them. In NZ it is no different. To me moderate socialism could work with a clever intelligent leader and MPs who understood the importance of economic growth, but because ideology gets in the way, the thought of having one section of the community doing better than another is abhorrent. No one should be allowed to be more clever and make more money than his neighbour and if they do we should take more of their earnings off them to make it fairer. As leaders, both Luxon and Hipkins have the potential to make NZ a better more productive and socially responsible place but political ambition and power is likely to stop that happening. Getting rid of the opposition in NZ may not mean shooting them, yet.

John Hurley said...

Capitalism is the principles of ecology extended to human culture. There is nothing to guarantee a good outcome unless we see the big picture and play God to some degree.
Eg each species specialises (finds a niche): a tick sucks off an ox; grass converts water, nutrients and CO2 to proteins(?) and carbohydrates etc. This is a market in action (looks like it anyway).
The whole system operates within the capabilities of evolved human nature. There is a gradient from kin and ethnic group to stranger and there isn't an infinite pot that the 1% control.
It has never been clear exactly how Maori seizing control will be any different. Those arguments as they become more prominent become more incoherent and confined to He Whenua Taurikura, Te Tiriti Futures and CARE Massey.

John Hurley said...

Racism and Ethnicity Paul Spoonley Steve Maharey 1988
Dominant group racism will be obvious in a variety of ways from the use of particular words through to complete and publicly expressed political ideologies. Of course, not all members of a dominant group will express their racism in the same way or will necessarily be racist. But because of their dominant position, whatever racism that does exist within the group, will have implications for the social relations of a particular society. Finally, it needs to be acknowledged that racism takes different forms and does change over time. The idea of 'race' has changed substantially in the last century, and will continue to be expressed in new ways. In the late 1980s, the arguments of the New Right, aided by sociobiology, have produced what Gordon and Klug (1986) have called the 'new racism'. Sociobiology explains animal and human behaviour in biological terms, and asserts that genetics are important in explaining human patterns of behaviour. In essence, the 'new racism' argues that 'it is natural for people of one kind to group together and natural, too, for them to be wary of, or even, antagonistic towards outsiders. They [racists] deny that this entails a belief in the innate superiority of one group or another' (Gordon and Klug, 1986: 13). So genetics, or 'human nature', is said to bind similar people together for innate reasons, and groups that are 'different' are rejected as part of a natural instinct to protect one's own. This is said not to be racial prejudice but a quite natural and universal behaviour. This form of racism has yet to find political expression in New Zealand (unlike other countries, see Gordon and Klug, 1986), although it can be found as part of local common-sense explanations of the social world.

"E O Wilson You can't hide!
We charge you with g-e-n-o-c-i-d-e"

The way group selection works is groups with type A individuals are selected over type B and so eventually the group is predominantly type A.

Gary Peters said...

"fair wealth distribution"

Can someone please tell me how much of my asset is it fair to take and redistribute?

I have never met someone "downtrodden" that had never been afforded an opportunity they rejected.

There is nowhere in this world where we have "true capitalism" just as there is nowhere we have truly experienced "true socialism". Human nature will not allow either to exist but it always makes me smile when I see those "advocates" of the so called left so keen to tell me what I should think and no, I am not referring to the writer of this article.

Gary Peters said...

Can someone please tell me how much of my asset is it fair to take and redistribute?

I have never met someone "downtrodden" that had never been afforded an opportunity they rejected.

There is nowhere in this world where we have "true capitalism" just as there is nowhere we have truly experienced "true socialism". Human nature will not allow either to exist but it always makes me smile when I see those "advocates" of the so called left so keen to tell me what I should think and no, I am not referring to the writer of this article.

Brendan McNeill said...


After reading your article and then your comments about capitalism, it appears you are undergoing something of an existential crisis, or at the very least a questioning of your ideological foundations. I suspect this is one of the joys of growing older. My ‘type ahead’ text processor suggested ‘growing up’ as a preferred option but that’s too harsh.

Living long enough allows all of us to be confronted with the weaknesses of our preferred political systems, and perhaps more significantly the weaknesses of human nature including our own weaknesses. Are there any alternatives to either ‘doubling down’ on our former convictions or entering into a time of despair? I would like to believe there are.

As you rightly observe, there are no perfect political institutions or ideologies. Yes some deliver better outcomes for the most people, but even they are fraught with weakness. As we are beginning to observe throughout the Western world, even our much loved democracy is fraying as incumbents use lawfare, gerrymandering, propaganda, censorship and straight out lies to retain or obtain office.

It hasn’t always been like this. Not perfect for sure, but not as it is today.

Former USA President John Adams said, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  In short we have witnessed a loss of virtue, not just in our politicians, but more widely across Western society. It’s not surprising therefore that the USA, arguably still the leader of the free world, is a country whose President and Commander in Chief is an elderly man suffering from a form of dementia who at times has trouble finishing his sentences, or walking off stage without guidance from his minders.

He is a stark metaphor describing where we have landed in the west.

All empires rise and fall, and we are arguably in the sunset of Western civilisation. Those countries competing to replace what remains of Western civilisation have political systems that are not attractive in the least to those of us who have enjoyed the liberty and comparative wealth enjoyed in liberal western democracies.

The only way I know to promote an increase in personal virtue is through a religious awakening. Charles Finney’s preaching produced an English religious revival in the mid 19th Century, avoiding the bloody revolution that became the French experience. The Welsh experienced such an awakening in 1904, America had religious awakenings in the mid 18th century and again early 19th century and there was the Jesus movement that spanned the western world including New Zealand in the 1970’s.

However it’s been a long time between drinks, (if such a metaphor is appropriate). If you are the praying type, now is the hour of our need.

Kumara Republic said...

JFK once said that "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable."

Also, the Russian anarchist writer Peter Kropotkin - of "The Conquest of Bread" fame - lived just long enough to be proven right about the Soviet Union's formation leading to mass abuses.

David George said...

Guns and Gulags are crude, overt, weapons of enforcement of the idea of unity, re-education a little more subtle. More in keeping with our civilised sensibilities? A good reason in itself for the dispersal and democratisation of education?

The other weapon is the deliberate generation of envy, resentment and hate, not necessarily state instigated, but perhaps even more dangerous because of that.

An elderly Chinese woman describes the process:

“Speaking Bitterness” was also used to indoctrinate the young.

In the Speaking Bitterness session below a poor peasant tells the audience the suffering he endured in “old China” (before the CCP takeover) using his old ragged clothes as the prop. The sign behind him says “Never forget class bitterness. Never let go the blood-soaked hatred.”

The goal is teach the young to HATE the class enemies.

Speaking Bitterness is here in America. The “marginalized” people are constantly encouraged to speak their never-ending bitterness/grievances. It happened at my former workplace! After Floyd death in an all-hands meeting two Black employees were made to speak of the bitterness of racism they had endured.

The goal is the same: to ferment hatred."

Anonymous said...

David George,
Pageau and Peterson on the growing polarisation of identity between the poles of the atomised individual and totalising state, and how subsidiarity offers an alternative, richer vision of identity and belonging.
Excuse my lack of education but

I wish I could understand what you are saying

The Barron said...


The Barron said...

Adams thought 'the experiment' of government "can be grounded on reason, morality and the Christian religion, without the mockery of priests " [The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Unamerican, Andrew L Seidel, 2021].
In this, Adams was giving a pejorative qualifier. He was addressing Jesus as a moral philosopher without organised religion.

The Barron said...

"Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion " - John Adams

The Barron said...

"[America is] founded on the natural authority of the people alone without a pretense of miracle or mystery " - John Adams

The Barron said...

Finally, from Seidel's book -
Adams explicitly tells Jefferson that a belief in 'Nature's God' is deism, not Christianity: "We can never be so certain of any prophecy or the fulfillment of any prophecy or of any miracle, or the design of any miracle, as we are from the revelation of nature, that us, Nature's God, that two and two are equal to four " Nature's God is a law like math.

The Barron said...

Are you suggesting the Black employees are to blame for suffering racism? That others were unaware, and it took George Floyd's murder for them to be able to express harmful incidents to coworkers and management is surely the problem.
It took decades for women to talk of sexism and abuse. Are you suggesting they are now 'fermenting hatred'?
Truth and reconciliation begins with people being able to tell their narrative in a safe space.

David George said...

Anon: "I wish I could understand what you are saying"

I don't think you do.

David George said...

Those were the observations of a Chinese women remarking on the similarities with what she experienced in Maoist China - though she should have, more correctly, said "foment hatred".

Are you genuinely surprised with any of that, Barron? The weaponisation of hatred is as old as man. Perhaps you think the activists involved are so morally upright they would never stoop to indulge in falsity or engender envy, resentment and hate for their ends. I don't.

The Barron said...

I know of no civilized nation that has legislated against hate and discrimination in which the victims of hate are subject to blame or punishment for having hate crime directed against them.
Your post now suggests the falsification of claims of hate crime. I presume this an abandonment of the original absurdity. This is unsubstantiated and has a starting point to disregard the narrative of those that have suffered discrinatory harm.
While I am sure you can troll the internet for isolated and obscure examples, any falsified claims are minimal in comparison to both unreported and substantiated events.
I go back to the example of abuse of women. Blame the victim, or disbelief, were mantra that protected perpetrators and naturalised abuse.

David George said...

Imagine a room (or street or stadium) full of people incentivised by mutual approval to spout the most lurid, exaggerated and fabricated stories they can imagine in the service of hate; what do you think is going to happen? Imagine the consequences. Actually you don't have to imagine it; it happened and will continue to happen so long as people fail to recognise it for what it is.

It's Orwell's "two minutes of hate", it's the madness of crowds, it's the worst human impulse given wings.

The Barron said...

Finally acknowledging racism that someone has endured and taking reasonable steps to prevent racially directed harm is not hate but civil society acting responsibly.
You are again suggesting there is fabrication. This is a separate argument and one that seems a distraction from your core "blame the victim " stance.

Anonymous said...

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them.”
― Barry Goldwater