Tuesday 27 March 2018

Gender Diversity Easier To Campaign For Than Class Diversity.

Who Should Fill The Seats Of Power? Stripped of its cloying political candy-floss, the diversity project is a pure-and-simple power grab. It’s core objective is to fundamentally shift the balance of power in favour of those currently excluded from the inner sanctums of privilege, where political and economic power is wielded decisively by members of the dominant class/race/gender. How are we doing? Well, there's some movement (not enough) on race and gender. Just don't mention class.

MATT McCARTEN understands the practical consequences of political idealism better than any left-winger I’ve ever known. “It’s always about the numbers”, is one of his favourite sayings. Another is: “How big is your army?” Both reflect an unsentimental grasp of the brute numerical realities of democratic politics all-too-frequently lacking on the Left.

Back in the 1990s, when Jim Anderton’s remarkable coalition of insurgent political parties, The Alliance, was regularly outstripping Labour in the polls, it was part of Matt’s job to convey the realities of progressive diversity to his white, male, socialist comrades.

Working from the latest poll results, he would offer them his estimate of the maximum number of seats the Alliance was likely to win. Matt would then remind them of the quota of seats allocated to each of the Alliance’s constituent parties. Of the quite modest number of seats available to the socialist NewLabour Party, at least half were automatically set aside for women. Proper consideration also had to be given to the Waitangi Treaty Partner – before assessing the NLP’s Pakeha comrades.

As the ambitious socialist males gathered around Matt performed the necessary arithmetical calculations, their faces fell. Clearly, the chances of an ambitious Pakeha socialist making it into Parliament were somewhere between slim and non-existent. “Diversity” was indisputably an important progressive objective – but it was not without its downside.

Julie Anne Genter’s unfortunate remarks about diversity (unfortunate because, like David Cunliffe’s “I’m sorry I’m a man” comment, they will be hung around her neck for the rest of her political career) were jarring for exactly the same reason’s Matt McCarten’s triennial lecture to the NLP’s left-wing males was jarring. They revealed what lies on the obverse side of the “positive discrimination” coin: the inescapable obligation of the old order to make way for the new.

“Speaking to students at Christchurch’s Cobham Intermediate School on Thursday [22 March],” reported Stuff’s Adele Redmond, “Genter said the private sector needed to address the low level of female representation on New Zealand company boards if more businesses were to be led by women.

“About 85 per cent of board members were male, and many were ‘old white men in their 60s’.

“‘Some of them need to move on and allow for diversity and new talent,’ she said, later clarifying she had ‘no problem with old white men’ on company boards generally.”

Really? Why not? Stripped of its cloying political candy-floss, the diversity project is a pure-and-simple power grab. It’s core objective is to fundamentally shift the balance of power in favour of those currently excluded from the inner sanctums of privilege, where political and economic power is wielded decisively by members of the dominant class/race/gender.

As the Minister for Women, it is Ms Genter’s job to have a problem with men on company boards. Assuming that it’s a core part of the Minister’s remit to ensure that the percentage of women on company boards matches the percentage of women in the population as a whole, then some blokes will, indeed, have to “move on”.

“It’s all about the numbers.”

That those blokes should, preferably, also be white and over 60 is, presumably, because their ethnic origin confers a power advantage every bit as decisive as their gender; and because their advanced years make them statistically more likely to harbour reactionary views about women, Maori and other minorities, than younger, more enlightened New Zealanders.

“Reactionary” is not an accusation anyone could fling at those two “old white men” Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn.

Ah, but Bernie and Jeremy are self-confessed socialists whose core mandate is all about delivering justice and equality not only to women, people of colour and the LGBTQI community – but also to the working-class.

That’s the awkward thing about socialists: they’re forever bringing class into discussions about diversity.

‘How is inequality reduced by bringing an extremely wealthy business-woman with reactionary views about Maori and the poor onto a company board?’, the socialists demand to know. ‘Wouldn’t a much more substantive blow for both diversity and equality be struck by appointing a sixty-year-old working-class trade union secretary to the company’s board of directors? After all, a man who’s spent the last 40 years of his life scrutinising the company accounts and whose knowledge of the needs and capabilities of the workforce is second-to-none, is likely to bring many more progressive ideas to the table than a ruthless female lawyer from the Big End of Town!’

How would history have unfolded if the Alliance had selected its candidates purely on the basis of merit? Would Nigel Murray’s nemesis, Dave Macpherson, have made a better MP than Mana Motuhake’s Alamein Kopu? We will never know.

Six out of the eight members of the Green Party caucus, including Ms Genter herself, are women. That’s splendid – but how many of them are socialists?

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 27 March 2018.


Tiger Mountain said...

an elemental column from Mr Trotter

Class is the defining characteristic of where you sit in society, how much oppression and exploitation you are likely to be on the end of, all other identities and tendencies and realities amplify your oppression by employers, the state and fellow unenlightened citizens

white socialist men in some cases have been insufferable, and mirrored the faults of the society they live in–prisoners of their times to some extent like most of us–but a thorough class analysis applied in practice should not exclude people, or horror of post modernist horrors–prioritise them!, but must involve them, Unite all who can be united…

to paraphrase Karl Marx…
“It is not the consciousness of people that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

Polly said...

Chris, a good article.
She branded herself a bigot.
She's also saying she did not say what she clearly did say.
A nasty and a cowardly liar seems to her mantle.
Go away Mz Genter the Greens are sullied by your membership.

Sam said...

We've already got a decent woman's team in government. I'd probably add Helen Clark as Ambassador to the UN. But I mean, I think we've got a pretty strong female showing that's already in government. The fact that Greens politics can't acknowledge this is one reason why they're behind on the polls.

greywarbler said...

Thought I'd look up Spanish Mondragon items and this is one that talks about doing away with the present hierarchical roles and descriptions so that what you do, what you shine at is what you are known for. It must be how people gained their surnames long ago. Baker, Butler, Farmer etc. It is presented by a team with a woman leader apparently. It doesn't start off saying women should have a quota. That would be needed to ensure that at least a few are in, but more should be encouraged.

Having designation according to gifts and skills would break down the snobby attitudes that divide the MBA types from the 'grunts' doing the physical work, to draw a stark contrast. I should point out that the grunts don't even respect their own skills. I have talked to union officials whose children are going to university with a view to becoming managers. Roger Douglas' family had been in the Labour Party for a long time, but he and his mates were prepared to wave its zeitgeist out of the window for some solid money and door-opening at the thinking and administrative level.

Nick J said...

Beautifully written Chris. I for one as a member of the demographic Genter mentioned think she is wet behind the ears. And insulting to boot. I'd expect the race relations people to intercede as she has clearly been racist. Also ageist.

Of course that won't happen, which clearly demonstrates the double standards of our current orthodoxy on issues of class race and gender.

As is happening the political risk for the Left is that it is divorcing itself from core working class support in favour of enforcing an ideology of victimhood and oppression. My socialism does not set out to create equality of outcome, (Genter clearly wants an opposite inequality of outcome). I seek equality of opportunity, for all regardless.

jh said...

Kathryn Ryan's guest on Nine to Noon was unequivocal about the benefits of diversity
“Diverse groups of problem solvers—groups of people with diverse tools—consistently outperformed groups of the best and the brightest. If I formed two groups, one random and (therefore diverse) [by definition], and one consisting of the best individual performers, the first group, the diverse group, almost always did better.” Bottom line, as he puts it, “diversity trumped ability.”

Wow, is that counterintuitive, and, wow, is it ever important. Diversity, remember, lefthanded, right-handed, short, tall, came from America, came from Jamaica, came from China, every race, every gender, left-handed, right-handed—I don’t care what the difference is. If you sit down with a group to work on something and it is not a diverse group, you are really screwing it up big-time. And never, ever, ever let a group consist entirely of insiders from your organization or part of the organization. Diversity with a lowercase “d”—absolutely imperative to doing good work, and 9 out of 10 times we just don’t come close.


It sounded too good to be true. I dug around and it was


greywarbler said...

Mondragon and women workers and advancement:

Class in Mondragon:
The Myth of Mondragon - Co-operatives, Politics and Working Class Life in a Basque Town

Around p.153 (slow loading on my old system) there is an anecdote on how women were competitive and individualistic on the shop floor; teams were tried but abandoned when the difference in speed and skill between them was not recognised with commensurate pay as the rate established was split between team members. They could raise their position by getting the right education to get themselves into the management level.

Most people who had basic education remained on the shop floor and didn't find a route up the ladder beyond that.

AB said...

I am less worried by women's unequal share of unaccountable, private power, than I am by unaccountable, private power itself.
I do concede that having more women on such bodies might on average, though not in every instance, make them behave somewhat better. And that this better behaviour might benefit everyone, not just the women who got the job.
And this is a 'good thing'. But it is also an unambitious, half-measure.

Kiwiwit said...

I think you’ve just grasped the intersectionality dilemma. Once we’ve all been categorized into our gender, race, sexuality, ableness and class groupings, it becomes impossible to maintain proportionality. The irony is that you very quickly end up back at that great conclusion of Western civilization - it all comes down to the individual.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Although Bernie Sanders labels himself a socialist, I think it's probably a bit strong. For two reasons, firstly the Overton window has shifted, and as we know, what used to be considered centrist is now "far left" at least according to people like Charles. :)
And secondly, in the US particularly among conservatives there is this weird definition of socialist that says if the government does something it's socialist. Which many people outside the US simply regarded as common sense. Like the NHS.

Whoever said achieving diversity was going to be easy? :) Personally I think that the German system of ensuring union representatives on the boards of major companies is an excellent idea. Considering that during the time they have been on, German productivity pretty much outstrips everyone's. Including the Japanese who were supposed to be models of productivity but just worked long, long hours. Even if union representation can't be held directly responsible for this production, it certainly doesn't seem to have harmed. And judging by the way some of our larger companies like Fonterra are being governed, they could do with an injection of common sense. From a man or a woman. And let's not forget many union members are women.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Interesting paper from Picketty.

Geoff Fischer said...

The historical role of the liberal left (and more broadly speaking the left in general) had been to create the conditions under which capitalism can develop, by ensuring that everyone, including women and blacks and people of all nationalities, can fully participate in global labour and commodity markets. Even in the avowedly socialist Marxist-Leninist states the left has proved to be the midwife of capitalism and not of socialism. The overwhelming evidence of history cannot be denied. All we can do is work towards understanding why the political doctrines liberalism and leftism in general necessarily and inevitably works towards expanding the scope of capital, and is ultimately incompatible with the project to build socialism.

Anonymous said...

I've finally decided to stop taking any of this gender & class warfare seriously & the moaners can moan. I started my working career age 16 as a factory worker, married at 20, worked 3 low wage jobs concurrently for years, bought a house raised a family to adults, went to Uni 3years at nights while working full time, worked my way through management in a few companys to eventually become a multinational company director.

My taxes over 45 years of work have paid for hundreds of people to sit around snivelling about how hard done by they are.

Take your best shot, let's see what you've got

Pinger said...

@ Anonymous 28 March 11.16

And my taxes over the last 30 odd years will pay for your National Super and to wipe your mouth & arse when you're in a care home fucked with dementia.

I just hope you don't snivel about my efforts.

greywarbler said...

Anonymous 11.16
Personal anecdote, interesting and admirable. But you do the knee jerk thing - 'I did it, aren't I good. I worked hard, very hard, and succeeded.
The opportunities are there if you want them. Why can't everybody do what I did.' This attitude is common. After all your education how come you haven't heard or red about it and reviewed your attitudes, and refined your opinion?

I have a woman relation who has done very well in her professional job, but she has leaned heavily on her husband and mother and mother-in-law to bring up her children. Inevitably there is huge pressure on a partner, if one is working hard for advancement and extra qualifications and experience.
Not everybody can manage every aspect of their lives, giving each as to its needs, woman or man.

And why can't it be okay just to be a worker doing a 40 hour week making things that other people want or providing services, and getting a reasonable living from it. It is not a possibility in NZ these days for everyone because of a deliberate change in the economy to receive cheaper goods from overseas, so the wealthy could have lots of nice things and for their advantage, many semi and skilled workers here were frozen out of stable jobs, a fair living and actually the opportunity of a happy life.
Face that, front on, and if you are still sanguine, note that you ignore the plight of the others who have been injured by this economic regime.

greywarbler said...

Anonymous 11.16
I think the Conchords might be portraying here the conflicted sort of people you're thinking of above.
Inner city pressure!

pat said...

@anon and Pinger

Both of your (and everyone elses) taxes have provided for a relatively stable society in current time(and are not necessarily required)....nothing for the future.., thats all on tick...dont delude yourselves.

Hilary Taylor said...

I cannot fathom how Genter thought speaking to a group of children was the right platform for this pretty unsubtle plug for positive discrimination based on gender, age & race. I guess she thought these youngsters' parents & teachers wouldn't be old, white men & so she was demonising 'others' from afar...& that's alright. But why stop at corporate old, white guys..? And why fixate on diversity when the cult of the CEO & associated pay ratio issue is so much more damaging to a socially just society..in my view.

Geoff Fischer said...

Anonymous contributors may have a place in public discussion if they offer some rational analysis, or bring to notice verifiable facts. But there are no verifiable facts in the personal history offered up by "Anonymous" and only the barest of rational propositions. If his or her comment is to have any impact on our thinking he or she must attach his or her name to the case. Otherwise we would be justified in assuming that the story is simply false - a made-up claim with no bearing to reality.

greywarbler said...

You are being credulous Geoff Fischer. Merely putting a name to a comment doesn't mean that it is true, worthwhile and genuine. That pseudonyms enable people to spout falsehoods but affixing a name guarantees truth is a continuing meme. And a name can still be wrong in his/her perceptions and what advantage is it to know who it is? Would you go to their house and argue face to face, let their tyres down or publicise that this person disagrees with the consensus?

At present the good blogs that do respect privacy, run a bit like a confessional where one can safely reveal true thoughts that can't be easily spoken in one's family, business place or in conservative society if they suggest changes that would be strongly pushed against. The government will not even allow the many charitable groups it funds to draw attention to the manifold failings they notice as they try to help the more unfortunate. They are not allowed to advocate for better conditions. But they could write to a blog under a pseudonym safely and reveal the facts they are repressed from being public about.

Victor said...

Geoff Fischer

"All we can do is work towards understanding why the political doctrines liberalism and leftism in general necessarily and inevitably works towards expanding the scope of capital, and is ultimately incompatible with the project to build socialism."

So what is?

Geoff Fischer said...

I agree that a pseudonym is in certain important respects equivalent to anonymity. The main difference is that a pseudonym allows the reader to see the writer's thought as a whole, and to note any inconsistency. In the case of "Anonymous" a pseudonym would not have sufficed, however. A real name is needed to allow us to verify his or her claim that he or she is a corporate executive who has risen to a high position from low beginnings through hard work. We would then be in a position to see his or her case as evidence (or otherwise) of his or her claim that anyone can enjoy similar "success" in a a capitalist society.
A real name under a comment is no guarantee of truth, but it does discourage malice, time wasting and deliberate dishonesty because nobody wants to be widely known as malicious or dishonest. Real names also have a positive value, in that we can get to know the writer as a real person with a history and a character. Chris puts his real name to what he writes, so we know and respect him as a political thinker and activist with a history going back many decades. Knowing him, we would have a sound basis on which to commit to any political project which he was initiating or leading. So real names and real identities empower both the writer, in this case Chris, and the readers, in this case ourselves.
If people hide their thoughts because they "can't be easily spoken in one's family, business place or in conservative society" then there is no possibility of us making the transition to a free and moral society. Courage is the price of freedom. If we lack the courage to speak our "democracy" and "freedom" are a sham.

Geoff Fischer said...

Liberalism and the left appeal to self-interest, and while this self interest often takes a collective expression (the rights of the working class, women, Maori, emergency workers, nurses teachers etc) the focus tends to narrow with time and in the end collective interest reduces to naked self-interest. This is the common phenomenon we have observed in the Marxist parties of the Soviet Union and China, and the social-democratic parties of the western world. So what is compatible with the project to build socialism? Faith in God and the brotherhood of man. And if you don't like that, stick with the neo-liberalism delivered by left-wing parties throughout the world.