Friday 21 December 2018

Working Towards The Führer.

All Together Now! In terms of the inviolability of the new neoliberal establishment, it mattered very little whether Labour or National was in power. And, since cabinet ministers from both sides of the aisle clearly regarded ideological boat-rocking as being every bit as career-terminating as state sector CEOs, there was scant incentive to entertain any alternative definitions to what constituted “good governance”. In the years since 1984, therefore, it has made much more sense, personally and politically, to “work towards the [neoliberal] führer”.

AN “AFFRONT TO DEMOCRACY”, was the State Services Commissioner’s characterisation of the state bureaucracy’s decision to spy on political activists. Few would disagree. That multiple state agencies felt entitled to contract-out the gathering of political intelligence to the privately owned and operated Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd reveals a widespread antidemocratic disdain for citizens’ rights within the New Zealand public service. The alarming revelations of the State Services’ inquiry raise two very important questions: How did this disdain for democratic norms become so entrenched? And what, if anything, can Jacinda Ardern’s government do to eradicate it?

The dangerous truth, in relation to the first question, is also painfully relevant to the second. The effective abrogation of democratic norms in New Zealand dates back to 1984 and the events which the former CTU economist and ministerial adviser, Peter Harris, characterised as a “bureaucratic coup d’état”. In was in July 1984 that elements within the NZ Treasury and the Reserve Bank, taking full advantage of the relationships they had been cultivating for at least a year with the parliamentary leadership of the NZ Labour Party, initiated the detailed and extremely radical economic policy programme which came to be known as “Rogernomics”.

This programme, set forth in “Economic Management” – the book-length briefing paper for the incoming Minister of Finance, Roger Douglas – had received no mandate from the electorate. Indeed, the ordinary voter had no inkling whatsoever that the Labour Party of Mickey Savage and Norman Kirk was about to unleash a programme considerably to the right of Margaret Thatcher’s and Ronald Reagan’s. The authors of “Economic Management” were not, however, interested in obtaining a democratic mandate for their proposed reforms. In fact, they strongly suspected that submitting their ideas to the voters was just about the surest way of securing their emphatic rejection.

Since the mid-1970s the conviction had been growing among big-business leaders and high-ranking civil servants living in the wealthiest capitalist nations, that democracy had gotten out of hand; and that unless the scope for democratic intervention in the economy was radically reduced, then the future of capitalism could not be guaranteed. Free Market Economics, as it was called then, or Neoliberalism, as we know it today, was, from the outset, incompatible with the social-democratic principles that had underpinned western policy-making in the post-war world. It could only be imposed, and kept in place, by a political class sealed-off from all manner of pressures from below. If that meant gutting the major parties of the centre-left and right; purging the civil service, academia and the news media of dissenters; and crushing the trade unions – then so be it.

Once it became clear that the free-market “revolution” was not about to be halted in its tracks, all those with an ambition to rise within the new order made haste to learn its rules and spared no effort in enforcing them. This phenomenon: of absorbing and implementing an antidemocratic regime’s imperatives was described by British historian of the Third Reich, Ian Kershaw, as “Working Towards The Fuhrer”. Kershaw lifted the phrase from a speech delivered in 1934 by the Prussian civil servant, Werner Willikens:

“Everyone who has the opportunity to observe it knows that the Fuhrer can hardly dictate from above everything which he intends to realize sooner or later. On the contrary, up till now, everyone with a post in the new Germany has worked best when he has, so to speak, worked towards the Fuhrer. Very often and in many spheres, it has been the case—in previous years as well—that individuals have simply waited for orders and instructions. Unfortunately, the same will be true in the future; but in fact, it is the duty of everybody to try to work towards the Fuhrer along the lines he would wish. Anyone who makes mistakes will notice it soon enough. But anyone who really works towards the Fuhrer along his lines and towards his goal will certainly both now and in the future, one day have the finest reward in the form of the sudden legal confirmation of his work.”

The behaviour of New Zealand civil servants and their private sector contractors conforms very neatly to Kershaw’s thesis. In terms of the inviolability of the new neoliberal establishment, it mattered very little whether Labour or National was in power. And, since cabinet ministers from both sides of the aisle clearly regarded ideological boat-rocking as being every bit as career-terminating as state sector CEOs, there was scant incentive to entertain any alternative definitions to what constituted “good governance”. In the years since 1984, therefore, it has made much more sense, personally and politically, to “work towards the [neoliberal] führer”.

Certainly, Kershaw’s “Working Towards the Führer” thesis would explain the behaviour that has so disturbed readers of the State Services Commission’s report like Victoria University’s School of Government academic, Chris Eichbaum. Namely, why so few of the people involved in this “affront to democracy” displayed any awareness that they were behaving unethically. If Neoliberalism, like the Third Reich, is not a force which can be legitimately contradicted or criticised, then obviously any person or group engaging in activities inimical to the implementation of state policy is bound to be considered an enemy of the system.

Not that the neoliberal order will ever acknowledge its political imperatives so honestly. A large measure of bad faith continues to operate within the system. It has to – otherwise the still useful façade of human rights and democratic consent will rapidly fall apart.

Ministries and other state entities reach for the private investigator rather than the police officer because the latter is still (at least in theory) accountable. By contrast, the paper and/or electronic trails left by the likes of Thompson & Clark are considerably more difficult to track than those carefully logged in an official Police investigation. What’s more, the unofficial and private aggregation of “evidence” against the State’s “enemies” opens up the possibility of their unofficial and private punishment.

That job the activist lost, or failed to get. The bank loan that was refused. Simple bad luck? Or something else?

The most sinister aspect of the “Working Towards The Fuhrer” phenomenon is that any obstacles or objections encountered along the way will be taken as evidence of forces working against the führer. Popular resistance to neoliberal objectives is never taken as a sign that those objectives might be ill-advised, counterproductive, or just plain wrong. Rather, it is taken as proof that those responsible for organising such resistance are dangerous and irrational opponents of beneficent policies to which there are no viable alternatives.

It appears never to have occurred to Gerry Brownlee, for example, that the rising levels of desperation and anger among the Christchurch clients of the state-owned Southern Response insurance company – feelings that were manifesting themselves in threats to life and property – might be evidence of massive failures on the company’s part. John Key, similarly, refused to accept that oil and gas exploration might constitute a genuine threat to New Zealand’s (and, ultimately, the entire planet’s) natural environment.

Was Simon Bridges, when he introduced legislation outlawing waterborne protests within 2 kilometres of the oil and gas industry’s drilling platforms, doing no more than working along the lines and towards the goals of his leader?

As above, so below: the law of hierarchy is immutable. Thomson & Clark may have been the tool in the hands of ruthless public servants “working towards the führer”, but the masters of those servants were the neoliberal politicians from both major parties who, ever since 1984, have been tireless in their defence of the neoliberal order against its most fearsome foe – the New Zealand people.

The question, therefore, arises: If the Coalition Government demonstrates the slightest willingness to move against the servants of that neoliberal order (as Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister, Megan Woods, by forcing the resignation of the Chair of Southern Response, has arguably done already) will the same forces that subverted Labour in 1984 set in motion the measures necessary to bring down Jacinda Ardern’s “issue motivated group” in 2020?

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 21 December 2018.


David Stone said...

A well thought out article Chris.
It does seem to have been the start of comprehensive ,orchestrated , and planned mass deception. Perhaps the most profound example on a national scale yet. But less precise deception now pervades the whole western political/media world. The start of the "post truth" / "fake news "era.

Nick J said...

I remember Galbraith say that Keynes was of a time, and not necessarily for all times. Circumstances drove Keynesian ideas. Ditto neo liberalism.

I am of the opinion that neo liberalism has run its course, it is fraying at the edges. Europe in particular France is in turmoil. Wall St is in reverse. As Tyndale translated St Paul "in the twinkling of an eye" all things will change.

greywarbler said...
This has some interesting things to say about
Franz Kafka. I included it in another post which I have apparently lost.
But bureaucracy seems a very inspiring matter, arousing people to express great despair!

Jens Meder said...

But is it not really "the people's will" which has kept neo-liberal principles in place by both Labour and National governments ?
Does not reference to "the Führer's will" smack of promoting a Conspiracy Theory ?

But if the current government really gives up on its sound wealth creation based capitalistic principles so far -

in favor of wealth nationalization and redistribution priorities, then yes it is possible that the people's will ("under the Führer's manipulation"?) might deprive this government of a second term.

BlisteringAttack said...

It is about top level burueaucrats owning politicians of any hue.

Patricia said...

The only country doing well is China and that is not a democracy! Go figure!

John Hurley said...

It's hard to know how many people are angered over the signing of the UN Migration Pact and hard to know what WP was thinking.
It's almost as though Winston's position on immigration is a Morris 1100 which he rides in to get into parliament and then leaves it on the side of the road. The claim that it doesn't affect our sovereignty has to be weighed against the fact that "NZ" is the politicians.
Yesterday a friend spoke of the different atmosphere in Palms Mall Shirley (working class Kiwi) versus Riccarton Mall (multicultural). That all came about without public knowledge or consent. To quote Paul Spoonley "New Zealand has never been adverse to remaking itself in various ways during its relatively short life as a modern state. Whether it was the 1890s, the 1930s or the 1980s, far-reaching reforms have dramatically altered the institutions and policies of this society.
But almost simultaneously, decisions were being made about New Zealand's immigration policies that were to have far reaching consequences for the cultural politics of New Zealand, although it was to be almost a decade before there was an awareness of what exactly this meant.

So who knows what "NZ" will do next.

Eric Kaufman claims that Brexit and Trump were are based on identity threat not economic circumstances. Kaufmann writes: “the liberal conceit that whites must be post-ethnic cosmopolitans has outlived its usefulness”

NZ First tried a “New Zealand values” idea and was laughed off the stage. Today on TV3 an Indian migrant has imported a bride. Is he going to have children?: “oh yes as many as possible. Children are a give from God.” In Fiji they hit the physiological maximum. Did New Zealanders not deserve a say in their future? Are we to be suppressed by Paul Spoonley and his mobsters?

John Hurley said...

"The far-Right will continue its advance across Europe for as long as key policies such as immigration remain removed from majority control." - John Gray elaborates in a new essay on classical liberalism being far from the 'end of history'

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Eric Kaufman claims that Brexit and Trump were are based on identity threat "

He is not wrong. Except he should have called it what it is – racism.

John Hurley said...

The demise of colonialism and the aftermath of World War II can’t fully explain McWhorter’s religion of antiracism. It springs instead from shifts in left-wing thinking. New Left ideas transposing egalitarianism from class to race combined with what Daniel Bell terms the ‘adversary culture’ (which portrayed white Protestantism as stifling and boring) to produce the idea of white original sin.

This then stuck. Western elites pivoted swiftly from being unreflexively racist toward nonwhites to repressing majority ethnic identity as racist.

The sociologist Kai Erikson has pointed out that the definition of deviant and normal is rarely codified, but is established anarchically through precedent, as competing groups in society struggle to define the moral order. Moral panics ensue when those who represent dominant norms sense a threat and target supposed deviants. Accusers – be they the Inquisition, Jacobins, McCarthyites or the ‘politically-correct’ Left – are empowered. People fear to speak against witch hunters for fear of being labelled deviant (i.e. ‘bourgeois’ or ‘racist’). Meanwhile, those who are deemed deviant battle to re-define the normal.

John Campbell Grills Peter Brown

John Hurley said...

I often think of a nation's culture as a movie set where we are all taking part. Imagine if something from Foreign Films section began filming on the Truman show set. Society agrees on the script.

Ethnicity is defined by subjective myths of descent, not immutable external characteristics. However A moderate ‘white’ majority group that is open to inter-racial marriage (what I term Whiteshift) has a constructive role to play, as ethnic majorities arguably underpin the civic nationalism which is needed to overcome polarisation.

That is somewhat different from the jet-powered cultural enrichment of current multicultural policies of Clark, Key and Adern/Peters.

Tom Hunter said...

Except he should have called it what it is – racism.

Yawn. The boilerplate answer of the braindead.

After pushing racial identity politics for three decades, the Left are shocked to find Whites beginning to act as an Identity Group, on the very sound basis of, "why not us also?".

Might be time to return to:
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

But probably too late.

Nick J said...

What Kaufman attributes to identify threat Brexit and Trump. GS calls this racism.

I watched a YouTube of Niall Ferguson talking about this subject. He examined his support for Brexit post event, left London and went into the old Labour post industrial heartlands and talked to working class people. He found people who objected to immigrants taking their jobs and depressing wages, competing for health services. Poles, Roumanians...white like them. He found British displaced in their own towns by non integrating religious communities, mainly Islamic. They feared an influx of Middle Eastern refugees from Merkels Germany. Racist? Are Syrians "black"?

It's easy to dismiss real fears and scream racism. It neatly avoids facing real issues and challenging your own thinking. I've been highly critical of Ferguson, but I admire his ability to challenge and test his own views honestly.

RAYMONDO said...

"He is not wrong. Except he should have called it what it is – racism." Guerilla Surgeon not everything you do not like others saying is racism. Being so interested in keeping your country's identity as you have always known it but allowing small and gradual change to it is not racism it is nationalism and there is nothing wrong with nationalism. If your daughter married into a middle eastern family and had to wear a yashmak in public you would be wanting to say something about it. That's the spirit of nationalism. It is not racist.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Guerilla Surgeon not everything you do not like others saying is racism"
Didn't say it was. But there is a strong correlation between racism and voting for Donald Trump and that's been shown by actual research. And I suspect it's the same for Brexit. I know daughter of mine would be so fucking stupid as to marry into a superstition which says she has to wear a yashmak whatever that is, but I assume it's some form of Middle Eastern dress you don't like.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Yawn. The boilerplate answer of the braindead."
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ the mediocre answer of a knuckle dragger.

'After pushing racial identity politics for three decades, the Left are shocked to find Whites beginning to act as an Identity Group, on the very sound basis of, "why not us also?".'

Not surprised at all, when you've left with privilege for so long equality begins to look like discrimination. That's all it is. They've never needed to act as an identity group before, because there identity encompass the whole country. Now others want a suck of the sav and it's all "discrimination against white people!" When their problems are actually more the result of rich white people sending jobs to poor brown countries. Or in the US, importing poor brown people who will work for very little. But just in case they wake up to this, the rich white people encourage this racist bullshit.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Not too late, just never eventuated at least not in the US, and I doubt here in many circles. I'm old enough to remember Winston Peters being described as "Not good under a high ball." – If my memory serves by Jim Bolger. But it might have been someone else. Meanwhile Martin Luther King's dream has been consistently undermined by the sort of people who refuse to cash a black guys check at the bank, because they believe his salary is too high. Funny how Martin Luther King has suddenly been co-opted by the right when it suits them. They seem to forget about his moderately left-wing views when they can use him as a stick to beat the left with. I will confess though it does show brass bound balls to do that.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"left London and went into the old Labour post industrial heartlands"

If I remember rightly, the biggest objectors to "immigration" were places that never saw a migrant from one year to the next.

Nick J said...

GS I suspect that you remember only what suits you, false news no doubt. I believe Ferguson because he went and asked. I can vouch for his answers because I got the same ones last January in Liverpool Manchester and Leeds. Did you?

Tom Hunter said...

GS I suspect that you remember only what suits you, false news no doubt
Chuckle. GS has to be one of the most wooden-headed Lefties who comment here. Never willing to compromise on any of his fanatical beliefs one iota nor give any credit to his political and ideological opponents nor is willing to credit them as anything other than evil (racist, "ism", "ist"). Look at the following...

when you're [sic[ left with privilege for so long equality begins to look like discrimination.
Gawd (rolls eyes). Cutn'paste from every Left website. Can you not actually argue with your own words? Slogans as your method of "debate", or worse yet, general communication!

As it happens the following comment from a political commentator neatly encapsulates the snobby GS attitude against which people are reacting in the US:

I don’t see that as anything more that the losers in the race-based grievance industry and spoils system that is now firmly welded to federal law deciding they want some of the same treatment. Lower class whites have been selected by Congress and by the courts to be the bill payer for attempting to improve the lot of just about everyone else.

What possible justification is there in setting a quota that keeps out of a selective university the son of a coal miner or mill worker while making room for the offspring of an minority actor or financier or politician? The grievances are real

Not to GS though. He'll continue to crush the sons and daughters of the white working class, the coal miners and the mill workers, aligning himself with his fellow upper middle-class and billionaire Whites who sniff about the racism of such people even as they live in segregated neighbourhoods and schools and fight to get their kids into Havard to the exclusion of poor whites - and then GS will pat himself on the back and tell himself what a good little Leftist he is and how he's fighting "privilege" - just like they do.

Hell, as the above comments make clear, he's not even willing to compromise with fellow Lefties who point out when he's talking crap and/or sitting at the Far, Far, Far edge of some spectrum of a topic. And his case he's always at the edge, out of some weird point of pride or inverted sense of moral and ethical superiority: "Nobody will be to my Left".

And of course the ironies abound....
Or in the US, importing poor brown people who will work for very little.
... said every Trump supporter who wants a wall and/or severe restrictions on illegal immigration. Not GS though - that would align him with not just a chunk of the dreaded Right, but with Trumpists, and we can't have that.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nick. Lol. if I remembered what suited me, I would remember everything I read and exactly where to find it at a moment's notice so I could reply to you. As it is it's taken me a good 15 minutes to find that vote "leave" was strongest in places which have very little migration. Not arguing that it isn't a hot button issue, but it seems to me it's the perception rather than the reality, or any direct impact on people's lives that was driving the anti-immigration feeling. And from what I can gather from reading around trying to find where I got the original information from, migration is not nearly such a hot button issue as it used to be concerned about. After an initial rise post Brexit vote, it has fallen drastically, even though various politicians have said that migration will not actually be a hell of a lot less under Brexit than it was before.
And sorry, but actual research, done properly trumps some right-wing historian – or even you going out and asking a few questions.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Dammit, forgot to say – while concern about immigration might have been relatively high in Britain pre-Brexit, I wonder how much that is attributable to the egregiously lying advertising campaign put forward by the pro-Brexit people. And it's going to be interesting to see how the NHS and British agriculture can cope without employing migrants of one sort or another. At the very least someone's going to have to start paying much higher wages. Now that's something I could get behind.

Nick J said...

GS, yes my paltry research, consisting of living a month in working class Liverpool. There I saw completely separated ethnicities in their own ghettos for want of a better word. I walked down a high street in central Manchester that was completely Islamic for a kilometer. Rhyl in North Wales could have been the capital of Roumania. The railways seemed to me run by Poles. No I didn't do a headcount or some thesis based upon "victimhood". I merely spoke with locals who feared more of the same from any future Labour government. They also feared Merkels millions of refugees decamping to their suburb. Yes, as you said perception with lots of visible evidence.

London by the way is so ethnically diverse that the native English are a minority. Where my cousin lives there was not a foreign person in sight, so where we're the 50+% of Londoners? And why is the murder rate higher than New York and dominated by knife crime committed by non whites? As a working class person with Cockney antecedents should that concern me? Tell me that they are victims too, I'd tell you if I was a white local that I wouldn't care, they are making us unsafe on our patch. Labour meanwhile keeps making excuses and then wonders why Tommy Robinson and the EDL are popular. Perception meets reality.

I suspect Ferguson got the same reality check when he ventured out of his safe cocoon. He did question the reliability of polls that predicted remain by a large margin. They we're wrong, I don't believe the current polls to be any more reliable, I suspect that despite a one sided fearmongering campaign by "remoaners' that the desire to leave is still as great. Of course you might be right, why don't you get on a plane and do you own on the spot " research".

Guerilla Surgeon said...

why don't you get on a plane and do you own on the spot " research".

Because it's not research. So I'm glad you put it in quotes. I have a friend who has lived in London for years, (beats your month) about a kilometer away from a Muslim area. They walk around there all the time without any trouble. Never ever felt threatened. That doesn't mean to say that there isn't a crime problem, but that "research" is just as good as yours.
And the murder rate thing is a myth. In one month of this year the murder rate in London exceeded that of New York. And when you factor in the fact that New York has half a million people more than London, it barely registers as more. It was a blip.
See, this is why proper research is important as opposed to people's impressions. It takes the emotion out of it. Something which you seem quite susceptible to.

schmoepooh said...

I spoke to a well known Welshman after their last rugby visit to Forsyth Barr and he said as far as the Brexit vote goes working class welsh who don’t want to move to the big towns feel threatened by cheap immigrant labour and loss of traditional Lifeways (The American Heritage Dictionary defines a lifeway as: "1. A customary manner of living; a way of life. 2. A custom, practice, or art: the traditional lifeways of a tribal society.")

Nick J said...

GS, go and visit your buddy and wander around Islamic suburbs, I suspect you will both feel and be safe, I was in Manchester. You brought up the idea of safety, not me.

Murder rate, blip? Check the stats, I did. Point is the rate is rising. Don't get too emotional when you do your research though, a nice relaxing holiday in UK might be good for you.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nick. I have in fact checked the stats and yes the murder rate has gone up a bit, but it still a lot less than it was in 2008.This is just a variation. And you were the one that brought up the question of knife crime committed by nonwhites. That seems to me to touch on safety and migration at least.
And easy enough for you to get sarcastic about emotion, but if I really was to get emotional – let me switch into all caps mode.


So you see – lots of emotion there and a few facts, but I'm not sure it's actually added anything to the discussion. It's just the way I feel. Mind you I think I'll just give up, because no matter what evidence I provide you won't change your mind. Provide me with something better than "I spoke to a well-known Welshman" and I just might consider changing my mind.

Nick J said...

Spot on in capitals GS, couldn't have said it better. The 1069 analogy too very good. Born to rule types haven't changed in a millennium.

Maggie...I watched her funeral, possibly to make sure she was dead. The coffin was placed on a thing called a catafalque, I was hoping it would fling her into the Thames.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I watched her funeral, possibly to make sure she was dead."
First decent laugh of the day. Thank you, I always like to start the day with a decent laugh. I rather liked that saying – can't remember who said it "They say you should always speak good of the dead – Margaret Thatcher's dead – good!

g said...

I think Nick J you were fantasising about a trebuchet big enough to toss Margaret Thatcher into Kingdom Come - where she would have met a Power higher than her own at last.

She was a clever lass and went to University then into chemistry or the like. It is unfortunate that feminism has swept more of the washed girls upwards educationally and professionally, where they tend to form alike into little groups of University Women. The Sisterhood has fractured rather, and the unwashed tend to remain in the group who have found the opportunity to be in the workforce rather a poisoned chalice. Once denied, as a married woman or parent, then optional often when child-rearing was over, now obligatory with parenting regarded as a a no-hit or miss affair. Ms Thatcher's type rise to the top regarding themselves as cream, and the rest can cry over spoilt molk.