Monday 5 February 2024

She Says She Wants A Revolution.

Heads Up: Jeremy Corbyn’s greatest mistake was to give the ruling elites and their enablers advance warning that he was coming for their power, their purse, and their privilege. Candidate for the Green Party co-leadership, Chloe Swarbrick, appears to share Corbyn’s naïve assumption that those who own the system will sit idly by while a genuine left-wing leader organises a revolution at the ballot box to take it from them.

CHLOE SWARBRICK WANTS A REVOLUTION. Her “announcement speech” has been hailed as a “once in a generation” oratorical triumph. I wouldn’t go that far, but there’s no disputing that Swarbrick took full advantage of the media’s interest in her candidacy for the Greens’ co-leadership to lay her programmatic cards on the table.

“Conventional, incremental politics has failed to rise to the challenges we face”, Swarbrick declared, “those intertwined climate, inequality, biodiversity and housing crises.”

So far, so good left-wing boilerplate. But, it was in the next few sentences that the young MP’s revolutionary intent was revealed:

“What is possible in politics is only ever defined by the willingness of those in power. As Co-leader, I want to show everyone in this country the power running through their veins to choose our future. We cannot leave politics to the politicians.”

Opined the Green politician.

And it is here that the problems confronted by all revolutionaries begin: with those beguilingly inclusive words; “everyone in this country”.

There was a time and place – late-eighteenth century France, to be precise – when appealing to “everyone in this country” made a certain kind of sense.

When the King, supported by an aristocracy encompassing approximately 1 percent of the population, ruled over everybody else, most notably a rightless and impoverished peasantry comprising 90 percent-plus of the population, “everyone in this country” (who wasn’t a king or an aristocrat) had a strong and direct interest in transforming their society.

But that was more than 200 years ago. The power that runs through the veins of New Zealanders, today, does not, alas, run uniformly. Some Kiwis are better equipped to choose their futures than others. Indeed, there are hundreds-of-thousands of New Zealand citizens so bereft of cultural, social and economic capital that speechifying to them about choosing their futures could be seen as grossly insensitive.

Swarbrick is a highly intelligent person, with an impressive and oft-demonstrated capacity to marshal facts and figures in support of her arguments. It is strange, therefore, that her announcement speech largely fails to address the manifest power differentials in the society she is proposing to transform. Especially when she goes out of her way to preface her call for a grass-roots uprising with the eminently sensible – and accurate – statement:

“What is possible in politics is only ever defined by the willingness of those in power.”

Like the willingness of farmers to shoulder the not inconsiderable cost of cleaning-up their rivers and streams and reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions.

Like the willingness of small business owners to pay a capital gains tax.

Like the willingness of big businesses to redistribute the lion’s share of corporate surpluses from their shareholders to their employees.

Like the willingness of landlords to shoulder the costs of upgrading their properties, and empowering their tenants.

Like the willingness of those whose salaries place them in the top quintile of income-earners to pay higher taxes.

Except, of course, the willingness of all the above groups to redefine politics in ways that not only make them poorer, but also undermine their ability to set the boundaries of acceptable change, is NIL.

These New Zealand socio-economic interests are no more willing to surrender their power and privilege than were their British counterparts when the Labour Party membership elected a leader determined to govern “for the many, not the few”.

That last was a powerful rhetorical flourish – adapted from the final verse of Percy Bysshe Shelly’s incendiary poem “The Masque of Anarchy”.) Too powerful, as it turned out.

Jeremy Corbyn’s greatest mistake (apart from his failure to back Brexit) was to give the ruling elites and their enablers advance warning that he was coming for their power, their purse, and their privilege. Corbyn’s political destruction is thus attributable to his naïve assumption that those who owned the system would sit idly by while he organised a revolution at the ballot box to take it from them.

Clearly, Swarbrick has not learned the lessons embedded in the depressing saga of Corbyn’s rise and fall.

“I will grow the Green movement to achieve tangible, real-world, people-powered change - as I have since I first signed up - but now, at even greater scale.”

That’s telling ‘em, Chloe!

“I will challenge this Government’s cruel agenda and communicate the imagination, potential, and the necessary hope to mobilise for the sustainable, inspiring and inclusive Aotearoa that I see reflected every day in our communities”

And that’s telling them even more!

“They” will not move immediately to remove the potential threat that is Chloe Swarbrick. Like the British ruling-elites, New Zealand’s defenders of the neoliberal status-quo will wait to see if the putative Green co-leader’s revolution at the ballot-box amounts to anything more than yet another middle-class firebrand’s pipe-dream.

There’s no denying that “they” have every reason to be sceptical. After all, Jim Anderton’s Alliance had promised something very similar thirty years ago. It’s unashamedly socialist component, the NewLabour Party, had also set out to make its followers “local body members, councillors and mayors” They, too, promised “more [Alliance] MPs in Parliament and ultimately, our nation’s first [Alliance-led] Government.”

Didn’t happen. With the notable exception of Anderton’s proletarian redoubt of Sydenham, the Alliance did well (even, like Swarbrick, capturing Auckland Central) where, thirty years later, the Greens still do best. Those central-city electorates composed of university students and young professionals. Where it mattered, however, in the electorates of the poor and marginalised, the Alliance failed miserably. Against their most formidable competitors, Labour voters, and those who didn’t vote at all, Alliance candidates struggled to reclaim their deposits.

Just how steep a mountain Swarbrick has set herself to climb is evident in the votes received by Labour and the Greens in the electorates where citizens’ life choices are most seriously constrained. Let’s look at Mangere. Labour: 61.40 percent; Greens: 7.85 percent. Or, Mana. Labour: 62 percent; Greens: 9.8 percent.

It is always possible, of course, that Swarbrick, unlike Anderton, will succeed in heating the blood of enough New Zealanders to turn those stats around. That in 2025 there will be a Green tsunami that lifts unabashed insurgents into council chambers and mayoral offices all across New Zealand. That the polls will register a massive shift from Labour to Green and, month after month, confirm Swarbrick’s preferred prime minister status. It is possible that, against all the odds, her revolution at the ballot-box progresses from pipe-dream to probability.

If that is the case, however, then Swarbrick’s troubles will only just be getting started. Every weapon the Establishment possesses will be pointed in her direction, and every right-wing journalistic scalp-hunter will be powering-up his keyboard.

By the time the Powers That Be were through with Corbyn, working-class Brits were cursing his name. By the time our own elites are through with Chole Swarbrick, she’ll either be a broken political doll – or New Zealand’s first Green prime minister.

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 5 February 2024.


Tom Hunter said...

“Conventional, incremental politics has failed to rise to the challenges we face”

Well she's right about that, but I'm hearing echoes of the year 1984, and of course my idea of "radical policies" is, to say the least, vastly different to that of Swarbrick's.

Listening to her yak on about the wonders of the power of the State, which she will need to enforce the degree of "cooperation" needed to obtain her utopia, I couldn't help thinking of that dubious 60's duo, Cloward-Piven and their plans:

It is the strategy of forcing political change leading to societal collapse through orchestrated crises. The "Cloward-Piven Strategy" seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, amassing massive unpayable national debt, and other methods such as unfettered immigration thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse by overwhelming the United States.

The question begging here is why they would assume that some anarcho-communist state of affairs would arise in the aftermath of such a collapse rather than some strongman advocating something like National Socialism?

John Hurley said...

When Swarbrick talks about housing she means (quoting Juile- Anne Genter) "more people isn't a problem", which is also the message of Malcolm McCracken and the Greater Auckland blog crowd.
The latter are are always heralding how good this and that development is ("should be higher though"). Fifteen minute cities imply convenience, whereas MJS referred to all people having space beauty and convenience in and about our homes (not just highly paid urban economists and shoplifting Green Party MPs.

Anonymous said...

Problem one is that Swarbricks nativity is based on the rest of us living in the woke fantasyland of her humanities activist university common room. We don't.

Secondly we aren't all middle class academic radicals who see the world through such a dismal depressing attention seeking lens.

Thirdly, we've just immerged from the grips of a similarly naive government who never thought for a single moment their noble actions would spawn such contradictory reactions. Why do we need more nativity on steroids?

Lastly, we are not serf's and peasants in semi feudal Russia at war with Germany.

She thinks that nailing that minority of people who cannot wait to get out of bed and try something to make an extra buck, those who actually create advanced societies, or even those who just go to work without complaint, will encourage more of the same? Seriously? The history of communism really isn't her strong point is it?

I get Chloe sees herself as hip, very cool and young but those qualities are fading damned fast.

It has not missed me that although the Green Party as it stands is repellent to most people outside the deep liberal Grey Lynn middle class, it has a strength second to none, namely bare faced manipulation bordering on deception. No one yet has questioned how backwards we as a society would have to go to reach their "net zero" carbon commandment to take us to the promised land, hallelujah! That's how good they are! And that's where some are fooled.

NZ has it issues, we have a small group in society currently that don't ascribe to getting off ones arse but thinks the world owes them a living, or else, but, it does pretty well most of the time.

Swarbricks latest smoked filled radicalism is just another boring repertoire. And my feeling is she is at least as flakey as Jacinda!

chris prudence said...

, or even those who just go to work without complaint

the collapse of the important distinction between the world of work and your true vocation job or career to become more fully human through education for emancipation not training for trades and apprentices to enter the workforce uncritically and unequally to be exploited by the boss.

Russell said...

“The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.”

Chris Morris said...

Nothing Ms Swarbrick has done has lead me to believe that she is a deep thinker or can really understand deep intellectual political thought in anything other than cliches. What she has said are just word salads. She might be a deeper thinker than St Jacinda, but that it a pretty low bar.
What legislation has she got through Parliament? Where is her understanding of costs and benefits of changes in actual financial terms? Saying spending X million to improve wellbeing is kindergarten level thinking.
Why do the progressives want to pin their hopes on someone who has public charisma and little else? Following that line has lead to repeated failure.

CXH said...

'every right-wing journalistic scalp-hunter will be powering-up his keyboard.'

Well this gave me a good laugh, haven't seen or heard of one of these in a long time.

Don Franks said...

“everyone in this country” is the warning light. The interests of low paid wage workers and business owners run counter to each other. And folks on both sides of the ledger have had enough of precious preachy Greens.

Anonymous said...

Inequality? How are you going to stop the sun rising Chloe? You're a politician, nothing more. You talk in vague visions like the best or worst of them, projecting yourself as a savior using immeasurable causes. Recall the 100000 houses in 10 years measure? Big mistake there. So best leave it grey, real grey. Like reducing child poverty. Now there was a cause where the stats could be fudged, infinitely.

We've just had 6 years of faux causes and bullshit. The emperor had no clothes then with the Greens involved, can't see you defying the laws of reality physics anymore than your predecessors.

It's all very well talking about inequality but in the real world to be equal we humans have to do everything the same, be automatons. We all behave like emotion free worker bees. No thought, just do. The objective of every person is exactly the same. If anyone varies even in the slightest (kiss goodbye diversity), they will become unequal and inequality will exist. And to stop inequality we must stop humanity.

Politicians like Chloe Swarbrick are ten a penny, it's just they come in different packages, yet the contents are all the same!

New view said...

Her claim the answer lies outside politics and she says this as the new co leader of the greens. Mmmm. She says the time for the revolution is now. For her to believe that she must believe National will self destruct so that’s where her energy will go. She would need Labour as an ally let’s face it running the country might need some know how and the greens and TPM haven’t got it. Not sure Labour would be that keen on Chloe’s aspirations. Then there’s the people who are absolutely sick of incompetence when it comes to the economy. I’m struggling with this vision of hers so far.

Red Nech said...

I'm constantly amused by politicians of an ilk conflating "they" to mean "everybody" and never realising it to be the dictionary definition of Bigotry.

Wayne Mapp said...

Revolutions come from the barrel of a gun, they don't come from the ballot box. The reason being is that elections occur every three years, and the decisions of one election can be reversed at the next.

Of course it does depend on what we mean by revolutions. Our host often decries the "neo-liberal revolution". But was that a revolution? Was anyone's property confiscated, were large numbers of people jailed, were our fundamental rights disrupted?

In my view, Chloe uses the word "revolution" in a very conditional sense. Yes, she wants a transformation, but I don't imagine she really expects to usher in socialism in the sense of widescale expropriation of property. Perhaps she envisages something more like a Scandinavian change, so often admired by the urban liberals of Grey Lynn and Wadestown. Perhaps something like Jacinda Arhern promised, but didn't deliver.

I might be naive, but I think that the only political changes worth doing are those that can survive a change of government. James Shaw's climate change legislation, KiwiSaver, or for that matter the 90 day legislation. That had it's genesis in my 90 day trial private members bill of 2005, which got through a first reading and went to select committee. I specifically chose 90 days instead of 180 days because I thought it was the only period that could survive a change of government. I had to convince my own caucus, where many would have preferred 180 days.

So what would a Chloe "revolution" actually entail? Certainly most of the measures of the last government including various EV and other climate change subsidies, a fair measure of co-governance, capital gains tax, stricter environmental controls of farming around water pollution.

But would the "revolution" shift the size of government from the current 32 or 33% of GDP to something above 40%? That would imply a massive increase in taxes, with tax rates over 60%, cutting in at around $120,000. Would she withdraw from most of New Zealand security relationships, risking the overall relationship with Australia, including unlimited free entry by New Zealanders into Australia? If she campaigned on this sort of revolution, would the combined Left ever be able to get a majority?

If she really wants the Greens to be the dominant party of the left, I reckon she is going to temper her aspirations and become more like Ardern, but with the promise of actual delivery.

In that circumstance I would not be the least surprised if Chloe succeeded. I know many key board warriors have little time for Jacinda, but talk to women and young people. Among them, she is much more fondly regarded. A few years of corporate managerialism might mean a new generation of voters will aspire to something rather more.

Trev1 said...

Swarbrick evinces the intellect of a flea and has the appearance of someone who is mentally disturbed. She screams and rants genocidal slogans about the Middle East, of which she knows little, and shrieks the facile cant of climate catastrophists. Watch her eyes as she does this. Scary.

Simona said...

"People Powered Change", the slogan or tagline of ActionStation and every other international member of the OPEN Network ( - Chloe will be well aware.

The Barron said...

Hon. Dr. Wayne asks "Was anyone's property confiscated...?"

What do you think privatization programmes were about? The state built assets based on the tax take for generations of workers. It held those assets on behalf of the people. Without mandate, these were transferred to oligarchs at bargain basement prices, where we now pay to feed their profits to use those assets and services.

"...were large numbers of people jailed..."

The increase of crimes of poverty and by those that saw no future in out society increased vastly, Wayne's party were to cry 'law and order' rather than social support and increased the jail numbers for Maori, Pasifika and the poor, with little focus to white collar crimes.

"...were our fundamental rights disrupted?

We are signatories to agreements which include the right to housing, the right to employment and a quality of life. The state housing stocks were sold, jobs were cut (forestry or freezing works towns left desolate, with no chance to resell houses and forced to the cities), benefits were slashed. Poverty and homelessness were inevitable consequences.

Dr. Mapp, you might have your justifications as to why you thought actions may have been necessary, but do not dismiss the suffering caused and the economic disparity resulting.

David George said...

There's this:
“I will challenge this Government’s cruel agenda and communicate the imagination, potential, and the necessary hope to mobilise for the sustainable, inspiring and inclusive Aotearoa that I see reflected every day in our communities”

Then there's this:
"Aspiring Green Party co-leader Chloe Swarbrick attended a mediation convened by the Human Rights Commission in late January to address her use of the controversial chant “from the river to the sea” and those present were “hurt and upset by her conduct throughout” which was described as “defiant and unapologetic” according to sources". From Philip Crump AKA Thomas Cranmer

Which one is the real Chloe?

Anonymous said...

Chloe Swarbrick is an antisemite.

Anonymous said...

It won’t be the ‘bogeymen Elites’ but the sensible ordinary Kiwis that will ignore her call to arms. Outside of the centre of some cities her views are worthless and received as high handed tut tuts. Unless they ride in on Labour’s coattails they will remain unelectable like the part Māoris in Te Pati Maori.
Their best chance is to go more mainstream if they want to have any access to the levers of power.

sumsuch said...

Still like your comments section jumping down.

She like all the others will probably fail. Your 'art of the possible' hasn't helped. But once in 40 years, like a clock unwound, truth and the people have a way through.

sumsuch said...

You seem to think honesty is a mistake.

How many of your lovers now are from the Right?

'Art of the possible' leads to an early end for the species in my lifetime, not yours of course.

I put truth first, doesne help me a shit personally.

You can still write a very good Left post, just your diversions for Israel and agin Maori self-rule make you strange, and friendly to the no-help Right.

'Aboot' Trotter, he's as human as all the old Left talkers. Now we need to go on.

David George said...

Anonymous: "high handed tut tuts" . I like it.

Chris: "a broken political doll – or New Zealand’s first Green prime minister"

Things have certainly gone downhill for the Greens. Apart from Chloe's terrorist chanting their Justice spokeswoman is up on multiple theft charges and the relatively sane and stable James Shaw is retiring. In the latest poll their support is down over 40 percent; all the opposition parties are down with the Maori Party also down by around 40%.

Significantly ACT support is up by over 60% (8.1% in November to 13.7% now) and the government coalition well up overall. It looks like the campaign to tell us what to think is not working. Good!

Andrew Nichols said...

Calling someone an antisemite hiding behind anonymity is gutless. Chris. You tolerate this?

Gary Peters said...

I made a comment under my own name that I thought was fairly accurate yet Chris elected to not publish it which is his right.

However, it is hard to reconcile swarbrick's current position as anything less than self serving and anti semitic or Jew hating. I am happy to be be proven wroing but I doubt any opposing logical conclusion could be drawn.

Maybe, as I have alluded to before, the rhetoric from the swarbirick type politicians is to garner votes from the the less than thoughtful among us rather than a reflection of their own opinions.

In my opinion.

David George said...

"Calling someone an antisemite"

Of course the word has some rather unpleasant connections and connotations, sounds a bit "hatey", not something you'd want associated with the Blessed Chloe.

"Antisemitism has survived by being a shapeshifter. When religion was the dominant idea in society Jews were hated for their religion. With the Enlightenment and the development of a scientific worldview view Jews were seen by antisemites as an inferior race. Today it is the Jewish nation that is hated. The nineteenth and early twentieth century antisemites saw themselves as the heroes. So too do those who are uber critical of Israel today.

For the hard left Israelophobic language feels good because it is not about race. The campus progressive doesn’t hate Jews individually, he just hates the nation of Jews. This hatred comes dressed up in the language of social justice and has a strange alliance with extremist Islamism."

"As well as demonisation of Israel there is weaponisation and falsification. “Zionism is racism” and “Israelis are settler colonialists and white supremacists” say the Israelophobes. “The Jews are as bad as Nazis” and “are carrying out ethnic cleansing and genocide”. They overlook the majority of Jews in Israel who are of Middle Eastern origin. Indeed the world is silent about the ethnic cleansing of 900,000 Jews from Arab countries in the 1950s."

John Hurley said...

There is a tradeoff between democracy and levels of immigration.
By democracy, I also include control of the narrative: who can speak on RNZ and TVNZ.
I texted The Platform (SP was lamenting a lack of callers): I would have called but I was driving the school bus. later another text: I would have called but I was sunbathing on my 51 foot yacht.
Nothing changes.
On that Wanaka thing Byron Clark* is described as an "expert on the far-right". Unite Union has a demo with a whole lot of Indians: "No more exploitation; this is a migrant nation!". Ha Joon-Chang argues that a Swedish bus driver earns 50 times that of an Indian bus driver; because of border control. [23 Things They don't Tell You About Capitalism]

*Experts tell us [Facebook] that there is no meaningful distinction between white supremacy and white nationalism.
Dr Chris Wilson criticized Clarks' book for its lack of precise definitions.

The Barron said...

A week is a long time in politics.
Two subsequent polls have ACT at significant lows.