Friday, 13 October 2017

Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution - Or Not?

An Unlikely Revolutionary Banner? A well-organised campaign to root out neoliberalism from all of our economic and social institutions would signal that Peters was serious about changing the way this country is run. And for all those who pretend not to know what the term neoliberalism means, let me spell it out. I am talking about the deliberate intrusion and entrenchment of the logic and values of the marketplace into every aspect of human existence.

“THESE TALKS ARE ABOUT A CHANGE in the way this country is run. Both economically and socially.” That is how Winston Peters characterised the government formation negotiations currently drawing to a close in Wellington. But, what could his words possibly mean, in practical terms?

If seriously intentioned, Peters’ call for economic and social change would have to encompass the thorough-going “de-neoliberalisation” of New Zealand. And, yes, the obvious reference to the “denazification” of post-war Germany is quite deliberate. Between 1945 and 1947 (when a resurgent American Right began insisting that Soviet communism posed a far greater threat than the tens-of-thousands of National Socialists who were quietly re-entering German society) the Allied occupation forces undertook a serious attempt to identify and exclude all those who had facilitated and/or participated in the most appalling crimes in human history.

A well-organised campaign to root out neoliberalism from all of our economic and social institutions would signal that Peters was serious about changing the way this country is run. And for all those who pretend not to know what the term neoliberalism means, let me spell it out. I am talking about the deliberate intrusion and entrenchment of the logic and values of the marketplace into every aspect of human existence.

Neoliberals have been hard at work in New Zealand society since 1984 and the damage they have inflicted upon practically all of its institutions is enormous. So, how would a Labour-Green-NZ First government that was serious about redefining good government in New Zealand begin? Well, it could start by inviting the two Maxes, Rashbrooke and Harris, to undertake a root-and-branch reform of the State Sector Act. The two Bryans. Easton and Gould, could be asked to revise the Reserve Bank Act. Matt McCarten, Robert Reid and Maxine Gay could be given the job of beefing-up the Employment Relations Act. Claudia Orange, Annette Sykes and Moana Jackson could be tasked with fully integrating the Treaty of Waitangi into the New Zealand Constitution being drafted by Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Geddis. Metiria Turei and Sue Bradford could be issued with blowtorches and sent into the Ministry of Social Development.

It’s only when you start thinking in these terms that the awful implausibility of Peters’ statement strikes home. Putting to one side the ingrained provincial conservatism of NZ First’s electoral base, there is simply no possibility of anyone in the senior ranks of the Labour Party endorsing even a pale imitation of this “de-neoliberalisation” agenda. Willie Jackson and a handful of his Maori and Pasifica colleagues might be keen, but no one else. Only the Greens could advocate with an credibility for this sort of root-and-branch reform – which almost certainly explains why there were no Green Party negotiators seated at the table with Winston and Jacinda!

But, if New Zealand is not going to be de-neoliberalised in any meaningful way. If neither NZ First nor Labour would entertain for a moment any of the individuals mentioned above, in any of the roles mentioned above, then what of any lasting worth could a Labour-Green-NZ First government achieve?

More importantly, perhaps, what would be in it for the Greens? If Peters’ very public characterisation of the Greens as a powerless appendage of the Labour Party, with no role at all in the government formation talks, is an accurate reflection of his attitude towards the party, then not only do the Greens have no way of influencing the shape and policies of any new centre-left government, but they will also have no place within it. As Newshub’s Lloyd Burr so succinctly put it, they are being “shafted”.

It is possible, of course, that Peters is talking-up his disdain for the Greens in order to avoid spooking his core supporters in the countryside; and that, privately, he is right behind the eco-socialists’ radical policy agenda. Except, if that is the case, then he must surely be bitterly disappointed by Labour’s extreme policy timidity. Is the sort of party that invites Sir Michael Cullen and Annette King to join its young leader at the negotiating table, really the sort of party that is getting ready to throw its weight wholeheartedly behind “a change in the way this country is run. Economically and socially”?

By this time next week, Winston willing, we’ll have an answer.


This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 12 October 2017.

21 comments:

peter petterson said...

Don't hold your breath anytime soon.

Richard said...

I DO not buy any argument economic change will emanate from a coalition with Peters. Too much like hard work and he has neitherthe temperament or capability or interested in doing the heavy lifting to effect it.

Charles E said...

Winston would certainly not agree with your definition of neo liberal at all. He is not very bright so would not follow what you mean by your definition except that it sounds merely the opposite of failed socialist old thinking.
But that would not stop him defining it fully, as though he is a world expert. His definition would of course require him to fix it for all of us. As our hero.. I guarantee only two things would be needed for him to claim he saved us. Firstly stop more Chinese and Indians invading our country (his words) and secondly, stop all foreigners buying our land.

National, being decent people will not agree to these policies. Labour and the Greens agree with them already but pretend they are not racist bigots like NZF so will agree with his requests but pretend to wash their hands of them.
That red and black were the Nazi colours and they claimed to be greenies is perfectly apt for your flag
Please choose Labour Winnie!
That way we will have a National government from late 2020 until late 2029 at least..
A wonderful liberal government. It will not be neo-liberal as that tired term will have become the norm for two generations, so no longer neo.

Polly said...

I do not mind leaving Neo-liberalism behind but at the same time if that means rampant spending on people who simply do not want work, or do not want to improve their lives or surroundings, then I will screech.

Front page of Herald at 12 noon to-day, says it looks like Winnie and his gang will go with labour?/

God save the Queen and God protect our Country from disaster.

manfred said...

That's the american black nationalist flag.

Chris, I'm pleased you still have some of the old 60's radical in you.

Fight the power!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"But that would not stop him defining it fully, as though he is a world expert. "

Oh....Charles! Matthew 7:3. And thank you for the best laugh I've had all day.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I remember Brian Easton once saying that as soon as Douglas took over, you couldn't get a job in Treasury unless you were a neoliberal. Perhaps we could start with them. Personally, considering what they are supposed to do, and considering their record on it, I think a reasonable case could be made for getting rid of them. But that's probably a bridge too far. Certainly some sort of root and branch operation would be needed with them though, because they would be as obstructionist as possible with anything resembling Keynesian economic policies.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Front page of Herald at 12 noon to-day, says it looks like Winnie and his gang will go with labour?/"
I don't think it's a huge stretch to say that Winston could see that, and decide fuck 'em I'm going to do the opposite out of sheer contrariness.:) I've seen a sign or to myself, but I'm not predicting what Winston is going to do, for the simple reason that he is unpredictable. Except he works for Winston. Unfortunately his interpretation of what's best for Winston is pretty much impenetrable at the moment.

Richard said...

Is there no end to the NZ First sideshow show? Several weeks have gone by and still they are deliberating.... Seems like more analysis and caucus discussion is needed than for the North Korean's missile programme.

It is not that hard. In fact all this
carry on has now reached the point of a complete farce. What is there that needs a further two day hui by this facile mob.

Not 5 people in the land who have experienced Peters and his antics over 30 years would believe anyone but he is the decsion maker. Instead more of his trade-mark pissing about while he makes" his play to be PM where he is now in the Last Chance Saloon.

greywarbler said...

Polly says: I do not mind leaving Neo-liberalism behind but at the same time if that means rampant spending on people who simply do not want work, or do not want to improve their lives or surroundings, then I will screech.

It's not as simple as that. Most people do want to work, but would like some set hours, a decent wage so they can live and have some pleasure for themselves with what's left over after the basics are paid for, they would like somewhere to live that has a fence around to keep in their dog, kids, privacy, and a transport system that gets them promptly and reasonably priced to work and home and to sports on Saturday.

That is basically what the middle class do, and the low income group could get used to that very well. They won't be outstanding usually, but they can be given opportunities and be required to do stuff to assist their neighbourhood. And also the wealthy will be expected to take their part in building the decent society, and not get away with sitting round with supercilious expressions watching the lesser beings; they are such snobs and self-satisfied. I guess that includes you Polly.

jh said...

You are not an economist Chris but you are seriously challenging economic theory. If you are going to remove a prescriptive set of ideas based on models, assumptions and empirical observations, what are you going to replace it with. Love?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

" rampant spending on people who simply do not want work".

After many years of working with people who are out of work, or whose parents are out of work, I think I could probably count the number who actually didn't want to work on the fingers of one hand or less. So even if spending on them is "rampant", it's hardly likely to be excessive. This is simply a conservative trope for the unemployed. Because they tend to blame them for their own circumstances. And it really needs knocking on the head.

pat said...

at greywarbler and Polly

"I do not mind leaving Neo-liberalism behind but at the same time if that means rampant spending on people who simply do not want work, or do not want to improve their lives or surroundings, then I will screech." Polly

"It's not as simple as that. Most people do want to work, but would like some set hours, a decent wage so they can live and have some pleasure for themselves with what's left over after the basics are paid for, they would like somewhere to live that has a fence around to keep in their dog, kids, privacy, and a transport system that gets them promptly and reasonably priced to work and home and to sports on Saturday" greywarbler

both views I fear are likely to become redundant in the not too distant future....the rise of automation, AI and even synthetic food production have the potential to render much of the workforce unnecessary .

If so, what motivation do the powers that be have to continue to support "the useless classes"?....a group that is likely to include nearly as all (and our offspring)....dystopia, here we come.

https://ideas.ted.com/the-rise-of-the-useless-class/


Wayne Mapp said...

What was the point of this article, except to raise a straw man argument. You weren't just proposing to go pre 1984, instead you see to be advocating a socialist paradise of nationalisation, high taxes, a rampart state, yet somehow with maximum individual freedom. But as you admit none of that is going to happen. Peters is not a Chavaista, which you already know in any event..

More importantly New Zealanders, whether they voted National New Zealand First or Labour, did not vote for that. They did not vote for revolution. Labours programme had none of that, as your various criticisms of Labour's Budget Responsibility Rules demonstrates. Presumably you have some respect for what the voters (over 90% of them) want.

It is easy to argue that the majority of New Zealanders (including many National voters) want some change with the rough edges knocked off the current economic and social system. That is what they will get, irrespective of who become government this coming week. More of with Labour, less of it with National.

Polly said...

greywarbler; 13 Oct 17.31pm,
Please grow up and be sensible.
Have a good nights sleep away from the grog.
Read my piece again.
Then please take off your coloured specs and digest.
You will feel better about real life in NZ compared to the rest of the world much of which I have visited and lived in.

Chris Trotter said...

To: jh @ 05:53

Love? jh. As opposed to greed, pride and hate? Why not?

Gryllus said...

Wayne Mapp at 08:19
NZF is by far the most economically left wing of all the party (disguised by their social conservatism). So there will be minor revolution of sorts despite what you say. We want our stuff back. One night there will be a knock on your door perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Not really, all parties are now fairly left wing and while fairly ruthless contract arrangements may be used on the employment of marginal jobs in the big cities as cleaners or support workers ins say large service or rest home industries for the most part NZ employment seems fairly managed with major concessions to the so called public and ordinary peoples interests by the Key and English government. International standards in the tourist, hospitality and drink industry seemed to go out the window with the replacement of Clark by Key and more so English.
In the provinces most Wages are low, but it probably reflects the international price for low quality belatedly imposed on New Zealand and the fact the world regards agriculture as a low skill third world industry. The lack of priority for the likes of public transport was the Clark Labour view

Jack Scrivano said...

For my sins, I have lived and worked in several countries. In all of these countries, the going rate for unskilled and semi-skilled jobs has been low. Sometimes, very low.

In one country, a friend of mine tried to start a ‘quality’ commercial cleaning company that delivered a high class service and paid its workers a much better than living rate. He failed. He couldn’t compete with his lower-cost competitors.

Another friend started an agricultural/horticultural contracting business. He too paid his people a better-than-living wage. He also failed. His competitors pushed him out of the market with lowly-paid unskilled immigrants.

A third friend employed a couple of gardeners to work, part time, on his country ‘estate’ – not much more than a large garden. He paid them peanuts. ‘How do you feel about that?’ I asked when I discovered what he was paying. ‘It’s what I can afford,’ he said. ‘And for them, it’s peanuts or no nuts.’

The idea of paying everyone in New Zealand a living wage and then some only works if New Zealand’s customers are prepared to pay the going price – and then some. Are they?

greywarbler said...

Polly I haven't been on the grog. Do you think that is a necessary accessory to understanding your off the cuff opinions?
And I have been outside NZ also living and working. And I try to keep up with what is happening and freshen up my ideas not just leave them sitting undisturbed gathering dust.

There are problems ahead, as referred to with mechanicals taking over our jobs and lives. Do we want this? I don't but I keep reading tired old resigned bods who state it all in a despondent way. What use trying to do anything, we may as well give up?

There's an old saying, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going'. And after seeing the division of voting in NZ this election, those who aren't going to get drunk and lie down on the road, better meet and start nutting out some new ideas for a livable group that moves together and wisely and promotes trust, co-operation and agreement on principles with room for individualism, and then sticks together.

You are going to need an extended family that commits to each other, that sticks to a supportive approach, doesn't white-ant you and doesn't waste assets or set goals that are pie in the sky. And they won't be able to support every vanquished soul that turns up at the door. It will be like during the Depression where kind people would hand out a meal, and let someone sleep in the barn. And maybe they will knock on Wayne Mapp's door too, unless he puts himself into a gated community.

Charles E said...

Well I hope you are reading the entrails correctly in the news today Chris!
Yes please! Winnie takes on the red & greens, adding his NZF black touch, to curtail, even black out their wild dreams, ensuring the country sails on peacefully pretty much the same, free of red/green nightmares.
And that leaves my lovely blue team to sail off on a well deserved holiday. Can't wait.
It really would be a bore to have a Nat/NZF gov, gov.