“Power To The (Right) People!” How Neoliberalism Stole the Left’s Best Ideas.



AT THE CORE of contemporary New Zealand politics lies a bitter argument about the nature and purpose of the state. Eighty years ago the Labour Party radically changed the shape and responsibilities of the New Zealand State, setting in place a legal and institutional framework that endured, largely unchanged, until the mid-1980s. Between 1985 and 1995, however, both the Labour and National parties embarked on an historic mission to both re-shape and re-purpose the New Zealand State.

In this they were only partially successful. Much of the First Labour Government’s “Welfare State” remains in place. Health and education retain their fundamentally public character. Sixty thousand “State Houses” and their tenants continue to call the state their landlord. And, twenty-five years of privatisation notwithstanding, much of New Zealand’s key infrastructure: the railways, an airline, energy generation and transmission; remain either wholly or partially in government hands.

The Right is impatient to complete the neoliberalisation of the New Zealand State. The Left, however, cannot make up its mind whether it should defend the institutions and achievements of the past (including those of the 1980s) or set about creating a new state – one fit for twenty-first century New Zealanders to live in. The National Party’s remarkable political success since 2008 is explained almost entirely by this left-wing indecision. If Labour and the Greens cannot agree, and quickly, upon a common forward path, then the neoliberal transformation of New Zealand will become an accomplished fact.

The completion of the neoliberal project will not, however, be undertaken honestly. Most New Zealanders, if asked, will reject the idea of privatised health and education – just as, when they were asked in the 1980s and 90s, they rejected the idea of privatising the Bank of New Zealand and NZ Post. In 2014, campaigning openly and honestly for its hard-line neoliberal programme, the Act Party attracted around 16,000 Party Votes nationwide – less than half of the Mana-Internet Party’s 34,000.

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The extreme unpopularity of neoliberalism forces neoliberals to mask their true intentions behind a rhetoric that owes as much, if not more, to the Left than the Right. Charter Schools, for example, are sold to the public as the only effective means of raising the educational attainment levels of society’s most disadvantaged groups. A crude education-for-profit boondoggle is thereby represented in the most vivid left-wing hues: a radical solution to the problems caused by an indifferent, highly-bureaucratised state. After all, what could be more conducive to achieving social justice and freedom than empowering local communities to organise themselves out from under the overbearing, one-size-fits-all tutelage of the public education system?

And how does the Left respond? In just about every case, by championing the bureaucracy, standing behind the sector unions (whose symbiotic relationship with the bureaucracy is seldom acknowledged) and by condescendingly denying the capacity of poor and disadvantaged parents to recognise what is good for their children. The reaction of these parents – who are also voters – is readily imagined.

The sadly ironic fact about this all-too-effective political jiu-jitsu is that the Right borrowed it more-or-less holus-bolus from the radical reformers of the 1960s and 70s. Leftists from that era will readily recall the book Summerhill by A. S. Neill – which demanded the radical devolution of pedagogical power to the pupils themselves. Nor will left-wing Baby Boomers have forgotten the psychologist, R. D. Laing’s ruthless deconstruction of the bourgeois nuclear family (with all its attendant psychopathologies). In a society that was itself insane, argued Laing in The Politics of Experience and The Divided Self, those whom we label “mad” may actually be the most rational of us all.

In short, the intellectual leaders of the so-called “New Left” did not hesitate to identify the highly-centralised and deeply authoritarian institutions of the bureaucratic welfare state as prime targets for radical reform.

Not even the trade unions escaped the New Left’s revolutionary critique. The leaders of organised labour (who, in the United States, had come out in favour of the Vietnam War) were branded as collaborators and sell-outs, whose overweening power and influence needed to be redistributed downwards to the workers on the shop-floor.

If these themes still resonate politically, it is only because the New Left’s critiques of the post-war Welfare State were all-too-accurate. What began as a means of liberating working-class people from the “five giant evils” which had tyrannised them throughout the laissez-faire era: Want, Idleness, Ignorance, Squalor and Disease; had morphed into an equally overbearing overseer of the citizen’s social conduct. Rather than freeing working people from the ravages of capitalism, the Welfare State had only made them more fit for its purposes.

Near the end of Mike Leigh’s 2012 film The Spirit of ’45 a number of the contributors draw attention to “the worm in the bud” of the Labour Party’s radical 1945 programme. Its weakness, as they saw it, lay in the fact that the nationalised industries were to be run “for and on behalf of” – but not by – the people. Stripped of their potent symbolism, Labour’s changes amounted to little more than replacing the competing (and, therefore, highly inefficient and often dangerous) hierarchies and bureaucracies of the private sector with a smaller number of new hierarchies and bureaucracies operated by the state. In the immortal words of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again: “Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.”

The extraordinary success of the neoliberals’ wholesale appropriation of the New Left’s rhetoric against highly centralised, authoritarian bureaucracies – especially those operated by the state – can only be countered by a Left that’s prepared to re-appropriate and intelligently advance its pilfered political programme. By once again promoting devolution as a general political principle, left-wing parties would immediately expose the falsity of the neoliberals’ position. The advocacy of genuine “consumer rights” in our schools, universities, hospitals, shops, offices and factories would alert people to their true position in both the private and public bureaucracies of contemporary capitalism.

Those who object that the Labour Party would never embrace such a radical strategy have obviously never heard of the devolutionary and worker empowerment initiatives of the Fourth Labour Government. The Regional Employment and Access Councils (REACs) which operated on a tripartite basis – i.e. their members were drawn equally from employers, unions and community organisations – would have intervened even more successfully in the labour market had they been required to operate with just a little more transparency and accountability. The Trade Union Education Authority, generously funded to equip union delegates with the skills necessary to be effective workplace advocates, was another successful initiative of the Fourth Labour Government. (The Rogernomes didn’t have it all their own way!)

Today, of course, we have Whanau Ora. Conceived by Tariana Turia as a means of empowering Maori families to avail themselves directly of the services and resources traditionally provided piecemeal through the numerous separate agencies of the Welfare State, this Maori Party initiative is probably the most radical exercise in devolution ever sanctioned by the New Zealand State. In spite of Whanau Ora coming in for considerable criticism (much of it entirely justified) the programme should not be rejected out-of-hand by the Left. With full transparency and accountability built into its processes, this initiative could yet furnish New Zealand’s progressive community with a whole new model for “consumer” empowerment.

Yes, a state in which initiatives like Whanau Ora can flourish will look very different from the state created by Labour in the 1930s. But the Left must not be afraid to both re-imagine and re-purpose the sort of institutional structures needed to deliver a better life for working people in the twenty-first century. The neoliberals have already proved the rhetorical and political potency of the proposition that people should be allowed to manage their own affairs. In doing so, however, they first paid the Left the enormous compliment of stealing its best ideas. It is now the Left’s urgent duty to steal them back.


  1. Thanks Chris,

    makes a lot of sense and definitely cleared up some of my thinking on this. Another Tory win in the UK apparently and the Left need to re-think entire approach to parliamentary politics.

      • Hi Mike,
        This was a source code rigged election no doubt as all the pollsters and commercial predicters are simply gob smacked that they cannot believe the results so yes it was a rigged source code electronic flawed result.
        The final count was made this morning less than 18hrs after the early results.

        This is indicating it was an “electronic tabulation” count which can be rigged easily here by source code rigging.


        • While you want to see a conspiracy behind every result a understanding of maths (?) will explain how FPP or MMP can have totally different results from the same election.
          As for your proof the speed of the result means nothing.

  2. TIRSA a similar trade deal to TPP is being enacted now. If you want to keep up with the way the world is being taken over by the so called elite,read Wake up New Zealand, every day this site is describing the criminal activity.If you are informed you can be aware and prepare.TIRSA aims to control education by making all education take on charter schools .profit of course to the corporations.
    There are two sites one is Wake up NZ ,the daily info site is Wake up New Zealand.

    • I really do believe that Elle has got it right.

      By failing to attend to the bigger picture, Chris Trotter, i think you get bogged down in detail that is historically correct but no longer of any real relevance to the current global and local political scenes.

      The RELEVANT facts are that:

      1. The big multinational corporations have been steadily entrenching their political power and political influence since World War 2, if not earlier. Meanwhile the entire planet has come under threat from unfettered World overpopulation combined with excessive increases in materialism and consumerism that go way beyond what can be handled by the ecosystem of planet Earth.

      This excessive consumerism, driven in part by rising living standards across parts of the world as well as by the burgeoning world population, of course serves to further entrench the power base of the multinationals. This is because it is the multinationals that directly benefit from the “excessive consumerism/excessive population growth cycle” in terms of their profit margins and “their bottom lines”. Put simply, they, the top 1%, get richer while the rest of us get poorer.

      2. The nett effect of the above pressures has been the emergence of a “new elitism”. The notions that ‘all are born equal’ and that ‘all have an equal right to share in the successes (or otherwise) of the societies in which we live’ have become anachronisms. Indeed the very notion of ‘one person one vote’ as a cornerstone of democracy has become little more than something we pay lip-service to.

      Internationally, the so-called ‘think tanks’ that determine the shape and nature of the policies that will be fought in an election are completely dominated by the multinationals and their elitist way of thinking. The control of the election issues and even the outcomes of our so called “democratic Western-style elections” is already very much under the heel of the multinationals. They have the money and they use it mercilessly to lobby for the kind of world THEY want.

      It is only going to get worse if successive governments do nothing to reverse these trends. And the single factor that is most urgently in need of change, if we are to attempt to restore our democracies, is to impose limits upon the capacity of the multinationals to lobby. (The danger is, I suppose, that attempts to restrict the power of the lobbyists would simply drive it underground).

      Unfortunately, I see little interest in, nor inclination to address these issues, in either the National/Tory/Republican or in the opposing Labour/Democrat parties of the Western democracies (NZ, UK, USA, Australia etc).

      Basically, in Western democracies, we get to vote for parties that are under the control of the multinationals and that are permitted to campaign on issues that are determined by the multinationals.

      And regardless the outcome of any particular election, (the current UK election included) there will always be just one group in society who are the REAL winners – and that social group comprises the elitist multinational corporate bosses. The 1%.

  3. “In doing so, however, they (neoliberals) first paid the Left the enormous compliment of stealing its best ideas. It is now the Left’s urgent duty to steal them back”.

    As the global economy tanks again, this will happen as the neoliberals join the slash & burn brigade.

  4. Fascinating . And hauntingly affirming . I’ve been railing against neo liberalism from the mid 1980’s.

    There’s one thing though. Of many things, there is the one thing that nags the be-jesus out of me .

    The money. It’s all very well to have ideas and values, well intended or not, but who pays for it all ?

    Is it any wonder that neoliberalism has the farmers ear/wallet and it is those few hardy souls who’d have much to complain about if only they knew how they also were so unbelievably manipulated by the wily ways of the cunning neo liberal .

    I wish you’d respond to my curiosities @ Chris Trotter . I’d love to know what your observations were on that matter .

    Farmers have the money and the neoliberals have the farmer and the farmer is constrained by the ” You’re as free to be enslaved as you like ” conundrum, as are we all .

    What if , now I’m only saying what if mind , the farmer was integrated with the greater population . Employment certainty with export surety without the neoliberal in the middle ? What a thought !

    A fabulous Post . Thank you .

      • I think what Country Boy is saying is that farmers involved directly with their customers through farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture schemes are more likely to be part of shared democratic culture with their urban counterparts, than farmers whose main contact with other people is reps from Fonterra, and salespeople from agri-chemical multinationals etc. Is that about it CB?

        • Except he mentions exporting, which normally precludes such a close linkage with the target market.

        • @ STRYPEY . Ah, partly. My feeling with regard to farmers socially interacting with fellow humans who happen to live in urban environments is that Farmers should make sure they can sell what ever the fuck they like, when ever the fuck they like, to whom ever the fuck they like. I’d like to see an end to Bank subsidised, neo liberal quislings forming quasi- bureaucracies to control our lives and make us subservient to them so as they can make a dollar at our expense. The chemical industry is as a result of Bank intervention in the way Farmers ply their trade. If you don’t want chemicals on your land or in your animals then get rid of the foreign owned Banks . The upstart clipboard brandishing shiny ares’s should be tar and feathered out of our lives . In my opinion.
          Those same quislings led farmers to believe they DID have direct contact to their customers. They were called ‘ producer boards ‘ and their customers were beastly foreigners with things we couldn’t manufacture but we could buy and they desperately wanted what we grew for them to eat.
          For example:
          When the Apple and Pear marketing board came into fruition, pardon the pun, us human members of the public were not allowed to be sold ‘export grade’ fruits from the growers road side stall’s. Instead, those best fruits were canned by the likes of Watties and sold cheaper to the Australians than the Aussies could buy their own fruits. We just couldn’t buy it at all.
          The Wool Board gleefully bought into manipulating the NZ farmer into a terrible corner . Let me explain as best I can. E&OE .
          I don’t know if you know much about the noble sheep ( This is the year of the Sheep. )
          Sheep are not usually yellow like the absurd AA insurance ad would have us believe .
          Sheep are living organisms that when intensively farmed need constant care and attention . They also need moral guidance and emotional support .
          They also need to be fed, groomed and protected from themselves. They need drenching, their nails done, stray shit shaved from their arses, injected with God only knows what and then during pregnancy and giving birth they must be watched constantly lest one of them gets a lamb jammed up in the works. When that happens and a lamb is trying to come out the vaginal canal backwards you have to slip your arm up the sheep’s vagina, grip the wee mite firmly and with collaboration from all parties, turn the lamb around and bring it out nose first so that when the umbilical cord is broken the lamb doesn’t suffocate up its mothers lady parts. If one had , as we did , three thousand breeding ewes, that’s a lot of sheep vaginas to keep an eye on.
          There is one other and vital element to the above scenario . One of sheep breeding as being an holistic practise. The animals under ones charge are individuals, but they’re also One. Heard of a herd ? They are One large responsibility. One could argue , that when the weather becomes a matter of life and death as in drought , snow , floods and perhaps the worst of all, the strong cold spring-time wind and rain combo, life gets exciting for the sheep farmer.
          There was one other element to add to the horrors of skin-of -the-teeth sheep farming . The pretty little people who used to roll up the gravel drive way in their pretty yet dusty little cars.
          The dreaded Rep’.
          The windbag rep’ could sell shit to a cholera patient .
          But I feel like I’m digressing .

          The wool board set minimum prices that farmers could expect, Pity they couldn’t set costs and hikes in interest rates as well. They did however watch their buddies in those industries ratchet up on-farm costs to force farmers into debt traps though. The fuckers .
          What the wool board did do was to stock pile wool in triple dumped bales ( A triple dumped bale is where one takes three ordinary bales of wool then squeeze them together . Less volume, more efficient shipping. To , ya know, our export markets )
          I was told, by a French wool buyer, that the wool board had vast sheds full of wool out near Addington. The triple dumped bales were literally leaking lanolin onto the floors of the warehouses. Once the wool board got hold of all that lovely farmer product at minimum prices all they had to do was sit and wait for currency markets to improve in their favour and for our wool buyers to start to hurt for the want of our wool ( Best in the world Mate ! ) due to our off-shore manufacturers taking orders for garments, carpets and upholstery fabric. To name a few products. Lanolin is well known as a cosmetic .
          So, while the farmer believed what the Rep told them as the Banks offered loans against an uncertain market secured against capital value, not against product return , the Natzi’s cheerfully championed the Farmer to their faces while they gleefully fucked them over behind their backs . ( Weird mental image right now ! )

          The Wool Board
          The Meat Board
          The Apple and Pear marketing Board
          The Dairy Board
          The Pork Board .
          How many National Party members sitting around those particular board room tables I wonder ? How many old , bent ex Farmers now well used to the allure of whores and cocktails at expensive Auckland restaurants led their fellow farmers to slaughter ?
          A cadre of rich old liars and swindlers .
          Do you want to have a go at me ? I dare you , you fucking swine. ( No disrespect to actual pigs. )
          Oop . Getting angry now . It’s just that I watched my mum wandering around with a rifle praying for the courage to shoot herself after they came for her and my dad . A lifes work swindled away . All her beloved animals taken off her . My dads beautiful land sold to a local neighbour and Bank quisling .

          This is getting personal .
          If there are any farmers reading this, you will know what I’m talking about.
          Farmers are deliberately alienated from their fellow, city dwelling humans by a few very well resource’d and media savvy con-persons keeping a swindle alive and kicking.

          A great thing about modern times is that what I have to write, the story I have to tell, is that it can be done so here . On the wondrous The Daily Blog and to be able to have the company of exceptional minds the likes of Chris Trotter and others. Not a story that can be bastardised and buried by a simpering minion in print media as was the case not that long ago . roger douglas and others would never have seen the internet coming like he saw the opportunity to swindle his fellow Kiwis .

          Bring the Farmer in from the Cold . If an anti-neoliberal revolution is to succeed we must engage the farmer and his/her money and spread the cities out over the Land. After all ! Who in the fuck would work in some shitty , soulless factory when you could be working with animals and plants out in nature in a sustainable way without being fucked by money lenders ?

  5. It’s a difficult concept, a society without authority figures and/or hierarchy. It makes me think about how powerful the idea of social climbing is, even unconsciously. The idea of “progress” is massive.

    • Check out ‘The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs Over Self-Interest’ by Harvard Professor Yochai Benkler. Also his TED Talk ‘The New Open Source Economics’. There is a huge volume of evidence emerging that given the freedom to do so, people will cooperate on socially beneficial projects with motivation from either the carrot (money and commercial markets) or the stick (heirarchies and bureaucracies). Benkler uses internet examples like open source software projects and Wikipedia, but the same volunteer-driven collaboration can be seen on a smaller scale in environmental projects like community gardens, native regeneration projects, and seed saving networks.

  6. Yes Country boy,

    the farmer is constrained by the ” You’re as free to be enslaved as you like ” conundrum, as are we all .
    And quarterized we are all as well.

  7. An invigorating post, unlike the dreary commentary characteristic of modern politics. I have been convinced in recent times the future of the Left will be more anarchic in nature.

  8. Chris are you joking?
    How could Tories get into National when Muldoon was in charge, he was more socialist than Tory? They couldn’t.
    So they hijacked Labour.
    There’s no way any true Labour voter would vote for GST and a flat tax rate for the benefit of workers, ie neoliberal transfer of social responsibility, from the rich, to the working class.
    No true Labour voter would set about the systematic dismantling of unions and then embark on destabilizing full-time work with no overtime, flexible hour contracts, 90-day contracts and zero-hours contracts and shifting the power balance towards the employer and away from the employee.
    It’s just the turd economic politics of Reagan, Thatcher, but 5-7 years later than the others? Why? Because it was a Tory modus operandi and Muldoon was in power.
    Stop trying to intellectualize neo-liberal shite economics as being good for working class. It’s not,
    Is it because you Chris are trying to protect neoliberals in the Labour caucus?
    If you are, then YOU don’t understand the soul of a socialist.
    If not then what’s your game?

  9. Chris that could be the most insightful thing anyone has written about the last 40 years of NZ politics. You’ve just lit the light that explains all the problems that Labour has had over the last twenty years and why neo-liberal lite is the best they have been able to offer.

    How on earth can we get this message through to the leadership of the left? As we all know the Labour Party has completely lost it’s ability to lead precisely because of this issue.

    Perhaps the question is, how can we lead the leaders to where they need to be?

    • Maybe Labour should give Grant Robertson the leadership,hes seems to know what hes talking about.Most of the other leaders are in thrall to Key.
      When a chance came to call for Keys resignation over the ponytail saga ,all quiet,if it was a Labour leader who made a total prat of himself the whole of the National party plus MSM would have had a field day yelling resign.
      Its to be wondered if most polititions of every stripe get their orders from the same overseas bosses.

  10. “The Right is impatient to complete the neoliberalisation of the New Zealand State. The Left, however, cannot make up its mind whether it should defend the institutions and achievements of the past (including those of the 1980s) or set about creating a new state – one fit for twenty-first century New Zealanders to live in. The National Party’s remarkable political success since 2008 is explained almost entirely by this left-wing indecision. If Labour and the Greens cannot agree, and quickly, upon a common forward path, then the neoliberal transformation of New Zealand will become an accomplished fact.”

    Well “the New Left” of past days had a bit of an anarchistic view, as I see it, and that is how they favoured devolution of parts of society’s structures and systems, by putting the power into the hands of the individual that is part of a new collective, at base levels, in various forms.

    That is not what we have under neoliberal “reforms”. Yes, the neoliberal forces are not and will not be honest with the public, as what they plan to implement will not really appeal to most, should it be explained in all honest detail.

    I look at “the left” as being indecisive, and wanting a bit from both options, a bit of neoliberalism, a bit of state management of it all. But that is the norm, in variations, in most countries now.

    Depending on a government, the balance shifts more from one end to the other of the spectrum.

    I despair when I hear Mike Williams, former Labour Party president and/or election campaigner, now a spokesperson or member of the Howard League for penal reform, praising a private prison being run by Serco, who have a rather shocking record in the UK.

    And that new prison south of Auckland also has a contract with private business ‘Placemakers’, so prisoners can apply their newly acquired “skills” by fabricating products they can sell. I suspect the proceeds will not flow into the prisoners pockets to facilitate re-integration into society after they have done their times, it will flow into the government’s pocket (Corrections’), to “subsidise” the new prison.

    Shareholders or owners of Serco will earn their “well deserved” profits for “taking risks”, I suppose, and the public private partnership arrangement is what this government just loves.

    Mr Williams shows us where probably a fair few Labour MPs stand on this, while some may be a bit critical of the government, in private they are quite happy with such new forms of doing things.

    We have MSD outsource more and more services to private providers, where these provide them on a fee basis, paid for “output” results. Beneficiaries are becoming a commodity of sorts, and get paid for, to be processed into jobs or at least training. Some do well out of it, even if they may just run such a “charity run” service (that is where some of them will be registered, as a “charity”). They can have their trust pay them handsome salaries and incomes, with company cars and so, and they do well out of getting the “failed riff-raff” off benefits, so to say.

    Whanau Ora may have been started with good intentions, but having close to a third of the invested funds go into admin shows exactly how such programs often turn out to be. In some individual cases they may bring “success”, but again, this is just creating new bureaucracies and new hangers on systems, where some make their bread and butter from delivering whatever “service”.

    Hospitals contract commercial corporations to prepare meals for patients, making hundreds redundant, to “save” costs, and many other things are happening like this.

    A state can always reform itself, we just need it being done well, and by smart enough people. Nowadays we get consultants galore, paid high fees or salaries, we get CEOs earning excessive salaries, we get hordes of managers, advisors and contractors, all wanting their share, while ordinary service workers or other workers get hired and fired, some on zero hour basis.

    I know where I stand, this post is a bit “academic” in looking at options, and we do really know where this government wants to take us. Were it not for past governments having created the population we now have, by forcing them into contracting, starting own sole operator businesses, small businesses and agencies, to do work that used to be done by employees, we may face a different future.

    As most are now stuck in dependency of an economic system full of mercenaries, competing against each other, where collective thinking and action is generally alien, unless it is for a specially, mostly privately funded “project”, to achieve a commercial outcome, we have selfishness and greed rule. Most think of number one and little else, and so they vote, and it is getting worse, the more neoliberalism takes a hold.

    Rattling and shaking, I suggest, to wake the slumbering hobbits out of their sleep, so they see, what false prophets they follow. Let us rattle more, rattle and shake, please, instead of sitting around contemplating until the last train has left that could still be caught to get us somewhere.

    • @ MIKE IN AUCKLAND – I think you have hit the nail on the head in your post. Well said.

      It’s a pity too many ordinary Kiwis will not rock the boat. Not sure why. Complacency maybe, so we get what we deserve and are played like fiddles for the corporate establishment’s benefit, at our expense!

      But some serious rattling and shaking, as you put it, is indeed required to achieve some positive change. And that can only come from us ordinary Kiwis, the 99%, the majority!

      I fear now, nothing will rock the boat of the establishment, other than some strongly assertive collective protest from the citizenry, that of the kind which will hit the status quo hard enough to shake it up!

      Kiwis need to wake up and start working as an organized collective to save our nation from being completely raped and pillaged by thieving corporate dominated governments!

    • YESSSSS!!
      And as for the ‘skills’ prisoners are supposed to gain fabricating placemakers rubbish, it doesn’t take any skill or very much imagination to attach piece marked ‘A’ to piece marked ‘B’ over and over and over again.

  11. You got it the wrong way around.
    The left you talk about always aped the right.
    The capitalists are the only real state beneficiaries because they literally own the state.
    NZ capitalists were the first welfare beneficiaries courtesy of the imperialist state occupation.
    The real left were those who resisted this occupation.
    The left that looks to the bosses state to reform capitalism only serves to prolong capitalist rule, while getting paid off by the bosses.
    WP Reeves Fabian guru of the reformist left in NZ benefited from a road run into his farm.
    FP Walsh that labour boss rat benefited by becoming the biggest dairy farmer of the day.
    The capitalist state cannot be devolved into real popular democracy.
    Capitalism is to democracy what billionaires are to Congress.
    Whanau Ora and Charter Schools are the offspring of Tomorrows Schools that sold supply side consumer sovereignty out of Chicago via Santiago.
    Consumer sovereignty is courtesy of capitalist dictatorship.
    The real left like the Red Fed fought the imperialist state and the nation state at home and abroad for jobs and freedom.
    They were exercising real democracy.
    The New Left of the 60s picked up that fight.
    Their model was not neighbourhood watch but the Vietcong.
    But like the Vietcong they were overwhelmed by the left in the pay of the right.
    The real left today is for the end of capitalism and its state and for a new society in which democracy becomes the basis for collective action to stop the destruction of nature and humanity.

  12. Chris makes a number of critically important points in this piece. He correctly diagnoses the cause of the Nats third term win; the lack of a shared vision/ strategy on the “left” (defined here as the opposition to the Nats). He correctly identifies the emptiness of neo-liberal, anti-state rhetoric (you can’t have corporations without states to incorporate them), and the fact that the factions of the left engaged in romanticizing the state only succeed in discouraging the people who actually have to deal with painful state bureaucracies day-to-day (WINZ, IRD, CYFS etc) from identifying with the left. He correctly points out that we need a new “left” vision based on solutions which empower ordinary people in their communities and networks. I encourage everyone to have another read, and think deeply about what third options might exist beyond the false stand-off between state and corporate power.

  13. Another excellent post Chris, thanks.

    It seems the Left still sees politics as a struggle between the Left and the Right whereas the Left’s opposition have moved on.

    Many here sloganize their opposition with the terms ‘Right Wing’ or ‘Neo-Liberal’ when they aren’t really Right at all, they’re most just pragmatists endeavouring to do whatever works best. So whilst the Left is busy dying in a ditch over some arcane ideological point which ceased to be relevant half a century ago, your opposition is governing.

    There’s a theory of management called ‘contingency theory’ which states there is no best way to run an organisation. Instead decisions should be taken on the basis of the unique circumstances surrounding each and every situation. If you extrapolate this idea into politics, then a rigid ideology is exactly what you DON’T want in your toolkit.

    Chris’s point about Charter Schools is completely valid. The state system has been failing the lower end of the social spectrum for many years so for very little money, it’s well worth the risk to try something different….and judging by results so far, it’s working! Instead of relying on a 1920’s Socialist Manifesto, they’re innovating. They’re examining and adopting ideas from overseas. They’re moving on…

    The problem with Labour when it comes to ‘moving on’ is that it can’t. Look again at Charter Schools. The REAL issue that the Labour has with these schools is that they’re non-unionised. (Hey, who gives a damn about the kids?) Since about half of union members in NZ today are teachers, the successful adoption of Charter Schools would cut the throat of the union movement and because the unions have a block vote when it comes to electing leaders, there is no way Labour can move on and adapt to 21st century circumstances.

    • The state system has been failing the lower end of the social spectrum for many years so for very little money, it’s well worth the risk to try something different….and judging by results so far, it’s working!

      Care to explain how charter schools are “working”?

      With the millions thrown at Chart Schools, it’s hard not to see them “working”, as you put it. Almost any enterprise could succeed with the massive resourcing allocated toward it as Charter Schools have received.

      It’s a pity this government does not put the same resourcing into saving jobs on the West Coast. Or new housing in Northland. Etc.

      • The fact is Frank, the “millions” thrown at Charter Schools is peanuts compared to the money thrown at state schools. The evidence is that Charter Schools, once set up, are cheaper to run than State Schools.

        As to why they’re working: Ask an educationalist (preferably a non-union member) or go visit one to find out. My suspicion is that they enforce discipline and the kids respect the teachers, but it’s not my field.

        Throwing money at schools has already been amply proven not to work. A while back there was the ‘Kansas City Experiment’ where the City poured literally billions into inner city schools to uplift standards and it made not one jot of difference.

        The pragmatism in Charter Schools: National simply took the advice of its analysts in the Ministry (MSD not Education) and it’s worked.

        • The fact is Frank, the “millions” thrown at Charter Schools is peanuts compared to the money thrown at state schools.

          AndrewO, you were most likely taught in a State school.

          The evidence is that Charter Schools, once set up, are cheaper to run than State Schools.

          You say that about the “evidence” – but you don’t present it. Evidence please?

          My suspicion is that they enforce discipline and the kids respect the teachers, but it’s not my field.

          No, it’s not your field. That is evident. Please tell us what “discipline” Charter schools enforce that State schools do not. I’m interested to know.

          Throwing money at schools has already been amply proven not to work.

          In what way “has already been amply proven not to work”? Please tell us? Considering that the vast majority of New Zealanders were taught at State schools, you’ve just rubbished a system – without any evidence – that has educated close to 99% of New Zealanders.

          The pragmatism in Charter Schools: National simply took the advice of its analysts in the Ministry (MSD not Education) and it’s worked.

          Rubbish. Charter Schools are an ACT policy, and was p[art of the coalition deal between ACT and National.

          Your ignorance is breath-taking.

          But, feel free to provide evidence if you can.

          But you won’t, because you can’t. It doesn’t exist except in your parroted cliches.

      • Oh and regarding the West Coast:

        If I recall it was Auntie Helen who stopped the sustainable, selective logging on the Coast and then subsequently prevented the opening of a new gold mine.

        Seems the Coasters just can’t win under Labour 😉

        (When introducing red herrings, remember their colour: red.)

  14. Interesting points you’ve raised, Chris. One of the things I’ve been pondering is how to preserve state/community-owned assets from rapacious right-wing governments every time middle-New Zealand has a rush of blood to their head and vote en-masse for the Tories.

    Each time National is in power, they sell off a bit more of Housing NZ; more of remaining SOEs; contract out services; subsidise businesses (eg, Charter Schools) on the pretext of “buying a service”, etc.

    Or, as in the case of Radio NZ, freeze funding since 2008?

    How does one protect an asset when the new “shareholder” (ie, Crown Ministers) can do with it as they will?

    Is there an argument for entrenching certain ownership and provision of services by issuing every New Zealander with an inalienable “Kiwi Share”?

    Perhaps reinstatement of an Upper House (not something I terribly favour, in case one party controls both Houses)?

    Or, is it a matter of politically educating the population and giving them options as to what kind of society do they really want, and take it from there?

    If we give the middle classes reason to favour a community approach rather than raw Individualism, they might be a good start. An example of that is empowering communities to control the number of liquor outlets in their neighbourhoods.

    That kind of grass-roots empowerment may well be a start to re-invigorate the notion of social action rather than Me First.

  15. I’m at the stage where I just don’t trust Labour any more. And I’m far from being a leftie. Not that I trust Winston either. So it looks like the Greens will get my vote in 2017.

  16. How about actually coming out against neoliberalism Chris?

    Let’s purge left-wing parties like Labour of every scummy, minute trace, remnant or breeding ground of its Trojan horse neo-liberals.

    Labour can’t out-neo-liberal National, so why doesn’t it ditch them all and re-affirm its social responsibility roots?

  17. No one mentions debt backed dollars or the end of the bretton woods accord in 1971 both these things have had a profound effect on economics and allowed the US to have an effect on the world far in excess of it’s size.

    In 1971 the US defaulted on it’s promise to back it’s dollar with gold it did this because technically it was broke from spending to much on Vietnam and the cold war.

    By removing gold backing it allowed it’s self unfettered debt growth but this has had an interesting effect on everyone else just look at debt and the terms of trade for NZ and England and possibly many other countries at the times before and after 1971.

    Ultimately you won’t have to worry about neoliberals but you can worry about the facists they will morph into when their debt bomb blows up. They are the ultimate suicide cult.

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