The mandate for revolutionary restructuring has never been stronger

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Vladimir Lenin said “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen” – and it definitely feels like events in time are speeding up. It must certainly feel like that for Jacinda Ardern – becoming Labour leader, being appointed Prime Minister, having a baby, wrestling with New Zealand First, the Christchurch Mosque attack, Whakaari/White Island, and now Covid-19.

The other Lennon – John Lennon, sang ‘life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans’, and while the Labour Party were busy struggling to implement policy promises in Coalition with New Zealand First, it feels like we’ve had several decades of events in less than a triennium. So while the fresh water, welfare, fisheries, conservation and other reforms promised before the last election continue to languish, it’s times like these that the steady hand of Jacinda (the real mother of the nation?) lends calm.

Never think you’re too small to make a difference – after all, look at the Corona Virus – microscopic and yet it has brought an end to the world as we know it. Who would have imagined even three weeks ago, the world we live in today? Humans are adaptable and quickly we adjust (sort of) to the new normal. But the enormity of the disruption to the pre-C-19 world is almost unfathomable. Planes across the world, grounded. Cruise liners abandoned and redundant. New Zealand’s biggest foreign exchange earner – tourism – dead in the water. A few weeks ago, who would have even imagined ‘lock-down’? The images of ice rinks appropriated as morgues as hospitals are full in industrialised nations like Italy would have been unimaginable three months ago.

We’re so lucky here in New Zealand that we are distant from the world, but the number of inbound traveler related Covid-19 infections show that we’re not that distant at all, as long as planes continue to fly. The good thing is, now they’re not.

Continual adjustment will be necessary as we go through the various stages of grief in our isolation journey – from anxiety about the imminent arrival of the disease as real-time media connections have shown its effects elsewhere, to anxiety about whether we have enough food and toilet paper (cue panic shopping), to anxiety about how we’ll pay our rent/mortgage/other bills, through to boredom; feeling stir crazy, frustrated, worried about distant loved ones, horror about the ravages of the disease in countries with fools for leaders and underdeveloped health care systems. And the economy, our jobs, KiwiSaver, the future!

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With Jacinda in charge, we’ve been clearly and reassuringly informed, we anticipated, expected, and mostly supported the lock-down when it came. Some of us easily accessed the government subsidies when we lost our incomes. We (generally) queued respectfully when goods and access to supermarkets were rationed.

Some key elements to the civilised civic order we’ve experienced, have been the (generally) consistent messages, the knowledge that these radical and unprecedented measures were not taken lightly (shutting down the economy to protect public health!!), and reassurances that food supply chains would be preserved. Food stability is everything in a time of crisis and makes the difference between social calm and anarchy.

However, supply – and demand – chains are only as strong as their weakest links. Disruptions in any part of the chain can lead to blockages – in traffic modelling, they’re called jamitons. So if we don’t have the workers to pick the fruit or harvest the fish, or the truck drivers to transport it, or the wharfies to load and unload, or the shopkeepers to dispense, or the consumers to buy it, nationally and internationally, the chain can break. We want to break the Corona virus chain but not the food supply. Internationally, realignments of food supply chains are happening with geopolitical implications as trade and access realignments take shape. (Note for example, tuna wars). Commerce is like traffic, is like water flow – it will go where access is easiest, most profitable, most efficient. Fortunately, in New Zealand, we grow much of our own – including toilet paper- and as the Chinese market reopens, we are well placed. So immediate domestic and re-emerging international food trade as a source of foreign exchange, looks better here than for some. There was no need to fight over toilet paper, and there was no good reason to queue for guns. Given that NZ’s agricultural sector is well poised to benefit from China’s recovery, there’s no reason to delay the Government’s freshwater reforms, though as usual, Shane Jones says NZF will veto them, and the call to hold off the minimum wage increase goes on.

But today is only Day Three. The sun is continuing to (weakly) shine. So far so good. Trust in our leaders, the rule of law, the hard calls that have been made – has real currency. In the rural area where I live, birds, and kids on bikes have reclaimed the road space. When I ride my bike around the block, my neighbours all call out and wave. Everything is peaceful. There is little traffic, few planes. The siren went off for the volunteer fire brigade, usually meaning a car crash, but for the vollies’ sake hopefully this time it’s just someone who’s lit an un-permitted fire. My vege garden is flourishing. I don’t have to go to the shop. We are collectively re-evaluating what and who are essential services and workers – and it’s not the CEO on his multi-million-dollar salary, it’s the rubbish collector, the supermarket worker and the health provider.

But the peace belies the pain. Unemployment is expected to rise from its pre-C-19 level of around 4% to perhaps 30%. Whole huge sectors of the economy will be unlikely to recover – tourism, hospitality, international education. Air New Zealand’s revenue is 90% down on previous forecasts. SkyCity says its future will be dramatically different with implications (ie redundancies) for many of its staff. The usual unemployment benefit stand down time has been scrapped. Hundreds of thousands of wage subsidy applications have been received, and many tens of thousands paid already. In Australia, it’s expected two million people could become unemployed. In the United States 3.3million Americans applied for the unemployment benefit in one week. The United Nations warns that globally, 25 million jobs could be lost.

What also of those in Iran, Palestine, Yemen, Syria and refugee camps around the world?

Those of us warning that tourism, hyper-globalisation, and late-stage capitalism was unsustainable, have been proven correct. As the doomsday preppers suspected, we have been ‘living a fragile fiction’. So, what next?

Bifurcations in the prevailing order such as this profound disruption, are lines in the sand – defining moments in time. Crises characteristically obliterate the redundant ways of the past, and there’s no going back. Already people speculate on the BC-Before-Covid-19 and PC -Post-Covid-19 eras. Grant Robertson says, ‘the entire structure of New Zealand could need rethinking’. Because of our distant place in the world, and our steady, firm leadership, science based pandemic response and compliant populace, we should (mostly) survive this crisis without it turning into an apocalypse, but it is a chance for the Government to be revolutionary.

With high public support, trust and confidence – high levels of political capital (we’re all socialists now), there’s a stronger mandate than ever to make radical change. It’s not just about bailing out companies or letting sectors continue to pollute waterways, appeasing the interests of capital. It’s not just about winter home heating payments or the welfare state. It’s not just about a UBI. It’s not about rent freezes or a New Green Deal. It’s about fundamental reform of the ownership and stewardship of production, as a condition of bail-outs, an end to monopolies and duopolies, an end to ghost houses held by speculators for their capital gains, an end to inequality of wages and powers between the CEOs and the real essential workers. It’s about an end to our mass incarceration and abuse of animals which has given rise to this pandemic in the first place – not just in unregulated wet markets in Asia, but in factory farms here at home. It’s all these things, and more. All things have to change, because everything has changed.

So while the Government is reassuringly adept at managing the crisis as it’s currently unfolding, it’s time also, to consider more deeply, the restructured shape of the future, for good. The mandate has never been stronger.

24 COMMENTS

  1. i good start would to direct our pension funds to new zealand investment start ups like medical equipment and direct the dhds to buy NZ made where possible having that capacity is as important as a defense force the world isn’t going to look the same. but on other hand what an opportunity for labor to go full throttle to restructure the economy and i wish i could vote for whole coalition government under team jacinda

    • If we had a genuinely left wing Govt or party to vote for, then this change could be enacted quickly.
      Sadly I feel ‘the powers that be’ have control over our present lot of politicians and so we need a new real left wing party with new MP’s.
      Look up ‘control files’ by Katherine Auston-Fitts to understand how the present politicians are kept in line. It used to be MI5 in the UK ‘honey trapping’ gay MP’s in the day when being gay was illegal.
      In the USA today it seems to be ‘paedophilia’ is the modern honey-trap.

      • A Prime Minister of New Zealand has never been more assessable than Jacinda via Facebook. Iv literally seen people question her about rents and wages an hour latter they’ve become government policy. This trope about Labour being centrist or just like National Simply isn’t true, not anymore. Jacinda is a left as it is possible to get in NZ.

      • One of the techniques the transnationals us is to find vulnerable family member or friends and threaten harm to them. But also a carrot is used for those who will accept that.
        We all have weak points that can be exploited and will be if the right wing see fit.

  2. All empty houses (owned by absentee foreign owners) need to ‘confiscated’ by the state, to house the homeless before it get’s too cold, in areas where there is ‘the need’.
    Taxable compensation should be paid at a fair rate.

    • I never thought I would agree with a statement like this but now I do. There is a precedent in the way the red zone was created in Chch which allowed the government to buy houses at their ratable value so people could quickly move on with their lives.
      There are empty homes all around me one has not been lived in for at least 25 years .

  3. Sorry PM Jacinda you were the tipping point for everything to happen. It has been balancing on the edge of the shelf for so long, and you moved the earth, and now it’s all on for young and old. So seeing the earthmoving has already been done, let’s do a lot of things that thoughtful lefties with a practical bent, (not the neolib airy-fairy, wish fulfilment, jam tomorrow bent)have been dreaming up, making plans, thinking systems and putting on file on that very same shelf. This time must not be wasted, and the joined-up thinking left to gather dust, we weren’t doing well economically, we were addicted to run after goldrushes and trample everybody in the bull-rush.

    Let’s keep things going, ticking along, and put some clever, far-thinking, people-considering, nation-health programs into practice around the country. A bit like Shane is doing, but even more tailored to the resources and sustainability of the region. Perhaps have some meetings, a travelling road show.

  4. It’s certainly the time to permanently ditch the fascist ( anti democratic- profit before people) ideology of neoliberalism. Plus terminate the get rich by capital gain purchase of houses to rent out with a 80% capital gains tax. Also boot out the Australian bank leeches and all banking to be done with a New Zealand publicly owned bank. Further invest in our health system and not starve it of funds. Further impose proper tax levels on corporations. The free market BS is DEAD.

    • No it’s not and you’re delusional if you think neoliberalism is going anywhere. If anything this pandemic will further entrench it as people become more selfish and greedy. And the inequality gap widens substantially as small to medium sized businesses cave under the economic pressure of this virus, whilst all the big monopolistic businesses thrive off their corpses.

  5. Lenin also said, “You can’t have a revolution without firing squads.”
    Perhaps we need to shoot some people?

    • You volunteering to be the first? People who make sociopathic comments like this often don’t realize they have Boomer relatives who are on-paper millionaires. An old anarchist argument against terrorism as a tactic is that you can’t blow up a system of social relationships, in which everyone is embedded whether we like it or not. You can’t shoot one either.

  6. Business NZ is under the iron hand of The Business Round Table run by transnational right wing free marketers who have damaged NZ irretrievably.
    They control MSM, National, Act a large slice of Labour and NZ First.
    We are shackled and in chains from these snakes yet business CEO faithfully and eagerly tow the line.

    This situation has to be broken but how is a matter of conjecture.
    Yes a ground swell is paramount but so is leadership.
    The public need to see what damage has been done that effects them directly and instills fear for them. their family and friends plus their grand kids and future.
    The process is one of reflective education.
    The evil bestowed on the Kiwi community is all around us yet passed off.
    Can this be passed off as insignificant.
    douglas and richardson of the Mont Pelirin Society cabal

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/aug/28/comment.businesscomment

    1984 onwards and downwards in NZ

    “Decimation of the Health Sector
    But the impact of the free-market “reforms” has been the most dramatic in the health sector. Under that sector’s partial “privatisation,” public hospitals closed, hospital beds per capita have been slashed, and hundreds of this country’s most senior nurses were sacked or forced into retirement or other jobs.
    The cutbacks were so savage that as of 1997 there were over 94.000 New Zealanders languishing on official waiting lists for operations and some 100,000 more who need them are not even allowed on the lists! These health care “reforms” have succeeded in killing our fellow New Zealanders. As the victorious allies hung Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg ~ that they “knew or should have known” that their policies were responsible for mass murder, so the New Right must know that their policies were responsible for what was taking place in New Zealand.”
    We have rope.
    Wake up Kiwis!

    • NZ First is many things, but controlled by neoliberals is not one of them. Like any party that has to keep its head above the 5% waterline, they are very responsive to the concerns of the people they expect to re-elect them. For NZ First, that consists mainly of two groups; rural nationalists turned off by the social liberalism and economic globalism of National and ACT, and their counterparts on the left, social conservatives unwilling to vote Labour because of the neoliberal taint but turned off the Greens by their social liberalism.

      Both groups skew heavily towards Boomer age and thus tend to be home owners and small-to-medium business owners, including family farmers. This is, I think, why NZ First does things like opposing Capital Gains Tax, not because they have any love for the 1%ers that benefit from the lack of CGT far more than most NZ First voters do.

    • Here you go John W,…

      Lil’ bit more on that for any readers who might have missed it.

      New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?
      http://www.newrightfight.co.nz/pageA.html

      Yeah I know, I know… ‘here he goes again ‘… but people really need to take 30 minutes of their time and have a read, – an excellent article by Hugh Price of Hugh Price Publishers.. a contemporary and researcher of the 1980’s ‘reforms’ and the ‘Mont Pelerin’ society. I regularly give this to people to read when involved in political discussions.. most are grateful,…it really is a simple yet in-depth article on how we got to where we are now in NZ…

  7. Excellent post Christine well written and bang on for our present situation. I liked your point about who are the “essentials” these days. To bring about the restructuring you suggest and to make it work we need a 21st Century version of the old ministry of works introduced asap. Such an organisation can allow the “essentials” to remain essential, happy, prosperous and healthy. From there, and working up, a whole new generation of specialist knowledge and practice can be nurtured.

  8. Going on a week since lockdown now, surely flu symptoms should be starting to show in people? I recently read that 15 million people have died in the world this year alone from various causes (which makes the Covid proportion of deaths a thousandth?). Who were these people? Did they have a good life? Did they reach their full potential?

  9. Very good analysis, highlighting most crucial aspects. Thank you.

    Yes, the mandate for radical, social and ecological change is building up, gradually and since a longer time; the Covid-19 saga is an illuminating event.

    As stand-alone event the Covid-19 experience will probably not unfold the dynamics that are required for actual system change toward a sustainable society. As a possibility, Covid-19 could lead to further turning the screw of capitalist exploitation of humankind and nature, if responses by society are not encapsulated in interdisciplinary, ecological scientific principles; following footsteps sketched out by enlightenment and emancipation (liberté, égalité, fraternité).

    From what I can see there are three strategic shortcomings in the present situation that would need to be addressed by the Left in AO/NZ:

    – Community Engagement.
    The relative weakness of the AONZ civil society organizations to act as organizer or provider of all sorts of relevant local and community services (specifically related to disaster risk reduction, natural resources management, food security, local governance).

    – Decision-making within parameters for the Pacific region.
    The relative absence of AONZ academe to guide and influence decision-making by national government agencies in the context of long-term regional or global developments significant for the Pacific and Antarctica.

    – Maintaining strategic, social and ecological orientation.
    The absence of a political platform that drives socio-economic, ecological strategic and operational discourse in the Kiwi society, evaluates progress and comes up with alternative options.

    Keeping strategic direction, developing continuity whilst maintaining flexible movement is one of the most difficult things to do…. but the outcome can be amazing.
    https://vimeo.com/135341700

    System Change. Now.

  10. That’s a comprehensive and very good article, C. Rose….

    One thing you gave a chronological order of which highlighted what an extraordinary person Jacinda Adern actually is , was this :

    ————————-

    ” It must certainly feel like that for Jacinda Ardern – becoming Labour leader, being appointed Prime Minister, having a baby, wrestling with New Zealand First, the Christchurch Mosque attack, Whakaari/White Island, and now Covid-19. ”…

    ————————-

    Coping with all that and more… ( now I don’t know about ‘wrestling with NZ First,…) but certainly the rest is quite a huge load for any person…but it really does put in stark relief the sort of grittiness she possesses…

    As for the rest of the article,… its daunting, as you give us the blow by blow knock on effects which are coming , written down for all of us to consider…

    Good stuff. Good article.

  11. On point Lenin quote, and all the politicals who’ve adapted to nothing happening are immediately redundant. Always the hangover from the over-confidant and over-abrupt though (see Lenin).

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