The Long March From The Bottom To The Top.

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THE POLITICAL ENGINEERING required to transform social-democratic New Zealand into a global poster-child for the free-market was considerable. Most New Zealanders under 50 years of age have accepted a description of the process which is four-fifths propaganda and one-fifth half-truths. The late Bruce Jesson, one of this country’s most astute political writers, characterised the events of 1984-1990 as a “bureaucratic coup d’état”.

Jesson’s description was, however, very far from being the general understanding of “Rogernomics” at the time of its introduction. Most New Zealanders greeted the economic transformation unleashed by the Fourth Labour Government as a welcome liberation from “Muldoonism”. More than three decades after its fall, “Muldoonism” continues to be the preferred shorthand for all the evils David Lange and his Labour Government were obliged to confront.

Muldoonism – and all its wicked works – served an ideological purpose over-and-above providing a never-ending series of anecdotes about the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the state-dominated economy which the National Party leader and Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon, worked so hard to prop-up and protect. His regime was presented as being so practically and morally dysfunctional that the extraordinary measures employed to bring it down were entirely justified.

Lange, Roger Douglas, and all the other key “Rogernomes”, were presented to the New Zealand public as patriotic heroes – something akin to the Roman senators who assassinated Julius Caesar. Drastic illnesses, ran the argument of the bureaucratic “experts” guiding the Labour leadership, require drastic remedies. Sometimes the people have to be protected from the consequences of saying “No.” Sometimes the best thing you can do is not give them the chance.

Of all the many malign legacies of Rogernomics, this rejection of the democratic mandate – the principle that major changes to the status-quo should not be enacted without first obtaining the explicit consent of the electorate – is unquestionably the most pernicious. It is rendered even more dangerous by the need of its advocates to manufacture a political environment in which the setting aside of democratic norms can be presented as both reasonable and necessary.

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The massive devaluation of the New Zealand Dollar of July 1984, followed a few months later by the crucial government decision to abandon the fixed exchange-rate policies of the previous thirty years, only became politically feasible in the context of a run on the New Zealand dollar – a crisis engineered by the very same people who now insisted that no viable alternatives to their preferred policies existed.

That this manufactured financial crisis led directly (and predictably) to a constitutional crisis, from which Muldoon emerged with his reputation even more blackened, bears testimony to the extraordinary skill of the string-pullers behind the scenes. Years later, when one of the Treasury officials most deeply involved in these events was asked whether or not the New Zealand business community of the time possessed either the talent or the will to have initiated the Rogernomics Revolution, he replied: “If we’d waited for them to do it, we’d be waiting still.”

It is hardly surprising that the men and women involved in what might best be described as the “heroic phase” of the neoliberal transformation of New Zealand, allowed their experiences to go to their heads. A small band of highly educated and (by their own lights) highly principled individuals had, through a judicious mixture of intelligence, audacity and raw courage, set an entire country on a radically different course.

They did not permit the near certainty that a clear majority of the population did not favour their new course slow them down for a second. As far as they were concerned, ordinary voters had no understanding of the profound issues confronting their country and were, therefore, undeserving of the veto power accorded them by classical democratic theory. The bureaucratic and political clique responsible for the revolutionary changes of Rogernomics were neoliberal Leninists who, like Lenin himself, had no intention of letting democracy get in the way of what had to be done.

As an effective method of securing radical change, “revolution from above” had much to commend it. That the Right embraced the new way of getting things done was hardly surprising, given its historical disdain for the dangerous distempers of democracy. For the Left, however, the embrace of elitism requires a more fulsome explanation. The most obvious being that elitism offered it a way out of the conundrum of an exploited working-class that consistently refused to abandon its reactionary social views and was altogether more receptive to the siren-song of radical nationalism than radical socialism.

When the Marxist student radical of the 1960s, Rudi Dutschke, came up with the idea of “a long march through the institutions”, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, consciously or unconsciously, he was substituting the acquisition of institutional power within capitalism for the creation of a mass working-class movement capable of confronting capitalism? His vision was of thousands of secret revolutionaries embedded in the professions, the civil service and the universities; all of them just waiting for the moment to transform capitalism’s institutions from within – so that capitalist society could be dissolved from above.

But, this optimistic vision reckoned without the power of capitalism’s institutional cultures to subvert the principles of even the most dedicated revolutionary. Dutschke failed to anticipate the risk that his Long Marchers might end up in a place where their radical social and cultural reforms, imposed on the masses from above, would end up strengthening capitalism rather than bringing it down.

Old-time revolutionaries might, themselves, have wondered about the apparent contradiction in Dutschke’s slogan. The real “Long March” was, of course, undertaken by Mao Zedong and what was left of his communist military forces. They did not, however, head off for the nearest school or university, government office or medical clinic. Their destination was the Chinese interior where they planned to regroup and refill their depleted ranks. Mao’s goal, at least until he was safely ensconced in power, was revolution from below – not above. That came later, in the form of the catastrophic “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”.

How then should the “Left” respond to the radical programme of social and cultural reforms about to be imposed upon the population from above by institutions of the New Zealand state? It is at least arguable that the changes planned by the Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Education are analogous to the economic reforms formulated by Treasury and Reserve Bank officials in the early-1980s. As with those measures, there is next to no evidence of ordinary voters clamouring for the changes proposed. In 2021, those calling for restrictions on free speech, or compulsory “Unmake Racism” courses for schoolchildren, are as few and far between as working-class voters calling on Labour to embrace Thatcherism in 1984.

Real left-wingers, today, emulating the real left-wingers of the 1980s, would require those advocating top-down revolution to first obtain a bottom-up mandate.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Chris, seems to me that “your vote counts!”…actually doesn’t. The real left wingers have all the votes they could wish for, right here right now! So what are they doing with those votes? Why vote at all?

    • There is no one to vote for atm, Labour (JA a fake and phony), and the greens (bs ideas) a complete and utter disaster making everything worse and DOING NOTHING about the big issues ordinary NZers face. The Maori Party will never get enough votes from white NZ and will prove to be just as useless as Team Maori in the labour party so are another waste of space. The National party are all a bunch of last night’s bucket of puke mixed with carrot and peas, and led by another liar and punitive do as I say matriarch of the 50’s era. Currently, all of our politicians are self-serving power narcissists, they look after themselves and their own and fark everyone else we know that now just look at them all posturing and carrying on while people are being made homeless and shit. Its a ffn disgrace.

      • A government with such a huge mandate and yet SO lily livered. The last Labour politition with any courage at all was Roger Douglas. Some irony there

      • A government with such a huge mandate and yet SO lily livered. The last Labour politition with any courage at all was Roger Douglas. Some irony there

    • @ J
      You write:
      “So what are they doing with those votes? Why vote at all?”
      That’s a very good question.
      That’s why voting must become compulsory.
      Every three years most vote-able people don’t give a fuck. And the reason for that, of course, is that people have been ‘encouraged’ to not give a fuck. By spreading the narrative that voting is of no use is a Machevalian logical fallacy and is a basic spanner in the right z-wingers tool box. Making a statement disguised as a question is a tactic as old as the hills.
      You go on to write;
      “The real left wingers have all the votes they could wish for, right here right now! ”
      No they don’t. People who vote only have one vote. “… left wingers have all the votes they could wish for, right here right now!” is a trite and forgive me for ‘saying’ this but also a dumb thing to write.
      Voting is a complex thing. Voting is like an old Italian car. The moment you stop maintaining it, it breaks down and usually in the middle of nowhere leaving its occupants stranded. Sound familiar?
      Our voting ethos, our basic comprehension of our solemn responsibility for voting, has been lured down an alleyway marked ” Why bother. Won’t make any difference. ” where it’s been quietly suffocated by a corrupt msm in the pocket of the right wing, or arseholes, as I prefer to call them. The term ‘Right Wing’ is just too polite. ‘Arse Holes’ seems to fit just right, don’t you think? And it’s at this point that I’d like to write ” Big mike hoskings’ and “kath pulitzer ryan”

      • You might have read this before CB ,,,, it’s one of the better summing up of the grand larceny from ‘respected’ people like ‘heads up Douglas’ ,,,rock spider Briely ,, and the winebox boys themselves.

        The americas cup trophy is the trade and token NZ citizens got ,,, for the fire sale privatization of our state assets ,,, and expanded tax rorting by the mega rich.

        ” Douglas was the leader and as such he was trudging his way through dark and murky, unfamiliar waters. The whole deal was an experiment. By his side, and in the corporate world, were two key figures who towered above all others in the exclusive circle of the 1980’s business elite. These two gentlemen were Sir Ron Brierley and Sir Michael Fay. The former was the best corporate raider in our history and the latter the best magician and bank robber.”

        “for those of you who are unfamiliar with the art of profiting from speculation let me explain how it works. However before that let me just say that a merchant banker from Auckland by the name of Michael Fay from the firm Fay, Richwhite and Co. asked the incoming Finance Minister Roger Douglas if he was really going to devalue the currency. Douglas replied with a “yes, he would”. Now in most countries, when the Finance Minister tells a well-known speculator that he is going to devalue the currency, it is known as “insider trading”,

        “The insider trades continued throughout the whole privatization process and one man in particular, Michael Fay, became the master of executing deals, which in most countries would be illegal due to “conflict of interests”

        https://bealeness.tumblr.com/post/31987806819/the-basics-behind-the-winebox-inquiry

        It’s worth noting what a basket case NZs economy was during the 1990’s,,, thanks to ruthless richardson,,,,,, up to 18% interest rates from Don Brash who was reserve bank governor ,,,we ended a fucked decade with Jenny company crash shipley and Bill Lignite English being purged by voters.

        Poor old Russia was forced to take ‘shock therapy’ doses of the extreme Milton Friedman* medicine that made NZ sick during the 90’s ,,,, their economy collapsed more than it did with WWII ,,,, and the amount of looting was epic.

        NZ was over represented in the great Russian rip-off ,,,,, “The Chandler brothers reportedly were the single biggest foreign beneficiaries of one of the greatest privatization scams in history: Russia’s voucher program in the early 1990s” ,,,,,,

        and it’s interesting how our Russian ripping NZ Billionares set up the anti-russian pro-brexit Legatum stinkin thinkin tank.

  2. Or we could describe what was done to NZ -demolition of the stable, quite prosperous, economically diverse, and reasonably cohesive society with one that is less prosperous, unstable, economically non-diverse and increasingly divided as The Long March From The Top To The Bottom.

    By most criteria that matter, NZ has never been in a worse state than now. And the plan is to make everything that matters even worse. Because someone can make short-term profits out of destruction.

  3. NZ is half hyper parasite and half prey. The innocent non aggressive people who just want to get on with their lives and don’t want to victimise others inevitably become victims themselves. The queen bee parasite has ensured that the hyper parasites have a clear unhindered path to feed off the prey. She has said she will NEVER introduce a CGT even though she knows it is absolutely the right thing to do. She has said that she wants house prices to keep rising but also become more affordable? What a paradox mental state of mind she has. The only answer I can see is that she has two distinct personalities. The nice smiley one who cares for the poor and wants to be kind versus the bitter twisted greedy one who wants to ruin the poor and reward the rich. If the Labour party do not replace this sociopath soon then they will be history for ever. Afterall, there is already a National party.

    • 🙂 On a lighter humorous note it’s like one of those Netflix entertainment series where remnants of the human race are preyed upon by a now dominant Vampire blood sucking mutation and are being farmed to supply a constant flow of fresh blood for their insatiable vampire masters. The country’s run by the Prime vampire who refuses to give the wretched humans any relief at all! And so they keep having their blood extracted until they die and are discarded as useless shells onto the street.

  4. Quite often it becomes necessary for democratically elected governments to implement policies they weren’t specifically voted in for: This is the reality of life rather than an idealistic politics.

    The analogy is a sailor taking over the helm from the previous watch and then realizing the boat is heading toward rocks. Does he alter course and upset the passengers with the sudden swerve or does he take the necessary action?

    If New Zealand’s books were in order when Lange took over then maybe there would have been no need for a financial overhaul, but that was definitely not the case. In fact NZ Inc was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and a radical change in direction was essential to avoid slipping into ‘failed state’ status. Through a series of post WW2 governments, both National and Labour, New Zealanders had voted themselves benefits they hadn’t in truth earned and there had to be a reckoning.

    It worked and the outcome was highly popular: They were reelected.

    • the most obvious counter to that nonesense is… the whole western world transformed to neoliberalism in a 15year period around NZ’s ‘verge of bankruptcy’ overhaul. It was as Chris describes it… 4/5ths propaganda and 1/5th half truths

      • It’s important to understand the broader background and where NZ fits into the picture.
        Post WW2 there were only a handful of countries that had productive capacity left intact. Mainly these were NZ, Aussie and the USA. In a world short of manufactured products and food, it was a bonanza for those countries. Anyone who wanted a job could get one and these exporters could name their price for the things they sold almost regardless of quality. But that couldn’t last forever. Their market position has been undermined in three broad phases:
        In the first phase, bombed European nations and Japan rebuilt and in short order undermined American productive dominance. This was in full sway by the ’60’s.
        In the second phase that started around the late 70’s and early 80’s a number of important changes occurred. Firstly many Marxist states collapsed inward, as they were bound to do eventually. Next, China seeing the writing on the wall opened up to foreign investment and at a stroke increased the global labour pool by 50% ending forever the influence of western unionized workers. Then the UK joined the EEC, severely limiting New Zealand’s and Australia’s access to their export market.
        In the third phase, which is still in progress, automation, the industrialization of the Asian Tigers (Korea, Thailand etc) and the Green Revolution added even more competition to established food producers and industrialized nations.
        The real problem here is that the post WW2 generation had become used to an artificially high standard of living that couldn’t last. Worse, they voted for policies that were unsustainable and bound to lead to economic ruin.

    • Yeah we owed $16 Billion dollars Andrew, Fuck all. It was a manufactured crisis by greedy in the know scoundrels and amounts to the theft of publicly created wealth by those same scoundrels and lying scumbags who fucked us all for generations. We are now an uneducated, backward fragmented society with the second greatest level of inequality in the western world.We have grossly underfunded inadequate health system and a shit education system and our Universities have been turned into diploma factories of meaninglessness for fee paying foreigners. We do fuck all research and so far behind Australia it is inexcusable. We Were robbed and lied to and Roger Douglas David Caygill and the rest of those poxy scumbags who deserve to be slaughtered for their treason. .
      You need to read Jesson and Kelsey And even Brian Easton. You have been brainwashed by the bullshit.All our best and brightest still leave in droves.

  5. If economics were a real science the proof of the falsification of neoliberal theories (min govt, de-regulation, Privatisation, etc) would mean total rejection and require the use of recovery economics.

    • Great to hear from you again, Paul! Where did you get the old cartoon of the mad monk from?

  6. The left have been banging on for decades about the ‘rogenomics’ disaster…and not one Labour govt has ever reversed the actions!
    Moan and groan all you like, but you guys on the left fired the bullett that you now all have never reversed in almost 40yrs. 9yrs with Helen at the wheel was ample time to at least erect the scaffold of change…but no, she was at the head of the govt when housing prices really started to soar (2003-2008) and it hasnt stopped since, in fact the worse its ever been – has been in the last 3 yrs…and lo and behold Labour again at the steering wheel.

    • LINO. Labour In Name Only.

      ‘Labour’ is indistinguishable from National in most respects. National don’t have to do anything to get their policies implemented because faux Labour do it for them. That is not to say there aren’t people in National who want to get their snouts back in the publicly-filled feeding trough.

    • Im Right: You’re right!

      By the early 80’s the shine had really gone off the isolationist/collectivist economic model. All the countries that operated by that style of government (regardless of the branding – left and right) were either falling behind or in the early phases of outright collapse. The lucky countries chose to reinvent themselves as we did while the unlucky ones were ruled by the likes of Ceausescu or Argentina’s military junta who wouldn’t let go and subsequently drove their nations into ruin.

      We dodged a bullet

  7. Is this Trotter’s response to the revised history curriculum which doesn’t wallpaper over the atrocities of white settler culture in NZ? You do realise that the worse terrorist incident in NZ history wasn’t the Mosque shooting? It was a series of raids and massacres against Maori villages by the colonists.

    • Rob, every New Zealander knows that when Maori are killed, it doesn’t count. (- Because, Maori aren’t New Zealanders). As every “Kiwi” knows, Maori are only good for those prisoner shots they like to put in the “news”, next to words like “violent”, “murderer”, “rapist”. Those people huddling in the filth in the alcoves of Queen St, they just chose to be there of their own free will – if they wanted housing, it’s only $800,000. If they don’t have the savings, why don’t they just part with a little of their share portfolios?

  8. ‘The left have been banging on for decades about the ‘rogenomics’ disaster…and not one Labour govt has ever reversed the actions!’
    That is absolutely right and I am still puzzled.
    Labour was handed an overwhelming mandate by voters and has done Sweet Fanny Adams with it.
    The inefficiencies of Mudoonism. I remember them so well.
    Full employment. People owning their own homes. Adequate health care. An export market that did not depend on China’s caprices. An egalitarian society where the wealthiest businessman in town was neighbour to a railway worker in a state house( we were a couple of houses away)
    Rob, our prime minister, who did not want(or need) bodyguards. A vicious little dictator who protected the welfare state and had a vision of a self sufficient New Zealand that did not need imports( people who lived in his electorate spoke warmly of his help and a person totally unlike his public image).
    I wonder if we can ever be inefficient like that again?

    • I remember it too and I also remember something that Comrade Trotter’s leftist view of history omits and that’s the tidal wave of proto-yuppies who yearned to break free from Muldoon’s controlled economy and swept Labour into power and took advantage of the new economic freedoms and made an absolute killing until the stock market collapse of 1987 and the ensuing recession of the early 1990s. The typical Labour supporter of the mid- to late- 1980s was a young(ish) male on the rise who took full advantage of the new possibilities, not a traditional leftie wringing their hands over class struggle and worker’s rights.

  9. Jacinda listen to us…. You must introduce a Capital Gains Tax NOW or face the biggest protests NZ has ever seen. This is not a joke!

    • Yep when 69% of the voting population want something done about the low paid.
      When 100,000 people want the Pharmac medicines budget doubled as a minimum in one year and tripled within 3 years just to get the % of funding back to where it was 14 years ago.
      When 550,000 people are screaming for rare medicines funding and diabetes medical items to be funded and the Govt comes up with every excuse in the book and base their decisions on the $ not people the Labour party is all about the money and not where their decisions should be hence why they don’t give a shit.

  10. Excellent Post @ CT.
    I’ve just lost an impressive comment and I’m so angry right now that only a Herculean effort on my part is preventing me from throwing my computer through my living room window then following it outside with an axe to make sure it’s finished off.
    Yes. I know. Save as you go or write in a word processing ap, which I normally do, but this time? My passions swept me away and I effectively fucked myself up.
    Where was I …?
    Oh yes. Muldoon. muldoon was a liar. He lied like some people sip tea. He lied for fun and profit and he lied like a pig in straw. I told him once to his face which wasn’t easy because his face was down at about my knee caps. He just snuffled like a Truffle pig then stumped off. The temptation to swing a swift kick up his flaccid little arsehole was almost as Herculean to resist as throwing my lap top around my house, then outside, then off down the road for a wee violent escapade neath a spreading oak.
    Wee man muldoon lied best when money was at stake. His best lying was to farmers, many of whom fell under his trance like state of bold facedly lying while selling them out to whomever had a pocket of cash.
    He effectively lied to an entire country who begged more lies of him as our farmers died in their tracks as Auckland became bloated on money it never earned so never deserved and nothing’s changed to this day.
    Before muldoon there were other liars too. holyoak, nordmeyer, then bolger, etc, etc. Far too many for me to name here because I must try to keep my breakfast down.
    And I see liars here. They’re the boring ones who write like robots but with less personality.
    ( Fuck! I’ve lost the thread. Fuck it! God I hate that.)
    labour and national are the same thing. They’re people in the guise of politicians who are desperately trying to maintain a status quo made up of lie after lie after lie spanning generations of exploited farmers and rich city liars.
    52 thousand farmers earn our money by feeding 40 million people off-shore with the worlds best agrarian product. That’s how we built a first world socialist democracy with its associate infrastructure to best benefit we, the people.
    The happy liars, traitors and swindlers stole that away from us.

  11. The choice of NZ as a flag bearer for neoliberalism was not confined to New Zealand and may not have had it’s initiation here. Very early in Roger’s reign I was invited by a good friend in the PSA (he looked after govt electrical installations) to go with him to a PSA seminar in Wellington on the subject. They had invited two economists from Holland to speak who had been engaged by the Dutch wharfies union to defend that organisation’s membership against the Thatcherite policies being introduced bit by bit in Europe. They were quite clear that what was happening here was a result of the world Thatcher/Reagan push noticing that where the movement was recognised it was being effectively resisted. A decision was made than NZ was a perfect subject to get the whole system changed in one fell swoop precisely because no one here was faintly worried about or even thinking about such a change as they were in the rest of the world. It seemed so far from what anyone would do here.
    It always has seemed to me that the role we played in transforming the world’s economy in that era has never been appreciated here. We were the poster-child.
    D J S

    • DJS yes we were.
      We were steamrollered and the biggest disappointment was the refusal of the union bosses to mount a revolt who sold us out for peanuts.

  12. 100 + Chris. Eat your heart out Brian Easton.

    A travesty of history what happened in 1984-1990 for sure. Now neoliberalism, New Public Management and indeed the Third Way is entrenched as the new norm – few who count have the will or the capacity to challenge it. Yes, now it comes complete with identity politics. But the latter cuts across the political spectrum I feel.

  13. Imagine if all those people had voted to vote Trump out only to find out that Biden was much more Trumpian than Trump…… imagine that Jacinda!?!

    • Trump was abused as child, through psycho-social means. This has led to his narcissistic personality order. The message may be the same but Trump is clearly suffering from mental illness.

  14. “Transformation. It’s coming…

    ..
    It’s coming…

    ..
    It’s coming…

    ..
    .
    It’s …. Nah I was just kidding, you guys. Oh, you thought- you thought, I was… Telling. The. Truth? Ohh… well that’s embarrassing.” – Jacinda

  15. All the keyboard worriers, abusing our fantastic PM Jacinda Ardern who could get 4 terms(wheres the opposition) Seymour along with his gun nutters seeking sex and crusher is looking for knife proof back protection…Jacinda the countries leader BULLET PROOF

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