The People's Poet!

The People's Poet!
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Saturday, 25 January 2014

There is no New Zealand Left

The New Zealand 'blogosphere' can be a funny beast. Those who write blogs, contribute essays to sites or just participate in the comments are a fairly thoughtful bunch. My experience in participating has been quite positive. I cop some abuse on the right-wing blogs, but I would expect nothing less from that quarter. One of the more recent pan-blog exchanges, in which I sporadically engaged, was originally a dissection of the New Zealand Left by Paul Buchanan. His essential point was best summed up in this paragraph:
"There is no viable Left in NZ politics. The Labour Party gave up any pretense of being grounded in socialist principles decades ago when it embraced market-driven economics, and the CTU-led union movement are the embodiment of Robert Michel’s notion of the “iron law of oligarchy:” the purpose of the organization is to serve itself, and if that means playing the role of “responsible” corporate toadies, then so be it. The one true Left union, UNITE, has some decent socialists in it and working class interests at heart, but it is also fronted by several unsavory characters with Trotskyite and Stalinist inclinations (among other unpleasant traits), so its appeal is limited."
This quite necessary critique of those who would purport to be champions of working class interests and aspirations was seized upon by one of New Zealand's stridently right-wing blogs as evidence of the collapse of the Left. Kiwiblog's David Farrar ultimately concluding, "Looks like the revolution has been postponed." (Any anarchist worth their salt can point out that the revolution is everywhere and all the time.)To his credit Paul Buchanan took the time to explain his position in the comments section of the Kiwiblog thread. Next out of the traps came Chris Trotter over on The Daily Blog. Chris Trotter can be a mixed bag. There are times when I admire Trotter's insights and observations, then there are times when he appears to be doing little more than showing off his writing ability and knowledge of historical events. This latest effort was insubstantial and an attempt to defend characteristics which are more alienating than inclusive:
"First of all let’s deal with the charge that progressive ideas elicit “derision or disinterest” from those for whom they should be “the natural political choice”. Not to put too fine a point upon it, this is bullshit. The Pundit blog’s Poll-of-Polls shows an extremely healthy 46 percent of voters expressing support for the Labour, Green and Mana parties. In a country that has been subjected to an unrelenting barrage of neoliberal propaganda for the best part of 30 years that is a heartening result."
46% is pitiful when those who suffer from the imposition of the neoliberal agenda is a far greater percentage of the voting public. It is less that neoliberal propaganda is so powerful and more that the hierarchies of the Labour and the Green parties talk down to those they regard as their natural inferiors. There is a mentality within the coordinator class of New zealand which prevents them from engaging as equals with the designated subjects. Chris Trotter is a part of this upper tier of the contemporary class system and, as such, does not seem capable of appealing to the bottom 80% without a reflexive condescending persona. The Standard joined the party with The Pablo-Trotter interchange – whither the left?. Karol is always worth reading and this effort is both even and encourages engagement from its readers (I wouldn't have described Buchanan's analysis as Marxist) - 162 comments and counting. Paul Buchanan decided to re enter the fray with a reply to Trotter's piece:
"I should note that in his post Chris waxes positive about the Labour Party, the Greens, Mana and the CTU. In doing so he helps make my original case: none of these organizations are “Left” in the sense of being socialist or even primarily worker-focused, whatever they may have been at their inception. They may use socialist rhetoric and act “progressive” when compared to National and its allies, and they may be a better choice for Left-leaning people when it comes to electoral preferences and collective representation, but the hard fact is that play the game by the rules as given, do not challenge the system as given and, to be honest, just chip away around the superstructural margins of the edifice that is NZ capitalism."
I do not believe this exchange is going to disperse quietly into the ether. The Left needs to include those it claims to represent in the discussion.

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