AGENCY OF CHANGE

Politics as usual is not good enough.

I HAVE NO opinion on who the next leader of the Labour Party should be. I'm not really interested. Whoever it turns out to be, one thing is for a certain - this will  remain a party locked into the failed neoliberal orthodoxy. The seeds for its election defeat in 2017 are being sown right now.

It is not news that  the Labour Party is no longer an agency for progressive change and has not been for many years. When I was a member of the Labour Party many years ago, indeed I was president of Labour Youth at the University of Canterbury, the question of agency was relatively straightforward. We imagined the realistic alternative  to a Muldoon-led National government was a Labour government.

But, in 2014, Labour is regarded by the left with a mixture of hatred, derision  and half-hearted 'critical support'.  The social democratic alternative that was once on offer  has been buried under three decades of slavish loyalty to neoliberalism.

While those who continue to support Labour still insist it is the 'lesser evil', this argument clearly does not wash with the electorate. Labour's vote collapsed  at the election and nearly a million people are  so cynical and disillusioned with 'politics as it is'  that they decided not  to vote.

So what is the agency of change? Is the best we can really  hope for is a sterile plan to 'nudge' Labour slightly  to the left on specific issues and do we rationalise  this  'counsel of despair' on the basis that it might win people to a more consistent left or socialist politics?  Is this is not simply the politics of low expectations? Where is the alternative to neoliberalism in this gloomy scenario?

I think we need to climb out of this quagmire of unimaginative  and uninspiring politics and think again. Simply doing the same things and saying the same  things will get us nowhere. Perhaps we should look elsewhere for inspiration. Like Germany for instance.

In significant result for the German left, Bodo Ramelow, the leader of Die Linke (Left Party) in the state of  Thuringia, is set  to be appointed as the federal state’s prime minister.

Die Linke has been successful despite the fact the mainstream parties and the corporate media  attacked its anti-capitalist policies. Chancellor Merkel even warned Thuringia  voters not to “let Karl Marx back into the state premier’s office”. Die Linke has consistently opposed Merkel's austerity polices.

Nationally,  Die Linke's electoral support  is somewhere between 10-12 percent of all voters. The party has some 70-75,000 members.

While it is criticised as being 'reformist'  by groups that demonstrate a lot of 'revolutionary hurrah spirit'  (Rosa Luxemburg),  Die Linke represents the only parliamentary opposition to the neoliberal and pro-capitalist policies of all the other parties.  As one  German commentator has said:

"Die Linke in the Bundestag has voted against all the so-called rescue packages for banks and the euro, and against all the deployments of German troops to foreign countries. It has campaigned for a minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich, regulation of the financial markets, the right to political strikes - which does not exist in Germany - and has supported anti-fascist mobilisations, trade union struggles and social movements.'

It sounds good to me. Die Linke stands resolutely against the current, as a voice against the neoliberal consensus and it offers organisational resources for struggles and movements in the wider German civil society.

On Die Linke's website we read:

Die Linke is a socialist party  that stands for alternatives, for a better future. We democratic socialists, the democratic left with different political biographies, ideological and religious influences, women and men, old and young, established and immigrants, people with and without disabilities, have come together in a new left party. We cling to the dream of humankind that a better world is possible.

We pursue a concrete goal: we fight for a society in which no child has to grow up poor, in which all men and women can live a self-determined life in peace, dignity and social security and can democratically shape social relations. To achieve this we need a different economic and social system: democratic socialism.

We are not prepared to accept a world in which profit interests determine the prospects of millions of men and women and in which exploitation, war and imperialism cut whole countries off from hope and the future. Where profit rules above all else, there is little space for democracy.


Is this not a million miles more inspiring than a Labour Party whose previous leader said that socialism was not a word he used? And is it not a million miles more inspiring than a  Labour Party where one of the candidates for the vacant  leadership speculates if one of Labour's fundamental problems is the traditional red colour of its logo?

New Zealand certainly needs its own Die Linke, a new party with a new politics. We need a strong and independent left presence to challenge  the cosy support for the neoliberal orthodoxy by  the mainstream parties,  including Labour and the Green's. Politics as usual is simply not good enough.

POOR BASHING

Newstalk ZB'S Chris Lynch thinks the poor are to blame for being poor and deserve to be punished.

CHRIS LYNCH IS the local Christchurch morning host on talkback station Newstalk ZB. He also writes a weekly column for a local free newspaper The Star.  He recently demanded to know why  Ruth Dyson MP  had the bad taste to retweet one of my tweets, because I'm, after all, a  crazy person of 'far left' opinions.

Actually I think Lynch was just irritated that I declined to go on his show to participate in some meaningless debate with a pundit  of the conservative  persuasion. Apparently people with dangerous left wing opinions must always  be 'balanced' by someone from  the right of the political spectrum. In stark contrast hosts like Mike Hosking and Larry Williams can promote their dreary right wing views without any restriction whatsoever.

Of course Newstalk ZB, like talkback radio generally, is not known for its liberal opinion. In a twisted and endless loop the hosts confirm the right wing prejudices of the station's conservative audience  who confirm the opinions of the  conservative hosts. Within this fetid and incestuous atmosphere the ills of the nation are solved in three minute calls in between commercials for health products and car yards.

One of the qualifications for being a talkback host on Newstalk ZB is a readiness  to bash beneficiaries, the poor and various other minority groups. On talkback radio the game is not to give voice to the voiceless but to prop up the status quo and those who benefit from it. Chris Lynch, relatively new to the talkback business, has quickly come to understand this obligation. He certainly delivered when he declared 'good riddance' when an unfortunate man died in a fire in an earthquake- damaged  house he was squatting in.

So Lynch is not unfamiliar with bashing the poor and dispossessed. This week in his newspaper column he dredged up the tired  old prejudice that the reason  people  don't have enough  have money for food  is because they don't budget properly  and  make 'wrong choices'.  This is actually  what John Key said back in 2011.

The catalyst for Lynch's outburst was  the Green Party's Feed the Kids bill, which was formerly being promoted by the Mana Party.

There are some 270,000 children living in poverty in this country, one of the highest levels in the developed world, which suggests that Lynch's 'recovering economy'  is only delivering  for those at the top of the economic pile.

But Lynch is having none of this. Echoing John Key,  Lynch  thinks that many children do not get enough to eat because the  parents are  smoking twenty fags a day while  plonked on the couch watching 'cable television'. And in a none too subtle swipe at the Maori  and Pasifika communities he thinks some parents are sending money to the local church, rather than buying groceries.  The solution, says Lynch, is simple:

'Luxury items like cigarettes would be banned  from the house, cable television would be cut off, and weekly donations to the local church would cease. Redirect that on the well being of children. Perish the thoughts of personal responsibility.'

And perish the thought that Lynch would bother to provide anything as trifling as hard  evidence for these claims of parental irresponsibility. And anecdotes from anonymous talkback callers is not evidence.

 It is also revealing  that Lynch works for a radio station  that once used  to berate the Helen Clark government for interfering in people's lives. Lynch though  thinks it is entirely  appropriate that the state should have the right to burst into the houses of the poor, looking for cigarettes and the remote to the television set.  But, if you are poor, you apparently do not enjoy the same rights as people who are more fortunate - like Chris Lynch, for instance.

Lynch has decided that it is the fault of the poor for being poor. He is so sure  of this that  he argues that 'if a request is made for some social benefit from expectant parents, make them sign contracts acknowledging their obligations to their children and society.'

I have always had  time for Christchurch City Missioner Michael Gorman who has consistently spoken out for the poor and those in need.  But his observation that he's seeing a new group of people seeking  food parcels, namely the working poor, is not one Lynch has any sympathy for.

The reality is that a growing number  of people cannot survive on the low wages they are being paid. This is the direct result of neoliberal economic policies but Lynch prefers to blame the working poor themselves. He suggests that '..perhaps the Government could rescue parents  and help them retain  their 'mana' by providing appropriate food vouchers, giving them tools to  feel  like a responsible adult, by going out shopping, deciding  on budgets and studying itemised  grocery lists'.

I have breaking news for Chris Lynch. The poor are some  of the best budget keepers around. Unlike the idle rich who think nothing of blowing a few hundred dollars in a up market restaurant, the poor  have to carefully juggle what little money they have in order to pay the rent and the utility bills.  

Lynch knows too well that rents have escalated in Christchurch because he has often complained about it on his show.  I don't see him launching any attacks on the greed of landlords though. But that kind of criticism might, of course,  have an  negative impact of Newtalk ZB's advertising. So better to say nothing, eh Chris?

Poor bashing, sadly, remains a favourite sport of the corporate media in this country. Portraying the poor as unworthy, responsible and, in many cases, potentially  criminal, diverts attention away from the actual causes of poverty and unemployment  and onto the victims of inequality.

What Lynch is doing is  scapegoating the victims by individualising the origins of the causes and of the solutions to poverty. The aim is to divert  attention from the policies of both National and Labour-led governments  that have created one of the most unequal societies in the world today.

You will not be surprised to learn  that  I find Karl Marx's view on poverty more convincing than that of Chris Lynch. Marx writes in Capital  Vol 1:

"Modern society's whole form of motion … depends on the constant transformation of a part of the working population into an unemployed or semi-employed 'hands'…" This "industrial reserve army" is not an accident of history but performs an essential service. "The overwork of the employed part of the working class swells the ranks of its reserve, while conversely, the greater pressure that the reserve by its competition exerts on the employed workers forces them to submit to overwork and subjects them to the dictates of capital. The condemnation of one part of the working class to enforced idleness by the overwork of the other part, and vice versa, becomes a means of enriching the individual capitalist, and accelerates at the same time the production of the industrial reserve army…"

What Marx saying is that is poverty, if it did not exist, would have to be invented in order to reduce wages and, therefore, production costs in order to promote profit accumulation.

The vicious politics of poor bashing, which Lynch indulges in, simply tries to  divert attention and analysis from what creates poverty and increasing inequality in New Zealand. It certainly is not the poor themselves.

But, as Marx also said, the point is not to just interpret the world but to change it. In the end sympathy and charity won't do it.  Nor will Parliament , with all the political parties committed to a variant of the neoliberal orthodoxy that has created the widespread poverty in the first place.

FEET OF CLAY

 

Contrary to his popular image as a champion of the underdog, former  Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam eventually  pushed the Australian Labor Party to the right. Much like the New Zealand Labour Party, the ALP is today a  barrier to a revival of the radicalism with which Whitlam is today so fondly (and wrongly) identified. Tom Bramble looks back at the times of the man who ultimately betrayed the people who put him into office.

GOUGH WHITLAM  has died at age 98. I await the torrent of tributes from politicians who will praise his government’s social reform program in Australia but who themselves have spent their entire careers trying to bury it – free education, expansion of welfare programs, land rights, women’s rights, improvements to public service conditions and so forth.

Whitlam’s was the last Labor government that actually introduced reforms that improved working class life as opposed to the “reform” agenda of subsequent governments that have stripped away the meagre protections afforded Australian workers.

But the Whitlam government was a product of its time: it emerged out of a wave of working class and student militancy in the last years of the long post-war economic boom. This drove Whitlam into terrain that no subsequent Labor government has gone.

Its main priority was to give Australian capitalism a new lease of life, modernising it by cutting tariffs, recognising China and expanding public health and education to improve productivity (i.e. the rate of exploitation).

It needed to do these in an environment where workers, students, immigrants and Aboriginal people were banging on the door demanding change.

Whitlam, although having the image today as a crusading reformer, was right wing. On taking over the leadership from Calwell in 1967 he pushed the party’s policy on Vietnam hard to the right; he purged the left wing Victorian branch and made an open pitch to the middle class.

He supported state aid to private schools, opposed union action on political issues and strongly backed the US alliance. Whitlam joined the Liberal government in denouncing the 1969 motion passed by Victorian unionists calling on Australian soldiers in Vietnam to mutiny. If the left in the party today hails Whitlam as its hero, its predecessors hated his guts.

The ruling class, which had been prepared to give him a go in his early years, turned on the prime minister in 1975 not because he was a mortal threat. The working class militancy which had driven his reform program did not abate during his term in office. In 1974 the strike rate peaked.

At the same time the world economic crisis arrived on Australian shores. The ruling class now demanded a savage attack on the working class to squash strikes and roll back wages and welfare reforms. The government tried to oblige. The reformist treasurer Jim Cairns was sacked and replaced by the right wing former Ipswich cop Bill Hayden. The new treasurer’s first budget put the whole reform program into reverse.

And when the crunch came, the limits to Whitlam’s reform project were demonstrated starkly. Whitlam came from the establishment – he was a QC whose father had been Crown Solicitor – and he never broke from it. When the ruling class turned on him in 1975, he capitulated.

While urging his supporters to “maintain your rage” against the Kerr Coup, his actions (helped in large part by the ACTU and left union leaders) demobilised the hundreds of thousands of working class Australians who saw the coup, rightly, as an attack on the things they had won. They were loyal to Whitlam as a symbol of the gains that they had made since the late 1960s. Whitlam, however, betrayed them by channelling their anger into an electoral contest which, once the mass campaign had been choked off, had only one possible outcome – a landslide to Malcolm Fraser.

The Labor leaders, crying today for Whitlam and waxing lyrical about the wonderful era of reform, have moved so far to the right that Fraser, the wealthy grazier from western Victoria and tool of big business, is now to their left. That is the best indicator of Labor’s entire trajectory since 1975 and confirmation that the party is an absolute barrier to a revival of the radicalism with which Whitlam is today so fondly (and wrongly) identified.

Dr Tom Bramble is Senior Lecturer in Industrial Relations at the University of Queensland Business School. His most recent book (co-written with Rik Kuhn ) is 'Labor's Conflict: big business, workers and the politics of class'. He also edited the Victoria University Press memoirs of Jock Barnes, the New Zealand trade unionist. He is a member of Socialist Alternative.  This article was first published by Red Flag.

THE FAT CATS ARE GETTING FATTER

While the cheerleaders for neoliberalism try to downplay its significance or sweep the figures under the carpet, the stark and ugly fact is that  the rich are getting richer at the expense of everyone else.

THE FAT CATS are getting fatter at the expense of everyone else. In fact the level of economic  inequality is widening at an accelerating pace.

According to the Global Wealth Report  2014 published by  the Credit Suisse Bank, the richest 1% of the world's population now own 48% of the world's wealth. The top 10% owned 86% and the bottom 50% owned less than 1% of all the wealth. Indeed billions of people have nothing at all.

Inequality is now at its highest level since the Great Depression.

Aid agency Oxfam said in a media release:

“These figures give more evidence that inequality is extreme and growing, and that economic recovery following the financial crisis has been skewed in favour of the wealthiest. In poor countries, rising inequality means the difference between children getting the chance to go to school and sick people getting life saving medicines."

Inevitably this accelerating rate of inequality  leads to calls for more legislation and more government controls to prevent the level of inequality getting any wider. But while  controls can be brought to bear on the activities of the wealthy elite, this would make no difference to those whose income is either derived from working for wages or who have no source of income at all.  The way out is to remove the unjust economic system that is at the root of the problem.

As economist Michael Roberts has observed:

"All class societies have generated extremes of inequality in wealth and income.  That is the point of a rich elite (whether feudal landlords, Asiatic warlords, Incan and Egyptian religious castes, Roman slave owners etc) usurping control of the surplus produced by labour.  But past class societies considered that normal and ‘god-given’. Capitalism on the other hand talks about free markets, equal exchange and equality of opportunity.  But the reality is no different from previous class societies."

DISRUPTION : A CALL TO ACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE



SHOT DURING THE  the 100 days prior to the September 21, 2014 People's Climate March in New York City, Disruption  is intended to motivate viewers to take action on the issue of climate change. The audience is taken inside the People's Climate Mobilization Hub, a New York office space where organizers and activists strive to set in motion the largest climate rally in history.

Citing historical movements such as women's liberation and civil rights as major influences in the decision to facilitate a march, organizers share a unified belief in the power of people coming together in the interest of a common cause.

Disruption declares that the preservation of our natural resources is a long-term investment more valuable than the profits of an economic system incompatible with the needs of the planet.

JENNIFER HAS A BIG BOTTOM

Politically aware pop music is not dead!

IN DAYS LIKE THESE, in these troubled times, isn't it good to know that there is a international pop star talking about the real issues? Isn't it inspiring to know that there is an artist who is willing to express our anger and frustration with the world as it is?  Who speaks of a better world?

I'm sure you have guessed who I'm talking about. Yes, it has to be Jennifer Lopez . She is the voice of a generation brought to you by Pepsi.

Lopez  hails from the land that gave us Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez,  Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and inspired Tracy Chapman to write 'Talkin' About A Revolution'. Naturally she would record a song called 'Booty'. After all, as she once reminded us,  despite the fact she's filthy rich, she is still 'Jenny from the block'.

While Tracy Chapman sang of 'wasting time in the unemployment line' Lopez  sings of having a big bottom.

Lopez captures the essence of late capitalism, the twilight of a failed economic system, in these withering lyrics:

Big, big booty
What you got a big booty
Big, big booty
What you got a big booty
Big, big booty
What you got a big booty
Big, big booty
What you
(Ain't that a freak)
Big, big booty
What you got a big booty


 John Lennon or Benny Hill  could not have said it better.

For those of you out there who think pop music no longer acts as a cultural  flagbearer  for wider  political and social movements, you have obviously not heard 'Booty'.  When Lopez sings 'Mesmerized by the size of it/ You can fight it if you like take your time/I can guarantee you'll have the time of your life/ Throw up your hands if you love a big booty', you know she really means it.

LYING BY OMISSION

Seventeen year old Malala Yousafzai is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is also a socialist - which the corporate media have ignored.

WHILE THE Nobel Peace Prize is not all it is cracked up to be (think Barack Obama), it was still a wonderful achievement that seventeen year old Malala Yousafzai won the prize this year.  She shares  the award with another children rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi of India.

What has been less wonderful has been the news coverage of her award. I made a point of watching the coverage on the evening news bulletins of Prime, Television One and TV3 yesterday. The all lied abut Yousafzai, not blatantly but by omission.

All three news shows  took their  stories from overseas sources and all three stories  failed to mention that Yousafzai is a socialist. They highlighted the fact  that  she began  campaigning for the education of young Pakistani girls' from  the age of 11, three years before she was shot by the Taliban. What none of the stories mentioned  was that, shortly before she was shot, she had attended a Marxist Summer School run by the Pakistani section of the International Marxist Tendency. She spoke in the debates. This  important  part of her life was 'deleted' by the corporate media.

From her hospital bed in England she  sent a message of thanks and encouragement  to her Pakistani comrades:

  “I’d like to thank The Struggle and the IMT for giving me a chance to speak last year at their Summer Marxist School in Swat and also for introducing me to Marxism and Socialism. I just want to say that in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for any one else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves?

    “I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the congress. I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.”


In her memoir,  I Am Malala,  she writes of her father ‘wanting to end the feudal and capitalist systems in our country, where the same big families had controlled things for years while the poor got poorer.'

While her political views are still forming it is also true that the corporate media have already begun to  sanitise her political convictions. If it has its way, she'll be tranformed into another corporate apologist like Bono. So it is up to the rest of us to celebrate the real Malala Yousafzai. Let the truth be known.

NAOMI KLEIN : "CLIMATE ACTIVISTS NEED TO GET COMFORTABLE ATTACKING CAPITALISM"



Naomi Klein talks with David Roberts of Grist about her new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.

YOUNGEST WINNER OF NOBEL PEACE PRIZE


NOTHING NEW FROM MIKE TREEN

Mike Treen, the National Director of the Unite Union, was last seen campaigning for the election of a Labour-led government and 'market solutions' to climate change. He has now conveniently embraced the views of Naomi Klein. 

 THIS WEEK Mike Treen, the National Director of the Unite Union, tweeted that Naomi Klein's new book, This Changes Everything, is a manual for a new movement. He followed that up with another tweet highlighting Klein's view that there are now no non radical solutions to tackling climate change.

All well and good. I agree entirely that Klein's book, which has been ignored by the mainstream media in this country, is a very important work. I also agree that we can only come to grips with climate change and the ecological crisis generally  through radical means.

But while it is convenient  for Treen to embrace the views of Naomi Klein now, views which are not dissimilar to those of the ecosocialist movement, where was he  before the election?  That's right - he was urging support for the grand 'progressive coalition', which included a Green Party advocating neoliberal solutions to climate change.

I did not hear Treen  offering any criticisms of the Green Party's views then. Instead  he was dismally  supporting the election of Labour-led government which, among other things, would have allowed further deep sea oil exploration and believes in market solutions to the climate crisis - like carbon trading - which Klein completely dismisses as no solution at all.

It's hard not to interpret  Treen's  sudden u-turn as anything  but opportunistic. I'm afraid that people like Mike Treen (and it is not just him) talk a big game in the 'downtime'  between elections but when the parliamentary seats are again up for grabs,  they all wheel in  behind the Labour Party - which has had disastrous consequences for three elections in a row. You kind of think Treen and company might have learnt something by now.

Having helped to fracture the left by his misguided and disastrous support for the merger of Mana and the Internet Party, Treen now wants the left to regroup and reorganise.  But the devil is in  the detail.

While Treen criticises the Labour Party for failing to encourage strategic voting, particularly in Hone Harawira's former seat, he comprehensively fails to answer  the fundamental question: What is to be done  about the Labour Party? 

In the absence of any clear rejection of the Labour Party, we can only assume that Treen and the usual suspects will be calling for yet another vote for yet  another 'progressive coalition', led by yet another 'lesser evil' Labour Party  in 2017. This is the failed electoralist strategy all over again which will see, for the next three years,  a whole load of rhetoric and commentary against the Key government in the blogosphere but zero opposition on the streets and in the workplaces. The CTU will make sure of that.

This is not good enough.  Mike Treen might think Naomi Klein's new book is a manifesto  for a new movement but a new movement requires new thinking. And there is certainly nothing new about continuing to support a politically bankrupt Labour Party.

SOUND AND FURY SIGNIFYING NOTHING

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman  tries to scapegoat Internet Mana. Meanwhile The Daily Blog editor Martyn Bradbury decides that Russel Norman is no friend of his - which is not what he was saying before the election.

GREEN CO LEADER Russel Norman knows why Labour lost the election. Simple really. It was all Internet-Mana's fault.

Norman told the Waatea News that Internet Mana were 'a guided missile aimed at the left.'

"I mean we had enough trouble with John Key standing up every day telling all his nonsense about us and on the other had we had to deal with these crazies. Having them on the radio and tv all the time talking their nonsense, it was like ‘Oh god,’ it did make it incredibly difficult to change the Government at that point because a lot of people who might have voted for Labour went ‘Oh god, if a vote for Labour means a vote for Dotcom and Harre, I’m not going to do that.'"

With the Green Party flatlining at the election and  not picking up the fifteen plus seats  it was confidently  predicting,  Norman has to find someone else to blame. Otherwise some  people may start questioning the political direction that he has taken the Green Party.

Under Norman the Green Party has embraced the neoliberal orthodoxy with Norman declaring himself to be more a supporter of the market than the National Party.  While climate scientists  are warning of the danger that the planet is under from  a predatory economic system, Norman  talks fondly of the environment movement working with big business. That he has got away with this junk while passing himself off as 'left' is indicative of something  seriously rotten with  New Zealand's so-called  'progressive politics'.

Which brings us neatly to The Daily Blog editor Martyn Bradbury.

The Green Party's shift to the  right, of course, did not occur overnight. Although if you were to believe Bradbury it is as if  Russel Norman and the Green's have suddenly, out of thin air, morphed into a party  that is 'open for business with National' (Bradbury's words).

But just a few short few weeks ago Bradbury  and his mates  were promoting the Green Party as an important partner in a grand 'progressive coalition'. Back then though Bradbury had nothing to say about Norman's open declaration  of support for market economics.  Maybe he thought no one would notice.  But we also need to remember that this is the genius who said  the lack of support for the Internet -  Mana Party merger from some socialists was due to the fact that we're not happy people.

But now Bradbury has leaped to his keyboard - because Norman has taken a swipe at Internet-Mana.

Bradbury apparently can have it both ways. He can support the right wing politics of  Labour and the Green's before the election but, after the election,  he can suddenly become a  flagbearer for the left again, waving his sword of justice and self-righteousness at people like Russel Norman. I think Norman and Bradbury deserve each other.  But I think the left deserves a  whole lot better than these two political imposters.
 

A PIG HEADED REFUSAL TO LOOK FACTS IN THE FACE

Labour and its supporters fail to acknowledge that a slavish commitment to the neoliberal orthodoxy has led to its election downfall - again.

I WAS AMAZED TO hear the CTU's Helen  Kelly argue on TV3's The Nation that Labour lost the election because  it failed to communicate its message and policies to the electorate.

I think  exactly the opposite is true. I think the electorate had a pretty good idea of what Labour was about and didn't much like it. So they did not vote for Labour or did not vote at all. Labour are not so much regarded as a political friend and ally  but as another occupying power in Parliament.

Kelly  though seems blindingly oblivious to Labour's unpopularity. Perhaps she needs to get out more. While she has no problems with Labour continuing  to pursue the neoliberal orthodoxy its potential supporters certainly have. 

 But honesty seems  to be short supply in the Labour camp. It's supporters seem to have adopted General Melchett's dictum that 'when all else fails, a pig headed stubborn refusal to look facts
in the face, will see us through.'

 If Labour's supporters were being honest then they would front up and admit Labour has no new ideas. Instead we get the kind of ducking and diving that has been on display from commentator Chris Trotter over the past few days.

Having enthusiastically endorsed David Cunliffe as Labour's future his new excuse to explain Labour's defeat is that Cunliffe went to sleep over the first few months of his leadership. That's a nicely convenient explanation because that means Trotter does not have to  take any responsibility for his own part in Labour's downfall. But, to be fair to Chris, he's not the only one who has fled from the scene of the wreckage, claiming they had nothing to do with it.

While Trotter might argue that Cunliffe sat on his hands for the best part of a year, the fact is that Labour failed to  do anything about reinventing itself after its defeat in 2010. While I was arguing that Labour was a political dead zone, Chris Trotter was quoting Jim Anderton  at me  about building  "your footpaths where the people walk.” The obvious difficulty for Trotter though is that Labour  did not build its footpaths where the people walk.

But Trotter seems to be having another go at it. He quoted Anderton again in a recent post. This time though he seems to want to build his footpath directly to the house of Labour MP Stuart Nash. He's the MP who said last week that Labour lost the election because it was too left wing.

We need to remind ourselves that  it was Labour that began the process of overturning the gains of the social democratic era in favour of business interests. It has been committed to the neoliberal orthodoxy ever since.

Labour has no answers, certainly for ordinary people who now have three more years of John Key, Paula Bennett and company to look forward to. But, unlike comfortably well off political commentators and trade union leaders, ordinary people are not insulated  from the impact of neoliberal economic polices.

That Labour does not have any answers for us is a disgusting display of the irrelevance of not only Labour but of the parliamentary system itself.

The present pathetic  squabble over who should lead Labour is  simply an indication of what lies ahead for Labour politics over the next three years. Once again it highlights  the need for an independent alternative to Labour,  one that is committed to  the interests and concerns of ordinary people, one that does not promote and defend market values and one that does not make deals with political forces unfriendly to the interests of ordinary people.

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