Columnist and Labour Party supporter Chris Trotter would like us to believe the fiction that the effects of the global capitalist crisis have hit everyone equally so why should any one sector of society have to carry the economic burden of this crisis? Like various mainstream politicians - including his new hero, Barack Obama - he's calling for national unity, for everyone to 'muck in' to fight the economic storm. Captain Chris Trotter - apparently New Zealand's answer to Captain Mainwaring of Dad's Army fame - wants us to fight the nasty economic recession together! Don't panic!

Trotter says that the expression of 'equality of sacrifice' 'has a proud and long pedigree'. Trotter accuses me ( apparently I'm wearing a cloth cap and hobnailed boots) of living in some quaint Dickensian world but, ironically, he's all too eager to reach back into the past for a wartime expression to hang his threadbare and dismal argument on.

'Equality of sacrifice'? I say - bugger that! I say the corporate fat cats should be made to pay for the economic mess they created. That seems reasonable to me - after all, I never heard the fat cats offering to sacrifice any of their profits when unemployment was at record levels. I never heard them offering to share the burden when the economy was being torn apart during the years of Rogernomics.

Chris Trotter is being ridiculous in a typical Labour Party way. I don't know what planet he is presently residing on, but the planet I'm on is dominated by a destructive and chaotic economic system: an economic system that weaves implacable and destructive conflict into its production and distribution of goods and services. It periodically erupts into conflicts and crises and that is happening right now.

Trotter's call for John Key, the former sharemarket wheeler and dealer, to share the pain around flies in the face of capitalist reality.

New Zealand workers, like workers around the world, are in the firing line. First, because companies will try to compensate for their financial losses by freezing wages and reducing working conditions.

Secondly they will also suffer the indirect effects of the financial crisis on the real economy, which will bring a string of bankruptcies and lay-offs. The destruction of jobs has already started.

As far as the capitalist class is concerned - the people who own the means of production, Chris - its ordinary workers who are going to - and are- paying the price of this crisis. This crisis has already ruined millions of households in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Ten of thousands are workers are losing their jobs - over 35,000 Americans workers lost their jobs just last week.

Here in New Zealand, we are beginning to see the job losses - with the government already conceding that unemployment could rise by much as 70,000 this year. I think the government is being optimistic.

And Key has also strongly hinted at a wage freeze and possibly even wage cuts.

The socialist left knows which side of the barricades it is on - its the side that you won't find Chis Trotter and his fellow Labour Party apologists.

As well we may also see taxpayer money being used to bail out New Zealand companies - and John Key has already signalled this. This money will have to come from somewhere and I would suggest we could see cutbacks in welfare.

None of this sounds like the burden being shared equally to me. None of this sounds like the 'equality of sacrifice' that Trotetr is waffling on about.

A friend of mime lost his job this week as a result of the growing recession - he'll be signing on the dole in the next few days. Perhaps Chris could tell him how the burden is being shared before he heads down to Work and Income to sign up for the pitiful unemployment benefit. I'm sure he'll be encouraged.

Trotter though claims he's on the side of workers:

'Yes, I do support a rise in the minimum wage for low-paid workers. And yes, I do believe that families dependent on the domestic purposes benefit deserve a substantial lift in their weekly income. It might also be a good idea for the National-led Government to offer temporary tax relief to this country’s tens of thousands of small, family-owned and run businesses. It should also embark on a massive state house construction programme, and reverse its decision to halt the insulation of old/cold homes. I’m also in favour of a substantial increase in the top marginal tax rate for persons earning over $100,000.'

Trotter is simply calling for the economy to be pumped via benefit increases, subsidies and infrastructural spending - but this is just about saving capitalism from itself.

What does government intervention really mean when it is being practiced by a government on behalf of capitalist interests?

The state is being used for state capitalist purposes, in order to reorganize capital, even to curb some of its excesses. But its aim is to keep capitalism and its social relations going—relations in which labour is dominated and exploited for the profits of a few.

I don't want to engage in debate with Trotter's prejudices but he once again repeats the groundless assertion that I, and presumably all other socialists, are trapped in some Victorian world where the working class forever wears cloth caps and is forever one step from the poor house.

Trotter seems to think that because people drive around in SUVs and watch 'Coronation Street' on plasma TV's they are somehow 'less' working class - even though they are still, last time I looked, working for wages as clerical workers, retail workers. hospitality workers and so on. He seems to be fixated on lifestyle but then he's a regular guest on breakfast TV so that's understandable.

Of course, Chris Trotter is also the same Chris Trotter who some years ago dismissed Marxism as some kind of nineteenth century anachronism, irrelevant to the modern world - although that hasn't stopped him from regularly quoting Marxist thinkers.

It seems to me that the socialist left has to operate on two levels. First, a socialist left has to be rebuilt in this country and it must fight on every front in defence of working-class interests, whether it is against job losses, against foreclosures, or against cuts in health care and social services.

Second, the socialist left must be prepared to take part in any struggles to defend the interests of the working class, as well as creating a political and ideological alternative to the free market and its defenders, conservative or liberal. The left must use the present crisis to conduct an ideological offensive against capitalism and to argue for a socialist alternative.

Indeed, as Trotter says, the working class should be encouraged to become a leading actor in the unfolding economic drama - but only on its terms and defending its interests. The working class should not have a bar of these clarion calls for 'national unity' and 'national purpose'. I think this is called popular frontism. I'm surprised that Trotter, being a student of history, is not aware that popular fronts always end in disaster for the working class.

The socialist left knows which side of the barricades it is on - its the side that you won't find Chis Trotter and his fellow Labour Party apologists.


  1. Trotter's Labour style token gestures may reassure his conscience that he 'supports' workers, but it hasn't occurred to him in writing his article that the problem is rampant unrestrained capitalism. Trotter seems to be under the illusion that there's nothing wrong with capitalism and that perhaps this crisis is just some freak event.

    Trotters comments just go to re-enforce that with him and his Labour Party advocates workers will not be better off, and the system wont change. The only way for workers not to become victims of this crisis is for them to refuse to pay for it. The only proponents of this are the socialist left.

    While Trotter acknowledges that the crisis is one of excess he doesn't seem to rationalize that those who made this crisis should be the ones to pay for it.

    As for the ANZ workers about to lose their jobs to call centres off shore while ANZ's profits are in the billions, I'm sure they're feeling pretty good about 'equality of sacrifice'.


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