There is an underlying assumption in the world of New Zealand mainstream politics that there is no alternative to neoliberal economics. You can either have National's neoliberal policies or you can have Labour's neoliberal policies. Or perhaps you might like the Green Party's neoliberal policies with a slight green hue.
But you can't have anything really different. You can't have anything new.
Are we living in some Twilight Zone, where the real world barely intrudes?
Despite the fact that neoliberalism has completely failed, sparking the biggest meltdown of global capitalism since the 1930s, that fact hasn't got through to our parliamentary politicians.
Right now, we have shifted from the 'Twilight Zone' to the 'Night of the Living Dead'. How else can we explain the return of neoliberal zealot Don Brash to economic prominence?
But as long as Labour remains locked into the neoliberal orthodoxy it is incapable of offering any real economic alternative - and it is reduced to sniping on the sidelines.
The appointment of the conservative Goff as Labour leader was never going to restore Labour fortunes. He told National Radio's Focus on Politics last week (an excellent interview by Brent Edwards) that "..a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy'
Goff just doesn't get it. This economic 'recession' is not just a 'blip' on capitalism's radar. He just doesn't comprehend that the 'economic boom' of the Clark government was an illusion based on inflated house values against which thousands of New Zealanders borrowed large amounts on credit cards. And now the chickens have come to roost.
But Goff's complacency and his inability to grasp the true nature of this economic crisis, is mirrored by his ideological cheerleaders in the trade union bureaucracy and on blogs like The Standard - which is largely written by Labour Party employees and activists and trade union officials and functionaries.
What's The Standard's big economic alternative? Well, 'Eddie' (July 21) wants to see the expansion of the home insulation scheme to rental accommodation and more money spent on public transport.
This is merely tinkering while the economy burns. If 'Eddie' wasn't so enthralled with the free market she would be calling for the nationalisation of the banking sector - and that would be just for starters.
The level of economic debate is mindnumbingly superficial, the solutions offered no solutions at all, the lack of any real alternative vision for New Zealand sorely apparent.
I heard Goff talking the other day about restoring 'confidence' to the New Zealand economy. It's one of those cliches that politicians roll out on a regular basis but, disturbingly, Goff actually believes it.
He is not alone in his idiocy however. One of the reasons that our economic commentators seize on any bit of economic good news, however small or temporary, is that they think that 'business confidence' is fundamental to any economic recovery.
It is mumbo jumbo. The economic collapse sparked the collapse of confidence - not the other way round. But Goff peddles this nonsense just like John Key.
All the economic figures show that global economy shows no signs at all of pulling out its tailspin. The rate of descent might of slowed a little but that's all.
Prime Minister Key informed us yesterday that the worst of the recession is over but then proceeded to say that unemployment would continue to rise well into 2010. Does this make any sense to you? Me neither.
What we do face is, at best, is a very long period of stagnation, growing unemployment, falling living standards and pressure for more spending cuts and a further round of privatisation.
Its not good enough for Goff and fellow Labour MP's - and the Green MP's as well- to simply pick holes in National's economic policies while, at the same time, sharing National's assumption that there is no alternative to neoliberalism.
We need a new radical economic agenda that puts people first - but it won't come from Labour, we know that.
Nor will it come from the trade union bureaucracy which continues to refuse to fight and presents the smallest of employer concessions as if it was some major industrial victory. The National Distribution Union's disgraceful failure to mount any industrial action at clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin is a good example of this bureaucratic passivity.
What we are seeing in New Zealand and the west generally is the last death throes of historical social democracy that emerged from the split in the world workers movement after the Russian Revolution. This does not of course mean that we shall see the early demise of parties like Labour that originated in social democracy, but the project – originally socialism via successive reforms which then became pro-working class reforms within the framework of capitalism - is all but dead.
Labour will stumble on for now - it is indeed the night of the living dead.
The new task must be to build a new and united left both at the electoral level and in all the social struggles. This is a difficult and complex task but not impossible.