We live in strange days. Indeed these are very strange days for socialists and for all those who still believe there is a world to win.
New Zealand's parliamentary parties continue to pursue the policies of neoliberalism. National, Labour, the Green's , Act, the Maori Party, the United Party and the Progressive Party completely agree that neoliberalism is the only game in town. The differences between them come down to minor disputes on how to play that game.
There is no inspiring vision of a different future. It's just more of the same with perhaps a little 'tweaking'.
Similarly the bureaucrats in the Combined Trades Union have effectively reconciled themselves to neoliberalism. You just need to read any of their economic policy proposals to realise that. The CTU simply seeks to make minor modifications to the government's neoliberal agenda and continues down the road of 'accommodating' itself to the demands of employers and the state as it did under the last Labour government.
Among the 'chattering classes' there is also a broad consensus that neoliberalism is the only game worth playing. Pro-Labour Party blogs like Tumeke! and The Standard devote most of their time firing critical buckshot at the National-led government and hoping that some of it will hit. But, once again, the dispute is about how the game is played - not the game itself.
The New Zealand Herald's John Armstrong made some recent comments about the 'complaint culture' of blogs like The Standard. He observed that there is a
'...a frustration and impatience towards National still displayed by some of the shriller Labour-aligned blogs, which find fault with anything and everything the Key Government does while expecting their breathless critiques to somehow bring forward its demise..'
Armstrong is a conservative commentator but he makes a good point; there is not a lot of thoughtful debate or reflection going down among the Labour-aligned blogs. You will struggle to find any clear alternative to neoliberalism - because there isn't one.
The Standard, despite claiming to be a 'left wing' blog, seems to think that if Labour can just keep it together then it can somehow win the next election. It doesn't seem to matter that Labour isn't offering anything substantialy different from National. Nor does it seem to matter that leader Phil Goff thinks neoliberal policies are the only way to run an economy and has dismissed Labour's own traditional social democratic heritage as 'irrelevant' to his 'modern' Labour Party.
There is a remarkable consensus across the New Zealand political spectrum about an ideology that has completely failed. That neoliberal zealots like Rodney Hide can still be treated seriously is an indication of just how bad things are. This man and his party cling to a discredited ideology that sparked the biggest capitalist crisis since 1930s - yet Hide and the Act Party think the only 'problem' is that the neoliberaism hasn't gone far enough!
While Karl Marx often finds himself and his work being labelled 'irrelevant' by his detractors, the world is actually now more like what Marx described in the Communist Manifesto than many of us are prepared to admit.
A 2006 study published by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research (part of the United Nations University), revealed that the worlds wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe and a handful of developed Pacific rim countries - with 2% of adults owning more than 50% of the worlds wealth.
While the rich have been getting richer, we are now in a period of appalling poverty, increasing hardship and economic dislocation. There is a price to pay for the crisis of capitalism - and it is the poor who are paying it.
I agree with the Marxist writer Ellen Meiskins Wood that Keynesian has proven to be a historical anomaly and we have returned to the way capitalism has nearly always been.
This horrendous reality is exactly why Friedrich Engels said that the choice would ultimately come down to socialism or barbarism.
His words were later repeated by Rosa Luxemburg.
In the Junius Pamphlet (1915), Luxemburg writes: “We stand today ... before the awful proposition: either the triumph of imperialism and the destruction of all culture, and, as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration, a vast cemetery; or, the victory of socialism.”
The choice, I think, is even starker for us all today.
Unfortunately for many of New Zealand's so-called 'left wingers', the choice is simply between either National or Labour's brand of neoliberalism - which is no choice at all.
These are indeed strange and disturbing days.