The Labour Party's hold on the working class has, of course, become increasingly weaker and fragmented. This is not surprising given the atrocious behaviour of Labour since 1984.

The present Labour leader Phil Goff, has, for three decades, been an committed supporter of the neoliberal policies that have caused such hardship and misery for ordinary people. But he now wants us to believe he is truly on 'our side'. The smug and arrogant Phil Goff I protested against back in the day was apparently his evil twin.

It was people like Phil Goff who made me resign from the Labour Party in 1985 and the sight of him at the recent Labour Party conference behaving as if he was a 'champion of the people' was about as obnoxious as Andrew Little's attempts to portray himself as something other than the Machiavellian and reactionary bastard that he really is.

I shouldn't really be getting upset because this kind of duplicity is par for the course when it comes to the Labour Party . But as one of the blogs that I follow so eloquently puts it, 'I cant believe that we still have to protest this shit'. I often find myself thinking that these days.

But Labour's merry band of media cheerleaders are trying to sell Labour's 'new direction' as the genuine article.

In possibly one of the most sycophantic columns he has ever written, commentator Chris Trotter claims that Labour has abandoned its 'twenty six year old neoliberal experiment'.

Even if this was true one has to wonder what kind of political party and what kind of people we are dealing with who are prepared to inflict such hardship and misery in order to pursue their 'economic experiment'.

But, of course, people like Chris Trotter have never been at the sharp end of the policies of the party he continues to support. Perhaps if he had spent some time on the dole, tried to survive on the minimum wage or lost his home to the bank, then he might not just talk about Labour's neoliberalism as if it was just a mere bump in the road and one that we can all put behind us. Perhaps if he had had his future snuffed out by the 'neoliberal experiment' then he might not be still peddling the Labour Party as the political solution to all our ills.

But is there any truth at all to the claim that Labour has abandoned neoliberalism? Am I being too hard on poor old Phil?

The lectures and discussions of the New Zealand Fabian Society are instructive in this regard.

The Fabian society is the 'think tank' of the Labour Party and, indeed, some of its speakers were prominent at the Labour Party conference.

These include businessman Selwyn Pellett (involved in the hi-tech sector), John Wally, the Chief Executive of New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association. and BERL economist Ganesh Nana.

Trotter enthusiastically mentions all three men.

Also joining the trio was business commentator Bernard Hickey. Hickey is a former devotee of neoliberalism and the free market. He recently had a crisis of faith and he now rejects neoliberalism. In a New Zealand Herald article he wrote:

I think New Zealand needs to have a debate about capital controls, about foreign ownership of assets, about measures to control our currency and about being openly nationalistic rather than internationalistic about our economic policy.

I think the Global Financial Crisis and the preceding decade of debt-driven instability in global capital markets and trade flows have demonstrated the failure of the economic model most New Zealand policymakers have adhered to for nearly three decades.

I think we need to rethink the way we run monetary policy, the way we allow foreign ownership of assets, the way we encourage savings, the way our financial institutions are regulated and change the things we are aiming for.

Emerging from the discussions within the Fabian Society, of which Chris Trotter was a participant, has been the consensus that a more managed economy is required. The Fabian Society describes this as 'a truly resilient New Zealand economy'.

In a time of economic crisis - and this crisis is the most prolonged and most severe since the Great Depression - we are faced with a choice: should we fight back with anti- capitalist demands and policies or should we advocate policies designed to make capitalism work more efficiently?

The view of the Fabian Society and seemingly the majority of the Labour apparatchik is to go for the second option.

Given that both the Fabian Society and the Labour Party are determinedly anti-socialist, this comes as no great surprise.

Inevitably the economic policies of John Maynard Keynes will surface frequently.

Keynes hated Marx and described Capital an 'obsolete economic textbook that contains nothing but out-of-date controversialising' and he went on to say that he did not want to live in a society dominated by 'the boorish proletariat.

So what we are likely to get from Labour -unless Goff squashes such policies - is some very mild Keynesian reforms designed to blunt the excesses of neoliberalism and the free market. But it does not amount to an abandonment of neoliberalism.

If Labour advocates policies like the nationalisation of the banking and finance sectors for instance, then I will happily eat my baseball cap.

Of course the polices of Keynes will appeal to many Labourites because they mistakenly think his ideas are somehow radical or, like Chris Trotter, they do not support real anti- capitalist struggle.


  1. "[S]ome very mild Keynesian reforms designed to blunt the excesses of neoliberalism and the free market. But it does not amount to an abandonment of neoliberalism."

    Nothing could illustrate more emphatically than the above quotation your fundamental failure to grasp even the most basic economic ideas, Steve.

    It would seem that the debates of the past 30 years, the extraordinary struggle between Keynesians and Neoliberals, and the turmoil those struggles precipitated in left-wing parties all over the world has completely passed you by.

    As I said a few days ago: why don't you get out and talk to Labour Party delegates, trade unionists, journalists - anybody who hasn't walled themselves up in an empty, isolated and utterly irrelevant "revolutionary" cell.

    You offer us nothing, Steve. You have no ideas about how to lift New Zealand out of its current economic malaise. You offer no concrete policies for raising the standard of living of working-class New Zealanders.

    All you have is vulgar Marxist rhetoric and cheap personal abuse.

    It's not enough, Steve. Not nearly enough.

  2. It's news to me that I'm a member of a revolutionary cell.

  3. Of course this is all true. I grew up with Rogernomics and have only ever been to the Labour conference to protest. But there's a difference between formalist denunciation and analysis of a real political dynamic. More interesting than a statement of the obvious about Goff and Labour would be answers to the questions 'What has provoked Labour's apparent policy swerve, and what forces will this swerve set in motion?'

    I suppose I'm interested in whether Labour will, perhaps taking Len Brown's recent campaign as a model, try to rebuild itself as a mass organisation, as opposed to a small party with a mass electoral base in the working class, by associating itself with anti-government campaigns. Is Labour prepared to deal with the real political debate that such an organisation would have to suffer, even if only at its grassroots? I'm also interested in the contradiction between the cost of Labour's new policies and the state of the Kiwi and world economies. If Goff can ride to power on the back of anti-Nat-Act sentiment, how will he deal with the expectations of his supporters?

  4. Trotter is just getting tiresome. Whenever anyone suggests a political alternative that isn't Labour, he gets into huff and begins name-calling.

    So Steve is engaging in 'vulgar Marxist rhetoric', is 'personally abusive' and trapped in some sterile revolutionary group somewhere.

    These appeals to anti-Marxist prejudice do Trotter no credit at all and suggest that the only political trajectory he is on is one going in a rightward direction.


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