New Zealand's political landscape is mired in the extremism of the centre - and the left is helping to keep it there.
IN HIS NEW BOOK, The Extreme Centre: A Warning, Tariq Ali examines the process in which mainstream politics has converged around the so-called centre. It's not hard to spot- Labour and the Conservatives in the UK, Republican and Democrats in the US, socialists and conservatives in France, Labour and National in New Zealand. The politics have blended together to be almost seamless.
As the political parties have jostled around the centre for so-called 'political advantage', ordinary people have effectively become disenfranchised. When politicians and their various cheerleaders talk about 'our great little democracy', what they are really talking about is a country we're we are allowed to vote for a drab range of politicians that are, to a man and a woman, committed to neoliberalism and the free market.
It does not matter who wins, the Centre rules. It's been like this for over three decades and shows no sign of changing in, at least, the short term. The latest farce in the extremism of the centre is about to unfold with Labour's Andrew Little attempting to appear opposed to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, while, at the same time, supporting it.
One of the principal reasons that there will be no change is that the so-called left, to its shame, has been an active participant in the extremism of the centre. Year after year, it has attempted to sell Labour as an 'alternative ' to National, that Labour is somehow 'preferable' to National. Even its sporadic resistance to government polices has been compromised by its loyalty to Labour.
Not that the left is about to admit to this. Socialist Aotearoa, for example, claimed that Labour's election vote collapsed because of 'relative economic prosperity'. That it could make such a claim in a country where a quarter of all our children are living in poverty was simply appalling.
But the people have not been conned. While Labour's cheerleaders in the media and the blogosphere talk excitedly about the toxic landscape called 'politics as usual', more and more people are no longer listening. At the 2014 election nearly a million people did not vote - despite the pleas of union officials and Labour friendly bloggers that they vote for Labour or one of its electoral partners.
As an aside, 'New Zealand's leading left wing commentator' (Paul Henry), the ubiquitous Chris Trotter, accused me of extremism for not supporting Labour at the last election. The election result proved that its not people like me who are extremist but the likes of Trotter and their loyalty to the extremist politics of the centre. It came as no surprise that Trotter named National's Finance minister, Bill English, as his politician of the year. Chris Trotter - striking a blow for bourgeois politics!
Elsewhere in the world, there have been encouraging signs of resistance to the extremism of the centre. This has included the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the US, the electoral success of Podemos in Spain and Left Bloc in Portugal.
That kind of resistance has not emerged in New Zealand. Indeed Labour leader Andrew Little has confirmed his party's commitment to 'business as usual'.
That, ultimately, he will allowed to get away with this by what supposedly constitutes 'the left' in this country is beyond disgraceful. Someone like Mike Treen for example, the national director of the 'progressive' Unite Union, should stop lending the support of his union to Labour. As a union of low paid workers , Unite's support for the extremism of the centre does its members no favours at all. But, of course, that would mean breaking with the nonsensical viewpoint of the International Socialists and Socialist Aotearoa that Labour is somehow the 'lesser evil' - Treen isn't about to do that, unfortunately. As far as Treen and others like him are concerned, its still 1984.
We need to sound the death knell on the extremism of the centre - but that doesn't just mean confronting the National Government. It also means grappling with the politics of the faux left and its continued commitment to the Labour Party.