CATRIONA MACLENNAN is exactly the kind of Labour Party supporter that Chris Trotter and Martyn Bradbury don't like. Certainly MacLennan's recent column in the New Zealand Herald earned her the ire of Bradbury who described it as " an extraordinary attack on white men and the working classes." In case you didn't know, Bradbury and Trotter - neither men who have much to do with the working class and even less with class politics - have appointed themselves as the arbiters of what the working class likes, which apparently teeters on the edge of being racist, sexist and homophobic.
What provoked Martyn "socialists are unhappy people" Bradbury's ire is MacLennan's contention that "Human history is the history of male domination and, primarily, of white male domination. Black and brown people, women and LGBTQ people have been prevented by law, custom and outright physical force from accessing political power, jobs, votes and resources."
This is a stark and contentious view but the picture isn't as straightforward as Bradbury suggests. If you read further into her column she says things that more conservative NZ Herald columnists certainly would never do, like: "the economy" is defined in a way that suits the elite...The economy" is also not about why beneficiaries are deliberately paid less than the amount required to live the most basic existence."
While she is far from subscribing to the politics that I support, MacLennan doesn't blame the poor for being poor. She doesn't suggest that they spend all their money in the pub and on fags, or that they are "irresponsible parents' who send their children to school hungry. She doesn't suggest, as Chris Trotter once did, that they live their lives as if they're in a episode of television series Outrageous Fortune. Indeed last year on Radio Live Trotter confessed that as he grew older, he became less receptive to the demands of the poor.
If you read further into MacLennan's work, rather than take potshots at just one column, you will find that she proposes the reform of the welfare system so that it actually helps people rather than punishes them.
Among other things she calls on the "Ministry of Social Development to provide all beneficiaries with all the assistance to which they are entitled" and that the principle aim of the welfare system should be the reduction of poverty "rather than the current focus on reducing the number of beneficiaries."
She also argues that benefits rate should be substantially increased - "Make benefit rates livable, rather than keeping them very low to punish those who cannot - for many reasons - either find or perform paid work.'
You won't anything in Labour's welfare policies that comes anywhere near to what MacLennan suggests yet its MacLennan who is attacked by Bradbury for being anti-working class!
The agenda of Andrew Little and his coterie of supporters is not to bring about emancipatory change but to get elected to power a Labour government that is promising nothing more that the continued rule of the political and economic elite. The attack on 'social liberalism' by the likes of Bradbury and Trotter is neither honest or principled, rather it is an attempt throw up a smokescreen to conceal that as progressive political force, Andrew Little's Labour Party has no clothes.
There is nothing class-based or left wing about the politics of Bradbury and Trotter. There's is a politics that doesn't address the structural economic inequalities of our society, only pretends to. Their attack on 'social liberalism' is little more than an attempt to obscure the reality that for three long decades Labour implemented and supported policies that threw ordinary people to the market wolves - and that it plans to carry on with such policies if it manages to get elected in September.
When Labour had the opportunity to embrace the zeitgeist of progressive change it has instead chosen to double down on a brand of market authoritarian politics that will certainly not convince the million or so ‘missing voters’ that this election has anything in it for them.