While Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters might be expressing so-called 'anti-capitalist' sentiments, appearances can be deceiving.
FOR THOSE OF US on the left who have been fighting the good fight for more years than we care to remember and with many of us having made personal sacrifices along the way, it has been somewhat surprising - and maybe a little galling - to see two high profile politicians suddenly declare their 'anti-capitalist' sentiments. I guess many activists will be thinking "strange, never seen these two at any at the meetings".
The new zeitgeist of anti capitalism has been embraced, intentionally or not, by both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.
Winston Peters has decided that many New Zealanders regard capitalism not as their friend, but as their foe. Meanwhile Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a recent interview that "capitalism had blatantly failed". That comment got picked up by the overseas media including The Independent, The Guardian - and Occupy Wall Street.
But, while we might have reached the stage of late capitalism, the revolution is not upon us just yet.
Peters and Ardern might be displaying some anti-market views but they are not anti-capitalist. Nor are they pro-socialist.
In the case of Winston Peters, he has been virulently anti-socialist throughout his long political life. Former Green MP Keith Locke certainly experienced his hostility to socialist politics. Peters would often beratehim in Parliament for the unpardonable crime of being a former member of the now defunct Socialist Action. He even went to all the effort to unearth articles Locke had written for Socialist Action publications in order that he could deride them in Parliament in front of Locke.
Meanwhile , Jacinda Ardern never actually said "capitalism has blatantly failed". In The Nation interview, what she actually said was that capitalism had failed to provide adequate housing and had exacerbated child poverty. She told Lisa Owen:
"Wages are not keeping up with inflation, the cost of housing is outstripping most people's reach. What is the point of economic growth when we have some of the worst homelessness in the developed world?"
Ardern was not advocating expropriating the capitalist means of production. Like Winston Peters, she was defending more government intervention in the economy in order to ameliorate some of the worst social impacts of the market economy:
""When you have a market economy, it all comes down to whether or not you acknowledge where the market has failed and where intervention is required."
Maybe, in our relentlessly economically austere country, just tinkering with the neoliberal settings appears almost revolutionary - even if you have already ruled out tax increases for the wealthy, have ruled out implementing a universal basic income or even increasing benefits, and have signed a fiscally severe austerity agreement with the Green Party. Not to mention that you have some disconcertingly xenophobic views on immigration.
In fact what Ardern and Peters have been reflecting is a concern among the capitalist class itself that capitalism is struggling and needs a boost.
Recently Anne Richards, chief executive of British asset management company M&G, said: "In the current era, best described as 'the age of anxiety', we will see capitalism rejected unless it finds a way of fundamentally addressing this anxiety.”
And speaking on a panel for the British Financial Times, former minister Baroness Shriti Vadera, chairwoman of the Santander UK banking group, said "the underlying promise of Western capitalist economies - that a rising tide lifts all boats - has been broken” and a "better model” was needed.
In New Zealand the business sector has also recognised that capitalism has gone stale and are looking to the new government to revitalise it. This was exactly the view expressed recently by Rob Campbell, the new chairperson of Sky City.
Campbell, a former unionist and a loyal supporter of Rogernomics, said shortly before the election:
"There is an increasing recognition among the business community and the wider community that things have got a little stale. If I can use a word from a previous National Prime Minister, maybe we need to be a bit more aspirational."