On the KiwiPolitico blog 'Pablo' asks the question 'who are the next generation of NZ left wing thinkers?' On the surface it appears to be a legitimately unbiased question but you begin to smell something fishy when you look at some of the people 'Pablo' informs us were members of the previous generation of left wing intellectuals.

They include Chris Trotter, Matt McCarten and Laila Harre. Not one of them is a Marxist. Call me old fashioned but, in my book, being a 'left wing intellectual' also means being a socialist of some kind.

I sense that someone is trying to set a political agenda that 'certain' people are not welcome to contribute to. People like me for instance.

Apparently being 'left wing' also means not being a Marxist. Which means I won't be getting an invite to 'Pablo's' party. The danger is I could be 'too left wing' and upset his guests.

Is Chris Trotter a Marxist? Of course he isn't and he doesn't claim to be one either. Anyone who has read any of the criticisms he has sent my way in the past would know that.

He isn't even anti-capitalist. I doubt that he would still be appearing on television and be writing newspaper columns if he started spouting such revolutionary views. I can imagine The Press getting a little uncomfortable if Trotter started advocating revolutionary socialism as opposed to his present mild mannered Labourism.

Similarly Matt McCarten is an old school social democrat who has remained true to his principles - and I respect him for that. Which is something I can't say about Laila Harre who has moving been rightwards for some time now.

So 'Pablo' is looking for the kind of left wing intellectual you have when you're not having a left wing intellectual. He wants the kind of left wing intellectual who removes all the messy revolutionary politics from Gramsci and waffles on about 'hegemonies' and 'Frankfurt Schools' while at the same time declaring that the 'old left is so Eurocentric'.

Having decided that Marxists can't be 'left wing intellectuals', its not surprising that his appraisal of the new and upcoming 'left wing intellectuals' are all non-Marxist.

The one exception is Bryce Edwards who lectures in political science at the University of Otago. I've known Bryce for some years and I don't think he would disagree that he comes out as the same political tradition as myself.

Certainly his politics would be closer to mine than to 'Pablo's'

'Pablo' though admits that he is not familiar with Bryce’s 'scholarly writing' so maybe Bryce too will find himself ejected from 'Pablo's' party and be forever ignored.

'Pablo' actually has little time for Marxist politics but not wanting to sound as if he is ant-Marxist he writes: 'I do not think that Stalinist or Trotskyites represent the future of NZ Left praxis, much less thought.'

So 'Pablo' lumps in the Trotskyites with the Stalinists, as if we all shared common views. Is 'Pablo' just ignorant or is he deliberately trying to smear the Trotskyist left in this country with the crimes of Stalinism? Is he deliberately trying to smear the Trotskyist left with the betrayals of Stalinists like former CTU boss Ken Douglas?

To dismiss all the intellectual work that has been done by Marxist writers and activists in this country is political prejudice masquerading as legitimate comment.

Trotskyism is essentially classical Marxism. It is the Trotskyist movement that kept the socialist flame alight when the Stalinist darkness swept over much of Europe. And Trotskyists were hunted down and killed because of it.

'Pablo ' wants the Marxist left to just go away because it is a challenge to his limp liberal politics. He seems to be yet another confused and bewildered social democrat looking for a home that was long demolished by the forces of neoliberalism. Perhaps he wants to still play in the rubble along with Chris Trotter and Martyn Bradbury.

'Pablo' rambles on about neomarxism and postmarxism but it all amounts to the same thing - he rejects the Marxism of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and Gramsci.

How exactly will this benefit the 'NZ Left praxis'?

'Pablo' is Dr Paul Buchanan. He describes himself as an International relations and security analyst.


  1. The list of 'next generation left wing thinkers' includes mostly pro Labour authors from pro Labour blogs. The extent of their 'thinking' is to accuse John Key of smiling and waving too much. Thanks, but no thanks.

    These 'next generation left wing thinkers' advocate a party that wont increase wages, refuses to make housing affordable, thinks 'free education' is a dirty word, and is quite happy for working people to pick up the bill for the recession. Excuse me, but WTF is left wing about that?

  2. Sorry that you interpreted the post in the way you have, because it is a fundamental misread, I offered some "household" names as older generation Left thinkers and asked for suggestions as to who the younger generation might be. I did not exclude Marxists, or anyone else who uses class-based analysis as a centrepiece of their thought. My comment about Stalinists and Trotskyites was, admittedly, a but blunt and undifferentiated but merely referred to people mired in doctrinaire orthodoxies. If there are thoughtful Trotskyites out there then they are welcome in my book. One question though: how is that Trotskyite praxis going these days? Making serious inroads on mass consciousness and building the foundations for the inevitable revolution? Hmmm.

    In sum, you have read to much of a negative sort into my post. I posed a legitimate question and even if if you do not like the names bandied about or what you perceive to be the sell-out politics of myself and others, that does not mean that the question cannot stand.

    As for my real "identity." You offer only a small window on a much larger and complex personal landscape.

    Pablo (for some reason the ID/URL kept being rejected).

  3. I did not 'misread' your column and I stand by my comments.

    How's the postmarxist praxis going these days then? I didn't know we were living in a post-capitalist world but then again I must be one of those 'unthinking' and 'doctrinaire' Marxists you refer to.

  4. Suit yourself Steve. To each his own.

  5. How to distinguish a Marxist from a non-Marxist? By his position with respect to proletarian dictatorship.Those who think that proletarian dictatorship is necessary, to improve social conditions, are Marxists. Others are not Marxists. Do you agree?

    Ludwik Kowalski (Google or Wikipedia will tell you that I am no longer a Marxist)

  6. I note that Dr Buchanan doesn't dispute the charge that he has rejected Marxism. But I don't read what he has rejected it for other than he refers vaguely to neomarxism and postmarxism.

    He invites 'thinking' Marxists to his debate but given that he has already took the opportunity to dismiss the Trotskyist current, its little wonder that people like Steve view his opinions with distrust - no matter how well-intentioned he might be trying to be.

    Any debate will be fruitless if the implication is that the Marxism that Steve obviously adheres to, has no place in any debate.

    The problem is further compounded when Buchanan advocates 'left wing thinkers' who are actually supporters of the right wing Labour Party.

  7. Although it is fair to take me to task for summarily lumping Trotskyites and Stalinists together, in no way did I "advocate" for Labour Party supporters. Nor did I reject Marxism, which is a particularly absurd charge. All I did was ponder who might be the next generation of Left thinkers in NZ, threw some old and new names as suggestions of past and present "thinkers," and ask readers to submit their own choices. My view of the Left is inclusive, not exclusive, even if I have doubts of the utility of certain strands of Left thought.

    From his vantage point Steve can well take issue with where I stand, but fairness dictates that my words be interpreted correctly and that false motivations not be imputed to what I have said.

  8. Pablo wrote it: 'I do not think...Trotskyites represent the future of NZ Left praxis, much less thought.'

    Since Trotskyism is largely classical Marxism you have to wonder why Pablo is so quick to summarily dismiss the Trotskyist current as irrelevant. Although he now describes this as having 'doubts of the utility of certain strands of Left thought' In truth he seems to mostly fussed about one particular strand

    I am not familiar with Pablo's writings and he may well have expounded on his conception of Marxism in the past. If he has I would be grateful for the links.


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