Political science lecturer and commentator Bryce Edwards has put forward a 10-point manifesto for change in New Zealand.

THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD is probably one of the least likeliest places you would expect to find an article mapping out a manifesto for a progressive and independent political movement in New Zealand. But political science lecturer and commentator Bryce Edwards makes his intentions abundantly clear in the opening of his article. We need, says Edwards, 'a revolt against the current political system for the good of our democracy'.

Edwards considers how we can harness the political forces that we have seen at work in countries such as the United States, political revolts that seek to overturn a status quo that has failed to meet the needs and aspirations of the majority.

Such a revolt led directly to the rise of the Occupy movement, but it has also took a reactionary form in the rise of Donald Trump. But, albeit for the machinations of a self-serving Democratic Party establishment, the United States could well be looking forward to at least four years of a progressive administration led by the wildly popular Bernie Sanders.

While New Zealand's political parties gravitate around a political centre that is consistently rejected by nearly a million people who no longer vote, Edwards suggests that New Zealand is fertile ground for the rise of a progressive and independent political movement similar in orientation to the one that grew around Sanders, but one 'made in New Zealand'. He points out that a opinion poll earlier this year indicated , given a choice between radicals, 77 percent of New Zealanders chose Sanders while only 8 percent chose Trump.

While much, if not most, of the mainstream commentary in the corporate media fails to acknowledge any widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo and offers little more than the usual meditations and homilies on increasingly unrepresentative parliamentary politics, Edwards has put up for discussion and debate a 10 point manifesto for change in New Zealand.

It explicitly rejects the elite politics that we are forced to endure today. Writes Edwards:

"Today's ruling class is the "political class", which refers to politicians and their advisers, public officials, and activists that are in the milieu of power.

There's an increasing awareness this group is killing off democracy with their inward-looking elite style of carrying out politics. They're responsible for the highly polished, scripted, professionalisation of politics.

An anti-establishment movement would reject this hollow way of operating. Party conferences wouldn't be empty, stage-managed media affairs, but forums for proper participation. The image-makers and opinion pollsters would be kicked out. Grassroots activists and mass participation would replace the duplicitous advisers and spin-doctors."

Edwards seeks the development of a political movement that would, he says, colourfully, 'kick against the pricks': "A new movement would relentlessly point out the political system isn't working for most people and democracy is in decline. The goal would be to bring about major reform."

Bryce Edwards says that people have the right to be angry but that anger needs to translated into a powerfully progressive and left wing agenda that takes seriously the struggles of ordinary people. He is critical of what claims to be 'progressive' politics but is little more than warmed over social liberalism that has largely been co-opted by establishment politics:

"All political parties focus more these days on the easier answers of posing as bicultural, more politically correct, or culturally sensitive. This usually has minimal impact on improving life for those in poverty and hardship, but makes the coterie of liberal politicians feel superior.'

Edwards' manifesto is a bold statement on the urgent need for a progressive movement - and a political party - that gives voice to the needs of ordinary people and suggests a way forward to forge together a frayed and divided society. It breaks with the neoliberal consensus that has suffocated this country for the past three decades.

But,  exactly because it breaks with the neoliberal consensus, it also represents a threat to the status quo and those who benefit from it. Opposition to Edwards' manifesto can be expected from the parliamentary parties and the support structures that continue to prop them up. They can be expected to attempt to block and inhibit the rise of an independent political movement. And, in civil society, not all the opponents of Bryce Edwards' manifesto for change will be sitting in the corporate boardrooms.

With the country heading toward another dispiriting 'politics as usual' general election in 2017, Bryce Edwards has proposed an imaginative and inspiring alternative way forward.

Note: Bryce originally titled his article 'Why New Zealanders should embrace a revolt against the Establishment.' The NZ Herald took fright at that and changed it to 'Will Trump effect be felt Downunder too?'


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