Elizabeth Bruenig : Time to give socialism a try.
"Hanging on and hoping for the best is certainly one approach to rescuing the best of liberalism from its discontents, but my answer is admittedly more ambitious: It’s time to give socialism a try." That's American journalist Elizabeth Bruenig advocating socialism in the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. Her views would never be published in a New Zealand newspaper.

PERHAPS IT has been provoked by the revival of American socialism but the discussion of socialism and socialist ideas has even crept into the American mainstream media. There are more articles and more opinion pieces these days about a subject once considered taboo in the United States.

While I don't wish to exaggerate the extent the mainstream media has concluded that socialism isn't actually just another word for totalitarianism, it has demonstrated that is more receptive to an idea that the American establishment has, historically, tried to stamp out. Maybe this is something we've got Bernie Sanders and his revolution to thank for.

In contrast, the New Zealand mainstream media is an arid desert as far as socialism is concerned. Socialism is only ever mentioned to either denounce it or caricature it as something it isn't. You know you have problems when the mainstream media's idea of a 'left wing commentator' is former Labour Party president and businessman Mike Williams.

Certainly you are unlikely to find an opinion piece headlined 'It's Time to Give Socialism a Try' in the New Zealand Herald anytime soon. Or any other newspaper for that matter. But this is the column that appeared in both the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune last week. Neither newspaper is a hotbed of radicalism, far from it.

The column, by Elizabeth Bruenig, suggests that American liberalism is, well, stuffed. Of course, Bruenig's argument is more nuanced than how I describe it, but she doesn't agree with liberal commentators that liberalism- or what we might describe as social democracy - can be fixed. She writes:

'I don’t think business-as-usual but better is enough to fix what’s broken here. I think the problem lies at the root of the thing, with capitalism itself."

She also doesn't pose the problem and then not provide a solution. She is refreshingly forthright and having waded through more than enough mealy mouthed Jacinda Ardern-lovin' crap in recent weeks, Bruening is like a breath of fresh air:

"Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labour, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture."

Such is the narrowness of New Zealand's political discussion and its failure to engage with anything that breaks with  political convention, someone like Bruenig would never get published in New Zealand. Her uncompromising views would upset delicate liberal sensitivities as much as they would upset diehard conservatives. Either way, its little more than political infantilism.


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