The occupation of Parliament grounds exposed a liberal left that is as much a part of the political establishment as the conservative right.

IN MOST of the end-of-the year commentaries the occupation of Parliament grounds has largely been treated as an unfortunate intrusion into the otherwise polite and civilised conduct of mainstream politics. The protest has been gutted of any political significance and depicted as a sideshow to the 'proper' business of politics occurring in the building the protesters were camped outside for twenty four days in February and March. The dirty old protesters have been portrayed as a load of unwelcome party crashers who eventually had to be removed by the police in order for sanity to be restored. We can now all move into 2023 safe in the knowledge we will be free, unencumbered by protest and madness, to vote for the political party we want to see manage the free market on behalf of the corporate sector for the next three years. Are we excited, yet?

In some countries, like China for instance, strenuous efforts are made by the State to delete peoples and protests entirely from the historical record. But that can't be done in a mildly liberal democracy like ours. The best that can be done is seek to delegitimise independent protest action that threatens the status quo. Throughout 2022 there has been a sustained effort to portray the Wellington protest as the work of fringe elements, unrepresentative of New Zealand society as a whole. But to do that inconvenient facts have had to be ignored. Like the fact that one survey revealed that approximately a third of the country was supportive of the occupation. 

What has been revealing is that much of that effort to delegitimise the protest has been made by a liberal left that claims to be on the side of ordinary people and will be vociferously claiming that again next year in its efforts to get Labour re-elected.

The liberal or Labour-friendly left might not have gone as far as the Chinese government and described protesters as 'enemies of the state' but they were moving in that authoritarian direction with the Wellington protesters described, among other lurid descriptions, as 'right wing extremists', 'neo-fascists' and 'rabid anti-vaxxers'. Charges of racism were also laid against the protest even though, by most estimates, a quarter of the protesters were either Maori or Pasifika. And the presence of protesters of Jewish birth didn't stop the protest being attacked as 'anti-semitic'. Ironically, it was the protesters who were accused of spreading disinformation.

Labour friendly commentator Chris Trotter, who attacked the police for not breaking out the batons against the protesters before they had time to establish themselves, tried to give his opinion a 'left cover' by caricaturing the protesters as 'lumpenproletarians'. That view though somewhat contradicted the view of the equally Labour friendly International Socialist Organisation  who described the protest as the work of 'small businesspeople, traders able to camp indefinitely in Wellington, the flotsam and jetsam of alternative lifestyles and health cures, and groups of the oppressed organised against their own class by religious sects..' 

Green MP Teanau Tuiono wrote 'If you find yourself on the front lawn of Parliament and all you see around you are religious fundamentalists and literal Nazis – without a trade union in sight – then it isn’t a protest to improve people’s lives. It’s an alt-right recruitment drive.' That view was supported by the conservative Green co-leader Marama Davidson who, after the occupation was over, was urging the police to continue to pursue protesters through the community and arrest them. 

Anyone who has contradicted this negative view of the protest has found themselves being pilloried by the liberal left. Such has been the case for Dr Bryce Edwards of the Democracy Project. In a recent article he wrote:

'Much of that protest was an incoherent expression of all sorts of reactionary, backward and unconscionable worldviews. But it was also an expression of alienated, discontented and hurt people. Most of the people there were poor, unemployed, marginalised, and vulnerable, even if some influential leaders of the protest were not.'

This is a considered and sensible view but one that has only attracted criticism - and abuse - from the liberal left opponents of the occupation. Labour friendly commentator Morgan Godfery suggested that Edwards' university tenure might have to be 'reviewed'. Corporate lobbyist Clint Smith, a former staffer in Jacinda Ardern's office, tweeted: 'whenever you're feeling self-doubt, remember that at least you're not Bryce Edwards - the country's worst political analyst and, now, useful idiot for would be murderers.'

There are moments, politically decisive moments, when you have to decide which side of the barricades you are on. 

The liberal left made the wrong decision when it decided to attack the occupation of Parliament grounds. By joining Speaker Trevor Mallard and an assembled gaggle of tame journalists looking down on the occupation from the balcony of Parliament Buildings, it revealed itself to be as much a part of the political establishment as the conservative right that revolves around the National Party.

What the protest did highlight is that the tribal left is the mirror image of the tribal right. It might support different political parties and have different catchphrases but it displays the same intolerance for any political action that threatens the interests of the political status quo. It displays the same arrogance and self righteousness. More worryingly still, it has displayed a readiness to use the powers of the State to crush any dissent it does not approve of. 


  1. This is well-written, I mean as writing itself.

    I appreciate also that as a leftist you haven't jumped onto the strange bandwagon of portraying the mandate-protest as anti-left. In fact, the reaction to it has harmed what the genuine left. It was frightening to see the aggression and authoritarianism that was unleashed in the populace at the sight of a primarily working-class protest.

    I know there was a lot of hyped fear involved, but it was disturbing that the protestors could be claimed to be anything arising in the fevered imaginations of the media and that when it comes to the working class things like accuracy and truth can be discarded by journalists and purportedly left-wing commentators.

    Now there seems to be a patronisation from such commentators suggesting that they need to guide the ''mentally ill'' working classprotestors who they claim have been radicalised to the extreme right. What utter nonsense.

    It was always going to be the working class, as the front-line of the damage of NZ's response to covid. People who had real problems already were further endangered in their ability to just get by.

    It was not our imagination - NZ's response transferred vast sums from the poorest to the richest, and the endemicity of covid was known months before NZ faced reality.

    There is an instinct that comes with being at the bottom, the 'school' is a hard taskmaster but the so-called left ignoring the voices who have been so educated has led to the virtual demise of an actual left force.

  2. I spent three days at the protest (staying in a motel at night) with another retiree friend, both edging towards 70 who travelled down from the Waikato. We found jobs at the protest site that needed to be done, sweeping paths, chopping vegetables for the kitchens etc.
    We were part of the 30% of the New Zealand population who recognised the “malignancy of the state intrusion into the lives of the population”. And that phrase can encompass all of the reasons why so many visited, camped or shared the sentiment by providing food, toilets, nappies, a shower block and a mass of goods.
    This focus point pervaded the protest on the lawn even though the media and government lackeys painted the protest as anything other than what it was - the recognition by New Zealanders that something stinks in the state of New Zealand.
    During the day the crowds swelled with lunch time visitors and school kids arrived after 3 o’clock, all to soak up the sense of being kiwis without restraint. The atmosphere was quiet and extremely well organised with water being offered to the crowds, rubbish collection throughout the day, children in a crèche, a medical facility and admin centre. Much admiration needs to be given to the organisers.
    This was the focus point for New Zealanders around the country who saw our democracy spiralling towards autocracy and an ethno coup d ‘ete in process.
    The arrogance of Ardern and her sychophants plus the hapless Luxon and the opportunist Seymour in agreeing to ignore and denigrate the protest and protestors was the quintessential evidence of their lack of care for our democracy and our civil rights.
    The violence of the police response on two occasions has forever cemented itself in our consciousness and forever changed the trust between the police and New Zealanders.
    This incompetent gang in power led by the righteous, Marxist, autocratic, sociopathic Ardern has cemented our distrust in the political system.
    Forever etched in our minds is the photo of the smoke and destruction on the lawn with the beehive in the background….. that was prophetic and evidence of the extent of our loss. Ardern and co. will be forever remembered by this photo.

    1. I agree, Helen, except Ardern isn't remotely Marxist, or righteous either. Self-righteous -definitely.


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