The frenemies posture on the neoliberal rant train

As the frenemies posture, others hold out hope for at least a semblance of peace among the fractured left. The day after Andrew Little’s election, not even having held the role long enough to confer with his caucus and set policy directions, should-be allies jump on the neo-liberal rant train.

The centring of neo-liberalism in NZ political discourse is not achieving what it intended to. It hasn’t birthed a revolution, and it won’t as long as the same voices continue making the same noise and that noise is no longer provocative. If anything, it’s a cacophony of plagiarising wannabe Chomsky regurgitators. I love Chomsky, but I despair at people that use his anarchism to justify or at least bolster their State socialism bent.  And no, it’s not a matter of just accepting the status quo – but rather steering discussions toward a more constructive terrain.

Keen readers of Chomsky will understand that his view of the State is only that it is preferable to what he calls ‘private corporate tyrannies.’ The State is not the end-game.

Thing is, neo-liberals and State socialists share some common ground: both think the State is an appropriate regulatory vehicle and both need the State to pursue their ideological goals. Neo-liberals need it to make laws that grant property titles in individuals and to enforce contracts as well as to offer some sort of military defence against threats to the security of their property. The other need the State to own the means of production in order to wed individuals to the State to maintain State power. And to provide military defence against aggressions and the individualism considered to breed corporate monopolies.

Neither values the right of peoples to self-determination and both think that identities are inconsequential to the greater good because both think their ideologies are the fairest and will single-handedly solve all crises.

Either way, the NZ political system is some way off from seeing any real change in outcomes – no matter who leads the government. And our micro- and minor- parties are hardly offering anything fresh because they are centring debates on bringing the system down, and then contradicting that discussion by choosing to ally with a party they don’t actually support, rather than concentrating on building a new system that renders the old one obsolete. What I heard over and over again during the election, was that people didn’t want to hear about what system we have and why it was so bad. Voters mostly know this even if they aren’t familiar with the academic nuances, because they know privilege and hierarchy when they see it and experience the effects of it.

People want hope. They want to be able to imagine the possibilities, not as some fictional utopia but for a path to be mapped out – even if it’s incomplete, because even that leaves room for participation and responsiveness.

I’m not convinced Andrew Little will be able to tame the Labour Party’s destructive side. However,  he may (yet to be seen) be able to offer hope and if he can do that, then he may just lift the party out of its quandary. Only time will tell.


4 thoughts on “The frenemies posture on the neoliberal rant train

  1. Hi.

    A question.

    There seems to be an absence of Libertarian Socialist debate in New Zealand, State Socialists are certainly dominant in the Twittersphere and have a outright monopoly on representation of ‘The Left’ in the mainstream.

    Do you have any thoughts as to why this may be?

    Why has New Zealand grabbed hold of the Marxists Revolution, but so readily erased this early Socialist thinking (a continuum seen through the Zapatista, Indignado, Occupy movements and most recently in Kurdistan) from the history books?

    I seem to make more enemies on the Left these days than on the Right for questioning the centrality of the State in solving the problems of monopoly, power and privilege.



    1. Thats a good question. I dont know the answer, but my experience on Twitter is incredibly similar to yours. I think maybe it has to do with many people believing in the benevolence of the State, the idea that if we just put the right, well-intentioned people in positions of power then the State will be a kind and compassionate entity. The idea that we need the State to build houses, provide welfare, education and health services, rather than fix the underlying issues that rob us of dignified lives seems to prevail. The perpetual crutch, rather than removing the cast kind of thing. I’m just waffling now, apologies.


  2. I guess the timing of the birth of the Labour Party being at the moment of the American Keynesian Progressive response to The Great Depression may be a part of it. Also perhaps the religious aspect. The Church is hardly a horizontal institution, and I gather Christianity played a part in the Labour Party, although on this I’m working on hearsay rather than historical knowledge. I guess we didn’t have an intellectual connection with the earlier discussions within Socialism? But then, I learnt only recently that we Parnell organized a strike in 1840 for the 8hr work day, more than 40 years before The Haymarket Affair.

    I wonder what Kiwi characters were involved in or inspired by Spain rather than Russia and Kropotkin rather than Marx. Has this been cast aside from our intellectual history or did it just not capture our imagination.


    1. And – as an afterthought – was Keynes then our Socialist forefather rather than Marx.

      If so, it’s worth noting his words..

      “How can I accept the Communist doctrine, which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete textbook which I know not only to be scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world? How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who with all their faults, are the quality of life and surely carry the seeds of all human achievement? Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the red bookshop? It is hard for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values.”

      A call for hierarchical institutional technocracy if ever I heard one.


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