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Goff at DL – a socialist review

Written By: - Date published: 1:58 pm, November 28th, 2009 - 39 comments
Categories: drinking liberally, phil goff - Tags:

Below Omar of Socialist Aotearoa gives his impressions of Phil Goff at Drinking Liberally in Auckland earlier this week.

On an unrelated note, isn’t it funny (in a non-‘ha, ha’ way) how 4,000 pro-smackers gets lots of coverage but a blind eye is turned when the Left is out in bigger numbers? The protests yesterday by low-paid public servants (hospital support staff, school support staff and others) didn’t make it the physical versions of the major papers or the TV news. TV3 has some raw footage here and here (update: turns out there’s an article in the Dom today, wasn’t on Stuff’s politics page)

Anyway, Omar’s post:

As the sun went down across a glassy Auckland harbour and inner-city workers scrambled for home, I met up with other Socialist Aotearoa comrades who went to see Labour leader Phil Goff speak at the London Bar. After getting there and buying a pricy bottle of beer, we retreated to the back of the bar as suited party functionaries and smart-casual looking centre-left students and intellectuals swilled around us.

The first bitter taste in my mouth came when the organiser of the event, from the group Drinking Liberally, kept using the word ‘We’ to describe the audience at the event but implying that we were all Labour Party members. No wonder people accused the Labour Party of arrogance, when all you have to do is turn up to hear their head honcho to be a member.

Anyway, up to the stage went Mr. Goff, pint of beer in hand, to begins his ruminations. Launching into an articulate attack on the Tories first year, Goff covered his three stand-out issues for the year; cuts to adult & community education and the extra funding for private schools, the restructuring going on within ACC as a prelude to privatisation, and the bungled Emissions Trading Scheme and the legacy of debt it will leave to future tax-payers. All good points, and as Goff said, part of a strategy of the Labour Party returning to ‘core values’.

No doubt important issues but enough to swing voters away from the John Key and the National Party? Probably not and definitely not enough to reenergise the Labour Party in the coming year. The rising cost of living, unemployment, and the economic recession received passing mention but I didn’t get the feeling that these were pressing concerns for the Labour Party milieu that had gathered around their leader, shandies in hand. As I said to Goff afterwards, the Nats won the last election on tax cuts, Labour could win the next election on wage rises. I think my advice fell on deaf ears.

Into question time and a slightly more candid Goff emerged, drink having loosened the tongue I suppose. On Harawira, ‘Never let go off the Black Power rhetoric of the 1970s. Blah, Blah, Blah Harawira Blah Blah Blah Racist Blah, Blah.’ No soul searching on how damaging the Foreshore and Seabed Act had been to the Labour-Maori relationship, and no surprise that there were few people-of-colour in attendance. The reality is that most capitalists in this world are ‘white motherfuckers’ who really have been raping this land for centuries. Harawira told it like it is and many people respect that.

Socialist John Moore asked a question about Labours’ relationship with the market and Goff responded, ‘show me a command economy that ever worked’, ‘the market is the best mechanism to distribute goods’ and ‘Labour saved capitalism’. It seems Goff never really shook the ideology of the fourth Labour Government of the late 1980s that turned New Zealand into one of the rich world’s most unequal societies.

With a BBC poll showing that a quarter of people it surveyed thinking capitalism is fatally flawed, you would think that the Leader of a party that was formed to institute democratic socialism in the depression of the 1930s would be able to criticise our current system a little more than just calling for an overhaul of the Reserve Bank Act. But no- all Goff would admit their role to is to tinker at the edge of the system.

Lastly, Goff’s response to my question over whether we could trust him and his return to a value based foreign policy when he was the one who had done a trade deal with the butchers of Beijing as the young monks of Tibet were murdered in the streets. Goff’s voice boomed across the bar to lecture us on how we could only do business with 1/3rd of the world if we were not to do business with tyrants. I couldn’t help thinking that 1/3rd of the world is still 2 billion people to trade with but I think my words would have been lost on the functionaries who had gathered to hear their leader.

In the end I left with the feeling that Goff was preparing to move his party to the left, just as Clark had done at the end of the 1990s with the rhetoric of ‘closing the gaps’, but that the core values of the Labour Party were still the suppression of tino rangatiratanga, commitment to neo-liberalism and a pandering to powerful foreign interests in return for trade deals.

39 comments on “Goff at DL – a socialist review ”

  1. rocky 1

    Nice to see you here at The Standard Omar 🙂 Hope to see more! It is nice to occasionally see someone tell it how it is without all the window dressing.

  2. Bill 2

    a) “show me a command economy that ever worked’, Erm. China seems to be working better than the open market economies. Anyway.

    b) “the market is the best mechanism to distribute goods’ Absolute rubbish! Actually, that’s what it is really good at distributing far and wide; rubbish. eg poverty, inequity etc

    c) “Labour saved capitalism’. Fucking shameful if true. Not something to skite about. Thing is, looks to me that China and its command economy saved capitalism….back to point a)

  3. blinglish 3

    Goff is just another of the traitors who have worked tirelessly to destroy the Labour Party over decades.
    We all know about Roger Douglas who came out of the closet to take his tue position on the Far Right, with Richard Prebble obediently yapping at his heels.
    We’ve seen Mike Moore being half a king at the World Bank.
    We’ve seen Geoffrey Palmer Lording it up at the Law Commission as he systematically destroys our constitutional rights of Habeas Corpus and freedom from unwarranted search and seizure.
    We’ve seen Helen Clark et al send us into wars with no legal, ethical or moral basis, execute the largest indigenous property rights theft in living memory and then swan off to the UN, the very organisation that called her out on racism.
    Now we are left with Goff playing the race card harder than Winston Peters but without the intelligence, continuing in the policy of trying to outflank National on the right which so spectacularly failed at the last election..
    The Labour Party must ditch this plonker and his ilk and get back to it’s priniciples if it expects to survive. The middle ground does not lie twixt the Nats and Act, and Labour are meant to be to The Left.

  4. George D 4

    “show me a command economy that ever worked’

    Ummm; Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands all have more controlled economies than we do. As does Australia, which we’re supposed to be “catching up” to.

    • Lew 4.1

      George, would you seriously call any of them a ‘command’ economy?

      Bill, above, is right to call China one, but as to whether it’s working or not — as the Chinese themselves say, it’s too early to tell. Rapid growth from a very low base with access to enormous natural and labour resources and phenomenal costs in terms of both human welfare and environmental degradation — well, I’d question that definition of ‘working’. Stalin industrialised his country, after all, but the tens of millions of lives it cost wasn’t generally considered a worthwhile tradeoff.


      • QoT 4.1.1

        Doesn’t that then mean that there’s a bit of goalpost-shifting going on? I mean, if the question is “how will you change market structure” and the answer goes straight to command economies, ignoring places like Sweden etc … that’s just a strawman.

        • Lew

          QoT, absolutely, I think Goff dodged the question by invoking a worst-case alternative.

          But George seemed to be arguing that point: that there were command economies that worked. I don’t think there are, given a sufficiently robust definition of ‘work’.


          • Bill

            Any ‘free market’ economies that work then?

            • Lew

              Bill, depends who you ask — some will tell you there are no free market economies 🙂

              But, less facetiously, yes — there are plenty of reasonably free-market economies which work to deliver sustained economic growth with only moderately catastrophic environmental and human consequences. It’s just about where your particular tolerances lie.


            • BLiP

              Given that the “free market” only exists on the pages of third form text books – nope.

              EDIT: Drat! 🙂

            • Bill

              but, but, aren’t they all in free fall ( US, UK……) and bailing out their banks and ripping off their real economies and workers to do so?

              And didn’t those bailed banks go and expose themselves in Dubai?

              And isn’t Dubai plonkering?

              And anyway, isn’t it China that is shoring up the US through buying and holding their govmt bonds or whatever…..

              …neither works particularly well.

              But I will suggest this. If a command economy commands that production shall be green, then know what? Meanwhile a market economy…well, in’t we doing well on that front?

          • Quoth the Raven

            Bill – I presume you realise that Dubai World is state-owned.

          • Keir

            don’t know it’s goal post shifting exactly. it depends on the question, but qualitatively, the Labour Party is interested in a mixed economy. Quantitatively, maybe you’d prefer the mix to be more one way or the other, or whatever.

            I think the question was probably misput; it should have asked if Labour was doing enough to ameliorate the market, not the nature of the relationship.

            Also, I found the continual reference to the rest of the audience as, basically, a bunch of apparatchiks and careerists a wee bit tiring.

            And this — `a party that was formed to institute democratic socialism in the depression of the 1930s’, is just wrong. Yes, formed to institute `democratic socialism’, but apart from that! (And also formed to be the political arm of the working class; it’s the Labour Party not the Socialist Party for a good reason.)

            “the core values of the Labour Party were still the suppression of tino rangatiratanga, commitment to neo-liberalism and a pandering to powerful foreign interests in return for trade deals” is a bit simplistic even for a trot. It’s about the level of social fascist analysis. Make a bit of an effort with your theoretical stuff would you? (And I suspect the better insult would be that the core value of the NZLP is getting elected…)

        • George D

          And this is the problem – Labour is still treating their critics like fools who demand everything.

          You try and ask for them to even consider something reasonable and achievable, and for the most part you’re treated like the spawn of Satan. I thought this attitude would at least diminish after Labour lost the election.

      • Clint Heine 4.1.2

        Err, you can only call Cuba and North Korea command economies. Every other one is capitalist.

        Goff is of course right, I hope he fully embraces his past! 🙂

  5. Gooner 5

    Bill, China is “shoring up the US” because there is no income tax in China and credit is virtually non existent too. This allows massive amounts of savings. We could learn from that here.

  6. Galeandra 6

    Re command economies, isn’t Cuba’s post-soviet experience worth a little examination?

    You guys are like a bunch of adults conversing in front of the children ie talking over the heads of people who were fortunate enough to be educated before economics became a pseudo science and infiltrated school curricula.

    Your generalisations deserve a little more teasing out. I gathered the impression that the economies of the super powers inthe 30’s & 40’s were at least in the broad sense ‘command economies’.

    • Galeandra 6.1

      Moderation, eh, again!!
      Well, that adds impetus to a lively discussion.
      Was it the ‘soviet’ maybe….. nah, it was the jibe about economics, for sure.

      anti-spam: replacement
      which is what I’d suggest you do about your trolling net.

    • Quoth the Raven 6.2

      I would like to know what point your trying to make re Cuba can you explain?
      After the soviet union’s collapse things went belly up pretty fast for Cuba’s planned economy and they rightly made some market reforms which appear to have helped. But ultimately I think Cuba’s a poor example for an argument either way because of the trade embargo (which that sicko in power in the US has retained) distorts matters.
      I think the what were war economies in the 30s and 40s aren’t that good of an example either although “war is the health of the state.”

  7. Ari 7


    More and more I think I was wrong to be cautiously optimistic about Goff as Labour leader. I kind of hope he steps aside for someone with some actual passion about something, and a sense of where his party comes from and needs to get to in order to succeed.

  8. Bill 8

    So talking about class or reasoning in class terms is seen as a political liability in a world where parties compete with each other for corporate patronage. We know this. And we know that patronage does not need to be expressed in straight dollar terms. It can be in the shape of policies not being lobbied against if the compromise is acceptable. It can be in the shape of the media member of the corporate family reporting your party, its personnel and its policies in a broadly favourable light ( or not unfavourably).

    So Labour will never reconnect. From the perspective of the atmosphere they operate in, they are being pragmatic. They are playing a game; depending on manoeuvres and rules that are removed from the every day realities of us workers and our families.


  9. I went to Drinking Liberally on Wednesday night too. While it was good to hear Goff talk in person, I did kind of feel as though he sounded very similar to when I have heard him in parliamentary debates. I guess, it seemed as though he was talking “at” the audience rather than “to” them.

    It should have been a fairly receptive audience (and in general it was), so I’m not quite sure why he was so up-tight. Perhaps that’s just his way of talking?

    I asked the question about what would make a 6th Labour government different from the 5th Labour government – as if Labour are to have a hope in hell of winning in 2011 I think the difference needs to be made quite clearly. I think the fact that his response indicated that the changes weren’t likely to be particularly significant means it’s likely Labour won’t win in 2011.

  10. Julie 10

    I wasn’t at DL on Wednesday, so I’m not in a position to comment on that. I did want to just raise though that I find Omar’s comments about Labour Party people who were present pretty counter-productive. Calling people “party functionaries” and generally being snide about the organisers of DL isn’t going to win friends or influence people. I used to be one of the organisers of DL in Auckland (too busy now) and it is quite a broad group, not just Labour people.

    And isn’t Omar’s criticism of being included in the Labour Party by the use of the word “we” (could the speaker have meant the broader Left perhaps? Don’t know, wasn’t there) kind of ironic coming from someone who assumes that all people in Labour are a hive mind, walking step by step with Goff on everything? I’ve never given my party vote to Labour, but I have many friends amongst Labour’s membership and I’ve largely found them to be critical thinkers who don’t blindly agree with everything their leadership says at all. Many of those people who write on The Standard who are members of Labour critique their own party as well as attacking the right on a regular basis.

    I think part of the reason that many on the Left have been so disappointed with some of Goff’s pronouncements is that we realise that whether we like it or not in the short term a change of Government means Labour at the core of Government, with Goff probably as PM. I find the idea of another three years of National and Act-led Government absolutely chilling. I see the daily effect this Govt is having on the lives of those on low incomes and I fear how much worse that could get if they are re-elected. I also fear how tiny the gains might be if the Govt changes but the politics don’t. I think there is a way to highlight the second point, and work on shifting Labour’s leadership, without crapping all over there membership who are probably largely thinking along those same lines themselves.

    • r0b 10.1

      Julie – thank you for that.

      • Herodotus 10.1.1

        From the late London Bar, I was taken back by Phils comments regarding what NZ had achieved in the 9 years above average growth within the OCED, Yet we fell further behind in our ranking. Comments like this and his we got some things wrong. from reading his speach it was we were poor in our delivery of the message NOT what we did. Does not resinate within the electrate. As I and many others have made comment Labour has lost its connection with it roots, and from reading many inuts and articles from this and re dAlert sites (Which from the dramatic drop of of volume within RA) all there appears to me is some people with the forrwest/tree issue to deal with. Then get those within Lab to re read their history and examine the core values.

  11. Anne 11

    Hear hear Julie.

    I am heartily sick of the lofty, arrogant pronouncements from a few posters and commenters on this site who seem to find it necessary to rubbish Phil Goff at every turn. I also have reservations about one or two of Goff’s recent comments but, contrary to current fashionable opinion, I saw no resemblance whatsoever to Brash’s Orewa speech.

    • TF 11.1

      They do the same with Russel Norman
      It’s the “Judean peoples front” syndrome

      • BLiP 11.1.1


      • felix 11.1.2

        Actually Norman cops flak because he’s spent the best part of this parliamentary term cuddling up to the Nats in direct conflict with the wishes of the vast majority of his party’s members.

        And hasn’t it worked out well for him, btw…

    • QoT 11.2

      I’m sure categorising one’s opponents in general as ‘just trying to be cool and fashionable’ will be a total vote-winner in 2011.

      • Lew 11.2.1


        The maaries, with their korowais and their tikis and their neo-tribal elite suits and their gangsta bling …

        … and the homos with their metrosexual hairdos and their glitter and their ABBA cellphone ring-tones and their “oh my GAAAWD, and then he was like, y’know, like, totally” …

        … and the wimmins, well, we all know how they can’t wear anything without running it past their uptight feminists dyke support groups …

        THESE are the enemies of the SOCIALIST FUTURE which awaits our great Fatherland, and if workers only stopped tolerating their dedication to FASHION then we’d only have to reach out and grasp it.*


        * It’s better if you can imagine the stirring music and images of happy white, male, hetero peasants in the fields and factories.

  12. sk 12

    Goff is clearly wooden compared to JK, and struggles to connect after years in gov’t, but there is an issue here that needs to be debated. Lew may scoff about the neo-tribal elite, but it is clear that the Maori Party has tacked very closely to the interests of Ngai Tahu and Stephen O’Regan. If you live in the South Island, it is clear that Ngai Tahu is Pakeha-ised, and will trample on any group that does not acknowledge them, such as Waitaha. They are no different about to any Corporate. There is nothing that is waahi tapu. The deal conquers all.

    This is the interests with which the MP are now clearly aligned, and to attack them is completely appropriate.

    This is an issue here that has nothing to do with racism or dog whistles. And Goff is right to raise it, even if the initial key is off. The MP coalition with National is risking the UMNO-isation of Maori politics, and that is something we should all be alarmed about – whether Maori or Pakeha.

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