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Radical Socialism

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, May 2nd, 2018 - 43 comments
Categories: activism, class war, Left, Politics, socialism, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

In an earlier post I wrote about my expulsion and later re-joining of the New Zealand Labour Party. I’ve also written about ideology and some of the limitations this can cause. I have experience of this, as in the years following me leaving Labour, I became active in the radical socialist movement.

So to put this into context, in 2002-03 the Iraq war resulted in a global mass movement built. At this time I was elected to the student executive (a subject for a future post) and was also becoming a union delegate on the cleaning site I was working on. The late 1990s anti globalisation movement had lost some of its initial steam, but anti capitalist and certainly anti neo liberal politics and ideas were still being discussed at university. To me and many of my friends at the time, the third way Labour Government was on the wrong side of these issues, and something more radical was needed.

I first became aware of the Anti Capitalist Alliance in 2002, shortly after it formed. It was a coalition of a couple of other smaller socialist groups, and ran a couple of candidates in that years NZ general election. The grouping had a 5 point platform:

The five-point policy platform of the Workers Party is as follows:

  1. Opposition to all New Zealand and Western intervention in the Third World and all Western military alliances.
  2. Secure jobs for all with a living wage and a shorter working week.
  3. For the unrestricted right of workers to organise and take industrial action and no limits on workers’ freedom of speech and activity.
  4. For working class unity and solidarity – equality for women, Maori and other ethnic minorities and people of all sexual orientations and identities; open borders and full rights for migrant workers.
  5. For a working people’s republic

After a few months of flatting with one of its members (who in 2003 arrested at a Wellington anti war protest for throwing his lunch at Australian PM John Howard), I eventually joined the group.

I became a regular contributor to the organisations paper The Spark writing about my time as a cleaner and various critiques of the government such as this one demanding equality for same sex couples during the 2004 Civil Union debate. This also meant many cold Saturday mornings selling the paper on the streets of Wellington and Porirua (often hungover).

In 2004 I ran for Mayor of Upper Hutt against incumbent Wayne Guppy. And in 2007 I was one of a number of candidates to run unsuccessfully against Mayor Kerry Prendergast.

By 2008 the Anti Capitalist Alliance had changed its name to the Workers Party, a somewhat generous description of the tiny socialist group. It gained 500 signatures allowing it to appear on the ballot nationally in the 2008 general election (NZ has Proportional Representation, thus party’s with over 500 members can run as a party on the national ballot as well as standing local candidates).

The ideological debates within the groups were about Trotskyism verses Maoism, and peoples assessments over Russia and China. These historical debates always interested me, but I generally entered them usually to wind others up rather than seeing them as the pressing issue of the day. Other debates such as whether New Zealand was a junior imperialist state or a semi colony of the US was more somewhat more interesting, as it was assessing the current state of the NZ economy. I also enjoyed studying volume 2 of Karl Marx’s capital addressing the Tendency of the rate of profit to fall, a theory that many economists on the left and the right of the political spectrum believe explains why the post war boom and subsequent neo liberal policies were implemented from the late 1970s onwards.

On the issue of revolution verses reform, or working within the parliamentary established structures or outside of them was always a big questions. While my time in Labour and subsequent views leaned me heavily towards creating change outside of parliament, looking back I wasn’t consistent on this. For most of my time in radical socialist groups I was an elected student representative, working within the university structures to achieve change. Later I was elected a union president and representative. While both involved encouraging members to become active and pressure for change, both roles also involved working within the system. I later realised the revolution/reform, working inside or outside the system dichotomy was a false and limiting one.

Eventually the inevitable happened with small socialist groups, and those who have seen the Life of Brian know how this goes down. My then girlfriend (soon to be ex) and I ended up leaving the group in 2009. A rather long polemic ghost written by me was issued by Jasmine, you can read it here, but I don’t recommend it. The organisation became dysfunctional, and I certainly don’t claim to have been totally in the right. In the end it was a group built on 19th century ideology, and unsurprisingly this didn’t work out. The group disappears not long after I left.

The global financial crisis of 2008 was I think the end of it for me. Capitalism had ended up in another crisis due to its own inherent flaws. The free market that had been trumpeted as the ideological way by the right had to be abandoned as governments bailed out the banks. Yet left and socialists politics went into decline rather than growth after this crisis. Yes the banks and markets had failed. But socialist idea’s, while perhaps providing some useful analysis did not have much to offer during this.

So I was a radical socialist. Do I regret it? It was an experience I learnt from, so why would I regret it. By taking part in radical politics many dismiss you as a nutter, and years later some still view me in this light. This is disappointing. Yes some of the positions I took at the time were (literally) out of left field. But sometimes radical or out there ideas can be right. Blindly following ideology is limiting, but so is totally dismissing someone who has these ideas and everything they say as “nuts.”

~ Nick Kelly

43 comments on “Radical Socialism”

  1. Good post. Radical ideas and solutions should be as welcome as any in political debate.

    I think this on ‘the underdog socialist’ is relevant, from Rutger Bregman (Guardian): The left needs fresh ideas and a new language if it’s to win again

    It’s a perplexing question: why has so little changed since 2008? If your recall is a little hazy, 2008 was the year the world woke up to a banking crisis of epic proportions, a crisis borne of blind faith in market wisdom and an utter lack of public oversight. But in a bizarre twist, the parties who benefited from the bust were the conservatives (the people who glibly told voters it was all the government’s fault) and the xenophobes (who blamed it all on terrorists and immigrants, who steal our jobs yet are too lazy to work).

    So why isn’t the left coming up with some real alternatives? There are volumes to be written about this conundrum, but I’d like to venture one simple explanation: the eternal return of underdog socialism.

    It’s an international phenomenon, observable among legions of leftwing thinkers and movements, from trade unions to political parties, from columnists to professors. The world view of the underdog socialist is encapsulated in the notion that the establishment has mastered the game of reason, judgment and statistics, leaving the left with emotion.

    …the underdog socialists’ biggest problem isn’t that they are wrong. They are not. Their biggest problem is that they’re dull. Dull as a doorknob. They’ve got no story to tell; nor even the language to convey it in. Having arrived at the conclusion that politics is a mere matter of identity, they have chosen an arena in which they will lose every time.

    And too often, it seems as if leftists actually like losing. As if all the failure, doom and atrocities mainly serve to prove they were right all along. “There’s a kind of activism,” Rebecca Solnit remarks in her book Hope in the Dark “that’s more about bolstering identity than achieving results.”

    …the underdog socialists will have to stop wallowing in their moral superiority. Everyone who reckons themselves progressive should be a beacon of not just energy but ideas, not only indignation but hope, and equal parts ethics and hard sell. Ultimately, what the underdog socialist lacks is the most vital ingredient for political change: the conviction that there truly is a better way.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/19/socialism-left-hard-well-morally-superior-right

    So where are the fresh ideas? Radical socialism is a bit stale, along with the overused and misused neo-liberalism and ‘progressive’.

    Fresh ideas and meaningful language that connects with ordinary people outside activist bubbles?

  2. Ad 2

    You sure sound like a nutter, but a good one. 🙂

    I liked the sense you gave of people falling in and out of alliance with each other.

    The closest to good radical fun I’ve seen in New Zealand over the last 50 years is the Progressive Youth Movement. Bullshit and Jellybeans by Tim Shadbolt gives something of the flavour, but if you search hard enough there’s really interesting footage about them as well.

    • mac1 2.1

      I met a PYMer in 1968. He was full of importance and revolutionary zeal because he had recently daubed a police staton. My first response was that would really further the cause.

      But if it was ‘good radical fun’, well then………………

  3. Cold Hard Truth 3

    The reason the left has never got off the ground is too much in fighting and an inability to adapt ideas to a modern environment. Also sadly the presence of fake left parties which have further divided the left’s cause.

  4. Sacha 4

    Again, can we have a byline on any post that starts with “I wrote about”.

    • Bill 4.1

      When you say “byline”, do you mean an author’s name? If that’s what you meant, it was sitting on the front end of the post. Anyway, the post has been updated to include the author’s name at the foot of the piece to make things more obvious.

      If you meant something else, can you what it was? Cheers.

      • Sacha 4.1.1

        Thanks. That is what I meant. Same thing happened with the last post from Mr Kelly.

  5. Stunned Mullet 5

    Great post, thanks for sharing.

  6. lprent 6

    As far as I am concerned the factionalism of the left is both its weakness and its strength.

    Unlike the conservative side of the debate which generally tends towards some very high levels of conformity and towards simple minded reactivity to other parts of society it means that ideas are explored – often to ad infinitum levels. Which means that the left tends to react to changes in the underlying environment upon which society sits like changes in ideas, technology, population and demographics, expectations, and resources. Whereas the conservatives tend to respond to bulllshit and myths – usually generated by simple self-interest by someone.

    I find that the ‘left’ tends to act like excessively fractious cats snarling at each other all the time where as the ‘right’ tend to act like unthinking sheep following the equally mindless leaders… If you’ve ever watched sheep going through paddock gates you’ll know exactly what I mean.

    Those are gross generalizations, and it isn’t hard to find exceptions, but as a basis of simplifying a complex system the hypothesis has the saving grace of generally working when you apply it to groups and even individuals.

    Personally I am just about as conservative as you are ever likely to get in terms of society because I’m absolutely pragmatic about looking at everything is terms of functionality often with “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it” attitude. Conversely if something isn’t working then I am perfectly willing to try anything to make sure the frigging thing gets better and preferably stops having to require me to keep looking at it. It provides time to look at the many other things that need attention.

    However I’m also extremely individualistic in that the only opinion that I really value is my own. If I don’t know something and I’m even vaguely interested in it, then I will learn it in whatever depth I need and make up my own mind. I don’t rely on reflexive mindless morons in the style of someone like Mike Hoskings and ‘following’ anyone is matter of personal choice and subject to change. But I’ll happily support people, even those I fundamentally disagree with as they explore areas that I don’t have the time or inclination to work in. Including politicians and activists.

    Which is why I became an extremely reluctant socialist while in my early twenties because you could see the stupidity of National following a economic plan that had long past its use by date when I got involved in some of the engineering of Think Big. The left could change the ideas, whereas the right were still trying to repeat the economic miracles of the 1950s in the 1970s – after everyone else had filled that space in the 50s and 60s.

    It accentuated when I did an MBA at Otago in my mid-20s. I did that because I didn’t understand accountants (it turns out that was a simple language issue and I still love looking at the elegance of balance sheets). What you start to realize studying business cases is exactly how useless business and capitalism is at making even medium term decisions. Businesses are inherently fractious and can’t do anything for society as a whole because they always chasing their own interests. Often by letting infrastructural resources deteriorating as they suck profit out of it. Think of the way that Toll ran down the rail system or the increasing fragility of the electricity grid.

    Conversely you realize how inherently much of a blunt instrument that government is at making decisions about anything that isn’t pretty global in scope – like legal systems or 20 year infrastructural investments. But you also realize just how essential that kind of thing was for businesses to thrive within. But governments often don’t change with the environment to use resources more effectively.

    So I became a reluctant socialist because you just have to be to get a workable balance. But as “Cold Hard Truth” points out in 3 and the author of this post – the left often silo themselves in little cliques arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    Which is why I wound up providing a place for the left in NZ to argue within. Personally I tend to find everyone apart from myself is wrong, but I’m perfectly willing to listen and to steal their ideas when I find they might have inadvertently come up with and interesting idea.

    Hopefully everyone else sharing their ideas here feels the same…., And if not, then I really don’t give a shit about your feelings as I tear your pet theory to bits. I figure that is just part of the learning experience – in the same way that Nick Kelly learnt from his excursion into radical socialism.

    • Ad 6.1

      The quandary you nearly connect to is this:

      The right are more conformist, and so is the state.
      But the right hate the state’s control over humans.
      The right and the state are pack animals.
      They are both dogs.

      The right need business more. But business is disaggregated and nonconformist.

      The left are more nonconformist, and in that share that dynamic with business.
      But the left and business hate each other.
      That’s because the left and business can’t accept that their pattern of power is the same.
      They are both cats.

      The left and the state need each other, but the left prefers disaggregated nonconformism.
      Dogs and cats don’t get along that well, shall we say.

      And the right and the state hate each other.
      That’s bcause the right and the state can’t accept that their pattern of power is the same.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        But the left and business hate each other.

        Wrong.

        The Left, IMO, hate hierarchical structures that benefit the few at the expense of the many. Most businesses are structured this way but they don’t have to be as successful cooperatives show.

        Most businesses are run by the RW and are thus also conformist even though being non-conformist is more successful.

        Also, the state doesn’t need conformity. In fact, most success over the last century has been from the state pushing non-conformity by funding R&D into new ways to do things and even blue sky research. By putting in place standards the state actually helps development by ensuring that disparate things can work together.

        • Ad 6.1.1.1

          Well, that’s not the way I’ve seen the left engage with the state over the last century.

          The left are in love with this thing called policy, which only the state can form, execute, and sustain. The state requires massive bureaucratic layers to achieve policy, all finely calibrated. The state is a pack. But the left are, like cats, unwilling to behave like the necessary dog.

          We have plenty of cooperatives in New Zealand, and they are on average no less or more hierarchical than ordinary limited liability businesses.

          On R&D, our own little state has provided very little funding or innovation . Even when they do, they do so through policy, which is the core instrument of conformity.

        • Bill 6.1.1.2

          The Left, IMO, hate hierarchical structures that…

          Say, what?!

          Because unless you’re going to define that a bit, then hey…let us introduce, from the left – the Bolsheviks, the Maoists, the Trots, the Leninists, the Stalinists, the UK, AUS and NZ Labour Parties, trade unions…the list goes on and on. And every single damned one of those expressions of “left” (legitimate in most peoples’ eyes) embrace hierarchy and demonstratively favour “the few” over the many.

          • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.2.1

            Because unless you’re going to define that a bit, then hey…let us introduce, from the left – the Bolsheviks, the Maoists, the Trots, the Leninists, the Stalinists, the UK, AUS and NZ Labour Parties, trade unions…the list goes on and on.

            Yes Bill and then we can have a look at what Marx said about, say, The Paris Commune:

            Further light in Marx’s view of the Commune is revealed by some draft notes he wrote for the manifesto in April and May 1871 which were not published till 1934 (5). Here Marx says that the most important point about the Paris Commune was its mere existence; was the fact that workers were actually governing Paris. He described the Commune, as a form of political organisation, as

            “not the social movement of the working class . . . but the organised means of action. The Commune does not do away with the class struggles, through which the working classes strive to the abolition of all classes . . . but it affords the rational medium in which that class struggle can run through its different phases in the most rational and humane way.”

            It is quite clear from this that Marx regarded the Commune not as Socialism or even a transition to Socialism, but merely as the political framework within which this transition could take place. He had always advocated that the working class should win control of political power before trying to establish Socialism. He now saw, as the quotes above indicate, the Commune as the form political institutions should take during the period of transition to Socialism. He was not necessarily saying that Socialism was the policy of those who controlled the Paris Commune, but merely that the political institutions they had established — where democratic administration by and for the people replaced the bureaucratic dictatorship of the State machine over the people — were the sort a Socialist working class would also have to establish after they had won political power.

            What we’re looking at is the transition from the hierarchy of the owners, to a hierarchy of the workers which then transforms into a non-hierarchical democracy.

            Still, there are probably some on the Left that do like hierarchies and seek to maintain them because they like the social status that comes with it.

      • lprent 6.1.2

        🙂

        I could probably quibble with that but it is (according to my phone) 33C in the shade with a 65% humidity and feels like 39C. Which I agree with as I’m coding in the shade cooking damply throughout my clothes and the brain feels like it is overheating badly.

        The phone is also stating that there are thunderstorms and ground strike lightening on the way. Which is either the rumbling I am hearing over the sound of the many fans or yet another jet taking off from Changi. But I’d guess it is the interesting approaching storm. Hopefully it will cool it down..

        Once more I am asking myself how did I ever take this assignment again! I guess the lure of watching my code in actions was just too strong.

  7. Dean Reynolds 7

    For god’s sake people, it’s not difficult – the Government controls the commanding heights of the economy so that they operate for everybody’s’ benefit, (Finance, Transport, Energy, Telecommunications, Superannuation, Health, Education, & Accident Compensation) & capitalism does everything else from the second tier downwards

    This Social Democratic structure, which operated for the 50 years from the mid 1930’s to the mid 1980’s, gave us one of the most productive societies in the world, until that prick Roger Douglas applied a blow torch to everything, motivated by greed & self interest

    Let’s not get bogged down in detail. Let’s learn from own economic history & reinstate what works. If we want to give our grandchildren a worthwhile future, we don’t have much time left

    • Bill 7.1

      Social Democracy was definitely better for most people that the resurgent Liberalism that came after it. But it wasn’t at all flash for anyone living in the Global South, and it blighted the lives of many in “the west” too. Wasn’t any great shakes when it came to the environment either.

      Keeping it simple, Social Democracy still accommodates capitalism, and capitalism wreaks havoc.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        Keeping it simple, Social Democracy still accommodates capitalism, and capitalism wreaks havoc.

        QFT

        Social democracy is about as democratic as the National Party. It puts a few people above everyone else while ensuring the exploitation of the majority by those few.

        We need to end that hierarchy and stop the exploitation.

  8. Bill 8

    In past times, I got heartily sick and tired of, first of all banging heads with, and then walking away from people, groups and orgs that tried to peddle some “party line” over this, that or the other issue.

    Always that “Life of Brian” bullshit bubbling and festering under the surface ending in a toxic explosion – a complete waste of time and energy. And so limiting even if a line was to be successfully imposed (and it is always imposed by some means or other).

    Then there’s the “it’ll be different this time around” just because “we” are in charge – the line that many, many people driven by ideology espouse. And it’s bullshit. A cursory glance at history and any number of supposed revolutions both small and large shows up what bullshit it is.

    There’s an element of obvious madness in the whole ideology malarkey that would keep versions of the same old fundamental structures and habits in place while expecting an outcome radically different to what was opposed in the first place.

    Which is why, when it comes to acting or activism, give me tried and tested principles over the toxicity of ideology any day.

    We can argue and slam over some interpretation or take on this political world we live in, and a yawning chasm might reasonably represent the extent of our disagreement.

    But when it comes to acting, I don’t give a toss what your particular ideology is – just so long as you don’t seek to impose it, because that just leads off in a circular rambling that brings us right on back to square one.

    • lprent 8.1

      Which is why, when it comes to acting or activism, give me tried and tested principles over the toxicity of ideology any day.

      One of the areas of agreement between us. I’m only interested in things that work. If there is a elegant hypothesis behind it, then makes it a bit more believable. But I’m not going to jump in without actually seeing it working in practice with measurable results.

      However we also have to try new ideas (and usually have them fail), but they should be experimental with defined expectations about what marks success and with some reasonable kind comparison criteria for the ‘alternates’.

      My biggest objection to charter schools was exactly that. The comparison criteria appeared to be to be to get educational results that were the same or similar to the public school systems with a higher profit for the backers mostly by being more costly to the public purse. As importantly there were no substantive comparisons was not made against alternate public systems targeted at the kids who found our standard public school systems difficult or against the existing state supported semi-private systems.

      What National put in place wasn’t a criteria of success of the experiment. It was a merely criteria for rorting of the public purse. In this case as far as I could tell for an ideological position of the Act party to support rorting of the public purse..

      • Bill 8.1.1

        Surely things have to do more than simply “work”?

        I mean, “anyone” can get the trains to run on time as it were. But what are the potential consequences of that if the sole measure of acceptability is “it works”?

        Basic principles come into play, such as, are people getting done over in some way in order that this “thing” works? If so, then whatever it is ain’t working, and needs replaced with something that does.

        • AB 8.1.1.1

          Yes – I broadly agree with what lprent says – but there is still a need to define what ‘works’ means.
          You cannot arrive at a definition of ‘works’ without applying a set of principles, ethics, ideology – call it what you will.
          By saying you are only interested in what ‘works’, you are really just pushing principles out at arm’s length in the desire to appear robust, pragmatic and non-ideological.

          • lprent 8.1.1.1.1

            Theories are useful for telling you what might actually work. Ask anyone in science or engineering.

            However there are no “proven” theories. Validated theories are merely more likely to work than not.

            Of course it should also provide the basis for identifying possible weak points of a theory and running experiments to disprove the current iteration of the theory as well. Science allows people to make reputations either way, and the experimental scientists in particular take a great deal of pleasure in disproving theories by testing them..

            Having done a science degree first and then made a career on the bleeding edge of programming after I got over the idea of practice of management, I buy into the theory / test ethos fully. Orthodox theories (in programming usually known as patterns) are useful guidelines for design and implementation to be discarded when they don’t fit the design or simply don’t work in the environment of use (for instance coding for a small device is completely different to designed for a distributed network and shares few patterns).

            Mostly strong adherence to patterns winds up as being useful tools for teaching young programmers not to be too stupid. But in experienced coders they are useful for finding a niche from which to exit coding (often to managing programmers) over the following decade as you go obsolescent (a fate that I have been having fun evading for the last 27 years). Because everything will change..

  9. Dean Reynolds 9

    Extremists from both the Right & the Left believe in the principle, ‘Just because it doesn’t work in practice, doesn’t mean that it won’t work in theory’.

    Social Democracy might not be perfect, (no system ever is) but it’s a fucking sight better any other system experienced by the world in the last 100 years, eg Fascism, Communism, Laisez faire Capitalism, Neo Liberalism, etc

    The Left never multiplies, it only divides & that’s why we were caught napping when Douglas & the Neo libs ambushed us. 30 years later, we’re still arguing about about the best alternative, FFS

    • Bill 9.1

      ….both the Right & the Left believe in the principle, ‘Just because it doesn’t work in practice, doesn’t mean that it won’t work in theory’.

      Well, that’s simply not true, if you mean there is always the “it’ll be different this time” argument. I can’t say I know of any people (though I dare say there are some out there) who would advocate for a Bolshevik style revolution.

      Is social democracy better than what is happening politically in Rojava? Is it better than what flourished ever so briefly in Spain last century? I don’t think so.

      And about the Left “multiplying”, I’m not quite sure I get what you mean. You mean orgs don’t attract ever growing numbers of members? So UK Labour and the SNP (to stretch the definition of “Left” into the parliamentary sphere for just a sec) didn’t sign up unprecedented numbers of new members these past few years? And support for Sanders wasn’t off the back of some multiplier effect?

      Regardless, what’s constant is that despite being awash in liberal propaganda these past however many years, when surveyed, people still generally express preferences for what most people would call “left” policies and attitudes.

      • McFlock 9.1.1

        A percentage like the policies until they have to pay for them, unfortunately.

        I think it’s a bit of a pendulum swinging right to left and opposite, as each side’s dominance fails to keep things running. Stagflation screwed the left in NZ last time. We might have a chance this time.

        • Bill 9.1.1.1

          Stagflation didn’t screw the left. Stagflation screwed the social democratic ‘experiment’ that had been run in “the west” post WWII.

          • McFlock 9.1.1.1.1

            Social democracy, either as an end in itself or as a transitional step, is still part of the Left spectrum.

            • Bill 9.1.1.1.1.1

              Social democracy is one of the tools in the box that can be used to manage capitalism.

              In that regard, it isn’t “left” – though just like under management by way of Liberal ideology, we tend to view different governmental priorities in terms of ‘left’ and ‘right’.

              Which is fine as far as it goes, except that it tends to render the left invisible.

              The major debate within the left – probably the crucial or critical one – was whether left goals could be achieved by parliamentary means. After a hundred odd years, I’d be saying we know the answer to that one.

              • McFlock

                Given that we’ve seen both revolutionary and parliamentary attempts to move away from unfettered capitalism, we sure know which gets farther down the “good for people” path for longer, yes.

                • Bill

                  Rojava’s not done yet.

                  And if it is kyboshed, would that be down to internal shortcomings or external pressures? (Open question, because it may devolve into some kind of democratic centralism)

                  But if it fails and that’s down to external pressures, then what would we say was in error? The Rojavan democratic experiment, or the Liberal, and Statist, wreckers of it?

                  • McFlock

                    Hey, this might be the one that brings about a sustainable government that meets your definition of “left”, shows the world that the utopia is achievable, and becomes the catalyst for a global revolution.

  10. greywarshark 10

    To use a pompous phrase Nick, I like the cut of your jib. We are in ground breaking times (literally). So we can’t sink comfortably back into well worn arguments that have led nowhere useful. Both capitalism as practised and communism, as practised, have resulted in large numbers of deaths and lack of human co-operation, steady progress allowing all to have a positive place in a good natured society. I am unhappy and have been for decades, at the way we are, which is a shame on our age of universal education and unparalleled ability to draw on past history, thought and freedom to trial and innovate, with wide public input.

    It seems to me that we have been encircled in ideology and it has bound us. Neo lib and free markets were recently introduced with a fanfare for business pragmatism and effectiveness, and government was denigrated. Regulations were wiped as they restricted commerce. Now the statements of that time are shown to be a sham; business does not choose to do the best thing, and instead has gone for the most profitable. The effect of bad publicity on business brands, when failures are exposed, has been overome by careful application of hype. The regulations dropped by government have compounded shoddy work and price gouging.

    Numerous regulations are imposed but on the shoulders of citizens and our puny efforts to start mini trading operations, by quasi government PPP agencies. Citizen protest is deflected by pollies with the trite ‘That is an operational matter’. Government has given up its task to order and co-ordinate on behalf of the electors, and is a creature of business. Business and the SOEs now proceed relatively freely; to present rational protest is costly for the citizens who already pay an inept government to not do the job of control.

    So the citizens are constrained and the opportunities they should have to trade within the polity has been franchised out to others, work has to be competed for in small increments, the goods to be purchased are likely to be imported or made by imported ever-cheaper workers. Under the RW smother blanket we are over-regulated by business instead of business being too regulated by us as they claimed.

    What a pretty pickle. But we are ever poorer, and he who pays the piper chooses the tune. All we can warble is a semi-quaver from a pennywhistle, off key. Those who have a mind to something better must band together, there are so many woolly thinkers around who seem to be sanguine that it will all come right if we can argue enough and in the end our noble points will win the day. Clever and determined and wise maneouvres to get prominence in politics and find a way to present uncomfortable truths while winning the battle of minds to get numerous businesses that will take us into a future, I think of skilled artisans. People with loyalties to a forward-moving young group straddling technology use but forming integrated trading groups with individual skills that together provide both material needs and enable creativity in a reasonable lifestyle is the way to go and prime area for exploration.

    Tom Lehrer, and one of his caustic songs.

  11. Peter 11

    To many chardonnay socialist, not enough workers or unions on the boards of large companies. And there are quite a few chardonnay on this site.

    • McFlock 11.1

      I’m a Lindauer Leftie 😛

      • AB 11.1.1

        Riesling Revanchist here.
        On bad days a Nebbiolo Nihilist
        When money is tight as it is all too often lately, a Merlot Miser

    • Bill 11.2

      Why would any leftist want to sit on the board of some company when the basic thrust of any left thought is to divest boards of power? Sitting on a board is a sure fire way to be co-opted.

      edit. And cider if we’re talking white beverages.

      • McFlock 11.2.1

        Maybe the concept is to have worker representation on the board equal to the power of the shareholders?

        I was raised to be a Speight’s socialist, if we move to amber liquids.

        • Bill 11.2.1.1

          I know what the concept is – essentially “happy capitalist families.” where the workers’ representatives and the boss and the shareholders (or their representatives) all sit around a table and accommodate one another.

          Which y’know, fine for those who want to pursue that as a “thing”, but it certainly isn’t “left” in any meaningful sense of the word.

          • McFlock 11.2.1.1.1

            yup, that’s the stuff.

          • greywarshark 11.2.1.1.2

            But then what the hell do workers do for a crust, if they don’t work for someone else, and they are too fine to get down and dirty with the fat cats and sharp clawed pussies on boards? You have to know what you’re doing when you are facing a Jenny Shipley or such. Wouldn’t it be good to be able to work with management in a concerted, co-operative way in a business making good things, not poisonous gases –

            We used poisonous gases
            And we poisoned their asses
            The humans are dead –

            or armaments, or algorithms that make the armaments work from distant bunkers flying chonking thunkers over distant places and people with poisonous gases.

            We could can our produce perhaps? We could have a new Mondragon co-operative if NZs could stop bickering, bring skills together, and do something small, positive, make efficiently, and circulate the returns and reinvest locally.

            We could look at the creative side, work on developing retreats for the harried humans from elsewhere, keep some of our trees and pure water for them to remember what Eden might have looked like. We could develop our art, our social anthopology, our humanities – but our bovine, mendacious government is enabling our universities to change their paradigms. And the unions helped bring this about because they could not control their hubris and their hostile attitudes to business so closing down the Bank of NZ building for three years! Going on strike regularly on school holidays stopping people using the ferries so the ordinary people could conduct their ordinary lives!

            Bill
            “Why would any leftist want to sit on the board of some company when the basic thrust of any left thought is to divest boards of power? ”

            Why this, when the unions did not know how to use power responsibly when they had it?

            And we could have lived with this:
            ‘I know what the concept is – essentially “happy capitalist families.” where the workers’ representatives and the boss and the shareholders (or their representatives) all sit around a table and accommodate one another.’

            Too late now. The sneaky union bosses with ideas above their station which apparently they weren’t happy in, had to make us unhappy with our station and they threw out the baby with the bathwater. Waaaah.

  12. McFlock 12

    Everyone not left enough for my taste on some issue is not a true socialist, and should be held in open contempt.
    Everyone farther left than me is dangerously impractical, and should be regarded with caution and less open contempt.
    Eventually, the people will see that I was correct all along and the utopia will spontaneously happen. All I have to do is whine enough and drop youtube links.

    that seems to be a pretty common perspective on the left.

    Hell, you call some people “left” and you get a “no true leftie” response irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    Personally, I find I’m more accepting of folks if I think of them as “leftishts”. They might not be doctrinairily perfect, but fucksake – they make a positive contribution in the left direction, and there’s enough there to work with.

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