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Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, August 8th, 2017 - 45 comments
Categories: election 2017, jacinda ardern, labour, Politics - Tags:

There are little points of light and heat detectable among social democratic movements at the moment. Chuck Schumer from the U.S. Democratic Party starts out some messaging today by setting it out in good old social contractarian terms:

There used to be a basic bargain in this country that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could own a home, afford a car, put your kids through college and take a modest vacation every year while putting enough away for a comfortable retirement. In the second half of the 20th century, millions of Americans achieved this solid middle-class lifestyle. I should know — I grew up in that America.

But things have changed.

Today’s working Americans and the young are justified in having greater doubts about the future than any generation since the Depression. Americans believe they’re getting a raw deal from both the economic and political systems in our country. And they are right. The wealthiest special interests can spend an unlimited, undisclosed amount of money to influence elections and protect their special deals in Washington. As a result, our system favors short-term gains for shareholders instead of long-term benefits for workers.”

A complete breakdown of anything resembling a social contract. This is pretty much identical to the New Zealand Labour messaging:

The Kiwi dream depends on New Zealanders owning our own future. But the government is asset stripping the country. Homes bought by speculators. Land sold offshore. Public assets being stripped. They’re selling us out with their backroom deals, like SkyCity and the Saudi sheep deal.

We’re losing control of our future. We’re being treated like we don’t matter any more. People are telling us Bill English’s National Government is arrogant, and it’s out of touch.”


Is this approach enough to rescue social democrat movements worldwide? Oliver Hartwich the Chief Executive of the New Zealand Initiative, doesn’t think so. He doesn’t think there’s any room left for them, because despite the left introducing Clinton, Lange, Hawke and Schroder, who introduced comprehensive market reforms, “the Left’s grassroots have not made peace with such market oriented and yet often highly successful reforms.”

Hartwich is clear about what works and what does not.

Large-scale subsidies, for example, are firmly in the dustbin of history – and rightly so. High tariff walls have met the same fate. There is a broad consensus that tax systems work best when they have broad bases and low rates.”

So he recommends that Labour’s Jacinda Ardern occupy “the radical centre” and simply do what leftie politicians do and just talk about it to shape the debate.


Chuck Schumer is seeking to precisely shift the debate, but it’s not to the “radical centre”  centre of U.S. politics:

(F)or far too long, government has gone along, tilting the economic playing field in favor of the wealthy and powerful while putting new burdens on the backs of hard-working Americans.

Democrats have too often hesitated from taking on those misguided policies directly and unflinchingly — so much so that many Americans don’t know what we stand for. Not after today. Democrats will show the country that we’re the party on the side of working people — and that we stand for three simple things.

I have this sneaking feeling we would have heard this kind of language if Joe Biden had been the candidate for President, not Hillary Clinton. So how do the Democrats propose to do that?

First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.

This is not exactly the fire-breathing rhetoric of Huey Long. Hell, it’s not even getting to where LBJ was. But it is about the pay of workers. And their costs of living. With detailed policies to come, apparently.


Very slowly, the Democrats are beginning to learn the lessons of the Trump victory and to rebuild and clarify their messaging (they had to learn some time right?). I hope that they get as good as Trump at messaging on the campaign trails towards Senate majority, at least. Having said that, the Democrats got pretty close to the White House last time, without disgracing themselves by mirroring the Trump vileness.

New Zealand Labour are in a similar position to lots of Labour and social democrat parties worldwide. They are so low that they have nowhere to go but up. They will all find different ways out of it. They will all take a while to get there. They all start from different countries, different contexts of what is possible.

But what we do know, is that New Zealand Labour will not be occupying a “radical centre”. Jacinda Ardern shows all signs that she is part of a revival of the entire social democrat movement across many countries. And when you go through them, New Zealand Labour policies seek to do exactly that, and they express them in summary here:

Labour’s backed Kiwis for 100 years. When Kiwis need work, we create jobs. When Kiwis need homes, we build them. When Kiwis look for security, we help them save. When Kiwis take a stand, we stand with them. We revived the Treaty together. We went nuclear free together. We have a history to be proud of, and a vision for the future.

We’ll build thousands of affordable homes and crack down on foreign speculators.

We’ll back our businesses to build a stronger economy that delivers decent work and higher wages.

We’ll invest in our regions, so there are jobs and opportunities.

We’ll care for the environment so we can all enjoy it, now and in the future.

We’ll fix the health system by turning National’s years of underfunding around.

We’ll rebuild world-class schools that help every Kiwi kid dream big and succeed.”


That’s a long, long way from any radical centre.

It’s something different.

You’re watching the great rebuild.

45 comments on “Reviving ”

  1. Gabby 1

    How’s that any different? Jobs, housing, education, health. Sort those out and a lot of other problems go away.

  2. adam 2

    Window dressing is just that, window dressing. The core economics of the labour party is still heavily embedded in liberalism.

    So yeah, nah. Not even close to social democracy. Just bunch of people who want to do nice things, whilst the underlying economics carries on hurting working people.

    • tc 2.1

      Agreed but whatever it takes to get rid of nact is what I’m all about this election which means lab/greens.

      It’s the best option we’ve got till a proper socialist party comes along.

      • Although I agree with the sentiment do we really just want to stay in the 20th century or should we try to move on?

        • McFlock

          Has the 21st century registered a party we can vote for, and that has a decent shot of getting rid of the nats in september?

          • adam

            I can think of three. Two of which were killed off, in part, by the party you saying people should vote for.

            Endearing, not really.

            • McFlock

              Which is the remaining 21st century socialist party that has a decent shot at getting rid of the nats in september?

              And if I were giving specific voting advice, I’d say labour or greens. I don’t care which. Just vote for change, not onanism.

    • Gabby 2.2

      Social democracy is Jobs, housing, education, health.

      • No, social democracy is still just capitalism but with a small social aspect to it. It leaves the power in the hands of the rich which is why it failed last time.

        • McFlock

          Personally, I think every system will fail at some point. Even the utopian ones.

          But this is all moot until we get rid of the current lot.

          • adam

            Real vote grabber there.

            Vote labour, because were not national, much…

            • McFlock

              Better than “awww, they’re all shit, let’s whinge until the imaginary becomes real, that’ll work”.

              Although that has been the slogan of innumerable religions for the last 50,000 years or so. Why not use it in politics, I guess.

              • adam

                Better yet, the labour party, kicking to death anyone who critiques them, since, well, forever.

                Basically using a big tar brush or a small knife. The knife is best used in coup d’état to tell the membership to bugger right off.

                • McFlock

                  I guess those are some of them irregular verbs:

                  person A “critiques”,
                  person B sees “deranged hyperbolic rant”,
                  Person B suggests Person A “get a sense of proportion”,
                  Person A feels that person B is “kicking them to death”.

                  Maybe it’s all a matter of perspective. Meanwhile, Hooten masturbates on the sidelines.

                  • adam

                    From the guy who got hyper and had angry rant at me about ad hominems.

                    I’ll leave you to your angry little ways poppet.

                    Have a nice day.


                    • McFlock


                      “kicking to death anyone who critiques them, since, well, forever.” is in no way hyperbole. /sarc

                • Have you forgotten Adam Nationals ‘Dirty Tricks Brigade”responsible for ruining a lot of decent left wing politicians Have you forgotten how they destroyed Labour’s
                  President Gerald O’ Brian how Muldoon Hounded Bill Rowling

        • Tricledrown

          So DTB which system is going to replace it in your utopian world.
          Is everybody going to stop competing ,nature is that everything on the planet competes and those who adapt survive.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Is everybody going to stop competing ,nature is that everything on the planet competes and those who adapt survive.


            All such departures from a broadly egalitarian society, economy and culture are quintessentially radical if only because for the vast stretch of human existence, egalitarianism and equality were not only the norm but also the active and deliberate goal of social organisation.

            As recent anthropological research has pointed out:

            Keeping the playing field level was a matter of survival. These small-scale, nomadic foraging groups didn’t stock up much surplus food, and given the high-risk nature of hunting – the fact that on any given day or week you may come back empty-handed – sharing and cooperation were required to ensure everyone got enough to eat. Anyone who made a bid for higher status or attempted to take more than their share would be ridiculed or ostracised for their audacity. Suppressing our primate ancestors’ dominance hierarchies by enforcing these egalitarian norms was a central adaptation of human evolution, argues social anthropologist Christopher Boehm. It enhanced cooperation and lowered risk as small, isolated bands of humans spread into new habitats and regions across the world, and was likely crucial to our survival and success.

            More intriguingly – the same authors argue – is that more recent radical departures from the dominant egalitarian form of human social organisation have always been inherently unstable. And it is that instability, paradoxically, that has propelled such radical and hierarchical social arrangements to conquer and eliminate less radical, more stable, more egalitarian societies.

            Humans evolved to cooperate with each other. Capitalism is unstable and destructive of our societies.

          • adam

            Game theory tricledrown, really, you going for that failed chestnut.

  3. Brokenback 3

    I once read this sheet as a welcome relief from the orchestrated spin that prevailed elsewhere.
    Fluffery like this is increasingly why I seldom venture here these days.

    “Window dressing is just that, window dressing. The core economics of the labour party is still heavily embedded in neo-liberalism. ”

    nails it.

  4. patricia bremner 4

    Change the government. That is democracy at work.

    Ideology doesn’t feed a family … neo lib or other!!

    It is the people the people and a healthy life with all that means.

  5. Tom Pained 5

    Hooton mentioned big polling swings from Turei’s Greens to Jacinta’s Labour on RNZ this morning.

    When will Paula make her move ?

    • JanM 5.1

      As long as they swing to Labour and not elsewhere I’m over caring, but if all this uproar results in another 3 years of National I will be beside myself!!!

    • McFlock 5.2

      Hooten mention how the nats are doing?

  6. A complete breakdown of anything resembling a social contract.

    Which is inevitable in a capitalist system.

    Is this approach enough to rescue social democrat movements worldwide? Oliver Hartwich the Chief Executive of the New Zealand Initiative, doesn’t think so. He doesn’t think there’s any room left for them, because despite the left introducing Clinton, Lange, Hawke and Schroder, who introduced comprehensive market reforms, “the Left’s grassroots have not made peace with such market oriented and yet often highly successful reforms.”

    If Labour did what was necessary to support their words there then they’d probably get a huge jump in support. Unfortunately, they’re not.

    And those ‘successful’ reforms have increased poverty and started the destruction of our society all so that a few greedy schmucks can be rich. That’s a not a sustainable system and thus cannot be successful.

    Large-scale subsidies, for example, are firmly in the dustbin of history – and rightly so. High tariff walls have met the same fate. There is a broad consensus that tax systems work best when they have broad bases and low rates.

    the people paying through their government for things that they want as a community is, by definition, not a subsidy. now, if they were paying a private company to provide it via their government then it would be a subsidy – to the private owners of that company.

    High tariff walls haven’t met the same fate at all. They’re still there but in different forms such as lower worker protections, exchange rates that are purposefully held down, manipulated interest rates and speculation.

    And that consensus he talks about is only amongst the rich who are quite happy that the poor are picking their tab through regressive taxes like GST.

    (F)or far too long, government has gone along, tilting the economic playing field in favor of the wealthy and powerful while putting new burdens on the backs of hard-working Americans.

    And that’s exactly what our governments have been doing to us since the 4th Labour government in the 1980s.

    But what we do know, is that New Zealand Labour will not be occupying a “radical centre”. Jacinda Ardern shows all signs that she is part of a revival of the entire social democrat movement across many countries.

    By maintaining the same failed paradigm of the last 500 years, a paradigm that has failed every-time it’s been tried over the last 5000.

    It’s time for something new, something that actually fits within reality.

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    Our parliament has bought off the media and lived in its own echo chamber for too long. The happy consenus is a lie, and the incumbents have altogether ceased to govern. Following the old fools who allowed this to happen would be like taking advice from Peter Dunne, whose centrism shrank a promising new party into a single flaccid member. If Jacinta means to lead she’s going to have to do it herself. And that won’t look like what failed so many times before – fluffy PR and complacent autocracy.

  8. McFlock 8

    In the next few days or early next week the register of donations>30k will be online, so we’ll see how many of the Ardern-related $400k in donations were from particularly rich folks vs a few hundred or thousand here and there…

    • Stuart Munro 8.1

      I’ve no doubt that she will have a block of genuine popular support. It’s more a question of “Whom do you serve?” If she has paid attention to Corbyn she’ll make a point of steering somewhat in his direction, if she remains firmly Blairite the answer is, not us.

    • Ad 8.2

      Would be good if there were a mix of donors from all walks of life.

      Labour is going to need votes from all across the spectrum to have a tiny chance of the miracle.

  9. Michael 9

    I see no evidence, whatsoever, that Labour has abandoned its fetish with neoliberalism (much less apologised to its victims). I feel frustrated that its powerbrokers have actively discouraged any fresh thinking, or policy development, on progressive alternatives to neoliberalism during the Party’s last decade in opposition. If Labour forms a government after 23 September, which is now a possibility, although slight, it will govern according to neoliberal dogma and fail the people again. OTOH, if Labour (and the Greens) obtain a decent bloc of Party Votes (and seats in the next Parliament), they can form a strong opposition to a tired and dysfunctional Nat-Winston government and be in a good position to form a new government in 2020. But lots of hard work remains to be done between now and then.

    • McFlock 9.1

      You know the definition of a strong enough opposition?
      The parties that don’t have enough votes to stop a damned thing from happening.

      If Labour form a government in September, they’ll almost certainly need the help of the Greens. The Greens might not be “left”, but they sure ain’t neoliberal.

      So screw the 2020 plan. Do it now.

    • red-blooded 9.2

      Well, Michael, you might be ready to throw in the towel and abandon people to another 3 years of this lot, who’ve attacked our public education system, our health system, tried to privatise prisons while imprisoning more and more people for longer and longer, rolled back collective bargaining rights, sold off state assets and state houses, attacked the RMA and let our waterways and land become more and more polluted and walked away from any meaningful action on climate change , but not all of us are so defeatist. As far as I’m concerned, there’s everything to fight for right now.

      • Michael 9.2.1

        Do you really believe an Ardern-Winston government will make substantive progress on any of the above and, if so, what evidence do you possess to justify that belief? The politics of the neoliberal status quo (Labour) and Muldoonism (Winston) do not even attempt to solve your own list of problems that you say are the most significant (I agree with your list but I’d probably put welfare and prepcarious employment at the top of my mine).

        • McFlock

          1: wouldn’t lab-nz1 cause less harm than nat-nz1?
          2: why are you chopping the greens out of the picture so soon?
          3: What will a 2020 Lab-? govt do that a 2017 lab-? govt won’t?

          You’ve made an impressive rush to capture the opportunity to surrender, but I think the left can actually do okay this election. Not a revolution, maybe, but better than the “brighter future” ever would be.

  10. Well , the debate rages back and forth ,… but I cant see Aderns Labour wanting to emulate the obvious negative social consequences of the current National party.

    I think they will be wanting to put some distance between them so they cant be compared with them. That is , if they know whats good for them. And to do that , it only means we are looking at some substantial changes , though perhaps not comprehensive enough for some , perhaps. It just seems we have some pretty serious issues in the country now, as a direct result of National. Its gotten that bad.

    Now we can criticize the Greens and Labour for this and for that or not going enough in this direction or that ,… but a change to both party’s is whats needed, – indeed, – it MUST happen.

    If there’s to be any chance at all of achieving the first tentative steps towards even a modicum of social democratic initiatives, these are the party’s to facilitate them. I find all this recent argy bargy quite distasteful , – whipped up by a media that has far too many far right wing shills who are only too willing to tear down what must happen to bring about a fairer society.

    These media talking heads must be marginalized somehow. Easier said than done.

    But leaving it up to them to mass influence voters… using emotive and inflammatory statements such as ‘ the Greens being in turmoil ‘… what a load of old poppycock.

    There are a few temporary issues and adjustments that can , – and will , – be made peacefully and without all these media egger’s on’ers and sensationalists. They should be respectful and act as journalists and do their jobs , – not like embedded ACT /National party demagogues.

    Quite frankly I’m sick of them , sick of their Dirty Politics tactics and sick of their irresponsibility and their devious trying to influence the public towards their own political bias. They need to learn their place and stop acting out like cheap European paparazzi tabloid writers.

    • Michael 10.1

      All Labour wants is office. The best way to guage its current intentions, though, is to look at its policies. Take health, for instance: earlier this year it promised to “restore” money not allocated to the health budget (variously reported as $1.7b or $1.07b – note the difference) “over time” and “as conditions allow”. Does anyone really think this commitment is rock solid?

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