“We are all socialists now”, or so says the cover of the latest Newsweek. And to be fair, you’ve got to start wondering when the United States is in the process of nationalising the means of exchange and a Tory Prime Minister of New Zealand is looking at effectively buying out a chunk of one of our largest manufacturing firms.
But as satisfying as it’d be for a leftie like myself to think the Right had finally given up and adopted the tenets of the Communist Manifesto, the reality is a lot more complicated than the cover of Newsweek suggests. The parties of the Right have not embraced socialism, they still stand as always for the wealth and privelige of the few and for the economic interests of Capital over Labour.
What’s changed is the current short-term interests of Capital. At a time when credit is freezing up, financial institutions are collapsing all over the show and firms are seeing their profit margins descend into freefall there’s not much appetite among business for laissez-faire. Suddently “government interference in the market” doesn’t seem like such a bad thing when it’s your interests the government is interfering in the market to protect.
That’s why the likes of Roger Douglas and ACT have become increasingly marginalised, even by business, and are struggling to have their ideas taken seriously. The last thing people like John Bongard from Fisher & Paykel want right now is a government that keeps its hands off the market and lets businesses fail.
The National Party, ever aware of its fundamental role as the political arm of business, has adapted its policy accordingly to meet the changing needs of the local business class. Sure, they still believe in privatisation (prisons and ACC are early examples) and in restricting the rights of Labour in order to improve the profit margins of Capital. But they’re not going to let firms like F&P go to the wall in the name of market purity.
There may be positive spin-offs from this – a Fisher & Paykel bailout could lead to a public share in the company similar to Air New Zealand as well as saving 1600 good quality jobs. But let’s not fool ourselves for a second that this represents any kind of ideological step to the left from National, or that it’ll last longer than the current economic downturn.