20 October 2006

NZ left and the passion for power

The left have traditionally always thought they had the right to power in a democracy, this coming from the inherent belief that because they think they represent the poor and the working middle classes, that they represent the majority of citizens. They see the world as a battle between those who “have” and those who want to help the “have nots”, the meanies and the kind ones – and the meanies are always in a minority, by definition. So from the point of view of a socialist, in a liberal democracy they should always be in power. The look fondly upon Sweden, which despite having just voted out a leftwing government, has been socialist with only one interruption since World War 2.
Leftwing governments started and expanded the welfare state, state funded healthcare and education, the 40 hour working week and the rest, that it is the foundation stone upon which the modern polity is built. It sees that it alone represents those that do what is important in society, from nurses to teachers, to firefighters and bus drivers. The term “workers” is not just a term for describing the “salt of the earth” but exclusionary – you see the implication is that managers and businesspeople don’t work. They may risk their property, attend meetings, write reports, make major decisions that can risk thousands or millions – but this isn’t worth the honest sweat of a man digging out coal. The inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs and ideas people are not as important as people undertaking manual or semi-skilled work. Taken to extremes you see the Khmer Rouge, which sought to eradicate anyone who was not an unskilled manual worker.
Labour also sees itself as the family party representing parents, particularly mothers. This is part of its emancipatory self-belief system, Labour sees itself as the emancipators of Maori and Pacific Islanders, and that it earns the 20% of the vote from those quarters. It sees itself as the advocate for women, and entitled to have 50%, and then it sees itself as the liberators of gay and lesbian people, perhaps 5%. It represents university students, “the nation’s future” and bureaucrats as the foot soldiers of the left, telling people what to do and what not to do. Of course under Labour, university students all want education for free and allowances and are represented by student unions (mostly leftwing). Student unions are, after all, the training ground for leftwing politicians. Weaned on student unions and supported by the leftwing tendency of many social sciences lecturers, young Labourites are taught to understand Labour’s role in emancipatory politics. The highlights being the anti-nuclear fight, Treaty of Waitangi and the Springbok tour among others. These are all cause celebres for which there is no room for debate about their merits in the NZ political left.
So believing you represent the aspirations of people who are ethnic minorities, gay/lesbian, women, students, “workers” means that under those circumstances, you can see how perplexed, disturbed and frustrated it is for the left to be in opposition – it seems unnatural, unfair and it means “their people” (who are the clear majority in the leftwing mind) are let down.
However, things aren’t as simple as that. Yes, there are those who fall outside these categories. The “wealthy”, farmers, business owners and managers are of little interest to the left – indeed many parents aren’t socialists. They want to decide what is best for their children. Small businesspeople often aren’t socialists either, they get tired of being told about the rights of their employees, when they themselves face up to state organisations with little sympathy for the hard work and risks involved in business, such as OSH, IRD or local government bureaucrats. A significant number of people don’t appreciate being told what to do when they are not hurting anyone else, or seeing their own taxes going to pay for other people to have families, noticing the uncanny number of violent criminals or burglars on “sickness benefits”. The left doesn’t win too many friends of those who see beneficiaries refusing work, neglecting their kids or committing crimes. Those for whom earning money follows hard work and risk taking, for whom bureaucrats are less than civil and want them to serve, and who increasingly pay more and more money and get apparently little back. Those who wonder why the daughter of their boss gets a state scholarship because she has a Maori grandfather, but their daughter doesn’t.
Nevertheless, the left has titles for those who oppose them. It becomes easy to dismiss when you use such titles, because they shock and disarm, but also show the true lack of depth in the arguments of those who use them. The opponents of the left are “racist”, because they don’t support the whole agenda of preferential funding and legal treatment for Maori, they presumably would prefer Maori had no vote, no citizenship and Treaty claims were ignored. Proportionally more Maori are in prison because the system is “racist”, not because they committed more crimes. Opponents of the left can also be called “sexist”, because you think the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is a waste of money, or you think that the reason many women earn less than men on average is due to their lifestyle choices. The favourite though is for the left to call the opponents “greedy and selfish”, because your wealth is due to you “sitting on your arse exploiting the workers” or “being an unproductive investor” whilst “Labour’s people” are poor when sitting in the state house watching Sky TV while their kids complain they don’t have the latest sneakers.
You see, you’re greedy and selfish because you want to keep what you’ve earned and decide how you spend it, not give it up to the loving Labour government that always knows best – those artists need your money after all! The magic phrase “tax cuts for the rich” paints images of Uncle Scrooges in their money bins getting more money, whilst Dickensian images of children begging are outside – it is complete nonsense, but the media laps it up and the left loves it. The right – the ones who would take you back to Victorianism.
So the world to those on the left is rather simple. They represent the majority and when it is less than the majority, it is just because some working class folk are racist, sexist or greedy and selfish- never mind, Labour can change that.
So all the times Labour has not been in power have not been because people didn’t like them, but because the “system is stacked against” them. After all, democracy that doesn’t deliver a Labour government is democracy that has been corrupted through lies and deception of “their people”. The current crop of Labour MPs remember in their youth Rob Muldoon “robbing” Bill Rowling of victory in 1975, because, after all, National only got 47.6% of the vote. That’s unfair, they cry! However nothing beats 1978 and 1981 when Labour got more votes than National – bastards cheating them out of government! In 1984 when Labour won, they felt ready – but well, something else happened. You see the current Labour MPs tend to want to ignore that period, particularly those who were in Cabinet like Clark and Cullen. So we move to 1990, when National won (because Labour lost “its people” alienated by Roger Douglas and the free market), but by now the left was pursuing electoral reform, particularly as the Greens and New Labour together got 12% of the vote, which, if added onto Labour’s 35% would put them neck and neck with National. Besides, National “lied” to get into power in 1990 (which is true), bastards!
Labour thought it had another chance in 1993, but just missed out and again it was the “system” with National only getting 35% of the vote. You could see it in Mike Moore’s reaction on election night - bastards!
Fightback came with MMP, that would mean the left would be in power forever. However, you don’t have to say that- just say it is more democratic. Everyone is brainwashed that nothing is more fair than democracy – counting heads not what’s in them – so it sounds good, and anything that the “bastards” on the right don’t like must be good for us. So in 1996 the left anticipated victory, adding Labour and Alliance votes together would mean a majority coalition.
However it slipped out of their greasy little hands once more. Labour and National both lost votes, with Labour only getting 28% and Winston Peters – more naturally a conservative nationalist than a socialist, chose a coalition with National over one with Helen Clark and Jim Anderton. Cheated again!! Those NZ First voters wanted National out. Bastards!
So 1999, the time had come Labour got over 38% of the vote, and with the Alliance and the Greens a leftwing government could finally “undo the damage” and represent “the people”. Renewed confidence in the system was strong, as Labour was able to govern decisively. This was repeated again in 2002, with Labour increasing its vote to 41%, National plummeting to 21% and the left believing it was born to rule and Helen Clark saying she is a “victim of her success as a popular and competent PM”. They believed it too – the natural party of government found a winning formula.
Things were shaken up not long after. With Don Brash as leader, those opposing Labour saw a chance, especially since he started articulating the fears of many of Labour’s traditional supporters. Brash challenged the “don’t mention the special treatment for Maori” meme which was accepted by governments from 1985 onwards. He asked the question as to why state funding should follow race rather than need, and why legislation needed to treat people differently by race. He started challenging the ubiquity of the welfare state and questioning why NZ needed such massive budget surpluses every year, instead of giving the public back some tax. The polls were looking neck and neck, and the reign of the “popular and competent” Helen Clark looked threatened – so all stops were pulled out, as the Brash campaign had widespread momentum uniting those opposed to Labour. Calling them racist backfired somewhat, and Labour started backtracking – the Foreshore and Seabed Bill upset Maori voters enormously, but Labour felt secure that the Maori Party would either disappoint or that Maori voters would back Labour against a National Party that the Maori media painted as being “anti-Maori”. .. (to be continued)


KG said...

A fine post! Dunno where you get the time and energy, but I'm looking forward to part 2.

Anonymous said...

That was an excellent post and true to the point. I really can’t say too much about NZ politics because I haven’t lived there for so long, but I think Brash lost last time because he played his tax-cuts card too late. When Clark played the interest-free-student-loans card, she won the election. Brash played his tax card after that, and it just appeared too irresponsible and not planned, like buying votes. Of course Clark was buying votes too, but her timing was better.

Personally, I think for National to win next time, they must keep Brash for a start. But they need to focus more on the racism side, and on the benefits that the free-market has delivered as opposed to Clark’s detrimental socialist agenda.

When Brash said he wants one law for all New Zealanders, that struck a cord, and National gained from that. The preferential treatment of Maori is obviously racist; it doesn’t matter what label you put on it.

The Labour party in New Zealand is on the same path as Labour in the UK. And Brash needs to focus on that mess. 73% of Britons are now officially victims. Political correctness and the leftist agenda there have created a society of victims (because being a victim is easier) and racism, through diversity/affirmative action policies.

The ironic side of this is that the Labour Party (for the people party – against evil capitalists) introduced the free market to NZ, and they endorsed Milton Friedman’s free-market theories then because, conveniently, “it was for the people.” And now the same party is dismantling it, taking us right back to the dark ages.

I could go on for ever. I have just added a couple of interesting posts to my blog, friedbrains.com, for those who are interested. One is about UK’s victims, and the other is a very interesting one about Munira Mirza, a supporter of no preferential treatment. This article is an excellent read because it highlights how the preferential treatment of Muslims has created separateness, as opposed to unity as the left had intended.

NickB said...

Excellent post, right on the button. I was active in Labour in the 70s and 80s and saw evidence of all the attitudes you list. Labour produced a supposedly morale-lifting movie called “The Labour Way” which was shown to party supporters all round the country in 1978. The central message was, “we Labourites do all the good things, are the repository of noble values, but are doomed to being beaten by vicious forces of reaction”. It was a lot of self-sentimentalising and blame shifting and incomprehension of what really motivated people to vote against them.

Those attitudes are still there but the maudlin culture of defeat has gone – Labour people are much meaner and harder-nosed than they used to be, and instead of finding sad vindication in repeated electoral loss, these days they prefer to win and are better at it.

You can still hear Cullen in the House bashing the Nats with “born to rule” gibes. Labour really believes that of National – it’s part of the tribal tradition. But they can’t see how a similar sense of entitlement has infected their own party. It is very dangerous, as it leads them into acts of arrogance such as the pledge card spending.

Libertyscott said...

Yes the Nats have a born to rule attitude, but defeats humble them more than they humbled Labour. Labour's defeats saw it embark on Leninist purges.

The Nats were shocked not to win in 1987 and shocked that they did win in 1996.