Much of the left crying wolf over Nats

- Philip Ferguson

One thing the election and the days since have confirmed is the inability of many on the left to make a sober analysis based on reality and, in particular, the way in which bourgeois politics is related to the economy and how bourgeois politics is centrally concerned with the maintenance of conditions such as social stability which are necessary to the operations of the market. Instead much of the left has cried wolf about the new government, seeing it as a re-run of the 1984-1993 period of ‘new right’ dominance. John Key makes acceptance speech

For instance, the headline on the Socialist Aotearoa blog is “RESISTING THE NAT-ACT JUNTA- What is to be done?” Does the author of that piece really believe that we are about to be ruled by a “junta”? Are they unable to distinguish between bourgeois democracy and military dictatorship? If they are able to make the distinction why use terminology that bears no relation to the reality and simply misleads and misorients people?

Although, in the context of a worsening economic situation, there would certainly have to be attacks on the working class, Key is not creating a junta of any kind. In fact, he appears to not even be creating a National-ACT coalition but opting for Clark’s own strategy - a minority government with ministers out of cabinet from what he sees as both the ‘left’ (Maori Party) and ‘right’ (ACT) and support on confidence and supply. The temptation for the Maori Party to go for this will likely be pretty substantial, as Key and co. well know. This was apparent before the election - and was reiterated by Key on Saturday night, by Matthew Hooton on ‘Eye to Eye’ on Sunday morning, by Key again on TV on Sunday night and Monday night. In fact, Key even wants to talk with the Greens. (Since this was written on Monday 11 November, things have moved along further with the Maori Party.)

The Maori Party is going to be as much involved in Key’s government as Act - no surprise to us, of course, but probably quite a shock to the left groups who have illusions in what the Maori Party represents in real political terms, a thoroughly exaggerated idea of the ‘threat’ represented by ACT and who fail to appreciate that the modern National Party is not the party of rural reactionaries and upper crust racists and hasn’t been for a long time.

What National does in terms of economic policy will be overwhelmingly conditioned by how much of an economic downturn there is. They’re not going to attack the working class because they have some ideological fixation with making workers poor (they don’t have such a fixation and, in fact, the Nats never really have had such a fixation) and least of all are they going to try some pitbull job on the working class just because Roger Douglas might want them to.

The attacks of the 1984-93 period were the reflection that NZ capitalism was up shit creek without a paddle. The capitalists had absolutely no alternative. That’s not the situation at present and it remains to be seen how deeply the woes in the financial and banking sector in other countries will hit NZ. Because the NZ economy depends on exports, and to some extent easy foreign money, it could be hit quite hard - on the other hand, the decline of the NZ dollar (which is a product of these woes) is good news for exporters because it makes NZ products cheaper in export markets than those of their rivals.

Unless they’re really in a huge crisis, the capitalists prefer not to make big attacks on the working class. Especially when they’re blessed with social stability and a tame-pet union leadership like the CTU brass. Why screw that up unless the economic situation is so totally dire that you have to?

One of the things that a large part of the far left has in common with the market rules ideologues is that neither really understand that the market is just a thing and can’t organise the preconditions for its own existence and continuance. The operation of the market depends, for one thing, on social stability yet the operations of the market undermine social stability by trying to commodify everything and individualise society.

Any smart capitalists - and any good Marxist - understands that capital, because it’s a thing, requires conscious human planning and organisation to maintain social stability and manage society so that the market itself can operate successfully and deliver maximum profitability to the capitalists. In the First World, the capitalists are prepared to pay for stability too. And, generally, they’d rather pay a bit for it than have a big scrap with the working class. This only changes when there is a really serious economic crisis - ie a real crisis across the whole of the economy, not just problems in the finance sector.

It’s interesting that, every time you see him, Key has a big smile on his face. He’s in a very strong position because he has options and is not beholden to Act, let alone to Douglas. He’s perfectly prepared to make concessions to the Maori Party - because, despite the rubbish from a lot of the left that the Nats are some kind of dinosaur backwoods racists, the Nats these days (ie in terms of who they are) are essentially an urban-liberal petty-bourgeois party like Labour. The Nats have more actual capitalists in their ranks, and are a bourgeois party in the sense that that is the class interest they defend, but in terms of personnel and ideas they’re an urban-liberal petty-bourgeois party.

A few of them like Lockwood Smith have bits and pieces of racist ideas, just like a chunk of lockwood1Labour MPs do, but few of them are dyed-in-the-wool racists and none of them want to impoverish Maori, suppress Maori cultural rights etc. What they actually want is to wed Maori cultural rights to the market as much as possible. Since there’s nothing radical about Maori cultural rights in the context of 21st century New Zealand - there may have been at some point in the past, there just ain’t today - this is a project in which the Nats and the Maori Party can happily marry.

What the Maori Party represents politically (the views of upwardly mobile Maori middle class and burgeoning Maori entrepreneurs) is more significant than what they represent sociologically (a large chunk of Maori workers as well), so the Maori Party will likely be way more interested in winning more contracts and control for (essentially private) Maori service providers in the health and education sectors and stuff like that is where they and National meet ideologically. That will likely trump any pressure from within the party and its support base by Maori workers around class demands such as the protection of union rights, increases in the minimum wage and so on.

Also, when you take in what support the Maori Party has among Maori, they’re actually not in an especially strong situation. The party vote for the Maori Party was only a little above 2 percent. Maori are nearly 15 percent of the population. Taking into account that proportionately there are more Maori under 18, that still means that only about one in six Maori gave their party vote to the Maori Party. In all the Maori seats Labour won the party vote. So the Maori Party hasn’t achieved what NZ First achieved in the Maori seats in 1996 - a clean sweep of the seats plus the largest share of the party vote. This position of the Maori Party may mean they will want to buttress up their party vote for 2011 by being seen to deliver in the one or two areas they could deliver - separate services for Maori and some cultural rights stuff.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is no class-based opposition in the Maori Party. There’s no force within the party that will call the likes of Turia, Sharples and Flavell to account. And, while NZ First lost all the Maori seats back to Labour in 1999 because of its coalition with National, the situation today is quite different. National was widely hated in 1996 when Winston did his deal with Bolger, people had voted NZ First to get the Nats out and were very angry about Winston First coalescing with National, and the ideological differences (and personal differences) between Winston First and the Nats were probably greater than the differences between Key/National and Turia, Sharples, Flavell and co. Unlike 1996, National isn’t widely hated today - in fact quite the opposite - and there wasn’t a massive groundswell of Maori voting for the Maori Party to keep National out the way people in 1996 voted for Winston to get the Nats out.

Although it’s possible that a Maori Party deal with National could make them dog tucker like NZ First, it’s important to keep in mind that 2008 is not 1996. The Maori Party may well only be dog tucker if the Nats are forced by an economic crisis to attack the working class and the Maori Party stays wedded to the Nats in that kind of situation. But in the absence of much conflict, and in the absence of a deep recession, the Maori Party could deliver on Maori-provided services, some more cultural identity stuff and so on, and keep one-sixth of the Maori electorate happy and win 3-4 Maori seats again in 2011.

All this has completely failed to register with a lot of the left, which prefers over-the-top scenarios to the more mundane reality. These over-the-top scenarios are used to whip people up into the next round of mindless activism and prevent any sober assessment of the fiascos produced by the last round of mindless activism.

41 Responses to Much of the left crying wolf over Nats

  1. sol says:

    maybe the author is trying to make a point that things conditions are going to be much worse if nz thinks that the policies of national are going to improve things, sure its not literally a junta that can clearly be seen, but its amazing how quick things can deteriorate, bo one really knows what the main policies drives will be specifically, so i’m all for some urgency, but sure if urgency turns into an irrational whiplash of hysterical rhetoric then it becomes alienating

  2. Cameron says:

    I think Joe from Socialist Aotearoa was taking the piss when he described the new government as the “National/ACT junta”. While I usually quite like Phillip’s analysis, he sometimes takes differences in the use of language with other leftists too seriously. This post reminds me of his criticism of the anti-US-NZ Partnership Forum demo last year.

    I totally agree that some self described ‘leftists’ have cried wolf over National. However, these are usually members of Young Labour, who treat Key and National as the devil incarnate for supporting attacks on workers and the war in Iraq. These Labourites forget that the Clark government supported all these policies too. Socialist Aotearoa has oppossed both Labour and National.

  3. WP Admin says:

    However, Joe also referred to “shock doctrine,” ie the slash-and-burn neoliberal mentality we saw particularly in the 80s and 90s. National certainly have a closet neoliberal streak, but that’s also true of Labour. ACT advocate neoliberalism, but National is dodging a coalition with them, even though that would be perfectly viable.

    So I think it’s too early to make “shock doctrine” assertions. Key continues to advocate middle-of-the-road policies such as compensation for job losses. We need to prepare for attacks on working people, but we should be realistic about what form they’ll take.

  4. Paul Drake says:

    I may beg to differ here! I dont think that the National Party are the middle road conservatives that they would want us to believe. It is far too early to speculate. You only have to look at who is backing the national Party, large corporations most of whom belong to the Business Round Table who are hardened advocates of the Heyak/School of Chicago ideologies.

    If they can introduce the Employment Contracts in 1993 they can do it again, further more with this recession they will be in a perfect position to drive down the price of labour. It is just as well that Obama is now president of the US, otherwise conscription could be on the cards for our young as in Vietnam early sixties.

    I would suggest that workers should not panic, I aso urge all employees to join an active union (like UNITE) because nobody knows what is around the corner.

    Yours Respectfully

    Paul Drake

  5. Daphna says:

    It’s not a matter of whether they could introduce the ECA again, but whether they need to.

    With only 10% of the private sector workforce in unions, and the lowest level of strikes EVER, why would any government launch an attack?

    If the recession is very sharp there will be attacks, but that would be true under Labour too. Labour gets away with more generally because the CTU tells the workers not to rock the boat when Labour is in government.

    It’s worth remembering that the ruling class backed Labour with large donations too - in 2002 they gave more to Labour than the Nats.

    Daphna

  6. Jared says:

    Joe is wrongly putting forward hyper-activism as the solution. When we wrote to SA we said we had concerns that some of the SW/IST methodology would stay in place, and this is, I think, proving to be true. It seems like the answer to everything is just a demonstration and a bunch of placards away.

    Every development - such as an election result or a cluster of strikes - is grounds for the next huge fight. This approach privilages 1) exaggerations, such as ‘junta’ and 2) huge inconsistencies - such as using the pepsi/coke analogy before the election then switching to oh actually one of the two is cyanide.

    Clarity, clarity, clarity needed,

    In unity-struggle-unity, Jared.

  7. Paul Drake says:

    Daphna;
    You are absolutely right the ruling class does back the Labour Party as much as National and I think the analogy Pepsy/ Coke, to me puts both parties in the same box ‘ reactionary’. What you say about 10 % of workers not belonging to unions does not suprise me in the least, the apathy in this country is abysmal 200,000 eligible voters didn’t vote (some may have had good reason, I don’t know) and the moles in the CTU have gnored enough holes in that union organisation to make it look like a Swiss Cheese.
    Philip should realise that with this recent economic melt down capitalism is once again up shit-creek (and without 2 paddles) and after reading Socialist Aotearoa blog, I don’t think Joe is over reacting even though his terminology is not quite accurate. Yes, technically we don’t live in a military dictatorship, it’ is a more subtle game than that because the terrorists are camourflaged in grey suits. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could kick them.
    Yours Respectfully

    Paul D.

  8. Paul Drake says:

    Sorry there needs to be a correction to the last post “10% of workers belong to unions, not ‘not’ belonging to unions.

    PD.

  9. Frank says:

    “if the Nats are forced by an economic crisis to attack the working class”

    No chance of that at all is there, if there was some sort of economic crisis looming you would expect that the newspapers and TV might have reported it.

    I’d suggest we watch out for some sort of massive financial collapse worldwide, or perhaps the bankruptcy of giant multinational corporations. Since that is totally unlikely the chances of the Nats attacking the working class are nil., so we can just sit in our ideological bubble and not bother doing anything in the real world.

    Clarity, aint it grand!

    Oh hold on……

  10. WP Admin says:

    “No chance of that at all is there, if there was some sort of economic crisis looming you would expect that the newspapers and TV might have reported it.”

    The article discusses what effect this might have on the NZ economy. See:

    Because the NZ economy depends on exports, and to some extent easy foreign money, it could be hit quite hard - on the other hand, the decline of the NZ dollar (which is a product of these woes) is good news for exporters because it makes NZ products cheaper in export markets than those of their rivals.

    Some countries have emerged relatively unscathed, largely due to banking practices; ie less reliance on subprime loans. The NZ economy has been affected, but it’s not yet clear to what degree. And as mentioned in the article, we’re at 10% unionisation in the private sector, not nearly as high as prior to 1991. Given that the affects of those attacks still largely remain, there just isn’t that much reason to attack unions right now.

    Generalised panic doesn’t constitute an argument. We have to figure out what threat National might pose, and challenge it.

    “so we can just sit in our ideological bubble and not bother doing anything in the real world.”

    WP members are regularly involved in union activity. For example the recent strike by Go Wellington workers, which after a short-lived lockout resulted in a pay-rise; the Tramways secretary is Nick Kelly of the Workers Party. We’ve also had involvement with campaigns by Unite and the NDU. Our distrust of capitalist parties isn’t an ideological bubble, it’s a political position.

  11. Frank says:

    “Some countries have emerged relatively unscathed”

    Oh so the crisis is over and we have “emerged” from it? Thats nice to hear.

    You mention rates of unionisation, can you point to my post where I said the Government would be attacking Trade Unionists” go back and read my comment again so as to save us all from wasting our time with straw men. Generalised panic does not constitute an argument, in that you are correct. Sadly neither does your comment above.

  12. Tim B says:

    In response to “Frank”, the essential point of the article above was not to argue that the incoming National government would never under any circumstances attack the working class, but rather that given the same range of economic and social conditions it would behave no differently than Labour.

    *If* the current downturn worsens to the point of a full blown economic crisis in this country (something on which the jury is very much still out) then yes it is possible that National will attempt to drive down wages and cut government spending. However, this is what any capitalist government (including a Labour one) would do in this situation (remember the 1980s!).

    So rather than pouring all our energies into demonising the Nats as somehow incomparably worse than Labour, wouldn’t it be better to concentrate our fire on the capitalist system itself?

  13. Frank says:

    I wonder why “Tim” puts my name in quotes?

    Anyway, it’s always fun to speculate about what might happen if Labour was in power, however serious socialists deal with the actually existing reality which is, as you may have heard a National/Act government.

    I’d be interested to know which “jury is still out” the one in your head Tim? Everyone with even a basic grasp of economics can see what is coming.

  14. WP Admin says:

    Would you like to explain to us how our economy will be affected, and what National will do to cut its losses? If you’ve got a detailed answer, that’s helpful. Otherwise, stop trolling.

  15. John Edmundson says:

    Frank:
    “serious socialists deal with the actually existing reality which is, as you may have heard a National/Act government.”

    What Frank appears not to have noticed is that we don’t have a National/Act government at all. We have a minority National government which has agreements with Act, United and the Maori Party. The Maori Party brings as many MPs to the table as Act does and so far, they seem to be preferred over Act. Of course it remains to be seen how that will pan out over time and I won’t be putting any faith in the Maori Party, but repeating the “National/Act” mantra doesn’t do much for getting a clear understanding of exactly what we’re up against.

    It isn’t just a bit of “fun” speculation to consider what the Labour Party might have done in the same circumstances; it’s an important assessment of the nature of the major party that some people still believe would have delivered a solution worth voting for.
    Cheers,
    John

  16. Frank says:

    Disagreeing is “trolling”?

    Oh dear, so much for open discussion.

    Let me put is this way, every serious capitalist economist states the world is facing it’s biggest depression since the 1930′s. New Zealand, as a small economy based on primary exports, tourism and cheap foreign finance is, by all conventional wisdom, about to face the triple threat of plunging commodity prices, a drastic fall in long haul tourism (see Air New Zealand announcement today) and a massive shortage of the credit, an therefore a huge rise in the price of it needs to finance it’s huge budget and trade deficits.

    Clear enough?

    So now lets get your view, given all of those facts can we have your detailed explanation of how do you see the NZ economy somehow avoiding the deluge facing the whole planet. Otherwise stop trolling ;)

  17. WP Admin says:

    That “biggest Depression since the 1930s” thing was largely Wall Street hype to get a prompt bailout, the situation is dire but unlikely to result in double-digit unemployment anytime soon. The fall hasn’t matched 1987, let alone 1929. We will however see prolonged stagnation, and as we learnt in the 30s, spending money is the solution to this. Given Key talks about compensation, investing the Superannuation fund into New Zealand investments, and other protectionist policies, it’s very possible he’s learnt that particular lesson about saving capitalism. I have no doubt he would attack workers if necessary, but given Cullen has accused him of Communism for invoking Keynesian policies, we should be figuring out exactly how he’ll maintain capitalism rather than assuming neoliberalism.

    While we are vulnerable as an export economy, the extent of the damage remains unclear, especially given the lack of openness from finance companies. While we’re certainly not Lebanon, whose economy is steadily growing for reasons including their banks’ unwillingness to go into derivatives, the macroeconomic affects of this crisis are not uniform worldwide. Our deal with China may help, as they’re at 9% GDP growth and the lowest prediction for this year is 8%; also, our exports are increasingly cheap.

    There is no doubt that both major parties are enemies of the people, and the Workers Party urges unions and other worker organisations to be staunch, especially in light of a recession. However, scaremongering doesn’t help. ACT has an ideological bent on slashing social spending; Key has kept himself at arms length from ACT, and will do whatever necessary to maintain capitalism.

  18. Frank says:

    Interesting, the position of the Workers Party is that the capitalists are also crying wolf and that a quick Keyensian fix can keep capitalism on the straight and narrow (along with China somehow growing whilst its biggest export market crashes into recession.

    I must say I never thought I’d read more sense from publications such as the Financial Times and the Economist that from an alleged Marxist.

    If you have a copy of Capital it might be worth having a quick skim over it before you make a fool of yourself in future comments.

  19. John Edmundson says:

    Frank, you’re willfully misrepresenting what we’re saying. There is a very real possibility that we’ll have a serious downturn, but it’s also possible that we won’t. While many capitalists are definitely in a panic and in many cases putting their hands out for government assistance, others are also saying that this can be contained. They’re saying that they’ve learned a lot since 1929 and that they can prevent a repeat. They’re arguing that the decisions (particularly by the US) to retreat into protectionism and abandon free trade was the worst possible option to have taken. This time around, they’re still tempted by protectionism but are also trying to keep flying the flag for free trade. Many are still talking about staving off the recession.

    I don’t have a lot of optimism about what they can do but they have a lot more leeway because in 1929 there was a strong, militant union movement that had to be crushed. It is possible that things will descend into depression but it still isn’t certain. Hence Tim’s comment that the jury is still out, including amongst the capitalists.

    Most relevant in terms of this thread though, is how we respond to and describe what is going on. What we’re saying is that there are some things we can be pretty sure about. One is that Key is not the new Hitler or Franco. We aren’t faced with an imminent descent into a world of neo-fascism, juntas and “resist or perish”, as many on the left are predicting. We’re entering a period of global economic downturn (to some extent or other) which will mean things will be worse. Workers will be expected to pay the price. These things are true, but hyping the situation is unnecessary and unhelpful. We’re better to try to keep level heads and coolly assess what’s going on.
    Cheers,
    John

  20. Frank says:

    So lets keep a cool had and concentrate on the most important issue, how we can use whatever happens to make sectarian propaganda.

    Ah well it is always thus with sects, there own ideological shibbolitths are always the most vital issue.

  21. Matthew Cunningham says:

    John Edmundson:
    I don’t have anything to add to this discussion, but I wanted to commend you on your intelligent and level-headed posts on this site. As you would obviously know from our previous debate, I am neither a member of the Workers Party nor a socialist, but i’ve enjoyed reading your comments (even if I don’t necessarily agree with all of them).

    Do you like in the Wellington area? We should meet up for a coffee.

    Cheers, Matt.

  22. John Edmundson says:

    No, I’m in Christchurch.
    Cheers,
    John

  23. sol says:

    i think i’m agreeing with frank in terms of his analysis of the economis crisis..
    i would like to emphasize that i feel it wouldn’t have mattered who got in, so for me its not about john key or national ‘attacking’ workers interests - its the system - ( which we are creators of ) which has a fundamental problem - it needs to grow to sustain itself.
    i don’t feel its scaremongering to observe that capitalism is coming to an end - to me it is inevitable that the system as it is will crash - we can prepare now - ie get pro active in our communties organise meeting grow food educate each other - or we can wait for it to get much worse.
    we don’t need to be scared of preparing ourselves for a massive change

    is the wp going to say we never saw it coming based on a marxist analysis ?

    there are plenty of people sayin that the global elite are tightening the noose so to speak, there are plenty of people that are sayin that smaller countries like nz are completely subordinate to internationalists -

    i suppose i’m sayin that i understand the workers can’t see anything drastic happening in the future because of the lense beings used.
    sure you can believe it possible for capitalism to crash or revive itself but where is the clarity in - we’ll wait and see

  24. John Edmundson says:

    Trotsky once observed that if someone called out every hour that it was 11 o’clock, he would be correct twice a day, but you wouldn’t set your watch by him. That’s clarity, but it’s worthless. Simply saying “we’ll wait and see” is not clear, but it’s also not what we’re saying. We are continually monitoring what is going on and studying it and reporting on it. It’s frustrating not to have a crystal ball but that’s life. When we do feel that we can make a prediction we do. So while many on the left placed their faith in the Maori party, we predicted that they would have few problems working with National. While much of the left predicted a Nat/Act neo-fascist nightmare, we predicted a much more “business as usual” outcome. Hence we weren’t thrown into fits of despair when Labour lost the election.

    The international situation is harder to make predictions about, but most “predictions” that are being made are based on a mixture of catastrophism (the worst depression since ’29 and there’s nothing they can do!) and wishful thinking (capitalism is coming to an end).

    As for the first, I agree it’s possible, but I for one am not prepared to “predict” it. Yes, there are some signs of more serious trouble ahead for capitalism, eg in the US and European car industry, but there are also counter-tendencies, such as the massive pump-priming in China, which is still expected to grow rapidly.

    As for the second, I will make one prediction - capitalism will never come to an end without the organised action of the working class. Even ecological catastrophe and complete economic collapse would not end capitalism. Whatever emerged from the ashes would still be capitalist in form unless we actually make a conscious decision that it won’t be (and I’d rather do it without the ecological catastrophe too!!!)

    Unfortunately, Frank’s purpose seems more about “exposing” us as shibboleth wielding sectarian cultists. I’ll leave the readers of this site to decide if expecting rational debate and analysis is a sign of cultist sectarianism and a shibboleth. So to return to your original post Sol, when you said you were all for urgency, I’m certainly all for doing something, but I think that what we do needs to be grounded in the reality of what the government here actually is, not based on a bunch of hyperbolic words that have little basis in reality. That might win a few radical activists, but make us look silly, out of touch and - dare I say it - cultish, in the eyes of the working class.
    Cheers,
    John

  25. WP Admin says:

    get pro active in our communties organise meeting grow food educate each other

    Agreed on that point. The WP is organising a few post-election public meetings to discuss what’s coming, and we advocate strengthening the union movement as a way forward.

    capitalism will never come to an end without the organised action of the working class.

    Absolutely. Capitalist crisis is inevitable, but cyclical; when they hit crisis, the capitalist class will cut their losses and start again, without actually resolving the contradictions inherent to capitalism. The crisis hasn’t matched that of ’29, the idea that it’s enough to end capitalism on its own seems wishful.

  26. sol says:

    i thought that the inherent contradiction is what will eventually bring a down capitalism. as i was saying capitalism needs to keeps growing to survive - is that the inherent contradiction, from the WP perspective?

    is a centralized totalitarian world fascist state still capitalism? ( which is one possible scenario that few on the left ever talk much about) i don’t feel it is - it will be more akin to slavery, which is possibly what some people experience presently.

    i mentioned the global elite, i’m talking about the leaders of the G 20 as well as all the private business consortiums/conglomerates they represent, my feeling is - nz is a very small player in the global scheme of things, some say we are a guinea pig in terms of technology and social policies that have been introduced.
    when the time comes, the public figureheads will have little choice in announcing major changes,
    from my own research i absolutely feel there is a conspiracy of global proportions in motion, but there’s no need to be scared because as i’ve mentioned there are tangible things we can do in our communties, change can be scary, but i’d rather be aware that the bridge is out - so to speak - than ride the train unawares.

  27. WP Admin says:

    as i was saying capitalism needs to keeps growing to survive - is that the inherent contradiction, from the WP perspective?

    Yeah, the contradiction between the needs of workers and capitalists which requires capital to constantly expand. In the past few decades, that’s taken the form of over-reliance on fictitious capital, eg subprime loans, which are unstable due to a lack of real value. Those instabilities will only lead to the destruction of capitalism if workers are sufficiently organised. Crisis in itself isn’t enough; boom-bust is nothing new.

    is a centralized totalitarian world fascist state still capitalism?

    Well, fascism historically has a strong relationship with monopoly capitalism. See Franco, Pinochet, Hitler’s relationship with Ford. But I don’t currently see a rise in fascism, given the US just elected an African American centrist, NZ elected a leader who’s building bridges with the Maori Party and groups like the Direct Democracy Party remain marginal.

    change can be scary, but i’d rather be aware that the bridge is out - so to speak - than ride the train unawares.

    I’d rather stick to what seems plausible and fight the centrists on both sides of Parliament.

  28. John Edmundson says:

    Sol:
    “i thought that the inherent contradiction is what will eventually bring a down capitalism. as i was saying capitalism needs to keeps growing to survive - is that the inherent contradiction, from the WP perspective?”

    The “inherent contradiction” isn’t simply the need for growth, it’s that its standard functioning creates the class with the interest in overthrowing it.

    “is a centralized totalitarian world fascist state still capitalism?”

    Yes, as long as the basic operation of the economy involves extracting surplus value from the worker. It could have a lot of characteristics in common with slavery but still be capitalism. As you note, such a set up is endured by some people right now. Perhaps most importantly either would need to be replaced!!!

    “( which is one possible scenario that few on the left ever talk much about)”

    I think it is unlikely in the current environment. Fascism is a notoriously inefficient form of capitalism and was only turned to in the 20s and 30s because of the dire threat capitalism was facing. Most capitalists wouldn’t want to go there.

    “when the time comes, the public figureheads will have little choice in announcing major changes,”

    Yep, hence it being less useful worrying about which crowd are running NZ capitalism and more useful to be patiently building opposition to capitalism as it is, not a fictional caricature that looks more evil.
    Cheers,
    John

  29. Frank says:

    “Simply saying “we’ll wait and see” is not clear, but it’s also not what we’re saying. We are continually monitoring what is going on and studying it and reporting on ”

    Perhaps you have forgotten one of Trotsky’s most famous quotes, “to lead is to forsee”

    You are in denial guys, as I said that is not a problem for a sect, sadly real socialists have to deal with reality. Enjoy your splendid isolation from what workers are facing. John, I have no knowledge of your personal circumstances, but I would hazard a guess that you are not facing layoffs,, wage cuts or redundancies in your workplace. Otherwise I doubt your analysis would be quite so bloodless.

    (ps. and you wonder why you are not getting a speaker at the Socialist Aotearoa Meeting in Auckland?, don’t trash the cook if you want to eat at the table)

    x

    F

  30. John Edmundson says:

    No Frank, you clearly have no idea about my circumstances. But to enlighten you a little since you’ve decided to get so personal, I get approximately the minimum wage, sometimes more, sometimes less, my income has fallen by about 30% already this year and my hours are going to fall again just before Christmas. Is that sufficiently proletarian for you? I doubt it will prevent you from believing we are a sect on account of expecting honest and accurate analysis however.

    Oh, and I’m raising two teenage kids too, so you can take your guesswork and your arrogance elsewhere. I don’t know anything about your circumstances either but to be perfectly honest, I no longer give a toss. I think I’ve been pretty patient in the face of your trolling but to get home from work at 5 in the morning and read that (from a REAL SOCIALIST no less) has finally succeeded in taking me to the end of my patience.
    Cheers,
    John

    ps. You’re right about one thing Frank, I don’t face imminent redundancy. In my job I just don’t get work, for me there’s no such thing as redundancy.

  31. John Edmundson says:

    Apologies to anyone else reading this thread. I should not have bothered responding to Frank’s last post but I was tired after work and got angry. I won’t in the future. I usually keep my cool better than that.
    Cheers,
    John

  32. sol says:

    wp admin and john - ok cheers re the wp perspective on the contradiction. . the inherent contradiction you speak of seems is significant, and seems clear. but for me it not the most significant phenomena of the system or the collective consciousness.

    i must say i percieve the crisis differently in general. and from your comments about fascism and the current figureheads of nz and usa i clearly feel we have a different lense thru which we are analysing current and historical events.
    also the comment about what seems plausible … is it most plausible to be in constant response to the centrists?
    where is the main place the wp keeps its ear to the ground ? whats the most plausible source of information ?

    john, building opposition to … as it is ( it doesn’t matter what stands in the …) could be a fictional caricature to me or you, again i suppose it matters how we are looking at things.. hence the diversity of opinions amongst not only the left but across the spectrum. but some of us are sayin ‘this is how it is’ and that is proportional to what lense is being used ie.. marxism or fundamentalist islam

    but in terms of a global conspiracy .. sure we aren’t going to see the people involved publically declaring this, but from the little research i’ve done - i can join the dots - without scaremongering or creating fictional caricatures,

  33. Frank says:

    No one said anything about you personally John, it was a political point.

    Take you faux outrage elsewhere.

  34. John Edmundson says:

    Frank is being completely dishonest. He said:
    “John, I have no knowledge of your personal circumstances, but I would hazard a guess that you are not facing layoffs,, wage cuts or redundancies in your workplace” and claimed it was “not about you personally” but a “political point”.

    It was framed in an entirely personal way. How could it be read otherwise. There was an implication (based purely on factors within Frank’s imagination) that I personally was in a well paid secure job and therefore shielded from the hurt “real” workers would endure. Consequently, any “real socialist” could discount anything eminating from my privileged position. And according to Frank, who, to the best of my knowledge has never met me, my “outrage” was “faux”.

    I have attempted to carry out a rational debate here and have been misrepresented, personally attacked and finally, advised to leave my own party’s site. I’m too thick skinned to be seriously offended by Frank’s personal attacks. This kind of ad-hominem all too often passes (or substitutes) for political debate on the left. The WP site is no place for such “debate” so I won’t be engaging in any. I won’t be replying to any more of Frank’s posts.
    Cheers,
    John

  35. Frank says:

    I’m a troll who obviously doesn’t have to work until 5 in the morning.

  36. Alastair Reith says:

    Frank had a few typos in his last post, I fixed them for him. His posts will stay up when he stops being a troll.

  37. Frank says:

    Thanks Alistair for showing us all just what the workers party truly means by encouraging debate.

    I’ll not be back, and I doubt if anyone else outside your little circle will be either.

  38. John Edmundson says:

    I said I wouldn’t reply to any more of Frank’s messages (although I would if he wrote in a manner intended to contribute to meaningful debate) and I don’t intend to start now. But I will make a comment on the debate on the WP site as I see it.

    This site has a pretty open policy as far as posting comments is concerned. A good example of this is the fact that a short discussion took place, principally between Matthew Cunningham and me despite the fact that Matt is clearly not a socialist. It may be argued that there is no point debating with non-socialists on the WP blog but the point is that, as long as no one was getting abusive or trolling, no moderation of posts occurred to stifle that discussion. Similarly Paul Drake is treated politely on this blog despite his being AFAIK a Green.

    Frank on the other hand appeared with snide comments about the WP’s “ideological bubbles” vs his “real world”. Soon he was announcing that he was a “serious socialist” while the WP were “alleged Marxists” and a “sect”. He followed this up with a completely false and groundless personal attack on my credibility by alleging that I was a comfortable, securely employed, well paid person, immune to any downturn. From this I assume that he believed I was an academic. Eventually, he spat the dummy and Alistair put him on moderation, at which point he decided to no longer grace us with his presence, declaring that his experience of debate being stifled would lead other non WP people to leave also. The problem with that claim is that with precious few exceptions what Frank was engaging in could not in all honesty be called debate.

    I would hazard a guess that if anything, humouring Frank here would be more likely to have driven people away and for my part I take responsibility for that. I should not have fed the troll in the first place. The WP welcomes debate over anything we say and I for one am prepared to engage in it. It is through healthy debate, including vigourous, but also rigourous and honest critique of other left groups, such as the post that prompted this thread, that the left will sharpen its politics and grow more effective, We need good quality contributions and debate but we gain nothing from the sort of sniping and one line personal attacks and abuse that proliferate on so many other left forums.
    Cheers,
    John

  39. sol says:

    well said john, it is a fine line between getting personal and just discussing an idea,

    it is a direct reflection of the wp how any of you respond, i feel the direction you and franks exchange went was a tad unecessarily personal,

    and frank whats the use in not coming back ? i feel non members like you and i need to constanly challenge groups like the wp to reflect on their own perspectives,
    interesting no one has replied to my question.. which was actually in response to wp comments..
    what is plausible information ?

  40. Alastair Reith says:

    I didn’t want Frank’s bullshit and personal attacks up here, but just in case anyone reading this thinks that I was suppressing “debate”, his message consisted of the words “What a crybaby!”, written in response to John getting understandably pissed off when someone who knows nothing about him talks condescendingly about how John is obviously comfortably employed and not facing redundancies. As a taxi driver in a time of economic crisis, John is not exactly living a life of luxury!

    If Frank wants to participate in civil and comradely debate, his posts won’t be edited or removed, even if he’s disagreeing with something the WP has said or done. If Frank wants to come on here and be an obnoxious prick, I will remove his posts.

  41. Matthew Cunningham says:

    John / Alastair:
    I agree for the most part that the WP site is open to constructive debate. The lengthy dialogue between myself and John is indeed evidence of this.

    However, I feel I should add that my first post in the aforementioned debate was, I suspect, deleted by a moderator. This bothered me, hence why I went directly to Daphna Whitmore and Nick Kelly to ensure that when I resubmitted my post it would be accepted straight away. So whilst I can say my experience on this site has been generally positive and constructive rather than negative, I wouldn’t agree that honest debate is completely free of moderation.

    I’m not defending Frank, incidentally - John had every right to react as he did, much as Alastair was right to moderate his comments.

    Cheers, Matt.

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