Reframing the debate
Although the speech given by Phil Goff in early December 2009 to a small Palmerston North audience of Grey Power members will soon fade into memory and possibly warrant only a footnote in the history of the New Zealand Labour Party, the issues surrounding it, and the controversy that it has created, relate to much more important issues for politics in New Zealand. What’s at stake here are important differences over the nature of the leftwing project and the struggle for a better society. Do we continue to go down the path that most of the wider ‘left’ have chosen during the last three decades – of more social liberalism, increased so-called nanny state activity, an emphasise on biculturalism as a solution for Maori inequality, and a general fetishism for post-materialist politics? Or do we revert back to a more traditional leftwing project that is concerned with a universal struggle for equality and that centres on class? And, is a nuanced class-analysis needed – one that provides a materialist understanding of, and solutions to, non-class oppressions.
This blog post series examines the controversy of Goff’s ‘Nationhood’ speech, attempting to show how the speech and resulting controversy can best be understood within the conceptual framework of ‘identity politics versus class politics’. Along the way, an examination of concepts such as ‘social liberalism’, ‘new social movements’, ‘political correctness’, the ‘new left’, ‘new politics’, ‘post-materialism’, and ‘identity politics’ is developed. An argument is made that such political ideologies and projects no longer have much to do with progressive leftwing politics nor with liberation for groups like women, Maori and LGBT people. If anything, such liberal identity politics has actually gone hand-in-hand with neoliberalism – a development that is explained in detail in subsequent posts.