One of the most perplexing questions in the history of the left in New Zealand has been: Why was it a Labour Party that implemented the radical anti-worker neoliberal reforms? What’s more, why did the ‘left’ of the party allow the programme of Rogernomics to be implemented? The answer is partly that the Labour ‘left’ was so surprisingly tolerant towards the economic programme of the government due to the political backgrounds of the now dominant social liberal element in the party organisation. Their experience within the new social movements had taught the ‘new left’ in the Labour Party to concern itself with identity politics rather than class politics. [Read more below]
An examination of the history of left politics in New Zealand since the 1960s shows how liberal identity politics has actually aided the forces of the right in carrying out and maintaining the neoliberal project. This has occurred in various ways. At one level on the left there has simply been a shift since the late 1960s whereby a focus on economics and inequality has been jettisoned in favour of a concentration on identity politics. In terms of all forms of social change, electoral activity, and protest activism, the priority has thus been in pushing for social change on non-economic issues. This blog post argues that this has meant a transformation from social liberalism into neoliberalism. [Read more below]
Increasingly the debates around New Zealand politics – especially relating to the left – feature concepts such as ‘identity politics’ and ‘social liberalism’. These terms are especially useful for understanding the history of Labour Party over the last thirty years, as well as for understanding the internal fights going on in the contemporary left. But just what is social liberalism and identity politics? This blog post argues that identity politics arose out of the rightwing of the new social movements that developed on the New Zealand left from the late 1960s. As liberation struggles developed around important issues relating to gender, sexuality and ethnicity, leftwing and class-based approaches to understanding and fighting for social equality were sidelined in favour of this more conservative approach. [Read more below]
Phil Goff’s recent controversial speech, criticising the Maori and National parties, has been misread as a shift to the right. As explained in this blog series about ‘identity politics vs class politics’, Goff’s speech was in fact the opposite – actually quite a left-turn. This particular blog post contextualises the speech in terms of other important recent left maneuvers made by Labour and Goff. The significance and reasons for these shifts is evaluated and explained. This left shift needs to be taken seriously, and it asks for a critical reevaluation of the Labour Party and its divisions. [Read more below]
Much of the left and liberal reaction to Goff’s speech has been to condemn Goff on the basis that he’s simply being opportunistic in his leftish attack on the Maori and National parties. This is – to some degree – a very fair criticism because, yes, of course Phil Goff is an innately opportunist politician, and because his newfound leftish critique of such issues jar against Goff’s own political history. But how much does such a charge of opportunism actually matter in evaluating Goff’s ‘left-turn’? This blog post discusses the salience of the charge and argues that although it means that Goff isn’t to be trusted in his newfound leftism, it’s no reason in itself to dismiss the shift. [Read more below]
Phil Goff has been accused by many on both the left and right of ‘playing the race card’ with his recent speech attacking the Maori and National parties. For example, on the Pundit blogsite, Tim Watkin says Goff has veered ‘in an unwelcome new direction, playing the race card’ and that the speech ‘has the air of dog whistle racism’. Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn has called Goff’s speech ‘morally indefensible’, ‘a crime’, ‘cheap racism’, and a ‘cynical attempt to whip up racism’. But such kneejerk reactions show that New Zealand liberals have largely misread the nature of Goff’s speech. Rather than playing the ‘race card’, Goff has, if anything, actually been playing the ‘class card’. [Read more below]
Phil Goff has recently challenged issues that are at the core of socially liberal politics in New Zealand. The Labour Party leader has been asserting a more class-oriented and leftwing version of politics, effectively seeking to shift Labour away from a core part of its project of the last three decade: liberal identity politics. The meaningfulness and authenticity of this shift can be questioned, but the intrinsic tilt to the left cannot. While the conventional media and blogosphere interpretation of Labour’s new direction is to label it as either ‘social conservative’ or ‘rightwing’, Goff’s repositioning is in fact nothing of the sort. It is actually a newfound expression of relatively leftwing positions on important issues. What’s more, the controversy over the speech has sparked an important and long overdue debate within the New Zealand left about what it means to be leftwing in 2009, and what the way forward is for those interested in fighting for a more equal and just society. It has made the left confront questions of how concepts such as ‘social liberalism’, ‘political correctness’, ‘post-materialism’, and ‘identity politics’ fit into the leftwing project, if indeed they do at all. Yet, much of this significant debate occurs in an incredibly murky and confused manner, mainly due to an inability to conceptualise the different elements at play. So, in an attempt to contribute to this discussion, this blog post introduces a whole series of posts discussing these issues. The series attempts to reframe the debate and the terms of the debate in a way that is hopefully useful. It argues that to understand what’s going on in the Labour Party, what Goff has recently pushed for, and indeed what’s happened to the Green Party, is not a case of social liberalism versus social conservatism; nor is it left versus right; but instead it’s liberalism versus leftism – or simply: identity politics versus class politics. [Read more below]
How is it that a political party like National – deeply discredited by its extreme embrace of neoliberalism in the 1990s – could have so successfully found its way back into office last year? The answer is found in a recent conference paper given by André Broome of the University of Birmingham, entitled ‘Rebranding the Right? Political Baggage and the Redefinition of Party Identity’ [Download Broome]. Using the New Zealand National Party as a case study, Broome argues that rightwing parties rebrand to create distance from associations with previous – and unpopular – neoliberal terms in government. This excellent academic paper also explains why political marketing and branding have become such a central part of modern politics. It also argues that in countries like New Zealand, there is a very discernable shift towards policy convergence in elections, and a similar decline in the salience of left/right politics matched by an increase in postmaterialist competition. [Read more below]
Today the Green Party is celebrating a landmark that is well worth reflecting upon: ten years in Parliament. In our fluctuating MMP environment, that's quite an achievement. In this regard, various media are reporting some of my brief comments on the party’s achievements, current standing, and future. See the news articles on the TVNZ and NewstalkZB websites. I’m reported as saying that ‘the Green Party is sporting a “bland” new image and its biggest achievement is that it has survived’. This blog post expands on some of these comments, and draws attention to a new academic textbook chapter written about the Greens. [Read more below]
The 6th annual Listener ‘power list’ is out this week – seeking to shine a light on who makes up the modern New Zealand Establishment. This blog post offers an extensive critical summary of, and commentary on, the Listener’s list. Highlights include:
Politicians do well on the power list. Although there are only 12 MPs in the whole list, 4 out of the top 5 are politicians. New entries include Simon Power, Judith Collins, Tony Ryall and Nick Smith.
The Listener sure to do love John Key – although he’s too managerial and not rightwing enough
The A-list ‘Top 10’ has been expanded by the peculiar inclusion of Phil Goff in the #11 position!
One significant change in the A-list is Rodney Hide’s elevation from #7 to #4,
Notably, Rightwing Treasury boss John Whitehead jumps into the A-list at #9
Air New Zealand’s Rob Fyfe’s sudden inclusion at #6 of the A-list is a bit trivial
The Listener heralds the inclusion of the country’s senior receiver, Michael Stiassny at #7, as ‘the most telling detail about this year’s Power List’
Tariana Turia, is the only woman in the Top 10 power list at #8
There are seven women on the power list this year; there are seven Maori
The Environment category is distinguished by the arrival of five completely new environmental power listers – including Gareth Morgan. Nick Smith surges into the #1 spot from nowhere
Four of ‘Business & Economy’ places go to either new entries or re-entries on the power list
All five of last year’s Maoridom power listers have been delisted from this category in 2009; Pita Sharples is #2, transferring from #6 on the 2008 A-list, and coming in for criticism from the Listener
In the Media category, John Armstrong of the New Zealand Herald is #3. And David Farrar has finally made the power list.
Alan Bollard, Bill English, David Farrar, Garth McVicar, Graeme Hart, John Key, John Whitehead, Listener, Listener power list, Matt McCarten, Michael Stiassny, Nick Smith, Paul Morgan, Phil O’Reilly, Rob Fyfe, Steven Joyce, Tariana Turia, Who runs New Zealand?