A guest blog post by John Moore on the issue of sanctions argues that much of the New Zealand left make a bad call when they demand the boycott of oppressed third world countries such as Burma/Myanmar. [Read more below]
The conservative Dominion Post newspaper commissioned the rightwing National Party activist David Farrar (of Kiwiblog) to review Chris Trotter's leftwing No Left Turn history, and the result is an almost ecstatic endorsement of the book, with Farrar proclaiming that it's a book that 'any student of politics or history should read', and that it's 'one of those books which you find hard to put down'. [Read more below]
Leftwing journalist Nicky Hager has reviewed fellow leftwing journalist Chris Trotter's No Left Turn and concludes that it's 'an excellent, readable, thought-provoking book'. This review published in the Listener - see Power & the people - concentrates on how No Left Turn is a history book with great relevance for understanding modern New Zealand politics. [Read more below]
Chris Trotter's No Right Turn is approvingly described in the latest University of Otago's Critic magazine as 'a fervent, thorough, and idiosyncratic account' of NZ history. Not so much a review, as a springboard for dealing with the state of the NZ left and the union movement, Writing left-handed by Matthew Littlewood interviews leftists Trotter, Brian Roper and Matt McCarten about past and present politics. [Read more below]
Young people used to be in the forefront of demanding radical social change. This article, which I wrote in 1999 and needs updating, looks at why that is no longer the case. Instead, youth are increasingly conservative voters. Amongst explanations for the depoliticisation of youth, the dire state of the left plays a big part.
John Minto recently spoke at the Workers Education Association (WEA) in Christchurch. Guest blogger Phillip Ferguson reports on the meeting, where Minto argued that the liberal left had let down the working class, and that life for workers and other oppressed groups had got worse under Labour and National governments. [Read more below]
Anti-smacking advocates in New Zealand have adopted an elite, lobbying-style of politics that has effectively killed any chance of successfully changing society's orientation to smacking kids. To this effect, Chris Trotter has written a very interesting opinion piece in the Sunday-Star Times arguing that the 'anti-smacking' private members bill should not be rammed through Parliament in the context of such widespread opposition in society. [The article does not currently appear to be online.] Trotter says that when something like 80% of New Zealanders oppose the bill, it's bad politics and bad law to push legislation through just because you have assembled a slight parliamentary majority in favour.
Trotter is probably right. The proponents of the bill have failed to convince New Zealanders. This is because the Greens and their allies never really attempted to focus their campaigns on ordinary people. Instead they have taken an elite political approach that epitomises modern activist politics - that of lobbying those in power rather than the public. Trotter suggests that previous agents of social change were about more participatory and democratic means: 'the anti-Vietnam War movement, the anti-apartheid movement, the anti-nuclear movement and gay-rights movement. As their names suggest, they were all exercises in mass democratic action - and took years.'
NZ politics now takes place in an elite way, in which single-issue campaigns are increasingly carried out in a disengaged way from society. It's a hierarchical and anti-democratic way of trying to push for social change. As Trotter, reminds proponents of the bill, 'You cannot legislate people into virtue... they can only be persuaded. And you have not persuaded them.' Of course, there are always exceptions - where there is an overwhelming and urgent case for a government to act against majority wishes to protect the rights of some citizens, but I don't believe this case falls anywhere near that.
Alliance president Jill Ovens has told the Alliance that Labour apparatchiks are 'dogs', but is jumping ship to them anyhow (see also the Herald article). Turning ultra-pragmatic, Ovens has decided that if she really wanted a top job in the Service and Food Workers Union she needed to put aside her politics and join Labour. The reason she gives is that Labour MP Darien Fenton had (incorrectly) told members of the Service and Food Workers Union that links to the party were crucial to their pay rises. Ovens used to challenge Labour and show how working people and unions shouldn't trust them, but now she's given all that away and even goes so far as praising what they've done in government.
Margaret Thatcher notoriously once said that ‘There is no such thing as “society” – only individuals and families’. Although the Left once sneered at this, Bryce Edwards and Jane Wire argue in this 1990s article from revolution magazine that her statement is fast becoming a reality in countries like New Zealand. Read more below: