“The future of the left is bright” and Ardern is the lighthouse

The world future for the left is bright, according to some hopefuls, and Jacinda Ardern is the Mother Theresa of progressive politics.

Ex-Labour general secretary Mike Smith has posted at The Standard – The future of the left

Australian Guardian columnist Van Badham writes “the future of the left is bright if it looks like Jacinda Ardern and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes.” She concludes “We can hope the influence of Jacinda Ardern and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes spread, or we can ensure that it does. The stakes for the marginalised remain life and death.” Very worth a read.

This optimism looks a tad premature.

The world influence of Ardern beyond a magazine celebrity level must be minimal at this stage, She has hardly had time to prove herself in New Zealand – and her Government has so far had very mixed short term results.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes hasn’t even been elected yet, she has only won a primary in a New York congressional district. Gizmodo: Democratic Candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Didn’t Even Have a Wikipedia Page on Monday:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old progressive activist, became the Democratic candidate for New York’s 14th congressional district after a primary election yesterday.

Ocasio-Cortez defeated 56-year-old Joseph Crowley, a man who served ten terms and was the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

Why is Ocasio-Cortez’s victory a big deal for Democrats? She’s a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a former organizer for Bernie Sanders. Crowley, the man she defeated, was being groomed to be the next Speaker of the House.

Bernie Sanders was seen as a great left wing hope in 2016 but he couldn’t even beat Hillary Clinton as the Democrat candidacy for president, and Clinton couldn’t even beat Donald Trump.

So what else did Van Badham say in her Guardian article? It was headlined Jacinda Ardern is the very hero the global left needs right now

As social media birth announcements go, Jacinda Ardern’s handheld Facebook Live of herself and her newborn Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford is charming.

New Zealand’s prime minister introduces her new baby with radiant sincerity.

Giving birth was a big event for Ardern and Clark Gayford, and Neve, but it was normal, it is something that happens to everyone. It was hardly heroic.

But as a political communication, the video is matchless. In an epoch overcast by growing shadows of reenergised rightwing authoritarianism, Ardern’s public hospital nativity offers a luminous symbolic affirmation of her leadership not just of New Zealand, but of the western electoral left.

Good grief. She is currently on maternity leave so is not even acting Prime Minister at the moment, let alone saviour of the world.

It’s not that long ago that Justin Trudeau was the darling of the world left. And Bernie Sanders. Some in the UK even thought that Jeremy Corbyn was the beginning of a great swing left.

The leader of the first Labour government in New Zealand for a decade shares the explicit left agenda for investment in health, education, climate action, public housing and social justice. Ardern’s pledge to build “a kind and equitable nation where children thrive, and success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people” is the ancient standard of our side.

Ardern does have some worth ambitions, but she is a long way from proving herself and her Government.

To understand why is to look beyond policy and into her representation of it. What distinguishes Ardern is her active embrace of what Walter Benjamin referred to as “the time of the now” and the diverse and complex identities of a community that no longer sees itself as by, for and of propertied, straight white men. Doing so shatters a traditionalism that imprisons the left even as much as it inspires today’s right.

Another variation on popular demonising, this time of  “straight white men”. Juts imagine how Ardern would be revered if she was not white and not straight. She gets away with not epitomising diversity by having empathy foe non-whites and non-straights, something no man has every been able to achieve and never can – unless he’s a progressive left wing hope of course.

If today’s left is going to stand a chance against an ascendant, muscular right, my hope is that she and other avowed socialists emerging within her electoral generation eschew the stale temptations of left melancholy for energising examples of a visionary left that looks as different to its past as a pregnant woman in a feathered cloak does to a room of suited men.

“Strong men” of the right are now lining up governments from Italy to Turkey to the United States. The times of the now are ones in which we can construct majorities of a diversity they cannot – and do not wish to – represent. We can hope the influence of Jacinda Ardern and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes spread, or we can ensure that it does. The stakes for the marginalised remain life and death.

Ardern may yet go on to do great things for New Zealand, but she first needs to settle into motherhood hoping her Ministers miraculously acquire cohesion and competence in her absence (they didn’t do very well on that while she was Prime Minister).

Then she has to prove herself in a small country at the bottom edge of the world before she becomes the Queen of the World.

Being anointed as the Progressive miracle unfolding is as premature as awarding Donald Trump a Nobel peace prize before meeting Kim Yong Un – or as premature as awarding same prize to Barack Obama, who was probably seen as a great new hope for the left/progressives around the world, until he proved to be a mediocre president at best.

Van Badham seems to be a progressive opportunist.

In 2016: Time to hail Hillary Clinton – and face down the testosterone left

Supposedly progressive men denounce Clinton with foolish and vicious regularity. But a victory for her next week would really be worth celebrating.

People are surprised when I express support for Hillary Clinton. My economic politics are hard to the left and, unlike hers, explicitly socialist. But it’s entirely because my analysis of inequality is economic that I endorse Clinton – not as a least-worst option, not even due to the nature of her opponent, but on her own terms as a leader pledged to the material improvement of women’s economic and social reality.

That was someone misguided in several ways.

Van Badham on Julia Gillard ousted: Achievement does not equal respect if you’re a woman

Julia Gillard navigated through the financial crisis, presided over a 14 per cent growth in the economy and pushed through several impressive policy reforms. The problem for the Australian PM was not her performance. It was that, from to beginning to end, she remained female.

Based on this, if Ardern revolutionises New Zealand and leads the world into a wonderful progressive utopia it will be on her merits and her femininity.

And one could guess that if she fizzles or fails it will be the fault of men.

What is LeftWin?

It’s a blog that thinks that New Zealand’s Revolution is coming.

Almost everywhere is seems that radical projects are bringing new life into the radical left. Across the world, protest movements have been reborn. Movements like Occupy and other union, community and environmental struggles have brought forth new energy. This has also come together into new political parties and organisations. While each new project faces its own challenges and opportunities and limitations, the diverse political experiments can make New Zealand seem uninspiring in contrast. Could we see a revolutionary shake up in sleepy New Zealand?

New Zealand will have dozed right off if they read right through that post. I’ll skip to the end.

For the left as it exists, the challenge isn’t to have all the answers for how the world will play out, but to grow the strength and confidence of activists today. Building struggle in our unions and movements can create the layers of confident activists that makes this kind of organisational break possible. And for such a project to be possible, we need to build layers of people that first and foremost have the confidence and practical  and political skills of organisation to push at the boundaries of what is possible in capitalist society. 

Leftwin as described by themselves.

In recent years the world has been rocked by dramatic political upheavals such as Occupy and the Arab Spring. We see new left political formations uniting new layers of activists across Europe, and in Latin America social movements have captured governments and embarked on radical political experiments across that continent.

LeftWin is a blog dedicated to fighting for, and winning, these kinds of progressive political changes in New Zealand/Aotearoa.

This blog believes in a movement and a politic driven by popular participation, that actively supports the struggle for Tino Rangatiratanga and that seeks to build an more equal and environmentally sustainable Aotearoa.

Who is the ‘we’ of leftwin? “You can contact LeftWin at ben@unite.org.nz”.

I don’t think modern politics is about one political ideology ‘winning’ and by implication inflicting a loss on others.

Capitalism versus socialism or progressivism or whatever anti-capitalists call themselves these days is a futile argument. We have and will always have a blend of ideologies in practice. The challenge is to get the best possible balance.

Working together to make improvements for as many people as possible seems to me to be a better approach to fighting to win an un-winnable fight. It has to involve compromises, something that’s necessary whenever you get more than one person in a society.

Kelsey wants a no trade ‘progressive’ future

It’s well known that Jane Kelsey has long been anti-trade agreements. Leading the campaign opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in New Zealand is just business as usual for Kelsey.

Or perhaps that should be anti-business as usual.

She has a post at The Daily Blog that targets Labour in an attempt to stoke up the  anti-neoliberalism revolution and trying to replace it with “a new, progressive future for the nation”.

The NZ Labour Party can no longer avoid the elephant in the room

It was headlined as EXCLUSIVE but, ah, a lot of blog posts are exclusive.

Do you hear the people sing. Singing the songs of angry (wo)men. It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes. (Les Miserables)

But are they listening?

A cataclysmic event like the Brexit vote focuses the mind on the future and leaves political parties who are supposed to represent the people with nowhere to hide.  

The era of neoliberal globalisation is ending. People – who are also voters – have had enough of governments that work for the rich. Precarious jobs, stagnant incomes, unaffordable housing, massive household debt, stripped out safety nets, elected governments that are arrogant and unaccountable, opposition parties who are captives of their past or too cowed by fears of a collapse in business confidence to embrace demands for real change.

The drumbeat is getting louder. Policy choices that once seemed impossible and unthinkable have become very real. Political parties that claim to be progressive need to respond. Not just overseas. In Aotearoa too. And not after we ‘wait and see’. They need to take a position now.

No surprise that she wants Labour to take an anti-trade agreement position.

The New Zealand Labour Party can no longer avoid the elephant in the room: if elected, what is Labour going to do about the toxic mega-deals that have become a political liability in other democracies and are so deeply unpopular here?

They are deeply unpopular with a radical few like Kelsey. A Colmar Brunton poll on the TPPA in February:

Which of these best describe your view on the TPPA?

  • It may impact our sovereignty and I’m concerned about it 42%
  • It may impact our sovereignty but it’s not a big concern 22%
  • It won’t have much impact on our sovereignty 24%
  • Don’t know 12%

Even those who recorded “I’m concerned about it” will have ranged from being a bit concerned (at the height of TPPA protest) to those on the fringe who see it as “deeply unpopular”.

By the time of next year’s election neither the TPPA, TiSA and RCEP nor any EU FTA negotiations will be a done deal. Assuming Labour forms the next government, it will have the power and responsibility to decide whether to remain in them or take us out. So will the Greens and NZ First (especially tricky if the rumour that pro-TPPA Shane Jones may join their ranks is true).

By the time of next year’s election who knows what Labour’s vague position on the TPPA will be. It’s possible the TPPA will already have been ratified, there’s been claims that the USA may ratify after their election in November and before the new president takes over early next year.

Even without Phil Goff, Labour will doubtless hesitate to abandon the upgrade of the China FTA, which they consider an unmitigated success, or the China-led RCEP as the back door to the same. While digging us more deeply into the milk powder economy, the Chinese will be demanding more investment and procurement opportunities and protections, backed by investor-state dispute mechanisms.

It’s not just the TPPA (which includes two of the world’s biggest trading nations) Kelsey opposes, she also wants to scrap our trade agreement with China. That would have a major impact on availability and prices of goods and would jeopardise one of our biggest export markets.

By far the better option is still is not to negotiate these agreements, where they have been negotiated not to make them binding, and to begin rethinking how we engage differently at an international level.

Kelsey concludes:

New Zealand’s three main ‘opposition parties’ owe it to the majority of Kiwis who oppose the TPPA to have the political guts to state unequivocally that they intend to withdraw New Zealand from the agreement, and others of similar ilk, so that voters can align their preferences to the parties with the vision to create a new, progressive future for the nation.

There is no recent polling on who supports or opposes the TPPA so “the majority of Kiwis who oppose the TPPA” cannot be substantiated.

Although she dreams of “parties with the vision to create a new, progressive future for the nation” Kelsey makes no attempt to explain how progressive a non-trading nation would be.

Perhaps she envisages progressiveness as severely limited exports and more expensive imports.

Does anyone know if Kelsey has any vision of what a “new, progressive future for the nation” would look like?

Or does she just think that scrapping all our trade agreements will magically create utopia?

Seriously, does she have any plan apart from opposing trade?

Trotter’s doublespeaky progressive taxation

What is ‘progressive’ in politics? Someone tried to answer that leading into last year’s UK elections via the BBC, offering a number of varying explanations, and suggesting:

Tony Blair’s followers use progressive in those terms, to avoid being cast as “left-wing” or “socialist”, and as it seems to be a comfortable and ill-defined word that often means what the listener wants to hear in it.

Chris Trotter has his own take on what ‘progressive’ means in relation to taxation in “Show Me The Money!” Filling the hole in Labour’s policy framework.

The essence of social-democracy is the redistribution of wealth. And the best way to redistribute wealth is through a comprehensive system of progressive taxation.

…it is strategically vital for Labour to set out its fiscal policies openly and honestly before releasing its key policies relating to education, health and housing. The party first needs to settle upon a revenue target, and then upon the fiscal instruments it will use to achieve it.

These may include Income Tax, Land Tax, Inheritance Tax, Financial Transactions Tax, Carbon Tax, as well as a much stricter regime for extracting an appropriate level of taxation from New Zealand’s largest businesses.

Unquestionably, making the case for progressive taxation is the most important task faced by any left-wing political party.

The power of social-democratic politics lies in its refusal to allow the parties of the Right to escape the question that is so often put to the parties of the Left. “Where’s the money coming from?” The Right wagers everything on the ordinary voter not understanding the causal relationship between his or her own straightened circumstances and the ease and comfort of the rich. That’s why it is Labour’s political duty to point out the gaping hole in the Right’s policy framework.

Namely, that the wealth accumulated by the rich comes from the people, whose hard work created it, and to whom it is only right and proper that a fair share be returned.

There’s as many ideas on what ‘a fair share’ means as there are on what ‘progressive’ means.

Trotter’s ‘progressive’ tax ideas seem to be a bit doublespeaky.

“Care for people rather than the economy”

There was an interesting line up on Q & A this morning, with a repeated theme of people versus corporations and the economy.

First Tim Groser was interviewed on the Government view on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Then Labour leader Andrew Little was interviewed, also about the TPPA. He said things like “our moral duty is to protect the interests of New Zealand citizens”, “we will legislate to protect New Zealanders” and “I’ve got to make judgement calls on what’s the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders”.

On the panel were two who were pro-TPPA – international relations specialist from Auckland Uni Dr Stephen Hoadley and Government Relations Consultant Charles Finney.

Also on the panel was Helen Kelly, President of Council of Trade Unions, who was against the TPPA, seeing it as corporations versus people/workers.

If you think the economy is just existing for corporations and they should be able to do whatever they like  without Governments actually being able to put in restrictions or make laws that are in the the interests of New Zealand people then you might say that these sorts of deals are ok.

Curiously, following this, there was an interview of someone also pushing people versus the economy lines. Greg Presland has posted about this at The Standard.

Anat Shenker-Osorio on the creation of left metaphors

Communications Anat Shenker-Osorio has some simple messages for Labour in its quest for Government.  The left’s strongest advantage is its care for people rather than the economy and the message that will resonate is a positive one emphasising the care of people and the environment.

For unions she proposed that it should be emphasised that they are not somewhat dated third parties but a collection of people.

“We have a better brand.

“Our brand is that we love people and we are on the side of people and we are on the side of the nation and we just need to stop having the argument about who loves the economy best.”

If you want a flavour of her approach to politics and her scathing critique of the current infatuation of some with “middle ground” or “third way” politics then the video below provides this. Basically her message is that the left should engage the base, persuade the middle rather than cater to them and if it is not alienating the right it is not doing things properly.

Shenker-Osorio is in New Zealand to give a talk to the CTU Conference.

So Q & A had a triple hit on people versus the economy:

  • A staunch Unionist
  • A Unionist who has become leader of the Labour Party
  • A communications expert, researcher and political pundit 

Anat Shenker-Osorio is a communications expert, researcher and political pundit whose one-of-a-kind work is challenging the way dozens of organizations and political figures talk about the most pressing issues of our time.  She’s the author of the acclaimed book“Don’t Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy.”

http://www.asocommunications.com/html/

What Little, Kelly and Shenker-Osorio all failed to acknowledge (and possibly understand) is that a healthy economy is good for workers and for people in general. There is a very close relationship between the health of the economy and the well being of and opportunities for people.

Playing the economy versus people line might fools some of the people some of the time but most of those people may be the ideological players rather than the voters.

Incidentally I wasn’t very impressed with Shenker-Osorio but you can make up your own mind if you missed her this morning on Q & A:

Video: Expert advice for the political left (7:54) 

Anat Shenker Osorio, an expert in the science of linguistics who helps left wing or progressive organisations to help them target their political conmunication.

Shenker-Osorio