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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Comments on The Hollow Men by Nicky Hager

It is important to put the unprincipled and even unlawful 2005 election campaign tactics of the National Party into the historical context of the last twenty five to thirty years. This period saw the collapse of the "historic compromise" based on an a "long-term reconciliation with capitalism" by the working class represented by the Labour Party and trade unions. According to Bruce Jesson, this compromise had its origins in the first Labour Government elected in 1935.
The compromise had two sides to it and was embedded in a global context. Internationally, after WWII, there was an historical compromise struck between capital and labour. Its economic basis was the ‘Bretton Woods’ agreement that set up the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Its political basis was hammered out between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin in talks at Yalta at the end of WWII. The threat of revolution subsided and capitalism was stabilised.
This compromise suffered meltdown from the late 1960s under the pressure of declining profit rates. By 1980, in the words of Senegalese Marxist economist Samir Amin, "the new single thought" of capitalist ideology guiding and justifying government policies all over the world had changed from Keynesian economic interventionism and welfare-statism, to one directing policies aimed at "systematically dismantling the specific rights that had been achieved by the workers and lower classes" .
In New Zealand this took the form of the introduction of neo-liberal ideas and policies by the 1984-1990 Labour Government in a country hitherto rightly considered as a bastion of Keynesian Welfarism. The neo-liberal "New Zealand Experiment", as it is known, is perhaps definitively depicted by Jane Kelsey in her book with that title. Bruce Jesson and others, including myself, have extensively explored the co-option of that Labour Government to the ends of the neo-liberal project.
Wayne Hope's forthcoming review of The Hollow Men in RED & GREEN 6 points out that the 2005 election campaign conducted by National was comparable to the 1987 Labour campaign. They were both based on "new right corporate backing and the construction of a deceptive communications strategy".
The same could also be said of the successful election campaigns of Labour in 1984 and National in 1990. These Governments were both elected on platforms which espoused the conventional class-compromise policies of the post-WWII period, but were Trojan-horse vehicles for the implementation of economic policies that were straight out of the neo-liberal text books.
In 1984 Lange was elected to end the oppressive regime of Muldoon but his finance minister, Roger Douglas, led the charge to corporatise, deregulate and privatise the economy. The electorate was deceived. Similarly, Jim Bolger was elected in 1990 on the slogan of creating a "decent society’, but Ruth Richardson carried on the ‘Rogernomics’ agenda with benefit cuts, the anti-union Employment Contracts Act and the continued sell-out of state-owned assets to her private business backers. Again the voters were betrayed.
In all three cases the electors were conned by clever election campaigns that concealed the real agendas that were to be implemented after the elections. National in 2005 systematically set out to repeat the feat. The fact that they failed (only by a whisker) does not detract from the perfidy involved. Nicky Hager’s book reveals how Ruth Richardson and Roger Douglas were intimately involved in the far-right take-over of National by Don Brash.
MMP was supported in 1993 by an electorate who saw proportional parliamentary representation as a way of breaking the treacherous two-party election swindle that they had endured for a decade or more. However, it was one of the MMP parties that next let the voters down (in 1996) with Winston Peters’ NZ First enabling the National Party to continue in office despite having camapigned against National before the election.
The Alliance and a Helen Clark-led Labour Party finally got their game together and began to turn the new-right revolution around with their victory in the 1999 election. But rust and the new-right never sleep.
The far-right cabal of Deane, Shirtcliffe, Richwhite, Fay, Myers, Heatley, Friedlander, Foreman, Colman, Farmer, Trotter (Ron) and others like Kerr, Scott and Brash from Treasury have been actively promoting the Freidman/Hayek, "Washington Consensus" strategy for more than two and a half decades. Their projects include the infiltration of Treasury, the colonisation of the Labour Party, the campaign against MMP, the formation of the Act party to make best advantage of MMP, the Brash coup in the National Party, and support for his surrogate John Key.
Hager exposes the key roles of these and other players like Michael Bassett and the perhaps less known supporting roles of the likes of Margaret Austin and David Caygill. The New Zealand working class public has been subject to the Machiavellien machinations of these political plotters for far too long.
Nicky Hager describes the Brash challenge to be leader of National as "not so much a leadership coup as a political coup, in which a group of ACT Party and others from the radical right succeeded in gaining control of the National leadership... This coup set the stage for a two-year fight in which Brash and his backers from the 1980s and 1990s tried to regain control of government." The revelations of the shadowy intrigue behind the election attack-ads on the Greens and Labour by the Exclusive Brethren cult, and their links with Brash (that are more fully exposed in Hager’s book), probably stymied this attempt in 2005.
But we can be sure this right-wing group who comprise some of the richest and most powerful people in New Zealand, whose agenda is intensely anti-working class (using that term in its broadest sense), is still actively plotting and planning to take power in the next election if they can. It is crucial to stop this happening and the left can thank Nicky Hager for providing, with The Hollow Men, an important tool to help do this.
Brash lost the support of his big-business backers because he failed to win the election and because his cover was blown. Brash’s far-right credentials and support was exposed to the sunlight of public scrutiny.
The myth now being promoted by former Brash supporters like spin-manager Richard Long is that Key is a "centrist". To think that John Key offers a ‘softer’ alternative to Brash would be a mistake. His speech to the 2006 National Party annual conference showed his true politics. He called for lower taxes and attacked public spending, red tape and overly protective labour laws.
Commentator Chris Trotter called this speech "pure Business Roundtable-speak" and noted that Key was the natural successor to Brash – the insurance policy for the right wing.
As Hager comments, National will "continue along the same tracks" under Key. "It would continue with the same strategies, the same political alliances and the same hidden agendas." If Brash is the archetypal Hollow Man, then Key is Hollow Man 2.

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