Lobster on Neoliberalism’s Trashing of the Land of the Kiwi

lange-celebrating

David Lange, the Labour leader, who introduced Neoliberal economics into New Zealand, celebrating 1984 election victory.

Early this week in the post ‘Letter from Australia’ I republished Gathering Swallows comments on the way Abbott, the current premier of Australia, was introducing the same policies Down Under that are being used to destroy the welfare state over here, and attack the poor and working class. The same Neoliberal programme of privatisation and cuts to the health service and the welfare state was also carried out about two decades ago in New Zealand. The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, no. 31, for June 1996, pp. 34-5, carried a review of Economic Fundamentalism: A Laboratory Experiment by Jane Kelsey, a New Zealand law professor (Pluto Press: London 1996). It was an account of how a handful of bureaucrats and their supporters in New Zealand big business took control of the nation’s economic policies and imposed a mixture of Neoliberalism, Thatcherite privatisation of state assets at rock-bottom prices, and the type of restructuring schemes imposed by the IMF on developing nations.

The review describes just how bizarre these policies were, considering their background in American economic imperialism:

The oddity of what they did can’t be exaggerated. IMF restructuring programmes traditionally have been implemented at gun-point, imposed by the US-dominated IMF on developing countries with the ever-present threat of political action – from economic sanctions, through CIA subversion, up to full-blown coup in the background. They have to be imposed by force because they are simply schemes whereby the imperialist powers (until recently usually America) extract wealth from the Third World. Loan-sharking or extortion would describe them. In New Zealand, a bunch of true believers imposed this catastrophic nonsense on their own country.

Like Blair’s administration in Britain, this occurred under a Labour government. The review states that it was allowed to go on, because Labour politicians didn’t know enough about economics and opposition to these policies were divided. As in Britain, the Left was more concerned with opposition to nuclear weapons and feminism, while the unions failed to combat these policies. The policies also succeeded because the media, who really don’t know a thing about economics, absolutely believed everything that the businessmen and their economists told them, and then marginalised the opposition to them.

Lobster states

The result has been entirely predictable: less economic activity and/or depression, unemployment; massive redistribution from poor to rich, from manufacturing to money-lenders; massive rip-offs; destruction of unions, welfare state and health service; export of NZ capital, purchasing of NZ companies and former government assets by foreign capital.

Ramsay suspects there was a strong American influence controlling this somewhere. He notes that at the time there was a major effort by the Americans to counter the anti-nuclear stance of the New Zealand Labour Party and the trade unions at the time. Part of the programme of mass privatisation and destruction of the welfare state involved US-sponsored trips to America for New Zealand personnel. Again, there’s a parallel here in the way the British American Project and similar schemes has operated to influence and train up aspiring British political and industrial leaders, like Tony Blair.

The real responsibility for inflicting these policies on New Zealand lies not secret diplomacy by the US, but the uncritical adoption of Neoliberalism by New Zealand Labour politicians themselves. The review cites Bryan Gould’s description of meeting them in 1987 in his 1995 book, Goodbye to All That:

I recall a stimulating evening over dinner with [Labour Finance Minister] Roger Douglas and a group of “young Turks” from the Treasury. They had all the conviction of religious zealots. They were convinced they had found the Holy Grail and were seemingly unaware that their prescriptions had been tried and largely abandoned elsewhere.

Gould had been a British Labour politician, but was side-lined by New Labour, and as a result left politics to become a vice-chancellor at one of New Zealand’s Unis.

Throughout the world the same Neoliberal economic policies are being ruthlessly pursued, resulting in the destruction of welfare provision, massive unemployment and poverty amongst the lower middle and working classes, and the further, colossal enrichment of an extremely wealthy elite. This has happened not just because of Conservative administrations like Thatcher’s in the UK, but also through nominally left-wing parties, such as New Labour under Blair.

It’s high time this was stopped. It needs people across the world to learn from each other, and formulate a truly global campaign of resistance. For what’s being done elsewhere now, will be done here today.

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5 Responses to “Lobster on Neoliberalism’s Trashing of the Land of the Kiwi”

  1. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political.

  2. Florence Says:

    I heard this week that even in Denmark there were moves to reduce their benefits and effective redistributive tax & financial systems.

    How GLOBAL is global, and is nowhere safe from the NeoLiberals?

    • beastrabban Says:

      Even Denmark? That is really depressing. Mind you, when the BBC covered the Danish elections a little while ago, they said that even the Conservatives there weren’t as right-wing as they are over here, so that might be some consolation.

      • Florence Says:

        I have close relatives there, and they said that although nowhere near anything tried here, there was noises coming from the govt and parties and some reductions already in the pipeline. It is depressing, and I still ask, why is this happening, everywhere in the developed world? I would not normally include myself in the tin-hat conspiracy cul-de-sac of life, but really, what is happening, internationally?

  3. elentari98 Says:

    Reblogged this on elentari98.

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