Christine Dann and the NZ left

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Apr 29 21:13:37 MDT 2002


Tom writes:
>Anything you would like to share or discuss about NZ and your work there I
>would certainly be willing to share some of my ideas on how to make things
>better.

First on Christine Dann:
As Jurriaan, who was involved in a personal relationship with Christine
Dann, notes she is now a Green feminist.  But for many years she described
herself as a socialist feminist (70s and 80s).  She was a writer for the
feminist monthly 'Broadsheet' for some years in the late 70s/early 80s.
('Broadsheet' went out of existence around 1997.)  She was involved in the
anti-Vietnam War, women's (and, I think, anti-apartheid) movements in
Christchurch in the 70s, before moving to Auckland.  Obviously, judging
from what Jurriaan says, she has left socialism far behind.  This would fit
in with the general ideological position of the Greens here.  Although
there are some Green MPs from hard-left backgrounds - longtime Stalinist
Sue Bradford and longtime Trotskyist Keith Locke are both now Green MPs -
these people have long since eschewed their old ideas about revolution.
Indeed, since Keith is someone I've known on and off for many years and
have a strong personal liking for, it is very sad to see the way he has
become an advocate of 'humanitarian' imperialism in the form of world
courts and so on to try Third World leaders who the West have targeted (eg
Milosevic).

Last September, shortly after Sept 11, there was a day event organised here
at Canterbury University by the student paper, the chaplain and other
well-intentioned liberal people.  One of the sessions featured Keith
speaking about alternatives to war on Afghanistan, and he advocated the
extension of the powers of the UN and world courts and so on.  I gave him
quite a hard time in the question period, but he came over after this
session and sat down with me and we nattered away about this and that.  But
although we still get well enough on a personal level, I find it
disappointing and kind of pathetic that Keith now advocates what he once
knew was a load of reactionary rubbish.  And he and Sue Bradford are
probably the best of the Greens!

The NZ political scene is kind of weird.  Political correctness is the
ruling ideology here and we have a sort of capitalist matriarchy at the
political level.  The head of state (the queen) is a woman, the prime
minister is a woman, the commander-in-chief of the armed froces is a woman,
the chief justice is a woman, the attorney-general is a woman, the CEO of
the largest company is a woman, the CEO of the Employers Federation is a
woman, etc etc etc.  PC has long since replaced traditional conservatism
and moralism as the dominant ideology of the ruling class.

This has back-footed a lot of the left which underestimated the way in
which capitalism could *incorporate* as well as exclude.

For instance, the substantial expansion of the numbers of women, Maori,
gays etc in positions of power has not been the result of mass radical
movements forcing openings - rather it coincided with neo-liberal economics
and the demise of the old social movements.  Free market ideologues here
were social liberals on questions of women's, Maori, gay etc rights.
Again, all this has confused a lot of the far left here.

A lot of the far left was also confused by the Labour government of the
1980s.  They called for voting Labour and suddenly found that they were
confronted not with the usual run-of-the-mill social democratic government,
but with a government that made Thatcher look like a wet pinko by comparion
in economic policy.  The only group which really had a handle on this was
the one which Jurriaan Bendien was a leader of at the time and which did a
lot of valuable analysis and also tried to organise a Socialist Alliance of
far-left forces to challenge Labour (this was back in 1987).

Although Jurriaan and I have a number of differences and 'revolution' has
no connection with Jurriaan's old (long defunct) group - ie none of us were
involved in it - I like to think that we continue the most positive
elements of that group and we've republished some of its material.  They
were certainly the most impressive group intellectually, and in some of
what they tried to do organisationally, in the 1980s in NZ.

At present the small circle of people around 'revolution' are mainly
involved in MIdEast solidarity work and we also work closely with a pro-Mao
group called the Workers Party.  We have a joint election campaign, called
the Anti-Capitalist Alliance, based around a 6-pt programme, in Wellington
(the only place where we both exist; they are mainly Auckland and we are
mainly Christchurch) our comrades actually meet jointly rather than
separately, and we are looking at various other ways of co-operating.
Although we certainly have differences, these tend to be historical (the
whole Trotsky/Stalin thing, plus Mao).  We seem to agree on one thing after
another in terms of contemporary world and NZ politics, so have a very good
working relationship and are even becoming quite good mates.

Philip Ferguson


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