Sunday, 25 March 2018

A Staunch Warning to the Green Party

Julie Anne Genter’s comments last Thursday about older white men on company boards needing to ‘move on’ to make way for younger, ‘more diverse’ talent has cemented my position that Marama Davidson should be the Green Party female co-leader and not her.

I essentially take Genter’s comments, made as Minister for Women, to demonstrate that under the leadership of her and James Shaw, the Green Party will drift rightward to essentially be the identity-left, particularist complement to Labour’s increasing pivot to universalism. It will become a party singularly focused on diversifying the elite strata of society in finance, commerce and politics, whilst having to give up to Labour’s ransom the more radical elements of their economic and social programme.

The only reliable base for the particularist remainder of Green politics is what I call the ‘liberal-left’, a predominantly urban, cosmopolitan, middle-class political grouping that bases its ideology on an increasingly radicalised ontological form of the now largely obsolete ‘new social movements’ of the 1960s and 70s. Unfortunately, however, the ‘liberal-left’ is fast converging on the old, tired battle lines once occupied by the cold and uncaring Stalinist and Maoist authoritarians, where ideas from which, as many are now realising, have an easily freed up place within capitalist bureaucracies. It relies on self-elevated representatives or ‘voices’ to ‘speak’ for constituencies considered oppressed, which are schismatic and fragmented. It does this while weakly placating the class antagonisms of capitalism with various disorganised reforms, or at worst ignoring class politics altogether. Instead, the diversification of the capitalist elite is considered a legitimate issue by ‘intersectional’ feminists, which is increasingly becoming liberal feminism recoded. The issue is wrongly considered by followers of this popular but vague sociological analytic as one that sits in the ‘intersection’ between class and gender. Such thinking is reflective of how much of the Left currently misdefines class politics as either an identity issue or directly correspondent to a classical liberal notion of ‘opportunity’. The attendant relativism that goes along with this is not only intellectually sloppy and lazy, but also invites the inversion into the censorious authoritarianism I have just mentioned.

Contrary to what certain Green Party members might believe, the issue of whether company boards are more or less ‘diverse’ is not a left-wing one in any sense. The term ‘diverse’ in itself is fast becoming a pervasive and condescending shorthand for anyone who is not a white male, and has sinister and weird connotations that seem to have escaped the usually panoptic eyes of liberals on these matters. The inclusion of the term everywhere in the commercial and corporate orbit of human resourcing signifies the almost total incorporation of identity politics into the macro-structural tendencies of capitalism. Genter’s call is what I have previously called an ‘attitude adjustment’ reform option, based on a ridiculous belief that immense social change would occur if only more women and less white men were on company boards. Not only is this belief untrue, it commonly relies on spurious gender-based stereotypes (which feminists berate others for as sexism) such as the trope that women would be more caring in positions of power, or that they can manage finances better, like they once used to in the domestic realm. It confirms for many sceptical Marxian or otherwise anti-identity leftists, who are/were very often sympathetic to feminist ideas, that feminism today for the mainstream left has become entirely focused on the women who matter to capitalism: the corporate world and the middle-class.

By making these comments, Genter has also opened herself up to criticism from the Right. National Party leader Simon Bridges has pointed out that the Labour-NZ First coalition government has less women in Cabinet than under former Prime Minister Bill English, making her statement seem neatly like idle talk. And now a Conservative Party local board member in Christchurch has made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, saying he is “tired of the continual denigration and stereotyping of European males of older ages in politics and the media”. This opportunistic complaint on behalf of rich men nonetheless plays to the very real exhaustion that working-class ‘white’ people currently have with liberal-left finger-waggling and virtue signalling.

While I like Julie Anne Genter and have commented positively, among other things, on her skill at articulating complex policy to laypeople in the past, this is undoubtedly a misjudged comment from a minister in a government that I have rapidly receding patience for. Marama Davidson by contrast has run what I see as a largely grassroots campaign and seems to somewhat represent a left-wing faction of the Green Party that will not get as mired in the diversification of company boards and other elitist marginalia as the more right-wing factions inevitably will. Identity politics has done and will do nothing to stem the increasing entrenchment of class divisions in society. The class-focused, socialist sections of the left must urgently make a case for why the liberal-left’s unstable hegemony must be usurped – for liberal-left politics is a solipsism that will achieve nothing other than the empowerment of the currently surging neo-fascist and conservative elements of the ‘anti-establishment’ Right.