Twink Revolution

Marxism with Twink Characteristics

#GIRLBOSS !!! Stardust & “Substance” Abuse: New Zealand’s Neoliberal State of Mind

43 min read
Jacinda Ardern, #Girlboss. (Credit: Governor-General of New Zealand, CC BY 4.0)

“Can we count on your vote this election?”

There’s nothing worse than being woken up by a phone call; that might be the millennial cultural imperialism worms burrowing further into my brain—but a phone call genuinely feels like an attack on my bodily autonomy. If you have to contact me, message me on Instagram. Don’t text me. Don’t email me. Ideally, I don’t want anybody to contact me at all. Nobody is entitled to my time—except me. Yet somehow, the other day, I found myself waking up to a phone call from a Green Party volunteer. For some unbeknownst reason, I answered but felt deep regret once I heard the enthusiastic voice of a young eco-fascist asking me, “Can we count on your vote this election?”

Election season is a living nightmare. I hate having to decide who to vote for, feeling like I have to vote—being told who I should vote for. I resent even having to vote at all, I’d rather go to McDonald’s. I hate the hoardings. I hate people defacing hoardings thinking that it’s oh so amusing when it’s utterly pathetic and unfunny. I hate mailers. I hate flipping through my Instagram stories, full of absolute libtards saying the darndest things. I hate the news. I hate the nonsensical media cycle, I don’t want to know what cafés the candidates go to. I don’t care. I despise the never-ending parade of admiration for the neoliberal shill Jacinda Ardern, here and from overseas. But more than all of that, I hate the immature oppositional defiance it brings out in me. The narcissist within begs me to have a more “unique” take but I can’t stop screaming on the street about how all politicians are bastards, too!

More often than not New Zealand elections are pretty methed out; it becomes very tiring after a while. Our center-right party, National, changed leaders three times in the “lead-up” to the election—originally planned for September 19th, then rescheduled to October 17th, being pushed back due to the re-emergence of Covid-19 in Auckland. Just that already gives me a headache, not even considering the fact that Ardern’s Labour party won an outright majority in a representative democratic system designed to make that next to impossible.

I was spurred on to write this by the twinks’ interest in a left critique of golden girl Jacinda Ardern’s “progressive” bonafides. The thing is, I just really don’t think she’s that interesting. I don’t know how anybody can find her horse-face charming—or can stomach it long enough to make a worthwhile critique,1“Worthwhile” being subjective. yet I am doing so. While the theatre of the election season steroids up the minor ideological quibbles between the parliamentary parties, in the day-to-day reality of governing, New Zealand politics are rather end of history. Even in this unlosable election, Ardern’s Labour party has refused to campaign on any substantial new policy,2At first they refused to campaign on any new policy, however slightly adjusted that stance over time. despite having the mandate to truly transform New Zealand. 

To put it this way—Joe Biden is further left than Ardern. See Biden’s plan for strengthening unions, worker protections, and permanent increased pay for frontline staff during coronavirus, meanwhile, Ardern’s government has completely ignored the huge organizing efforts by teachers and nurses and ended hazard pay bonuses for frontline staff, those most at risk of COVID-19.

New Zealand also happens to have a robust reputation as a tax haven, inspired by the nearby Asian Tigers and the much further away but circumstantially similar Celtic Tiger; like Ireland, foreign trusts in New Zealand are not subject to any tax. Ardern’s Labour party has no plans to change that, although they do want to apply a new top income tax rate of 39% which would cut in at $180,000, making for a total of only five income tax brackets—Biden’s rate of 39.6% would only apply at $400,000 and above—but at least it’s 0.6 percentage points higher, I guess. Sigh. 

As I’ve stated before individual income tax is a distraction to take the heat off other policies empowering the “tax haven state.” There’s still a significant argument to be made that New Zealand needs more income tax brackets for even higher earners, let alone the need for robust taxation of private entities. However, it still seems inept to tax someone who makes $180,000 at the same amount as millionaires and billionaires. In a New Zealand context it’s also rather embarrassing considering father of the New Zealand welfare state Michael Joseph Savage’s impressive tax policy and later Prime Minister Robert Muldoon’s top income tax rate of 66%;3You have to understand Muldoon was a libra, he is a subject entirely constructed by the ideology of the zodiac—therefore he cannot be blamed for the failure of his shit hot and very sexy tax policy. No libra can hold any individual responsibility, unlike say, scorpios. even compared to the last Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark, it’s pathetic—as Max Rashbrooke pointed out on Twitter: 

And in relation to Māori (the indigenous people of New Zealand), she’s been far more incompetent than the much-maligned Clark, who now only weighs in on New Zealand affairs when it has to do with our classical music station, giving deeply embarrassing takes and putting outsized import on a non-issue. Most notably, In 2004, Clark introduced the Foreshore and Seabed Act, which removed the right of mana whenua to claim ownership of their land on the foreshore and seabed through the legal system. This legislation caused protests to break out across the country and forced a schism in her own party, with several MPs defecting to create the Māori Party. This legislation spearheaded by Clark, among other missteps, drained much of the faith in Labour and ensured the following nine years of a National government—who were able to leverage the Māori party’s distrust of Labour—among other parties—to form a minority coalition that lasted a decade. This is all very ironic considering Clark became the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme when the United Nations (yes, that very same globalist shill organization the United Nations) issued a report stating that the foreshore and seabed legislation discriminated against Māori. More hypocritical still, when you consider Clark also vied for the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations.

It’s likely because of the precedent set by Clark that Ardern has taken to the bizarre strategy of refraining from substantial engagement with Māori. As such she comes across as incredibly patronizing and condescending when she does the obligatory marae visit while wearing korowai and adorned with pounamu—yet won’t visit Ihumātao, clearly too touchy of a subject for her, afraid that taking a concrete stance on it will lose Labour votes. Ihumātao is land in Auckland, a sacred area of early migration to New Zealand by Māori, that was needlessly set to be the site of a housing development in 2016 by the previous National government—a project that Labour decided to continue on with. This development is to be undertaken by Fletcher Building (a company that should really be nationalized, though under Ardern that wouldn’t stop it from being any less evil or racist). Since 2016 the land has been the site of occupation by hapū, iwi, and various other invested groups. While Fletcher Building has somewhat backed off from their most extreme actions against the occupation, the government has yet to return the land to mana whenua, nor has Ardern even met the extremely moderate demand of the leaders of the occupation (SOUL—Save Our Unique Landscape), to just visit Ihumātao. At this point, it seems more likely that the new leader of National, “sick of being demonized” for her ethnicity Judith Collins (a.k.a. JuCo à la BoJo), will visit Ihumātao before Ardern. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had already and I was just unaware of it. Fanonpilled Judith. 

This is all not to even mention the Ministry for Children: Child, Youth, and Family, colloquially known by the acronym CYFs; recently rebranded by Ardern’s government as Oranga Tamariki. I refuse to refer to CYFs as Oranga Tamariki since it is a transparent, two-faced attempt to improve the reputation of an arm of the state that has actively worked against Māori since its inception. In 2019 Newsroom published a video story documenting CYFs’ racial profiling, “uplifting” as many as three Māori and Pasifika children from their mothers per week. New Zealand is quite a small country, the number of Māori being even smaller, so that’s a hefty percentage of Māori children being uplifted. Infants were being taken by the state, sometimes a mere few hours after the child had been born; with CYFs utilizing outsized force by police to do so, despite it obviously not being needed in a hospital. The cruelest thing about this all is that Māori are being deemed unfit to provide for their children by a state that is unfit to provide for them, being the very same system that had displaced and alienated them, stole their land and forced them to assimilate into a free-market ideology, while providing nothing in return. As such I find the suggestion that the police should in any way be replaced with social workers to be deeply offensive when the distinctions between the two are already indistinguishable—it is an incredibly middle-class conception of the role social workers play in society, completely divorced from reality. Ardern never watched the video report by Newsroom, later upholding and defending her decision not to—a weird political move, if I’ve ever seen one. We continue to hear vague epithets about substantial change within CYFs but nothing of substance has seemed to happen.

Just Another Fucking Aucklander

However, let’s put this all to the side for a second because Jacinda Ardern isn’t the only prophet of the meaningless #girlboss agenda within our house of representatives (which by the way is an exact architectural replica of the U.K.’s house of commons—creepy). The key to understanding the current neoliberal state of the nation is Chlöe Swarbrick. Swarbrick, a Green Party candidate, became a member of parliament at the ripe age of 23 after a high-profile campaign for the mayoralty of Auckland—later running for the Auckland Central electorate and subsequently winning it in the 2020 election. The space in which she exists is very similar to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.4Previous MP for the Auckland Central electorate, Sandra Lee, compared Swarbrick to AOC on prominent New Zealand political podcast Gone By Lunchtime the morning after the 2020 election. That is to say, she pushes a very specific narrative of herself, which on closer inspection doesn’t hold up. 

While studying Law and Philosophy at the University of Auckland, Swarbrick was employed at bFM, the student radio station serving the Auckland area. Quoting from her Green party website profile, this is when Swarbrick in “interviewing politicians of all stripes on daily issues . . . found that too often they had become out of sync with the orbit of everyday people’s lives. She couldn’t see herself, her friends, or her whānau in politics.” I used to work at the student radio station in my hometown, my first job out of high school—in fact, I dropped out of high school for it. A decision I regret because radio is depressing and I got in trouble for playing Carly Rae Jepsen too often—which in hindsight was kinda homophobic but anyway—when I was interviewing politicians5If you search hard enough I’m sure you can find some old recordings and videos of me but don’t because it’s a source of deep trauma that I will weaponize to cancel you on Twitter <3. and the like, I was never under any impression that they were at all “in-sync with the orbit of everyday people’s lives” because I had never believed that. This is an important distinction. Swarbrick had, and continues to have, a fundamental belief in the validity of our bourgeoisie government—because parliament reflects her class interests. What Swarbrick wants is a political system of tokens because she confuses aesthetic “diversity” with genuine economic progressivism for the betterment of everyone, a universal emancipatory project if you will—yet, that’s not surprising when you note the many business ventures she’s been a part of at a very young age. As such, she has a vested interest in private capital which is at odds with the interests of the average New Zealander.

First, at eighteen she started a fashion brand, “The Lucid Collective” (horrendous name, bordering on hate crime) with then-partner Alex Bartley Catt. The Lucid Collective was relatively successful, stocked across New Zealand’s urban centers, holding a show during New Zealand Fashion Week at dealer art gallery, Gow Langsford, in 2014 and also participating in the “Youthquake” exhibition at the New Zealand Fashion Museum. I am reminded of the fashion students at my own university, many with their own bourgeois bonafides who would still kill for such opportunities. Think about what type of 18-year-old has the capital to launch a fashion brand that gains that type of prevalence so quickly. When I was a teenager working in student radio I was on a minimum wage part-time contract, making barely over $300 a week after tax. In 2015, Swarbrick was also an owner of a niche magazine, “What’s Good,” from which she launched a pop-up store, The Goods, on Auckland’s Karangahape Road, a central street—in the CBD of New Zealand’s most expensive city. That same year, Swarbrick was deemed a local hero by the New Zealander of the Year awards—all this while she was still studying. In 2016, Swarbrick and Bartley Catt started an artist management agency called TIPS and opened a gallery/café called Olly. Notably, 2016 was also the year she ran for the Auckland mayoralty. 

Hmmm. Interesting.  

Swarbrick ran her campaign on the idea of being this youthful, upstart, disrupting the old fart bureaucracy of local government and doing it on a dime, “I have next to no funding, next to no resources behind my campaign.” I find that hard to believe from an (at the time) 22-year-old, who’d put capital into four distinct businesses. That brand has definitely worked for her, despite being obviously untrue. In this VICE article, Swarbrick denounces the accusations of being an “entitled middle-class careerist,” stating that, “I’m definitely privileged insofar that I’m Pākehā . . . I’m university educated. Dad taught me to be articulate and taught me to argue—but we’ve fought for everything.” A paragraph later she talks about her youth in London and then after her parents divorced, her life growing up in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, where:

The family lived in a compound surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire, guarded by men with AK-47s; outside the complex was “real, very serious poverty.” She once saw a dead dog on the side of the road, its flesh stripped for meat. Her seventh birthday party was canceled because of rioting and political unrest.

What type of money does it take to live in a compound guarded by men with AK-47s? Moreover, Swarbrick saw a dead dog once and her seventh birthday was canceled because of rioting? Cry me a river. And I quote, “but we’ve fought for everything.” I’ll kill a dog with my bare hands for its meat. Nom nom. Swarbrick better hope she’s not that dog. 

Later in the piece, Swarbrick reveals,

“When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, her father, who works in finance, lost everything, and Swarbrick felt she had to fend for herself even as she descended into depression.”

Lightbulb. Keyword: “Finance.” And I quote again, “but we’ve fought for everything.” Swarbrick is the typical bourgeois Aucklander, of which I know many, and feel zero empathy for any of them. Her father should have lost everything, he’s obviously a wealth criminal—but considering Swarbrick started an upscale fashion brand at 18, it’s clear he didn’t. I also find this “leaning in” to her struggle with mental health to be disingenuous. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t shed a tear if Chlöe Swarbrick offed herself tomorrow, but she would never because her death won’t help the expansion of her personal brand, the growth of her own capital (at least not yet anyway, I wouldn’t put it past her if it became a viable business decision). 

Required here is an examination of the Greens’ mental health policy. Pre-election Labour was in a coalition government with New Zealand First, an authoritarian state-interventionist party, often vilified as right-wing extremists for their restrictive views on immigration (which in actuality are not too dissimilar from both the Greens and Labour) and outwardly hostile, racist opinions spouted by its MPs—though their economic policy is more often than not far to the left of both the Greens and Labour. Labour and New Zealand First did not have enough seats among them to hold the balance of power. They required the support of another party—of which only the Greens fit the bill—but NZ First refused to go into a formal coalition with the Greens—due to their inherent ideological differences—and so they signed a confidence and supply agreement wherein they became more “informal” coalition partners. In that agreement, the party won a promise of free counseling for under-25-year-olds, seen as a substantial win by mental health advocates. Of course, there is a hierarchy of mental health professionals, at which counselors come towards the bottom and so are completely unequipped to deal with a mass wave of children dealing with intense psychological distress at the fear of a future of diminishing economic prospects and downwards mobility—even more so in a world where they literally cannot leave New Zealand to find work—not that one should even have to leave their home to make a living—another failure of neoliberal hegemony. This precarity is not something Swarbrick has experienced or possibly could have, becoming an MP at 23, alongside her father being a wealth criminal and all. Perhaps it’s fair to suggest she is uniquely ill-equipped to be the Greens’ mental health spokesperson pushing for band-aid policies instead of actively trying to improve everybody’s material conditions—which of course she can’t do because it would threaten her various business ventures and therefore her class position. In his book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, Mark Fisher theorizes on the economic conditions behind the mental health epidemic:

Capitalist realism insists on treating mental health as if it were a natural fact, like weather (but, then again, weather is no longer a natural fact so much as a political-economic effect). In the 1960s and 1970s, radical theory and politics (Laing, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, etc.) coalesced around extreme mental conditions such as schizophrenia, arguing, for instance, that madness was not a natural, but a political, category. But what is needed now is a politicization of much more common disorders. Indeed, it is their very commonness which is the issue: in Britain, depression is now the condition that is most treated by the NHS. In his book The Selfish Capitalist, Oliver James has convincingly posited a correlation between rising rates of mental distress and the neoliberal mode of capitalism practiced in countries like Britain, the USA and Australia [and New Zealand]. In line with James’s claims, I want to argue that it is necessary to reframe the growing problem of stress (and distress) in capitalist societies. Instead of treating it as incumbent on individuals to resolve their own psychological distress, instead, that is, of accepting the vast privatization of stress that has taken place over the last thirty years, we need to ask: how has it become acceptable that so many people, and especially so many young people, are ill?

The other main points in the Greens’ “Youth Mental Health Plan” include: Increasing funding for youth mental health services; Funding more community initiatives in the health and education sector; Beginning a mental health inquiry and re-establishing the Mental Health Commission. These are all just completely airy-fairy—at least free counseling for under-25-year-olds is a real material clear plan that has been put into action, however spurious and ineffectual it may be. The Labour-NZ First-Greens government did inquiry after inquiry—there should be an inquiry into all their inquiries. As the Greens have completely cucked themselves over to Labour we have seen none of this funding truly happen. It’s a common critique lobbed at the Greens, that they’re too kind—they’re not tough enough and it’s a brand of politics that appeals to their voter base, so why change? And I don’t mean to fall into that trap because the problem isn’t that the Greens are too kind, that’s not their problem—the more pertinent critique is of their ideology. Take this excerpt from an opinion piece Swarbrick wrote for the NZ Herald, 

What we need is an approach that addresses all fronts. We need to tackle the root causes of the epidemic, we need to provide all New Zealanders with an environment where they can talk openly about their mental health . . . But Parliament cannot legislate an overnight culture change.

What the quote unquote “root causes” are is never defined; what is deemed most important here by Swarbrick is that which is out of the hands of parliament: “But Parliament cannot legislate an overnight culture change.” Swarbrick uses this liberal “culture” framework to place emphasis on individual responsibility. This logic pushes the onus of mental health onto the public—we must all change our individual behavior, that’s the way this all gets better—but it’s unequivocally not. Fisher continues:

It would be facile to argue that every single case of depression can be attributed to economic or political causes; but it is equally facile to maintain – as the dominant approaches to depression do – that the roots of all depression must always lie either in individual brain chemistry or in early childhood experiences. Most psychiatrists assume that mental illnesses such as depression are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, which can be treated by drugs. But most psychotherapy doesn’t address the social causation of mental illness either . . . It’s high time that the blame was placed elsewhere. We need to reverse the privatisation of stress and recognise that mental health is a political issue.

However, I know I shouldn’t really expect Swabrick to have a deeper understanding of political economy, that’s on me. While she studied both law and philosophy, the neoliberal institution of the modern university has no interest in teaching the intricacies of its own ideological conditioning. Her perspective lacks a nuanced understanding of political power. This is made explicitly clear in Swarbrick’s very own Tedx Talk, wherein Swarbrick starts by asking the audience what they think of when they think of a politician, ending with “probably not someone who looks like me.” The thing is Swarbrick is incredibly polished (remember she was a minimalist fashion designer), she has always dressed like a lawyer—whereas previous Green MPs like Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei have been raked over the coals for the way they present themselves. Unequivocally Swabrick looks like a politician—she plays into the aesthetic too hard and always has—so for her to frame herself as “out-of-the-ordinary” is incredibly dishonest. Swarbrick is the stereotype of a politician. She looks like a detective in a Scandinavian crime drama, Cop Chlöe. This is epitomized in her talk, an obscured call to political action:

To accept that [everybody has the right to be a politician] is to shatter assumptions and give up the illusion that politics is something done to us. Outside of us. Instead of for us or with us. To accept that all of us could be and perhaps should be politicians, is to accept accountability for the role that any and all of us can play in society.

The deeply unfortunate thing is that politics actually is something done to people. Politics is done to the working class; they cannot—should not—accept accountability for that. Nor any sort of accountability that they, as individuals, can bring about “meaningful” change. Through these redundant epithets, you can tell Swarbrick is desperate for the virality the Ted Talk brand can bring, seen in other talks with such dreary titles as Why Sitting Down Destroys You. This is all very sad and desperate but more importantly in her talk, Swarbrick reveals she is “a big fan of this philosopher John Rawls.” Swarbrick brings up Rawls and specifically his thought experiment, the “veil of ignorance,” regularly and often. Of course, Rawls is a moralist liberal philosopher and therefore there are many left critiques to be made of him. As Ed Quish writes in Jacobin (putting aside Jacobin’s truly insane self-own in this regard, for just one moment), 

The just society derived from Rawls’s famous thought experiment—where rational parties in an “original position” design a social contract unaware of their ultimate place in the society they create—largely mirrors the United States’ basic social, political, and legal institutions. Rawls’s basic theoretical approach risked buttressing the existing order by making it seem like the inevitable product of consensual reasoning—obscuring rather than clarifying political possibility.

Swarbrick argues that politicians should use the veil as a framework from which to design legislation, “but we have to demand and expect that they do that. We have to trust them to do it and be mad as hell if they don’t—to the point that we’ll vote them out, or stand, ourselves.” Yet again, the problem is that this is in no way different from the current liberal mainstream view. It’s personal responsibility repackaged as political solidarity; this type of “solidarity” being impossible under the ideological conditioning of the free-market. This third-way Blairism is a framework which Swarbrick utilizes constantly, take this line of reasoning she used in a debate with (now ex-)National MP Paula Bennett on the legalization of cannabis—one of two referendums which New Zealanders voted on alongside voting in the general election (the other referendum being on euthanasia, both topics which deserve their own separate anaylses):

What we are saying is that the age of 20-years-old is that that is a practical step which is measured to find that balance between personal responsibility and the age at which people can make informed, evidence-based decisions . . . We have to address the issue of personal responsibility at that certain point. So we have to find a balance between the science and when people have their brains developed enough, to pay attention to the evidence and to be educated and to make those educated decisions.

Here, yet again, Swarbrick fails to recognize the citizen as a constructed subject. It’s naive to assign education on the harm of weed to the individual—it reeks of the current liberal gospel to “educate yourself.” What Swarbrick wants is an enlightened world where we all make the moral decision “to do better.” This individualist thinking is epitomized in her own self-mythology: 

“but we’ve fought for everything.”

Swarbrick’s phrasing here comes off as absolutely distasteful, considering the Greens’ previous co-leader Metiria Turei’s admission last election, that she had committed benefit fraud by not declaring a flatmate to her caseworker—in order to have enough spare cash to feed her child, under the austere neoliberal dismantling of New Zealand’s welfare state. That election, Turei desperately fought to change the punishing welfare system—and at first, it paid off with the Greens polling in the high teens—for her to then be politically assassinated by the media. During which Swarbrick did not publicly stand by her. 

Every outlet in New Zealand dug into Turei’s life to prove she wasn’t “the most-deserving poor”—which Turei never said she was. Bringing up non-issues like the fact that she’d fudged her electoral details so she could vote for her friend—who was running as a joke candidate in the next electorate over from where Turei lived. Audrey Young of the NZ Herald, in an attempt to further demonize Turei, unashamedly wrote, “One of my colleagues spent several hours buried in the National Library this week trying to track down her flatmates from that time.” Absolutely psychotic behavior! Especially considering that, at that point, Turei’s political career was already dead in the water. She had no real choice but to resign—nobody can survive that amount of scrutiny. The liberal media was getting off on beating a dead horse because for a single second Turei represented a real threat to the current political economy, capturing a groundswell of support similar to Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. 

Of course, like all politicians I have my quibbles here-and-there with Turei’s politics—for one, she’s a self-described anarchist—but it was so painful to see her party colleagues fail to defend her when just for a moment she was the answer. I remember watching that live stream where Turei announced her plan to completely overhaul the welfare system. She was the stardust, the substance—so often wrongly ascribed to Ardern. Not to be totally corny, but I watched Turei’s announcement in tears like I’m sure so many others did too. It’s still deeply painful to think about. It’s all the more saddening, considering that Ardern requested Turei rule herself out of a cabinet position, or she would do it herself—hammering in the last nail, making Turei’s position as co-leader completely untenable. Suffice to say, it’s not like Turei was committing tax fraud to start, say—I don’t know—a fashion brand

Of course, Swarbrick does not represent the entirety of the Greens. She is undeniably aligned with the right of the party and there have been efforts by the small—but vocal—left of the party to oust her, as well as Shaw and several other members that are viewed as “right-wing”. Yet Swarbrick is a force that cannot be stopped. Prior to the ousting of Metiria Turei, Swarbrick was initially drafted on the Greens 2017 list at number 13, then number 9, and after Turei’s political assassination jumped to number 7, ensuring her seat in Parliament, being several spots higher than sitting MPs Mojo Mathers and Barry Coates and far more qualified—and radical— candidates like Teanau Tuiono. Now, in 2020, Swarbrick sits at number three on the list, just below the two co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson. At this point, being the only MP to have won an electorate, Swarbrick is cemented as a leading force in the party, pushing it further and further to the right. Her profile is far above the leaders of her own party, she has even started being included in preferred prime minister polls, polling higher than the previous deputy prime minister Winston Peters, leader of NZ First. Swarbrick has the third largest social media following of any New Zealand politician, though it is dwarfed by Ardern—not that social media counts for shit.

Think Big!

In essentially forcing Turei to resign completely from politics, Jacinda Ardern played the most fundamental part in destroying a genuine “Left” movement in New Zealand, the straw that broke the kiwi’s back, as it were. And now while New Zealand’s Labour party has roots in unabashed socialism, over time it became watered-down into a more social-democratic style party. The oil crises of the 70s, alongside the U.K.’s entry into the European Union’s single market, had drastic effects on New Zealand’s economy—which was terribly managed by the drunkard Muldoon, who held both the Prime Ministership and the finance ministerial portfolio, giving him outsized control on country’s economy, putting in place extremely tight regulations resulting in the nickname “Fortress New Zealand.” Which, not to sound ableist, could’ve been good, if he wasn’t a raging alcoholic—instead Muldoon invested in a series of increasingly bizarre projects of niche infrastructure, branded as “Think Big!” These projects racked up a large external deficit, further destabilizing the country’s economy. 

When Labour won the 1984 election, the country was in a state of depression; while in depressions past left governments had enacted socialist reforms, in the 80s New Zealand had globalist free-market organizations, like the IMF, breathing down its neck. Labour’s new leader, the affable David Lange,6David Lange was kinda hot. Bears—not girls—rule the world, sorry Beyoncé—but walk into any opshop (in the cringe American dialect: “thrift store”) and you’re guaranteed to see one, if not two, or even three copies of his autobiography My Life. was extremely gullible and easily manipulated by the right of the party, led by the neoliberal radical Roger Douglas—who took the finance minister position and drastically changed New Zealand, deregulating the economy, selling off state assets and privatizing as many state services as he could. This methodology was continued by the subsequent National government, who succumbed to much of the unrest by holding a complicated series of referendums on electoral reform. This resulted in our current system, MMP (mixed-member proportional) as opposed to first-past-the-post, wherein we have two votes; one for our constituency and one for a party. MMP is most famously used in Germany, with similar systems used in the Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections, among other countries. 

Nobody wants to say it, but representational systems like MMP act to enforce the status quo. It is impossible to be truly radical under such systems. If New Zealand had MMP prior to the Lange Labour government, Rogernomics would’ve been completely impossible to pass through. MMP pushes everybody to the center. There is no discernable difference between Labour and National and no ability to push either party away from the center. Minor parties must move closer to the center to seem like a sensible option, as has happened with the Greens and ACT. When New Zealand moved to an MMP System, the neoliberal hegemony had already existed for a decade, all MMP did was cement it as the status quo. This is epitomized by Angela Merkel, the perfect neoliberal centrist politician. Under MMP, If you want electoral success, you can’t sway too drastically from the center. When radical parties make it into government, it’s via coalition with other centrist parties and so any transformative policies can never make it past the merry-go-around of liberal political cuckoldry. 

Li’l Cindy from Morrinsville

The 2017 election was a tumultuous time. Labour was polling around 20% and in a last-ditch effort to gain more support switched leaders eight weeks out from the election date, leading to Cindy’s ascension. The previous leader, Andrew Little, was absolutely devoid of any personality. Watching him speak is like looking into a black hole. So, you can imagine he wasn’t very popular. The switch from Little to Ardern was a blast of fresh air, even though I’d argue Ardern is also rather milquetoast. Yet, contextually she was a big step up that convinced many ex-supporters and those wavering in their support to come back into the fore and come back hard

As explained, Labour’s current liberalization meant that in the campaign Jacinda’s gender was able to be utilized in appealing to their voter base. In her first few prime-time interviews, a day into her Labour leadership, Ardern was asked twice if she was planning on having children in office should she become prime minister. A clip went viral of Ardern volleying with AM Show host Mark Richardson after he stated he felt employers have the right to ask that in a job interview. Ardern did actually end up having a child while in office, only the second woman to do so. I didn’t care for this saga, it was all just cringe celebrity farce, another win for liberal identity politics, another loss for communism. Ardern has had moment after moment of banger interview clips like that, winning her supporters from across the divide. This ensuing surge in support and attention came to be labeled as “Jacindamania.” 

The domestic disease of Jacindamania, continued to spread overseas—much like coronavirus later would—when Cindy became prime minister. Praised for being the youngest female head of state at 37 years old and praised worldwide yet again when she gave birth while still in office to her child, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford. Naming her child Neve “Te Aroha” after the mountain near her hometown of Morrinsville and the Māori word for love, is yet another transparent optics move, in place of doing anything of substantial value for Māori. Fortunately for Ardern’s critics, Neve is a gemini. Just wait until she’s a teenager Cindy. Karma’s a bitch. 

One of the many resume fillers people point to when praising Ardern is her time as the president of the International Union of Socialist Youth. Historically associated with bourgeois socialism that split from the aims of workers, as youth wings are wont to do, today the IUSY functions as an NGO within the non-profit industrial complex, a social democracy shill organization funded by the EU. As the saying goes, the revolution will not be funded—and certainly not by the EU. Yet the assumption that Ardern really is a “socialist” looms over her. Winston Peters was just asked on the campaign trail if Jacinda was a marxist. Steve Elers, a lecturer in journalism, wrote a sham opinion piece of “insights into Ardern’s political ideology.” In said piece, Elers’ claims that Ardern’s use of the word ‘comrade’ “15 times in just seven minutes at this public event” is proof of the forthcoming communist revolution; I quote, “Oh, I get it now. Ardern and her comrades think it’s best that everyone is equal and this is achieved through securing a ‘redistribution of resources’”—I wish! I’ll also note that Elers’ article contains a broken link to a record of an ISUY meeting from which he lobs his inaccurate claim that “Ardern and her comrades said: ‘Human beings are born with unequal resources available. We as young socialists believe in a social democratic system which secures a redistribution of resources.’” For one, this man has a doctorate and yet cannot understand the difference between social democracy and communism; for another, I have no way to verify that Ardern said such a thing, it could have been just another one of her “comrades,” therefor who’s to say she’s ever really believed in even the most lukewarm systems of redistribution. Also, the recording of the public event he links to, is edited footage from the right-wing website The BFD—the new form of Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil, which was paid by the National party to publish hit pieces on their critics, as detailed in Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics; which current National party leader Judith Collins was neck-deep in—though it was a decade ago and as such this knowledge seems to have disappeared from public consciousness. Elers was backed up in the Otago Daily Times—by another imbecile who somehow clowned their way into getting a doctorate—Muriel Newman. Newman wrote in her recurring “state of house arrest” column that, 

our Prime Minister is again leading the world with bold measures. This time it’s not global warming, our nuclear free moment, nor closing down the oil and gas exploration industry. It is much more fundamental and potentially far more destructive. Jacinda Ardern is transforming New Zealand into a socialist state. 

As far as I’m concerned Ardern is barely a social democrat, as I outlined previously many of her policies are to the right of Joe Biden—Joe Biden, of all people! It is completely intellectually dishonest of these columnists to lean into this conspiracy narrative that Ardern is any sort of socialist. The ISUY is nothing more than a bunch of neoliberal careerists cosplaying as social democrats—barely Trotskyites. If she really were a revolutionary I would be singing her praises. The ISUY is a far cry from even the milquetoast “socialism” of NGOs like Jacobin. That all said, Jacinda Ardern is unequivocally not a Marxist. Perhaps if she was, her signaling around climate change being New Zealand’s nuclear-free moment of the 21st century would have resulted in substantial legislation put towards regulating its causation, rather than just banning plastic supermarket bags. 

In fact, Ardern even worked in Tony Blair’s office as the assistant director of the Better Regulation Executive—pretty much as anti-Marxist as you can get. Though she claims she never wanted to; I want to reiterate that she did. It’s difficult to stomach Ardern playing the broke post-college kid narrative in that linked profile—when she now runs New Zealand’s bourgeois parliament. The young Ardern, already on track for a promising political career, didn’t need to work under Blair. But, she did! I wonder why? Couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with bettering her career now could it? Ardern can moralize a breakfast news TV host’s opinion on employing would-be mothers, yet she can escape moral criticism from literally participating in Blair’s regime, as she was but a “tiny cog.”

In the pandemic, Ardern has had constant attacks lobbied at her governance by Donald Trump, yet it’s also clear for anyone to see that her government has done an effective job of halting the virus. After a recent second wave, her quick action in implementing a regional lockdown in Auckland has quickly gotten New Zealand back down to zero cases of community transmission. Props to Cindy tho, coz she’s never said: “orange man bad.” In fact, she does the most impressive dodging around the question of Trump (even when he baits her specifically) that it’s probably number one on the white radlib list of “bad things” they consider she’s done—or rather not done, in this case. Not condemning Trump under the exact moralist phrasing the libs demand is probably a wise political move, as it seems Trump can’t keep New Zealand out of his mouth either way, so best not poke the bear. Okay, accelerationists!?

Of course, Ardern’s coronavirus response was weighted down by her government’s neoliberal frame. As Branko Marcetic writes in Jacobin,

Tens of thousands have applied for the unemployment benefit at a rate of around a thousand a day, food demand at city missions quickly shot up by magnitudes of hundreds of percent—many of them people who had never needed help before—and unemployment is expected to hit double figures . . . The government’s economic response wasn’t nothing. Among other things, it put together a more than $10 billion wage subsidy scheme to prevent mass layoffs by businesses [but] with few requirements on the wage subsidy scheme, some of our largest firms with ample reserves to ride out the lockdown have taken advantage, pocketing government money while firing workers and cutting their wages. Particularly egregious has been Fletcher Building, which took at least $66 million from Kiwi taxpayers while forcing its workers to give up as much as 70 percent of their pay. Similar reports of workers being sacked, forced to accept pay cuts, or pressured into using sick or annual leave to survive abound. There has been widespread fraud and abuse of the scheme by businesses, with eight hundred complaints lodged in a mere nine days, with confusion and delays around the scheme pushing Kiwis into precarity.

Most egregious to me was Labour’s creation of a two-tiered benefit system. $490 a week for those who had lost their jobs but only after COVID-19’s rise in New Zealand. This is truly horrific considering unemployed youth are expected to survive on $213 a week. Ex-Greens MP Sue Bradford wrote on this policy in RNZ, calling it a “blatant case of discrimination against beneficiaries,” and that, “Labour has revealed once again its decades-long predilection for categorizing people into the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor.” After this announcement, the Greens introduced a welfare reform policy during their campaign that would set the base level of all welfare payments at $325—which for many would only be about $25 more than their current payments—a meager rise which it’s reasonable to expect Labour would institute regardless. This is deeply embarrassing considering Labour’s creation of a two-tiered scheme already proved that the cabinet doesn’t think the current benefit rates are adequate. More embarrassing when their preferred third coalition partner—over NZ First—the Māori Party, has the policy to double all welfare rates immediately. But of course, these niche hypocrisies of New Zealand’s current government add nothing of value to the magical Ardern celebrity narrative. Ken Loach I, Daniel Blake-style tragedies aren’t as commodifiable as mass shootings. Speaking of:

Spyro the Dragon 3 taught me ethno-nationalism

When the 2019 Christchurch Mosque shooting happened, Ardern’s rapid and empathetic response won her worldwide attention. The shooting led to her later initiation of the Christchurch Call, co-chaired by Ardern alongside French president Emmanuel Macron with the aim to “bring together countries and tech companies in an attempt to bring to an end the ability to use social media to organize and promote terrorism and violent extremism.” 

The Christchurch Call completely misses the context of the shooting. Brenton Tarrant only came to New Zealand because our gun laws are so much laxer than Australia’s. He could not have possibly undertaken the same action in Australia. New Zealand’s newer gun reform is still substantially looser than Australia’s. In lieu of a mass gun buyback (like Australia’s and not the half step Ardern took after the shooting) and increased restrictions on firearm licensing, the very same thing could easily happen again. Had New Zealand had stricter firearm controls in the first place it would never have happened, this is a failure of government—not proof that the alt-right can turn an average person into a mass shooter anywhere in the world. I understand it’s very trendy in left political circles at the moment to be very pro-gun, arm the proletariat! etc, etc.—I just want to put it out there that I’m not pro-firearms (nor am I “left”). This discourse around guns is dim-witted and accelerationist; it will only result in more needless deaths and if you hold that point of view it’s likely to be your own. 

Furthermore, the concept to “bring together countries and tech companies” is transparently liberal. How about no tech companies? The solution is not for these entities to work together, hand-in-hand, the solution is for nation-states to actively restrict and regulate them, if not to break them up and nationalize their infrastructure. For a start, Ardern’s government could make these tech companies pay tax in New Zealand. Although, she might lose Peter Thiel’s vote over it. Moreover, the idea that social media can “promote terrorism and violent extremism” turns a tragedy—bound up in materiality—into a puritanical culture fight, yet again divorced from reality. It’s politics as culture war. Herein is where I open up my PDF of Kill All Normies to find a fitting quote from Angela Nagle like a real writer:

“In this style of politics, what a political leader actually does often seems entirely secondary to what cultural politics they profess to have. In modern politics, liberal leaders are forgiven for drone bombing as long as they’re cool with gay marriage, while on the right, enacting policies that devastate families and stable communities was cheered on at any cost as long as it dealt a satisfying blow to the trade unions.”

Having a conference call with Mark Zuckerberg from a fancy hotel business center in Paris will not in any material way lessen the effects of white supremacy and racially motivated violence. But, oh ol’ Ardern is sticking it to ‘em, isn’t she? Aunt Cindy’s holding 4chan and Jordan Peterson accountable, I’m sure.

Ardern’s decision to not utter the shooter’s name—in order to not give him any of the infamy for which he yearned—encouraged several New Zealand publications to not even print his name in their reporting. Referring to him only as, “the shooter,” or “the man,” rendering the project of journalism moot. I’d argue that’d only spur on his peers more. Brenton Tarrant molded himself in the image of Norway domestic terrorist Anders Breivik; no such restrictions on Breivik’s name would have stopped Tarrant from doing so. 

Moreover, post the 2019 mosque shooting, Ardern allowed the New Zealand police to trial teams of armed police—in jurisdictions on the other side of the country from where the shooting happened, strategically covering areas of high Pasifika residency. There was widespread opposition to these trials before they’d even begun, as it’s clear from looking around the world that giving police guns doesn’t equal harm reduction. It’s no surprise that during the six-month-long trial three people were killed, one of these during our most restrictive lockdown measures when the police had been given near-unlimited powers to enforce such restrictions. The armed response team (ART) trials have since ended, coincidentally ending during the U.S. Black Lives Matter protests—wherein New Zealand protests died out after an unarmed officer was killed, a pretty uncommon occurrence here, which led to a nationwide cognitive dissonance putting a halt on our own contextual critique of racialized policing. While Ardern had made it clear she was opposed to the ART trials, she never did anything to stop them, saying the matter was an internal “operational” police issue. The Ardern government’s continuation of the neoliberal status quo will have led to an unknowable amount of deaths during their three years in power so far, but Ardern’s personal inaction on the ART trials can be explicitly linked to those three deaths.

Yet, such initiatives like the ART trials don’t get the worldwide press that other regulatory disasters have gotten like the Whakaari (White Island) eruption. Still, Ardern gets even more global praise for yet another quick and empathetic response, while the larger question remains around why regulation wasn’t in place to stop tours operating on an active volcano? In hindsight, it seems utterly cartoonish that any tourists were able to get close enough to Whakaari, to be harmed by it erupting. Nevertheless her celebrity status—spurred on by Stephen Colbert—impedes questioning while the corporate media honors and accolades continue. If Ardern’s Labour truly wants to be transformative and not just National in a different colored wig, then it’s going to take more than a write up in Forbes. That’s not the “substance” we were promised.

1 “Worthwhile” being subjective.
2 At first they refused to campaign on any new policy, however slightly adjusted that stance over time.
3 You have to understand Muldoon was a libra, he is a subject entirely constructed by the ideology of the zodiac—therefore he cannot be blamed for the failure of his shit hot and very sexy tax policy. No libra can hold any individual responsibility, unlike say, scorpios.
4 Previous MP for the Auckland Central electorate, Sandra Lee, compared Swarbrick to AOC on prominent New Zealand political podcast Gone By Lunchtime the morning after the 2020 election.
5 If you search hard enough I’m sure you can find some old recordings and videos of me but don’t because it’s a source of deep trauma that I will weaponize to cancel you on Twitter <3.
6 David Lange was kinda hot. Bears—not girls—rule the world, sorry Beyoncé—but walk into any opshop (in the cringe American dialect: “thrift store”) and you’re guaranteed to see one, if not two, or even three copies of his autobiography My Life.

Tags: greens, jacindamania, neoliberalism, new zealand, nzpol

JJ Harper JJ Harper (See all)
JJ is a writer and artist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, New Zealand. Instagram. Twitter

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