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Speaker: The Fabians: There is an alternative

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  • Russell Brown,

    Start ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18513 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I applaud this initiative, for glaringly obvious reasons... but is it me or the title implies that there is an alternative to Fabianism?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Gio, yes, it is a very ambiguous title.

    Sticking to the topic, as it were, it's about bloody time. So much of the "debate" (for want of a better word, though it's pretty misleading) is, as Mike says, framed entirely in terms of "more of the same". Clearly "the same" isn't working, by any reasonable measure. The wage gap with Australia is increasing, to pick one easily-understood metric. Similarly we've seen universities introduce selective-entrance for all courses, even traditionally open ones such as BA, because funding to tertiary education is being slashed - to pay for tax cuts - despite all the rhetoric about needing a better-educated population.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3889 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Gio, yes, it is a very ambiguous title.

    Well it's too late to change it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18513 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Apologies for the simplification and the outsider's perspective, but it strikes me that the social democratic principles espoused by Fabians actually reflect the broad ideological bent of New Zealanders far more accurately than the recipe that the country has been sold by both major parties since Lange. Would anybody agree with that?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    I note that the Fabians have a long and distinguished history, having read Shelia Rowbottom's fine biography of Edward Carpenter, and following that Geoffrey Ashe's fantastic history "The Offbeat Radicals: The British Tradition of Alternative Dissent", both of which outlines the rollicking situations surrounding the birth of Fabianism.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 639 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Would anybody agree with that?

    Yes, with the caveat that people now expect all the nice social democratic safety net and public service without the corresponding levels of taxation. That particular discussion needs to be had ahead of pretty much anything else, IMO. Until we've decided which of the two trade-offs we wish to pursue, anything change is pointless.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3889 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I note that the Fabians have a long and distinguished history

    Of all intellectual, they also claim one of the longer-lasting.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    is it me or the title implies that there is an alternative to Fabianism?

    There certainly is! A revolutionary vanguard that smashes the state and imposes a dictatorship of the proletariat! Who's with me comrades?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 895 posts Report Reply

  • Alien Lizard (anag),

    The theme of the first seminar series will be around the theme of building a resilient economy – fit for 21st century scenarios, resistant to shocks, ecologically adaptable and responsive.

    Stop making sense!
    We need to be borrowing that $250 million a week (or whatever) to stay playing dice at the big table...

    The Arrrgh Complex • Since Jan 2010 • 158 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    There certainly is! A revolutionary vanguard that smashes the state and imposes a dictatorship of the proletariat! Who's with me comrades?

    Stalinism: Success The Only Option...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1549 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Don Brash described himself as being motivated by Fabian ideals in one of his Rotary speeches.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • David Cauchi,

    Don Brash was probably referring to these Fabian ideals, as expressed by Shaw (and quoted on his wikipedia page):

    "You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence? If you can’t justify your existence, if you’re not pulling your weight in the social boat, if you’re not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little more, then, clearly, we cannot use the organizations of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can’t be of very much use to yourself."

    Wellington • Since Jul 2007 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Fabians were first active in New Zealand over 100 years ago and many of the founders of the Labour Party were sympathisers. 1890s Liberal MP William Pember Reeves was keen and named his son Fabian (not the entertainer). Fabian Society founders, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, visited NZ in the 1890s. Janet Fraser, wife of Peter, was described admiringly by one of her socialist friends: 'she had a Beatrice Webb mind'.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2008 posts Report Reply

  • Alien Lizard (anag),

    Don Brash described himself as being motivated by Fabian ideals in one of his Rotary speeches.

    Must've been this one - Tax all of me?

    The Arrrgh Complex • Since Jan 2010 • 158 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    There certainly is! A revolutionary vanguard that smashes the state and imposes a dictatorship of the proletariat! Who's with me comrades?

    Alternatively, we could run society through a "federated, decentralized system of free associations, incorporating economic as well as other social institutions"

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4361 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Unfortunatly the link for the NZ Fabian Society doesn't work for me
    How about Mike Smith giving us an outline of exactly what they stand for before we start discussing the subject
    A google search threw up some strange results

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 529 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I am heartened to hear about this.

    Here's some advice for the Society: remember that Family First and the Sensible Sentencing Trust are in the news all the time because:
    - they have just one well-branded self-promoting spokesperson
    - that person is always available for comment
    - judging by Scoop, they average at least one quotable press release a week, sometimes more.

    Don't be backward in coming forward.

    On a frivolous note, be prepared for people who think it's all about Fabio.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2918 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    On a frivolous note, be prepared for people who think it's all about Fabio.

    What, is not?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    it's all about Fabio

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3623 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    A progressive think tank? It's almost a triple oxymoron, considering what tanks typically do, blindly rushing in, dealing out moderate slaughter, and keeping everyone off the real damage dealers and the supply lines.

    But it is curiously perhaps the purpose of the right wing ones, so I agree, such a role is needed if you want to oppose them head on. Many a battle is turned by the durability of a tank, and their curious power of drawing the attention of damage dealers away from where they would usually best be used, disrupting supply lines, destroying reinforcement capacity. They can hold positions against huge odds. In numbers, they can steamroll over heavily defended but immobile targets.

    The neoliberal right has the aspect of a tank, for sure. They suffer very little damage themselves because their core is well armored against damaging disproof. They draw aggro like nothing else, because they freely target every squishy they can see, and uncoordinated squishies tend to think that collectively they should be able to bring a tank down. In doing so, they miss the longer game, that the tank was simply drawing fire deliberately, and their own squishies are wreaking untold damage on whatever soft targets they and the tank had really picked.

    As a strategy it is extremely successful, and the right have ganked the left at will for a long time, despite numerical disadvantage.

    To deal with tanks there are several options.

    The first is obviously to have tanks of your own, who take them head on, drawing them into protracted battles, with squishies behind them, pouring in support and laying down damage on the opposing tank. The aim is to destroy the tank, after which the enemy is bust wide open, the fleeing squishies picked off easily, and the field is ours. Of course the response from the enemy is very likely to do the same, desperately keeping their tank alive while whittling away at your own. This leads to a war of attrition, but the end comes swiftly when it comes, if it comes. The best tank wins, usually. You could call this zerg vs zerg.

    The second is to avoid the tank, saving it for last. Strike deep into the squishy base, cutting off supply to the tank. It is difficult to maintain one's own supply lines this way, so it's best done in self supporting units, possibly with minitanks, fighting mini battles everywhere. Stealth is a great asset in this strategy. It is also a war of attrition, and even more than the head-on approach, a game of force-back. It requires even more coordination to work, and can easily take huge losses, when a small team meets a large one, the results are predictable - 100% casualties. Sometimes, if zerging seems not to be working against this, the enemy will learn and adopt the same strategy. Then you have all-out war, everywhere, of the most damaging kind. Eventually, after enough losses on both sides, one side will gain some sort of superiority, and mount a full scale sweep-zerg, and win whatever is left.

    Does a war of ideas follow these patterns? It's hard to say. Certainly a hard core of ideas can form a very well armored position. This position may not appeal widely, it may not attract much support, it may not be able to launch particularly damaging attacks on anything. But because it is well defended, it can continue attacking, and attacking, and those idea that are attacked can very easily be drawn into trying to make a pitched battle out of it. This is unlikely to work, because the armored position is already whittled down to its hard core of supporters, who are usually well acquainted with every response, every aspect of the dogma they stand for, and just won't go down. If they look even close to being damaged, it doesn't take much for their allies to chuck a little support, and bang, they're up to full strength again. The energy is wasted, basically.

    Unless you have a really good tank of your own. A counter idea, with a largish well trained base, and some support from the centre, just enough to keep it alive and firing. If this tank, I guess preferably one with a fairly strongly opposed position to the neoliberal one, targets the neoliberal, it's possible it could be completely neutralized, locked in a permanent Zax-like struggle, not one step to the left or right, and the moderate center battle could change in aspect completely, become much more dynamic. The left could leverage its superior numbers once more.

    Then again, such a tank could be far better engaged doing exactly what the neoliberal one does, constantly attacking the squisher targets in the center. I personally think a lot more damage could be wreaked on the Right this way. The obvious target is deep probing into centrist incompetence and corruption. Turn the battle away from the boring "Free market vs Communism", which would seem to be mostly lost anyway (false dichotomies can go either way), into one that is more about Justice and Rights and the preservation of numerous minor institutions that give genuine goods, and the abolition of whatever minor institutions that are genuinely harmful.

    This might smack of fighting dirty, playing the man and not the ball. But I don't think so. It's more in the nature of a full-court press, where you don't let anyone on the opposing team go unmarked, and preferably double-marked. It works admirably against the All Blacks time and time again, and I think it's curiously symptomatic of our national character that we can't seem to ever just play the same game right back in their faces. It's like we're determined to make the entire thing always about the very rightness of the core of our rugby, rather than being about simply fielding a fantastic and flexible team that can switch strategies depending on the strategy of the opposition, and the interpretation of the referee, on the day. Similarly, politics is about who wins, too, much more than it is about who is right at the core. This is, I think, a broad failing of the left, that they simply let the likes of ACT dominate discourse, because they think the simple correctness of their views will be enough.

    Enough sweeping generalizations and false analogies and mixed metaphors for one day. In short, I think a counter tank is a spiffing idea, and perhaps the strategy it chooses will dictate the very nature of the ideas that forms its core. If it's smart, if it thinks, and isn't just a tank.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    A progressive think tank? It's almost a triple oxymoron, considering what tanks typically do, blindly rushing in, dealing out moderate slaughter, and keeping everyone off the real damage dealers and the supply lines.

    I think that 'think tank' relates more to a container, not an armoured vehicle.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6150 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Heh. Somewhere to keep your thinks?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    It's English, making sense is optional ;)

    Since Nov 2006 • 6150 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    ...and resistance is futile. The tank language, in both senses.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

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