This was a good Christmas present and made an interesting read, if you’re willing to take Trotter’s at times almost pathologic one-eyed-ness into account.

No Left Turn (a title most probably adapted from a particular blog we all know) tells a series of lurid tales of capitalist oppression of the working classes. And most of them are pretty shameful. There are numerous incidences documented in the book that outline exactly how capital has manipulated government to its own ends, and all too frequently at the expense of taxpayers and workers.

But, if you didn’t know that governments are often tools of the wealthy to make themselves more rich, then you’ve probably got your head in a hole.

What Trotter attempts to do with his narrative is demonstrate the numerous times that the working class has tired to draw power away from the wealthy or landed classes. And he succeeds in demonstrating that it has been a difficult battle from early in New Zealand’s history, and that many of the great battles fought (such as the 1951 waterfront strike) have been grossly misrepresented by the powerful, and by the contented middle-classes.

Where Trotter wanders into his own propagandising though is when he seems to refuse to acknowledge that change is necessary because the tide of history has moved past old and defunct political systems. The 1980s reforms are one such example.

I’ll be the first to admit that Rogernomics was a revolution that wrought untold hardship on New Zealand families. But even if you’re admitting that you have to accept that reform was absolutely necessary. The old systems of tariff and taxpayer-support for farming was not working and was rewarding inefficiency and poor practice. Much of the poisoning of our river ecosystems has been at the hands of inefficient and polluting farmers for example. Getting rid of tariffs meant that sheep farming had to be tidied up, and to an extent it has.

So while No Left Turn starts out as a expose of history characters who do no deserve to be lauded in our history books, it pretty soon settles into “Chris’ version of the history of the 4th Labour Government, and subsequent events”. At there it starts to get annoying. His reverential regard for Jim Anderton is almost ridiculous, and I was tempted to write him a letter and say, “Get a room already”.

Likewise Trotter’s apparent refusal to acknowledge that the old marxist-socialist models he seems to so admire stopped having relevance for New Zealand in the 1970s. The undertone of the “working man” versus “the man” was appropriate in the early C20th, but these days is positively quaint.

Finally, Chris almost entirely neglects the effects of Maori politics on New Zealand until a little way into the Muldoon era, and a mention about the Bolger Government. Before then major historical events are glossed over or ignored. The 1975 hikoi being a prominent example. But, I suppose that could be a typically marxist product of folding all ethnicity into “the working class”.

Annoying…

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