Yeah, that should stop poverty

Posted: October 17, 2012 by Admin in Poverty & Inequality, Protest

by Don Franks

I only noticed an advert for this rally today after it had taken place. I was not sorry to have missed it:

 Wednesday, October 17, 1pm, Parliament Grounds, Wellington

 Stop Child Poverty lunchtime rally with Anika Moa, Celia Wade-Brown & Metiria Turei.

Join us on Parliament grounds as we celebrate International Elimination of Poverty day and take a step to stop child poverty here in New Zealand. MC’d by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, we’re marking the occasion with a special one-off performance from singer-songwriter Anika Moa, speeches, and school performances.

 Parents, families, supporters, and kids of all ages are welcome!

When I said to a friend – yeah that’ll really stop child poverty – he agreed it was pathetic, adding well, maybe it will help keep the issue public.

I had previously been been wondering about that. Does the little bit of publicity about child poverty mitigate this Mayoral stunt ?

Perhaps it does keep the issue out there, but I feel like its been seized off us and re presented in an acceptable way.

Poverty has now become something the Mayor and her friends ‘deal with’ , by means of a sanitized sanctimonious celebration.

To me, the modern substitution of ‘celebration’ for protest is hogwash. When you stop and think about it, “International Elimination of Poverty day” is a sick joke. The day is the political baby of the United Nations, a body dedicated to the preservation of capitalism, the source of poverty across the globe.

The whole recent kiwi concept of Child Poverty gets my goat as well. I think calling it Child Poverty instead of poverty distorts the issue to the advantage of the establishment.

It’s like the whole thing is down to poor kids being sold short by feckless parents who spend grocery money on drink.

But does raising the issue, in whatever way, not somehow intrinsically help generate some sort of movement against poverty?

On reflection, I believe no, it doesn’t.

For example, there has been recent publicity about the cleaner of Prime Minister John Key’s parliamentary office.

The worker is 63 years old, she works two jobs to make ends meet, and one of those jobs is cleaning offices in parliament. She is paid just $14.60 an hour, and that’s as a supervisor, most of her colleagues are paid just $13.85, just 35 cents above the minimum wage.

On another site, I commented in response to this agitation:

One thing we should have learned over the last few years is that by themselves, general appeals for low paid cleaners to get justice don’t deliver significant improvements.

The situation of the cleaners at parliament has been widely known for years, to no avail. Articles and TV clips about the plight of cleaners appear from time to time, people briefly look, say that’s a shame, shrug and then go back to what they were doing. Well intentioned as they have been, general appeals for pity to aid to these “vulnerable workers” have failed.

The only possible way forward is organisation of cleaners themselves.

I know from personal experience that road is very difficult, but it is the only one that does offer any rea l hope.

 Anyway, stuff the Mayor and her poverty celebration. When she was in a position to support union workers, during the Hobbitt dispute, Mayor Celia Wade Brown chose to line up with the bosses.


  1. Celia Wade-Brown and Metiria Turei are affluent and privileged members of the ruling elite. Wealthy women have always taken up the cause of charity, and in doing so have mitigated some of the injustices inflicted on the poor through the rule of their fathers, husbands and brothers.

    Is it mere coincidence that these two women are fronting the campaign against “child poverty” in New Zealand? Do their own situations make them blind to the reality of how child poverty is a consequence of family poverty, and family poverty is a consequence of low wages? Or is it that as career women they feel immune to the retort “You are paid extravagantly to talk of social justice, while we receive a only pittance for our hard manual labour. You can spare your children from poverty. We cannot do the same for our children, so long as persons such as yourself rule the state”?

    But the reasons why the issue of child poverty is being separated off from the issues of family poverty and working-class poverty, goes deeper than personalities, and reflects the essential dilemma of the capitalist state. Capitalism demands a cheap and efficient labour force. Therefore it will not address poverty as a family issue or as a class issue. On the other hand it needs a continuing supply of labour in perpetuity. Therefore it is anxious to see that the next generation of labourers are healthy, stable, dedicated and well trained. The capitalist left sees a way out of this dilemma. It believes that it can, with good effect, take the future of the next generation of workers out of the hands of working class families and into its own through the agency of the state. That is a stunning expression of capitalist hubris. The reality is that wherever children have been raised directly by the state it has been at excessive cost, and with troubling outcomes. State management of working class families is not a practical solution to the problem of ensuring continuity of labour.

    Wade-Brown and Turei are from the Green Party, which also took the lead in the repeal of that section of the Crimes Act which permitted physical force in the discipline of children. The late “anti-smacking” movement closely paralleled the “child poverty” campaign. Incongruously, it came at a time when the state was acquiring new weapons of lethal force to use against its delinquent citizens: tasers, handguns in every patrol car, and Bushmaster rifles in every police station. The state is not anti-violence. It wants a monopoly on violence, and at the same time it seeks to further the illusion that social violence is purely a consequence of the actions of working class, and predominantly Maori, parents. This hypocritical approach to the problem of violence can have no better outcome than its equally hypocritical approach to the problem of poverty. If children grow up in family environments where punishment is absent, how will they eventually engage with a society in which punishment is all-pervasive and often brutal? Spoilt middle class brats who have never been disciplined by their parents, and have been allowed to treat their teachers with contempt, will experience the shock of police batons and even tasers at out-of-control alcohol parties in the affluent suburbs. Other children disciplined in the official state-sanctioned manner – incarceration aka “go to your room” – may end up as psychologically damaged as those who were previously subjected to corporal punishment. Working class children, on the other hand, who are brought up in an environment of reason, moral obligation and responsible behaviour will discover that in the real world of capitalism none of those imperatives apply, and their response will not necessarily be a passive one.

    The root of the problem is that the New Zealand state, led by its leftwing, is proceeding along an unpredictable path for the wrong reasons. It has not excluded poverty and violence from society. Wade-Brown and Turei themselves have been material beneficiaries of the increase in poverty and violence in New Zealand society over recent decades. They cannot protect working class children from the effects of poverty and violence unless they are able to protect the working class as a whole, which means being willing to sacrifice their own positions of privilege. That is something we have yet to see.

  2. C.H. says:

    There is nothing wrong with celebration, per se. We can celebrate the victory of winning the eight hour day, celebrate the victories of independence and socialism in various countries, or celebrate the victory against fascism on Victory Day – all useful commemorations. But the idea that we could ‘celebrate’ the fact that there are millions suffering in poverty all over the world – a battle far from won anywhere – is utterly perverse. The con of glittering generalities at its worst.