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Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Letter to Scott Hamilton and the Bedggoods

I've never met David and Janet Bedggood. The couple are Auckland academics and long time socialist activists.

They stand for pretty much everything I oppose politically. I have even mockingly profiled David Bedggood after he blamed Kiwi "boorishness" on the free market reforms of the '80s.

On Wednesday this week, David and Janet Bedggood's 29 year old son, Bruno, committed suicide.

David Bedggood posted this piece on Indymedia yesterday, in commemoration of his dead son.

I read this piece and nearly cried. I have first hand (seperate)experiences with both mental illness and suicide in my own family. I also have children. I considered writing a sympathetic sentence in the comments section, but thought it would probably be construed as insincere.

The Bedggood's lead a small socialist group, the Communist Workers Group. One of their members, Scott Hamilton, who is one of only two people ever to be banned from New Zeal, has used this sad occasion, to criticise both myself and the political philosophy I support.

I thought I would publish some of Scott's post, with some commentary from myself. The occasion of a young man's death is not a good time to make political points. However I think Scott's post presents a good opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings surrounding the motivations of both sides of the political divide.

From Scott Hamilton's "Reading the Maps"

Act vice-President and inveterate redbaiter Trevor Loudon recently used his blog to reveal the true reason for the existence of socialists. According to Trevor, we are victims of a mental illness which makes us crave power - as 'damaged people' we 'want to change the world to make ourselves fit in'.

The post Scott refers to is here.

Prejudice usually comes wrapped in ignorance. Few Islamophobes have ever chatted with a Muslim, and not many racists have stepped onto a marae. Trevor's words make it clear that he hasn't met many socialists. Far from from grasping at privilege and power, most socialists sacrifice time and money for beliefs that will, in New Zealand especially, do little to help them acquire political power or advance their careers.

Sorry Scott, but I have met many socialists. Some were obnoxious, but most were kind and decent people. As long as I didn't try to argue politics that is. I always try to seperate the personal from the political and value many people in my life who don't share my beliefs. I would suspect that I know far more socialists, than Scott knows ACT members or other libertarian leaning people.

I wish Trevor had come to one of the barbeques that the Anti Imperialist Coalition (AIC), the Auckland anti-war outfit I was involved in between the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, used to organise on a semi-regular basis.

Laugh if you like, but I reckon that the barbeque should be one of the building blocks of socialism in New Zealand. AIC barbeques were bastions of comradeship and free discussion. Had Trevor attended one, he would have found representatives of many of the innumerable tribes of the left - Trotskyites, anarchists, Maoists, greenies, Christian socialists, Islamolefties, even one or two social democrats - sharing beer and sausages and discussing everything from the prospects for impeaching George Bush to the dismal performance of the Black Caps (some things never change). Those power-hungry zealots with building plans for that gulag at Waiorou in their pockets must have gone to the Act party in the next suburb.


I have accused the left of many things on my blog and elsewhere; ignorance, power lust, excusing tyranny, dishonesty, covert behaviour, criminality, thuggery, even treason. I have never accused the left of not caring. I think most leftists do care about ideas, about ethics and most of all about people. Scott's mistake here is to think that others don't care as passionately about their fellow man as he does.

There is no monopoly on compassion Scott. ACT people are revolutionaries for a reason. You don't join a 2% party like ACT, or the wider libertarian cause, for power or social advantage.

You join because you have a fire in your belly to liberate people from the evils you see them subjected to. You spend your weekends delivering letters and your nights at meetings, so that your kids will live in a free and benevolent society.

Dave and Janet Bedggood make excellent examples of the real-life socialists that Trevor Loudon has so far avoided meeting. For more than thirty years, they have both been mainstays of the union movement and the activist left in Auckland and New Zealand. They have marched against both the Vietnam and Iraq wars, and a few in between; they stood with the protesters defending Bastion Point from Muldoon's troops, and joined the seabed and foreshore hikoi in 2004.

Their politics have led them to reject both wealth and glittering careers. Had they wanted to, both could have entered local or central government a long time ago, as their old colleagues Bruce Jesson and Matt Robson did after moving carefully to the right.

Dave, who has taught in the sociology department of the University of Auckland for three decades, could have joined the Princes St branch of the Labour Party, that traditional conveyor belt from university to parliament, and be sitting in Cabinet now alongside that former sociologist and reformed socialist Steve Maharey.


I do not doubt the Bedggood's commitment. I admire it. This is not the time to debate the rightness or the wrongness of their beliefs and actions. It is time to call a short truce.

I've always been struck by the stories of British and German soldiers exchanging presents and playing soccer, between the trenches, during the brief Christmas truces of WW1.

Such stories have always brought tears to my eyes. My eyes are blurring as I type.

Scott, please pass on my condolences to the Bedggoods for their tragic loss.

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