Saturday, July 9, 2016

Karl du Fresne: Minto had me fooled

I’ve tended in the past to take a charitable view of John Minto. The worst thing I could find to say about him was that his devotion to left-wing causes was so wide-reaching and so passionate that he had become an almost comical fixture – a caricature – in the political landscape.

In a Dominion Post column in 2012, I wrote that I almost felt sorry for him. “His brain must hurt when he wakes up every morning. So many downtrodden people, so many heartless capitalists, so many injustices – which one will he deal with today?” I described him as a compulsive serial protester and said that images of him addressing rag-tag gatherings with a megaphone were one of the few constants in a chaotic universe.
Beneath this mockery I felt a degree of respect for him. There was no doubting the sincerity of his convictions, or his commitment. Besides, a democratic, pluralist society needs to make room for people of every political shade. There might even have been times when I felt Minto had a valid point to make, even if he did himself no favours by coming across as intense and uncompromisingly dogmatic.

Now I realise I’ve been wrong all this time. What caused me to reassess Minto was a column he wrote for the far-left Daily Blog last week on the result of the Brexit referendum.

It reveals him as an unreconstructed Marxist, which is hardly surprising. He uses the tired, anachronistic rhetoric of class warfare – language that I thought had died with the passing of the People’s Voice.  But more tellingly, it’s the language of malice and hate.

According to Minto, the rich have used neo-liberal economic policies to wage a “relentless war” on the working class. This is a grotesque distortion of economic reforms that have lifted more people out of poverty than at any previous time in human history. I’ve known a few proponents of neo-liberalism over the years and while some of their ideas turned out to be flawed, I can’t think of any who were intent on waging war on the working class.

More often their motivation was precisely the reverse. But Minto thinks the interests of the “working class” (however that’s defined these days) would be better served by … what, exactly? The defining characteristic of Marxist governments everywhere has been brutal repression and hardship, usually accompanied by the creation of a wealthy, personality-cult style of totalitarian leadership that mercilessly crushes dissent.  

Minto goes on to say that the British Conservative and Labour Parties have been complicit in the rogering (my word) of the working-class. That’s hardly a new proposition, but again it’s his language that’s telling. He says the political establishment has been used as a front for the “filthy scheming” of the rich.

This is language calculated to incite hatred. It characterises all “rich” people (however that's defined these days) as rapacious and imputes vile motives to people who in all likelihood never set out to harm or exploit anyone.

It gives us a telling glimpse of the bitterness and malice that lurks beneath Minto’s public image as a compassionate, benign crusader for the downtrodden. He apparently sees no irony in condemning people for whipping up fear and hatred against immigrants while himself indulging in rhetoric that demonises anyone whose world view doesn’t correspond with his own.

He goes on to talk about the “greed and corruption at the heart of capitalism”. Well, no one ever said capitalism’s perfect, but even a casual glance at the countries that lead the world for both prosperity and respect for human rights shows that they are all capitalist economies. Perhaps Minto prefers the Venezuelan model – the latest showcase for the command-style economy that he apparently endorses.

In writing this, I’m indulging in a bit of self-reproach. All these years, I’ve given Minto the benefit of the doubt. Now I realise he’s just as twisted, angry and bigoted as every other sad, thwarted revolutionary. 

Karl du Fresne blogs at


Unknown said...

I find ironic that the man that camaigned so hard to stop racism in South Africa is the same person that supports racism in NZ. This clown thinks maori are the indigenous people of this country, and they deserve breakfast in bed and free lunch because they're "Special". Special needs more like.
Anyone that would align themselves with the countries biggest racist "Hone" is a complete and utter nutter that deserves no air time or support.

paul scott said...

Minto is standing for Mayor in socially conservative Christchurch.
I wonder why any sane person would stand for Mayor in Christchurch, but Minto ? Its hard to know where to look in the DSM-5 manual.

KenInNZ said...

A 'professional' protester and at heart he may be all you describe him to be but our society is the better for having the more extreme views aired from time to time. It helps us to confine them to eccentric nuts bin in the corner of the room.

Mike K said...

Jeez Karl, it took you long enough. Seriously? Mr. Minto has always been an embittered hypocrite, all the way back to the 1970's.

Dave said...

Geez Karl, love your columns but did you really not think Minto was a raging Marxist!
Its a bit like doubting if Grahame Norton is Gay... the big difference is at least Grahame Norton has a sense of Humor and is a nice guy... Minto on the other hand is a twisted hate filled individual who has a big chip on his shoulder on just about anything that doesn't support his racist communist rantings.
And another thing Graham is a much better dresser.

Anonymous said...

The thing about this idiot Minto is that, I understand, he is employed as a teacher. What pathetic school could possibly think it appropriate to allow him to infect the minds of their pupils? He spends so much time marching down public thoroughfares holding nonsensical placards or a megaphone that he would surely feel at home if he had to live on the streets.

Karl du Fresne said...

It's often tempting to see people in one-dimensional terms, as some commenters here obviously do, but I've found during nearly 50 years in journalism that issues - and individuals - are rarely that straightforward.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see Minto sent to Zimbabwe where he can talk his rubbish to Mugabe the despot whom Minto supported

Mike K said...

So I guess this is one of those times 'rare' times where the exception prevails then Karl?
Yes it's a bitter irony (for the people of Zimbabwe)that thanks to the 'help' of people like Minto, their country and lives are now far worse off than they were under the 'evil' white governments that previously ruled. Be careful what you wish for.

A.G.R. said...

Am I the only Kiwi in this beautiful country who is concerned at John Key's determination to appoint a Communist to head the U.N.
What next, John Minto as deputy?

mitch morgan said...

The old anti-apartheid protests were an example of well-meaning do-gooders being sucked in by professional trouble makers.
John Minto, oh so sincere in his equal rights for black Africans campaign, turned out to be a proponent for apartheid in New Zealand.
A bitter, twisted fellow with no conception at all of equal rights.
A good candidate for representing the equal rights of the pigs portrayed in Orwell's Animal Farm, methinks.

Anonymous said...

To understand the apparent contradictions in Munto opposing apartheid in SA and supporting it in NZ -- apart from post-colonial guilt-tripping that whites always deserve a good kicking -- one needs to understand the man's Communist ideology and tactics.

Karl Marx married Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution with German philosopher, Georg Hegel’s dialectical materialism (social change through struggle of opposites) to claim that society is evolving inexorably toward socialism, its highest and best (sic) form. Here, an existing social condition (thesis) comes into conflict with a new social condition (antithesis) that is attempting to emerge.

Out of the dialectical conflict between these two opposing forces a new, higher social condition (synthesis) emerges. This is then put through the process again as the new thesis, until full socialism is achieved.

Lenin expanded Marx’s dialectical analysis from its early focus on economic relationships to take in social and political relationships, thus widening the role of the revolutionary as a change agent. The task of the revolutionary was now to identify and exploit pressure points for dialectical conflict, thus undermining the legitimacy of the existing social and political order, and hastening the eventual triumph of socialism.

In the 1920s, Lenin devised a strategy for weakening and subverting democratic societies that changed the nature of revolutionary politics forever, while profoundly increasing the threat that Communist revolutionaries posed. Until then, Communist parties in non-Communist countries had openly declared their anti-capitalist, anti-Western and anti-democratic agendas.

They called for the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and advocated “civil war” in the western democracies to bring this about. Because most people in free societies remained unconvinced of the need for a violent socialist revolution, Communists remained a fringe minority with little political clout.

In 1935, the Communist parties adopted a new tactic, which they dubbed the Popular Front. The agendas of the Popular Front were framed in terms of the fundamental values of the societies the Communists meant to destroy. In place of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and “international civil war,” the Communists organised coalitions for “democracy, justice, peace and civil rights.”

Nothing changed in the philosophy and goals of the Communists, but by seemingly advocating “democracy, justice, peace and civil rights” they were able to forge broad alliances with individuals and groups who had no inkling of their true agendas, or believed them to be less sinister and dangerous than they were.

Communists initially selected as prime targets various racial, religious and national minorities, and intellectual groups that exerted a direct effect on public opinion. Working through the Popular Fronts they formed with “liberal” factions, the Communists were able to hide their conspiratorial activities, form “peace,” and “human rights” movements, and greatly increase their numbers by mobilising non-Communists to do their work for them. These are the people that Lenin referred to as “useful idiots.”

Groups who can be helped by Communists to see that they are “marginalised” from capitalist society due to race, gender, class and sexual preference have long proved particularly fertile ground for those looking to promote dialectical conflict. Marxist-Leninists, worldwide, have practised for decades a process of agitating amongst such groups in order to achieve social breakdown and eventual socialist control.

Picking the racial scab and promoting group rights in order to bring about the demise of the individual equality in citizenship that stands in the way of the Socialist project is something Communists do very well, being experts in finding ethnic groups with a grievance and promising to work alongside them to help them get what they want.