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September 17, 2007 | by  | in Books |
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No Left Turn

No Left Turn gets its title from the road sign on the corner of Cuba and Dixon Streets, which was the site where one of this country’s most infamous clashes between workers and the state took place – the 1951 waterfront lockout which lasted 151 days.

Political commentator Chris Trotter presents a history of New Zealand from the perspective of the working class and their struggle against “greed, bigotry and right-wing politics”.

Trotter examines the roots of New Zealand politics, starting off in the 19th Century with an examination of Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s “wicked dream” of creating an upper class colony in the South Pacific serviced by the lower classes. He then introduces the roots of social democracy with the Liberal government from 1891-1912, through to the first Labour government of 1935-1949 and the challenges it came up against. In the latter’s case, Trotter paints a less than sympathetic view of the socialist John A. Lee whose refusal to sell out the party’s Marxist roots lead to his expulsion of the party in 1940, two days before Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage passed away.

Villains of the working class are a large part of Trotter’s overview of New Zealand history, from stump politician William Massey and his strike breaking cow-cockie ‘Cossacks’ in 1913, to the proto-fascist members of The New Zealand Legion in the early ‘30s. He chides Coates and Forbes’ lack of heart during the Great Depression, Sidney Holland who smashed the unions in ‘51, Muldoon, Rogernomics and of course Ruth Richardson who became the scourge of workers everywhere after she introduced the Employment Contracts Act in 1991.

No Left Turn is easy to read and informative, which is Trotter’s style, and his analysis of the events shaping our social history is sure to cause a lot of debate among the New Zealand left and local historians today.

CHRIS TROTTER

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