A far left reply to Chris Trotter

– Don Franks, Workers Party candidate for Wellington Central 2008

The Dominion Post warns of a malicious workers’ enemy currently lurking in New Zealand.

What “it” supposedly “wants to see (on workers tables) are scraps of stale bread and cups of cold water.” Along with “the power and the phone cut off, holes in the roof, and the car up on blocks in the front yard.”

“Nothing delights it more than the sight of padlocked factory gates, and the sobbing of laid-off workers is music to its ears.”

According to Dominion Post columnist Chris Trotter, this inhumanity embodies none other than the revolutionary component of the political left.  He specifically cites the Workers Party as an example.

According to Trotter:

“The more the National Party cuts back and hacks away at the workers’ economic and social rights the better the revolutionaries like it.

“The far Left is always at its unhappiest when Labour is in power. In no time at all they’ve got the power and the phone reconnected, filled up the fridge, got a bit of a fire going in the grate, slipped a couple of pizzas in the oven, and cracked open a few cool ones.” (From The Left, Dominion Post 12/12/2008)

Chris may have forgotten that it was under Labour that Mrs Folole Muliaga tragically lost her life when her power was cut off.

He has also forgotten – or is unwilling to acknowledge – the last Labour government’s promotion of privilege at working people’s expense.

On July 21, 2006 the National Business Review (NBR) published its annual Rich List. The list contained the richest 187 New Zealand individuals and 51 families. This super-rich group had increased their wealth by just over $3.7 billion in the past year. That increase is as much as the entire wealth of the entire Rich List back in 1992. The people on the Rich List now have wealth estimated at over $35.1 billion.

By the time the last National Party government went out of power in 1999, the Rich List had 135 individuals and 36 families, with wealth estimated at just over $9.8 billion, so the growth of the fantastically rich has speeded up under Labour. The graph of the rate of growth of wealth by these parasites is therefore interesting. Under National in the 1990s it went up relatively modestly, and then after Labour entered government in 1999 it curved dramatically upward. The rise in the 2004-2005 year – when the super-rich got over $9 billion richer -makes the upward curve especially pronounced.

By contrast, during the period that Labour has been in power since 1999, wage rises have averaged between 2 and 3 percent per annum, barely keeping up with inflation. Some years, real wages – what you can buy with your pay – have actually fallen. Median household income grew by a mere 13 percent between 2001 and 2004, while the super-rich saw their wealth increase by 75 percent in those same years.

Meanwhile poverty remains endemic, especially child poverty. The number of people living in “extreme hardship” has risen from 5 percent of the population to 8 percent under the current Labour administration.

The above three paragraphs are an excerpt from the Worker’s Party published book The Truth about Labour, by Daphna Whitmore and Philip Ferguson.

The Truth about Labour concludes: “as we’ve noted here, time after time workers’ living conditions and democratic rights have actually got worse under Labour governments. Our experience under National, Labour and all the other capitalist parties points to the need not only for a new workers’ party but a new kind of workers’ politics.”

The Workers Party has been consistently putting that line of argument since its formation, in our magazine, on line, at meetings and throughout our recent election campaign. As a well-informed political correspondent, Chris Trotter cannot but be aware of that. But instead of addressing our actual position, Chris finds it easier to invent an opposite idiotic position and then attack that.  Thus, he sneers:

“The election of a National government is always the Far Left’s equivalent of Christmas. Overnight, their world is transformed. All the old and familiar class enemies are restored to their proper places, and all of the old banners and placards can be taken down from the shelf, dusted-off and returned to service. ”

Of course, some placards have been in unbroken service since 1984, such as those opposing Labour’s anti-worker GST. But as protesters all over the country can attest, during the last 9 years of Labour government we’ve had to make and display a great many new banners and placards. Like the ones we painted when Labour supported the US bombing of Afghanistan. The ones demanding Ahmed Zaoui be released . The ones against Labour’s Jobs Jolt, the ones demanding paid parental leave and  the many opposing layoffs and low pay. Or the ones against the recent police Terror Raids – which Chris Trotter defended.

Chris Trotter is at pains to differentiate and counterpose “the far left” and “workers”. During my 37 years in the far left I’ve been unable to help noticing that most of us are workers.  Members of the left who aren’t workers tend to be tertiary students, as Chris himself once was. Leftist students go various ways after completing their formal education. Some continue various forms of political activism and some leave politics altogether. A few, for reasons best known to themselves , crawl beneath the fence and offer their skills and services to the other side.


  1. Good stuff Don.

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