National maintains centre ground

Like clockwork, Treasury recently released a wishlist of attacks on the working class. These include increases in GST, a return to youth rates and a 90-day trial period for employment.

However, Finance Minister Bill English promptly shot them down, observing that these recommendations are nothing new. English stuck to the party line, stating, “We won’t be doing anything with GST. We are focused on personal tax rates.”

National’s tax cuts primarily benefit the rich, as with those of Labour. Introduced by the Fourth Labour government, GST is a tax on workers and consumers. Neither Labour nor National shows any inclination to increase it, or get rid of it. Despite the hopes of Treasury, and the fears of some on the left, National continues to maintain the centre ground; to pay for stable capitalist exploitation.

If the economy requires it, either party will attack.

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The reign of Helen Clark

– Daphna Whitmore
The Spark
December 2008 – January 2009

The end was swift. Stepping down on election night Helen Clark ended 16 years as the Labour Party’s leader and nine years as Prime Minister. As Labour’s longest serving head, she was one of its most capable and helped shape the organisation into an urban liberal capitalist party.

Clark personified the new type of Labour politician. She came from a middle class farming background and was university educated. She studied politics and lectured for a few years at Auckland University, then headed straight to parliament in 1981.

In 1984 Labour won the elections and launched Rogernomics. There was not a peep of opposition to this rabidly neo-liberal programme from Clark. Later on she would try to distance herself from that period but as David Lange once quipped, Clark “was so dry she was combustible”. According to Michael Basset, who was a minister in that government, Clark begged Roger Douglas to return to the finance minister’s role in January 1990 when the party was rife with internal divisions over Rogernomics.

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Newtown public meeting

national-govt-meeting

Population is not the problem!

-Mike Kay

The Green Party has caused some controversy recently by releasing its Population Policy for New Zealand just prior to the election. The Greens estimate the maximum population that Aotearoa can sustain at 5.7 million. In order that we do not exceed this figure, they propose policies including: “initiatives to raise awareness amongst parents and potential parents regarding the issue of sustainable global population levels.”

They also propose to “regularly review NZ’s immigration policy to ensure that we are retaining capacity to absorb climate change refugees and returning NZ citizens.”

It seems strange that the Greens should have made this an issue in a country that is sparsely populated with an ageing population. But in today’s political discourse, “sustainability” is becoming an essential green veneer to reactionary measures such as immigration controls and restricting working class people’s consumption.

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Silence of the Lambs

– Don Franks

Before the election, NZCTU President Helen Kelly had much to say about the two main parties. On April 13th she told the Labour Party Congress:

“Working people have been given the chance to get back on their feet with this government. This is not just because of good policies. It is because we have a Government made up of people who care about workers, who understand the difficulties they face, and who try to make things better.”

Kelly was not ­ quite – absolutely obsequious in her praise of Labour, adding:

“Of course this does not mean that we live in paradise! There is more to do. And workers are really feeling the pinch at the moment with high food prices, rising petrol costs and high rents and mortgage payments.”

Then, even this mild admonition was hastily qualified into nothingness, with the soothing:

“So we need more change and with the continuation of a Labour led government we know that will happen. Labour is the Government with a proven record of change for the better and we need more of it.”

And, after the vision of heaven ­ the warning of hell:

“We have seen National’s industrial relations policy and it is dramatic and will have a major negative impact on working people.”

“National’s plans for industrial relations are the same as in 1991”.

Just before I began writing this, I took a look at the NZ Council of Trade unions website, to see if there was any comment on the election result. Still, after two weeks, not a peep. As we supposedly teeter on the brink of another 1991! It would seem that if National’s plans for industrial relations are really the same as in 1991, so too are the plans of the CTU. Determined inertia. Remember when the top leaders refused to take up calls for a general strike to defeat National’s Employment Contracts Act?

If National is poised for launching a major negative impact on working people, wouldn’t it be the task of union leaders to start rallying and mobilising opposition from day one?

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No illusions or delusions

  hertz-v-avis-politics-copy5

The Workers Party has been rationally assessing the two main political parties for many years. This cartoon appeared with an article in The Spark February 2007 on the similarities between Labour and National.

Whereas a considerable section of the left had illusions in Labour and delusions about National, our analysis has proved to be sound.

Standing up for socialist ideas

The Spark November 2008

The Workers Party is primarily an organisation of activists who fight for workers’ interests on jobs and in the streets. We recognise that the struggle for workers’ rights and workers’ power mostly takes place outside of parliament. Taking mass actions against an employer offers workers more chance of controlling their destiny than voting. However, parliamentary elections provide a chance to raise alternative ideas, and socialists should make use of the opportunity. The reports below show some of the initiatives taken by the Workers Party in the 2008 general election. You can see that we got stuck in and stood up for socialist ideas without mincing our words. If you like the look of our approach, why not join us and help make the socialist voice even louder in 2011!

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The Greens and their left-wing friends

-John Moore

At a recent election meeting at the University of Auckland, the prominent anarchist Omar Hamed of the Auckland Anarchist Network presented “an anarchist view on elections” but then admitted he would be voting for the Greens. This was a good example of how the left-wing friends of what is increasingly a party of the establishment must construct a false reality to justify their misfit between theory and practice. Like Christian obscurantists who, despite mounting evidence, continue to present their creationist themes, anti-capitalists who present the Greens as some form of progressive force not only obscure the facts but present an overwhelmingly deceptive image of reality.

The political nature of the Greens
To discover the truth of what the Green Party is all about, who better to go to than its fresh new leader. Russel Norman, a former anti-capitalist associated with the Democratic Socialist Party of Australia, has made explicit his desire not just to save the planet but to save the capitalist system. He has compared the role of the modern-day Greens to that of social democrats of the 1930s who introduced counter-measures against capitalism’s self-destructive tendencies.
In a revealing blog posting in 2007 on Frogblog, Russel Norman presented his thesis on the role of the Greens:

It’s a funny position we find ourselves in. Just as the social democrats (Europe), labourists (UK, Australia, NZ) and new dealers (US) of the 1930s and 1940s had to save capitalism from its own destructive tendencies by introducing a range of modifications and interventions on the market system, so now the Green Parties of the world find ourselves in possibly a similar position. The best of the old social democrats like Michael Cullen are too locked in the old paradigm to understand it, and the sectional interests like the business roundtable and Employers Federation are too narrow to see it, but we have to intervene in the market system to place a price on resource use and pollution so that we can save the planet. And in the process we will quite possibly save the market system from its natural tendency to destroy or consume all resources leading to its own demise as well as the demise of the planet and all of us living on it.

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Much of the left crying wolf over Nats

Philip Ferguson

One thing the election and the days since have confirmed is the inability of many on the left to make a sober analysis based on reality and, in particular, the way in which bourgeois politics is related to the economy and how bourgeois politics is centrally concerned with the maintenance of conditions such as social stability which are necessary to the operations of the market. Instead much of the left has cried wolf about the new government, seeing it as a re-run of the 1984-1993 period of ‘new right’ dominance. John Key makes acceptance speech

For instance, the headline on the Socialist Aotearoa blog is “RESISTING THE NAT-ACT JUNTA- What is to be done?” Does the author of that piece really believe that we are about to be ruled by a “junta”? Are they unable to distinguish between bourgeois democracy and military dictatorship? If they are able to make the distinction why use terminology that bears no relation to the reality and simply misleads and misorients people?

Although, in the context of a worsening economic situation, there would certainly have to be attacks on the working class, Key is not creating a junta of any kind. In fact, he appears to not even be creating a National-ACT coalition but opting for Clark’s own strategy – a minority government with ministers out of cabinet from what he sees as both the ‘left’ (Maori Party) and ‘right’ (ACT) and support on confidence and supply. The temptation for the Maori Party to go for this will likely be pretty substantial, as Key and co. well know. This was apparent before the election – and was reiterated by Key on Saturday night, by Matthew Hooton on ‘Eye to Eye’ on Sunday morning, by Key again on TV on Sunday night and Monday night. In fact, Key even wants to talk with the Greens. (Since this was written on Monday 11 November, things have moved along further with the Maori Party.) [Read more…]

Trotter reckons you blew it

 – Nick Kelly

So-called ‘from the left’ political commentator Chris Trotter posed the following question to his post election column in the Sunday Star times:

 “What led the majority of the New Zealand electorate to reject a government that has not only done it no great harm but might even be said to have done it some good?”

 The answer according to Trotter is this:

 Last night’s result was manufactured out of the besetting sin of the last 150 years of western history – the crisis of masculinity. What, exactly, is a man in a world of corporate and public bureaucracies?

It was these: the men who just couldn’t cope with the idea of being led by an intelligent, idealistic, free-spirited woman; the gutless, witless, passionless creatures of the barbecue-pit and the sports bar (and the feckless females who put up with them); who voted Helen Clark out of office

John Key – you’re welcome to them.

If the NZ public were so anti having a Labour woman prime minister for the reasons Trotter outlined, then why did they re elect her three times?youthrates_preview

Left: Young workers, led by Unite union protesting against youth rates under Labour.

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