Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014 Elections and the Revolutionary left.

The latest round of New Zealand parliamentary elections (2014) have smashed all hopes of a centre left government in New Zealand, with Labour polling it's lowest result in nearly 100 years. Worse, Internet MANA has only very slightly increased it's party vote and is left with no parliamentary representation after the defeat of Hone Harawera at the hands of a "grand coalition of the willing". This defeat throws up some serious questions about why the left was unable to convince the mass of workers to vote, and more importantly for revolutionary socialists, why Internet MANA performed so poorly.

A recurring theme to the defeat of Internet MANA within the mainstream media (MSM) and within  many left circles, is that Kim Dotcom was the kiss of death to the nascent MANA. That for all it's good intentions, MANA, courting a sort of political kryptonite, lacked the power or initiative to overcome this theme, and was irredeemably corrupted. This narrative however is just that, a narrative, and one driven by a bourgeois MSM exclusively directed by the morals of the ruling class. It makes no attempt to explain the underlying material conditions which; 
1. Drove the working class to vote according to the interest of the bourgeoisie.
2. The historical events which propelled MANA and Dotcom into an unlikely alliance.

I will deal with the second first as it will be most familiar to those who are up to date with current affairs.

Kim Dotcom and MANA.

Kim Dotcom arrived in Aotearoa under the guise of an 'investor', despite the objections of state agencies involved in the vetting of prospective new migrants, his residency was approved.
Immediately after this period Dotcom set about ingratiating himself with the most radical parliamentary representatives of the capitalists, primarily the Act party. However under significant pressure from U.S monopoly capitalists, whom Dotcom threatened through his file sharing business. The New Zealand government launched an illegal raid under the supervision of U.S authorities. Dotcom was arrested and his property confiscated, threatened with extradition and a very long prison sentence in the U.S. Dotcom appealed to his political allies, but they were not interested in launching a struggle for the independence of New Zealand capital from U.S imperialism which had benefited them so well.

As legal proceedings began, to fight the extradition process, Dotcom found that support could be gained from the far ­left; Progressives, who argue the "rule of law" must be upheld; Maori and other political activists due to the experiences of the Ureweras and; Revolutionary socialists, in opposition to all oppression as 'tribunes of the people' offered Dotcom wary support. Dotcom revelled in the celebrity his money had been unable to buy, even if it was more so notoriety. The various but shared experiences of the factions allowed for a connection between Dotcom's oppression, as well as that endured by the governments political opponents, workers, Maori and beneficiaries; groups heavily associated with MANA.

In due course a more formal alliance was proposed between Dotcom and MANA, one which would couple Dotcom's still significant wealth with MANA's militancy. This was a tumultuous process in itself and caused several prominent activists to depart in protest at the prospect of this alliance. Many socialists including myself were deeply sceptical of the proposed benefits of an alliance. However revolutionaries must not shirk from using the capitalists own tools against them, and once an alliance became obvious, most quickly ditched sectarianism to best aid the struggle, though not without ongoing criticisms. The alliance consisted of two party’s, which in practice continued to develop separate policy and candidates, though with a shared party list. MANA would undertake much of the activism and provide the crucial Te tai tokerau seat, allowing both parties to circumvent the 5% party vote threshold.The Internet party brought a 'broader' appeal as well as significant funding for joint advertising and within Hone's crucial electorate seat.

Initially this alliance proceeded smoothly and Internet MANA's position in the mainstream polls rose. A number of capitalist representatives, notably John Armstrong, began to panic fearing that the significant 5% point may be reached. The bourgeois media rapidly assembled a counter­campaign, one which drew on many of the productive villanies of capital, notably whipping up racist anti german sentiment. Dotcom's character was relentlessly assaulted, his political aims were described as driven by nothing more than the basic desire for vengeance. However these were never qualified as stemming from his prior treatment by the government. The media were also careful to conflate at every opportunity Dotcom and the MANA leadership, despite Dotcom holding no position within the MANA movement. Dotcom became in their description, a "puppet master" manipulating parliamentary politics for personal purpose, though what this purpose was other than promoting MANA's policies of full employment and social housing, the media never qualified. When the media's opinion of the parliamentary process is so low, that it believes it able to be manipulated by a wealthy individual is an irony not lost on socialists.

MANA for it's part was denounced as a compromised sellout, having committed the treachery of selling the poor for 30 pieces of silver, to be crucified upon Dotcom's ambition. The facts however remain, MANA changed none of it's policies, and was clear about the nature of it's relationship with Dotcom, which was spoken of in detail at Internet MANA road shows up and down the country. Other political parties hid their donors in the darkness, refusing to discuss them or their influence on party policy. Those who did surface were often revealed to be embroiled in scandal of favouritism and jobism; Judith Collins and Orivida being prime examples. The hypocrisy of this situation was  razorsharp, MANA candidate John Minto noted;

'Objecting to big money donations for political parties has never been such an issue until a left­wing party got big­ money backing with no strings attached. No mention of the critical diet of business donations which keep Labour and National afloat – just outrage that a group prepared to challenge corporate rule might be well funded for an election campaign to do so'.

This is of course true, for the bourgeois media to cast the light into the dark dealings of party ­donor relations, would have revealed connections between donations and advertising spending as originating from the same sources. The corrupt nature of the political parties would have been revealed to be the same conditions for the corruption of the mainstream media; the buying of opinion and the silencing of scrutiny, bought and sold like any other commodity, profit being the basis for the bankruptcy of the media. Internet MANA's clear relationship with Dotcom threatened the necessity of their own secrecy.

Internet MANA's alliance, despite moral arguments, was one clearly within the material interests of both parties. Just as the donor ­party relationships of other parties are in their self interest. The intolerance of MANA came from their ability to remain committed to their anti­capitalist programme, where other parties, under pressure from wealthy donors, would have "reformed" their policies to oblivion.

Where have all the voters gone?

But why did voters not turnout for Internet MANA or the left in general? This is a most complex question but must be answered in an objective manner. Petty interpersonal relationships though important are adrift on powerful historic forces. The last global financial crisis (GFC, 2008) and it's lasting impacts have had a titanic influence. The recovery from the GFC has been torturous for capitalist society, the normal rapid recovery and restoration of profitability historically experienced by capital, have instead been weak, crisis prone and localised. One of those locations where  performance has been stronger than average is New Zealand. The apparent strength of the recovery has lent credence to the ruling National party’s claims to be "the best managers of capital".

However, relative strength of the recovery is also leading to the relative strength of contradictions underlying crisis, which will lead to the next crisis being far more pronounced in New Zealand. This relative stability of New Zealand capitalism has meant that while neo­liberalism still reigns supreme, the conditions of austerity imposed elsewhere have been avoided. Largely funded by government borrowing, made possible by a tsunami of quantitative easing in the U.S.A etc, the National party has even increased the minimum wage. Thus they have been able to portray themselves as 'relatively moderate' while pursuing policies of privatisation and environmental degradation. This has also allowed the media and the National party to frame a narrative of looming economic catastrophe if ever their "slightly" left opponents were to come to power. It could be worse, is essentially their argument, even as they help lay the groundwork for a new and larger crisis.

Their primary opponent on the left, Labour, is meanwhile still racked with internal contradictions the GFC brought to maturity. Gordon Campbell pointed out; 
'On first becoming leader Cunliffe had talked of how the GFC had made Third Way economic policy passé – which was a dog whistle that under his leadership, Labour would make a definitive break from the economic policies that have devastated Labour’s core constituencies from 1984 onwards. That change in policy direction didn’t eventuate.' 
http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2014/09/22/gordon-campbell-on-labours-very-bad-year/

Labour, now primarily a party serving the interests of a bureaucratic elite competes with National as capitals "best manager". However the GFC has opened up a new awareness and language on the nature of capital within the working class. Labour hoping to harness this and under pressure from a emboldened membership. Elected a more left­wing leader than was the course, but no substantial changes to the actual members of caucus which constitute the party were made. The result has been paralysis and dysfunction, revealing that third way politics have only ever been a fig leaf to disguise the naked slavering horror of capital. Unable to deal with it's own internal contradictions and with a policy platform which reflected this; i.e. raise the minimum wage as well as raise the retirement age, the party was pointed to as an example of the dysfunction of the "Left".

Internet MANA however presented a more unified front, even if they had interpersonal differences, the candidates of both parties interacted well and made few mistakes. The movements rank and file also excelled in both leading and supporting protest action. Notably during the protests against the Israeli attack on Palestine (the biggest in New Zealand history), MANA leadership supported this action and the party appeared unified. The weakest link was Kim Dotcom. Newly exiled from the capitalist class and dipping his toes into the lake of working class politics, he was Internet MANA's Achilles heel. Politically inexperienced and due to his contradictory position between bourgeoisie and proletarian ideas, and engaged in a popularity contest with John Key. Dotcom was prone to mistakes of the same sort evident in Labour. Combined with the other mistakes made in the forming of the internet party, his prominent role, a lack of democracy, etc., this cast doubts on the cohesiveness and resolve of Internet MANA, and conflated them with the dysfunction in Labour.

These problems, although serious, were not the death blow to Internet MANA. This came in the form of a "grand coalition of the willing", in which all political parties co­operated in order to instruct voters not to vote for Internet MANA. It is important to not diminish the importance of this sole act of co­operation amongst the political parties, media and business during the election campaign. This opposition positioned the combined forces of capital against Internet MANA. The warning was clear, Internet MANA in parliament would have to fight the combined forces of the bourgeoisie. The New Zealand Heralds, "The mood of the boardroom" even described Internet MANA as "Dangerous radicals". The proposition to the voting public was clear, voting Internet MANA would be a declaration of war on capital and threatened the relative stability of capitalism in New Zealand. Were voters so sure Internet MANA and it's programme could prove staunch enough to challenge capital in parliament? No, they were not, and Internet MANA's vote collapsed.

This act of cooperation by the major parties cannot be overlooked. You only need to look at the unified mobilisation of the ruling elite in the UK at the threat of scottish independence to understand that when faced with a threat to their economic rule, the ruling capitalist parties will put aside their differences and fight the threat to this rule. But while this act of cooperation unified the different political parties in New Zealand, it was the only act of cooperation the NZ left could muster in the lead up to the election. Blame must be placed at the feet of the main opposition parties, namely Labour and the Greens, for their inability to provide a united alternative to the National Government. Constant bickering and undermining of each others position poisoned the idea of these parties working together post election in the minds of New Zealanders. If they were unable to work together in the lead up to the election, what evidence could they provide that they were ready to form a government. The Key government as an alternative, offered to work with their support partners on their differences, rather than using them as a point of difference.
National's depiction of the New Zealand Left in the lead up to the election.
What must be done?

In many ways the failures of MANA were not due to what was done, but what was not. MANA was ultimately unable to convey to a great mass of the working class a programme, a viable alternative to capitalism. Nor was it able to convince them of it's commitment to that programme or that it was in possession of forces adequate for the realisation of this programme. Neither was the working class yet in a situation desperate enough for MANA to lead in that project. Relative prosperity in New Zealand, as well as acts of unity from the ruling class, show that there is still a material basis for bourgeois dominance currently. However this material basis continues to decline, with growing inequality despite growing global wealth, environmental degradation despite new technologies and oppression despite protest. It is only a matter of time until there is a situation which brings all of these growing contradictions to the fore anew, as with the last crisis. If the Labour party is relied upon to lead in this next crisis the result can only be the same; Paralysis, as the party turns on itself once more.

Mike Treen from Unite union advocates;
'At the same time a more radical critique of capitalism which is beginning to be advanced by the MANA Movement has yet to to win a hearing from a significant percentage of the voting public. That doesn’t mean that radical voice should be silenced or moderated. I am confident that the continued failure of this system, and the parties that defend this system, will eventually open the eyes of many more people to what is needed. That is also reflected in the willingness of growing numbers to take action around issues like climate change, child poverty, deep sea oil drilling in just the last few weeks. Ultimately real change will come from a combination of action in the streets and at the ballot box. If MANA remains true to itself as a movement of both the streets and parliament they can be confident of future victories.'

MANA must be the focus for constructing a resolute, unified and broad mass working class party. It needs a clear anti­capitalist programme as an alternative to capitalism, a mass organisation of activists to lead struggle for the programme, and a mass membership to struggle for and implement their programme. Socialist Aotearoa reaffirms its support for the MANA movement and calls for the following reforms.

Without parliamentary representation to distract or provide a basis for opportunism, which is now at a low within the party. There is a clear opportunity to build the MANA movement, through activism, argument, and solidarity. MANA must now be at the forefront of all struggles against oppression, climate change and inequality for the next three years. It will take a high level of co­ordination within MANA and with other activists. By being the most organised, consistent and democratic, we can win these activists to MANA. By winning these activists, we can win the most advanced sections of the working class to MANA.

A sold publication from MANA must be produced. This is a traditional method to communicate with sections of the working classes and is sorely missing from the left. This is vital in order to organise MANA effectively, but also to develop ideas creating a greater degree of consensus within the movement, avoiding delays and internal strife, while promoting movement democracy. It can be used to advocate for an anti­capitalist programme to the working class and promoting MANA's actions to win new members.

Funding for activities, campaigns and publications must be gathered from the membership. It is necessary for MANA to collect dues from their members in order to fund the movements activities. The national aspect of MANA provides opportunities for national funding in order to support vital struggles with resources previously inaccessible. This is also a vital source of non parliamentary resources which will help to strengthen MANA's independence.

Revolutionary socialists must work within the MANA movement to be the most active leaders, with the most advanced strategies, tactics and politics, we must win our arguments through their strength. We must continue to fight against racism, sexism and nationalism within the MANA movement, and call upon the movement to be the first to oppose these injustices wherever they present. We must also work to win the most advanced section of the MANA movement over to revolutionary socialism and promote socialist ideas in general. Only then will we be ready for the looming crisis.

Dave. SA

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

By our works, Earth shall succeed


Brother and sister comrades, the end is nigh! We have given our consent through inaction for the interests of capitalism to take what they please, to rape the earth we were born on, and pillage the land we live on. Over the past one hundred years of capitalist development, we have seen the degeneration of our planet at a rate previously unheard of. Domestic oil supplies have run dry or reached the decade-till-dry mark in many critical industrial areas of the world. Our oceans and their ability to sustain life both under, and out of the water have been considerably damaged or depleted, with the fisherman's catch being leaner and leaner each season. Our soil is becoming seriously depleted and the amount of arable land on earth is being shrunk – with a population set to explode within the next few decades. This presents a problem with regards to keeping the population of the earth fed and maintaining some semblance of social stability.

With this rock we inhabit being the only known place in the infinite stretches of space that can support life and ensure the continuation of our species, it is of paramount importance that we preserve what we have left for ourselves and attempt to reverse the damage already done. The corporate interests have proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are incapable of doing anything but the opposite of what we as a species needs. The green parliamentary parties of the world have led a defeat through paralysis, solely through their forced collaboration with the capitalist interests. They have negotiated themselves into a position where to allow positive environmental progress, they must collude with those interested only in the preservation of nature for profit, therefore diluting their own politics and messages in the process. 

The existing methods for slowing and reversing the degeneration of our climate have proven highly ineffective, and it can no longer be assumed that they will bring about any meaningful reversal, or slowing of climate change at all. For example we see the New Zealand green party has planned a policy that involves charging a state-owned bank with investment in eco-capitalist ventures. Russell Norman himself said in the electoral campaign just passed that he was “more committed to the free market” than our own prime minister! We cannot trust the elite to pursue an agenda that supports the environment, as it is not seen to be fiscally productive – in other words, we cannot trust those who are in charge to put the environment ahead of the economy, even if it spells the end of life as we know it.

The conservation of the environment relates to our future and our immediate national interest more than one may assume. What happens now will decide the future quality, availability and prices of food and fuel, as well as affecting the general quality of life and availability of employment. The schemes that are in place now are futile. For example we can clearly see that Carbon credits are a failed policy, the Kyoto protocols were a mere gesture and the climate change summit is a joke that we politely take an interest in. The lack of political will to address the issue properly, considering the incentive, is shocking and disgusting.

The bottom line: we are headed for economic, social and environmental catastrophe due to our inaction or ineffective action.

Thus, we find ourselves confronted by a conundrum. We have to ask ourselves, do attempts to influence the parliamentary parties through piecemeal marches up and down the main drag, or outside guarded conferences work? Or do we assume that the outcome will be the same (negligible)? We in Socialist Aotearoa endorse a regime of peoples supremacy, and believe that revolutionary changes to our governments means of operation are key to the success of the halting, and reversing of climate change and other green & social damages. 

Brother and sister comrades, we must organize ourselves before it is too late. The time of true crisis is rapidly approaching. The environmental path we tread is a path to destruction and death, unless we take a revolutionary detour and disrupt our course. Comrades, we do not need anyone else to organize our society for us, to represent us, or to rule us! We are perfectly capable of working together to act in our own interests, on our own initiatives. We are capable of protecting our own environment & communities, and living without government supervision. 

The days of tinkering with policy has long since past. The crises has thickened, the climate change countdown has accelerated and the need for decisive action is more urgent than ever. It is imperative to the survival of our species and culture, that we unite and revolt before this impending environmental death and social genocide we have allowed ourselves to entertain, manifests itself and ends humanity as we know it. 

Revolt, comrades! Prevent your children's untimely demise!

 SA









Thursday, September 11, 2014

Transgender politics

Representation in the bourgeois parliament can be important to any liberation struggle that is still in its infancy. Yet 15 years after the first transgender person was elected to the New Zealand parliament, our representation has not improved. The current parliament lacks any transgender representation and only two political parties have transgender candidates standing for election this year. Indeed for the past seven years we have relied on gay or feminist MP’s to advocate on our behalf. This is quite problematic as people who do not experience this unique struggle tend to be quite out of touch with the community and their experiences.

The transgender liberation struggle is a prime example of this, those who we rely upon for advocacy and representation are no longer able to do so effectively. The gay community has become heavily commercialised, as well as being dominated by rich gay men. Feminist groups meanwhile are becoming increasingly transphobic, with Radfem tendencies becoming increasingly dominant within Anarcha-Feminist groups. On one level this highlights the importance of transgender representation within parliament yet it also highlights the inadequacy of bourgeoisie “Democracy” to properly address our concerns regardless of who is in power.

When Whangarei lawyer Kelly Ellis first announced her candidacy for the Labour party I was excited. Initially it looked like the beginning of a new chapter for transgender liberation (paying lip service to liberation struggles being one of the few things that help distinguish the Labour party from National). When the Labour party announced the so called progressive list however, she was ranked so low that her only chance of getting into parliament would be winning the deeply conservative Whangarei electorate, an impossible task during the best of times.

Georgina Beyer has really been the only significant transgender representative in the New Zealand parliament, she was elected MP for Wairarapa for six years. However she later left parliament due to the confiscation of Māori land by the Clark government. Beyer is a Māori Trans woman who has put a lot of her political focus on Maori struggles. Today she is the MANA Movement candidate for Te Tai Tonga with a very small chance of winning that electorate.

Georgina Beyer’s selection for Te Tai Tonga brings some hope for Transgender people. MANA however is a small party that is only likely to send a few MP’s to parliament. On the slight chance that Georgina Beyer can break the Tirikatene family stranglehold on Te Tai Tonga, she will be returned to parliament.

With neither of the major party's running a Transgender candidate that is likely to be elected. We must therefore focus on how we can best use radical grass roots politics to further our struggle for liberation. The liberal approach of “using the appropriate channels” has failed to improve conditions for working class, Transgender people to any significant degree. And relying on cisgender people to advocate for us is simply not acceptable, we must fight for our rights like so many before us.

Comrade Eva.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Dirty Politics and Capital



Nicky Hager's latest political expose "Dirty Politics" has exposed attitudes towards power which could be called "entitled", as well as the toxic interpersonal relationships which drive the people at the centre of our political system. It is in some ways shocking, the lack of self censorship revealed by emails and messaging, shows shrill hatred towards not just towards particular individuals, but entire groups of our fellow humans. One cannot help but wonder if the attitude of Cameron Slater towards Cantabrians is shared by our parliamentary leadership, and indeed if this has lead to many of their current miseries.
But though the litanies of immoralities, jingoism, jobism etc . . looms large, there is a central premise within Nicky's book which must be noted. There is a general decline worldwide in our democracy, it appears weak compared to what it once was. Voter turnouts throughout developed countries are generally in decline, there is increasing alienation between voters and their representatives and a proliferation of minor parties, some, such as golden dawn are openly fascist. Nicky suggests a quote by Simon Lusk provides some illumination to this quandary.
“There are a few basic propositions with negative campaigning that are worth knowing about. It lowers turnout, favours right more than left as the right continues to turn out, and drives away the independents.’ In short, many people stop participating in politics. If politicians cannot be trusted, if politics looks like a petty or ugly game, and if no one seems to be talking about the things that matter, then what’s the point of bothering to participate? Just leave them to it. There are innovations in US Republican Party thinking on this point; election tactics do not have to be just about winning votes; they can be equally effective if groups of people in society just stop voting altogether. We should not assume that everyone thinks low voter turnout is a bad idea. Sitting in the midst of the negative politics was John Key…"
- Simon Lusk.
The ideas within this quote are problematic to say the least. The idea is that revulsion with the political elite will essentially tarnish all political opposition as well, that politics will become a stinking corpse that none would dare touch from fear of the disease. But corpses must be buried, and this system would ultimately create its own gravediggers. Even the most violent, bloody, dirty political regimes in history are eventually confronted with social forces which seek their destruction, this has been repeated a hundred times over. Undermining parliament in the long term threatens the very power these parties seek to win, it's contradictory to engage in such politics by choice.
Secondly the idea has a circular logic to it, dirty politics depresses voter turnout through alienation. This alienation then leads to lower turnout strengthening the practice of dirty politics. More dirty politics are practiced lowering voter turnout further, strengthening the practice of dirty politics. This forms a perfect circle without a history or future, nor does it offer any explanation for the rise of dirty politics or most importantly how to fight it?
To this end I would like to advance an alternate perspective on the context within which dirty politics must be understood. An international context with clear historic, economic and ideological origins.
"With this generalised involution has come a pervasive corruption of the political class… Commonplace in a Union that presents itself as a moral tutor to the world, the pollution of power by money and fraud follows from the leaching of substance or involvement in democracy. Elites freed from either real division above, or significant accountability below, can afford to enrich themselves without distraction or retribution. Exposure ceases to matter very much, as impunity becomes the rule. Like bankers, leading politicians do not go to prison… But corruption is not just a function of the decline of the political order. It is also, of course, a symptom of the economic regime that has taken hold of Europe since the 1980s. In a neoliberal universe, where markets are the gauge of value, money becomes, more straightforwardly than ever before, the measure of all things. If hospitals, schools and prisons can be privatised as enterprises for profit, why not political office too?"
- Perry Anderson.
Here Perry Anderson offers an alternative explanation for the spread of dirty politics, as Marx pointed out "the political follows the economic". Dirty politics do not represent a development separate from our system of economic development, it is a way of maintaining the ideological dominance of capitalism broadly and neo-liberalism specifically. We can see examples of this throughout the neo-liberal political-economy that now pervades. Examples include misinformation campaigns and defamation attacks by petrochemical companies against global warming advocates, Clothing corporations over the conditions of workers in the global south and defense of executive bonuses within the financial sector after the financial crisis they perpetrated, not one went to jail.
What Nicky Hager has revealed in his book is the connection between these corporations and our 'so-called' representatives. The sharing of tactics, resources and political objectives. But we do not need Nicky's book to provide examples of the mutual interests of the state and capital acting against the interests of the population. Casino deals, financial bailouts, deregulation and attacks on welfare are all examples of the complicity of the state, often under the direction of 'Commissions' lined with the cream of business.
To this end dirty politics does not represent a political strategy for retaining office but the spread of capitalist neo-liberal ideology within the political parties which alienated large sections of the party membership, allowing the growth of corporate interest and control to every party aspect including parliamentary strategy. Dirty politics then becomes about maintaining the corporate control of parties.
Fighting dirty politics then must not just be a political endeavour, it must transform the economic conditions which lead to the rise and maintenance of dirty politics. Fought not just with the vote but with the struggle for the minimum wage, secure hours and democratic control. Corporate economic power can only represent a temporary victory unless it consolidates its power to once again dominate political power. To fight this dependency and free ourselves from the stinking corpse of politics we must become 'gravediggers' not just of capitals influence over politics but of the economy as well.
Dave, SA

Monday, September 01, 2014

NATIONAL HURTS WOMEN TO HOLD ON TO POWER

Many people don’t vote for National because they don’t like their economic policies, which favour the rich and hurt the poor. But it’s also important to understand that National creates policies and a social environment that is bad for women.

Many of the policies that National has created over its last two terms in government worsen women’s position. For example, they cut the training allowance for solo mothers on the Domestic Purposes Benefit, even though their own social welfare minister, Paula Bennett, used this benefit herself when she was on welfare. This is known as ‘pulling the ladder up after yourself’. Over the last year, they’ve also created policies that mean that WINZ is constantly checking up on solo mothers and trying to force them into work, even if they’re already in jobs, as many are. These women are harassed by WINZ workers and forced to come into the office for long, tedious appointments that don’t help them to find jobs.

National has also created policy that means that innocent women can have their benefits cut if their partners commit benefit fraud. National is more prone to abusing women on social welfare in this way because, in order to trick poor people into voting for them, and against their own interests, they have to create a climate of fear, dividing sections of the poor up and turning them against each other. They try to make the working poor believe that the poor who are on social welfare are their enemies. To follow through on this, they have to create policies that punish the poor on social welfare, so it looks like they’re ‘protecting the interests’ of the working poor. Many of those who need social welfare are women, so they’re on the receiving end of these unjust policies.

Another way in which National hurts women is through the basic sexism of their outlook on society. For example, National has close ties with Cameron Slater, the blogger who accused a woman who was almost raped by a Malaysian diplomat of only complaining because she was a ‘feminist’. They also failed to investigate this case properly until they were forced to by media interest. National delisted domestic violence from the crimes that New Zealand keeps statistics on, and attacked Labour’s attempts to have an equal number of male and female MPs in parliament – an attack that made Labour water down its policy. 

Finally, National will always put the interests of the rich ahead of the interests of women whose rights need protecting. For example, they ignored the fact that one of their most generous donors had a record of domestic violence, and accorded him privileges he probably shouldn’t have received (Labour also received donations from this man). National supports employment policies like creating more casual workers, these workers have no guaranteed hours and almost no rights, as their hours can be slashed at will without a good reason being given. Casual workers are often women who are unable to work full time as they care for children or other family members. It suits National to have a big workforce of poorly paid workers with hardly any rights, as their rich friends will like this pool of cheap, flexible labour. Over the last few years, the women who make up the bulk of the workers in low paid jobs such as care work and cleaning have struggled for better pay and conditions, only for National to refuse to help them.

Women can stick together and fight against National and its policies. Oppressing women benefits the rich, because it creates a big pool of people who will work for low wages and don’t have the emotional strength or time to defend themselves. It’s important to think about how National creates an environment that benefits the rich not just by creating legislation that makes many people poorer and less powerful, but how they specifically try to fool people into voting for them by turning the working poor against those on welfare, and men against women.

Mary Ann.