Saturday, September 13, 2008
NZ Elections- Don't Just Vote, Get Active!
Aotearoa goes to the polls on November 8th, in what many see as one of the tightest electoral contests in New Zealand's history,where the main choices are between the Coca Cola-Labour led bloc and the Pepsi-National opposition. Trade union militants and genuine socialists bemoan the fact that there is no credible united left electoral ticket, and although there are candidates and campaigns from groups such as the Workers Party, the Alliance and the Residents Action Movement, none expect to get any MPs elected, let alone break through the 5% list vote threshold necessary to secure representation. So what should be done?
Many anarchist comrades will refuse to take part in the electoral charade, refusing to vote for another bunch of leaders whose promises transform in a Cinderellic sparkle into lies once the votes have been cast. Activists in Socialist Aotearoa have great sympathy with this position, but are not dogmatically opposed to people using the weapon of the ballot box tactically- indeed, many leading anarchists will be sneaking off round the corner to give their vote to the Green Party, on the strength of work done by MPs like Keith Locke and Sue Bradford.
Left greens and watermelons see a left-right dichotomy at work in the Green party, and a possible parting of ways between the reds and blues if the Green Party make an Irish style deal with National in the future. Bradford and Locke both have their roots in the revolutionary socialist tradition, and have been a constant and dependable presence on many picket lines, demonstrations and protests on the streets. Many left greens would see the loss of Sue and Keith as a great tragedy, and are thus out to maximise the Green vote to ensure the 5% threshold is reached. Unlike other electoral vehicles, this is both a real possibility and a looming danger for the Greens, and every vote really does count for them.
The Maori party stayed staunch when the State's Terror Raids demonised and criminalised whole Maori communities in the Urewewa's, in what was their political highpoint of the last parliamentary term. The Maori party are also championing the removal of GST on food in tandem with the Residents Action Movement, as well as opposing the Emissions Trading Scheme from the left. Here, they point to the naked emperor, saying that creating a market for carbon pollution will not guard the land, and for this they are to be applauded as true tangata whenua. Many supporters of Tino Rangatiratanga and self determination see the upcoming contests between Maori and the Labour Party in the Maori seats as a chance for a clean sweep by Sharples, Hone and co- one that will strengthen their power as kingmakers in the next parliament. But here lies the danger....
Like so many smaller parties that fall into the "Neither Left nor Right" trap, the Maori party has also rang a few gongs in its three years in parliament. Their tardiness in opposing Wayne Mapp's 90 days bill disgusted many union delegates- a huge groundswell of Maori working class anger forced the party hierarchy to change its tune. A leading member's hatred of the Labour party she resigned from means that their rhetoric about going into coalition with National cannot be discounted as a clever horse trading strategy- the real possibility of a Blue-Brown government that seeks to strengthen the Browntable Maori capitalists at the expense of the flaxroots is still there.
A minority of radical socialist opinion calls for a vote for the social-liberal Labour Party, either offering the support of the rope for the condemned man in the case of Dave Bedgodds's CWG, or a genuine reformism that points to the limited crumbs cast off the table over the last 9 years- Working for Families, Kiwibank and Kiwisaver, increases in the minimum wage from $9.25 to $12, as in the case of the SFWU's Jill Ovens. Here the argument is that in a straight fight between the True bright pink of the social liberals and the mildest of Keysian cyans of National, we should plum for the Coca Cola. Many ex Trotskyists have now become born again Trotterists, as the collapse in support of the once strong Alliance party leaves left social democrats floundering on Labour's edges.
Here the materialist left needs to concede the fact that reforms such as the increases to the minimum wage and Working for Families have had tangible material results for the poorest of Aotearoa's workers. Of course, the $12 per hour minimum wage was one of the central demands of the Unite union's highly successful SupersizeMyPay.Com campaign, and although it is correct to say that pressure on the streets forced Labour's hand on the issue, it wouldn't have forced National's. Those who remember the great Labour betrayals of 1984 need to connect with the dubstep generation of 2008, for whom those battles are a distant memory, and whose experience of 9 years of Labour led government is lacklustre, not livid.
The great tragedy of the whole affair is the continuing electoral fragmentation of the radical left, despite its ability to punch above its weight in other fields and activities. The Alliance, RAM and the Workers Party are all running electoral campaigns in competition for the 5% vote threshold that none of them seriously expect to achieve. Here, the idea is either to keep the red and green flag flying, to brand the broad left ticket for the next national electoral outing, or to propagandise about revolutionary socialism and recruit to the party.
It is a pity that here we don't see the unity of the radical left that we did in projects like the Unite union or the Supersize campaign. The exact demarcation lines of a radical left electoral ticket will be fought over till kingdom come, yet there are several important points worth looking at.
Revolutionary socialists who've read their Rosa Luxemburg know that revolution and reformism are not two different paths to the same goal, but are two different goals entirely. Here, the Workers Party stand in a revolutionary socialist tradition and the Alliance in a left social democratic tradition. And never the twain shall meet? Indicative of a new evolutionary mood and a break from preceived dogmatic stiffness by some sections of the NZ left, WP comrades do not insist that one needs to be a revolutionary to join the WP, never mind vote for the party. Their electoral campaign is based around tangible reforms that non revolutionary workers can relate to, as well as making solid points about what socialism could be. It will be interesting to see how comrades like Daphna Whitmore and Don Franks do in the ballot boxes, and we wish them the best.
In contrast, the revolutionaries of Socialist Worker have made a coalition with some people from various other backgrounds to form the Residents Action Movement, around a set of ten commandments that include free public transport and abolishing GST off food. However, this "broad left" does not include many outside the orbit of SW, in particular militants in the union movement, and there are also concerns about how "broad" broad is, with leading figures claiming the party is neither Left nor Right, or that it admires the economic nationalist politics of other NZ politicians, etc.
Comrades in Socialist Aotearoa are enthused about the successes of the Left Party in Germany, whose slogan is "we will be the resistance, inside parliament and in the streets". We look forward to the day when comrades from the Workers Party, Alliance and RAM can unite in a New Left party with Tino activists, watermelons, class struggle anarchists and union militants from Unite, the NDU and the SFWU. Within this New Left, we should co-operate but maintain our autonomy and political identities. In the past, we have done this through campaigns like SupersizeMyPay.com that captured the imagination of working people outside left activist ghettos.
To further this goal, we invite comrades to two upcoming events-
Don't Just Vote- Get Active!
Socialist Aotearoa forum on the 2008 Elections-
where guest speakers from the electoral tickets meet the extra-parliamentary campaigns.
7pm Thursday September 25th
Owen Glenn building, School of Business, Auckland University
MARCH AGAINST LOW PAY-
$15ph minimum wage NOW.
2pm Saturday November 1st
Aotea Square, Auckland.