Written By: - Date published: 12:41 pm, January 29th, 2013 - 42 comments
Categories: child welfare, class war, Environment, greens, human rights, poverty, privatisation, public transport, sustainability, trade, workers' rights - Tags: tpp
To change the dominant political and media landscape and move away from the “neoliberal consensus”, it is necessary to apply pressure from below. Political parties will always be channeled towards a narrow centrist position by the political, corporate and wealthy elites, and the commercialised, corporate-dominated MSM.
At the weekend, the Green Party launched an initiative to build a movement that doesn’t require party membership. They pointed to the success of the campaign to gain signatures for a referendum on asset sales, as the way forward.
It does seem to me that Kiwis come out in reasonable numbers for demonstrations that have a concrete focus on things that matter to them personally and/or impact on their daily lives: the cost of electricity (asset sales), the importance of the outdoors (anti-Schedule Four mining protests). They don’t usually get out on the streets in large numbers for broader campaigns that challenge the international power structures, corporate elite and political establishment (anti-TPP demonstrations).
The Occupy movement caught the imagination of many in the general population through it’s targeted slogans (1% versus 99%), and the focus on the rip-off merchants that dominate the banking system. This touches people where they live, in struggling to survive and live a reasonable life. While the movement continues among many who are committed, it’s slipped off the MSM agenda.
Opposition to Canada’s right wing government has has resulted in some strong grass-roots political campaigns and provide some potential guidelines. The actions of groups like Idle No More and Common Causes.
These groups are taking on PM Harper’s “neoliberal” agenda, as reported by Archana Rampure in the article: ‘Neoliberalism no more: Making common cause to defeat The Harper agenda‘. The article reports on Harper’s policies and approaches that support the “neoliberal” elites in a way similar to many things our NAct government is doing or planning:
Stephen Harper has an agenda and it is all about turning Canada into a resource-extraction economy. He would like to make sure that nothing and no one stands in the way of exploiting the oil and the gas, the minerals and the water.
Protests and criticism are countered with racist slurs and by labeling the critics as “radicals” and “terrorists”, while trade unions are demonised as being “big labour”.
The article argues that Harper’s agenda is most clear in his record of joining as many bi-lateral free trade agreements as possible. And it is seen in his government’s on-going and ruthless attempts to negotiate a free trade agreement with Europe: the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). It sounds scarily like the secretive TPP agreement that our current government is negotiating. The Rampure article says CETA will limit the ability of Canada’s elected governments to regulate, impact on procurement processes by local governments, allow foreign corporations to by-pass Canada’s legal systems and “appeal to secretive tribunals”, and,
The EU’s demands around intellectual property translate into billions of extra dollars for brand-name pharmaceuticals.
To get Kiwis motivated, it’s necessary to focus on local issues that have a fairly immediate impact on people’s lives. In the course of the local actions, the global and wider political connections can be mentioned and explained.
Consequently I think the Green Party idea to focus first on Auckland’s transport is a good idea. Bomber, in a post today, gives the background that shows why a focus on an Auckland campaign will also be good for the Green Party. He was disappointed by the low attendance at the picnic. He points out they only recently have acquired an Auckland MP (* update below), and lists the Auckland electorates with the telling percentage of votes the Greens go in each electorate in the last election.
Auckland isn’t the only city or region where a local campaign would be beneficial in stimulating a building a broad movement. However, the size of the city makes it one (but not the only one) that should be at the forefront.
It remains to be seen whether a genuine flax-roots movement can be led by a political party. However, the Greens do have a visibility wider than something like the inspiring Auckland Action and Against Poverty. Their 3 day advocacy for beneficiaries was an imaginative and practical action that any movement could learn from. Street protests only engage the already politically aware. So maybe any Auckland action should look at ways to draw attention to public transport use – smart mobs on peak hour trains? Well I’m not so great on thinking up practical and innovative forms of action.
How can we best mobilise the politically disengaged in NZ, to join a movement for change?
[*Update: The Green Party has more than 1 MP residing in Auckland. The Green Party website shows that Denise Roach, Julie Anne Genter, and David Clendon live in Auckland. I am also told that Kennedy Graham now lives in Auckland.