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Something rotten in the state…

Written By: - Date published: 9:58 am, December 11th, 2012 - 88 comments
Categories: accountability, activism, blogs, class war, david cunliffe, democracy under attack, greens, labour, Left, mana, news, The Standard, workers' rights - Tags: ,

I am becoming increasingly despondent about the state of left wing politics in NZ as I watch the struggles in the Labour Party unfold: lurching from one contested tension to another, in an on-going bitter conflict.  Currently, to govern in NZ the Left requires a strong , democratic and solidly left wing Labour Party.  The Labour Caucus leadership seems more intent on their own hold on power, than the good of their party or the country as a whole.

The Labour Party struggles are most often reportedly centred on individual personalities (see Clare Curran’s reported statements about her conflict with a Standard commenter here; and the on-going reporting on the alleged conflicts between David Cunliffe and the leadership of the Labour caucus as reported here today).  The MSM tends to encourage such inter-personal rivalries. But the underlying issues are of political process, ethics and position.  Bryce Edwards, while showing a lack of understanding of The Standard, has got the central issues about right, when he describes it as a struggle between the left and right, and between the left of the party and the ‘electoral professionalisation’ of the parliamentary wing of the party.  However, these tensions are also set within the wider NZ political landscape, involving the MSM and the continual rightwards and autocratic shift fueled by the dominant “neoliberal consensus”.  The dominant voices within the MSM are still enamoured with John Key, and in the face of his downward slide, favour a more right or centrist Labour Party, over a left wing one.

I also find Chris Trotter’s historical perspective enlightening.  He shows that the Labour Party has long been undemocratic, but that the Internet now provides a means for advocating for a more democratic Labour Party. During the Lange and Prebble years int he 1980s, an Otago Labour Party print publication, the Caucus, was shut down for criticising the then leader, David Lange. At the time Richard Prebble is reported to have said:

“Your first mistake”, he told the hapless twenty-somethings, “was to assume that the Labour Party is a democracy.”

Thirty years later, supporters of internal Labour Party democracy are facing many important differences from the early 1980s, but also some startling continuities. …

It is at this point that we encounter some powerful continuities with the Labour Party of thirty years ago. For it would seem that those participating in The Standard have made the same “mistake” as the editors of Caucus: that of assuming the Labour Party to be a democracy.

A large proportion of the rank and file membership has voted for such a democratisation. But the Labour Caucus leaders are doing their best to resist: hence the unethical moves to silence party members blogging and commenting online. As Trotter says, participants in online forums on the Web today, are not as easily silenced as writers for a Labour Party print publication in the 1980s.  However, the outcome is still uncertain.

The reason why I won’t vote for the current Labour Party is firstly to do with policy:  the Greens and Mana do far more in policy and actions to campaign for a more fair and inclusive society: one where beneficiaries are not demonised, where there is a strong commitment to improving the lot of the unemployed, the low paid,  the disenfranchised, the powerless, and those who will always be renters.  These parties don’t just foreground policies that will appeal to the comfortable middle class liberals.

As well as this, I value democratic process within organisations.  In a context where employers think it’s OK to sack someone for being the member of a union that contested government and US corporate manipulations of pay and conditions, democratic process is front and centre of my concerns.

In my view, the wider NZ Left needs a Labour caucus that is strong and confident enough to break significantly from with the direction set in the Roger Douglas/Lange years.  It needs a Labour leadership that has the commitment to return to a more left wing focus, one that re-engages with dis-engaged (non)voters.  It needs a leadership that doesn’t primarily aim to appease the dominant MSM, and middle-class-focused discourses.

Disclaimer: I am not now, nor never have been a member of any party.  I have not met any of the other Standard authors, and don’t know the real names of authors (or commenters) who write under pseudonyms (except for one or two where the real name behind the pseudonym is publicly known).  I am solidly left wing, and have voted for various left wing parties in my time.  In the past I have party voted Labour, but in the last few elections I have party voted Green, and given my electorate vote to the Labour candidate (David Cunliffe).

88 comments on “Something rotten in the state…”

  1. David Viperious H 1

    And that hits the nail firmly on the head!

    Thanks Karol

  2. wyndham 2

    Well said Karol. Exactly matches my own thoughts about the present state of the party supposedly of the “left”. I have voted for Labour in every election (bar one) since I was 20 years old in 1950. Unless there is a radical clean-up of the current mess, the Greens will get both my votes in 2014.

  3. One Tāne Viper 3

    That smell is the stink of distrust: distrust of democracy by those who should be its staunchest protectors.

    Democracy creates stability by including and trusting the ability of human beings to organise their own affairs. The Labour caucus (with one or two exceptions) shows little understanding of this.

    • vto viped 3.1

      That’s right OTV. The Labour Party should be the leading proponent of democratic principles.

      The fact that they cannot and do not trust the people they profess to assist just screams BONKERS. It indicates a fatal and base flaw in their approach to people. And to society as a whole.

      It is like that survey which indicates that 90% of drivers think they are above average drivers.

      The sole question needs to be – do you trust yourself to make decent decsions about your own life? If the answer is yes then you must also trust most all fellow humans to do the same about their lives.

      • SHG (not Colonial Viper) 3.1.1

        Democratic principles?

        As Bryce Edwards commented so eloquently yesterday,

        The Labour Party has long been drifting towards an organisational and political style that political scientists call ‘electoral-professional’. This is a modus operandi in which a party no longer acts a bottom-up mass membership party but is instead an elite of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff who have almost total control over the image, policy, ideologies and activities of the party.

        Party membership in this model is simply not necessary. In fact members and activists are at best tolerated instead of encouraged. Therefore such parties tend to have very low membership numbers, and the members have little real incentive to join unless they want to rise up the ranks to become MPs or parliamentary staff. Instead of relying on the fundraising of party members or their activism, instead such parties rely on backdoor state funding through parliament which pays for the bulk of their activities.

        • vto viped 3.1.1.1

          I saw that SHG, but the fact of that matter has little bearing on my point that they should be flag-bearers for “power to the people”.

          Perhaps that described by Edwards and todays bit by Trotter is behind the reason for Labour’s falling membership. What was it in the 80s? 80,000 or some such? What is it today? I wonder if the two things are linked …….. thinking thinking …….. doh ….

          Why don’t MPs and the labour Party embrace the blogosphere? There are myriad ways of commenting. Some commenters comment carefully and rationally and refuse to indulge in petty things. Why don’t they do that? Use the blogosphericality to their advantage… thinking …….. doh

          • Colonial Weka 3.1.1.1.1

            Power and control.

            • Matthew Whitehead 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Right, but you need to have power for control to be worth anything. Labour would be better off inviting the membership in democratically than building their perfect little sandcastles below the high tide line and either losing or simply not making a strong showing next election because nobody cares.

          • SHG (not Colonial Viper) 3.1.1.1.2

            Perhaps that described by Edwards and todays bit by Trotter is behind the reason for Labour’s falling membership.

            Perhaps? That’s EXACTLY the reason for it. If we accept Edwards’s thesis, membership (and listening to it) is “at best tolerated” by the electoral-professional Labour Party. The Party neither wants nor needs members. What it needs is FUNDING, and it gets that through being in Parliament, not being in the community.

          • Tracey 3.1.1.1.3

            What was the percentage of the workforce in unions in the 1980’s? Since the early 90’s unions have been legislated against with accompanying propaganda. Accordingly fewer and fewer have joined. Are people aware that despite being called evil and nasty many unions allow people to join them once an employment issue has arisen so the union can assist them? In otherwords despite not supporting the purpose of the union financially throughout their employment they can still access benefits when they need them.

            The systematic dismantling of employee rights and rights and access (affordable) to employment access may also corrolate to dropping labout party membership?

        • Tracey 3.1.1.2

          It’s not called “electoral-professional” it’s called the National Party.

  4. Veutoviper 4

    Another brilliant post, Karol, which sees the wood for the trees and, as DVH says above, hits the nail firmly on the head.

    Just a pity that IMO those that will not see – the Labour Party caucus – will continue on their destructive path to the detriment of the party and the country.

    I also recomment Robert Winter’s latest post “Ms Curran outs herself in all her Bolshevik glory”. Link is in the Feeds column here.

    • Dr Terry 4.1

      Already we see another embarrassing “mistake” under Shearer’s leadership – involving who? None less than Mr Cunliffe! Who would have guessed! Karol is right on the job, I support her 100 per cent. I have to wonder how long Cunliffe is going to tolerate one humiliation upon the other? With his vastly superior credentials (academic and professional, also as a past Minister of Health) he could certainly find people abroad who would thank their gods to have him aboard (at a high level). I think that by remaining, he his demonstrating that true humility for which his colleagues most certainly have not given him the least credit.

      • One Tāne Viper 4.1.1

        HST had it right: fuck them and break them and drive them across the land like cattle.

  5. lurgee 5

    “Currently, to govern in NZ the Left requires a strong , democratic and solidly left wing Labour Party”

    I’m not sure I agree with this idea. To govern, you need to win the left and the centre. For a ‘solidly leftwing Labour Party’ to do that would take a leader of uncommon talent and probably a special moment in history. With all due respect to Shearer and Cunliffe, neither of them is a leader of uncommon talent.

    Under MMP, the extreme left is always going to be flaky – eternally squabbling about obscure points of doctrine, protesting about too much ground being given to the centre (and overlooking the fact that they have the ground to give in the first place). Look how many leftwing minor parties have come and gone already – the Alliance and the various parties that constituted it originally, the Progressives, Mana … now the Greens seem to be colonising that space, which is brave, or perhaps foolhardy. How long before the environmentalist core and the anarchist faction start to get uncomfortable with all this neo-statist policy? If the Greens can keep their disparate elements happy, then there is no need for Labour to move left – they will only be taking votes off the Greens, while losing votes in the centre.

    Look at the differences in the housing policy. They both want to build the same amount of houses, but the Greens want to do them as state houses and Labour wants to do them to sell. Both policies have something to recommend them, and both will deliver a massive economic boost and help get working class people working again. The Green policy appeals to me more because it delivers a socially just solution. The Labour policy appeals to middle class voters because it seems more fiscally responsible and it will relieve pressure (slightly) on house prices.

    (Don’t dismiss or mock middle class concerns, by the way – they are legitimate and stem from real issues. If you want to win, you need to carry these people, not alienate them.)

    What I imagine would happen if the Greens and Labour were negotiating their coalition housing policy is that they’d agree to build 300,000 houses, with a mix of social and private ownership – which also makes sense on street level, as a mixture of state and private housing makes for a healthier community. So everyone wins, or loses just a little (which amounts to the same thing) – apart from National.

    I dunno. Sometimes I wake up and I really want Labour to lurch to the far left and to Hell with the centre. Most of the time, I imagine the view from that moral high ground would look remarkably similar to the view from the opposition benches.

    • karol 5.1

      lurgee, to me “solidly left” doesn’t mean “far” or “extreme” left.  It could mean solidly centre left.  But right now the Labour caucus leadership is to the right of the Clark government – and the Clark government was centre left.

    • There is no extreme Left in New Zealand, so to go that far Labour would have to overtake Mana quite significantly. To be “ceding ground to the Centre”, you need to be left of the centre line. Labour has been toeing that line for a while now, so I don’t see how you can argue there is ground to give unless you feel that a centre-right Labour Party is a good idea.

      You should also be aware that Labour doesn’t need to win the centre, it can rely on a coalition partner for that, either in the form of the Greens (which have been doing a great job convincing the environmental middle and directly converting National’s soft support) or New Zealand First. They would have had even more options in that arena had they played nice with the Maori Party, but that ship has sailed. Labour doesn’t have to be the one to win the centre to remain the biggest left-wing party, and in fact it puts it in a vulnerable position where it has to sacrifice members to win the vote, which affects its ability to win the vote again. Labour should define how left it wants to be (which can be very little if they like) and stick with it, taking the centre line only as their principles allow. Voters do not respect vacillation or political opportunism- look at what happened to United Future.

  6. Cayte Shepherd 6

    So Karol you are not and have never been a member of the Labour Party or any other political party. So what personal experience or in fact, factual basis are you basing your narrative on with no experience of the inner workings?

    Your commentary is once again about how the so called ‘left’ cannot maintain cohesion. In any dynamic human organisation/organism (beehive) discussion and debate is essential, this is how good ideas develop and policy is derived, but the art is then to pull together, stay on message and take it to the enemy.

    The left often fails due to the facturing which occurs when ego gets over involved.

    And do not forget the influence of the media to forage and expand on a snippet to ensure facturing to the left.

    Maybe it would be politic to temper yourself?

    [lprent: Let me put it this way. Your probable alternative to having karol write a post on the subject would be to have me or maybe another frustrated Labour author write one on the topics raised by various external authors yesterday. It would have been like throwing petroleum jelly everywhere because I really can’t help myself at this point. I’m so irritated after years of this kind of dumbarse stupidity from the beltway…

    Karol is quite moderate in her views and a lot less irritated about the continuing set of screwups out of our caucus. So she wrote a well-balanced post on the underlying issues. I personally think that karol person to write a post on this topic (which does underpin the whole issue between membership and caucus at present) and I was quite glad to see her working on it earlier. ]

    • karol 6.1

      By all means, argue your position cayte.  

      I am looking at the situation having looked long and hard at what’s in the public domain. If you look at my past posts you will see I have a strong focus on the MSM and the impact it has on democracy – my position is a well considered one.  

      Are you trying to silence me?

    • Colonial Weka 6.2

      “Maybe it would be politic to temper yourself?”
       
      A curious choice of phrasing. Intemperate is not a word I would associate with Karol (although you might apply it to some of the debate on ts).
       
      I also don’t see Karol’s ego as a problem here in any way at all.
       
      So it’s hard to make sense of your comment other than seeing it as Karol should shut the fuck up now (were I to express it intemperately).
       
      Personally I don’t care that much about how Labour organises internally as long as it works. At the moment many members of the Labour Party are saying it isn’t working. I’m listening to that and expressing my response. Karol is doing that and presenting the ideas in concise, well researched ways in order to provide focal points for debate. That is a very good thing, and I can say as  Green Party member that if the Greens were having this much trouble for this long I would want the debate taken out of the party and into the public in this way.
       
      btw, the left is not an organisation or even an organism, so we can’t all work together against the common enemy.

      • Craig Glen viper 6.2.1

        Cayte shows all the traits of the kind of behaviour that all of us hate namely trying to tell others what to think or say publicly about Labour and then dressing it in that nice cloak of Karol you dont know what your talking about we know best. Its the exact problem that Karols article is refferring to. Good post Karol and thanks for taking the time to write it.

    • Roflcopter 6.3

      Hi Clare!

    • Dr Terry 6.4

      Iprent – Thank you for this comment which restores good sense following something entirely vacuous.

    • Wayne 6.5

      Iprent “our own Caucus”. But you said you are voting Green!

      • One Tāne Viper 6.5.1

        Oh my god! A paradox! Careful, Vayne, this could really mess with your perceptions.

    • OneTrackViper 6.6

      “In any dynamic human organisation/organism (beehive) discussion and debate is essential, this is how good ideas develop and policy is derived”

      And Karol is discussing and debating the issues which is what you said is essential. And she did a pretty good job of it too.

      But your position seems to be that if she (I am assuming she is a she aren’t I. D’oh.) isn’t in an “approved” position she shouldn’t comment? That seems to be the opposite of discussion and debate. Which was part of the problem Karol was outlining. Thanks for the example.

  7. Roflcopter 7

    It’s sad you feel the need to post a disclaimer to either protect yourself, or other commentators on this site.

    • karol 7.1

      It’s not so much to protect me or anyone, but just to make clear where I’m coming from, and to counter possible incorrect assumptions.  For instance, some, like Bryce Edwards, still see TS and it’s authors as being strongly aligned with the Labour Party, albeit, he currently sees it aligned with the left wing of the LP.

      • ColonialPete 7.1.1

        That’s a common misinterpretation of The Standard. Perhaps something could be added to the header like “An independent New Zealand progressive blog” so those who don’t have the sense to click on the “About” link are disabused of this notion.

  8. xtasy 8

    Looking at the face of Clare “Cunning”, “Curry”, or was it Curran (?), she looks as “bright” to me as Shearer has “public appeal” as an expert mumbler and stumbler.

    Yes, it is a very sad affair, what has been, and still is going on within Labour.

    And where was the correction or excuse for the “sickness benefit roof painter” labeling in a “celebrated” heartland speech? It never came.

    So what is one left to think about all this?

    I made my mind up not so long ago, and I already saw the writing on the wall longer ago, Labour either needs a real revolution from within, coming from the wider membership, or it will simply end up being the number two or number three party in NZ for years to come.

    As I am not a member, I feel free to express my views here, but I feel sorry for those that are now too concerned and have chosen to rather refrain from it.

    That though is not democracy.

    My view remains, that serious thoughts should be given, to form a new, inclusive, well presented and well organised left party, based on social democracy, which must allow fresh blood and be free from any “baggage” from the past, and thus can be a fast growing, robust alternative challenge to the “same old” right of spectrum politics of selling assets, outsourcing, off-shoring, privatising, job destruction, division, social warfare, blame gaming and other stupid policies we have been getting for far too long now.

    The holidays should give all the time and space to consider this.

  9. bad12 9

    Excellent post Karol, i have come to form the view that Labour, post the Lange Government has become a party of, for, and by the middle class,

    The stated views of Labour Party members on the pages of The Standard seem hugely out of step with the actions of the Labour Parliament MP’s and i suppose we have to wonder how this can occur if the views of active Labour members at electorate committee level are in majority agreement with the views of Labour Party members expressed here,

    It appears that at least the Labour MP’s have taken the freedom MMP offers to political Party’s and voters alike and accepted that it is the middle class who they wish to represent, (while allowing membership to those of a more leftist nature), and it would seem that while tolerated within the Party outbursts of leftist sentiment from those members will and is ruthlessly repressed,

    Labour at Party level has the means with which to seriously democratize itself should it so wish, any number of mechanisms could be used to accomplish this and bend the Labour MP’s to the will of the Party instead of the reverse which seems to be the norm for modern Labour as a political Party,

    As a Party, Labour could remove from the Parliament MP’s the trigger vote which would lead to a leadership vote and instead place that decision clearly in the hands of either the Labour Party Electorate Committees, or, give the members at the annual conference a floor vote on the question of leadership,

    A further democratization of the Party would be accomplished by the same voting system, (either), being applied to Cabinet positions,(or in opposition spokesperson roles), where either the electoral committees or, (preferably), the members at the Labour annual conference (a) chose by ballot, who would be in a Labour Cabinet, and(b), what portfolio those MP’s would hold,

    At present an aspiring Labour MP only has to please their Electorate Committees up to the point of being elected to the Parliament and after that the relationship in terms of power is reversed,

    If the Labour Party,(it’s active members), want the Parliamentary MP’s to do the bidding of the Party then it has to take unto itself the power on an annual basis to review, from the leader on down, the performance of all it’s MP’s it can form the rules with which to ensure this….

    • Jim Viperald - Once was colonised 9.1

      “Labour at Party level has the means with which to seriously democratize itself …..

      “As a Party, Labour could remove from the Parliament MP’s the trigger vote which would lead to a leadership vote and instead place that decision clearly in the hands of …. the members at the annual conference a floor vote on the question of leadership”

      +1

      The 40/60 threshold is still twice higher (hello!) as compared with the UK Labour Party. right?
      Still some way to go for the NZLP to democratise.

  10. TiggerViper 10

    Wow, Karol. That’s the most well crafted, sensible thing I’ve heard about the mess that is Labour in a long time. Having given Labour every vote in my long voting history, and being a Labour member, I feel deeply disappointed with the events of the last year, the last four years. My Xmas wish is that the leadership takes your advice. As it is I’ve decided to resign membership until the do start thinking Left. And if the don’t by the next election then my party vote goes elsewhere.

  11. Great post Karol – well said.
    Thanks

  12. outofbed 12

    Well events have shown that the NZ Labour Party are very much centrist Party.
    And it looks like battling from within to change its nature to more reflect its original intent, is a fruitless exercise at least in the medium term
    So what choice to we have? Not Much
    6 or 7 years ago I went the Green Party way in the absence of anything else. And certainly after reading the GP charter there was not a lot to disagree with.

    The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand accepts Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand; recognises Maori as Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand; and commits to the following four Principles:
    Ecological Wisdom:
    The basis of ecological wisdom is that human beings are part of the natural world. This world is finite, therefore unlimited material growth is impossible. Ecological sustainability is paramount.
    Social Responsibility:
    Unlimited material growth is impossible. Therefore the key to social responsibility is the just distribution of social and natural resources, both locally and globally.
    Appropriate Decision-making:
    For the implementation of ecological wisdom and social responsibility, decisions will be made directly at the appropriate level by those affected.
    Non-Violence:
    Non-violent conflict resolution is the process by which ecological wisdom, social responsibility and appropriate decision making will be implemented. This principle applies at all levels.

    Recently I have been wondering whether to continue my hard work for the left as all we will infact get is Shearer as PM. Which whilst probably better then Key, is not much reward for a lot of hard work.
    But I suppose the thing to do is to get behind the Greens to enable them to become the main opposition party and consign the NZLP to the centrist dustbin of history. (with Dunne and Peters).

    You can Join here if you like

    • vto viped 12.1

      That all sounds fine and dandy, except for these parts…

      “The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand accepts Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand;” Inappropriate and unsustainable in the long term.

      ” recognises Maori as Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand” Same.

      but all been said and heard before so am going back to sleep…. zzzzz

    • Dr Terry 12.2

      Let’s face it – might Shearer be worse than Key? I know that must sound preposterous, but I fear Shearer’s seeming proclivity for some kind of dictatorship. Then again, is Key himself an ensconced dictator? Leave it to the Greens!

  13. Craig Glen viper 13

    While Im not opposed to the Greens Im not keen on joining them. I have seen some pretty disturbing behaviour at times by the candidate out West in the past, who is very self opinionated to the lefts detriment in my view.Its not all love and apple pie in the Greens like some would like to make out.
    That does not mean that they ( The Greens) wont get my Party vote at the next election though if Labour does not have a real change in its caucus and a change as to the way it treats its rank and file members.

    • bad12 13.1

      Disturbing behavior??? come on let us all in on the news won’t you???,

      The disturbance within Labour seems to be the ongoing one where the wish’s of the Party at large are being deliberately ignored by a large tranche of the Labour MP’s, thats my perception as a non-Labour Party member anyway,

      Of course the Greens have their own internal ructions from time to time, that’s politics, but, the Greens, while having the luxury of never having to face an election having been part of a Cabinet’s decision making, have stuck firmly within the Green Party manifesto in their expressed public political views,

      The same tho cannot be said of the current Labour Parliamentary line-up…

  14. fisiani 14

    Well you have all summer to foment a takeover in February if there is even a vote. If Shearer remains the standard bearer of most of caucus then there will be no wider vote in February and none till after the election in 2014. Where to then? There is plenty of time to form an alternative party that carries the voice of Real Labour. Imagine Labour 18% Real Labour 22% Greens 10% Mana 4% in 2014. Cunliffe would be PM and the Left would be triumphant.

    • Tracey 14.1

      I see the opponents of increasing annual eave to 4 weeks are heading off on their 8-10 weeks leave today.

  15. marsman 15

    Great post Karol, clear and concise. Keep it up please.

  16. Rich 16

    in the last few elections I have party voted Green, and given my electorate vote to the Labour candidate

    Same, but next election I won’t even be doing that, unless Labour change completely including a new leader.

    Something people don’t often realize is that MMP lets most voters ignore tactical considerations with electorate *and* party votes. If Annette King loses Rongotai, worst case is that, party votes being unchanged, National get their candidate (probably Chris Finlayson) in for the electorate and Labour get another list MP. So I’ll be voting for Russel Norman or whoever else the Greens run.

  17. The Labour Party is still essentially the same party that was formed in 1916. Then it stood for moderate workers and small farmer majority against the colonial gentry and small capitalist class.
    In power from 1935-49 it was able to implement a policy of economic nationalism and claim that this was also in the interests of the NZ bourgeoisie which could grow behind protectionist barriers.
    In 1951 this ‘historic compromise’ was smashed by an unholy alliance between Nationals representing rich farmers and NZ compradors (living off imports and exports), Labour under fence-sitter PM Nash, and the moderate union bosses such as the vile FP Walsh who had the biggest dairy farm in the country.
    This new cold war ‘historic compromise’ showed that Labour could not reform the NZ economy unless it was on the terms of the neo-colonial bourgeoisie now oriented towards the US.
    In 1984 Labour was faced with a new set of conditions, a combined crisis of the global economy and a crisis of the NZ economy. NZ capital (and international capital which had ‘branch plants’ in NZ) could not grow without becoming internationally competitive. These were the new realities of global capitalism that swamped NZ and the Labour Government under the neo-liberal wave.
    While this created a huge tension between Labours leadership and its working class base, it was relieved by the unnecessary split of New Labour which took the militants out of party, and by the election of National in 1990. By 1993 most former Labour supporters were voting Labour again.
    Today, the situation is far more serious. The NZ economy has in the period since the 70s gone into decline as its national protections have been removed and competitive sectors privatised and internationalised.
    The GFC (a symptom of structural crisis) has sped the process up as class divisions re-emerge openly and the old contradiction inside Labour reactivate as a fight between Left and Right.
    Left and Right are labels for class positions. Left means the interests of the working class facing global capitalist recession where workers everywhere being forced to pay for the bosses crisis. Right is the position of the centrist petty bourgeois leadership claiming that classes do not exist and only the centre can hold the nation together.
    But the contradiction is powering up and the centre cannot hold. Key’s face is centre but Joyce’s brain is far Right. The Labour Right going to the center has to abandon the Left and the traditional working class constituency. Yet that is the class base of opposition to neo-liberalism right that is growing around the world.
    Labour therefore is bound to split since it can no longer sit on the widening chasm of class war without jumping left or right, or both as the petty bourgeois centre splits from the Left base.
    The current ‘internal’ struggle therefore has a long history in the making.

    • fisiani 17.1

      Correct. True Left thinkers currently only have two options Mana or Green. There is not yet an option of Real Labour or perhaps a better name Standard Labour. If a Real Labour is formed barely 3 months from election 2014 it will meet the same fate as the Conservatives. Under MMP this would not mean divide and conquer but instead unite and rule. The Labour caucus believes it can win power by being National-lite. They will not repeal the RMA changes, nor the national standards, nor the Hobbit laws , nor the 90 day right to prove yourself, nor the changes to student loans etc. Only a government led by Real Labour would do so.

      • One Tāne Viper 17.1.1

        Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

      • Tracey 17.1.2

        This would be funny if you weren’t being serious fisiani. A right wing rose coloured glasses commenter attempting to dissect “true left” thinking. You’d be better served doing some deep self analysis fisiani… it all starts with the individual don’t you right thinkers say… less time analysing and propounding on what you think makes a true left thinker and more time trying to work out how to remove your glasses.

    • Geoff Cartwright 17.2

      Very well put, not really the fault of parliamentarian wing just an understanding that society has changed, move to the right due to the uncoupling of society anchors.
      I’ve pushed a barrow for years now that for this corruption of society to be stop the vast left block must unite and it must start with a democratic energised membership that isthe safeguard for the party.
      There must be no more delay in the process of renewal, we the member want our voices heard, we want action now.
      The election must start now now in two years time.

  18. geoff 18

    Great post, Karol.

  19. karol 19

    Thanks for the positive comments above, and especially thanks to Lynn for providing a space for an independent left-winger to speak freely.

  20. Rhinoviper 20

    Again, great post.

  21. Neoleftie 21

    Nice post Karol.
    IMHO time is slipping by for the REAL Labour party to stop the spiralling descent into a Tory ideological dream of rich getting everything and us the workers little but crumbs or nothing.
    Time for old labour true or REAL labour to step up now and demand change within our party.

  22. lurgee 22

    The problem is the Labour Party as Karol envisages it is not the party the working class of New Zealand desires, and even less so is it the party of the middle classes – who are essential unless you are willing to pursue a Bolshevik option. So it will not get elected any time soon. Instead it will squabble with the greens and Mana over the 25% of the population that will vote for them anyway, while the other 75% will vote National, or not bother; and I’m not sure hoping 51% of the electorate don’t bother turn up on Polling day is really a viable strategy.

    • One Tāne Viper 22.1

      75% + 25% + 51% = 151%. Just saying…

      • Olsviper 22.1.1

        The 51% is of the population who are eligible to vote but who do not turn up. The 75% and 25% are of the 49% who do vote. It works.

        • One Tāne Viper 22.1.1.1

          If you say so perfessor :)

        • lurgee 22.1.1.2

          Hah! Good try. But no, I am more cunning than that!

          The 51% is the portion of the electorate who stay at home. Of the remaining 49%, 25% vote left, and 24% vote right, handing Labour a Pyrrhic victory.

    • karol 22.2

      The problem is partly that the MSM is skewed towards the “neoliberal consensus” and comfortable middle-class values.  This has resulted in many people giving up on voting, and left wing parties, espwcially the Labour Parties of the western world, more focused on appeasing the MSM and middle-classes.  With each election more voters potentially of the left become disengaged, and the dominant public discourse and political landscape shift a little further rightwards.

      Either we stand up and say it’s time to stop this cycle, or Left/labour movement policies will keep on being further undermined.

      And, the issue of democratic process particularly concerns me.  In my post, I did place the general “state” in the context of the anti-democratic Key government, with reference to the sacking of the Hobbit tourism union worker. If we roll over and allow a dictatorial and repressive, nominally “left” wing government to replace it, I fear for the future of democracy in NZ.

      There comes a point when some of us feel we need to draw a line in the sand and say, “This has gone far enough.” 

      • the pigman 22.2.1

        Although I agree with the sentiment and substance of your original post, I think its a bit pessimistic to opine:

        With each election more voters potentially of the left become disengaged, and the dominant public discourse and political landscape shift a little further rightwards.

        I think actual left wing voters become radicalised and the swing voters look for a shift. I know this is hardly “street cred” as being plugged into the zeitgeist of NZ political consciousness, but last night I streamed Campbell Live’s piece on driving dogs (simultaneously disappointing but adorable) and I noticed:

        a) Campbell opened with despirited remarks about how 2012 had been a tough year for NZ and everyone needed cheering up (remembering that NZ hasn’t really had the political-capital-making-crises and DunnoKeyo trades in);
        b) The other segment of the show focused on child poverty/milk in schools/food donations (the sort of ambulance-at-the-bottom-of-the-cliff charity/soft-socialism that swing voters can get into);
        c) The ads spliced in between by the Auckland City Mission portrayed, in a level of honesty I never observed when I lived in NZ, the shitty circumstances with regard to the struggles of the working poor; and
        d) Dogs really shouldn’t be allowed to drive cars.

        At least in respect of a) – c), I’d say these things capture the imagination of the MSM/NZ public and actually make them more likely to vote against a tory government at the next election, even if it is for a soft-socialism-alternative.

        By all means vote left of Labour, but don’t despair too much yet.

  23. Olsviper 23

    Excellent post Karol.

    Eddie said, in http://thestandard.org.nz/butterfly-upon-a-wheel-or-we-havent-changed/ that when TS began, it stood for a few basic Leftwing principles. Pro-worker, pro-environment, pro-equity, and anti-elitist.” Broadly speaking, these are also Labour Party principles. The concept of loyalty in the Labour Party properly attaches to these principles rather than particular leaders, and in my opinion it is right for the membership to challenge the Labour caucus to live up to them. As Danyl has said, “you don’t see a lot of potential National candidates joining up because they hate farmers and the Auckland business community and want to sort them all out.” http://dimpost.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/sealing-the-dick-vote/

  24. arants 24

    Solidarity & Party Discipline – It’s All About Me…

    True, Labour still has a deeply dysfunctional culture (not just the Caucus – most members talk about ‘them’ rather than ‘us’), but a more rigour and less self indulgence in analysing this is required. The left doesn’t have a monopoly on democracy & Labour hasn’t demonstrated excessive amounts of it through its history.

    You identify yourself as left, but disagreeing with you does not make Curran right wing any more than your supporting Cunliffe makes him left wing. The Labour Caucus has a plentiful supply of careerists, incompetents and rightists/rogernomes, but Curran doesn’t actually seem to be one of these. She’s revealed an authoritarian streak, and has stumbled at times but that still doesn’t necessarily make her a rightist. I’m sure her ideology is a lot closer to yours than, say, Goff, King & Cosgrove etc (who seem to be the actual, UTR, problem). AFAIK, she’s the Caucus rep on the NZ Council, so you’d have to assume there are other perspectives summed in her actions.

    OTOH, party discipline is a legitimate concern. Effective parties are not inherently paragons of democracy but organised on Leninist principles (e.g. the National Party) that are not inherently Left or Right, but certainly authoritarian. If you’re going to reorganise yourselves to be effective, warm fuzzies are not always the right mechanism (look at the Greens’ transformation over recent years and the number of eggs broken to make that particular omelette). I suspect that a strong and pragmatic leader (like Fraser, Anderton or Clark) would transform Labour quickly, but probably not very democratically.

    We need more context. As far as CV’s martyrdom is concerned, surely the issue is about the appropriate balance between Party discipline and democracy. If the Party’s rules and due process are being ignored and abused in the name of discipline to muzzle CV, rip into them, publicly. If Curran’s initiative got no traction in the NZ Council and died of shame, who cares?

    To persistently conflate ABC with the actions and programme of Prebble and his cohorts is fatuous and narcissistic, even an insult to the martyrs of the 80’s & 90’s. Is CV’s persecution a live and ongoing issue representing a broad suppression of dissent, or simply a straw man boosting traffic and feeding the Wh*le?

    • karol 24.1

      On the right and left wing issue, arants;

      My post is not just about Clare Curran.  While she seems to have been unnecessarily authoritarian, she seems to be acting in the interests of the leadership team.  And it is the caucus leadership team that is espousing some pretty right wing policies (for a Labour Party), and that is acting to engage the support of the MSM while remaining within the “neoliberal consensus”. This is against the interests of the low paid, the unemployed, and the people a labour movement is there to support.

      The MO of the Caucus is pretty authoritarian (the pre-emptive strike to take out Cunliffe, the attempts to thwart the desire of the majority of party members to make the party more democratic).  There’s plenty of evidence of this, coming from a variety of sources; some of it in the MSM (albeit from reading between the lines via the contradictions and mis-analysed evidence), and some of it from various trustworthy, real name and pseudonym entities posting and commenting on blogs like TS.

      If there are members of the caucus who are more left wing than their leadership…. well, at what point do they stand up for their beliefs and the beliefs of the LECs, the party membership, and fundamental aims and principles of the wider labour movement?

      I think there is enough evidence from people on TS and others (like Trotter who have been involved in the internal party shenanigans, and Lynn) for CV’s persecution being established as a reality, and far from a straw man.  

      Lynn (lprent) is a very trustworthy witness to some of the events.  He has said in a comment yesterday, that Clare has reversed the order of events in her self-serving statement to the ODT (linked above in my post).  She claims she discovered CV’s real name when he stated it in an email, and in person.  Actually there are reports that Clare was the one putting pressure on the person behind the CV pseudonym to confirm that he is CV – and well before the time when Clare claims she inadvertently discover his identity.

      There is a continuity between the 1980s Prebble years in the continued embrace of “neoliberal” policies. For instance, it’s time for the Labour Party to stand up and state that they will re-instate the social security laws as they were intended, and to reverse their and National’s cut-backs of it.

      And there is continuity in the authoritarian approach of the party then and now.  Back in the 80s, the enforced obedience to the “solidarity” required by the caucus leadership, stopped the membership rebelling and campaigning against the Roger Douglas changes – changes that were counter to the aims of the labour movement.  

      It is now more than ever necessary to break with those aspects of the NZLP past, but the self-serving labour caucus leadership is resisting the necessary changes: and it’s doing it by calling for unquestioned obedience in the high-sounding name of the tradition of labour “solidarity”.  This is an authoritarian solidarity that is being used for the benefit of the few, at the expense of the interests of the wider labour movement.
       

  25. burt 25

    Karol

    The Labour Caucus leadership seems more intent on their own hold on power, than the good of their party or the country as a whole.

    True, but it’s been true for a long time with Labour. The lack of a credible successor to Clark is evidence of that.

  26. xtasy 26

    Having read your above piece once again, I also wish to thank and commend you on this!

    Yes, what we have under the present caucus, now dominated by the “Shearer” supporters, we are only getting a pretended “new direction”. It is just all “talk” about a new direction and goals. The actual substance of policies has changed little from the last decade.

    The housing policy they announced may sound good on the surface, and admittedly the direction is good and great, but it has not been thought through, and it lacks substance, and thus is not convincing at this stage.

    Apart from that we get the repeated CGT talk, suggestions of changing the Reserve Bank Act, talk about helping manufacturing (not much detail), much criticism of NatACT policies (justified), but as of recent, Shearer sent out a message to Cantabrians to tell him and Labour, what they think and want!?

    Now one year after a general election, only 2 years before a next one, and we still have the leadership and “team” “sensing” the mood out there, rather than having worked on info and data at hand already, to develop clear agendas, policies, plans and so forth, to show a resolute, clear alternative to NatACT.

    Hence Norman and the Greens have been setting the pace. Peters has done his shooting in Parliament, but Shearer comes and repeats questions on social issues like poor kids and so, but allows also for Key to seize the opportunity (like today) and lash back.

    Shearer should not even engage with Key and National Ministers as he does. He should by now have developed some rudimentary plan and set of policies, and he and the front bench should be clearly presenting an alternative.

    That is NOT happening yet. I ask, will it ever happen. That man has NOT got the gift for the leadership job, I am still convinced. He is not up to it, and while he may make a good minister of sorts, he must go, I repeat, go, go, go, dear David Shearer, before more is lost and more damage is done.

    The time to go around and ask the electorate, hey, how do ya feel, what is on your mind, that is semantic bloody idiotism by this time after an election. It is a self goal of sorts, sabotaging any pro creative thinking. NO, this is shit, what I see and hear every day.

    Ardern may have said something promising at the picket outside WINZ Onehunga today, but reflection on the larger scenario I see within Labour, it is not convincing, or is she now fighting her own lone battles?

    A new left party could have the benefit of being unblemished, and without baggage. If a set of competent, honest, dedicated and smart people get together to start such, based on a true social democratic model, which should really be “traditional” Labour, it would be a swift winner and get many votes next election, possibly replacing Labour as 2nd largest party in NZ.

    • burt - Viper without the rose tinded glasses 26.1

      xtasy

      I agree entirely. The problem really stemmed from the Clark/Cullen government where Labour “knew what was good for NZ” and implemented their plans to stay popular and electable while sending the economy to hell in a hand basket. The current party are indeed blemished and dragging the baggage of Clark & Cullen’s arrogance and populist government. Labour do need to get out – stop talking and listen – but I fear you are right that they have already left their run too late for 2014.

      They haven’t even had a clean out of the heavily stained senior members and Clark has been gone 4 years !

      • fender Viper 26.1.1

        Theres a fool on Newstalk ZB who repeats this same tired crap, handbaskets and all.

        It’s still tiresome from you Burt.

        If running a surplus is hell in blah blah basket, how do we describe what Nact have created?

      • Craig Glen viper 26.1.2

        ” and implemented their plans to stay popular and electable while sending the economy to hell in a hand basket.”
        The economy did well under Labour Burt, in case you hadnt notice its not doing to well under National or maybe you think it is?
        Hows NZ brighter future going.

        • Grant Hay 26.1.2.1

          The economy may have done well for a while Craig, but lets remember that ALL the developed world’s economies were in recovery mode at the same time ours was and it was already showing signs of starting to go south by the time they left office. I don’t believe it was an economic miracle created by an especially talented Labour Govt. But leaving that aside, can Labour supporters not see why many of us look on the fifth LG with jaundiced eyes? They eventually wound up running huge surpluses while at the same time the unemployed and in particular the children of the unemployed / unemployable became poorer and more desperate. It took the Greens to make one or two small gains in the quality of life for that sector of our society. Even the introduction of Working For Families didn’t do much more for working people than hold the line against increasing costs (including those introduced by local and central Government. Every time our rates, ACC, insurance, utilities, petrol, groceries etc etc went up, we used to look at each other and say; “Well there goes the WFF tax credit”. The Labour Party long ago forgot the old saying that you judge a society by how well it treats its most vulnerable members.

          • One Tāne Viper 26.1.2.1.1

            It’s time for your reality check.

            From 2004 to 2009, incomes for households in the low to middle income range rose more quickly than incomes for higher income households. Incomes for households in the lower four deciles grew by 18–25 percent, while incomes for those households above the median typically grew by around 10–12 percent. This was the only period in the last 25 years in which the incomes of low to middle income households grew more quickly than the incomes of those households above the median.

            My emphasis.

            So, Grant Hay, I have a question: are you mistaken, or just a crap liar?

            PS: One more question: now you’ve been informed of the facts, will you continue to spew lies?

            • Grant Hay 26.1.2.1.1.1

              OTV, I am not a liar, but YOU are an extremely discourteous individual. Did anyone EVER teach you any manners, or, for that matter, the basics of running a civilized debate?

              You have quoted (without citation) a statement about incomes for the low to middle income bracket. Does this include the incomes of those on Social Welfare benefits? If so, what was the growth of their incomes relative to the growth of incomes in the “low to middle”group? Also, was this growth in income REAL, ie. were these people WEALTHIER IN REAL TERMS at the end of the five year period mentioned, and what exactly was the increase in the cost of living (including local and central Govt) relative to the supposed level of income growth during the same five year period. My recall of events is that food banks were doing a roaring trade during this time. Child poverty action was making loud noises about; well; CHILD POVERTY. There was little meaningful response from the Government that I can bring to mind. As Brian Bruce has recently pointed out, NO NZ Govt has dealt with issues of child poverty and housing standards in a systematic and ongoing way for several generations now. By the way, are you really interested in debating these issues in a productive way with people like me who are “of the left”, or would you rather make enemies of us and drift further to the right yourself? I believe that any objective assessment of the history of the Labour Party during the last thirty or so years will tell you that it is a sorry beast indeed and the latest round of infighting would tend to support my views on that subject.

              • One Tāne Viper

                Without citation? Don’t you know what a link looks like? It’s the blue text in my comment.

                You say you’re “of the left”, but in my book unsubstantiated assertions – such as can be seen in your remarks, are in fact the province of right wing nut jobs.

                • Grant Hay

                  Well, your manners haven’t improved any, but some things are just a lost cause. I see there is a link (older eyes didn’t pick up the colour change) and I’ve had a look but am none the wiser as to the answers to my questions above. Would you care to elucidate? You may also care to note that in the same report it states:

                  “Current level and trends

                  In 2009, the equivalised disposable income of a household at the 80th percentile was 2.5 times larger than that of a household at the 20th percentile. This was about the same as the ratio in 2007. In 1988, the ratio was 2.2. Income inequality rose steeply between 1988 and 1991, briefly plateaued, then rose steadily from 1994 to 2004.”

                  • Grant Hay

                    Having had some time to reflect on the debate so far, I realised there was something nagging my subconcious mind about the link provided by OTV. I revisited the link for another look. I am not particularly well educate dabout matters economic and financial, but it appears to me that the graph and supporting text provided as “proof “that I am a “crap liar”, is not intended to say anything about the real improvement in buying power of the working poor (let alone the unemployed). It appears to be an analysis of INCOME INEQUALITY as expressed by a ratio between the top and bottom 20% of income earners. The analysis seems to be silent on whether the figures include unemployment and other benefits. In short the graph tends to support rather than contradict my argument if I am interpreting it correctly. I await the (hopefully civil) comments of others.

                  • One Tāne Viper

                    “I’ve had a look but am none the wiser as to the answers to my questions above.”

                    While you’re on the subject of bad manners, let me Google that for you. On second thoughts, since you took it upon yourself to insult my mother with your rude remarks about my upbringing, how about you go forth and multiply?

                    What did we hear from the right during the term of the fifth Labour government? A constant litany of abuse and invective, supported by the media. “Bludging with kiddies”, “Nanny State”, ad nauseam, so while I understand your view that Labour could and should have gone further, to ignore the effects of this propaganda (and bearing in mind that Labour presided over the lowest unemployment rate in NZ history), not to mention Ruth Richardson and Bill English’s prior incompetence deliberate attacks on the weakest members of our society, strikes me as disingenuous in the extreme.

                    • Grant Hay

                      I didn’t insult your mother at any point OTV, I simply asked if you’d had an education in manners as there didn’t seem to be any evidence that you had. You now tell me that your mother taught you all you know about civil behaviour. Oh dear…… never mind.

                      You criticized me for expressing a sincerely held opinion in good faith, without backing it up with well researched facts and figures. Do all posters here including yourself always back up their opinions with researched and cited facts? I have provided my response (above) to the page entitled “Income Inequality” which you chose as material to support your thesis that I was a liar. All the information on that page really shows from waht I can see is that income inequality continued to increase (get worse) during much of the time the Clark Government were in power. I have also asked you to prove YOUR assertion that the fifth LG did everything it possibly could as a supposedly Social Democratic (socialist) goverment, for the poor and oppressed of this nation. Your highly intellectual response has consisted of more rudeness and precious little else.

                      Yawn….

                    • One Tāne Viper

                      My “thesis” is that you are either mendacious or ignorant. Ignorance, by the way, is a condition we all share, so please don’t feel bad about it.

                      “I have also asked you to prove YOUR assertion that the fifth LG did everything it possibly could as a supposedly Social Democratic (socialist) goverment, for the poor and oppressed of this nation.”

                      Here’s what I actually wrote: “I understand your view that Labour could and should have gone further.”

                      While you were busy learning etiquette and good manners, English language comprehension obviously took a back seat.

                      I note your failure to address my argument, which is that the National Party destroyed so much of the social fabric of the nation during the 1990s (not to mention the treacherous Prebble, Douglas et al) that blaming the fifth Labour government for it, when the facts (as cited above) show that they had started to turn things around, is disingenuous. To put it mildly.

                • muzza

                  Very good post Karol

                  Grant Hay is actually on the money, and no amount of your linking, Bloke (OTV) is going to change the position that the Clark labour government were simply another segment in the historical destruction of NZ inc!

                  The current disgraceful carry on inside the LP is the carfully crafted sideshow by the same core group who just happen to be the left overs from that same Clark govt, and earlier!

                  What a surprise that is, to those who can understand it, and why the NACT are getting a free ride while reducing NZ society to rubble!

                  Just keep yourself comfy/deluded with those figures Bloke, all the while not being able to understand/accept the variable thats preventing you from getting what’s wrong!

              • karol

                Grant, OTV, included a link in his comment (roll your mouse over “reality check” in his comment @9.33am.  It links to the Social Report of 2010.  There’s quite a bit of detail there.

            • just saying 26.1.2.1.1.2

              The problem with percentage increases is that even a rise of four percent per year (using the highest figure provided) of sweet fuck all is still sweet fuck all, while 2.4 percent of a high income can be pretty significant in dollar terms.

              I’m assuming you weren’t living on an income below the median during this period, let alone living in undisputed poverty on a benefit, One Tane. It sounds like Grant Hay may have actually been living the reality at the time, and the experiences he relates is are perfectly valid.

  27. Geoffcartwright 27

    Also paying down the govt debt to GDP ration to below twenty percent. This is the only thing that has kept poor little old NZ afloat at the moment, our debt level was very low so we had the capacity to borrow heavily to keep an economic equilibrium.
    This election is about economic policy and performance we need our heavy hitter un leashed now, we need facts on the household table stemming the brainwashing of the public by the Tories.

  28. Tracey 28

    There still, after 4 years, appears to be a pervading argument that labour were no good with the economy, poverty etc so we must not judge National harshly for not addressing either at all. It seems some think this is a labor Party website which appears to be why they address some posters here as though they are representing its (LP) past deeds.

    I actually want accountability and transparency. I wanted in under previous labour governments and I didn’t believe Key in 2008 when he trumpetted his belief in it. I am sorry to have been proven right because we are all the worse for it.

    I wish someone would post the rile about when everything stops being the previous govt’s fault and we can start to address any deficiencies in the current mob.

    How many of the MP’s paid by our collective hard-earned money will be taking our hard earned money offshore this Christmas break?

  29. Grant Hay 29

    If anyone has the patience to view Russell Norman’s Address in Reply Speech from a year ago at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvsz_XkPRR4 , you may understand why many of us who were once Labour supporters find more inspiration and leadership under the Green banner than the red.

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    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
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