NZ and the world needs a new green left direction, now and for the future. And this new direction needs to embrace some original core, left wing values, principles and processes, while being adapted to 21st century realities. Politically in New Zealand/Aotearoa this could mean a future Labour-Green coalition government. Such a government could also include a re-invigorated Mana Party.
The NZ Labour Party arose out of wider and highly energised labour and union movements.
The NZ Green Party arose out of the Values Party. Current Green Party values, principles, processes and policies can clearly be seen in the original 1972 manifesto of the NZ Values Party.The NZ Labour and the Green Parties have the necessary core values that could lead to adopting the new direction many on the left have been looking for. However, there are various powerful and reactionary social, electoral, cultural, and mainstream media pressures: ones which could interfere with the ability to put relevant and necessary green-left policies into practice. These two parties, and Mana have overlapping, but slightly different core constituencies and organisational bases.
Alex Mitcalfe Wilson has an excellent article on the Pantograph, in which he examines the original manifesto of the NZ Values Party: “New Horizons, Other Futures: Looking back on the blueprint for New Zealand“.
This manifesto is undeniably left wing, even though it takes a different starting point from the original NZ Labour Party.
The Values Party had as its main platform a total change in approach to politics, in which the starting point is the whole of society, which includes, but is not centrally focused on, industrial relations. Wilson spells it out:
Looking back from 2014, the Values Party’s original platform is still a challenging assessment of our social realities, all the more startling when considered in its context. It’s an unprecedented amalgamation of social justice, conservation, peace and human rights ideals, a document which outlined a path that prefigured future progressive groups of all strains.
The manifesto signaled a broad and deep culture shift within society:
Rather than trading off the resources and safety of the future to meet the material desires of the present, the Values Party asked New Zealanders to identify a mode of life that can be sustained indefinitely and to pass up the temptation of individual luxury in doing so.
It advocated for a different role and motivation for business:
Instead of inventing new goods that increase profit, the manifesto asks business people to create products and services which help their local communities and place minimal strain on the environment.
While the Values Party have had a long reaching influence on NZ politics, many of the damaging, unjust, and unequal conditions they wanted to get rid of, still remain. Wilson explains:
Economically, New Zealand is a highly unequal society, where the gap between rich and poor has widened faster than in any other wealthy economy over the last two decades. It is a place where many people live in substandard homes, struggle to access medical services, and are unable to feed their children. Racism, sexism and homophobia also remain visible on our streets and in our political debates.
As with the original Values Party, the current NZ Green Party have as their goal, a livable and sustainable society for all: their policies are designed to be interlocking parts of their whole approach. Consequently, it includes among other things, policies for fair employment laws, an increase in state housing, and a decrease in income and wealth inequalities.
The Mana Party had begun to add some grunt to organising those on the lowest incomes at a flax roots level. They focused on practical actions like feeding the kids, and stopping sales of state housing, while Sue Bradford worked with Auckland Action Against Poverty in supporting and advocating for beneficiaries. If Mana manages to survive the lack of seats in the House this term, they could contribute to the broad movement needed to forge a new direction for a green-left movement.
The original broad-based and highly active labour movement delivered the political power required to counter the damaging, profit-led approach of organised capitalists of their time. It harnessed the organised power of working people. This delivered the power and pressure to provide living wages, in working conditions that were unsafe, and life-damaging. It also delivered extensive social security provisions, available for all.
Today, in negotiating with these powerful forces, there is the risk of compromising in ways that undercut each party’s core values. Working together could help to counter this risk, enabling them to weave a cohesive coalition, fit for government, and supported by a broad and diverse swathe of the population.
A coordinated combination of truly left wing parties could be political dynamite, and set us in the much needed new direction. With the active, well organised and motivated support of their party members, they could engage large numbers in the wider electorate. This could result in shifting politics and society in a new sustainable, democratic, inclusive and more egalitarian direction, actively supported by diverse people and organisations across society.