by Philip Ferguson

At Redline, our insistence on clear-eyed, clinical, Marxist analysis of reality leads not infrequently to accusations that we are very ‘down’ and ‘pessimistic’ and unduly so.  One of the noticeable things about the September 20 general election and its aftermath, however, is that we seem to be quite upbeat about it all while many on the left are downcast, regarding it as a massive defeat.

OK, in my personal view it is unfortunate that Hone lost his seat.  He has fought the good fight on many issues over many years and is clearly personally committed to fighting poverty.  However, it is not simply, or even primarily, Hone’s loss of the Te Tai Tokerau seat to Labour’s Kelvin Davis that has the left in poor spirits; the crushing defeat of Labour is probably more important in their misery.  After all, even the far-left groups involved in Mana/InternetMana were placing hope in a Labour-led government, even if they shied away from being open about their auto-Labourism by talking about “a change in government”, a rather coy way (to put it kindly) of supporting Labour into power.

Graph from Child Poverty Monitor shows that levels of child poverty were higher for most of the last Labour government than they have been under National

Graph from Child Poverty Monitor shows that levels of child poverty were higher for most of the last Labour government than they have been under National

Despite the continuing illusions on much of the left, however, there is no sense in which Labour is a left party or on our side.  Far from wanting a transformation of society, Labour defends the existing order and is absolutely committed to doing so.  As we have argued again and again, on this blog and in its predecessors in hard copy, the two times NZ Capital Inc was up shit creek without a paddle in the 1900s (the Great Depression and the early-mid 1980s), it was Labour, not National or National’s predecessors, that came to the rescue.

Moreover, take the last Labour government and its record.

Did they raise the minimum wage to even the paltry $15 an hour that many of us campaigned for at the time?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they cut the numbers of adults (and thus children) living in poverty?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they repeal the anti-union laws which earlier Labour and National governments had passed?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they legislate to allow workers the right to engage in political and solidarity strikes, key weapons workers need to effectively fight to improve our position?  No.  Of course, they didn’t.

Did they narrow the gap between the rich and the rest of us, let alone the rich and poor?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they take even the minimum measure of restoring welfare benefits to the equivalent of the level they were at before the ‘Mother of all Budgets’ cuts of 1991?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they even return to past social-democratic standards and replace profit-making SOEs (State-Owned Enterprises) with some kind of public service departments, providing goods and services at or below value, as was the case with the old pre-1984 government departments?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they create socially useful schemes, providing things and services that people actually need and jobs for the unemployed?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

It’s now a century since the 8-hour day – in fact the Auckland building trades achieved the 8-hour day in the late 1850s – so surely we’re now due for a 35-hour week, with no loss of pay.  Did Labour introduce this?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they at least commit to keeping the retirement age at 65?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they abolish GST, a bruising tax on workers’ nett incomes, a tax they introduced in the first place?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they at least abolish GST on fruit, milk and vegetables?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they repeal this country’s (formally) draconian anti-abortion laws and make abortion a woman’s right to choose, freely available as part of the public health service?  No, of course they didn’t.

Did they make sex-reassignment operations freely available as part of the public health service?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they make doctors’ visits free for all children, students and retired people?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they promote regional development with particular allocation of resources to areas like the far north and east cape?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they open the borders to allow workers to move freely in order to secure the best possible price for our labour-power?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they pull out of imperialist alliances and refuse to get involved in imperialist wars?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

Did they close down Waihopai spy base, disband the SIS and GCSB and stop government spying on the left?  No.  Of course they didn’t.

And on and on we go.

Labour went down to a massive defeat.  So what?  Who cares?  How was this any ‘defeat’ for the left?

Does what happens to this wretched capitalist party have any connection to the material interests of workers?

No.  Of course it doesn’t.

Further reading:

The truth about Labour: a bosses’ party

Income and wealth inequality unchanged by last Labour government

Anti-working class to its core: the third Labour government

Workers, unions and Labour: unraveling the myths

Labour’s GST and conventional weapons

Union movement gathers for fairness at work, Labour gathers missionaries

Labour’s leadership contest: illusions and confusions on the left

Labour’s introduction of peacetime conscription and the fight against it

Wharfies’ fight shows futility of unions giving money to Labour

Labour’s legal leg-irons

Some further observations on the fourth Labour government

Realism versus reformism

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Comments
  1. Thomas R says:

    Long term, Hone losing his seat may be beneficial. It’s hard to say. It will be useful as a way of gauging what kind of project MANA is.

    As for Labour, their decline can only be a good thing. I wonder if anyone saw that open letter to David Cunliffe from a younger Labour candidate? Have to say that Labour now is awful, and their ‘future’ as represented in that open letter is considerably worse ha.

  2. PhilF says:

    In that sense, sure, Hone losing his seat may be beneficial. In fact, in the sense that you mean, it may well be the best thing that could have happened to Mana.

    And no-one who stands for human liberation can be upset that Labour got such a walloping. Unfortunately, I think they’ll recover. The battle with Labour will go on for a long time further.

    Phil