Northland by-election: worker solidarity or Winston Peters?

images (4)by Don Franks

On March 28th, year 193AD, Roman Emperor Pertinax was assassinated by Praetorian Guards. Who then put the throne up for sale, won by the highest bidder, one Didius Julianus.

Northland’s March 28 by-election is shaping up to a similar level of horse trading.

The by-election was prompted by the resignation of Northland MP Mike Sabin, who’d won the seat for National with a majority of more than 9,000 at the September general election.

The ballot paper for the by-election shows eleven candidates, but all eyes are on just one of them – NZ First’s Winston Peters.

This is because on current polling Peters is in a strong position to take the seat off National, thus removing their majority in the House.

Most of the left share Peters' kiwi nationalism
Most of the left share Peters’ kiwi nationalism

Such a removal of National’s majority is seen as a plus for the Parliamentary opposition. It puts National in a difficult position, having to negotiate across the House for every Bill.

Over-reverence for parliament among New Zealand leftists means a dig at National is worth almost any compromise. Even unprincipled compromise.

In some unexpected quarters, support for Winston Peters is strong. Even among unionists and other progressives. Even some veterans of the revolutionary socialist movement have expressed enthusiasm for Peters.

Some of this enthusiasm is down to Peters’ long standing criticism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

A typical example is the NZ First press release of Thursday, June 14, 2012:

“New Zealand First is calling on the Government to put on hold the TPPA and ask New Zealanders what they think about handing over our sovereignty to foreign-owned companies.

If National just blunders ahead and signs up to the agreement it will throw our whole law making process into turmoil.

This – like the sale of our state-owned assets – is yet another move by John Key to put our country into the hands of his big business chums from overseas,” says Mr Peters.

images (3)
Internationalism means opposition to kiwi nationalism whether on the part of NZ First, Labour, National or campaigns like that against the TPPA

Populist ranting against nasty foreign companies who might jeopardise “our” sovereignty and “our law making process” is very old stuff. Old empty stuff, political hot air with absolutely nothing in it for the working class. Practical workers’ solidarity has zero space for “our sovereignty” or “our laws”.

Yet nationalist ranting still continues to resonate in some quarters. As does Winston Peters’ crude and appalling anti-Asian racism, unmatched by any other New Zealand politician for over a generation.

“There is a significant percentage of Asians in Auckland. That’s my view. If you don’t like it, vote for another party and let race relations go into chaos.” – Peters, in 2005.

“We have now reached the point where you can wander down Queen Street in Auckland and wonder if you are still in New Zealand or some other country.” – Peters announcing “flying squads” to search for potentially risky immigrants.

“The government’s lax immigration laws are changing the face of our country forever. At this rate, it won’t take long for New Zealand to be unrecognisable.” – In a statement headlined “New Zealand — The Last Asian Colony”.

“We are being dragged into the status of an Asian colony and it is time that New Zealanders were placed first in their own country.” – In July 2004, following a government decision to increase the number of new migrants in the coming year.

The composer of those unattractive thoughts may well be Northland’s next parliamentary representative, especially as the Labour party has just rushed to his aid. 

Labour Party leader Andrew Little told TVNZ’s Q&A that Labour will not pull its candidate, Willow-Jean Prime, from the by-election contest, despite a Colmar Brunton poll showing Mr Peters would win easily if she was not in the running. However, he called for left voters to be “realistic” with their candidate choice.

Ms Prime is a good candidate, Little said, but left-leaning Northlanders can decide how to use their vote effectively.

“I’ve got a duty to back her but in the end I want Northlanders to exercise their choice.”

Didius Julianus, the winner of Rome’s March 28th election lasted just nine weeks. He was then ousted and sentenced to death by his successor, Septimus Severus.

The winner of Northland’s election will probably last longer than that. But he is about as likely as  Didius to benefit the workers of Northland.


  1. Sadly, we have a nationalist left and an anti-National Party left but almost no *anti-capitalist* left in this country.

    The nationalist anti-TPPA campaign and now the inter-linked support for Winston First is depressing but also predictable. Even the groups that describe themselves as Marxist have lined up with the little New Zealanders around the TPPA instead of acting in practice in line with the notion that our main enemy is our ruling/exploiting class not “foreign” corporations. All corporations are alien to the interests of the working class.

    We need a new left.

    • To be fair, I have seen articles from most of the Marxist orgs you’re talking about emphasising that exact point about how all corporations are alien. It’s a strange mix of things, and there are strong reactionary elements even in the TPPA stuff (in the form of racist conspiracy theories for example) but it’s also an unusually large mobilisation – including a lot of unions. Staying home doesn’t seem like the best option in this case (disclaimer: i did stay home, cleaning up my former flat for final inspection)

      • One of the problems is that the revsoc groups all seem to be actively *involved* in some way or another in the anti-TPPA campaign. They then object to its nationalism, but its nationalism is intrinsic.

        They remind me of the old public morals campaigner, Patricia Bartlett. Bartlett used to do things like go along to, say, a play like ‘Hair’ that she knew featured nudity, and then make a big fuss and lay a complaint because the play involved. . . . nudity.

        She had the largest porn collection in the country, until she got raided by the cops which was quite a turn-up!

        If I were in a Marxist group I would be arguing that they *not* be involved in the anti-TPPA campaign, but that doesn’t preclude leafleting at demos.

        But it seems to me that there is a bigger problem here. The revolutionary left needs its own campaigns and those campaigns need to be based on what workers need in order to advance politically. For instance, workers in this country will always be held back as long as they think in nationalist terms, so some kind of internationalist campaign is needed – say a campaign for open borders.

        Such a campaign would mean directly challenging *our* ruling class, their ability to manipulate the labour market and divide workers along national/ethnic lines and help educate workers here to think as part of a global class.

        But instead of this, most of the left – all the ‘moderate’ left and most of the ‘revolutionary’ left – get involved in nationalist stuff like the anti-TPPA campaign which reinforces a load of notions that keep the working class in this country chained to their own exploiters. In other words, a campaign which, *by its very nature*, points in the wrong direction.

        It’s rather like the state assets campaign. The basic problem was that those assets were capitalist already, albeit state capitalist. But they operated according to the law of value, they were profit-driven and extracted surplus labour-time from the employees and thus created surplus-value. The far left groups, with the exception of the anarcho-communists, simply ignored all this and did what they always do – they got in behind. In that campaign, too, they threw up their hands sometimes at the nationalism on display, but failed to understand that the nationalism was *absolutely logical*. It was their position which was illogical.


    • disappointing that any revsoc type would have any time for winnie petes though, thats for sure

  2. There’s no-one to vote for in the Northland by-election, just like there was no-one to vote for in the September 2014 general election.

    But not voting is not a principle for us. We were part of the Anti-Capitalist Alliance (later the Workers Party) and it ran candidates. A number of us at Redline have been Marxist candidates in the past, trying to use elections to get anti-capitalist ideas out to a wider audience.

    I can’t say it particularly worked, although it was a useful project at the time. Plus the vast bulk of our work was on-the-ground organising and political education anyway.

    Too much of the left is too fixated on parliament and establishment politicians.

    In the context of a mass upsurge it might be useful for revolutionaries to stand for parliament, but only as a minor part of the overall work of a revolutionary movement. And, at present, there’s no sign of such an upsurge in this country and the real task is regrouping whoever can be regrouped around Marxist politics and an understanding of the need for a new political working class movement based on class-struggle politics, internationalism and the championing of the cause of all the oppressed.

    Redline is a platform for those ideas, but we aren’t an organisation and have no plans at present to artificially create an organisation.


    • @Phil F writes: “But not voting is not a principle for us.”

      However on Septemeber 12 2014 he wrote:

      “One of the interesting things about our emerging Don’t Vote position is that, since starting to elaborate it, we have come across a whole little layer of people who aren’t voting and are making a conscious political decision not to vote in 2014.

      It’s unfortunate that we didn’t start to elaborate this position earlier or we could have had a useful little campaign on the issue.

      However, there is always 2017. . .


      • ???

        That doesn’t show that not voting is a principle for us. it shows that as long as there is no-one to vote for – ie no anti-capitalists – there is no point voting. At present, there is no sign that things will be different in 2017.

        “Our emerging Don’t Vote position” refers to the 2014 election, the subject of the article you cite from.

        We wrote quite a lot about the 2014 elections. It was pretty clear that our not voting was about the options on offer, not a principle to rule out ever voting again in every single election!!!


  3. i was directed to and invited to ‘like’ Winston Peters Facebook page.
    In the blinking comment space before me I wrote that i was not up for liking any opportunist nationalist. Looked back half an hour later and my comment was gone. Shut away behind closed doors, like the TPPA

    • @Don Franks

      From Webster Online, opportunist: “someone who tries to get an advantage or something valuable from a situation without thinking about what is fair or right”

      How about providing evidence that you are not unjustly maligning Winston?

      Winston has always said he waits for the party the people want and then tries to build with them to bring about the fairness he may, if I understood.

      Unless you presented evidence how do you expect a comment to remain? That is different from TPPA secrecy.

      Please do yourself a bit more intellectual justice.

  4. Peters is an anti-Asian racist. Please do yourself a bit more intellectual justice than to criticise other people for calling him an opportunist nationalist. Don cites Peters’ comments about Asians and, in any case, his hostility to Asian immigration is well-known, it’s usually his trump card, wheeled out whenever an election is on the horizon.

    Facebook comments and “likes” don’t usually require ‘evidence’ anyway, so it does seem censorship was at work. Don’s comment was, like the TPPA, shut away behind closed doors.

    The left has got to learn to stop mimicking the right.


  5. Phil F wrote: “That doesn’t show that not voting is a principle for us. it shows that as long as there is no-one to vote for – ie no anti-capitalists – there is no point voting”

    Thomas R wrote: “Staying home doesn’t seem like the best option in this case (disclaimer: i did stay home, cleaning up my former flat for final inspection)”

    Seems to be a bit of a contradiction if Thomas is recommending is going out to vote against Peters?

    • What are you talking about?

      Thomas wasn’t recommending going out to vote or not going out to vote. He was talking about attending or not attending anti-TPPA marches!!! In the particular Thomas comment that you quoted from, he doesn’t even mention voting and elections!

      Moreover, Thomas is also not part of Redline. He’s a regular reader and frequent commenter who sometimes agrees with us and sometimes disagrees. So, even if he happened to disagree with us over Peters (which he doesn’t seem to), there would be no contradiction involved on our part (or his) anyway.


  6. Don wrote: “Populist ranting against nasty foreign companies who might jeopardise “our” sovereignty and “our law making process” is very old stuff. Old empty stuff, political hot air with absolutely nothing in it for the working class.”

    “Trade” agreements like NAFTA have been very bad for American workers.

  7. It may be great for a poor Asian worker or for any other country to come to NZ. That is because we have been able to hold a standard of living better than many countries. I suppose the world will average out. Corporatocracy will eventuate, then there will be no where better as a standard.

    Peters is asking that we donate no more blood than we can without getting sick ourselves.

    You can call it the race card if he talks of China, the largest country in the world with the biggest division between rich and poor. of any country. Actually Peters is trying to protect our equitable society.

    • ‘hold a better standard of living’ don’t you mean “be on the winning side of Imperialism”?

      if you think our society is equitable, i’ve no clue what you’re doing reading marxists lol

      • Thomas R “if you think our society is equitable, i’ve no clue what you’re doing reading marxists lol”

        Yes NZ is not very equitable. I have got these figures from Wiki and sorted them. They are only rough as the years vary. They give how many times more the top 10% get than the bottom 10%.

        New Zealand 65th China 98th.

        It’s the rich Chinese who come here. Do you to being a culture here where the rich 10% earn 21.6 times as much as the poor 10%? Whereas we have in NZ it is only up to 12.4.

        I am amused that at the election last year you were all, “It’s no use trying to make a bit of a change,” but now it is, with Peters who you are labelling a racist for your argument when he actually isn’t.

        A number of countries did not have figures so do not show.

        Japan 4.5
        Czech Republic 5.2
        Bosnia and Herzegovina 5.4
        Hungary 5.5
        Finland 5.6
        Slovenia 5.9
        Ukraine 5.9
        Norway 6.1
        Sweden 6.2
        Kyrgyzstan 6.4
        Pakistan 6.5
        Ethiopia 6.6
        Turkey 6.6
        Slovakia 6.7
        Austria 6.9
        Belarus 6.9
        Germany 6.9
        Vietnam 6.9
        Bulgaria 7
        Albania 7.2
        Croatia 7.3
        Bangladesh 7.5
        Romania 7.5
        Indonesia 7.8
        South Korea 7.8
        Tajikistan 7.8
        Armenia 8
        Egypt 8
        Denmark 8.1
        Belgium 8.2
        Moldova 8.2
        Mongolia 8.2
        Laos 8.3
        Kazakhstan 8.5
        India 8.6
        Yemen 8.6
        Poland 8.8
        Switzerland 9
        France 9.1
        Netherlands 9.2
        Tanzania 9.2
        Benin 9.4
        Canada 9.4
        Ireland 9.4
        Algeria 9.6
        Azerbaijan 9.7
        Greece 10.2
        Spain 10.3
        Lithuania 10.4
        Guinea 10.5
        Uzbekistan 10.6
        Estonia 10.8
        Malawi 10.9
        Sri Lanka 11.1
        Jordan 11.3
        Burkina Faso 11.6
        Italy 11.6
        Latvia 11.6
        Morocco 11.7
        Uruguay 11.8
        Mauritania 12
        Cambodia 12.2
        Senegal 12.3
        Turkmenistan 12.3
        New Zealand 12.4
        Australia 12.5
        Macedonia 12.5
        Mali 12.5
        Thailand 12.6
        Russia 12.7
        Liberia 12.8
        Trinidad and Tobago 12.9
        Israel 13.4
        Tunisia 13.4
        Kenya 13.6
        United Kingdom 13.8
        Ghana 14.1
        Portugal 15
        Georgia 15.4
        Philippines 15.5
        Cameroon 15.7
        Nepal 15.8
        United States 15.9
        Côte d’Ivoire 16.6
        Uganda 16.6
        Iran 17.2
        Jamaica 17.3
        Singapore 17.7
        Hong Kong 17.8
        Nigeria 17.8
        Rwanda 18.6
        Mozambique 18.8
        Venezuela 18.8
        Guinea-Bissau 19
        Madagascar 19.2
        Burundi 19.3
        The Gambia 20.2
        China 21.6
        Mexico 21.6
        Malaysia 22.1
        Costa Rica 23.4
        Papua New Guinea 23.8
        Swaziland 25.1
        Dominican Republic 25.3
        Peru 26.1
        Chile 26.2
        Nicaragua 31
        Argentina 31.6
        South Africa 33.1
        Guatemala 33.9
        Ecuador 35.2
        El Salvador 38.6
        Paraguay 38.8
        Lesotho 39.8
        Brazil 40.6
        Botswana 43
        Niger 46
        Panama 49.9
        Haiti 54.4
        Honduras 59.4
        Colombia 60.4
        Central African Republic 69.2
        Sierra Leone 87.2
        Bolivia 93.9
        Namibia 106.6

    • Once again, eh??? (As in, what on earth are you on about?)

      We have never argued – last election or any other time – that it’s no use trying to make a bit of change. The problem in NZ right now is that there are not enough people trying to make enough change!

      The view put forward about the Northland by-election is essentially that there is no-one to vote for in terms of the material interests of workers and that is *the same* as what was said on Redline in relation to the 2014 general election.

      The article concentrated on Peters because he is the person that a chunk of the left is supporting. No doubt we’ll have some further coverage.

      I’m assuming you’re a NZ First supporter.

      In terms of Peters’ racism, his statements re Asian immigration are clearly racist. As it happens, I don’t think he is especially racist *as a person* – personally, I think he makes racist anti-Asian statements because he’s a nationalist and an opportunist (and to some extent a demagogue). He puts forward racist ideas in relation to Asian immigration because he knows there are votes in it, ie he’s an opportunist.

      Fortunately, there are not a lot of votes in it. Just enough to help keep him in parliament.

      Moreover, Don wasn’t suggesting that Peters is uniquely bad or evil. Labour has an even worse track record on immigration than he does, having launched the dawn raids on Pacific workers back during the third Labour government, championing the White New Zealand policy in their early years, supporting Muldoon stripping tens of thousands of Samoans of NZ citizenship, and being part of the establishment consensus which victimises migrant workers from Asia and the Pacific in particular.

      Lastly, please don’t take up space by huge lists of countries and figures that have nothing to do with the particular article that this is the comments section for.

  8. I think Winston is the best hope we have at present for curbing the relentless destruction and sell off of our country by National.

    Yes, he may have faults but sitting around complaining about how imperfect Winston is, takes away the focus which should be, deal to the biggest threat to our country, National.

    TPPA will be the worst possible outcome for workers of this country. Anyone like Winston who can critically think about how bad TPPA is going to be and then more importantly articulate that to older and more conservative Kiwis is a good thing.

    I note Labour has not come out with their views publicly on TPPA.

    Democracy is about everyone having a voice. You might not like everything Winston says, but I think he has integrity and won’t sell the country down the river to the highest bidder like National or compromise what he believes in like Labour for some screwed up belief that does not even make sense. (like 24 hr surveillance against 48 hr surveillance).

    Would also love to see Labour actually update it’s foreign policy back to the Lange Days.

    I think not only will he promise deals to Northland, he will actually deliver on it, unlike National who if they win will lie like John Key does on every issue and never deliver.

    • Rose, it’s not “our country”. It never was. Since colonisation New Zealand has belonged to the capitalists of town and country. National are just running the store, as Labour did before them.
      Peters’ consistent racist agitation is beyond faults and imperfection. These days I work closely with Chinese and Korean musicians. Knowing that my friends are targets of Peters foul racism make me cringe.

  9. “Lastly, please don’t take up space by huge lists of countries and figures that have nothing to do with the particular article that this is the comments section for.”

    Could you please explain why you think my list has nothing to do with, “if you think our society is equitable, i’ve no clue what you’re doing reading marxists lol”?

    What I gave is evidence.

    Do you think Mao’s mandate was to raise standards or to hold people down for the corporates coming in to China?

  10. 1. You need to read what I say more closely. I said your figures had nothing to do with *the article*. They don’t. The article is about the Northland by-election.

    2. Corporates weren’t going into China during the Mao period. Mao died in 1976.

    China opened its doors to western corporates much later.

    3. Today, Chinese workers are exploited by Chinese corporates, regardless of whether external corporates are entering China or not. New Zealand workers are exploited by New Zealand corporates, including the state-owned ones, regardless of what ‘foreign’ companies are doing or not doing in this country.

    4. The problem is capitalism, not the nationality of the capitalists and their companies.


  11. So what sort of comments would be allowed on, “if you think our society is equitable”?

    I heard that Sun Yat-sen’s
    “Three Principles of the People: nationalism, democracy, and the people’s livelihood,” were a bother to Western influences. Yale, the centre for “Skull and Bones,” had a wide network, “Yale in China,” which supported Mao to keep up opium and democracy down.

    • See Brian, now you’re off on another tangent. Sun Yat-sen and Mao and opium have nothing to do with the article. Stick to the article, or you’re just spamming.

  12. “Peters and Cunliffe have both said many highly forgettable things”

    How else could Peters so forcefully have brought public attention on the China corruption of our Government Ministers?

    • By providing proof that the Chinese were “corrupting” government ministers and by not using racist expressions.

      It still would have been nationalist bollocks, because the chief exploiters of the NZ working class are the NZ capitalist class and the chief class interests that government ministers represent are the interests of the NZ bourgeoisie. That’s what capitalist states do.

      Individual government ministers may well benefit from lending a helping hand to this or that Chinese business in the same way that they benefit from lending a helping hand to NZ business. Winston would know about that, because he’s received money from NZ business interests like the Vela family.


  13. “There is no “China corruption” There is only money corruption.”

    When there is money corruption sometimes it helps to get a handle on where so as to do something about it.

  14. If you read “Gung Ho,” or some of Rewi Alley’s other books you would note that he had to be very clever to continue with his work under Mao.

  15. My main problem with Peters is that I think he wants to expand logging work for people as more important than protecting the forests which are our planet’s future.

    I think there are better ways for people to live than be psychologically influenced to believe they have to have a paid job for dignity.

    The lifespan differential between men and women increased from 1930s to 1970s then as women had to work it began to drop back and is now about the 1940s stage again.

  16. Rose wrote:
    “Would also love to see Labour actually update it’s foreign policy back to the Lange Days.”

    During the Lange days, Labour increased NZ’s conventional military involvement in the Pacific to levels not seen since WW2. Lange also supported the continuing Indonesian occupation of East Timor, regarding it as something that would never be reversed. The East Timorese people had other ideas.

    If any serious progress is to be made on the left, one of the things that needs to stop is creating myths about capitalist parties and politicians.

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