From the vaults: A Year of It (the first year of the fifth Labour government)

Posted: September 3, 2015 by Admin in At the coalface, Class Matters, Economics, Labour Party NZ, New Zealand economy, New Zealand history, New Zealand politics, Political & economic power, Poverty & Inequality, State capitalism, Unions - NZ, Workers' rights
The rogues' gallery: in centre are Helen Clark and governor-general (and longtime Labourite) Cath Tizard

Rogues’ gallery: in centre are Helen Clark and governor-general (and longtime Labourite) Cath Tizard; next to Clark is Alliance leader Jim Anderton, who served as deputy prime minister

The piece below appeared as the editorial in issue #14 of revolution magazine (Xmas 2000-March 2001), one of the print predecessors of this blog. It looks at the first year of the fifth Labour government (2000) and argues for a new political movement. Such a new movement is more needed that ever today in 2015.

by Philip Ferguson

It is now a year since Labour and the Alliance formed a government. This was to be a government which put some heart back into the administration of the country and undid the most harmful effects of 15 years of ‘new right’ restructuring, initiated by the previous Labour regime and continued, although not in such an extreme manner, by National in the 1990s. But, a year on, how much has really changed?

The government renationalised ACC, a measure which is really in the interests of business as it shields them from the kinds of premiums which private insurance companies would charge. This was a point that Labour politicians, such as fnance minister Cullen, were keen to point out to the more short-sighted sections of the exploiting class.

They brought in the Employment Relations Act, which continues to deny workers’ basic rights – and necessary rights if industrial disputes are to be won – such as political and solidarity strikes. The ERA reflects the Labour leadership’s understanding that the working class has been defeated and can be given a little breathing room, while the leash remains firmly around our necks.

Even where Labour could have taken very token measures which might have made life just a little easier for some of the not well-off people that voted for them – for instance, moving student allowances back to universities and away from WINZ – they have done nothing.

Moreover, while last year Labour politicians stalked campuses addressing student rallies foolish enough to give them a platform for their lies, nothing has been done to lower fees and increase student allowances.

Benefit cuts and business welfare

Or take the maintenance of National’s benefit cuts. Labour could have, without major financial surgery, increased dole, domestic purposes and widows’ benefits back to 1990 levels before the Richardson/Shipley cuts. Far from doing this, Labour even turned down the ultra-moderate call made by the Greens to give a one-week Christmas bonus to the poorest people in the country – beneficiaries – last Chrkistmas. And it is unlikely that Clark will be playing Santa this Christmas either.

Labour has assiduously clourted business all year, culminating in the business forum of October. While dinosaurs like Roger Kerr whinge from the sideline about Labour being ‘left-wing’, the smart money in the exploiting class knows their interests are better served by the current government than by a Shipley regime which failed to deliver the kind of incentives business needs for development.

If business is getting a helping hand from Labour, working class migrants, especially those whose skins are not pristine white, are getting a boot up the backside. Not only is Labour implementing tough new immigration restrictions, it is also threatening to punish schools and teachers who ‘harbour’ such migrants where they don’t have the ‘proper’ papers.

The Alliance, which claimed to stand for something better, has been revealed merely as a leg for propping up the Labour dog, so it doesn’t fall over. Anderton’s ‘People’s Bank’ is a poor substitute for even the lifting of benefits back to 1990 levels, let alone some fundamental improvements in the lives of the exploited class.

And, just as the main role of the Alliance is to prop up the rotten Labour Party, the ‘radical left’ groups did their bit by calling for votes for one or both of these parties last year.

Moving on

It’s time to move on. Labour is not part of the solution. It is a major part of the problem. Anything which helps the Labour Party, including the Alliance helping them into government and the left calling on people to vote for them, simply prolongs the agony for those of us who don’t own the wealth of society but create it through our labour-power.

We need to build a new movement, one not sullied by the betrayals – and betrayers of the past and present. That’s the task to which revolution is devoted. If you want to join us in building such a movement, a new left, get in touch. Let’s not let the next century be wasted, as the one just ended was, by the parties of capital, including those which pretend to be parties of labour.

  1. David O'Kane says:

    hindsight judges this article well…. I both cringed and was amused to see in the SundaystarTimes that P Goff was writing under the title of LEFT!!!! sigh…

  2. Admin says:

    Cheers, David.

    Yes, I think the piece stands up well.

    Regarding Goff, yes, what a joke. Still, some people still see Labour as a ‘left’ party. NZers are great ones for self-delusion.

    I knew it happens everywhere but, for some reason, I think people in this country are especially prone to it.

    Phil F