by Don Franks

In a few short weeks, all New Zealand citizens over 18 not in prison will be entitled to cast a vote electing the country’s parliament. This modern set of rights is an undeniable step up from the first Kiwi election, held not so long ago, just 33 years before my house was built. Back then, in 1853, voters were required to be male British subjects, aged 21 or over, owning land worth at least fifty pounds. (In practice the 1853 regulations also excluded Maori land owners, as communal ownership was not recognised by the law. )

Even these restricted 19th century regulations were an advance on previous human governance laws.

During most of our recorded human history, working people have been dictated to by tiny handfuls of armed rulers. Those who worked for the nobility were not recognised as equals, not accepted as being fully human. Today there are many areas around the globe where free elections exist not at all or in name only, areas where hands reaching towards a ballot box can be literally shot away.


voter turnout nz

Voter turnout in NZ Social report MSD


This being the case, why are fewer and fewer New Zealanders turning out to vote?

The last 30 years have seen a general decline in voter turnout, with the lowest percentage of voting occurring in the last two election cycles. The New Zealand General Social Survey looked at reasons why people did not vote in the 2011 general election. They found 7.1 percent of the non-voters said they did not think their vote would make a difference – a large increase from 3.9 percent in the 2008 election.

If a recent Ipsos market research poll is any indicator, voting might be down further again this election . A May 2017 online sample of 507 adults found 56 per cent of respondents believed that traditional parties and politicians “didn’t care about people like them”. A massive 64 percent believed that the country’s economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful. Women and low-paid men were significantly inclined to believe the economy was so rigged.

In other words, working people have been growing awareness of capitalism’s tyranny and do not expect career politicians to help them resist it.

This class consciousness is well founded because, for every political party in New Zealand, opposition to capitalism is a no go area. The tyranny of billionaire asset control is treated is if it were an unalterable act of god. It is only acceptable to talk of the most shallow and superficial social adjustments, anything else is “unrealistic”

Imagine if you can, Andrew Little declaiming ”The political problem in this country goes far beyond the National Party. So long as the rich and powerful control jobs and the environment, workers are always going to lose. Labour’s pledge is to remove private ownership of industry, agriculture, infrastructure, and natural resources. We’re going to cut this cancer from our health and education system, our cultural endeavours and , yes, our sports activities. You know it and I know it, the root cause of our most pressing problems is the gross social distortion inflicted on workers by capitalism. Together, lets get rid of it and build a genuinely equal society We’ll start by legislating a maximum wage…”

But Andrew won’t say the problem is capitalism and neither will hardly anyone else. Increasingly,in leftist parlance, “Neo liberalism” has become the euphemism, as if previous capitalism had been basically ok.

New Zealand radical politics is in a sorry state. As the gap between rich and poor swells to more and more ghastly proportions, the educated articulate quietly adapt. Much of Labour’s self-serving machinery is operated today by functionaries who spent years of their youth in small Marxist parties. Although those parties have fallen by the way, the problem of capitalism remains essentially the same as it was in the ’60s and ’70s, now it’s just a bit bigger and uglier.

And, now, somehow, a no go area. Voting patterns and the occasional survey show that workers are becoming well aware of the real problem facing them. The task today is for sincere political activists to take a deep breath and catch up.


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