Redline on the Labour Party

nationalcolaNo-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons.

Nevertheless, there are certainly sections of the anti-capitalist left who, in practice, retain illusions in Labour.  Some think Labour is still, at its core, some kind of “workers’ party” and that it is therefore permissible to vote for it and call on others to vote for it.  Or to take sides in Labour leadership elections.  Or to invite Labour speakers to speak at their educational conferences.  Or to demonise National in such a way that points clearly to support for Labour, without actually saying so.

Even on the anti-capitalist left, there are also some illusions about the first Labour government.  And illusions about the early Labour Party from its founding in 1916 to the formation of the first Labour government.

It is a form of comfort politics.  Just as some infants require comforters, a left which hasn’t yet grown up and been prepared to face the harsh realities of the 21st century capitalist world requires the comfort of thinking that there was once a mass force for socialism in this country and that it was the early Labour Party.

In fact, there has never been a mass force for socialism in New Zealand.  There were certainly revolutionary elements in this country – marxists, anarchists, syndicalists – in the early 1900s and there were far more of them then, when New Zealand only had a million people, than there are today when the country has 4.5 million people.  One of the functions of the early Labour Party was to destroy these revolutionary elements, in part by mopping them up and sucking them into Labour, transforming them into harmless social democrats.  Where they couldn’t do this, they worked to marginalise them and destroy their organisations.

All the while, through the 1920s, Labour moved rightwards, becoming more and more oriented to saving and running the system than getting rid of it.  Labour was always far more hostile to the anti-capitalist left than it was to capitalism.  And, of course, the early Labour Party staunchly advocated for the White New Zealand policy, indicated that they preferred a divided and politically weakened working class – ie one more likely to turn to Labour as its saviour – than a united, politically powerful working class which didn’t need the Labour Party.

Over the five years that this blog has existed, we have run a lot of articles on Labour, including some major, lengthy pieces.  Below are many of the major ones but, for a full list, go to the Labour Party NZ category on the left-hand side of the blog home page.

Labour on immigration – from bad to worse

Political donations and the National-Labour siblings

Labour’s immigrant bashing has a human cost

What every worker should know about Labour’s 1987 Labour Relations Act

Can the Labour Party survive?

A comment on Labour’s ‘Ready to Work’

Latest opinion poll – Labour just can’t catch a break

The truth about Labour: a bosses’ party

Labour’s racist roots

First Labour government wanted ‘Aryan’ immigrants, not Jewish refugees from the Nazis

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

1949 Carpenters’ dispute: Labour and the bosses versus the workers

Twyford is at it again

A stain that won’t wash off: Labour’s racist campaign against people with ‘Chinese-sounding’ surnames

More Labour anti-Chinese racism and the left tags along behind them still

When Labour began the dawn raids and then tried to rewrite history

Immigration and citizenship: Labour versus workers

Depriving Samoans of immigration and citizenship rights

Labour’s repressive 2008 immigration legislation: an attack on all workers

Anti-working class to its core: the third Labour government (1972-75)

Labour’s legal leg-irons – thanks to fourth Labour government

Some further observations on the fourth Labour government

Workers, unions and the Labour Party: unravelling the myths

For a campaign for union disaffiliation from the Labour Party

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

Recalling the reign of Helen Clark

Income and wealth inequality unchanged by last Labour government

Darien Fenton at the fantastic conference

New Labour Party general-secretary indicative of party’s managerial capitalism

Why Labour wasn’t worth the workers’ ticks

Why do otherwise sane, well-meaning people choose to delude themselves about the Labour Party and make up rosy nonsense about its past?

Chris Trotter’s false recovered memory syndrome

Empty Andy and the ‘Eh?’ team

Union movement gathers for ‘fairness at work’; Labour gathers missionaries

Labour parties and their ‘left’ oppositions


  1. I remember a delegate training session when I was in the SFWU. There was this exercise where we had to identify moments in NZ labour (workers) history. We had to match the names or times to the incidents etc on the wall. Anyway, it was all about National and laws they’d put in or things that they had done, that were anti worker. Not one thing about the Labour Party, like there was some sort of amnesia.

  2. The social democratic school of falsification.

    I’ve been at meetings where Labour MPs have tried to make out that the fourth Labour government didn’t exist. All the commodification and asset sales and user-pays started with the fourth National government.

    The articles on Jim McAloon and Chris Trotter are good examples of people consciously choosing to ‘forget’, but a lot of the time it is Labour MPs and hacks simply lying.

  3. Well, the first Labour govt had a chance while John A Lee was with them. And Big Norm Kirk retained some links to the idealistic past before his untimely death – but apart from that, they are just a monumental con job. I hope David Lange and his team are burning in the unquenchable fires of Hell! And don’t get me started on Tony Blah and Mrs Hillary (Left Wing) Clinton!

  4. It truly is amazing that a bit of branding, some propaganda and a few structurally well placed individuals can allow this bunch of careerists to continue selling themselves as somehow organically linked to workers. So often it really does come down to the scare tactic of saying that the other bunch are even worse, so stick with us. Inspiring stuff eh?!

  5. Last election more blue-collar workers voted National than Labour, so the selling hasn’t been working too well. The ruling class here is clever enough to have two big parties and a bunch of smaller ones to do their bidding. So even when workers get disillusioned with one capitalist management team, the ruling class just parade another team that is essentially the same but waving a different colour flag.

Comments are closed.