What’s Love Got To Do With It? Chris Trotter responds to John Moore’s critique of David Cunliffe

By   /   September 25, 2013  /   21 Comments

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If I seem “almost uncritical” in my support for the Cunliffe-led Labour Party it is not because I have succumbed, as John charges, to “the politics of low horizons”, but because I still understand what I have always understood: that “politics” – full-stop – is all we have.

DAVID CUNLIFFE is going to betray us. Why? Because David Cunliffe is the leader of the NZ Labour Party and labour parties always betray the hopes and dreams of their supporters. Always? Even the first Labour Government? Yes, even Mickey Savage’s Labour Government. Really? Yes, really. Because? Because all labour parties draw their inspiration from the social-democratic political tradition and a core belief of social-democracy is that you cannot take on capitalism and win. But, if you’re unwilling to take on capitalism, then you’ll never win, and conceding the contest to the capitalists is just another way of betraying your supporters.

At least that is what John Moore, in his latest posting over at Bryce Edward’s “Liberation” blogsite, is telling “the bloggers, political activists and union delegates who make up the current crop of leftie cheerleaders for the Labour Party”.

In “The Left’s New Love For Labour”,  John argues that any future centre-left government “would still have the primary role of managing New Zealand’s small capitalist economy in uncertain times, with the aim of providing the best conditions for economic growth in a business-friendly environment.”

I’m not quite sure whether John sees “providing the best conditions for economic growth” as a good thing or a bad thing. Personally, I look upon the new jobs and higher wages that generally accompany any sustained period of economic growth as a very good thing indeed – but, then, I’m a social-democrat.

In promoting capitalist-centred growth, says John, Cunliffe would undergo a sort of Dr Jekyll to Mr Hide transformation. He would “inevitably be a very different beast to David Cunliffe the current friend of unions and leftists.” Just as easily as he had moved to the left “Cunliffe will move back to the centre, or even to the right, depending on the economic and political situation a future government that he leads is faced with.”

No, no, no, no, John. You’re just not reading the events of the past few weeks correctly.

With the changing of Labour’s rules, the ability of a Labour leader to pivot in the way you suggest has been dramatically curtailed. David Cunliffe, in particular, would find such a shift next to impossible. His leadership is absolutely dependent on his retaining the confidence and good-will of Labour’s rank-and-file members and trade union affiliates. He cannot do what David Lange and Roger Douglas did in 1984-85 without running the risk of sparking a party-wide revolt and opening the way for a new caucus champion of the rank-and-file.

Rules changes notwithstanding, John takes The Daily Blog editor, Martyn Bradbury, and myself to task for giving Cunliffe “almost uncritical support”. Apparently, we should have adopted the blowtorch tactics of Socialist Aotearoa’s Omar Hamed.

Omar vilifies Cunliffe on the SA blog for failing to release Ali Panah and half-a-dozen other Iranian Christian asylum-seekers who went on hunger-strike back in 2006-07 when Cunliffe was Minister of Immigration in Helen Clark’s cabinet. Omar’s colourful depiction of Mr Panah’s plight cannot, however, erase the historical fact that the hunger-striker was ultimately released from Mt Eden Remand Prison. Nor does Omar disclose that Cunliffe’s actions were guided by advice received from the Refugee Status Appeals Authority which had dismissed Mr Panah’s claims as “lacking in credibility”.

Moving on from Omar’s excoriation of Cunliffe, John makes a concerted effort to condemn me out of my own mouth by quoting postings I have made on the Clark Government’s failure to persist with the Labour-Alliance coalition’s progressive agenda in the face of concerted capitalist resistance during the infamous “Winter of Discontent” in 2000.

This incident did indeed provide a vivid lesson in the power of capital to intimidate and disrupt the programme of a social-democratic government. But John’s analytical mistake in relation to my account of the Winter of Discontent is to confuse a description of what happened in May 2000 with some sort of unshakeable ideological conclusion that the fate of the Clark government must necessarily be the fate of every other Labour-led coalition government that courts the displeasure of the ruling class.

But this is not the case. History is not driven forward by some sort of schema, and events do not unfold according to an inexorable determinism. People are capable of learning from the past and politicians exhibit very different styles of practising politics.

Salvador Allende’s socialist government was overthrown in a coup d’état 40 years ago – in large part because he did not mobilise his working-class supporters soon enough against an insurgent Chilean middle class. Thirty years later, Hugo Chavez’s socialist government was also toppled in a coup, but this time the left-wing president was restored to power by the Chavistas of Caracas’s slums – marching in their thousands against the plotters’ regime and bringing it crashing down.

Social democracy enjoyed extraordinary success during the 1930s – most particularly in Sweden, New Zealand and the United States. Those successes were entrenched during the post-war economic boom years, but they were not extended. The emergence of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian superpower caused strict political boundaries to be set in the nations of the West. Those who attempted to exceed the limitations imposed by a nervous capitalism paid a very high price. The fate of Allende’s Popular Unity government in Chile and of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government in Australia were salutary.

In the 1970s social-democrats across the globe had surprisingly little awareness of just how close they were to fundamentally undermining the capitalist system. The capitalists, however, were in no doubt as to the seriousness of their predicament. Their answer – neoliberalism – was unleashed upon the social-democratic parties and governments of the 1980s before they could grasp how fragile and vulnerable the capitalist system had become.

The capitalists’ fightback was as comprehensive in its scope as it was ruthless in its execution. Social democratic parties that failed to “get with the programme” were subjected to relentless attacks by the news media and plagued by internal subversion and debilitating factional strife. “Centre-left” politicians like David Lange and Roger Douglas in New Zealand, and Tony Blair in the UK, soon discovered that they got along much faster by going along with the new, neoliberal orthodoxy.

But the Cold War ended in 1991 and neoliberalism foundered in 2008. Astonishingly, the social-democrats of the twenty-first century seem as unaware of the opportunities confronting them as the social-democrats of the 1970s. Not since the 1930s has there been such scope for a fundamental reconfiguration of our economic, political and social institutions. The trick for the social-democrats of 2013 is not to let this opportunity slip through our fingers like we did the last one.

If I seem “almost uncritical” in my support for the Cunliffe-led Labour Party it is not because I have succumbed, as John charges, to “the politics of low horizons”, but because I still understand what I have always understood: that “politics” –  full-stop – is all we have.

To move the social-democratic project forward it is necessary to fight every day with what life “on the desperate edge of now” places in our hands.

Two years ago, listening to David Cunliffe speak to a Labour Party gathering in Blockhouse Bay, I realised that the Labour caucus possessed at least one member who grasped the possibilities for advancing social-democracy in a world ruled by neoliberal zombies who had yet to come to terms with the fact that their god had failed.

I decided then and there that Cunliffe was worth supporting. Not because he is the “perfect knight”, wholly unblemished by compromise or error; but because, in the course of my daily assessment of who is moving the left forward, and who is holding it back, Cunliffe consistently comes out on the side those who are advancing the cause.

Which is pretty much what Eduard Bernstein, the founder of social-democracy meant when he declared: “The movement is everything, the final goal is nothing.”

The “revolution” is the accumulation of the progressive choices that left-wing people of goodwill make every minute of every day. If you wait for it to happen, John, it will happen while you wait.

 

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21 Comments

  1. Relic says:

    This is a unique historic window, and Edwards in particular has more venom for the Labour party than capital in his ho hum cut, paste and link columns.
    It is actually time to do stuff as Green, Labour and Mana activists are. And the small hard left sects in their way. This country will be stuffed for decades if the torys get a third term. It is time for bold politics. A mild mannered guy in a suit (David Cunliffe) will have filled certain US underpants with bricks with his perfectly reasonable request for the TPPA documents to be made public. You do not have to wear a beret and fatigues to be left.

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    • Jenny says:

      Great post Chris. (And relic, great comment).

      “Two years ago, listening to David Cunliffe speak to a Labour Party gathering in Blockhouse Bay, I realised that the Labour caucus possessed at least one member who grasped the possibilities for advancing social-democracy in a world ruled by neoliberal zombies who had yet to come to terms with the fact that their god had failed.
      I decided then and there that Cunliffe was worth supporting. Not because he is the “perfect knight”, wholly unblemished by compromise or error; but because, in the course of my daily assessment of who is moving the left forward, and who is holding it back, Cunliffe consistently comes out on the side those who are advancing the cause.”

      Chris Trotter

      David Cunliffe became front in centre in my attention, through a different cause than the one mentioned by Chris Trotter.

      In my judgement, David Cunliffe, in his speech delivered on climate change, (which he deliberately tangentially labelled “The dolphin and the dole queue”), DC became the first and so far the only New Zealand politician to date, to openly and comprehensively confront climate change . (As well as the Greens, I include the political pundits at the far left of the political spectrum in this admittedly harsh judgement).

      I challenge anyone to find a better speech on this issue delivered by a New Zealand parliamentarian, or politician on this issue. If there is, I have I haven’t heard it.

      http://www.labour.org.nz/media/speech-dolphin-and-dole-queue

      Cunliffe gave the country a clear eyed summation of this existential threat, which is in direct conflict with the current government’s mine it, drill it, frack it, burn it, program. However Cunliffe’s speech also undermined the whole ‘Steady As She Goes’, ‘Business As Usual’ policy of the Shearer led Labour Party, (and indeed the wider left project of social reform and even revolution). Needless to say this didn’t endear him to the conservative Labour caucus.

      For those who inhabit the far left of the political spectrum like John Moore and Omar Hamed, their response to climate change, when it is rarely raised by them, is that climate change, is just the latest one, of the many negative outcomes of capitalism, the only solution being to overthrow capitalism, Q.E.D.

      To stop climate change, working people just need to seize the (polluting) means of production off the capitalists.

      Umm

      Well despite the obvious pitfalls I see in this solution, and while we are waiting for this stalled project to go ahead.

      And, I may be rude in mentioning it, but in the meantime while we are waiting for the great proletarian revolution, it is probable that millions of human beings are likely to die from the affects of unaddressed runaway climate change.

      The problem of unaddressed climate change is so huge and so pressing and its effects will impact on every level and class and schism of humanity.

      As you may have noticed Chris I often liken the threat posed by climate change faced by this generation to the threat that fascism posed to the world in the 1930s.

      I do this for a number of reasons; the first is that all the scientists and experts who have studied climate change, and its possible solutions, say that the scale of the problem leads them to say, that the only viable strategy with any chance of overcoming this threat is nothing less than a Word War II scale mobilisation.

      The other reason I liken the threat posed by climate change to that posed by fascism. Is that the threat of fascism required an all sector and all class response. Just like today the threat was not realised or acknowledged by most leaders, or even by the left. Britain was a front line state facing a fascist ruled Europe. Most British ruling politicians of the time were preparing to make their peace with the fascists. However a small sector of the ruling class in Britain realised that they would not be immune from being negatively affected and even possibly targeted by the fascists. In Britain this small minority of Tory ministers led by led by Winston Churchill called for a massive mobilisation and fightback against fascism.

      Churchill was a rightwing anti-union anti-socialist tory member of the privileged English ruling class. Yet despite this he reached out beyond his class interests to work with socialists and even communists in a common front against fascism.

      Churchill though a tory was highly intelligent and read widely. It may be of note to Moore and Hamed that a lot of Churchill’s rhetoric was drawn from the fighting left of the time. One of the left Journals that Churchill read was the “communist Workers Dreadnought” which featured the poetry of black poet and communist activist Claude Mckay, who wrote of fighting white fascist supremacists in the US.

      If we must die, let it not be like hogs
      Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
      While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
      Making their mock at our accursed lot.
      If we must die, O let us nobly die,
      So that our precious blood may not be shed
      In vain; then even the monsters we defy
      Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
      O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
      Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
      And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
      What though before us lies the open grave?
      Like men we’ll face the murderous cowardly pack,
      Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

      Claude Mackay “If We Must die”

      Churchill addressing the members of his own class who wanted to appease fascism.

      If you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly
      You may have to fight when your victory is uncertain and your losses will be heavy.
      You may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.
      There may even be a worse case.
      You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to die fighting than to live as slaves

      Winston Churchill

      While we haven’t got a climate change Churchill, (or even an Al Gore), in NZ (Yet). And I have yet to see a continuation, or follow up from David Cunliffe from his DADQ speech. Or even a Claude Makay to inspire him. At this point in time David Cunliffe is currently our best hope for mobilising the nation for the sort of response that will give us at least a fighting chance of beating climate change.

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      • risildowgtn says:

        Awesome post
        You should become a Blogger here

        I look forward to it….

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      • fambo says:

        Sorry, to say DC is the first NZ politician to confront climate change is just ridiculous. Quite obviously Green MPs have been pointing this out for years. What you actually mean is DC is the first politician of the two main parties to confront climate change, and even he didn’t mention it in the Labour leadership debates as far as i am aware even though we are on the edge of a global environmental catastrophy.

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        • Prickly Jill says:

          I attended a Labour Party conference in Rotorua when Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was shown. Both Helen Clark and Michael Cullen highlighted the danger of Climate Change in their speeches that year. Not that I agree with market solutions, but Labour did introduce an emissions trading scheme to try to reduce climate change. David Cunliffe has been picking up on an issue that has been very much in the forefront of Labour policy and continues to be.

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        • Jenny says:

          “….to say DC is the first NZ politician to confront climate change is just ridiculous.”

          What I said, was that David Cunliff “….became the first and so far the only New Zealand politician to date, to openly and comprehensively confront climate change”

          I also challenged anyone to find a better speech on this issue by a New Zealand parliamentarian, or politician.

          This challenge still stands.

          But Fambo, you are right, in saying that David Cunliffe barely mentioned this subject in the leadership debates, (though Shane Jones negatively did, calling for more oil drilling and coal mining). There is a war going on, and this war is also going on inside the Labour Party. Time will tell whether David Cunliffe as the Labour leader succumbs to the pressure of the enemy to let them dig up Denniston, or drill in the deep ocean. If David Cunliffe as a Prime Minister, oversees the mining of Denniston, and deep sea oil drilling in our waters, it will be a major sell out of the principles he laid down in his Dolphin And Dole Queue speech. Not only that, but David Cunliffe as a father would be betraying his two young sons who he mentioned in this speech, saying, “there’s a very good chance”, (if we do nothing), that when his two young boys are grown, the safe and healthy world we take for granted, “…will be gone. Finished.”

          Denniston and Deep Sea Oil drilling are New Zealand’s version of America’s XL pipeline, David Cunliffe, like Barack Obama, needs to be told in no uncertain terms that if he allows these two climate destroying projects to go ahead his administration will end in ignominy.

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      • Jenny says:

        Claude Mackay Churchill’s inspirational communist fighter/journalist/poet. No wonder Churchill took an interest in him.

        http://libcom.org/library/radical-london-workers-dreadnought-claude-mckay

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  2. Countryboy says:

    Great Post Chris Trotter . You’ve answered a few fundamental questions for me and have allayed a couple of fears .

    The Neoliberals knew very well that once trust is breached in any relationship , whether personal or political , it’s very difficult to allow ones self to ‘ trust ‘ again therefore it’s easy for our neoliberal oppressors to maintain a status quo no matter how dysfunctional or damaging , as we’re seeing in our social landscape .

    We citizens have turned on ourselves rather than rebel a against our oppressors . Mainly because our oppressors have tweaked the MSM to be their cloaking device while they imprison us in debt as they ratchet up the basic costs of living as they spread their fungal lies . Oh , and make a handsome profit . For them . Not us .

    But we know this and as I write , I feel as though I’m preaching to the converted . What I was holding my breath about was exactly what you’ve written about here . I’ve asked myself time and again ‘ Is Cunliffe bona-fide ? ‘ ( Seen Oh Brother Where Art Thou ? ‘ and the documentary of the sound track ‘ Down From The Mountain ? ‘ )

    Can a Cunliffe come up out of the festering shit hole under the rat infested long-drop that is our politics ?

    I’m not 100% convinced but I’m certainly more confident to think so than I was .

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  3. Molly says:

    Good article. Yes, Cunliffe is the leader – but the current momentum belongs to the members and this is what will drive Labour forward.

    Your reference to the difference between the coups of Allende and Chavez makes me wonder.

    Was the immediate and decisive response of the Chavistas due to the fact that Chavez had provided everyone with copies of the constitution, and organised local grassroots meetings discussing the constitution? (Not to mention his weekly television show where he answered questions from call-in viewers.) Those people were engaged, aware and were able to be mobilised.

    Grass-roots democracy indeed.

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  4. Omar is a sanctimonious little douche who inhabits his own plane of reality, and his criticism swings me behind Cunliffe almost as much as that of that neoliberal popcorn fart Matthew Hooton.

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  5. redbear says:

    David Key is a turncoat….. You wait. Wouldnt trust him as far as I could throw him.

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  6. C. H. says:

    These debates inevitably return to that old division in social democracy: reform vs revolution. But it’s a debate we stopped having after social democracy in general was defeated at the end of the Cold War, and the movement entered its ongoing identity crisis – a struggle to make sense of the failure of the Keynesian welfare state and the Soviet-style planned economy. Venezuela is one of the few places globally where the labour movement is far enough advanced for this debate to even be on the agenda.

    After such colossal defeats, who is left?

    There’s the dusty Labour parties of the old Second International, which almost universally sold out by dumping any notion of building a socialist economy in favour of neoliberalism, and lost most of their membership along the way. The classical Labour party – one committed to “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”, established by parliamentary reform and operated by “popular administration” – has disappeared. These core principles are now denounced as “old fashioned” and “outdated” – forgetting, of course, that the neoliberal policies which replaced them were like a throwback to pre-1900 economics, when social democracy was yet to sweep the governments of the world.

    The other heavyweights, the Communist Parties, have managed to self-destruct: the revolutionaries-turned-bureaucrats, who’d earlier managed to tear down capitalism and erect exciting new societies of socialism, managed to corrupt the democratic processes of those countries so irreparably that when the cliques of gangster-like thugs took over in ’91, there were no supportive masses left to hit the streets and defend the faded revolution. Some of the ex-commissars nicked public assets and became millionaires; most of the others threw in the towel and defected to neoliberal Labourism. Cold War fables of Evil Uncle Joe and his terribleness usurped any remaining love for Grandad Marx and Father Lenin.

    This abandonment of socialist ideas in favour of liberalism has occurred in most countries. A few exceptions aside, there are no movements to build anything resembling a replacement to capitalism, be that by reform or revolution. Even a return to the Keynesian mixed-economy remains elusive – which itself was a sort of Plan B by capitalist economies to placate workers with a welfare state, and thereby tilt the Cold War balance away from the Soviet bloc. It lasted while the massive profits of the post-war rebuild could sustain it, but once the millionaires started feeling the pinch, Regan and Thatcher were passed the torch.

    Luckily, the theoretical ammunition to “bring back the glory days” is beginning to accumulate. Left academia is strenthening its argument: the collapse of previous “socialist experiments” were not due to some inherant flaw in the concept. Had the movement been armed with better tactics and theoretical understanding, such monuments to people power would probably still be standing.

    Until a political force emerges to promote a viable alternative, rather than simply flogging the dying horse that is monopoly capitalism, we’ll remain on the same merry-go-round: betting on a neoliberal government of a different stripe, hoping for a better spin of the wheel, and wondering why nothing ever changes.

    Cunliffe is likeable, capable, and the best hope for change within Labour since Rowling. But without a popular movement pushing for a real alternative to the free market, it could all end like François Hollande: “No to Austerity” becomes “A Little Less Austerity”, as the electorate becomes ever-more cynical and demoralised.

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    • Relic says:

      Jeez the cushion in your armchair must be lumpy today C.H. to keep you awake long enough to emit that defeatist ramble. There is always a way forward as long as the wait may seem at times. Reform vs. revolution? they go together–work with and struggle against my old marxist mates said.

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  7. fatty says:

    John Moore is a d-grade commentator at best. He couldn’t understand how Mana could be anti-neoliberal and also for biculturalism.
    I’m surprised he can string a sentence together

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  8. David's says:

    After actually reading John’s article I believe his conclusions are entirely reasonable. He even compliments Chris saying;

    “Chris Trotter’s writings are a valuable point of reference for anyone wanting to study the New Zealand Labour Party. And as one of New Zealand’s sharpest public intellectuals, he has written some of the best commentaries on the question of social democracy and the labour movement in New Zealand. It was therefore rather frustrating for those of us who have been keenly following Trotter’s recent critiques of the Labour Party to be faced with his sudden about-turn due to the election of a new leftie-sounding leader. However, this does not reduce the importance of Trotter as a critic of the Labour Party.”

    But he then goes on to use Chris’s arguments against him, specifically;

    “So then, what would have happened if Helen Clark had decided to stand up to the bosses and ‘called her supporters out into the streets’? Chris Trotter explains:

    …in doing so she would have raised the political stakes to such a dangerous degree that 99.9 per cent of politicians would simply have run the other way. To openly pit ”the people” against ”the bosses” is to place the option of full-scale revolution – or repression – on the table…Having done so, Miss Clark would quickly have discovered that breaking an ”investment strike” is in no way comparable to breaking an ordinary strike. In the latter case, only the future of a single company and its employees is on the line. With the former, you’re hazarding the future of an entire social class. Most political parties would rather keep control of the losing side than lose control of the winning side.”

    This seems entirely reasonable as well. However Chris seems to believe that the political landscape has changed significantly;

    “History is not driven foward by some type of inevitable determinism, and not by some inexorable schema” or thereabouts.

    But John is referencing precisely this schema which he quotes Chris also referencing, precisely class struggle. There is an overbearing framework upon which this struggle occurs, the capitalist political economy. The political economy and opposing working/capitalist class split has certainly not diminished since the Clark government so why now should we expect a different result with Cunliffe? To do the same thing and expect a different result was what Albert Einstein considered insanity. I believe in this John asks an excellent question to which Chris with his formidable knowledge of labour has not yet answered.

    Make no mistake political office specifically that which occurs within capitalist nations can be used for significant benefit for the poor, through the manipulation of taxation and such. But the very dependence upon sources of revenue such as taxation and investment by capital places strict limitations upon what capital is prepared to allow those governments to do, in Chris’s example above Clark learns those limits. So although Cunliffe and specifically a labour alliance might hold office they in reality do not hold power. As Richard Nixon said to Allende’s Chile, “we’ll make their economy scream”.

    But this raises more questions than it answers, if governments are beholden to capital how can they transform society? To this i suggest turning to Rosa Luxemburg who wrote of Bernstein;
    “we find for the first time, the opposition of two factors of the labour movement. His theory tends to counsel us to renounce the social transformation, the final goal of the social democract and, inversely, to make of social reforms, the means of class struggle, its aim. Bernstein himself has very clearly and characteristically formulated this viewpoint when he wrote: “The final goal, no matter what it is, is nothing; the movement is everything’ but since the final goal of socialism constitutes the only decisive factor distinguishing the social democratic movement from bourgois democracy and from bougois radicalism, the only factor transforming the entire labour movement from a vain effort to repair the capitalist order into a class struggle against this order, for the suppression of this order – the question ‘Reform or Revolution?’ As it is posed by Bernstein, equals for the social democracy the question ‘To be or not to be?’”

    In this masterful analysis Luxemburg hits upon the key note, how when it strikes upon the limitations of bougois politicial office will the party proceed if it has not aims beyond political office? If its sole goal is the party, will it not retreat to protect that and in the process betray those of the working class who wish to go further? Thus their betrayal of the workers must become ‘inevitable determinism’ determined by the bounds of office.

    But it is possible to transform society if their is the will to challenge and defeat the very chains of capital which fetter the representatives of the working class. But this would entail not only a breach from political office but its destruction. Chris hints at this i believe when he intones the conflict between workers and capitalists;

    “To openly pit ”the people” against ”the bosses” is to place the option of full-scale revolution – or repression – on the table…”

    revolution as Marx noted were the locomotives of history, capable of the complete transformation of society through the forcable suppression of such contradictions, which political office could never resolve. This then must become core to our question, indeed, what aims beyond political office will allow labour to transform society, with or without Cunliffe? If the answer to this is none, then what goals can be held except the continuation of the status quo? then Cunliffe must act to protect the party and capital against the attempts of the workers to suppress it. He must betray us.

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  9. Danyl Strype says:

    >> But it is possible to transform society if their is the will to challenge and defeat the very chains of capital which fetter the representatives of the working class. But this would entail not only a breach from political office but its destruction. <<

    There was a time when I found this kind of rhetoric very exciting. What I've learned in over a decade of activism is that it's much easier to wax lyrical about breaking the chains of capital than it is to democratically establish a replacement for those chains, which can still get houses built, food grown and transported etc. I've found movements like permaculture, open source, and co-operatives, offer more practical solutions than any neo-marxist group (whether anarchist or leninist) but I still agree with them that the transformation we need can't be achieved merely by a change of government. I've also learnt from experience though, that having allies in parliament can help, and I hope we've all been reminded over the last 5 years how painful it is to have parliament controlled by people who openly oppose any moves towards democratic and sustainable economic systems.

    Returning to the point though – the new leader of the NZ Labour party circa 2012 – the short-term question is not whether Cunliffe is the right leader to support, but whether Labour is the right party to support. The neo-liberal faction conceded the leadership to the centre-left prior to the 1984 election too, and we all know how that worked out. The membership and the affiliates need to follow up on their internal revolution, and thoroughly purge the party of simmering neo-liberals during their candidate selection processes, so that if Cunliffe is as left and green and his speeches, he has the support he needs to follow through.

    The longer-term question is, say the Greens were to replace Labour as the major coalition partner, would they be safe from the kind of ideological take-over that happened to Labour in 1984? If so, why and how? I've seen radicals shift support (whether explicit or implicit) from Labour to the Alliance, to the Greens, to Mana, as if the only way to protect ourselves from a sell-out is to abandon a party once it gets over a certain size, thus condemning us to the margins. How can we hold political parties to genuinely democratic practices, thus making an MMP parliament a spokescouncil rather than an elected dictatorship?

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  10. Danyl Strype says:

    BTW One of worst ways to dispel the idea that Labour’s page-turning routine is all blog-driven spin, is to castigate independent radicals for attacking their allies, then sneeringly refer to them as an irrelevant 0.5%. It’s true that we radicals are a minority of the population as a whole, and often a minority within subsets of the population, but that’s equally true of the entire pool of the politically active. This is something we need to change if we want to revitalize grassroots democracy, not a statistic to use for cheap shots.

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  11. Draco T Bastard says:

    Personally, I look upon the new jobs and higher wages that generally accompany any sustained period of economic growth as a very good thing indeed – but, then, I’m a social-democrat.

    Actually, I’d say that that makes you an idiot:
    1.) Infinite growth on a finite world is impossible
    2.) Despite the growth that we’ve had over the last 20 odd years, wages have been flat-lining. Growth does not automatically bring higher wages.

    What we actually need is to develop our economy – not grow it. Developing it means developing the means to do more of what we need here in NZ from NZ’s resources and to do it sustainably. A lot of the will have to do with getting rid of some jobs such as bus driving so that those people can be diverted to do something which automatics can’t.

    Please note, this doesn’t necessarily result in higher wages either and the reason for that is because we really do have finite resources.

    Other than that, I tend to agree with what you said.

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