The tasks before the left and labour movement

By   /   September 28, 2014  /   21 Comments

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Anyone on the left would have been disappointed at the result of the election.

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Anyone on the left would have been disappointed at the result of the election.

There was an opportunity to win, but that got lost through a combination of factors. There were tactical decisions made by Labour, the Greens and Internet-Mana that contributed to the defeat. Each party needs to have a discussion on what those were.

However, the defeat was the product of objective conditions in the first instance.

We had a unified right wing that knew the importance of strategic voting. National got two bonus MP’s in Epsom (Act Party) and Ohariu (United Future) and helped defeat Internet-Mana by urging a Labour vote in Te Tai Tokerau. John Key urged a vote for the Labour candidate to defeat Hone Harawira and so also stopped him bringing in at least one more left MP on the list.

This government was also riding a strong wave of economic growth that followed the initial downturn following the 2008 worldwide financial crisis and subsequent recession. In addition, they deliberately avoided challenging head on or reversing some of the benefits received by working people under the last Labour government. To illustrate this point, we can compare the previous National Party led government from 1990 to 1999 which increased the minimum wage once (when in coalition with NZ First). This government has increased it every year and maintained it at roughly 50% of the average wage.

Many people saw no particular need to change horses when there appeared to be little difference between the major parties. Whilst it is true that Labour was promising some things that were of obvious benefit to workers, like the $2 an hour minimum wage rise, there were other areas where workers were deeply suspicious of Labour’s intentions – such as raising the retirement age.

The parties on the left also appeared deeply divided to the point where it was difficult for many to see how they could form a government that would be able to work together co-operatively. Primary responsibility for that rests with the strategic choices made by the Labour leadership. They rejected the Greens call for a co-operation agreement before the election and deliberately sought to destroy the challenge on its left posed by Internet-Mana.

The rejection of any notion of strategic voting by Labour also meant that it made it easier for Act to win Epsom, the Maori Party to win Waiariki (and bring in an extra MP on the list), and in defeating the Mana Movement in Te Tai Tokerau.

Labour seems to fear challenges on its left more than it does those on the right. As number two on the Internet-Mana list, Laila Harre should be in parliament today as a strong voice on the left. She also should have stayed in parliament in 2002 except for the fact that the Labour Party (and its EPMU affiliate in particular) threw huge resources into a campaign that “succeeded” in pushing her into second place behind the Labour candidate and therefore eliminating the Alliance from parliament.
Those on the left of Labour need to regroup and reorganise. In my view we can rebuild a credible left alternative. The challenge remains enormous because we know the lengths that the big business rulers of this country (and their media attack dogs) are willing to go to defeat genuinely progressive changes in the interests of working people. We have seen that is the destruction of the Alliance Party and in attempted destruction of the Mana Movement.

But I think the Mana Movement is a tougher nut to crack than the old Alliance was. The old Alliance was destroyed as much from within with the betrayal of is principles by the leader Jim Anderton and the majority of MP’s who supported his decision to back the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Mana Movement was formed to speak for the poor and dispossessed; to speak for workers fighting for a living wage; to speak for Maori defending their land and language; to speak for Pacifica threatened with deportation. That role remains whether we are parliament or not.

We need to amplify that voice through using social media and the old media like our own newspaper. We need to throw ourselves into community organising at the very grass roots of our societies and be ready to stand beside those fighting back – like we have seen in the case of the Housing Corporation tenants in Glenn Innes in Auckland.

Then we will see the opportunities for electoral gains to reflect the gains on the ground re-emerge.

Hone Harawira built his northern bastion at the flax roots before ever standing for parliament. I am sure he is rolling up his sleeves to do battle again around the needs of his community.

The alliance with the Internet Party and Kim Dotcom was a gamble that did not come off. I don’t believe it wasn’t worth the try however. It almost worked. We were polling around 3% just before the final week and the so-called “Moment of Truth”. That vote collapsed following the meeting as many people felt they had been duped by Kim Dotcom by what appeared to be his failure to deliver on his promises to expose John Key. We shall see what truth there is in Kim Dotcom’s claims over that matter in the months and years ahead and I suspect there is a lot more to be discovered about the US media bosses manipulation of the process to get the big man extradited.

What the Internet-Mana alliance did do was help create a left coalition that could appeal to more people than what the “radical Maori” persona of Hone and the Mana movement had been able to do. That is important to creating the possibility of reaching out to disaffected working people from Pakeha, Pacifica and migrant backgrounds. That is a reality we must confront.

In the end the Internet-Mana alliance was overshadowed by the demonisation of Kim Dotcom by the whole establishment – big business, media, and the leaders of all the major parties. But the forces that were mobilised by Internet-Mana this election campaign were young, left and progressive forces that will find their way to create something new and radical to challenge the domination of politics by the interests of big business over the interests of ordinary people and the planet.

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About the author

Mike Treen

National Director of Unite Union

21 Comments

  1. Lara says:

    KDC can fund the internet party, but if he’s seen to be visible within it by the media and so the public, they’re dead.

    He needs to swallow his ego and get off the stage. Literally.

    I do believe it was a combination of racism and dislike of foreigners with deep pockets that damaged the internet / MANA vote. That, and apathy.

    • cleangreen says:

      Agreed.

      NZ Government has used extra heavy smear campaign against KDC.

      Character assassinations were conducted on Snowden, Assange, Harre, and even Nicky Hagar so KDC was business as usual. “kill the opponent” it was called. We need an independent left wing media and level the playing field.

    • Dennis Dorney says:

      I agree. There seems to be a consensus growing within the Internet Party to continue with Mana. To stand any real chance it needs for Kim Dotcom to give it a donation sufficient to fight the 2017 election, and then he needs to step back and allow Internet/Mana to find its own feet again. I’m sure it can. From inception to an election campaign was a bit more that 3 months wasn’t it? That was an impressive effort.

  2. cleangreen says:

    “In the end the Internet-Mana alliance was overshadowed by the demonisation of Kim Dotcom by the whole establishment – big business, media,”

    ” The left and progressive forces that will find their way to create something new and radical to challenge the domination of politics by the interests of big business over the interests of ordinary people and the planet.”

    Our first need is to combat the toxic big business media.

    Our “Campaign for Better Broadcasting” on TDB has acknowledged a clear need to find finance for an independent left media network of radio/TV to give strength to our voice.

    Kim.Com may wish to assist financially here, as it will also assist to bring out the real truth about control of this Government by the “whole establishment – big business, media,”

    ?

    • Wild Katipo says:

      You know , if Mr Dotcom isn’t feeling too betrayed at the moment, I reckon if he could somehow behind the scenes work towards a media outlet geared towards advancing cooperation /cohesiveness , and strategic countermanding of the Right wing MSM…whilst keeping a low profile for a bit…this would kill two birds with one stone.

      But Id understand also if he’d had enough of the fickleness of Kiwis with their stick – in – the -mud attitudes.

  3. Tiger Mountain says:

    Good overall summary Mike.
    I remember the Labour party doing their damnedest to get Lynne Pillay elected ahead of Laila Harre´. Similarly while slack LEC organisation abounded according to my sources they managed to pull out the stops in the West Auckland end of the Te Tai Tokerau electorate to take a shot at Mana Movement. All progressives have to work with Labour at some time or another but a stab proof vest is recommended more than ever!

    The non social democratic ie marxist or marxist influenced left has usually had difficulties over two matters–international events, and specific reforms as opposed to reformism as a class collaborationist ideology. There were nearly a million no shows last Sat. The non voters included some polemicists at Redline advocating a no vote position.

    “We may not be able to defeat the swine, but WE don’t have to join them” is the rule of thumb at the moment in a parliamentary sense imo. The task of the left is keep up the action and class analysis. For example a modern analysis of NZ society would help explain why so many vote against their material best interests.

    I contend the waged and unwaged working class is still significant but ‘atomised’ as one saying goes into individual consumers with ‘choices’.
    Dependent contracting, internships, labour hire agencies, self employment, precarious employment, not enough hours and too many hours are all things that affect peoples thinking and participation in civil society.
    Does social being determine ones thinking or vice versa?

    Mana Movement remains a vibrant vehicle for community supra electoral left/Māori politics at the moment.

    • Lee says:

      I’d put it to you that the Left, as you describe it, need do nothing more than they are now i.e. “Be Left”. The reason is that the opponents are going out of their mind over what their Electoral win means, and for a while I couldn’t figure it out. There was even an aritcle posted here that coyly demanded compulsory voting, an argument that while attempting to be “academically explorative” finally dissolved it’s own argument, leaving only the authoritarian imperative staring us in the face. The message to use the strategy of witholding participation in pointless Elections has never been so important. The papers, the “media”, everyone is decrying can’t handle the truth that they only vaguely sense: Without an opposition that poses no real risk (for example, a “Right leaning ” Labour party), the whole system of maniplating the pubic collapses. The Right just lost the long game by winning an Election they were surprised to win, it was strategic blunder, they know it, and boy are they pissed. What has happened is that the central mechanism for political engagement has shifted, without informing the politicians first (they believe themselves to be the central mechanism) , or letting them decide where it shifts. The political system as we know it has entered an unavoidable decline phase.

    • Wild Katipo says:

      Well said TIGER MOUNTAIN- this encapsulates the state of the workforce of NZ today… and like the preferred outcome of the Roman Empire…conquered……and divided.

      But they never managed that same trick with the Germanic tribes…

  4. countryboy says:

    The politicians lived up to my expectations . The only disappointment I have is with the New Zealand voting , and non – voting public .

    Intellectually lazy and determinedly ignorant historically . And now we can add cruel , vile , deviant and dishonest to the mix .

    Anyone voting jonky and his vehicle , The National Party , to deliver us into the waiting fangs of Corporate American should hang their heads in the deepest shame . How are they going to look their kids in the eye ?

    They’ve sold us into polite slavery for their own short term profits . And not much in the way of profits either . Those who voted jonky in will be forced to hide in their cheap ugly wank-mansions in their gated ‘ communities ‘ while the world outside becomes more of the war zone it already is .

    There’s no escaping what the Nat’ voters have done . Shame on them .

    As for the non – voters . You have the blood of old soldiers on your lazy hands . When you go past War Mamorials , you should cringe with shame . ANZAC day is yours also now .

    • cleangreen says:

      1000%

      Politics is a business that Natz won for the international carpetbaggers and NZ will never recover from this second round of Rogernomics.

      Hope NatZ voters are happy when their sons and daughters are forced into slavery or go abroad for a decent life and leave you all behind.

    • Lee says:

      Country boy, your dim view of the voting public has masked half the meaning of what happened. Consider the post election numbers – they’re all we have to base judgement on – and see how people who could not possibly support the ideology of the National Party on a day to day basis voted for National or some similar party at one particular moment called Election Day. Is there any proof that these people really are the monsters your view illustrates? Are they imprisoned in that transient moment for three or six years now? Are those who didn’t vote also now likely to refrain from acting in their and their families and their communities best interests? There is no way of knowing for sure, but in choosing to guess that they are static monsters we must also entertain the idea they are not, that they are equally free to decide on each future event as it happens. Whims have no trend. Nothing undermines governments elected on whimsical decisions more than a public that makes whimsical free decisions.

      What kind of leader speaks at his re-election party by saying the victory was for “those who kept the faith”? What is faith? Is it what people turn to when there is no measurable evidence of security, hope or success in current or alternative methods? So what does that tell us about how people voted? Did they turn out and vote against their best interests for reasons more important to them than whether or not they eat or have a home to live in? What sort of person needs faith? People who need to believe something, anything, because the alternative is the metaphorical “abyss”.

      Monsters don’t vote against their best interests, desperately disillusioned people do. A leader who cites faith for his victory has nothing useful to offer the people. No wonder they’re scared now, because they can’t escape facing their greatest fear – total failure. Right now they are projecting their fear of failure onto a man who has by their measure, “failed”. If David Cunliffe is photographed walking to the corner dairy for a litre of milk, the headlines read, “Distraught man seeks solace in sugary treats”. If he is photographed driving to work, headlines read, “Failed Leader flees responsibility.”. They see only their own fears.

      The people used Key as an image of something they needed to believe in – a god-like leader to material success – but they do not want to believe in John Key or National, just the ideas those things represent. Now that people know there is no substance to the style, only chaos can follow. Chaos is not necessarily bad.

      • Wild Katipo says:

        Doesn’t change the fact that like the indolent Roman populace who relied on slave labour….they were fine until it impacted upon them that angry , pissed off and wild Germanic tribes had overran their frontiers, sacked their legions and were now marching on Rome.

        Did their political naievity and indolent lifestyle profit them anything then? Hardly.

        If you are a worker..or a member of the so -called middle class…to have voted National with its neo liberal TTPA -loving sell out of our national sovereignty is similar to the man who hits himself on the head and says…” Geez – that hurt!!!” …and then proceeds to do it a second time.

  5. Pat O'Dea says:

    Great Post Mike.

    I too share your view that the Mana Movement is a harder nut to crack than other movements have proven to be. In my experience (and yours) political movements rarely recover from such a defeat, cue the Alliance, Ram.

    But this time I sense something different. Neither the leadership or membership of Mana have been bowed by this defeat.

    I have just seen the first photos from the Hikoi against deep sea oil drilliing that is on its way to Auckland. Prominent were a number of Mana flags, definitly not the sign of a movement in decline.

  6. C. H. says:

    Is a merger and a rebrand of Internet and Mana on the cards? Their policies stood up well during debates, but apparently Kim and Hone carry baggage that make them too polarising to gain broad appeal – at least without some other prominent personalities. They need some people with a “solid, workmanlike” image to balance the “firebrand, maverick” image of KDC/HH.

    Laila and Hone as co-leaders of a united party? Could people like Willie Jackson and Matt Robson be brought onboard? Can a fresh face from Internet Party or Mana be given some oxygen as Deputy Leader? Could the party contest the 2016 local elections? These are all possibilities.

    The alternative appears bleak: Mana and Internet will struggle to survive alone, surely.

    • Wild Katipo says:

      Possibly you could argue that they will struggle…but I strongly doubt it…Right now….they will be in dialogue…you just don’t knock down long term political and social activists like that.

      Consider Annette Sykes, John Minto , Hone and Laila…if you added up all the years of experience they bring ….or more to the point-any one of them taken on their own -…and contrast that with the years JohnXKEYSCORES been on the scene you will see what I mean.

      I think you will see an even more powerful ,formidable IMP in the very near future.

      • Wild Katipo says:

        And one other thing….it was the gang bang precipitated by Kelvin Davis the neo liberal stooge backed by a foolish Labour and endorsed by the PM of NZ for his voters to vote for a Labour party candidate!!!

        Along with that- we had Winston Peters , Maori party ALL ganging up to wreck Hone and the IMP.

        THAT IN ITSELF shows they feared them. WHY?

        Because if IMP had got into parliament…the TTPA would have become a political hot potato in the media and in the public arena – and would have caused massive opposition as it became more apparent what it would mean for NZ.

        AND THAT WAS WHY THAT HAPPENED.

  7. Mark says:

    Still got that passion Mike. You made of tougher stuff than I am. I hate the Labour Party for what they did to workers in 1984 and havn’t been involved with Labour since. Hone would have made a great leader of the Labour Party but the Neo Libs would choke on their Lattes at the suggestion. Shows you how far right the Labour Party has moved.

  8. Saint Nick says:

    I wonder how much modern society at the moment affects the vote. It’s all about me, me, me, communities arent as tight as they were. Consumerism just increases as everyone wants the latest gadgets as technology accelerates. Then there’s the media which doesn’t show any decent documentaries on tv anymore, and basically shows crap with a ribbon around it. People aren’t being asked to think critically. Does all of this play into the hands of the right? I’m guessing it does help.

    On Internet Mana, they’ve been interesting to watch, maybe more so the reactions they’ve caused. They’ve been treated like traitors to NZ, which is very ironic considering who was saying that. I’m proud to have voted for them, but ashamed to tell many people at work that, I know the reaction I would get. If only they could think about standing up for people’s rights and New Zealand’s. It won’t affect their life much at all, maybe a small tax increase, it’s not armaggedon.

    • Wild Katipo says:

      Hehe…I let em all know loud and clear I voted IMP 🙂

      And just what the TTPA means and a whole bunch of other stuff…and they sure as hell know better than to slag Mr Dotcom …they get the full TRUE facts…..then there’s a lot of thoughtful silence… but always in good humour.

  9. Kim Dandy says:

    In a very short space of time IMP made a huge impact to the electoral race. The attacks became more vicious after they announced the ‘No TPPA deal policy’.
    Seriously, IMP in government would be, by far, a much fairer government than we have now.
    I am scared of the TPPA, and what it will do to NZ’s future.
    Yes, shame on National voters, non voters and the MSM – you did have the power to change things for the better, and you blew it…for all of New Zealand – past, present and future.