The Feeble Strength Of One

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THE DEPARTURE of Jack McDonald from the Greens is meaningful – but probably not in the way he intended. In all likelihood he resigned from the Co-Policy Convenor’s role in hopes of sending the electorate a clear message about the state of the party. According to McDonald, the Greens’ Male Co-Leader, James Shaw, has allowed – or is it encouraged – the party to become overly “centrist”. The clear implication being that centrism is a very bad thing indeed.

Let’s unpick McDonald’s gesture, to find out what it really means.

The first thing to note is that McDonald acted alone. What happened over the weekend was not the emergence of a young firebrand leader; spokesperson for a significant chunk of the Green Party membership; someone who had chosen the party’s AGM to announce the rebellion of the Greens’ heart and soul.

I was reminded of the lines from the old union song, “Solidarity Forever”:

When the people’s inspiration

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Through the workers’ blood shall run

Can there be a power greater

Anywhere beneath the sun?

For, oh, what strength is weaker

Than the feeble strength of one?

When the union makes us strong.

Whatever Jack McDonald thinks he has done, it will have very little influence over the political future of the Greens. A single individual operating in the world of politics can, very occasionally, influence the course of events, but only insofar as he or she is able to influence others. The most effective way to do that is through the communication of ideas. If a single individual can put into words what hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others are feeling, then that person can become a powerful agent for change. But, even if McDonald’s denunciation of Shaw as overly centrist, reflects the feelings of many rank-and-file Greens; by walking away from the party, he has made change harder, not easier, to achieve. His gesture, far from being a call-to-arms, looks more like a parting shot.

As such it is, sadly, reflective of the way so many Greens operate. Overwhelmingly, the Green Party of 2019 is composed of individualists: people who have joined the party on the basis of personal belief – born of intellectual conviction – rather than from any sense that the Green Party is about the realisation of crucial collective goals.

This was not always the case. In the early days of the movement, many Greens felt keenly the pull of collectivism. They saw themselves as belonging to a special minority of human-beings who “got” what was happening to the world. They truly believed that the future of planet depended upon the actions of this crucial “Green” collectivity.

How could activists who believed themselves to be involved in a mission of such existential importance, ever walk away from their party – alone?

The other, more narrowly political, lesson to be drawn from McDonald’s departure is how thoroughly the policy-making process of the Greens has been taken over by the activists based in Parliament.

Don’t forget, McDonald was the Male Co-Convenor of the body constitutionally empowered to assemble and refine party policy. As such he was superbly placed (at least on paper) to ensure that the party’s policies kept to a true Green course. Bluntly, if the party was veering-off in an unsanctioned “centrist” direction, then that could only be for one of two reasons. Either, McDonald wasn’t strong enough to keep the Green caucus from corrupting the party line: or, the Green MPs were more than strong enough to convince the party that the “centre” is exactly where it should be.

Whichever explanation is correct, it points to a party which has become captive to the judgements of its parliamentary team.

Nothing could better confirm this capture than the decision of those organising the Green AGM to exclude the news media from all but a couple of set-piece speeches. No political party still worthy of the name would permit itself to be so ruthlessly marginalised. On the contrary, it would insist that the media – as the eyes and ears of the public – be permitted to report all of the policy sessions. It would know that shutting the media out of such discussions betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the role political parties play in a functioning democracy.

There’s a reason why the Electoral Commission requires parties to have a minimum of 500 members and a democratic constitution. If this were not the case, then parties could very easily become vehicles for individuals and interests whose true purposes remained entirely hidden from the voting public. Open media access to the deliberations of a registered political party is the public’s best guarantee that they are not being duped. That when they vote for “x”, they do not end up getting “y”.

It is shameful that the New Zealand news media does not point-blank refuse to cover conferences from whose deliberations it has been excluded. Even more worrying, however, is when political journalists themselves make the case for keeping the media out.

The raw energy and even more inflamed emotions on display at the 2012 Labour Party Conference are regularly advanced in defence of imposing comprehensive media bans. Effectively, the journalists who take this position are saying: “You’re right to keep us out. If you let us in we’d only tell the public what was happening – and that would be politically stupid.”

The level of cynicism at play here is frightening. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of any better proof that our supposedly democratic parties, and our supposedly free and independent news media, are jointly engaged in a conspiracy to keep the electorate as ignorant of politics as possible.

These, then, are the factors that explain why Mr McDonald’s departure is so lacking in political significance.

He could have written a comprehensive critique of the Greens’ behaviour in government. He could have spelled out exactly why “centrism” poses a direct threat to the Greens’ core mission. He could have presented a carefully considered alternative direction for the party to follow. He could have asked all those who shared his concerns – and his vision – to stand with him. He could have made all of the above available to the news media – thereby forcing the hand of Shaw and his supporters. He could have made sure that the AGM was thrown wide open, and that the battle for the heart and soul of the Greens was a struggle the whole country was free to witness.

That McDonald did none of these things; and that the Greens did not feel sufficiently threatened by his actions to expose their deliberations to more thorough media scrutiny; are stories filled with meaning.

None of it good.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Yanis Varoufakiz says that Green politics these days is a lifestyle choice.

    (Of course nobody is more 100% behind a Green New Deal than Varoufakis — and that’s precisely his point, namely that the GND has emanated from fairly traditional left-wing circles anxious to boost jobs and houses, and not from the Greens in most countries, who are into lifestyle choice.)

  2. While you, @ CT, go at The Greens conundrum with your inimitably brilliant surgical precision I’m going to attack it with a rock tied to a stick.
    The Green Party are now, more or less, and assemblage of Machiavellian Confederates trying to out Machiavellian Confederate each other. Perhaps the reason Jack McDonald didn’t surround himself with like minded Green souls was because there are none in there.
    Look what happened to Meteria Turei? Look back at those two old Green creeps who made such a fuss about a single parent dodging the ‘law’ by not declaring flatmates when we all know that if one’s in such a position one must do what ever’s necessary to survive. Before prostitution was made legal ( Therefore taxable ) prostitution was one of the more lucrative, though illegal, ways of making spare money to buy food, electricity and put gas in the shitter car.
    The sadists now well ensconced within WINZ are, in fact, hindering our country by making being poorer than a property speculator a blood sport for themselves. No good, what so ever, comes from cruelties and enforced hardship, and hard work is entirely over rated by the way. Any rich fuck will tell you that they get rich by exploiting the vulnerable who must forced to remain so.
    The Green Party could revolutionise the way AO/NZ functions in a broad and sweeping way and it’s because of that threat to the deep state status quo, who swindle us daily, that the Green Party, like all the other parties, must always be kept in disarray.
    Does it not strike one as odd? That national and labour are the same sickly little flies hovering over Bankster dung which consist of our partly digested economy while the respective hangers-on parties like ACT and NZ First are flying equally annoyingly in close formation, captivated by the same stink that comes off the easy money grafted off others?
    I’d go so far as to state that AO/NZ’s politics generally, right across the spectrum , from local government to central government, must be kept in seeming disarray to discourage, in us lot, any sense that there is hope still in being part of the politics of our country to make sure our country is ours, will remain so, and that our government is for us and made so by us.
    I’d suggest Jack McDonald, that you pack up your family and head to Byron Bay and once there? Roll up a blunt then bob about in a warm blue ocean. Because Son? We’re fucked here.

  3. Maybe he suffers from the affliction of humility. And doesn’t see himself as the saviour of the green movement; but doesn’t feel his time and energy is being applied to an organisation that he agrees with. Perhaps he does not want to assert that everyone else in the Greens is wrong; just that they want different things to him.
    Why does he have to have sought to control the direction of the party.
    The early Greens all had the same ideas as each other. The modern group has much more diverse objectives.
    D J S

  4. Also Chris, having been involved in political party conferences as you have you will have noticed that almost no one there is interested in promoting democracy. They are there to impose their ideas on the rest of society, using the democratic process to try to do so.
    D J S

    • David, correct, and thanks for the reminder; one exception though could be re-entering the Pike River Mine, which I think NZ’ers generally wanted, and wanted honoured, and the NZDF Afghanistan Inquiry, which decent people wanted – both important for the country’s psyche- although a politician talking thus could be run out of town.

  5. Given

    1. a few others were sent packing for disagreement with the leadership in 2017
    2. the conference being private

    Maybe he felt critical comment while still in his position would result in him being sent on his way, so he would rather leave on his own terms.

    It raises the issue of centralised control, and intolerance for any internal disgreement being known to the public.

    It is probably the most dangerous development to have occured to the Greens in their history – if activsit supporters lose trust in the party to be a vehicle for their aspiration, because it has a centralised centrist and command and control structure.

    It won’t affect my own vote going their way in 2020, I’m realistic enough to prefer anything to the left of National being in government, and voting strategically to realise that.

    In the case of this individual – I do not see it as any indication of him joining another party – just an individual who lost confidence in getting value for his time and effort as a party worker.

    This could go one of two ways – the Greens realism pays off in a Labour-Greens coalition government from 2020, or it does not.

  6. I don’t really think the Greens are going centre, I think they are going schizophrenic aka characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to understand reality.

    In spite of a huge ground swell against the Natz, Labour, NZ First and Greens have all suddenly veered from what they campaigned for and were elected to do, and pretty much done next to nothing or gone against what they campaigned for.

    Aka Labour signing TPPA, NZ First and Labour campaigned on reducing immigration when it increased, Greens giving free water to the bottling Chinese and increasing rental shortages and while they have the opposite policy or intentions, so apart from banning some single plastic bags which was a step in the right direction, nothing else environmentally has been achieved.

  7. Greens social goals are a joke, because they fundamentally, like Labour, they don’t want to accept housing is a demand drive problem from immigration that they are expanding with their policies.

    The government can never solve housing because they refuse to look past their ideological blinkers on main causes, and therefore it will always be impossible to fix.

    If landlords were the problem for housing then there would be surplus rental properties, instead it is the opposite the biggest issue for renter is not ‘warm, dry houses’ it is getting any type of roof over their heads. The massive housing and accomodation rental shortages are cause by a combo of immigration demand in particular the poorer types of migrants we now get who compete for cheap housing, rental accomodation no longer being compliant and taken out of circulation with doubts it will ever be put back into circulation aka growing shortages outside of Auckland when it is not financially worth putting $20k into a house that a tenant might destroy or not pay rent on, rising rents because of compliance costs and the laughable reports on state housing that show that even when upgraded the state and social houses fail to follow any best practise aka the electric panel heaters they are installing into state houses according to Energywise, are only considered suitable for a small space, more expensive to run and their heat output low compared to most other options.https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/368148/housing-nz-tenants-complain-about-ineffective-heaters

    Social housing sounds as ineffective and dangerous as hell. From pensioners found dead in flats days later, to bullying from housing firms and sexual harassment and drug use from neighbours that will only increase if it becomes harder to evict people.

    Social housing is a money opportunity that Labour and Greens like to think is the same as state houses, but it isn’t. Its Thatcherism with a kind face that eventually the mask is revealed. Think Grenfell.

    • The fact that social housing and state housing is often said in the same sentence by politicians is testament to how under the thumb they have become to removing state control and part or full privatisation with a warm fuzzy title like ‘social’ housing.

      Similar to the amount of charities that seem more like tax havens or ways to create management jobs and marketing opportunities rather than any type of direct social good.

      Doesn’t work though.

      Pensioner lay dead in home for days

      In this case for example it is found that the person responsible for checking the pensioner tenants for example was lying on the checks, and GPS records proved it. So again people are paying for others to not do their jobs very well if at all in social housing.

      https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/pensioner-lay-dead-home-days

      Honesty and accountability in the social care sector is absent and poor, support and care workers don’t turn up, nobody is there to complain too as it has become a rout with more and more government and council departments ‘outsourcing’ their duty of care to private or ‘non profit’ social providers (just like the Natz) which creates more and more layers for care that is not provided or not done very well and the wages reduce at the bottom for the people actually doing the care, leading to lower standards of care and less competent/honest people being attracted into the industry.

      A system of paying the actual support worker to do the job, be qualified for the job and be good at the job falls by the wayside as the management layers take the profits and lower the standards of care. And the government doesn’t mind because they system is less work for them and provides blame cover when things go wrong.

      “A community manager from Haumaru Housing assigned to visit elderly tenants at the flats said she visited McGinty on Friday, June 21 and he “appeared well”.

      But GPS data analysed during the investigation into the months leading up to his death showed the last visit to Leabank Court was on June 19. It was unclear whether that was to McGinty’s flat.”

  8. What they could be doing.. in spite of the death of a child by a 10 ton truck with blindspots which the government were largely silent on, Yip. No kindness from Jacinda who said boo about blind spots to run over kids, no work safe with all their new funding to prosecute, no cries of horror from NZ First as the driver failed his mirror test 4 out of 11 times AFTER he killed the child and was tested, no cries from the Greens about the death of a child, labour laws with 1 man trucks, safety etc…

    Pretty sure that every family in NZ expects the government to make sure waste management trucks are not running over kids, but apparently not interesting enough to any politican in government apart from Genter who choose walking to school as the issue to focus on not the death of the child itself.

    Pretty sure if the killed kid had been muslim the politicians would have been all over it! Being a dead Pakeha kid apparently does not warrant any worksafe or new regulations.

    Nor does it seem to warrant working out why NZ with our fake clean and green image is one of the most wasteful places in the world, we produce more than three kilograms of waste each day. And businesses love and profit from that waste. There is no movement to reduce waste only to increase waste management dump sites. The one is Auckland proposed has leaking risks as well as likely to further take habitat away from native species like long-finned eels. Nobody seems to have the alternative of spending the money on projects to reduce waste so it will not be needed!

    Some grassroots are operating that could be rolled out, but not of any interest to the politicians when you can spend 1.2 billion on making roads safer to the construction industry (but not the trucks or drivers of those trucks).

    “A group of Raglan locals remortgaged their homes to take over the town’s waste management system and they created an organisation called Xtreme Zero Waste.

    They did that in 2000 and the enterprise is still going strong.

    General manager Dallas Butler told Jesse Mulligan they now divert 76 percent of the town’s waste away from landfill.”

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/2018706229/raglan-s-waste-free-goal

    • How about chilling out, SaveNZ ? That “killed kid” is somebody’s dead child.

      Rating the political importance of the little one’s death ethnically seems a little harsh, more so when appearing to use it as a vehicle for racial prejudice.

      • @Applewood. I have children I certainly don’t want them killed by waste management services that are operating weekly in our area and everywhere else, so I don’t see it as a ‘chill out’ issue that there are known blind spots on the trucks. Maybe a Childs life is meaningless to yourself but the issue of a child walking to school has been heavily publicised in the media rather than the safety of the trucks, the drivers and the issue that the driver was not questioned by work safe. I find the whole issue very odd.

        • SaveNZ – You may not have intended being offensive when you wrote : ” Pretty sure if the killed kid had been muslim the politicians would have been all over it! Being a dead Pakeha kid apparently does not warrant any worksafe or new regulations.”
          However, I thought that your referring to a dead child as a “killed kid” was insensitive to the parents of that child, and disrespectful to the departed child, and the child’s bereft whanau. Every child counts.

          I also think that your implying that non-Muslim children, or Pakeha children, are regarded by politicians as somehow less worthy of concern than Muslim children unwarranted, and odd.

  9. Even today, you will find people who focus their poverty discussions on beneficiaries, ethnic minorities, single-parent households, and those in rental accommodation. The research evidence points to the most common household in poverty is a Pakeha couple with children living in their own house (with a mortgage) and being dependent upon wages That is because the group is the largest, so even if its poverty rate is lower than average, there are more poor.

    https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/invisible-children

  10. If all of this is so “feeble” why has it engendered two articles on this site? I’d add I’m not sure what “centrist” means these days. Its seems to me parties are either on the right or the far right openly supporting globalist neo liberalism. The easy passage of the CP-TPP and now it looks like an evil sister the RCEP are clear enough indicators of that.

    The Greens are in my view an exception to this rule but I’d also add in my view a complacent one. I no longer support them for this reason and I find it refreshing that someone else within their ranks who is dissatisfied for their own reasons has the courage to walk away as well.

  11. Joshua https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2019/08/06/political-caption-competition-973/makes a good point that in the mining town of Waihi, the multinationals far from improving the towns prospects the mining has decreased them and the main employer in Waihi is Winz unlike neighbouring towns that don’t mine and are more prosperous.

    Jobs are always the so called currency multinationals use to try to get cheap or free permits from government and council officials – but the results are often the opposite of jobs. Like Waihi as they instead destroy the natural environment and reduce jobs not create them and these days are more likely to create poverty as cheap workers flood in compete for cheap housing and social care as well.

    Food for thought as Labour, Greens and NZ First seem to be mimicking the Natz ideology by giving away water permits (Greens) and signing trade deals (labour, NZ First) to promote more plundering off local communities.

  12. I think him and his/her/them/they ect … got caught out trying to get the Sex trafficking legislation changed to make it legal! What a cunt!

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