Whichever parties form the government on Saturday it will be a victory for neoliberalism – the failed zombie policy given another dose of life support – this time most likely from Labour and the Greens.
Despite its failure in every aspect of New Zealand life it stumbles on for two reasons.
Firstly because it is supported by the rich and powerful – the people our main political parties need to fund their election campaigns and secondly because the progressive left have failed to provide an inspiring, credible alternative for the big majority of New Zealanders who have suffered as victims of failed economic policies.
The first reason is clear enough to see. The wealthiest 150 New Zealanders – most of whom declare incomes of less than $70,000 so don’t pay the top income tax rate – have been increasing their wealth exponentially for decades now, even during the ravages of Covid 19. This is the way the system is supposed to work: no matter what happens in ordinary peoples’ lives the rich must get richer – and they are loving it.
Our main political parties are a shadow of what they were 40 years ago. They are shell organisations which rely almost totally on big corporate donations to run their election campaigns. Most of the super-rich don’t care whether we elect a Labour-led or a National-led government because the economic policies of each are barely distinguishable. Neither of them is a threat to the rich getting even more obscenely rich.
Even the existential threat of climate change does not worry the rich. Capitalism will solve the problem for them by simply revaluing land and resources and there will be rich pickings. The struggles of the rest of humanity to survive in a desperately ravaged planet are of no concern to the rich. Put another way – unless we dismantle the rule of the rich and take control of their unearned wealth the campaign to stop climate change and the destruction of our environment will fail.
The second reason is closer to home and deserves a dispassionate examination. There have been several notable attempts to build a progressive alternative to neo-liberal capitalism – the Alliance and MANA Movement have been the most prominent – but they failed.
With hindsight I think neither of these movements were bold enough or ambitious enough. It’s important for any movement to start from where people are at rather than where we think they should be or where we’d like them to be. However, I think both movements underestimated the desire for real change and were seen as tinkering at the edges of Labour/National policies. The policy differences were not significant enough to demand the attention of the majority of New Zealanders.
They weren’t inspiring or uplifting.
Today the situation out there in the real world is increasingly desperate and requires a bold, dramatic and uncompromising drive for change. Anything less will not deserve to be respected.
There is work to do.