Political perspectives for 2024-25

The ISO recently held our annual Hui-Ā-tau and endorsed the following perspectives for the coming political year.

  1. The Coalition government is carrying out attacks on workers, Māori, the environment and young people on a scale we have not seen since the National government of 1990 – 1993. The first five months show the scale of the attacks: public service jobs cuts, Minimum Wage cut, doubling public transport fares for under-25s, 90 day trials, environmental protections, Māori representation on Councils, Fair Pay Agreements. A bonfire of the moderate reforms of 2017 – 2023.
  1. Equally, the first five months show us a government by no means stable. PM Christopher Luxon is politically inexperienced, and already has struggled with media attention. Peters and Seymour both have an interest in keeping attention on their parties, and on being seen to kick against their own Coalition.
  1. The core cadre of the Coalition parties, especially ACT and New Zealand First, are motivated by and need the spiritual and political sustenance of ‘culture wars’ questions: against gender diversity, against so-called ‘special treatment’ for Māori, against all of the gains oppressed groups have made in the past decades. In this they go against the broad developments of culture in Aotearoa in general, and in the working class in particular. These are not popular causes being driven by genuine mobilisations from below. They are the pet obsessions of sections of the middle-class base of these two parties, encouraged, sustained and reinforced by a well-connected international network of right-wing media and political projects.
  1. Inflation and the cost of living continue to press on the working class. Real earnings have decreased for most workers decreased. The official unemployment rate has jumped to 4.3 percent, and this is before savage public service jobs cuts have taken place. The threat of job cuts, and pessimism around the economy, adds to a general sense of unease.
  1. The movement against the war in Palestine, the largest since 2003, and Māori protest, especially around Waitangi Day, has given the first five months of the Coalition government a ‘flavour’ of dissent. Protest is a normal part of political life now in a way it has not been for years. Māori, building on years of increased confidence on questions from language to land, have shown historically significant levels of unity and determination in opposition to the government. Support for basic demands of Māori is widespread across the working class. 
  1. The two recent opinion polls (in April) show a weakening of the coalition parties’ support. Labour’s has strengthened, up from 26.9 percent at the general election to 30 and 33 percent.
  1. Despite price inflation easing and tax cuts in the offing, the economic outlook in general is gloomy: growth in the doldrums, high interest rates, job losses and a squeeze on small businesses. In these circumstances the Coalition’s current level of support could well fall, but much depends on whether the Labour Party, the biggest gun on the left, articulates an angry alternative, which so far it has failed to do.
  1. While impending job losses and rising unemployment will tend to dampen workers’ confidence to take industrial action, the swing will be towards politics. As so often in history, young people are being the first to move. This is most striking in the mobilisations on Palestine, but that is not the only indication. In Te Whanganui-a-Tara a surprising number of young people have turned out for meetings in opposition to airport privatisation and (for the first time in years) a May Day rally. It is no exaggeration to say a movement to the left is developing among a layer of young people.
  2. This is a contradictory, uncertain, unclear situation. The government is both in a position of strength and clearly disorganised. Our side is still linked to a demobilising Labour party. Cultural attacks from the right both threaten the oppressed (and challenge hard-fought gains) and provide opportunities to mobilise in solidarity.