Election 2017: Unsecured Futures

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This election is not over. Fully 15% of votes remain uncounted; the shape of Parliament is undecided; coalition talks are underway. No single party has the ‘moral authority’, whatever that may mean, to govern. So these perspective remarks are necessarily provisional, speculative, open to correction and criticism. They offer a first attempt to make sense of the election from the perspective of the working class and the long struggle for socialism.

 

A ‘moral victory’ for National, the Sunday Star Times called it. What hogwash! 46% of the 79% of enrolled voters who cast votes – almost certain to be a smaller percentage once specials are counted – is no ringing endorsement. The combined Labour/Green left vote is up, the most significant revival of the forces of the parliamentary left since 2008. National’s support partners are scattered. Coalition talks go on. There is precious little cheer here for the ruling class. The Labour/Green vote has gone from 36% in 2014 to at least 41.7%, with the figure certain to rise come the end of counting. This is no clear victory for the right.

 

The International Socialists campaigned through the last few months under the slogan: ‘Kick National Out! Build a Socialist Alternative’.  How does that project fare today? Three years ago we opened our post-election analysis calling for a ‘lucid registration of defeat’. Nothing so clear comes from the 2017 election. National seems, from one view, in a towering position: they took the largest share of the vote; they are positioned to continue into an almost-unprecedented fourth term; their Antipodean application of ‘project fear’ has pulled them into victory. But this is a victory shot through with contradictions, tensions, gaps. Their coalition and supporting parties are all destroyed from their association with National; the party was forced to campaign against much of its own record; its future now is in the hands of Winston Peters, a man capable of nursing grudges and carrying out canny bargaining. If the prospect of a fourth National term is frustrating, these results give few causes for the ruling class to cheer.

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Equal Pay: a breakthrough…and a struggle to come

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Kristine Bartlett – a hero

In April 2017 the National government announced a massive pay rise for workers in the aged-care sector: two billion dollars over five years; 55,000 staff receiving a pay rise between 15 and 49 per cent; many will move from the minimum wage to a rate between $19 and $27 an hour. Socialists and trade unions rejoice that these workers, the majority of whom are women, are paid a better wage for the work they do. These are the workers whose skills and efforts are used to improve the mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of people in their last years.

 

The government did not do this because it was the right thing to do. They were backed into a corner through the courageous struggle of aged-care worker Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union (now E tū). In 2012 Kristine Bartlett stood up for her rights and took Terranova Homes to the Employment Court on the grounds that they were in breach of the Equal Pay Act of 1972. Specifically, her case rested on section 3 (1) [b]. This section states that workers in female-dominated industries should be paid at the same rate “that would be paid to male employees with the same, or substantially similar, skills, responsibility, and service performing the work under the same, or substantially similar, conditions and with the same, or substantially similar, degrees of effort.” Bartlett argued that workers in the female-dominated aged-care sector were paid a depressed rate compared to workers doing similar work in male-dominated industries. This differentiation, Kristine Bartlett claimed, was illegal.

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With the surge to Labour, or not?

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Hundreds of students attended a rally for Jacinda Ardern at Otago University last week.

Kick National Out! Build a socialist alternative! These are the slogans the ISO is campaigning around in this election. But what should they mean as we see this wave of enthusiasm for Labour? Martin Gregory offers his view:

 

In this election campaign the Labour Party is reaping a tidal wave of enthusiasm from the working class, including the student youth. All opinion polls, meeting reports and general observation point in this direction. Support for Labour is motivating advance voting at near double the rate of 2014. Let’s remind ourselves: opinion polls taken at the end of July had Labour on only 23-24 percent. September’s polls have Labour at 38-45 per cent. If the “youth quake” materialises who knows how many votes Labour will gain by the close of play on 23 September? I would not rule out Labour’s percentage being in the upper 40s.

 

Labour’s campaign is unlocking the dissatisfaction in society that was previously being held in check by demoralisation. The party’s reform programme is stimulating the public’s mood for change. We are witnessing a swing to the left by working people en masse, and in that I rejoice. Sure, Labour’s is not a socialist programme, nor even radical by historical standards, but the Labour campaign is raising the expectations of the working class for better things in a manner not seen since 1999. The class vote for Labour is a step in the right direction.

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National’s Appalling Record

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National ruling for the fewer, not the many: we few, we happy few, we band of warring brothers. 

By Martin Gregory

 

The National Party is the party of business, employers and the wealthy; namely the capitalist class. If National are booted out in September, from their perspective they will at least be able to look back with satisfaction that since coming to power in 2008 they have tipped the balance even more in favour of the parasitic class and made life meaner for the rest of us.

 

It will take a book to tell the full story of nine years of National’s crimes against the working class and oppressed. Only a selection can be given in this account, which unavoidably leaves out much and fails to convey the full spread of National’s dark deeds.

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Election 2017: Why vote, and why vote left?

2014GRE-PRI-BIL004The ISO is campaigning in this election around the slogan: “Kick National Out! Build a Socialist Alternative!” Our general position is given in this paper here. In this contribution, ISO member Brian Roper gives his view of how this slogan should be applied, arguing for a party vote Green. 

 

This article addresses some important questions: Is it worth voting in Election 2017? Is it worth voting left? If you are voting left, then should you party vote Labour or Green?

Of course, I’m sure that if you are reading this article then you will have been doing your own thinking about the election, drawing upon your own experiences, knowledge and analysis. Those of us on the left have lots of value to learn from each other. No individual, party or organisation has all of the answers.

In writing this article I’ve drawn upon insights gleaned from conversations with people from across the political spectrum, but especially others on the left. This is a socialist contribution to a conversation I think the left should be having about voting in Election 2017. In a nutshell, I will be arguing that if you think we need to kick National out, then you should vote and vote left. If voting left, then you should party vote Green combined with a tactical electorate vote for either the Greens or the Labour candidate. But vote left without holding any illusions that a Labour-Green coalition government will eliminate major problems such as unemployment, inequality, poverty, and rising carbon emissions.

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Turei against poverty

tureiTara Dalefield reports from a Christchurch meeting with Metiria Turei last month.

On the 31st of August, former Green party co-leader Metiria Turei spoke in the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral about poverty in New Zealand and the fallout from her confession to benefit fraud six weeks prior.

She spoke extensively of the ways in which our welfare system works to punish the most vulnerable in society, citing not only her own experience but that of many who have come forward to tell her their stories.

One of the most interesting yet unsurprising parts of the event was when Turei described the fruitless attempts of Green party members to sway the minds of those on the right.

“We have seen in New Zealand that the right don’t care. I’ve spent fifteen years in Parliament. And I have tried every possible argument with those people. I’ve helped in little efforts. I’ve done speeches on the deaths that inequality causes, but obviously mostly in children. I’ve had work across parties on solutions. We’ve put up legislation. We’ve done everything we can with the right, and they refuse to accept the possibility that their decisions hurt our people.”

A week later, the National party made that plainly obvious themselves by refusing to attend an election forum on the sale of state houses. According to the organiser John Minto, Amy Adams had been given repeated invitations which were all refused. The Christchurch Progressive Network (CPN) went as far as to ask Adams to give a date and time most convenient for her, so that they could set up the forum for that particular time, yet she refused that as well.

Two days later, the CPN was among several groups holding protest signs (about Operation Burnham, water pollution, and the sale of state houses) outside the Arden/English debate venue. Of the various MP’s that passed us, some gave a quick wave or other show of support, but Adams coldly ignored us and our loud protests.

The picture could not be clearer. National doesn’t care about the poor. National has nothing but contempt and disdain for the poor and their supporters. Whether this will have an effect on the outcome of the election remains to be seen.

Seeing Ardern in action

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The St James theatre was packed full – Labour’s energy under Ardern is resonating. Photo Credit: Joe Boon

Raff Kingsbury reports from Labour’s big rally in Wellington last Sunday.

At St James Theatre in Wellington yesterday, the MC introduced Jacinda Ardern with a line that would have been pure hyperbole a month ago, but now seems very possible: “Welcome the next Prime Minister of New Zealand!” The 1550 seat space was at capacity with a small number turned away at the doors. Excitement for Ardern was palpable, her speech frequently punctuated by cheers, foot-stamping, and chants of “Let’s do this”. The biggest cheers were during Ardern’s promises regarding education and climate change. Her speech also emphasised mental health, homelessness, home ownership, and child poverty. Sticking to her rhetoric of relentless positivity, she was brief when pointing out current problems in society, focussing instead on how New Zealand could do “better”. Her warning that a fourth consecutive National government would see “for the first time, a generation going backwards,” is characteristic of this approach. National would send the next generation backward, but they haven’t yet. The world needs fixing, but it isn’t actually broken. This is only a small step removed from straightforward agreement with National’s propaganda – that we have a strong, healthy country ploughing onward into the future. [Read more…]

A shift to the left

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There’s a real fight on – and National look like they’re losing.

By Martin Gregory

 

At last, the National Party is running scared.

 

We in the International Socialists often noted during the three terms of John Key-Bill English government that National’s strategy has been to wage the class war in piecemeal fashion and avoid confrontation when resistance threatened. For example, the government backed down to the teachers’ unions over schools’ funding. Another example: back in 2010, mass resistance grew to National’s proposal to allow mining in the national parks. After a march of 40,000 in Auckland the government caved. Typical of John Key was the approach to slashing employment rights. Instead of one head-on attack the government changed employment law incrementally. Slowly and continuously public services have been squeezed. John Key was a master of judging when to push capitalism’s agenda forward and when to make concessions.

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Jacindamania!

Jacinda ArdernBy Martin Gregory

 

Just a few weeks ago, the general election looked set to be a contest between Andrew Little and Bill English: battle of the grey bores! The only question was which camp Winston Peters would choose. Well, what a turnaround! The election campaign has been a rollercoaster.

 

On 16 June, in a speech at a Green Party policy launch, co-leader Metiria Turei blasted into the open the disgrace of the punitive and inadequate welfare system. Her confession that she over-claimed benefit in the 1990s while a solo mother lit the blue touch paper. At first this did no harm to the Greens’ popularity; in fact, the first opinion poll taken after Turei’s speech recorded support edging up to 15 percent.

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Labour: Understanding Reformism

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Labour’s new energy is encouraging – but what kind of party is this?

By Dougal McNeill

Labour Parties pose a great puzzle and a challenge for revolutionary socialists in New Zealand, Australia, and Britain. Labour is the oldest political party in New Zealand, and continues to command the ‘support’ (however grudging) of much of the working class. The party is remarkably resilient. After overseeing massive attacks on the working class in the 1980s (Rogernomics) the party went into serious decline, suffering a serious split in 1989 (with Jim Anderton’s New Labour party taking perhaps as much as one-third of the membership) and winning only 28% of the vote, under Helen Clark, in 1996. But then the 2000s saw the party recover, winning 41% of the vote in 2002 and 2005 and rebuilding its activist base. The John Key years saw another long trough, with David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little all failing to make much of an impact. Now, under Jacinda Ardern’s articulate and energetic leadership, the party seems to be reviving. The chance of a change in government has become a real prospect. This is exciting for everyone who has suffered under National’s ‘nine long years’, and makes the theoretical questions around Labour’s nature freshly relevant again. In Britain the party’s fortunes have veered even more wildly, from the hollowing out of the party structure under Tony Blair’s leadership to the astonishing revival of the left under Jeremy Corbyn.

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