Simon Bridges

Can Labour Really Govern For All?

Can Labour Really Govern For All?

By Elliot Crossan

“We will be a party that governs for every New Zealander!”

This was Jacinda Ardern’s triumphant declaration on the night she was reelected Prime Minister, with a landslide so huge that she has become New Zealand’s first leader to win an outright majority under our proportional representation system, whilst Labour became the first party to win over 50% of the vote since 1951 — the first time Labour themselves have done so since 1946. It was certainly a night to celebrate for Ardern and her supporters.

She has been well rewarded for her swift and decisive leadership in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, and working class New Zealanders are justifiably proud that we came together, as few other countries have, and successfully stopped the spread of the virus within our island nation.

The vote share won by the centre-left bloc (Labour, the Greens and the Māori Party) in the 2020 general election is unprecedented since Aotearoa introduced MMP in 1996. Data from the Electoral Commission.

This election result stands in stark contrast to the chaos unfurling in the United States, where racist right-wing President Donald Trump has failed utterly to deal with the virus, instead prioritising the needs of the economy over people’s lives while encouraging anti-lockdown and anti-mask sentiments amongst his fanatical supporters. Nearly a quarter of a million Americans have died, and the closeness of the election result indicates both a more polarised nation than at any time since the 1960s, and a complete failure by the corporate-backed Democratic elite to resist Trumpism.

But with historic levels of support among both workers and the middle class, can Ardern truly live up to her stated ambition of “governing for all”?

A Question of Class

The Covid-19 crisis was a fairly unique issue on which the medium-to-long-term interests of the capitalist class aligned with the short-term interests of the workers. Some of the business community did prefer the right-wing response of trying to keep the economy as “open” as possible, as advocated by National Party leader at the time Simon Bridges, and as seen in countries such as the US, UK and Ireland, which have conservative governments and have been ravaged by the virus as a result. However, Ardern’s approach, summarised in the slogan “go hard, go early, stamp it out,” was actually the most intelligent and effective strategy for properly reopening the economy and returning to “normal” as quickly as possible — and, crucially, not having to then retreat again six months later. Smarter business leaders saw what Ardern was attempting to do and supported her, and are now being rewarded by a much less harsh economic crisis than other OECD countries are experiencing.

However, the Covid-19 crisis also created other issues of contention where Labour had to make snap decisions on the basis of class. Ardern and her Finance Minister Grant Robertson — now elevated to the position of Deputy Prime Minister thanks to the crushing defeat of Labour’s former coalition partner, racist minor party New Zealand First, who can no longer be used as Ardern’s excuse for inaction on social issues — acted immediately to pour billions of dollars into propping up business during the lockdown period.

Grant Robertson, long-term friend and ally of Jacinda Ardern, is now in the powerful position of being both Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The government also initiated a six month “mortgage holiday” for homeowners affected by the crisis — a welcome move for the middle class and for older and better-off sections of the working class, to be sure. But all the help there was for the ever-growing number of New Zealand households who rent their homes — which in the last thirty years has grown to more than a third of the population — was a cap on increases in rent between March and September. Where was the payment holiday for the hundreds of thousands of renters, who are far more likely to be in severe financial stress thanks to the lockdown and the recession?

These decisions were merely a continuation of Labour’s abject failure to deal with the housing crisis. The government built just 2,726 state houses between June 2018 and March 2020, despite the country having over 40,000 people homeless. A rent freeze lasting years could have alleviated some of the pressure on the workers struggling week in, week out to keep up with the demands of their landlords. However, it was those landlords who Labour chose to back, rather than renters.

Meanwhile, Labour implemented a divide-and-rule policy on benefits — giving workers laid off due to Covid-19 $490 per week to live on, while existing beneficiaries continue to live on the poverty rate of $200-250 per week.

Labour also firmly ruled out the Greens’ election policy of taxing millionaires’ wealth at a rate of 1%, and multi-millionaires at 2%, to pay for a guaranteed minimum income of $325 per week — even though that in itself is, adjusted for inflation, less than the recommendations of the Labour-Green government’s own Welfare Expert Advisory Group. Yet the issue Ardern has personally taken ministerial responsibility for is child poverty reduction!

Then there are long-term, systemic crises such as New Zealand’s low-pay economy and the climate crisis. The government have done the absolute bare minimum on these issues.

They’ve raised the minimum wage, yes — to a level that is still 15% ($3.20) below the living wage, which is the lowest level anybody can live on and stay above the poverty line. Unlike the Greens, Labour did not campaign for opt-out union membership, which would be a huge time-saver for union organisers and delegates across the country, allowing them to focus on campaigns and strikes rather than the constant churn of recruiting.

The government has utterly failed when it comes to the long-term issue of the climate crisis, where they want campaigners to be content with the toothless, non-binding Zero Carbon Act, which doesn’t even fully include New Zealand’s biggest polluting sector, agriculture. On this issue the Greens are directly implicated, thanks to centrist party co-leader James Shaw, who continues in his role as Minister for Climate Change for a second term thanks to his party’s bizarre decision to go into a confidence-and-supply arrangement with a majority government instead of properly opposing said government from the left, as is desperately needed.

The Nature of the Labour Party

The reason why Labour, the supposed party of workers, and Ardern, with all her talk of “kindness”, cannot govern for every New Zealander when it comes to such pressing issues as the housing crisis, poverty, low wages and climate change, is because they are a party which seeks to manage the capitalist system, minimise class conflict, and keep the economy growing in perpetuity.

When it came to Covid-19, the medium-term interests of the economy did indeed align temporarily with the interests of workers. But the interests of the capitalist class in the long term are wedded to the neoliberal economic model, in which taxes are kept low for those at the top, wages stay low for workers, any redistribution of the obscene wealth hoarded by the rich is kept minimal, the human right of housing continues to be a commodity to be bought, sold and speculated upon, and therefore inaccessible for an ever-larger number of workers, and all the while exponential economic growth is essential — growth which now, in the light of environmental breakdown, risks to make the very planet we live upon uninhabitable.

Ardern and the current Labour Party are Third Way neoliberals, in the style of Tony Blair in the UK and Bill Clinton in the US. They have given up even on the basic left-wing principles of mid-20th Century social democratic leaders such as Michael Joseph Savage, let alone the original goal of Labour’s socialist founders, who once upon a time sought to end capitalist greed, and the misery it creates for the rest of us, for good.

Michael Joseph Savage was Aotearoa’s first ever Labour Prime Minister, from 1935 until his death in 1940. He is revered as a hero within the Labour Party.

The First Labour Government (1935-1949), led by Savage and later by Peter Fraser, could at least partially claim at the time that they were “governing for all”, as they built the first state houses and created the welfare system to look after workers and the poor while raising taxes on the rich. Even so, they ultimately failed to challenge the long-term power of the capitalist elite in Aotearoa, and thus allowed the system as a whole to continue and eventually reset to the level of extreme inequality we see today.

Ardern can make no such claim; while her government will continue to deliver mild progressive reforms which National wouldn’t have, overall they will not even touch the foundations of neoliberalism in this country.

No, Labour in the 21st Century will not govern for the workers without a serious ideological overhaul.

The Case for Hope

That being said, there is absolutely no reason to despair. While Labour refuses to govern for all, that doesn’t necessarily mean their hand cannot be forced. The First Labour Government did what it did for the working class in the 1930s and 40s because there was a powerful movement of workers and the unemployed in this country. We can and we must rebuild such a movement again today.

The workers’ movement needs to take heart from the absolute drubbing received by the National Party, Winston Peters, and the small conspiratorial far-right parties — the New Conservatives, Advance NZ, et al — and rather than waiting for this Labour Government with its huge mandate to deliver the change we so desperately need, demand it.

Red-line issues we should campaign on include:

  • Making the minimum wage a living wage
  • Guaranteeing a proper universal minimum income of at least $500 per week to New Zealanders, alongside universal, free basic services such as university and dental care
  • Building 100,000 state houses and freezing rent increases for the long term
  • Giving amnesty to migrant workers, both offshore and onshore, who have lived in insecure conditions, often with visas tied to their bosses, for far too long
  • Creating a Green New Deal to move our economy away from pollution-intensive agriculture and fossil fuels in the next ten years, creating hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs

Another question needs to be broached by the left in the unions and social movements — the question of whether or not we are ready to build a new left-wing party to bring these demands together and provide real opposition to the now-hegemonic Labour government.

The Greens showed us they cannot be properly trusted to represent the left when they elected ex-corporate consultant James Shaw as their co-leader, and they have shown as much again with 85% of party members taking Labour’s bait and supporting the government instead of going independent and becoming a left-wing opposition party. This is in spite of the elections of new left-wing MPs Ricardo Menéndez March, Teanau Tuiono and Elizabeth Kerekere, who are allies of left-wing co-leader Marama Davidson — we should welcome these new MPs and work with them wherever they are willing to stand with the movements in the streets, even if on the whole we cannot rely on half of a parliamentary party to represent the left.

All three newly elected Green MPs — Elizabeth Kerekere, Teanau Tuiono and Ricardo Menéndez March — are supported by the left-wing faction within the Green Party.

A new left-wing party, which would bring together fighting trade unionists, the left of the social movements and Māori radicals, needs to be built in time for the 2023 election. Such a party would provide a real, independent voice for workers in the struggle against neoliberal capitalism and all the social and environmental crises it creates.

There is no point in one group in alone as an isolated group of revolutionaries — what is needed is a united front bringing together those who tried to build the Mana Movement last decade, and those on the reformist left who are inspired by popular figures such as Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Evo Morales. A coalition of the broad left will be necessary to build a party which will succeed, rather than a small group left to flounder on its own.

But before, during and after the formation of such a party, the struggle for workers’ rights, environmental protection, social change and Tino Rangatiratanga must continue to be strengthened. Without unions and social movements, we will get nowhere. The struggle must go on!



This article has been republished. You can read the original here.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist.

Posted by Elliot Crossan in 2020 New Zealand general election, Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, New Zealand Labour Party, New Zealand National Party, New Zealand politics, 0 comments
Taxing the Richardson Will Not Be Enough

Taxing the Richardson Will Not Be Enough

By Elliot Crossan

A shrill screeching sound has been echoing around Aotearoa in the last couple of weeks.  From Cape Reinga to Stewart Island, the deafening screams of the rich — terrified at the idea that they might have to pay a little more tax — have been reverberating across the country, reaching every corner of the land.

This ear-splitting pitch has been induced by the Government’s Tax Working Group, who have finally, after sixteen months of deliberation, released their report exploring ideas of how to adjust the country’s taxation system.  This report has the audacity to suggest that the Labour-NZ First Coalition should bring in a tax on capital gains at a similar rate to how ordinary income is currently taxed — a radical, far-left proposal which is found in the communist dictatorships of… the United States, Japan, Australia, and no less than 18 other OECD countries.

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has condemned this suggestion, issuing an outraged warning that a Capital Gains Tax (CGT) would be “an assault on the Kiwi way of life”.  Ever-outspoken and ambitious National Party frontbencher Judith Collins has proclaimed that Labour going ahead with a tax on capital gains “would make Simon Bridges Prime Minister” — something she must be even more worried about than everybody else in the country right now, given that her hopes of successfully challenging Bridges for the leadership of their party are currently looking rosier than ever!  Meanwhile, Business Central have called the proposed CGT “fatally flawed”, while the Taxpayers Union have complained that it would be “aggressive and unfair”, and the architect of our current free market economy, Sir Roger Douglas himself, has labelled the suggested policy “a joke”.

From page 33 of the Tax Working Group’s final report.

Take a glance at the anticipated effects of a CGT, which are outlined at length in the Working Group’s report, and you will instantly see why the richest people in Aotearoa and their political representatives in the National Party are so angry and upset.  Page 33 of the report shows the spread of total net worth for each fifth (or ‘quintile’) of New Zealanders, excluding owner-occupied family homes, which would not be taxed by CGT — something Business Central actually object to.  The bottom two-fifths of households combined have a net worth of around $28.9 billion — meaning 40% of the country own roughly 4% of the total net worth above and beyond people’s personal houses. The next 40% own $159 billion, or 20% of that wealth.  Then there’s the top fifth of the country. They own $602 billion, as well as the homes they live in; that means that the top 20% own 76%, more than three times what the other 80% of us do.  The kind of wealth which a Capital Gains Tax would apply to is concentrated in the hands of those at the very top of society.  The vast majority of the country hold very little of the wealth which CGT would affect — it’s far from “an assault on the Kiwi way of life” for ordinary people.

The reasons why the rich are so scared of a CGT are further illuminated by the statistics provided on page 62 of the Working Group’s findings.  The bottom 30% of the country would have around 0.13% of their current disposable income taken by the proposed tax. How much would taxes go up for hard working middle New Zealand?  Well, an average of 0.5% of what the middle 40% of households are earning right now, after existing taxes, would be paid to the government through this new tax. It’s not even that bad for the upper middle class!  Deciles 8 and 9, the group richer than the bottom 70% but poorer than the top 10%, would have approximately 1.65% of their current disposable income taxed.

From page 62 of the Tax Working Group’s final report.

It’s only the top 10% who would be hit hard.  7.7% of their current disposable income would be paid to the state if the Government decided to accept the Working Group’s proposal of a CGT.  Even if you include owner-occupied housing, the five hundred thousand New Zealanders who make up decile 10 currently own significantly more total wealth than deciles 1 through 9 — the other four-and-a-half million of us — put together.  The wealthiest citizens in the land would still be ridiculously well-off even if the CGT was implemented — in fact, they would still be far, far richer than everybody else combined.

So, the poorest households in Aotearoa would have to pay as little as 13 cents out of every hundred dollars earned, while the average working family would only have to pay 50 cents, and even the upper middle class would be charged just $1.65 out of every $100.  The top 10% would have to rummage around in their oversized bank accounts and hand over just $7.70 out of every $100 they make. They can more than afford that, many times over. Taxing capital gains is common sense. It would help reduce the speculation in the housing market which has caused the price of buying a home to skyrocket in the last few decades, and it would raise a solid amount of money for the Government to spend — the Working Group have proposed to spend that money on income tax cuts of around $15 per person per week, but the money could also be spent on public services, or on building the new houses which we so desperately need.  Either way, it would reduce the obscene levels of inequality this country currently experiences by a small fraction. What’s not to like?

A Door Opens — Only to Be Slammed Back in Our Faces

It is most amusing to see the richest citizens of this country freak out at the idea of a minor increase in their taxes.  Unfortunately, amongst the panicked screams of greedy landlords and corporate fat cats terrified of a small reduction in their vast hoarded wealth, there lies a sinister pledge to take revenge if this CGT goes through.

It’s a pledge which perfectly demonstrates why merely tinkering around the edges of the existing economic framework — raising taxes on the rich and redistributing that money to working class people, but ultimately leaving the fundamentals of the system unchallenged — is always going to be entirely inadequate.  The unpleasant truth is that the wealthiest people in Aotearoa hold the real power in society. Their power is derived from their control over the economy — meaning they can hold the government to ransom if the elected representatives of the people dare to even think about going against the interests of the wealthy.  They can make day-to-day life very hard for ordinary people, because they own our workplaces, and they even own many of our homes.  They are determined to get their way, no matter the cost.

Enter ageing ex-cricketer Mark Richardson.  Richardson is a pundit on the AM Show — he is officially their sports presenter, but he also uses his platform on the popular radio program to give voice to his mean-spirited, increasingly brazen political views.  Last year, Richardson expressed exasperation at the media’s “unfair” treatment of Donald Trump, telling people to “give the guy a shot” in response to his co-presenter Amanda Gillies calling the US President racist.

Image from Newshub.

After Labour’s 2018 Budget a couple of months earlier, he had been complaining that “I’m going to be left out of pocket by this Budget […] I’m running a business here, you know!”.  He announced live on air, without even telling the people affected beforehand, that because of the rising costs the Budget would give him, he would be increasing rent for the tenants in the properties he owns.

The latest of Richardson’s angry right-wing rants came last week.  He insisted to AM Show listeners that “there is no housing crisis in this country, there is an accommodation crisis.  That’s very different!”  He elaborated by saying “I don’t give a rat’s arse if you can’t afford a house!  What I care about is if you can’t afford to rent a nice place to stay.”

Here are a few facts about the housing crisis which Richardson denies the existence of:

Never mind all that though — as he says, Richardson couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the colossal crisis in home ownership.  So surely, as he points out, everything is fine, and people are able to get by renting lovely accommodation to live in.

How utterly out-of-touch he is with the real lives of working class people.  Rents have also been skyrocketing in the past few decades, well outstripping wage growth.  The 600,000 households who rent are up to their ears in outrageously high bills from landlords, and it shows — housing costs for the bottom fifth of New Zealanders nearly doubled between 1990 and 2015, going from an average of 30% of their incomes to a staggering 54%.

Source: The State of New Zealand Housing, The House Site.

As for “a nice place to live”?!  Don’t make me laugh! The appalling conditions which so many renters have to put up with every day have been thoroughly documented.  Cold, damp, mouldy flats — it’s a story which scarcely needs repeating.  I know myself and too many of my friends have suffered symptoms such as disgusting skin conditions and shortness of breath in the winter — the situation is even more horrible for children who have to grow up in this environment.  Aotearoa is a developed country. It is positively criminal that serious health problems which were thought to have been eradicated are returning to the poorest and most vulnerable of our communities, while the wealthiest citizens of the nation enjoy such extreme affluence.

In response to the proposed Capital Gains Tax, Richardson decided that he needed to add yet more injury to his insulting attitude towards working people.  He once again proclaimed live on the AM Show that, if Labour’s planned CGT and accompanying $15 per week income tax cuts are implemented, he will take back whatever he loses by raising rents for his tenants.

“These tax cuts, alright?  I’m sorry — I went through how much people stand to make in tax cuts if it comes in, about $575 a year — I’m sorry, that might make a small difference to those right down the bottom, but that makes diddly-squat difference to the people who will be hurt by this tax, which is the middle class, who are trying desperately to get ahead, not to be a burden on the system when they retire, trying to get their kids ahead — they’re the ones who will take a proportionally greater hit!”

He continued:

“If they don’t own something, what are they doing, they are renting.  Well I will take that fifteen bucks a week back within the next couple of years, thank you very much!”

The sheer ignorance.  Richardson is genuinely convinced that the “middle class” are as wealthy as he is, and that people who don’t own investments, rental properties and businesses are a small group at the bottom of society.  He couldn’t be more wrong if he tried. The class who will “take a proportionally greater hit” are the top 10%. They’re the ruling class. They are the only group who will see a tax increase of 7.7% from CGT; they’re the group who between them own more wealth than the bottom 90% of us combined; they are the greedy profiteers, the leeches on society who live off the backs of the hard work everybody else does.  Yes, a $15 a week tax cut would make a difference to ordinary middle New Zealand — that is, if you didn’t raise rents and take that cash straight back for yourself, you elitist bully-boy.

The absolutely revolting hypocrisy.  Within a week of saying he will raise the rents of his tenants to make up for a modest tax increase on his massive wealth, to proclaim that there isn’t a housing crisis in Aotearoa!  To act as though it’s fine because people who don’t own anything can afford to rent “nice places”!  How Richardson can make these two statements within just a week of each other without the blindingly obvious contradictions causing his brain to explode simply baffles me.

A Useful Idiot

It’s infuriating that this man can espouse such ignorant, selfish and hypocritical views with such a mind-numbing lack of self-awareness.  However, on the other hand, I would argue that it is actually very useful that Richardson is being so honest. He is not only exposing to the rest of us, with absolute clarity, the odious position he occupies in society.  He is in the same breath illustrating the odious nature of his class. He is revealing for all to see the utter disregard for fellow humans which landlords embody; he is displaying the mental contortions they must necessarily exercise in order to avoid feeling guilty for their actions; he is demonstrating that himself and people like him either simply cannot understand the realities of life for the vast majority of working class people who exist around them — or even worse: if they do understand, they do not care.

Above all, he is shouting to the world, more sharply and concisely than a thousand of my wordy articles ever could, the exact reason why capitalism as an economic system and a political power structure must be overthrown.  Yes, it is possible to elect a Labour Government, and yes, if pressure from below is applied, that government will have to concede reforms to the majority of people in order to reduce extreme inequality and the daily suffering it causes the working class.  But reformist governments will always be powerless to actually change things on the scale necessary to truly end that suffering — precisely because a reformist government, even one led by the most brave and radical of people, will never hold any true power in society.

Housing Action Now march.

The power Mark Richardson is expressing when he tells AM Show listeners that he is going to raise rents for his tenants is the power which is the source of the crisis of inequality Aotearoa faces today.  We have a housing crisis because of the all-consuming greed of property speculators and landlords. It’s not a technical hiccup in an otherwise functioning system. It’s a problem which will always exist when the small group at the top of society control the vast majority of the wealth and power.  It’s a problem which will always exist under capitalism.

It’s not just a problem found in housing.  Workers experienced a huge reduction in our real median wages in the 1980s and early 1990s, aided by the policy of full employment being endedstate-owned industries being privatised, and unions being smashed.  Real median wages have been stagnant ever since this reduction.  Just as the housing market has been driven into crisis by speculators and landlords pursuing ever-higher profits, bosses have held down wages in order to achieve the same goal — cut the share of income going to workers so they can hoard that cash for themselves.

It is why inequality has soared in the last 35 years, to a point where the top tenth of the country own more than the bottom nine-tenths, and the two men at the very top — the richest men in the country, Graeme Hart and Richard Chandler — own more wealth between them than the bottom 1.4 million people.  It’s a class war which has been waged against the working class of Aotearoa by the bosses, landlords, bankers and investors.  It’s a war which has been fought by their representatives in government, both under National Party and under Labour Party rule.  And it’s a war which cannot be fixed even if Labour are prepared to tax the rich a bit more and redistribute the wealth — because the landlords can just make rents even higher, the bosses can just push wages even lower, and the banks can just raise interest rates.  They will get their way under this exploitative economic order.

Capitalism isn’t working.

Another World Is Possible

It’s time to fight back.  Mark Richardson has shown us why, as do all the statistics about the housing crisis, wage suppression and inequality.  We don’t even need those statistics to understand; most New Zealanders, especially young New Zealanders, can feel that something is deeply wrong.  We can feel the unbearable pressure we are under as we see house prices, rents and debts soar through the roof while wages are stuck on the floor; and we can see clearly that the super-rich are the only ones benefiting from this state of affairs.  The mental health crisis amongst the youth of today is largely caused by the hopelessness and stress produced as an inevitable result of capitalism.  Again, my personal experience, and the experiences of my friends, make the statistics on this issue strike far too close to home.

We’re ready to fight back.  That’s why National were kicked out of power after the nine long years of misery they gave us.  That’s why 2018 saw the biggest strikes in decades, with tens of thousands of nurses, midwives, teachers and public servants taking industrial action against the Labour-NZ First Government, demanding a better deal — these workers know that nothing is going to happen if we wait in vain for Labour to deliver, and that we have to take matters into our own hands.

The fight against obscene inequality is happening across the world, not just in Aotearoa.  Young people in the United States of America — of all places! — prefer the idea of socialism to capitalism.  Not only that, but in Britain and Germany, a majority of the total population have a favourable view of socialism and a net unfavourable view of capitalism.  Working class people, especially amongst the youth, are rejecting tired old status quo politics in favour of unashamed left-wing reformists who are willing to call out the rigged economic system for what it is, and promise meaningful changes which will make a genuine difference in people’s daily lives.  That’s why in the last few years, out of the political wilderness and into the centre stage have sprung self-proclaimed socialists such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in America, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in Britain, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his La France Insoumise movement in France, Die Linke in Germany, Pablo Iglesias and the Podemos party in Spain, People Before Profit in Ireland, and SYRIZA in Greece, just to name a few examples.  Their political messages all contain a common theme: as Jeremy Corbyn’s iconic slogan states, they stand “for the many, not the few”.

There is no question that we need a new political party in Aotearoa which will fight without compromise for the interests of the bottom 90% of New Zealand — the workers, renters and debtors who deserve a better deal — and against the bosses, landlords and bankers who exploit us for their own gain.  There is no question that such a workers’ party would be popular — the number of people desperate for change is massive. The only questions are of detail: who, when, and most importantly, how?

I, for one, can’t wait to see the look on Mark Richardson’s face when his beloved ‘middle New Zealand’ turns out to be a complete myth; when the real majority in this land turns out to be the exploited and righteously angry working class; and when that working class turns out to be ready to stand up, fight back, put Mark and his rich mates in their place, and build an Aotearoa which works in the interests of everybody.



This article has been republished. You can read the original here.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist.

Posted by Elliot Crossan in New Zealand Labour Party, New Zealand politics, 0 comments
Stop the False Compromise

Stop the False Compromise

By Elliot Crossan

A response to an article in Stuff by Tracy Watkins: ‘Jacinda Ardern must pause radical reforms or risk economic consequences of falling business confidence – National


There is a pervasive myth on the left that while we may want to see significant, systemic change to society, we have to constantly tone down the demands we make and the reforms we argue for, because doing so will win support from business and the media and neutralise the arguments that National and their outriders try to make. This argument has been disproven time and time again, and this article demonstrates precisely why. Simon Bridges is saying that Ardern and her Government “must pause radical reforms or risk economic consequences of falling business confidence”.

Now, which of the policies that the Government is proposing are “radical reforms”? Apparently, the main “radical reform” is the ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling — a supposed environmental win which in reality is tiny and fairly meaningless, given the likely expansion of onshore drilling, and given the difficulty at this stage of finding anywhere else to drill in our oceans since all of the low hanging fruits for offshore drilling have already been handed out in decades-long permits, which Labour have committed to honouring. The other concern Bridges mentioned is the minor changes the Government is proposing to industrial relations.

We saw this exact same thing during the election. National didn’t care for a second that Labour and the Greens had committed to neoliberal, small government economics with the Budget Responsibility Rules. They accused Labour of having an $11 billion hole in their manifesto, the media endlessly repeated it as if it were true, and the kind of people who fall for that kind of rhetoric were convinced. The kind of people who aren’t inclined to believe National didn’t. Labour didn’t fight back, they conceded ground, and did a u-turn on their tax policy.

It is so important for those of us who do want real change to understand that moderating all of the reforms we propose, that giving up on hope of significant progress in favour of tinkering around the edges to blunt the worst aspects of the system we live under, never actually works. A supposedly progressive Government can put forward the most pathetic, milquetoast platform, and still get attacked by business, the media, and of course the National Party, with the exact same lines they would use if we were actually fighting for a transformational agenda: business confidence is down, the economy is going to collapse, stop these “radical reforms”, the left are crazy radicals, etc.

Both the National Party and the corporate-owned media exist to perpetuate the interests of the business and property owning class. They will fight tooth and nail against the tiniest concession to the working class or the environment if it at all harms the capital accumulation of the wealthy. They will never compromise with us.

So we need to stop compromising with them. Call their bluff. See how ordinary people feel about a programme which fights for the interests of the many, not the few. And stop paying attention to the lies, smears and attacks of those who will never, ever stop howling that we are ruining everything every time we take any action, no matter how small, against the vested interests of the establishment.



This article has been republished. You can read the original here.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist.

Posted by Elliot Crossan in New Zealand Labour Party, New Zealand National Party, New Zealand politics, 0 comments