New Zealand

Russell Grinker grinker at
Mon Jun 26 06:59:43 MDT 2000

>From Phil Ferguson   To Marxism List:
Michael Yates asked about the shift to the left by Labour in NZ.
These things are, of course, relative.  The last Labour government was so
economically right-wing, and was followed by a similar National regime, that
virtually anything looks 'left' by comparison.  Perhaps an analogy with the US
would be Barry Goldwater and LBJ.  I guess you could say LBJ was to the left
of Goldwater, but that hardly made the Butcher of Vietnam 'left wing' in any
The LP remains a shell of what it used to be.  It is basically owned and
operated by the liberal middle class, people who want to maintain core
'neo-liberal' policies but are a bit pissed off about the massive increase in
university fees which means their kids have huge debts.  They also tend to be
a bit more socially liberal than National.  (You have to remember that the
'new right' in NZ are not social conservatives, but liberal on stuff like
abortion, gay rights, the Treaty industry etc).
Hardly any trade unions are affiliated to Labour these days, and their input
into the party is marginal.  Labour's main sources of funds are business and
the state, just like all the other parties.
That Labour is not becoming union-friendly is shown by the way in which they
have held off on the Employment Relations Bill, which was supposed to somewhat
redress the balance between capital and labour.  The labour movement is so
much on the back foot - the amount of days lost through disputes has dec,ined
95 percent since the 80s and the percentage of the workforce in unions has
halved - that it is possible for Labour to introduce some reform which looks
like it is doing something for workers without really doing anything.  They
have held off on the ERB because employers kicked up a stink about it.  Also
Labour told the unions they should not put a ban on trade with Fiji in protest
at the Speight coup and reminded the unions that this kind of industrial
activity is illegal.
I'll try to post a few things from 'revolution' about the state of NZ politics
and also where economic policy is at in NZ in the next few days.  But
basically, the slash and burn policies of the last Labour and National
governments paved the way for a new round of accumulation but haven't been
able to deliver a new boom.  Capital in NZ has always required a heavy state
input and my argument would be that Labour's job now is to deliver this and
other policies which are designed to build on the defeat of the working class
and the accumulation groundwork laid over the past 15 years.
It is not a left government or party, it is the party with the policies which
best serve NZ capital at this point in the accumulation process.
Philip Ferguson

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