Labour (further)

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Sun Sep 22 03:08:50 MDT 2002

Jurriaan, your posts on the NZ LP were, as always, very useful.  You
bring a great deal to these kinds of discussions.  However I disagree
with this:

> A basic dispute with Phil that I have, is that I argue that socialists should
> try to pursue social reforms as the necessary basis for a more radical
> politics, whereas Phil argues that pursuing any social reform, anything short
> of revolution, is pro-capitalist. Therefore Phil doesn't distinguish between
> different species of reforms and reformism, it is all pro-capitalist, reified
> and wrong. This obviously leads to a different view of what sort of political
> activity is desirable and possible for socialists.

My argument is more nuanced than this.  It is that the left too often
divorces the fight for this or that reform from the struggle against
capitalism.  It assumes that people will spontaneously draw
revolutionary conclusions from struggles for reform and that the role of
revolutionaries is merely to be the 'best builders' of movements for reform.

I would argue that the twentieth century disproves this.

It is always necessary to *consciously* link the struggles of the
present with the final goal.  Not by shouting slogans at people a la the
Sparts and so on, but finding creative, pedagogical and convincing ways
of doing this.

> The situation in New Zealand today is that the working class does not have any
> political voice of its own anymore, apart from a few insignificant groups. The
> workers been politically disenfranchised, although they can still formally
> vote for all sorts of political odds and ends.  The question is really how you
> can conduct socialist activity there, so that it makes a difference to
> people's lives, makes a political difference, and generates wider popular
> support. It could take ten years before there is an effective new solution to
> that problem.

Yes, I agree totally.  This is precisely the nub of the problem right now.

The LP is totally irrelevant to this question as well, coz no section of
the working class orients to it in any meaningful political way.

The task is basically to rebuild the working class as a political force.
 It is an absolutely immense task.  But the exciting thing is that we
now have the prospect of rebuilding the class as a political force *on a
revolutionary basis*.  Attempts to pull the working class back to Labour
in NZ are thus not merely misguided, but reactionary.  Labour has
destroyed its organic links with the class, the last thing the class
needs is for those links to reforged - especially since the only way
they can be reforged is as chains.

You mention the Barnesites' support for Labour all the way through the
time when Labour was pursuing the economics of Hayek and Freidman.  This
is one of the major reasons why the Barnesites largely disintegrated.
>From being the biggest group on the far left, with a fortnightly paper
read by several thousand workers, they are now down to their last 13
members.  They were totally incapable of analysing reality in NZ - they
just repeated the 'Labour is the mass party of the unions and we must
vote for it, must vote for it, must vote for it' mantra.  Crushed the
life and spirit out of their membership.  (On top of that, of course,
was the madness from the cadre-crushing machine in New York.)

Indeed, the Labour-loyal left in NZ is all in a bad way and near the
defunct level.

Good proof that we need less in the way of mantras about Labour and more
in the way of concrete analysis of contemporary society and the nature
of LPs *now*.

The work that you and your comrades did in the late 1980s in realtion to
Labour here certainly became a valuable part of the political capital of
'revolution' and is now part of the political capital of the
Anti-Capitalist Alliance in general.

All the best,

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