New Zealand Labour

Steve Painter and Rose McCann spainter at
Sun Sep 22 09:09:58 MDT 2002

Phil Ferguson wrote:
>>I'm not sure that most workers do vote Labour.>>

If I read the figures on the Elections New Zealand website correctly, Labour
got about 41 per cent of the vote. That's a hell of a lot of "lawyers,
academics, business managers". No wonder you don't like them much, Phil, it
sounds like the place is over-run. But if 41 per cent of the voting
population is middle-class, what chance the socialist revolution?

Of course, some lawyers work for a salary and quite a few junior academics
struggle to earn a living wage (a lot of academic staff are unionised in
Australia), which in my book makes them working class. I agree with you
about the business managers -- there's probably not much hope for them.

Simon Collins in the New Zealand Herald on July 29 wrote: "Labour support
held up at around 50 per cent in the poorest two-fifths of the population."
Sounds like times are pretty tough for the middle class.

If you're in the business of defining the working class out of existence,
Australia could be an interesting case study. Since the introduction of
compulsory superannuation by the Hawke Labour government in the mid-80s,
everyone's a shareholder. No more working class, we're all exploiters.

>>If you want to argue that some sort of support for Labor is necessary>>

Who's arguing that? I'm talking about the fact that Labor has hegemony over
vital sections of the working class and what to do about that. Tactics that
build a wall between Marxists and the ranks of the Labor Party doesn't seem
like a very good idea to me, and a pretty good way of doing that is the
DSP's campaign of exposure and denunciation of the Labor Party, which has
been going on for 15 years or so now without noticeable effect on the Labor

I'm not even talking about calling for a vote for Labor -- I'm a member of
the Greens. In any case, most of the Marxists I know do vote Labor, or at
the moment Greens 1, Labor 2 -- even Labor Party members tend to vote that
way. The DSP also calls for a vote for Labor from time to time.

I agree that struggle to break the stranglehold of the pro-capitalist Labor
leadership is necessary -- I thought that's what we were talking about --
and I think it's okay to cooperate with people working in the Labor Party
with a similar perspective.

It's very likely that any social upsurge in Australia will be reflected in
the Labor Party, because it is a focus for working class political activity,
whether it's defined as a workers party or not. I don't think the definition
is important.

>>Are you suggesting the "awkward brigade" are going to take any effective
action against Blair if he and Bush invade Iraq?>>

Well, they probably won't call a general strike, but about 40 per cent of
delegates at the TUC voted against war with Iraq. That sounds like there
will be strong union support for protests, and that in turn increases the
chances that the protest movement will be strong.

Of course, you could pin your hopes on the unions that are not affiliated to
the Labour Party. They're listed in the September 9 New Statesman: British
Dental Association, Union of Social Work Employees, National Association of
Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers (South Wales Office), National
Association of Head Teachers, Police Federation of England and Wales. There
are 17. But all the big middle-class outfits, like the mineworkers,
railworkers, etc, seem to be affiliated to the Labour Party, so we can write
them off straight away.

>>The need is to build a real alternative on the ground through campaigns in
working class areas>>

Sounds good. I live in a working class area and do a bit of political work.
Funny thing is, I keep running into Labor Party people: and quite a few of
them are Lebanese, Greeks, Latin Americans, Macedonians, southern Slavs --
fairly recent migrants, many of them in lower-paid jobs -- must be
downmarket middle-class types, I guess.

Steve Painter

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