Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Sun Sep 22 23:46:58 MDT 2002

Jurriaan wrote:

> Not only has unionisation declined drastically in NZ, but
> the trade unions that remain have very little leverage as such. That is how
> bad it is there. A lot of trade unionists are actually scratching their heads
> and thinking "well what can we do, so we can actually win something". If it's
> difficult to win even simple bread-and-butter issues, then that makes a
> socialist politics extraordinarily difficult to get off the ground.

Yes, we are very much like starting over.

The LP now plays a role like the old Liberal Party in the late
1800s/early 1900s.

> In your "anti-capitalist coalition", you invited voters to make a stand on
> some basic radical demands. Nothing ipso facto wrong with that, but you don't
> have any realistic chance to win any of those points on your platform, so it
> is still a bit abstract; you don't even get many votes.

The ACA got tiny votes.  But our votes, in the seats we stood, were
around a quarter of the votes gained by the Alliance party.  This is a
party which has had massive coverage, hundreds of thousands of dollars
of state money and donations, and ten MPs in the last parliament.  By
comparison with them we made a good start. We also entered the arena
with next to no resources, a tiny core of activists and so on.  Yet we
are now in a position to realistically aim to get on the party vote -
which means people in every constituency in the country would be able to
vote for us.  In addition, the near-collapse of both left social
democracy (the Alliance) and all the Labour-loyal groups with their
1920s mantra/dogma about supporting Labour, opens up the prospect of a
reforged left in/around the ACA.

> What I would do is
> pick some issue or theme where you can, through working at it collectively,
> actually be successful and win something, achieve a practical change, so that
> people can actually see "these guys can actually change things, they can
> change something effectively, they have a real answer". In my experience, far
> left groups most often make political proposals about issues which they cannot
> possibly win, and that is why they stay small, because although people will
> sympathise with the ideas perhaps, they don't think they are realistic,
> winnable, or have any practical effect.

I am quite keen on us organising around poverty in an area like
Aranui-Wainoni.  It would be on a longterm basis, but it could certainly
fight for some immediate goals like demanding the restoration of benefit
levels.  In any case, this will be up to the ACA to decide.

> With your comments on Labourism I have no real dispute. I was somewhat
> critical though of Shane's and Bruce's historical articles because I felt they
> wanted to rewrite history, in the light of the historic betrayal of
> Rogernomics, in order to show that the NZ Labour Party had been selling out
> the working class since the foundation of the party, and that seemed to me to
> be lacking in nuance.

Yes, I did get a bit of that feel about what they wrote.  There were a
lot of class struggle militants involved in founding the LP in 1916.  On
the other hand, I think the LP showed its true colours pretty quickly.
Their championing of the White New Zealand policy tells us more about
their politics than the fancy declarations they made at their
conferences about support for the Russian Revolution.

One interesting thing about some of the LP founders, like Harry Holland,
who led the party from 1916 to his death in the early 30s, is that
Holland believed the Liberal Party (which had a big working class vote,
lots of trade unionists and so on) was a bigger enemy than the Reform
Party (the more openly Tory party).  If Holland and co. had've adopted
the paleo-Trotskyist position the LP would never have been formed -
they'd still be trying to fight to reform the Liberal Party.

Philip Ferguson

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