[Marxism] Re: left electoral alliances in NZ

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Jun 29 02:06:44 MDT 2004

Ben asks:

>Any additional information or comment from list participants?

>Phil, any further comment on the "reinvented" Alliance? Is ACA working 
>with them in UNITE? What about in future elections?

There are three main problems the Alliance party faces in NZ.

The biggest, in our (the ACA) view, is that the material basis for
social democracy, and the political space for it, has largely been
exhausted (globally).  This is especially notable in NZ.  At the end of
the day, this is why the Alliance split before the 2002 election and why
its vote collapsed.

The second problem is that it has very few activists.  Because it was a
social-democratic party, albeit a leftish socdem party, it had a paper
membership.  Most of the activist base of the early 1990s, when it had
quite a substantial activist base, was driven out by Anderton, McCarten
et al, as they shifted the Alliance rightwards over the course of the

I know the DSP is very chummy with Matt McCarten, but the reality is
that he was part of the centre-right in the Alliance, he was Anderton's
right-hand man right up until the invasion of Afghanistan.  That leading
cabal drove out most of their activists.

So the number of activists in the Alliance today is very, very small.
And most they do have, with the exception of a *very few* people like
Mike Treen and Len Richards, who belonged to Trotskyist groups in the
70s and 80s, don't have much experience of basic stuff like organising
forums, selling papers, leading educationals and so on.  So the ability
of the Alliance to build a party is very limited.  Matt and a few others
know how to build a paper membership socdem party, but have no
experience whatsoever building any kind of activist-socialist party.

Thirdly, there are still divisions and attempts to re-ignite the
Alliance as some kind of explicitly socialist party would result in
another layer of people leaving, and they would be down to a rump no
bigger - in terms of activists - than the larger far-left groups like

We get on fine with the Alliance.  But the reasons for this are not ones
that fit in with the Aussie DSP schemas about NZ.  We get on fine with
the Alliance because we don't have any illusions in them.  The Alliance
is a left socdem formation and we don't expect anything more of them and
we don't try to "intervene" in their organisation to "break people" away
to Marxism and so on.  

I think over time, one or two young leftish Alliance people may well
move out of the Alliance and join us, but it won't be because of any
special orientation to the Alliance on our part - a recipe for disaster
anyway, even if we were into such manoeuvring - but because such
individuals work with us, and vice versa, in UNITE and/or in
anti-imperialist actions and come to the conclusion that our
revolutionary project makes more sense than trying to breath new life
into any form of social democracy.    

Frankly, I'm not sure how much longer the Alliance will last.  Matt
McCarten is very heavily involved right now in getting the new Maori
Party off the ground, and the Alliance may just slowly evaporate.  There
are quite strong differences within the Alliance about the Maori Party
as well - some of the most left people in the Alliance do not support a
separate Maori party per se (unlike the previous Maori party, Mana
Motuhake, which was part of the Alliance from the very beginning).  Of
course, the Maori Party has a wide range of views within it as well, and
its platform is far from decided.

My own view on the MP is that, while it may well have an initial spurt,
especially since Labour won't contest Turia's seat in the upcoming
by-election, it doesn't have a long-term future.  In a country as
integrated as NZ, Maori parties just don't resonate beyond an initial
flurry of support which is based on Labour betrayals.  Also, this party
and Mana Motuhake, while "Maori parties", were actually open to pakeha.
The Maori Party, for instance, already has a 25 percent pakeha

I think the MP is likely to result in the same wastage of time and
energy for a lot of people, and resulting disillusionment, that happened
with the Alliance in the last decade.

The simple reality is that there is no way around the long slog of
building a movement in the working class and, in the absence of class
struggle, what can be built right now is very limited.

There's a lot more happening in Australia, and hopefully things will
move ahead well for you guys there.


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