Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Arguing about elections

I've been struggling to muster the enthusiasm to post about Saturday's general election. I'm not a big Shortland Street fan, but I've only been able to spend five minutes on the Clark-Key debates before switching channel and watching the doctors and nurses frolic.

By contrast, I was glued to the screen throughout the three US Presidential debates. I hope I haven't drunken the kool-aid and become an Obamaniac - the man's rhetoric and mannerisms seems a little too close to those of Tony Blair circa 1997 for my liking - but I do admit to finding something obscurely reassuring about the prospect of the White House hosting a man who doesn't have to ask his Daddy what a neo-con is, and who knows the difference between Zapatero and the Zapatistas.

It's also nice to watch the paranoid right (is there any other kind?) whip itself into a frenzy over the looming triumph of a 'communist Islamofascist mulatto terrorist' who, besides everything else, is 'just too skinny to be President'. I'll be watching Fox News tonight with a beer in my hand and a smile on my face when Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity pronounce the fateful words 'Obama victory'.

There has been a series of debates about the Kiwi election over at indymedia, with members of various far left groups arguing over whether Labour and/or the Greens are worth supporting, and about whether the electoral challenges by the extra-parliametary left - you can choose between the Workers Party, the Residents Action Movement, and the Alliance - are worth supporting.

An Iraqi friend of mine once told me that 'it's hard work being a left-wing radical in New Zealand. It was hard in Iraq, too, but in a different way. Over there you could get killed or imprisoned, but people took you seriously. Over here you're not likely to go to jail, but nobody listens. Everyone laughs at you.' Debates amongst the socialist left about election choices tend to get very emotional, and I think this is evidence of a common frustration at our failure to win workers away from support for Labour and toward the banners we hoist. We think that Labour's Blairite economic and social policies, its support for the US's War of Terror in places like Afghanistan, its kneejerk, discriminatory seabed and foreshore legislation, its support for the ludicrous but sinister 'terror raids' of 2007 and a thousand other sins disqualify the party as an agent of left-wing politics in New Zealand. We think that Labour's working class base would be better off supporting a genuine labour party, which took on rather than adapted to free market capitalism and US foreign policy. Unfortunately, the workers don't agree with us.

Contrary to the expectations of both the far left and many in the political mainstream, Labour has managed to satisfy most of its working class support base since being elected back in 1999. The healthy state of the world economy in recent years and the dairying boom in New Zealand have kept government finances in a healthy state, and enabled Labour to pre-empt the opposition of key groups of workers with carrots like the Working for Families and Kiwi Saver schemes. Nurses and other supporters in the public sector have secured pay rises. Clark's government has made no effort to overturn the fundamental changes made to the Kiwi economy during the neo-liberal era of 1984-99, but they have been able to make the system function in a manner more agreeable to many Kiwis.

Using the same sort of strategy, Clark has also maintained New Zealand's pro-American foreign policy, but softened it a little to placate public opinion. Labour's continued anti-nuclear policy and its refusal to join the invasion of Iraq have obscured the role of Kiwi troops in helping implement US foreign policy Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomons. Critics of the Kiwi role in the War of Terror have found themselves isolated from the mass of the population.

Kiwi socialists tend to agree that a big obstacle to creating a new mass organisation that really represents the interests of workers is continued electoral support for Labour by so many workers. Where we disagree is over how to get workers away from Labour. Senior New Zealand Marxist Dave Bedggood has called for critical support to be given to Labour in the coming election, arguing that workers have to see the party exposed in practice. Dave would probably point to the 1984-90 period, when Labour was split and New Labour/the Alliance was born, and the early noughties in Germany, when the Social Democrats sold out their supporters and suffered a major split which led to the creation of the Left Party, in defence of the tactic that he advocates. Dave's argument has annoyed members of the Workers Party, who think that nine years of Labour is long enough, and believe that only uncompromising electoral opposition to Clark's government will win workers away from her party.

For his part, that indefatigable social democrat Matt McCarten has pointed out that the Workers Party, the Residents Action Movement, and the Alliance are all rather unlikely to pass the magic 5% threshold on Saturday, and suggested that votes for them will therefore be wasted. Matt reckons it's far more sensible to back the Greens. McCarten's advice has annoyed a lot of people at indymedia, but I think he is expressing a view that a lot of ordinary left-leaning workers take when they vote. They think that if a party can't make it to parliament, then there's no point in supporting it.

Back in 2002 the Alliance split, and its vote collapsed, because it looked like the party couldn't make it back to parliament. If Alliance leader Laila Harre had held her seat at the 2002 election, then the party probably would have survived. Today, there are probably tens of thousands of people who would vote for the Alliance, if only they thought their vote wouldn't be disregarded. The Residents Action Movement and the Workers Party don't have the same brand recognition as the Alliance, but there are probably still thousands of voters who would support either party, if only they thought their votes wouldn't be wasted. (If they knew what was good for them, then the smaller parties inside and outside of parliament would campaign for the 5% threshold for parliamentary representation to be abolished. If tens of thousands of people choose a party, why should they be disenfranchised by an arbitrary barrier like the 5% threshold? If a party gets even 1% of the vote it deserves a seat, under the logic of MMP.)

Because of the importance Kiwis give to voting, and the very way pragmatic way they go about voting, I suspect that a sizeable new left-wing formation will only emerge when a sitting MP or two defects from their old party, and thus establishes a parliamentary base around which dissident members of parties like the Greens and Labour and also dissident unions, single issue campaigning groups, far left groupuscles, and so on can gather. We saw something like this happen in 1989, when Jim Anderton left Labour. Unfortunately Anderton's iron will prevailed over the grassroots forces that flocked to his banner and the new party ended up looking a bit like the old one. The 2004 split in Labour which produced the Maori Party may still turn out to a boon for the left, if the views of pro-union Maori Party leaders like Hone Harawira and Syd Keepa prevail over those of much more conservative, pro-business figures like Tariana Turia and Tuku Morgan.

As things stand, the only emotion that will stir me to vote on Saturday is a sort of creeping fear - fear of a National-Act government that revives quaint 1990s neo-liberal practices like evicting old men from their kidney dialysis machines, making the tenants of state houses pay market rates, and logging rainforests on the West Coast. I suspect that a few of you feel the same way. It would be nice to be motivated by enthusiasm, rather than dread, wouldn't it?


Blogger Skyler said...

If you are in a safe Labour seat then by all means make a protest vote and vote where your heart really lies and vote for RAM, Workers Party or the Alliance BUT if it's not a safe seat do you really want to risk a National candidate getting in in your electorate?

I see no point giving your party vote to a party that will not reach the 5% threshold this election. The only thing to do is either give you party vote to Labour, or the Greens (as they are the only party guaranteed to go with Labour).

If the far left don't get behind Labour/Greens then it is much more likely that we will get a National/ACT/United Future government - a very scary thought! Workers and the average Kiwi family will suffer a lot more under that scenario.

I'll write more about the elections before Saturday.

3:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a cat, I find that photo offensive.

Michael Steven

3:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skyler haven't you studied this and learnt?

3:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama’s aunt and the multiple violations of the law, with impunity, while Joe the Plumber has his private info leaked to the Press, by Black officials who are Barack Obama contributors, is part of what others have dubbed “anarcho-tyranny.”

Which is a feature of life in Europe.

Anarcho-tyranny has as it’s feature, and one much beloved by elites, the punishment of the mostly White working and middle class, by criminals who are beyond the reach of the law due to their politically correct status as non-Whites, or the “correct” ideologues. So the Anti-Fascist groups in Europe beat with impunity middle aged respectable protestors who don’t want more mosques in their historic cities, while the police look on and do nothing. Because laws are not enforced against those with the correct politics. Or those who are minorities that are “correct” which is Blacks and Hispanics in the US, and Muslims in Europe, can commit crimes with impunity, both those of violent, street-crime natures, or electoral, privacy, and other laws, and can play the “racism” card to avoid any enforcement of the law.

MEANWHILE, Obama promises to follow the European model, of total control by the State over every aspect of mundane life for the law-abiding middle and working classes. Fines for the “wrong” trash in the trash bins, inspectors to paw through one’s life to determine the “correct” amount of carbon-tax, rules and regulations over the most minute details of the lives of the middle and working class.

This is because the political coalitions in the West, which Obama is merely the latest example, hate and fear the mostly White middle/working class. For the elites, they represent a set of potential competitors who must be stomped, and also a way of expressing social status through contempt. When Obama mocked and ridiculed Joe the Plumber, his Yuppie crowds, who were mostly White, loved it, because they too are engaged in an endless battle for status and social standing, parodied relentlessly on Seinfeld and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

The minorities, meanwhile, seek to overthrow and supplant the White working/middle classes, through both demographic conquest and political action. In the short term, they seek Affirmative Action type advantages, at every turn, and in the long term have an explicit agenda to make the White middle/working class a despised and legally discriminated against minority.

Economic good times, nearly uninterrupted, from 1965 onwards, has enabled this coalition to rule in the West more or less permanently, until now.

Obama may well win, but to deliver on his promises, the implicit ones, of more suppression of opportunity of the White working/middle class so his Yuppie White backers don’t face threats (they don’t view minorities as real threats, rather as props to demonstrate moral/spiritual superiority), and the demands for ever more transfer payments from the White working/middle class to the minority coalitions, are really unsustainable.

A prolonged battle over patronage in a sustained recession/depression means the inevitable rise of the counter to the White Yuppie / Minority coalition — the White Populist-Nationalist politician. In Italy it is the relatively benign Lega Nord and Berlusconi. In the US, it might be Sarah Palin. Regardless, the politics are likely to be even more brutal. Good times can buffer many conflicts, hard times bring them to the fore.

3:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can expect Obama to behave exactly as what he is, a man so far to the far left that he is straddling the line between crazed, out of their minds, koolaid IV, end the war liberalism and communism. One doesn’t surround oneself, professionally and casually, with leftist terrorists, bigots, criminals and other lower forms of life unless one is comfortable, indeed, nourished by those alliances. Good grief, his friends and professional partners hate America, hate the Jews, hate all white people, would be delighted to see another, final Holocaust, and have even been photographed dancing with delight on the American flag! Remember that not too long ago Obama himself declared that he would never wear an American flag pin because it was false patriotism, yet there the pin was on his lapel during his informercial. How far we have fallen as a nation that such a man–and I use that term only in the genetic sense–could be elevated to the presidency.

Ed Masset

3:48 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

Workers should be running the country!And it would be great to see a new energised and effective left wing party but the unions and the workers aren't ready to abandon Labour yet.

We need to start building support amongst New Zealanders for a new left wing party, maybe by next election it would be viable option BUT in this election a vote for any of the tiny left wing parties is a waste.

Why does the far left continue to be fractured - they should be in an alliance together then they would be in a much stronger position and it would be easier to support them.

3:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember seeing someone post something on one of the blogs here about a prediction Nostradamus made about someone named Mabus and the third Anti-Christ?

I’m starting to think there may be something to it.

I think this election was bought and paid for by Soros from the beginning.

G-d help this Country!

4:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay I just had a long talk with someone on the INSIDE of all this. He said to call him in an hour but he’s not hopeful. HOWEVER, he did say this…that even the people WHO BOUGHT AND PAID FOR OBAMA TO WIN THIS ELECTION HAVE FIGURED OUT HE DOESN’T KNOW WTF HE IS DOING. That’s bad new for Barfy. As fast as they put him up there, they can take him back down just as fast with the same money and fix. He’s NOT going to be President. Period.

4:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so who are you voting for maps

5:43 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

These crazies have forgotten that McCain himself has told people who said to him that Obama was "evil" (a terrorist or whatever) - that that is not true and that he is a decent family man, "a good American", so this extreme reaction to him is wrong.

Of course he wont bring an Age of Gold but we have seen the most significant thing - a first -a black President -the US has changed - and while there is no sudden "revolution" happening Obma - as a liberal but motivated politician (let's hope he is no Blair) - has been elected - this time fairly by the people and so far his rhetoric is asking for a united States...
People, or those people who don't have a deep understanding of history and politics, at least need hope.

The rest of us can be wonderfully cynical and happily pessimistic!!

As to expectations that any deep fundamental change to Capitalism will ever occur - I am 60 and I have seen all kinds of governments here and none of them scare me - I wouldn't even be frightened of a dictatorship.

People survived - I (and others) survived the vicious 1984/85 elected Labour Govt under Lange who was fool who allowed the very right wing Douglas to almost destroy NZ - but my father was here in the 20s and there was no welfare at all here*...he became a National supporter. And we lived through good and bad times under National and or Labour...

I have no illusions.

Personally I don't like the Greens - I am thinking of putting a party vote for the Maori Party and voting for Labour round here as Nat usually wins here...but I have no illusions - except that - o.k. -if personalities were concerned - Clark has some good qualities - interestingly people do respond to leaders and to rhetoric - deep questions of socialism, the environment, or philosophy and so on are not what people want (or react to) - they want strong sounding or powerful leaders (people respond to power but a degree of reason which is what Obama offers - he is also very clever - a very intelligent, shrewd, politician: in the good and "bad" senses of that...) not necessarily unconditionally;...and Obama like Churchill, Kennedy etc has a great gift for rhetoric and the political game.

He probably will leave the troops in Iraq etc and continue wars if more covertly than Bush...but the significant thing is the fact he has shown is seems to be or is symbol of hope for many good US people at a time they need unity - of the talking of socialism and soon is hopeless in NZ or the US - such system will never *(or perhaps I should say it - or it doesn't seem it will - things change dramatically however - wont happen for many years ... Or I perhaps should say it seems to be so - "but 'seems' is not 'is'" as Shakespeare wrote ...

Under Clark things are, if not very inspiring, or very good for many disadvantaged Kiwis, not so terrible (or as terrible as they could be!) (a lot was/is wrong of course - the raids in the Ureweras, the mistreatment of Ahkmed Zaouai, the ignoral of Len Parker's rent struggle, deportation of the Sri Lankan girl, rapes and killings by the police, killings by criminals, the terrorist laws implemented here, and issues such as the atrocious state of our hospital system, job losses; and other social and economic issues, the violent crime increase (function of poverty and division), racism, and education costs (to students an parents) and the low wages of workers etc) but that is life: Key is not going to start "being nice" to Maori or the working people any more than Clark is going to stop being an ally of US Imperialism)- for me it is the devil I know or think I know... here or in the US.

But voting in elections that really just keeps capitalism humming is like pissing in the wind... albeit a little of one's urine returns some minute amount of nitrogen to the soil so plants can make proteins etc but the effect is minimal...but
perhaps cumulatively there is some import.

The elections (a and the marginal differences between Key and Clark); as such, are not steps toward the kind of deep social or socialist change really needed - the seizure by the working class of the means of production - that cannot come about through bourgeois politics.

* Strictly speaking Seddon etc did bring in some quite important reforms in the late 19th Cent as far as I recall...

1:24 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out the proof in this 66 page document:

9:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Richard Taylor:

You misunderstand me.

I am not crazy.

I am an American.

I don’t take a moment’s pride that in the USA, as we approach the close of the first decade of the 21st century, so many of My Fellow Citizens tossed themselves headlong into a disgusting cult of personality, believe in messianic nonsense, and send the country hurtling toward Marxism (a 19th century idiocy). This is not evolution, it was an exercise in childish petulance. We now have a mixed race president. Big. Freaking. Deal.

I don’t take pride that we have a bigotted media who make a mockery of their 1st amendment protections while we have a congress that will gleefully trample the 1st and 2nd amendments.

I don’t take pride in vote fraud openly committed, thugs patrolling polling places to ensure that “undesirables” know their place, and government agencies used as investigatory arms for political campaigns.

In fact, I’m struggling to have any sense of civility, let alone pride, toward my fellow citizens. What a bunch of dopes.

Ed Masset

10:09 am  
Blogger maps said...

Evil rejoices.

10:42 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Mr Richard Taylor:

"You misunderstand me."

Do I?

"I am not crazy."

Well you were relatively incoherent - still are.

"I am an American."

There are ~ 30,000 US citizens in NZ. And it is no crime to be an American. But it is good to know you are...

I am a NZr of English parentage..

"I don’t take a moment’s pride that in the USA, as we approach the close of the first decade of the 21st century, so many of My Fellow Citizens tossed themselves headlong into a disgusting cult of personality,"

Can you give examples - which citizens?

"... believe in messianic nonsense,..."

Specifically what?

"... and send the country hurtling toward Marxism..."

A good thing if true! But I doubt it... This sounds extreme and almost hysterical.

"...(a 19th century idiocy)..."

I don't think so - some of Marx's (or other "revolutionary's") ideas found there way into the US Constitution as it was influenced by the French revolution and Paine's ideas etc - that is indeed why the Republican party formed (and why their colour is red?) - because of revolution supported by "radicals" and influenced by events in France - the War of Independence by Vietnam against US Imperialism's illegal war of unparalleled aggression and barbarity - can be compared to the US War of Independence from Britain as perhaps can the struggles by those in Afghanistan and Iraq today...

"... This is not evolution, it was an exercise in childish petulance. We now have a mixed race president. Big. Freaking. Deal..."

I think it is a major development - the 15th Amendment is being used...properly

"...I don’t take pride that we have a bigotted media who make a mockery of their 1st amendment protections while we have a congress that will gleefully trample the 1st and 2nd amendments..."

Not sure what point out make here - guns are still available -too easily - in fact if guns are available (see "Borat") the Amendment supports the idea that the people be able to form and protect a true "peoples'" Govt - which would fulfill the US Constitution - in spirit - so perhaps the 2nd Amendment favours Marxism??

Fox seems to me to be pretty right wing - the media were not good during the Bush regime - but they are becoming more objective and insightful - the NZr
Peter Arnett (now a US Citizen and winner of the Pulitzer for Journalism) is a great journalist who showed up a lot of inconsistencies - a lot of other journalists lacked courage (he stayed in Iraq even as it was bombed by the US and he worked for CNN) ...but there were and some (many other) good ones. The terrorist atmosphere under Bush and Wolferwitz etc made it scary to talk out...

"I don’t take pride in vote fraud openly committed,..."

By Bush in 2000/and 2004 etc you mean?

"...thugs patrolling polling places to ensure that “undesirables” know their place, and government agencies used as investigatory arms for political campaigns."

You feel the Democrats used thugs to make everyone vote for Obama or something?

"In fact, I’m struggling to have any sense of civility, let alone pride, toward my fellow citizens. What a bunch of dopes."

You hate other people and or yourself?

Your comments seem a bit disjointed... I'm not sure of what you actually are for or against etc

"Ed Masset"

Richard Taylor

1:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anytime, Taylor, I'll whop your ass.

Ed Masset

PS You're a shit and a motherfucking son of a bitch

12:00 pm  

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