Monday, 3 March 2008

EDITORIAL: Election Year- the Centre cannot hold.


The unofficial 2008 election campaigns have begun. The polls all suggest that the Labour party are going to take a hammering, and that the Maori Party could take all the Maori seats.

For many working people, no matter what Chris Trotter or Matt McCarten say, the small gains and reforms under 9 years of Labour rule are little to write home about – Working for Families is a taxpayer funded subsidy for employers paying low wages, unions still do not have the right to strike outside of very limited circumstances, housing is unaffordable and public transport is a joke.

UnityBlog wants to kick some ass. We're throwing down the gauntlet to our readers to come up with some Vision Thing.

What policies would you guys like to see the left fight for this election? What would your dream left ticket look like? And as the Greens accept only market based mechanisms to climate change, are they a real option for left wing voters anymore?

Here's some ideas to get the debate rolling!  

(1) Free public transport throughout NZ. Massive investment in rail and free busses- an emergency Monbiot style "system change, not climate change" programme.  

(2) Free tertiary education for all. Cancel all student debts immediately.
 
(3) A Micky Joe Savage style emergency housing programme. Rent control, New York style.  

(4) A minimum wage of $20 per hour. Huge tax cuts for the working poor, funded by taxing the rich (until they bleed!). A massive extension of union rights and power.  

(5) Free broadband for all- jack the NZ network up to Korean standards.

There you go. Five juicy demands to form a maximum minimum programme!

The fact is that in factories and offices all over the nation, people are pissed off with the Pepsi/Coke choice they are offered. National now accept most of Labour's tiny reforms, and Labour accepts neoliberalism's poverty wages, controls on union power and free trade agreements.

Many who previously looked to the Greens and who are worried about the train crash approaching via climate change, are deeply saddened that they now accept carbon trading mechanisms. Yet anger at house prices, low wages, arrogant bosses and corrupt politicians is at an all time high...

The centre cannot hold. It's time for a New Left. Tell us what you would like it to be.
unityblog@yahoo.com

5 comments:

David said...

"Many who previously looked to the Greens and who are worried about the train crash approaching via climate change, are deeply saddened that they now accept carbon trading mechanisms."

Depends how many is "many". I'd be surprised if - outside of a few radical climate activists - many people, even Green Party members, know that the party leadership is backing carbon trading, or realise what a con it is.

Oisín said...

Great to see some revolutionary speech and none of the useless 'we want gradual change in due course' bs.
Anyhoo, a couple of ideas I've thought of.
A lot of coal seems to be exported from NZ to China - where it gets used less efficiently than if it had just stayed here. So a policy I'd like to see is one of not exporting coal and diminishing our use of it here.
Leading on from the above point if NZ had subsidised (or even better, FREE) residential solar hotwater heaters installed, this would allow us to almost close down the Huntly powerstation (and of course reduce our power bills) - A fact worked out by an engineer who knows the numbers.
We need greens in parliament that THINK AND DO, not just bleat.

UNITYBlog said...

From Oliver Wood's blog
http://nzquest.blogspot.com/

A Progressive Vision with RAM

UNITY blog has issued a challenge to build a New Left in New Zealand, how it would be composed and what core policies it would represent. Their list of 5 key ideas for a programme of a new left movement are:

(1) Free public transport throughout NZ. Massive investment in rail and free busses- an emergency Monbiot style "system change, not climate change" programme.
(2) Free tertiary education for all. Cancel all student debts immediately.
(3) A Micky Joe Savage style emergency housing programme. Rent control, New York style.
(4) A minimum wage of $20 per hour. Huge tax cuts for the working poor, funded by taxing the rich (until they bleed!). A massive extension of union rights and power.
(5) Free broadband for all- jack the NZ network up to Korean standards.

This to me seems like a pretty good programme, though I would prefer to give my own in the sense of vision rather than direct policy (I disagree with such a high minium wage plus am rather unconvinced about broadband being entirely free - though definitely that number 5 one is still vitally interesting).

I envision New Zealand as resuming our position as a nation on the cutting edge - our national brand overseas is good (focused around showing New Zealand as an unspoilt paradise) but in New Zealand our own Government, economy and wider society isn't delivering this for our own citizens.

I really want to rebuild a community spirit in New Zealand. As I was recently alerted two, taking into account population growth, you are 8 times more likely to be murdered in the street than 50 years ago. There are gangs on our streets, there are under-employed people desperate for good jobs and without any union protection, many people struggle to afford food and doctors visits and families struggle with rent and mortgage costs.

Imagine if moderate left-wingers, social democrats of the 'Old Labour' variety, socialists, community activists of a whole variety of stripes, nationalists and Kiwi patriots, people utterly dissatisfied and apathetic about the political system and even old school Tories/right-wingers got together in a large movement!

In reality, for all the differences such a bunch would have, their common ground would be immense. It's a vision David McKnight, an Australian academic has pointed out in his book Beyond Left and Right. We all share a common strand of 'pro-humanity' politics that wants to make New Zealand into a better country where people, the environment and society are important again.

Those of us opposed to rampant free market capitalism, racism and intolerance, corruption tend to support pretty similar solutions. We want intelligent Government regulation of business, we want an end to corporate globalisation and instead for everyone to benefit from the spoils of the global economy, we want New Zealand to be a safe place to raise families and live happy lives, we want secure jobs for Kiwis and ones that are fairly paid too. And a decent universal healthcare system like we used to have. I could go on for hours with a wish-list ....

Right now, there are going to be a variety of real 'humanist' parties for this coming election. The Residents Action Movement (RAM), which I am involved with, I believe has a very promising start ahead of us on the national level. Hundreds of thousands of votes for us and a street-fighting hardcore image that we will fight for Aucklanders will definitely go some way to getting us votes in the national election.

At the same time, the Alliance Party is going through a renaissance with good people leading it, an influx of new members and a fresh approach to left politics. And don't forget that the Workers Party and other smaller left-wing groups, struggling away in the background and still doing valuable work.

We all need to start talking about New Left unity. I think that this election should be about co-operation and building links, the 2011 one should be about getting humanists and real progressives into Parliament on a unified national political party.

Suggestions?

UNITYBlog said...

Got any better ideas, Labour?

Chris Trotter FROM THE LEFT


DOWN at the pub last Friday night, I received a good old-fashioned
bollocking for suggesting in this column that only a change of
leadership could save the Labour-led Government.
"Phil Goff's not the bloody answer," muttered a stern union official.
And the left-wing university lecturer accused me of "doing National's
job for them".
"Got a better idea?" I replied. "If so, let's hear it. Because what the
polls are telling me, in no uncertain terms, is that the electorate's
stopped listening to Helen Clark. In the words of Mike Moore, they've
taken the phone off the hook.
"And I can't think of anything, apart from rolling her, that will
persuade them to pick up the receiver. It's also the only political
move dramatic enough to distract the news media from its slow-motion
coronation of John Key."
My critics stared sullenly into their beer, and we all found other
things to talk about.
And this, of course, is the Left's dilemma. When you demand, as Lenin
did, "What is to be done?", the best you're likely to get by way of
reply is a resentful silence.
Actually, that's not quite true. There are a handful on the Left still
willing to meet Lenin's blunt challenge. Unfortunately, their answers
are – how can I put this politely? – just a little bit revolting.
Socialist Worker's UNITYblog offers a great example. In the face of
what these stalwart revolutionaries describe as the "Coke/ Pepsi"
choice between Labour and National, the website's readers are
challenged to come up with "some Vision Thing" of their own.
To set the ball rolling, they're invited to debate the following five
policy ideas:
(1) Free public transport throughout New Zealand. Massive investment in
rail and free buses - an emergency "system change, not climate change"
programme.
(2) Free tertiary education for all. Cancel all student debts
immediately.
(3) A Mickey Joe Savage-style emergency housing programme. Rent
control, New York-style.
(4) A minimum wage of $20 an hour. Huge tax cuts for the working poor,
funded by taxing the rich. A massive extension of union rights and
power.
(5) Free broadband for all – jack the New Zealand network up to Korean
standards.
Apparently, this eye-wateringly expensive policy cocktail can be paid
for by "taxing the rich (till they bleed!)".
You can almost hear the hoots and jeers directed at yet another
shuffling procession of bruised and bleeding "rich" people, as all
those free buses and trains rattle past them, carrying placard waving
hordes of revolutionary unionists to yet another system change rally.
No doubt the recipients of this derision, the battered remnants of New
Zealand's once all powerful capitalist class, are trudging off to
perform forced labour on the bleak building sites of the emergency
housing programme.
It would have to be forced labour because, after "hugely" cutting the
taxes of the poor, writing off student debt, laying on all those free
buses and trains and supplying Korean-speed broadband, paying these
formerly "rich" emergency housing workers the new minimum wage of $20
an hour would be out of the question.
The best abbreviation of the revolutionary socialist project I ever
heard came from the pen of a Kiwi screen-writer, whose name I have
since, unfortunately, forgotten. "It's bloody simple," he had one of
his characters, an old communist, say, "you nationalise everything and
shoot the buggers who complain."
And that's the problem, isn't it? Democracy is simply not designed to
facilitate the impoverishment and oppression of whole classes of the
population – only the totalitarianism associated with 20th-century
fascism and communism can accomplish that.
It astounds and depresses me that the boys and girls at Socialist
Worker cannot see (or, even worse, pretend they cannot see) that any
serious attempt to implement even one of their five policy ideas would
involve the complete derangement of our economic and political
relationships – and not in a good way.
Like the restored Bourbon dynasty, taking up where they'd been forced
to leave off by Robespierre and Napoleon, the revolutionary Left has
"learned nothing and forgotten nothing". Their understanding of
economics has not progressed beyond the legend of Robin Hood and his
Merry Men. And their conception of politics confers legitimacy not upon
those who win the most ballots, but upon those who fire the most
bullets.
Phil Goffs a bloody sight better answer than bloody revolution.

Oisín said...

ooo! here comes another Tui billboard...
"Phil Goffs a sight better answer than revolution - YEAH RIGHT."
He may not be Helen but surely any leasdership change of of the Labour party would only mean more of the same capitalist placating 'fauxcialism'
Labour isn't an option just because it's not National.
Neither Labour nor National.
Let's RAM out the state in '08!