Monday, 21 April 2008

NZ Labour - a party without principle

A recent headline in The Guardian (18 April) reads: ‘Chinese ship carries arms cargo to Mugabe regime’. Here we have a ship full of arms for Robert Mugabe so he can repress the democratic revolt in Zimbabwe, supplied by the same Chinese regime which the Labour government in New Zealand has embraced in a free trade deal, held up by a dockers’ strike in South Africa which, if done in New Zealand, would be illegal under the Employment Relations Act passed by Helen Clark's administration in 2000. Makes you think doesn’t it? This series of events on the on other side of the world highlights just how far Labour is from a progressive politics grounded in basic human rights. It’s all about the almighty dollar, and to hang with basic principles like democracy and workers’ right to strike. To secure a free trade agreement with China that will boost the profits of Fonterra and other NZ companies, Labour is willing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in China. And what chance that Helen Clark is going to loudly condemn gun-running by China to help a despotic Zimbabwe regime crush a broad based democratic movement? Not likely. This is the tangled world of pro-corporate profit driven politics without principle that the Labour Party has embraced. The party is no longer a progressive force in New Zealand.
Chinese ship carries arms cargo to Mugabe regime by David Beresford in Johannesburg The Guardian 18 April 2008 A Chinese cargo ship believed to be carrying 77 tonnes of small arms, including more than 3m rounds of ammunition, AK47 assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, has docked in the South African port of Durban for transportation of the weapons to Zimbabwe, the South African government confirmed yesterday. It claimed it was powerless to intervene as long as the ship's papers were in order. Copies of the documentation for the Chinese ship, the An Yue Jiang, show that the weapons were sent from Beijing to the ministry of defence in Harare. Headed "Dangerous goods description and container packing certificate", the document was issued on April 1, three days after Zimbabwe's election. It lists the consignment as including 3.5m rounds of ammunition for AK47 assault rifles and for small arms, 1,500 40mm rockets, 2,500 mortar shells of 60mm and 81mm calibre, as well as 93 cases of mortar tubes. The carrier is listed as the Cosco shipping company in China. Continue

7 comments:

Tim B said...

Surely comrades you are not suggesting that it is the job of marxists to counsel capitalist governments on how to adopt an "ethical" trade policy?

Such a position is not only un-marxist but in the context of this particular issue it also means jumping on the same anti-China bandwagon as the US State Department and corporate media!

Surely a better way to improve the human rights situation in China and undermine the hold of repressive regimes around the world would be to campaign for open borders for labour, not just capital, as opposed to supporting protectionism.

UNITYBlog said...

Surely comrades you are not suggesting that it is the job of marxists to counsel capitalist governments on how to adopt an "ethical" trade policy?

Er... no, Tim. Nothing in our comment to this article says anything of the kind. Once again, you are not debating with RAM or Socialist Worker, but with your own prior assumptions about what we "must" really mean.

Can I ask what your stance on the Chinese government selling arms to the Zimbabwean anti-worker kleptocracy is? I would doubt even you could argue these days that there is any kind of worker's power in the so-called "People's Republic".

Tim B said...

By arguing that the Labour government should not sign a free trade agreement with China because of its numerous human rights violations, you *are* like it or not effectively suggesting that it is possible for a capitalist government to conduct an alternative trade policy which would be somehow moral or ethical. But of course nothing less than the overthrow of the whole basis of capitalist exploitation would allow that to happen - sadly this is nowhere mentioned in the above article.

Tim B said...

"This series of events on the on other side of the world highlights just how far Labour is from a progressive politics grounded in basic human rights. It’s all about the almighty dollar, and to hang with basic principles like democracy and workers’ right to strike."

In reality it's about the fact that Labour is a CAPITALIST party managing a CAPITALIST system. No capitalist party - even a "progressive" one like the Greens of whom some Socialist Worker comrades seem unfortunately to be so fond - is going to challenge the fundamental basis on which the exploitation of Chinese, Zimbabwean or New Zealand workers is based. Pure and simple.

Alastair said...

[i]"This is the tangled world of pro-corporate profit driven politics without principle that the Labour Party has embraced. The party is no longer a progressive force in New Zealand."[/i]

And once again, SW and it's bourgeois liberal front group, RAM, tail end reformism. THE NEW ZEALAND LABOUR PARTY WAS NEVER PROGRESSIVE. It was at the time of it's creation a bourgeois labour party (don't SW comrades read Lenin anymore? I supposes he's not "broad left" or "grass-roots" enough! :P), a Party with a bourgeois program and the intention of faithfully serving the bourgeoisie, which managed to con large numbers of workers into supporting it, and once in power threw them a few crumbs as a reward.

Today it is not even that - it is a bosses party, a capitalist party through and through, which hardly even pretends to be a party of the working class... sorry, I meant "grass-roots people"... any more.

Do you guys even think of yourselves as communists anymore?

[i]"Can I ask what your stance on the Chinese government selling arms to the Zimbabwean anti-worker kleptocracy is?" [/i]

We oppose it, of course. The Mugabe regime is a repressive, corrupt dictatorship, and there is nothing to be defended about Zimbabwe under it's rule. The issue here is not our stances on Mugabe, which I assume are fairly similar. The issues are that

A: Socialist Worker is putting out the line that it is possible for a capitalist government to carry out an ethical trade policy. Regardless of you're objections, the fact of the matter is that you are condemning the NZ government for signing a FTA with China, which carries the implication that you feel a capitalist government like ours is capable of picking and choosing who it trades with not on the basis of what will bring the greatest profit to it's capitalist class, but rather on the basis of whether or not the country in question has a good "human rights" record. That's a fundamentally anti-marxist position, and I challenge you to provide evidence from this article that disproves our analysis.

and B: SW is putting out the line that the NZ Labour party was once a "progressive force", and, both from the language used in this article and from statements made in other articles, is implying that it has progressive elements within it today. Surely I shouldn't even have to debate this with you! Labour is the enemy of the workers, it always has, and it remains so today. The only "progressive" thing it can do for the workers of NZ and the rest of the world is for all of it's members to commit mass suicide.

[i]"I would doubt even you could argue these days that there is any kind of worker's power in the so-called "People's Republic"."[/i]

Even us? The Workers Party isn't the one blindly tail-ending any movement or group that claims to be "grass-roots", "progressive" or "broadly left". Of course we don't believe any kind of worker's power exists in China today.

UNITYBlog said...

Alastair: your declarations of what it is "possible" for a "capitalist government" to do raise intriguing questions if we look at Venezuela. I'm not sure whether you count President Chávez's administration as a "capitalist government", but they certainly rule over a capitalist state, and they're at least doing something right (supporting Hezbollah in 2006, etc).

You see,, that's what I see as the limits of the WP's analysis of the Labour Party. Have you actually read the SW analysis of the NZ Labour Party - our theory of a "social liberal" party dominated by middle-class layers, rather than being a workers' or a "plain bourgeois' party? I've never seen any WP comrade try to argue against it, instead just pushing the WP line as if asserting something in a loud, abrasive voice made it so.

I wasn't aware that Lenin said anything about the NZLP, which wasn't founded until 1916 when Lenin had other things on his mind. I know what he said about the Australian Labor Party, but of course you can't be suggesting that reading the Marxist classics is a substitute for original 21st century Marxist analysis. If you are writing off all Labour-style parties, then in that case, you must, for example, oppose the PSUV in Venezuela (which has many similarities to an old Second International Party). I thought the WP had a good non-sectarian line on the Bolivarian Revolution (or perhaps that's just Tim?)

Must be brief here - we'll try to deal with the other interesting points raised here later.

Alastair said...

"Alastair: your declarations of what it is "possible" for a "capitalist government" to do raise intriguing questions if we look at Venezuela. I'm not sure whether you count President Chávez's administration as a "capitalist government", but they certainly rule over a capitalist state, and they're at least doing something right (supporting Hezbollah in 2006, etc)."

Chavez is an interesting character, as is the Bolivarian Revolution. There are major differences between him and the PSUV, and the NZ Labour Party. Yes, Chavez is still presiding over a largely capitalist state, and a largely capitalist society. This is the main problem I have with him - after roughly a decade in power, he hasn't achieved nearly as much as he could, or indeed as he should have. To me, the Bolivarian Revolution appears to be increasingly more pink than red.

But, Chavez and the PSUV are much more left wing, and much more socialist, than the Labour Party is or ever was. While they are ruling over capitalism, I would characterise them as socialists, and the Venezuelan regime as a socialist one.

I would not call the PSUV a capitalist government - it is a loosely socialist government that is presiding over capitalism.

There's an inherent contradiction there that can't be sustained forever, and eventually either the Venezuelan revolution is going to have to kick things into high gear and move towards a planned socialist economy. Either that, or they're going to be overthrown. I hope it's the former...

The NZLP, on the other hand, is openly and unashamedly capitalist in it's program, it's outlook, it's composition and it's goals for the future. There are few, if any similarities between it and the PSUV, so your argument is moot.

Are you trying to say that because Chavez is able to support Hezbollah, the Labour Party is capable of carrying out an equally radical foreign policy? Sounds dangerously like reformism...


"You see,, that's what I see as the limits of the WP's analysis of the Labour Party. Have you actually read the SW analysis of the NZ Labour Party - our theory of a "social liberal" party dominated by middle-class layers, rather than being a workers' or a "plain bourgeois' party? I've never seen any WP comrade try to argue against it, instead just pushing the WP line as if asserting something in a loud, abrasive voice made it so."

No, I haven't read that. Is there a link to it on this website? If so, I'll give it a read. I'd hardly call Labour all that liberal anymore - it's becoming increasingly authoritarian, e.g. the Electoral Finance Act, anti-tagging policies. I would characterise the Greens as being bourgeois liberals, but Labour I would simply characterise as being bourgeois, full stop.

Do you think Labour is more progressive and worker-friendly than the WP makes out?

Our line is basically that there is nothing to be defended about the Labour Party, it is just as much an enemy of the working class as National and the rest of them, and we should condemn it utterly and with no "ifs" or "buts". Do you disagree with this?

"I wasn't aware that Lenin said anything about the NZLP, which wasn't founded until 1916 when Lenin had other things on his mind. I know what he said about the Australian Labor Party, but of course you can't be suggesting that reading the Marxist classics is a substitute for original 21st century Marxist analysis."

Do you honestly believe that just because Lenin didn't SPECIFICALLY mention the NZ Labour Party as being a "bourgeois workers party", that means it wasn't? That's a ridiculous argument. Lenin's arguments apply equally to the NZ Labour Party, the ALP, the British Labour Party etc etc etc.

I'm not saying that we should proceed dogmatically from early 20th century texts to our theories on the world today, but without a solid grounding in Marxist-Leninist theory how can you ensure that you're theories today actually fit within a genuine socialist framework, as opposed to a social-democratic one? I assume SW still recognises that there is a difference...

"If you are writing off all Labour-style parties, then in that case, you must, for example, oppose the PSUV in Venezuela (which has many similarities to an old Second International Party). I thought the WP had a good non-sectarian line on the Bolivarian Revolution (or perhaps that's just Tim?)"

The PSUV is much more left wing than even most of the Left wings of the Labour Parties were. It openly talks about abolishing capitalism and moving towards socialism, and upholds Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and others. None of the Second International parties did that. It's actual practice is so far somewhat disappointing, but it is still much to the left of the NZLP even in it's early days.

Our basic line towards the Bolivarian Revolution is that we support it's achievements, the extent to which it has radicalised and mobilised large sections of the Venezueland masses, but that we are also critical of many aspects of it, it's increasingly sluggish pace being a good example of this.

Basically, we're a tiny Marxist group in a First World country, and we can't tell the Venezuelan people how to run their revolution.