Tuesday, August 01, 2017

All hitherto existing history of the New Zealand Labour party is a history of ignorance to class struggle.


In recent years the Labour leadership fiasco has been an ongoing fight against the inevitable decline of the 101 year old party as predicted by its former leader David Lange in a 1991 column in the Dominion newspaper.
"TRANS Tasman Labour Party celebrations have become a tad maudlin. The Australian Labor Party celebrates its centennial this year [1991] teetering on the edge of the electoral cliff. The New Zealand Labour party saw its 75th birthday out having gone over the side in large numbers [1990 general election defeat]. It is no great comfort to us that we have to roll aside smartly to deny the National Party lemmings a soft landing.Given there is no warrant to assume immorality the question must be raised as to whether Labour will make it to another significant anniversary. It would be foolhardy in these volatile times to predict what will happen, so I pursue instead the question of what should happen. The obvious question is as to whether there is still a place for labour."(David Lange 15 July 1991)
Indeed this crisis in the leadership is really nothing at all new Lange himself faced a long uphill battle to replace the ill-fated bill Rowling as leader in the early 1980s. considering this I would argue that labour has been going through an on and off leadership crisis since the death of Norman Kirk in 1974 and perhaps has its roots as far back as the founding of its predecessor organization the Social Democrat Party in 1913.

Like any party that is large enough to govern Labour has been long beset by opposing factions from the rather diverse labour movement and exacerbated by the fact that the party attracted liberal opportunists after it began to gain momentum. The root of the problem may be traced back to the Labour movement response to the 1912 Waihi miners’ strike. the United Labour party and its associated moderate unionists were critical of this action perhaps due to the moderate party's rejection of the all-important class struggle concept that defines the Anti-Capitalist left from the reformist left. The strike in Waihi was one of the leading factors in creating the labour party we know today a party that in its early years thrived under the leadership of those who had come from the radical "Socialist Party" faction within the Labour movement.

By the early 1980s however Labour was no longer the force it had been in the 1930s to 1940s National had dominated government throughout the mid-century and Labour had struggled to reach the rural working class after the "furlough" controversy of 1943 that weakened the parties standing among the provincial working class. The young up and comers in the labour party became critical of the failure of Kensian economics in the 1970s and believed that something else was needed to bring about the goals of the Labour movement. Crucially however the answer that silver spoon opportunists such as Roger Douglas presented was not Marxism (which we know is unacceptable to the moderate core of the labour party due to the "Class Struggle" foundation that is abhorrent to the opportunists in the Labour movement) but was rather the ill-suited Neo-Liberalism born out of Milton Friedman's rebranding of the stale and dated Classical Liberalism that had brought the workers of the world so much hardship during the great depression. Lange himself an economic lightweight fell for this and the die was cast for the labour party of today.

In the United Kingdom Labour has faced a crisis very much like what we have faced here however the rise of the outspoken Jeremy Corbyn who advocates for Democratic Socialism (an early revision of Marxism that is almost acceptable to the opportunist moderates but not quite) has provided a fresh hope that is almost absent in New Zealand and has been all but ignored by the New Zealand Labour party establishment who continue down the same path to oblivion that they have trod since the 1980s. so with little chance of the New Zealand left being able to follow the path laid out by Corbyn in the UK the New Zealand left and more importantly the Anti-Capitalist left must take a lead in bringing the politics of class struggle back in to the public mind. But for a deeply divided sectarian mess this is a true challenge as ideological purity has become more important than the class struggle itself for many among us. A unified anti-capitalist movement is crucial to progress a movement free from the opportunists who have beset the New Zealand left for the past 30+ years a movement of our class for a better world.



Comrade Eva.

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