Although I didn't hear it myself on Saturday - I've listened to it since - Labour leader Phil Goff had some interesting things to say on National Radio's Focus on Politics.

One angry person who was listening on Saturday was commentator and Labour Party supporter Chris Trotter.

Trotter was incensed by what Goff had to say. In fact he's so incensed he wants Phil removed as Labour leader.

The reason for Trotter's chagrin is Goff's rejection of Labour’s founding objective – 'the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange" as 'nineteenth century history'.

That's a charge, ironically, that Trotter as thrown at us socialists - we apparently subscribe to an anachronistic nineteenth century political ideology too.

Goff told interviewer Brent Edwards that his 'modern' Labour Party believed in the free market. In Goff's words Labour believes that "..a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy"

That Goff could say this against the backdrop of global capitalism in meltdown is breathtakingly daft but he goes on to say that the job of Labour was '"how you make a modern capitalist system work more effectively, and work in favour of all of the citizens of a country – and not just the chosen few, the elite at the top."

If this is indeed the case, it makes you wonder what the Clark government was doing for nine years.

For Trotter, who retains a touching but sincere faith in traditional social democratic principles that have been discarded by the western social democratic parties themselves, it is all just too much. He points, somewhat forlornly I think, to various references in the Labour Party constitution:

The dropping of the socialisation clause did not, however, mean that the Labour Party constitution was purged of any and all references to its socialist beliefs and objectives. Even today, the Party’s constitution declares, as one of its foundation principles: "Co-operation, rather than competition, should be the main governing factor in economic relations, in order that a just distribution of wealth can be ensured." And among its objectives one can still read of Labour’s determination: "To ensure the just distribution of the production and services of the nation for the benefit of all the people.", and "To educate the public in the principles and objectives of democratic socialism and economic and social co-operation.

Of course this stuff have been in the constitution since Labour began its march down the neoliberal road to nowhere. In Labour's case, 'democratic socialism' is anything it wants it to be.

Trotter, perhaps more out of sentimentality then logic, remains attached to the notion that Labour can challenge capitalism - despite the fact that it has been the chief promoter of neoliberalism over the past twenty years or so.

He knows this too because he feels he has to justify his continued support for Labour. He does that by setting up a straw man and then knocking it down.

I've made my views known about social democratic reformism before in reference to Trotter's politics, but its disappointing that he still can't resist being economical with the truth about socialist politics. He suggests that socialists want to impose their views on the populace. That's the top-down elitist approach to politics that Helen Clark favoured - but it is not one that socialists adhere to. Socialists start at the grassroots.

While Trotter might be washing his hands of Goff, his only alternative seems to be replacing the low rating Labour leader with someone else. A few weeks ago though he justified his support for Goff on the basis that there was no one to replace him, that there was no-one better waiting in the wings.

Who does he have in mind as a possible replacement? Annette King? Trevor Mallard? David Cunliffe?

The unpalatable truth for Trotter is that Goff is not an exception to the rule. His views are typical of the parliamentary Labour Party.

A few weeks ago, I said that the Labour Party was 'scared of its social democratic past'. I was being too kind - Labour has actually dismissed its past as irrelevant to the modern neoliberal Labour Party that we have come to loathe.

Chris Trotter might be calling for a new leader but this will make no difference to a Labour Party that is 'Labour' in name only.


  1. Great post. Trotter is basically a commentator now - in other words he just says whatever he needs to say to squeeze a few more centimetres out of his column.
    And you're quite right that there is - ironically - no alternative. No one else in that party could step up as a true socialist or social democrat or even as a viable leader.

    I'm interested, though, in where we go from here.
    Now - I admit to a compromising nature and a lack of interest in the finer points of the intercene battles of the left.
    I suspect we can't turn the capitalist tide unless we have parties of the Left actually in power. This country is never going to vote Socialist Party of Aotearoa in government. So, who do we support POLITICALLY? Alliance? Green? Which party can actually carry a social justice, anti-capitalism flag and actually get elected.

  2. Maybe Chris has just spotted that there IS no difference between Labour & National these days and that Goff has the leadership skills and charisma of a mushroom.
    The Labour Party is a joke.

  3. Bob, dont be mean to the mushrooms.


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