Here's a radical new idea! Vote Labour! Zzzz.....
Last Saturday over a thousand people marched in Christchurch to protest the proposed part-sale of the Government's four electricity companies. The protest was one of several held up and down the country.
Labour politicians were in attendance at many of the protests. Presumably the majority of the crowd would of thought that the Labour Party was 'on their side'.
However a few days earlier Labour's finance spokesperson, David Parker, told a meeting of business suits that: 'Labour is a progressive party: fundamentally it is the party of change, the party that is willing to make structural changes when necessary'.
But Parker wasn't talking about the kind of 'structural changes' that a socialist or even a traditional Labourite might hope for.
Parker's speech was essentially an assurance to capital that Labour remains loyal to neoliberalism and they can count on Labour not to 'rock the boat'.
Within his speech Parker also said:
We also think infrastructure assets with monopoly characteristics are especially important to the functioning of the wider economy.
Labour published a closed list of assets that we believe ought to be run in the New Zealand interest because they have monopoly characteristics - assets such as electricity line networks, water and airports.
The list excludes telecommunications and electricity generation.
It was columnist Chris Trotter, I think, who first alerted people to Parker's reflections and he was the first to highlight Labour's duplicity . He wrote:
What Mr Parker was telling his audience of top-level banking and accounting talent spotters was that Labour does not include electricity generation on its list of “infrastructure assets” that ought to be “run in the New Zealand interest”.
So, all those people standing on street corners with clip-boards collecting signatures for a Citizens Initiated Referendum on asset sales; all those thousands of people planning to march in the “Aotearoa Is NOT For Sale!” protest this Saturday; all those hundreds of Labour Party members who’ve been reassuring their workmates and neighbours that the Caucus is rock-solid against the sale of Mighty River Power and Genesis Energy; all of them are wasting their time. Because “energy generation” isn’t even on Labour’s “closed list” of assets that should never be sold.
Blogger Martyn Bradbury extended Trotter's theme when he queried whether the lack of commitment to telecommunications spelt the end for public broadcasting in New Zealand.
Having fronted a series of Labour - backed 'Save TVNZ7' meetings throughout the country, Parker's apparent disinterest in public broadcasting must of been a bitter pill for Bradbury to swallow.
Blowing my own trumpet, I wrote a post a few weeks ago that argued that the 'Save TVNZ7' meetings were essentially propaganda vehicles for Labour. They allowed Labour's broadcasting spokesperson, Clare Curran, to go around the country championing her party as the defender of public broadcasting - when nothing could be further from the truth. I think Parker's comments further confirmed my observation - Labour is telling capital the real story and selling the public cheap and bad fiction.
So if its 'business as usual' with Labour - as Chris Trotter himself describes it - what are people like Chris Trotter and Martyn Bradbury going to do about it? Since they have a larger media profile than we terrible socialists - who have little profile, frankly - many of their readers probably take on board, or at least consider, their conclusions.
But they are getting a bum steer when it comes to the Labour Party.
The message, unfortunately, is an all too familiar one - we're sticking with Labour. There's a lot of huffin' and puffin' but, in the end, its another round of flag waving for Labour. Go straight to neoliberal jail and do not collect $200 and a copy of Capital Vol 3.
Trotter, who is a member of Labour Party, thinks the 'solution' is to replace leader David Shearer with, wait for it, David Cunliffe. Apparently Shearer is right wing and Cunliffe, well, isn't.
I know Labour's cupboard is rather bare in terms of political talent and completely empty when it comes to anyone who has any kind of ideological commitment to anything other than the 'free market' , but to hold up Cunliffe as some kind of 'progressive' alternative is really clutching at straws, shuffling the cards, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Cunliffe advocates some adjustment of the neoliberal settings but that's about it. It is incongruous that Trotter attacks Parker for his continued support for neoliberal policies but then turns around and supports someone who isn't offering anything substantially different. This is the same David Cunliffe who commented before the last election that Labour wouldn't shirk from its responsibilities to make the 'necessary' cuts. I didn't hear Trotter attacking Cunliffe for such remarks.
I now await the correspondence that will inform me that I'm wrong about Cunliffe and that he reads Marx in his spare time. Or maybe I'll get the cold shoulder. Whatever.
Martyn Bradbury is aware, kind of, that support for Labour is problematic and his solution is a Labour-Green- Mana 'progressive bloc'. This was also his solution before the last election and look where that got him.
The problem is that this 'progressive bloc' consists of two parties who won't be breaking with the neoliberal orthodoxy anytime soon and the small Mana Party whose influence would be nominal. How is this a 'progressive bloc' exactly?
What Trotter and Bradbury share in common, along with the trade union big wigs I might add, is the mistaken notion that a passive working class electorate simply needs to be mobilised around the 'right' policies. They just need to be attracted to the right 'brand'.
But socialist politics tell us that this is wrong. If a new working class movement is to emerge it can only do so through good old class struggle. Urging Labour to break with its neoliberal orthodoxy is a failed strategy. But that's what we can expect in the lead up to the next general election.
I used to call this the 'road to nowhere' but, these days, it's looking more like the road to hell.