In Britain, the call has gone up for a new left party that will give voice to policies that Labour won't advocate. In New Zealand, we're being told that our salvation lies in supporting Labour and the Green's - two parties that have no intention of abandoning their neoliberal policies.
In Britain the call has again gone up for a new left wing party that will provide an economic alternative that the Labour Party won't.
The new initiative has been sparked by filmmaker Ken Loach. He has just released a new film, The Spirit of '45 which charts the post war advances of social democracy and the welfare state.
In a co-written article in The Guardian, Loach observes : 'the promise of opportunity, dignity, health and work, fulfilled by Labour's welfare state after 1945, is not to be one that we can look to today's Labour party for. Yet contemporary Britain – and beyond – is precisely where such policies are needed.'
Loach observes that while economic alternatives are being widely discussed they lack the voice of an organised political party. There are the 'fireworks' of one issue campaigns, isolated protests and a torrent of words on websites and blogs, but conspicuously lacking is the political party that can gather together the forces of the left.
Loach is dismissive of Ed Miliband's Labour Party. He observes that Labour, within the past fortnight, failed to oppose the Tories punitive workfare legislation. Miserably, Labour abstained on the vote in Parliament. Abstained!
We need policies that reject Tory cuts, regenerate the economy and improve the lives of ordinary people. We are not getting this from Labour. There is no doubt that some of Labour's past achievements have been remarkable – the welfare state, the NHS; a redistributive economy making unprecedented levels of health and education possible. But such achievements are in the past. Now Labour embraces cuts and privatisation and is dismantling its own great work. Labour has failed us. Nothing shows the contrast more clearly than The Spirit of '45.
The anomaly which leaves Britain without a left political alternative – one defending the welfare state, investing for jobs, homes and education, transforming our economy – has to end.
There are obvious parallels to be drawn with what is happening in New Zealand. In fact we are in a worse position.
As in Britain, we lack a party that can clearly give voice to the policies of the left. But it is worse than that. There is also no discussion or debate about the need for such a party. While there is a lot of analysis and a lot of the comment, the elephant in the room is continued support for the Labour Party.
We are expected to believe that our salvation lies in a Labour - Green - Mana 'progressive bloc'. When the two major parties hail the 'power of the market' (Russel Norman) how exactly is this a 'progressive bloc'? The question remains unanswered but that is what the mileau of activists , union officials, and bloggers that gravitate around these parties, are offering you.
Writing on The Daily Blog columnist Chris Trotter observes:
If being left-wing means anything, it means being willing to challenge the existing architecture of power and wealth. It means being willing to take big risks on behalf of those who cannot take such risks themselves. It means aligning oneself unequivocally with the poor and the marginalised, and refashioning the agencies of the state, which this National government is fast turning into weapons of oppression, into the tools of enlightenment and emancipation that Labour has always intended them to be.
Fine words indeed, but can you spot the obvious contradiction? Yes, Trotter continues to support Labour. Not only does he continue to support Labour he maintains an outright hostility to the socialist left. Its all very well to wax nostalgically for the days of post-war social democracy but those days are gone and cannot return. It is time to move on but Trotter, averse to socialist politics, can't move on. He is not the only one suffering from this affliction.
Supporting Labour means NOT being willing to challenge the existing architecture of power and wealth. Supporting Labour means NOT being willing to take big risks on behalf of those who cannot take such risks themselves. Supporting Labour means NOT aligning oneself unequivocally with the poor and the marginalised, and refashioning the agencies of the state.
But with Labour Party supporters like Chris Trotter there is always a fundamental difference between what they support and what they say they want.
As in Britain it is time for a political party that offers a clear and unambiguous alternative to neoliberalism. It is not time for the warmed over market polices of Labour and the Green's. More of the same is not good enough.
As the last election illustrated, this 'alternative' is well past its use-by date. It should be kicked into the dustbin of history but, unfortunately, this unappetising gruel is going to served up again at the next general election.
If Labour loses again it'll be leader David Shearer who'll wear the blame. But the cabal that is presently urging us to support the 'progressive bloc' will, as they did at the last election, walk quietly away. If Labour wins they will bask in the reflected glory. If Labour loses, they won't shoulder any of the responsibility.
He's been quoted often before but Antonio Gramsci's observation that 'the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear' is appropriate. It certainly applies to the New Zealand political landscape.