IT WILL COME as no surprise that Mike Treen, National Director of the Unite Union, has defended Matt McCarten's decision to throw in his lot with the Labour Party.
Treen's close relationship with McCarten should not necessarily colour his opinion of McCarten's political u-turn and I have no evidence that it has, although he does paint a glowing picture of McCarten's political and organisational abilities - which is open to debate.
But what Treen's article does highlight is his muddled thinking about the Labour Party.
As I and others have said many times - at some stage you have to make a final historical judgement about the Labour Party. It is thirty years since Roger Douglas and co overturned the post war social democratic consensus. We've had over three decades of both Labour and National Government's championing the interests of the rich and powerful as well as taking apart the welfare state.
Isn't it time, at long last, to stop trying to revive the corpse of the Labour Party. Isn't it time to stop blowing smoke about a Labour left emerging within the Labour Party? Isn't it time to stop peddling political fantasies about 'reconquering' the Labour Party? Isn't it time to end this infantile disorder?
Apparently not if we are to believe Mike Treen.
He writes that the left should welcome Matt McCarten's appointment as Labour's 'Mr Fix It' because it:
...does mean there will be more opportunity for a united, collaborative campaign of the broader left to get rid of this government. It can make us a little more optimistic that the new government may make decisions a bit more favourable to working people and a little less favourable to big business.
So Labour can, apparently, be an instrument of working class advance because McCarten is the man tending to Labour's organisational and campaign machinery? Really?
Where's the evidence for this claim? Treen doesn't have any except to say that 'Matt has now been offered a position at the heart of the leadership group in a party that has the possibility of leading the next government.' So McCarten will be making policy will he? Treen doesn't say that either but we're supposed to be excited because McCarten 'believes he can and will make a difference.' Right. That's tremendous, Mike. I think I'll pass...
Look at the language Treen employs - we can be a 'little more optimistic' that a Cunliffe Government 'would a bit more favourable to working people and a little less favourable to big business.' This is indeed the politics of low expectations.
Treen isn't asserting that Labour will manage the economy on behalf of ordinary people but he doesn't seem sure what a Labour-led government would offer. In the end, it boils down - yet again - to the dreary argument that Labour is the 'the lesser evil'. After experiencing the 'lesser evil' of previous Labour Government's I somehow doubt that many people will be convinced by Treen's tired old argument.
In effect, Treen is crossing his fingers and hoping for the best. In fact he admits he's not convinced that David Cunliffe is genuine in his desire to make life better for ordinary folk but says that he is ' happy to be proved wrong'. Yeah, so lets all sacrifice the interests of ordinary people on a gamble that Cunliffe won't let us down. But it won't be people like Mike Treen who'll pay the price if it all turns to custard.
The assumption here is that there is something to fight for in Labour, that there is a 'contest of ideas' going down. This is nonsense. I would of thought that Cunliffe's declaration that Labour will not upset the neoliberal status quo is evidence enough that Labour is dead as a progressive force. But Treen apparently likes being beaten around the head with a big stick.
It is this Labour Party though that will lead Treen's misleading 'coalition of the left' with the Green's and the Mana Party tagging along behind. Treen's use of the term 'left' is as reckless as Mana's Annette Sykes.
But Treen doesn't want to be defined as an apologist for the Labour Party and he talks grandly about building 'a movement to the left of Labour.'
It is Treen's use of the word 'movement' that is significant here. According to Treen, in the familiar language employed by groups like the International Socialist Organisation and Socialist Aotearoa , what we need is a 'movement' that will defeat austerity and neoliberalism - and put pressure on the Labour Party to boot. Yes despite all the rhetoric, all roads still lead back to the Labour Party.
Treen isn't interested in beginning the hard work of building a different kind of new left electoral force as a complement to grassroots movements and campaigns. The tragedy is though that longer we postpone undertaking this task, the greater the costs – to the unrepresented and to democracy itself.