The Unite Union's Mike Treen has defended Matt's McCarten's  rush back to the Labour Party. But he's got it all wrong. 

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.


  1. It is disheartening that, in an election year, the only electorate 'alternative' that the left can offer is the Labour Party. The sting in the tail is that even people like Mike Treen think that at best a Labour-led govt would only be a 'minimal' improvement to a National Govt - and he even says that this isn't a certainty either!

    Three years after Labour got cleaned out at the last election we're no further forward. I think we have gone backwards.

    The question then arises why bother voting for Treen's misnamed 'coalition of the left'. It seems to come down to, as Steve suggests, because Labour is not National. We're have I heard that one before? At the last election!

    I don't think this will attract will the 800,000 or so voters who didn't bother to vote at the last election. I note that Treen mentions in his article that McCarten wants to go on some kind of recruitment drive so it looks like it'll be a cynical numbers game from this point on.

    At least this travesty has exposed the intentions of the Mana Party.

  2. If I remember rightly Treen also scoffed at Russell Brand's idea of not voting. If Treen wants to have any credibility at all then he has to offer something better - and the Labour Party isn't it.

  3. Yes, Treen, while he sympathised with Brand's argument, ultimately rejected the idea of the 'non vote'. That's already well but you have to have a better counter offer - and voting for Labour because they are marginally 'less worse' than National is not a better offer. Such is the failure of representative democracy and an issue that Treen and the organisation he subsribes to, the ISO, have failed to address.

  4. There is Mana for a party vote. What are your views on them?

  5. Mana will trot politely behind the Labour Party and that certainly doesn't spin my wheels. I refer you to this 2012 article by John Moore for another perspective on the Mana Party.

    My intention is not to vote, which will be a first for me. But I've had enough of the farce and the lack of genuine choice. Representative democracy is a sham.


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