Illustration by Porcupine Farm
Britain has Ken Loach and Left Unity. We've got Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party. Which one would you choose? 

LAST WEEK THE  Labour Party of Ed Miliband voted for the Com-Lib government's   legislation to put a cap on welfare benefits. A mere thirteen Labour MP's voted against this new attack on the poor.

The measure will cap welfare spending at £119.5billion in 2015-16. The government  will have to  make cuts of some £3 billion to come under the ceiling of the welfare cap.   According to Save the Children, the welfare cap will push a  further 345,000 children into poverty.

Perhaps to coincide with the vote, The Guardian published a withering  attack on Labour  from renowned  film maker Ken Loach:

The coalition parties proclaim the importance of the market economy. So does Labour. The coalition cuts back on public enterprise and prioritises the interests of big corporations and private companies. So did the last Labour government. Whenever workers organise to defend jobs, wages or conditions, who supports them? Not Ed Miliband or other Labour leaders.

He also poured cold water on those who still think that the  Labour Party is somehow still  salvageable for the left:

Labour's rhetoric may be softer than the Tories', but its fundamental stance is limited by the same imperative: profit comes before all else. Can the Labour party be reclaimed? Or, rather, made anew into one that will represent the interests of the people?

History suggests it cannot. The high-water mark of 1945 is long gone. The many great achievements of that government have largely been dismantled, either with the collusion of Labour or directly by the party when it has been in power. ....The Labour party is part of the problem, not the solution. The Greens have many admirable policies, but we look in vain for a thoroughgoing analysis for fundamental change. We need a new voice, a new movement – a new party.

Of course Britain does have a new party - Left Unity,  the party that Ken Loach called for.  

This week  Left unity  has reported an upsurge in new memberships, most likely driven by Labour's support for the welfare cap.

Loach observes that people are angry but political leadership is required to focus that anger and to give people hope for the future.

In the face of the continued neoliberal assault on the working conditions  and the  lives of ordinary British people, Left Unity stands resolutely on the side of the folk that the Labour Party has  betrayed and abandoned.

At least there is now the semblance of a fightback and  growing recognition that the Labour Party is a political dead end for ordinary people.

But the absence of a genuine  left wing party in New Zealand   has  seen  many  'lefties'  rush to embrace the Internet Party as a decisive electoral weapon in the fight against John Key.

The Mana leadership are  now making noises about forming an electoral alliance with Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party. This is in despite of the fact  that the multi-millionaire Dotcom has expressed no interest in left wing politics and was last seen donating money to the mayoral campaign of arch-right winger John Banks.

Whether this deal will go down is uncertain and it will be debated at the Mana Party's upcoming AGM.  But, already , a high profile member like Sue Bradford has  indicated she will walk from Mana if any deal is done with the Internet Party. It is likely she would take other members with her.

Whatever  the ultimate  result of this game of musical chairs, the final configuration  that emerges  will remain one that backs the right wing  Labour Party and this offers nothing for ordinary people.

It is  all very well for an organisation  like  the International Socialist Organisation to observe that the Internet Party episode has highlighted  'how ridiculously shallow New Zealand politics is'  but continued support for  the Labour Party as the 'lesser evil' has contributed to that very shallowness. It has stifled the development of new ideas and it has prevented real debate.

Until a final break is made with the Labour Party and we begin to forge a culture of genuine socialist aspirations, involving the formation of a new political party, then people like Kim Dotcom will always come to a prominence that they don't deserve - and there ALWAYS will be so-called 'progressives' who are prepared  to make  opportunistic deals with people like him.


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