|Larry Krasner (kneeling): Philadelphia's new left wing Attorney General.|
While the American left continues to grow and prosper, the New Zealand left continues to be locked into a failed relationship with the Labour Party.
A FORTNIGHT AGO Larry Krasner was elected Attorney General of Philadelphia. What was significant about this election victory was Krasner, a Democratic Party candidate, was endorsed and backed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
Krasner hasn't made any secret of his left wing affiliations. As a defence lawyer he has defended arrested members of the DSA, Occupy and Black Lives Matter. He has sued the Philadelphia police seventy-five times.
Krasner told the media that he "stood for change from outside conventional politics".
Krasner, every each way, was anything but the conventional, establishment-approved political candidate. But he still trounced his Republican rival, winning an overwhelming 75 percent of the vote. Which left the president of the local police officers union with egg on his face. He had dismissed Krasner's candidacy as "hilarious".
Krasner's success may of what prompted Philadelphia magazine to run an extensive article, by Holly Otterbein, looking at the rise of socialist and left wing politics in the United States. 'The Kids Are All Red: Socialism Rises Again in the Age of Trump', charts the dramatic rise of a political movement whose ideas the American establishment has tried to bury - which journalist Abby Martin has outlined in a excellent documentary for The Empire Files.
|The Democratic Socialists of America : Membership is rocketing.|
Many American socialist parties and groups are reporting significant rises in their memberships. The DSA, for example, has seen its membership quadruple in the space of just one year. A year ago it had some 7,000 members, it now has over 30,000 members and is continuing to grow.
The article observes that the rise of socialism in America is no aberration, a temporary blip on the American political landscape that will eventually disappear. It comments that there is a real antipathy and hostility toward capitalism abroad in America:
"...there seems to be room for groups like DSA to grow: According to a Harvard University poll, 51 percent of millennials don’t support capitalism. A smaller percentage of Gen Xers, though still a plurality, are sceptical of the free-market system. The only age group to decisively embrace capitalism is the 50-plus demographic."
The article makes for, at times, inspiring reading. The choice is undoubtedly either socialism or barbarism, and more and more American folk are choosing socialism.
But it is also chastening when we reflect on the sterility of much of what constitutes left wing politics in New Zealand. Could we expect to read a similar article, perhaps titled: 'The Kids Are All Red : Socialism Rises Again in the Age of Ardern?' Sadly, no.
While the American left is forging a future largely independent of the Democratic Party and a politics forged within the socialist tradition, much of what constitutes the New Zealand left remains joined at the hip to the Labour Party. Despite the fact that three decades of unswerving loyalty to neoliberalism has extinguished Labour as a progressive force, much of the left still thinks it is worthy of its support - because it is supposedly preferable to National. That a significant section of New Zealand society doesn't actually believe this and no longer votes, appears not to matter.
|Simon Wilson : No socialism please, I'm a radical centrist.|
The Labour-supporting intelligentsia remain hostile to socialist politics and instead have turned to 'radical centrism.'
One such advocate for 'radical centrism' is the Auckland editor for the website Spin Off, Simon Wilson. After declaring that Rogernomics made New Zealand 'a better place' Wilson, a former Maoist, tries to define 'radical centrism' in a New Zealand context. But even just a cursory reading of his article can only lead to the conclusion that what he is offering is warmed-over 'Third Way' politics', a flawed belief that capitalism and the market economy can somehow be managed for the betterment of all - but leaves the means of production in the hands of the capitalist class and leaves the power structures of capitalism intact.
What Wilson studiously ignores is that while there is a thirst for real change in New Zealand it cannot be met by the timid pro-capitalist policies of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition, even if it is dressed up as 'radical centrism'.
What is really needed is an independent and radical left, one that isn't beholden to the electoral interests of the Labour Party. The American left has demonstrated that there is a way forward without falling into the trap of revolutionary rhetoric. What it has successfully managed to do is put on the political agenda the 'novel' idea that the majority of the people, not the one percent, should own most of the wealth. We need to do that here as well.