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Future Lefts - `At the going down of the sun...'

Future Lefts - `At the going down of the sun...'

Tuesday 25th April 2000

`At the going down of the sun...'


Editorial: Anzac Memories
Results of the SGM
Yo Skanky Tory blow-hards, suck my poll
Zimbabwe Nightmare
The News
Web site of the week.


Editorial: Anzac Memories

I guess the title isn't all that appropriate. I wasn't born here, but in Canada we had Armistice Day, a minute's silence at 11am and all that kind of thing. The idea of having the shops close for a morning to commemorate a battle seemed a bit odd at first.

And yet Anzac is something that seems to be steeped into this country more deeply than we sometimes know. You read a lot of rhetoric about how it formed the nation's identity, and that I think comes with an obligatory grain of salt, but it's definitely an important moment in our history. The operation probably deserves to be known as `Churchill's Folly' but it is instead remembered for the thousands of imperial troops from New Zealand and Australia who gave their lives in what was a strategic gamble that failed.

The lessons Anzac day teaches are simple ones. A profoud respect for those men who went and fought is one. How many people of my generation, I ask myself, would have the moral courage to go and fight for freedom where it really counts -- risking everything for abstract ideals like freedom and peace?

It also brings to mind the old chestnut: the price of peace is eternal vigilance. And without wanting to be partisan about it, the new Government's defence review is an important point in that maintenance of vigilance. Never again can we have the situation where the defence forces are so run down that lives are lost, senselessly and needlessly, simply because we didn't have the will to pay for decent equipment during peacetime. Granted, it is unlikely that we'll ever again be involved in someone else's war on the other side of the world on such a scale, but there are 800+ New Zealand military personnel overseas at this moment, and some of their gear is sadly out of date.

At the end of the day, we need to remember the sacrifice the Anzacs made so that we never have to pay that price again. In a different world, wars are smaller -- but no less bloody. Our long record of international involvement shows that we aren't adverse to making a difference as and when we can. Let's hope that we can continue to stand on principle, rather than trade or any other less upright reason, to justify our continued engagement with the rest of the world.

Two poems sum up for me the Anzac spirit; they are both repeated below. Isn't it odd how some of the most vivid language in our culture is used in memory of the fallen?

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McRae

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Results of the SGM

An SGM of Young Labour was held at Parliament, in the Government Caucus room, on Saturday 15th of April. Approximately 25 people were present, with members from places as far afield as Auckland, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Napier and even Wainuiomata.

The main point of the SGM was to debate the age range of the organisation. A robust debate with plenty of discussion was held, and the end result was a close vote in favour of the status quo, with a few changes which will have the effect of allowing 25 and 26 year olds to stand for Executive if they wish to make a contribution. The age issue has come about several times and the concern has always been to allow the organisation to retain the services of older activists, and the amendments agreed to achieve this without making our age range unmanageably large.

There was also good discussion on a whole range of other issues, including the future of Young Labour while in Government, and contributions from Lianne Dalziel and David Cunliffe on how the Caucus sees our role developing. It is heartening to know that the party and Caucus are strongly committed to Young Labour's future development, and are showing an interest.

Also discussed was Annual Conference, which is coming up at Queen's Birthday weekend. If you're a member of Young Labour, my advice is: keep that weekend free, and get in touch with family or friends in Wellington for a place to stay. This conference is our first in Government since 1990, and it's going to be good.


Yo Skanky Tory blow-hards, suck my poll

In a manner as ominous as Simon Dallow can pull off, we were warned in a One 'News' Update that the latest poll showed that the Government's honeymoon was over. A nervous wait ensued until the dire Colmar-Brunton verdict was delivered, and what a shattering blow it was. After a transitory peak of fifty two percent support last month, Labour's support dramatically slumped to a parlous fifty percent in this most recent survey of opinion. From memory, our Coalition partner the Alliance was sitting on five percent, while the Greens continued their steady rise, to rest on seven percent support. All in all, a pretty triumphant set of indicators for the parties of the left, with combined popular support of sixty two percent, it's pretty clear that the national electorate approves of the government's progress.

This was largely echoed in the CM Research Poll released on the same day, and came at a time when the opposition was smugly basking in the light-bulb light of some recent coverage. Earlier in the month of course, the Prime Minister apologised to civil servants who she had berated for, as it turned out, were following instructions issued earlier. Going by National's gloating following the apology, it would seem that the warped sense of right and wrong that governs the Tory mind conceives of a Prime Minister who shows such humility and integrity as weak. Quite to the contrary, the public seems to find this refreshingly honest approach quite befitting to the Office of the Prime Minister after years of double-talk and cover-ups. The right has also been putting a lot of energy in to attacking the government on its plans for ACC, defence, and Industrial Relations. What they are quite blithely ignoring is the fact that the parties of the Left won the debate on these issues on the 27th of November when they received a solid mandate from the people of New Zealand. That's why their vigour with which they have thrown themselves at these issues is totally futile, and will not help their abysmal levels of public support. The Light Brigade would have laughed at the recent Tory charge.

How abysmal? Well enough for the sharks to begin circling the present leadership clique. With support in the recent polls in the 25-29 percent range, it's no wonder that the hopeless Wyatt Creech (apparently the Nat's Deputy Leader) is being prodded from Nationals' 'Brat Pack' (these guys are 'cool, young and hip' - Nick Smith 'digs' Simon and Garfunkel). It would seem that Roger Sowry is lining himself up for a challenge to Creech pretty soon, while the most anally retentive of anally retentive National MP's, Bill English is licking those fiscally dry lips in anticipation of a torpedo launch against the Big Ship.

The others on the right don't look to be in much better shape. ACT came in at 5 percent, meaning that any slip in support, combined with a failure to win any electorate seats would mean electoral oblivion for our friends to the right. Boo-hoo.

New Zealand First (1-2%) have as much electoral traction as a set of bald tyres on a wet road that is made of cheese. Meanwhile, United continues to consolidate its solid .5% base.

So it's mostly looking good. The only downer is the Alliances' low level of measurable support. Simply, it's unfair. The Alliance has worked just as conscientiously and responsibly to get this government in to office, and have carried on in that vein to this day. Not only is there a question of justice here, but the long-term electoral viability of the Left still, to my mind, rests on a solid Alliance vote. The Greens are all very good and well, but a broad based and ideologically committed party such as the Alliance is entirely necessary in the long-run to prevent those sympathetic to the left, but disaffected with Labour from supporting an 'angry party' like New Zealand First. On a less electorally-superficial plane, a strong party to the left of Labour is important as a break on any elite-driven lurch to the right in our party; something not without precedent.

In any case, there's (touchwood) a long time to before the next election. The challenge then is two-fold: firstly, we must work to maintain a level of support around fifty percent. Only with such unequivocal support can Labour move onwards boldly in the construction of a Social Democratic model for the world to marvel at (so Michael dreams.). Secondly, the Alliance must be given sufficient space and coverage to ensure that we have a strong, vibrant partner in he years to come.

Michael Wood.


Zimbabwe Nightmare

Unfounded violence had a somewhat shocking effect. While from personal experience I can say that the effect is shredded by coming through the TV screen, the images that I have seen coming from Zimbabwe carry enough horror to be quite sickening in their effect. One instinctively feels for the people who appear to suddenly have become pawns in some mad dictator's last toss of the dice, seeking power once more.

When Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, there were clear problems with the distribution of land. White commercial farmers monopolised the land, leaving the indigenous people to suffer without proper resources. It seems to me that if the intervening 20 years had seen sensible policies and the development of an open and liberal democracy, perhaps the wealth would have become available to purchase land from the farmers and give it to the blacks.

Instead, Zimbabwe has "enjoyed" the none-too-tender mercies of a ruthless and calculating dictator ever since independence. The one party state he created, in a so-called left wing way, is repulsive to all liberal democrats around the world. If you didn't support ZANU-PF or the President, then you were an enemy of the state. It seems that the tensions that a failing economy and totalitarian government create have finally come home to roost, and that Mugabe and his ZANU-PF clique are no longer popular.

So he brands the legitimate opposition as enemies of the state, and encouraged mob violence and murder, to protect his political future.

I hope it fails. I also hope Robert Mugabe burns in hell for all eternity, but that's another issue. If there are inequities in land distribution in Zimbabwe, the sane way to solve them is simple: use rates. If you have higher land taxes on large lots, it is obvious that large land holding will be broken up. However, it doesn't appear that Mugabe wants a solution. He wants to win an election, and I'm glad he's been seen for what he is - an enemy of his own people, who certainly doesn't deserve their votes. All that remains is to see if terrorism defeats sanity in the minds of the people of Zimbabwe, whenever the election comes around.



The News

I've been insulated from the news of the world while on holiday in Wellington, and was having a good time so didn't really give a crap either. I'll try to not make too much up.

Susanne Paul is the new leader of the British Conservative Party. Departing leader William Hague was quoted as saying: "if she can sell that shit on TV, then may be she can sell our policies too, maybe".

Turning to something less rational, interesting things happened on the American stockmarket this week. After months of absurd and astronomical rises, the high-tech Nasdaq index crashed, and lost a whole lot of rich guys a whole lot of money that they didn't need. The impact in New Zealand wasn't too serious due to our sharemarkets' more steady growth (read: stagnation), and our smaller, less vulnerable high-tech sector. Some of our rich guys lost quite a bit of money too though.

This didn't stop the Reserve Bank from raising the Official Cash Rate by 0.25%, leading to a hike in mortgage rates. The rise was a response to increased, although still modest inflation in the past quarter (0.7%). Jim Anderton has spoken out against the Reserve Bank move, while our own Michael Cullen has been more circumspect.

Three Cheers for Foreign Minister Phil Goff! After years of silence, New Zealand has spoken out against the punitive system of sanctions that have impoverished the people of Iraq since the Gulf war. It's encouraging that the Minister has taken heed of the urgings of Matt Robson and the Greens on this issue.

The Prime Minister also took a strong line on the international stage this week, meeting with Tony Blair and issuing a strong statement on Robert Mugabe's devious and divisive stirrings in Zimbabwe. Following her whirlwind British trip, the PM has shot over to Turkey for the first state visit ever there by a New Zealand leader, a highlight being today's emotional Gallipoli service.



Web site of the week - Demos UK

Demos, at www.demos.co.uk, is one of Britain's leading left wing think tanks. Their site gives a brief overview of the organisation's publications and activities. It's a longstanding problem, I think, that the left in New Zealand lacks a lot of serious academic grunt. There are honourable and notable exceptions, but I think it would be immensely good if we were to develop a few organisations like Demos ourselves. Have a look and see what you think.


All submissions should be to the editor, Jordan Carter, at carters@ihug.co.nz.

The News, and Polls item from Michael Wood, michael@semrits.co.nz.

While this newsletter is published in the name of Young Labour, the contents is entirely the responsibility of the editor and the views expressed here don't constitute any official position of Young Labour. All contents copyright (c) 2000. Subscribe at younglabour-subscribe@listbot.com

Te Wairua Hou - The New Spirit - http://www.younglabour.org.nz The Future Is With Labour - http://www.labour.org.nz

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