Future Lefts - Red Pride
*New Feature* - All over the world. To change it
*New Feature* - The Torysaurs
News - News so hard that porn novels struggle to define the intensity of its hardness
Website of the Week
Firstly, an apology for the missed edition last fortnight. Unfortunately, there were major problems with the server we rely on to distribute Future Lefts. The distribution site required wasn't available for use until about a week after the time that the last edition ought to have gone out. We are looking into this problem.
Moving along however, we have what I hope you will find to be an interesting edition. Included are a couple of new features. One is a regular column from Steph Thompson, the International Affairs Liason on the Young Labour Exec. The column is going to explore international issues and events relevant to us as young Socialists. This week she introduces IUSY, an organisation that Young Labour is increasing its interaction with. The other new feature, "The Torysaurs" is a piss take. So if you're a whiny young Nat type reading this, take a chill pill in advance - it's just a joke. In fact it will be an ongoing joke, at the expense of Tories of course.
I've entitled this edition "Red Pride" because of a couple of events that I have taken part in recently. The first was the Anzac day dawn service. As always it was moving, and at 5.15AM in the morning, it takes a good deal to "move" me. At the service, a good address was given by a padre, in which he examined the idea of war. As you would expect, he held the idea of one group of men fighting another group of men until one side had so many killed that they could no longer continue, to be repellant. He did acknowledge however that there were just battles to be fought to "protect the weak, and defend the meek". This struck me as something that is really at the heart of our Socialist beliefs. We do not accept that those who are weakest, or meekest ought to rolled by those with more power, power in a capitalist society being money. Just for a quiet moment that morning, all of the debates about delivery mechanisms, incentives, and free trade were washed from my mind, and it was all brilliantly simple: we protect the weak.
The other event that I attended was the annual Mayday March up Queen Street. In one sense I found it pleasing. Whereas I had gone along last year with just one other person from the Princes St Branch (and even then with only the purpose of hitting on someone at the March in mind), we had a merry contingent of 10 University activists this year. We even had a makeshift "Princes St, NZLP" banner. As I looked around though, I saw nothing else with those four letters; N Z L P, on it. Nothing. Here, on the one day a year on which we openly celebrate the achievements of the Labour movement, we had virtually no presence.
>From a senior Party person I heard that a Labour presence was considered inappropriate due to the misfit nature of the procession. This is in a way a reasonable point. Groups such as the Socialist Workers do have a tendency to take over such events and shout incredibly provocative messages through megaphones at stunned looking crowds of middle class shoppers. Maybe we don't want to be associated with that. However, it is ultimately a cop-out. There is no reason why the Labour ought not to be able to organise significant public celebrations of its own on this very special day. I had rather thought that there is quite a lot for us to celebrate thanks to this government.
PS: Remember, you are encouraged to contribute. Just send your article to me at the address at the very end of Future Lefts
Auckland Regional Conference
The Conference ran in the Otahuhu Townhall on the evening of the 27th, and the full day of the 28th of April. By and large, it was a well-managed affair. One key problem however was the short duration of the conference. To meaningfully plough through 120 remits, as well as fitting in a large number of speeches from important Party figures (which dare I say, invariably run over time), in such a short space of time, is highly problematic. IMHO, more time is simply needed if we are truly serious about this being a meaningful step in the policy process.
Whinging aside, the Conference had some notable high points. The chief of which was undoubtedly a surprise visit from the Prime Minister, fresh off the plane from her Asian trip. It was certainly encouraging to see and hear from not only her, but a number of key Ministers, and the Party President. This was a good sign that the Party hierarchy does take the grassroots Party seriously.
Young Labour was also given the opportunity to present itself to the conference. This was ably done by Jordan Carter, who with a finely crafted speech, let it be known that Young Labour has a lot to offer the Party, and that co-operation between our sector and the senior Party is vital for future electoral success. A good indication that this message was taken seriously was the willingness of the Auckland Regional Council Chairperson, Gordon Duncan, to distribute the messages of Jordan's speech to Party members through the Regional Newsletter.
As usual, remit debate at the Conference was wide ranging and mind broadening. Pleasingly, a large body of young people spoke (and spoke well) at various points in the debate, and a good portion of what were sometimes quite radical remits from the Princes St Branch, were accepted by Conference. This once again re-enforced in my mind the fact that Labour people "on the ground" are by and large, highly progressive. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in what kind or remits were passed in certain areas.
So, in the spirit of good conclusions every where, I will say that: all in all, it was a good conference. The palpable sense of optimism that cam from both the invited speakers, and the body of delegates bodes extremely well for activity in the Auckland region this year.
As the battle between the past and future heats up over the National Party's presidency, commentators have yet another chance to look at the failings of the party's first period in opposition since the 1980's. With the standings at the time of writing being in favour of the status quo (John Slater beat Michelle Boag by a comfortable 164-125 margin at the weekend's Auckland regional conference, compared to her 67-66 vote win the previous weekend), you have to ask, what does it take to make National change?
It has to be said that the failings are not hard to find. In the past 18 months the Opposition has consistently had chances to put the Government on the defensive - spending restraint, the business revolt, the ERA, changes to property relationships legislation, the people's bank, state sector reforms, defence policy changes. In pretty much every case, the Opposition has thrown in the towel before any serious hits were landed. It took a campaign led by business over the ERA last year to even dent the Government, and since then we've seen consistent backdowns from Shipley and her team.
Of course, the main driver of this is that National's senior members know their party is in serious trouble. An activist base that is ageing substantially, as well as a lack of any obvious defining policy positions, makes it hard for National to attract either young activists (despite spurious recruitment claims from the Young Nationals), or those in the key 35-55 age brackets. The grey hairs can't keep National running forever, and the people National prizes as its core constituency are staying away, too.
This lack of pull among the 35-55 age group is signal, too, to National's deeper strategic problems. Squeezed on the right by a now-populist party whose leader is a political streetfighter par excellence, and pushed out of the centre by a careful and pragmatic Labour Party, National's space on the spectrum is smaller than it has ever been. The party also faces the constraint that it has only one significant viable coalition partner, whereas Labour has two. Overall, the strategic position does not look healthy.
Polling numbers provide some evidence for the idea that National is squeezed on the spectrum. National has sat consistently on the 32-35% mark, just above its disastrous 1999 election result, except on the few occasions where the Government made its own mistakes. The polls also indicate something I have been thinking about for a while - that since the introduction of MMP anyway, and arguably in 1993 as well, voters were looking for a more centre-left government. 1993 saw the vote split between Labour and the Alliance, and 1996 saw the Peters aberration. One can mount a fairly strong argument that the centre-left has become the natural home of a majority of voters, and is likely to remain so for some considerable time, as long as Labour remains in its current pragmatic mood.
Besides the inability to campaign effectively against the Government, the lack of policy and therefore of active supporters, and the strategic dilemmas National faces, there is the ongoing issue of Shipley's leadership. You have to seriously ask why a Caucus that was lead to defeat by someone would keep them in a position such as Shipley's (unless the alternative refused to consider any change in his own interests). Admittedly, the Labour caucus kept Clark after 1996, but they were very aware of her skills and talents, and that she was the best person in the job. With someone like English behind the throne, one wonders why the Nats are waiting for a change.
Solutions to National's problems are not easy to come by, which merely supports the old argument that Oppositions don't win elections; Governments lose them. They could help by changing their president, getting a new leader, forcing Labour back from the centre, developing some policies, providing a vision attractive to that nebulous "Middle New Zealand" group and thereby obtain support and activists.
Of course to do that requires political courage, which is precisely what National lacks.
Which is why come 2002, National's history - again.
All over the world. To change it.
Being involved in a political party it's so easy to get caught up in domestic politics and forget about the bigger picture. In carrying on a proud tradition that Labour Governments have played in the field of International politics, Future Lefts will now include an international section to keep you up to date on what is happening outside of New Zealand.
As a starting point I thought I would introduce an organisation that Young Labour belongs to called the International Union of Socialist Youth. It's a federation of the youth wings of most of the parties in the Socialist International and has 130+ member organisations in over 100 countries. Which acts as a link between national organisations, running coordinated campaigns, bringing pressure to bear on various issues such as abuses of human rights and repressive regimes. You can find out more about IUSY at www.iusy.org
Long long ago, in an age that few remember, and fewer want to, there lived a breed of creatures so privilged, so conceited, and so haughty that they managed to fool all others to bow before them. In time however, a combination of poor genetic variation, caused by excessive in-breeding, and preposterously small brains, led to their demise, and replacement by an evolutionarily superior, and generally more attractive breed…
So let's take a walk my friends back through the annals of history to those dim dark ages when the Torysaurs ruled the earth…
Today we profile: Ryallasaurus Rex Genus: campusbutstraightus suresure
The Ryallasaurus Rex rose to prominence in the late Bolgeresque period, proving to be a resilient but hardly noteworthy breed. Ryallasaurus tended to hunt in packs with other breeds such as the Sowrysaur and Englishapod, probably to cover it's own deficiencies as a predator. Lacking teeth and claws of any note, Ryallasaurus tended to take advantage of the kills achieved by his marginally more impressive and aggressive counterparts.
Lacking in brute strength or wit, the Ryallasaur did however have the raw cunning to avoid skirmishes that were beyond its limited capabilities. Excavations that reveal titanic struggles between the Bigshipodocus and the Englishopod have for instance found evidence of other creatures caught between the slashing mandibles and swishing tails of these two beasts. Never once in the fossil record does Ryallasaurus show up as having been caught in this crossfire. Instead it would appear that he tended to scurry off during such confrontations, only to return when the dust had settled to pick the bones of the loser, and preen at the victor.
Further, excavations reveal that there was no evolutionary successor to Ryallasaurus Rex. With an inability to come up with new ideas to adapt to a changing environment, and limited hunting skills, this Torysaur had nothing substantial to add to the gene pool, and vanished into historical obscurity.
News - News so hard that porn novels struggle to define the intensity of its hardness.
The madness continues in the Middle East. Good Lord this is depressing, it really is. From a situation about five years ago in which the leaders of Israel and Palestine were prepared to shake each others hands on the White House lawn, and a lasting settlement seemed a real possibility, we now find a discredited right wing hawk (Ariel Sharon of Lebanese invasion fame) in charge of Israel, doing his level best to provoke a major conflict. Just today he goes to his cabinet with a proposal to spend around $750 million on new Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land. This quite simply blows the mercury on the provocation thermometer. Further, we also have discredited right wing hawks running the White House now deciding to more or less pull out of a peace process that (for better or worse) the Americans were intimately involved with. The latest development is a US led Commission report released today that heavily criticised the Israelis for using excessive force during the latest infitada, and also waggles a finger at the Palestinian authorities for not reining in extremist forces on their side. Ariel Sharon has already rejected its findings. Stay tuned, this will get worse…
Now, back to that second lot of right wing hawks in the big White building. It seems that rejecting the crucial Kyoto protocol on climate control wasn't enough for young George W, and the man who has his hand up W's arse in the tradition of all great puppeteers, George Cheney. Just this week Baby Bush announced that the US intended to "move on from" the START arms control treaties that were signed with other powers in the 1970s. "Move on from" of course means "ignore". Ignore in this case, to build a massive and expensive missile defence system that a) doesn't actually work, and b) is the perfect trigger for a new international arms race, of the sort that treaties such as START aimed to avoid. So yes, folks, we're actually going backwards here…
More worrying signs are emerging that the so-called hysteria about scientists and corporates mucking with genes for there own pleasure and profit (and at the expense of public information and any general sense of ethics), was not hysteria, but thoroughly prescient speculation. US scientists yesterday announced that around 30 babies have just been born with some degree of genetic alteration. That's right, announced after the fact, which speaks volumes about how well the public is being informed on this major issue. Further, right here in New Zealand, evidence is steadily emerging that a great deal of bullshit (pun thoroughly intended) has been spun by the Agresearch scientists who have had there experiment involving implanting human proteins into the genetic structure of cows, stopped by ERMA. Their claims that the experiment was being conducted for the benefit of MS sufferers have been rubbished by respected Waikato University scientist Dick Wilkins who points out that the protein in question is already available in human tissue, ready to be tested on. The implication is clear, that the public has been misinformed on this issue so that tests can be carried out with commercial goals in mind. Kudos to the Government who today announced that legislation on GE will be fast tracked through the house. Hopefully some clear rules will put this strange new breed of geeky cowboy, the GE scientist, in their place.
Finally, in a move that Future Lefts warmly applauds, the Government has increased what Dr Cullen himself describes as a "a somewhat arbitrary" cap on new spending of 5.9 billion dollars over the three year term. Responding to budgetary pressures such as the extended East Timor mission, and improved bio-security, the Finance Minister has announced that new spending this term will be 270 million dollars over and above the 5.9 billion dollar fiscal cap. This writer hopes that this exercise proves that "arbitrary" caps, and other such nonsense derived from the stifling Fiscal Responsibility Act, ought to be well and truly done away with by this Labour Government. Hopefully too, we never again hear the boast that a Labour government will have the: "lowest spending to GDP ratio of any budget since the late 1970s" (shudder)
Website of the week
This is the website of the solid lefty magazine the New International. Which incidentally is an excellent and varied read (they have a policy of revolving editors), and only $60 for a years subscription. Funny cartoons too.
That's all for this fortnight, Michael.
All submissions should be to the editor, Michael Wood, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While this newsletter is published in the name of Young Labour, the content 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) 2001. Subscribe at http://www.younglabour.org.nz.
Keeping our word - one year in: http://www.labour.org.nz