Alliance looks to future
10 December 2005
Alliance looks to future
The Alliance showed with its feisty election campaign that it is still a political alternative on the left of Labour with policies that offer a very different perspective from both Labour and the Greens.
In her keynote address to the Alliance National Conference held in Christchurch last weekend [December 3/4], Alliance President Jill Ovens pointed to the Greens' focus on issues such as saving our oceans.
"Worthy though this is, the people we're seeking to represent have much more pressing issues - like putting food on the table, keeping a roof over their families' heads, paying their power bills," Ms Ovens said.
Labour got their vote this time, because the threat of a return to the 1990s seemed all too real, she said.
But Labour's focus is on economic growth and development of capitalism, she said. Despite gains in social policy, Labour refuses to take sides in a class-divided society.
"They got the support of the working class in this election, but this support is not unconditional."
Ms Ovens told Conference delegates that there had been a lot of talk about "family values" in the election, but it was selfishly focussed. The Alliance vision of "family" embraces all in our community.
"I was disgusted in this election to hear the 'greedies' saying I should be able to spend my own money however I want. Yet all around them there is poverty in our community, substandard housing that causes so much ill health, desperation that drives people to crime, children who can't concentrate in school because they don't get enough to eat."
The Alliance seeks to transform society into one in which people work co-operatively to satisfy their individual and social needs, she said.
Ms Ovens told delegates that the continued existence of the Alliance was an achievement that should not be lightly dismissed and she argued against a remit proposing a change of name for the Party.
"It is better to build on what has already been achieved, and to honour the legacy of past achievements, than to start from scratch again," she said. She said members were understandably disappointed to get so few votes for so much effort in the 2005 election campaign.
However the Party should not measure its success by the size of its vote.
"The job in the 2005 election was to contribute towards the defeat of the Right by whatever means we had. This is why we couldn't go out there and just say 'Vote Alliance, we have the best policies', which of course we do.
"We had to say 'Stop Brash!' And we did. We played our part in the victory of the working class over the forces of the Right."
Ms Ovens stressed the need for an urgent party-building and recruitment effort if the Alliance was to survive as a viable electoral force.
She stepped down as co-leader, but was re-elected as Party president. Paul Piesse, a Christchurch trade union organiser, was re-elected as co-leader, and Len Richards, an Auckland University PhD student, was elected as the other co-leader. A guest speaker at the conference was John Minto, one of the founders of the Workers' Charter. After his presentation, delegates voted to endorse the 10 points of the Workers' Charter as a "minimum programme" consistent with the Alliance Manifesto. Mr Minto stressed that the Workers Charter was not set up as a rival political Party, but rather as a tool for political pressure on the Government.
In his response to Minto's speech, Mr Richards pointed out that some of those behind the Workers' Charter want to build a "mass workers party" around it. Instead he said they should seriously consider joining the Alliance.
"We have no objection to people holding joint membership of other compatible organisations, while building the Alliance up to again challenge for a place on the electoral scene. Only parties with a serious political agenda will be taken seriously by workers."
A heartening sign was the fact that some new young people had joined up and become active in the recent period, he said. Alliance conference delegates set targets for recruitment in each region and also agreed to hold a gathering of Staunch, the Alliance youth wing, in 2006. Linda Boyd, a Christchurch trade union organiser, was elected as the Staunch representative on the Alliance Council.