Anti-Capitalist Alliance Reflects On Election 05
"In this election, two capitalist parties organised a cynical lolly scramble for voters to see which of them could get in to run NZ Capitalism Ltd for the next three years," said Anti-Capitalist Alliance spokesperson Daphna Whitmore.
"Despite media hype that this is the first election in 20 years in which there were really clear ideological differences between National and Labour, the similarities between the two major capitalist parties far outweigh their differences.
"Under the past six years of Labour-dominated government the wealth gap in New Zealand society has increased even more dramatically than under the previous nine years of National-dominated government. When Labour came to power in 1999, the richest couple of hundred individuals in the country had $9.8 billion in wealth; this year's National Business Review Rich List estimates that the richest 205 individuals and families have over $31.4 billion in wealth.
"The latest OECD report gave Labour a pat on the back for the way it was running NZ capitalism and the World Bank report, released on the eve of the elections, named NZ as the best country in the world to do business in.
"So, overall, Labour has been doing a very solid job for the ruling rich.
"At the same time, real wages have been almost stagnant. A 2003 report by the prestigious Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards found that from 1980-2001, real labour compensation per hour fell by 6.5 percent in NZ, while the average compensation paid to workers per their labour market contribution fell by 8.3 percent. Workers in New Zealand suffered falling living standards greater than workers in any other OECD country. Labour has done nothing to reverse this trend.
"Indeed, what gave National's tax cuts policy some degree of popularity, including among workers, was the fact that Labour has held real wages down so much, while profits have been doing well and the super-rich have been getting even richer at a rate that is unprecedented since the Rich List began in 1986," Ms Whitmore noted.
"We still have totally unacceptable numbers of children living in poverty. Women's wages continue to lag well behind men's. Maori workers have not benefited a jot from the Treaty/race relations industry, while the kind of Maori business interests that are an important backer of the Maori Party have done very well. Pacific Island workers are even worse off, although Labour cynically prides itself on monopolising their votes. Workers also know that real unemployment and under-employment is far higher than the official statistics indicate.
"Workers' disillusionment with Labour is also reflected in the level of electoral abstention. Many workers and poor people simply don't vote any more because they can't see the point, when none of the parliamentary parties represent their interests.
"While voter turn out is greater this year than in 2002, it remains low by twentieth century standards in NZ. Moreover, the increase has mainly benefited National since , unlike Labour, they said they'd put more money in the pockets of everyone.
Ms Whitmore also criticised much of the left for falling in behind Labour. "Malcolm X once made the point that if you want people to vote for the fox, you show them the wolf. In this election, sections of the left fell into this game, encouraging a vote for Labour. Leading figures in the trade unions were also disgraceful in their unconditional support for the business-friendly Labour government.
What is really needed is a workers' alternative to both main parties of big business - Labour and National - and all their little helpers in the minor parliamentary parties.
"What is needed in New Zealand is a genuine hard-left party that fights uncompromisingly for the interests of workers, that encourages workers to fight for themselves, and is there all year round alongside workers as they go into struggle. This would be a party that doesn't cave at election time, falling in behind the Labour Party and helping lower workers' horizons by putting forward a platform of minimal reforms.
Ms Whitmore also denounced the hypocrisy of the National Party, saying "They talked about 'one law for all', yet most of their MPs voted against the civil union bill and clearly favour different laws for different citizens. Of course, they also favour one law for the rich and another for the rest of us. The 'one law for all' rhetoric is therefore, clearly, merely Maori-bashing. National's desire to make it even easier to fire workers and harder for workers to go on strike, along with their opposition to the minimum wage, also show that they are completely cynical about raising living standards for hard-working New Zealanders.
"We need to fight for the kind of wage rises that the Tongan workers fought for in the past month, and for shorter working hours. We need to fight for the total abolition of indirect taxes like GST. We need to fight for full equality for women, Maori, Pacific Islanders and other ethnic groups, and full equality for gay women and men. We need to fight for the free movement of workers, through open borders and full citizenship rights for migrant workers. We need to fight for the removal of all laws which restrict workers' right to strike and to have freedom of speech. Given the clapped-out nature of contemporary capitalism, such a programme would require a revolution, in which workers take power and build a working people's republic, a new society of material abundance and human freedom."
The Spark, a journal associated with the Anti-Capitalist Alliance, will be carrying indepth analysis of the elections.