A short rant about the 105th anniversary of the NZ Labour Party.
The NZ Labour Party was 105 years old yesterday. Being old in itself is not always a bad thing of course. It is an achievement that can sometimes be commended. However, in this case, we in Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) don’t wish that organisation a Happy Birthday. We would prefer this political dinosaur to practice voluntary euthanasia or be organisationally made extinct.
When the NZLP started it made a big noise about wishing to replace the current economic system of capitalism with socialism. In its constitution in 1916, it said it wanted “The socialisation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange”. An admirable goal. How well has it done? Capitalism is still here and Labour has been instrumental in ensuring its survival as the B-team for the establishment. They spent ages trying to gain access to the existing machinery of government during their early days. When they finally did, they proved just as capable of demonstrating they could operate business-as-usual, as their right-wing frenemies have.
The list of actions committed by the NZLP that took them away from the direction of fundamental change to the system are numerous and began early. There isn’t space to go into them all in this short piece, but as a sample…in the 1920s’ they downplayed and attacked militant unionists who were trying to do stuff Labour had paid lip service to. They stood by and offered no support during the 1951 watersiders dispute and by the 1980s’ were actively attacking workers’ rights in new legislation and privatising everything that wasn’t nailed down. With twists and turns along the way and strengthening by National and ACT, this has lead to today’s landscape of temporary contracts, long and split shifts, lack of union coverage, and poor wages. More recently they have made minor tweaks to some of that legislation but have otherwise done nothing. Meanwhile, house prices skyrocket and kids suffer from diseases linked to poverty. And that’s just in the economic sphere. In other regards, Labour has adopted a hostile approach to anyone who genuinely desires freedom. This has taken the form of jailing conscientious objectors during World War 2, through to current plans to censor the internet and control freedom of speech and they have never substantially cut the military or curtailed the activities of the SAS or SIS.
As for the personnel in parliament, we generally just have a collection of careerists from educated middle-class backgrounds and a leader who values spin and grin above substance. Can anyone recall the last time you heard ANYONE in the contemporary Labour Party use the word “socialism”? As anarchists, we have never advocated the methods of achieving socialism the way the original Labour Party did. We don’t see slowly working within the existing system, voting every 3 years and having state ownership of stuff as the real deal. The reality now is that even judged against their own shoddy, pathetic methods, the Labour Party is far from where they rhetorically began over 100 years ago.
If you are happy with an organisation that just wants to manage this system of inequality and control, then put on your party hat (in both senses) and sing along to the birthday song the government wants you to. If you are interested in exploring a genuine alternative and a fresh way of doing stuff, we suggest leaving the misnamed ‘Labour’ Party behind and trying a new approach.