New Zealand Perspectives 2014
This perspectives document is a Marxist analysis of New Zealand. Such an analysis provides Marxists with a guide to the developing situation of the country. This perspective document is not intended to be a blueprint of future events which is beyond the scope of scientific socialism and nor is it our intention to present it as such.
The intention of this perspectives document is to better understand the general underlying processes taking place within New Zealand society so that we are not caught out by events. Perspectives take on a heightened importance when the world situation is taken into account with ever increasing sharp turns and sudden changes occurring. Having an understanding of perspectives is an important educational tool for the tendency. It enables the preparation for the undoubted storms and stresses, as well as the opportunities ahead.
At the international level there has been a qualitative change in the situation. Such a qualitative change at this level is having an effect on the situation within New Zealand. Without doubt we are witnessing the breaking down of capitalist developments since the end of the Second World War that has been prepared for, over this period, by the gradual accumulation of contradications turning quantity into quality. This is illustrated with the unfolding events in the Ukraine and the continuing situation in Greece and other countries throughout the world.
Globalisation (long ago predicted by Marx) and the integration of the world economy that allowed capitalist development in this period has now produced a global crisis. The capitalist system has reached its limits. We are facing another epoch of deep crisis for capitalism potentially on a level not witnessed in the history of the capitalist system. Capitalism has once again entered into a protracted death agony.
Capitalism is no longer capable of developing the productive forces, i.e. industry, science and technique, in any meaningful way.
The key to the development of society is the ability of the social system (capitalism) to develop the means of production: when the social system proves incapable of doing so then it ushers in an era of social revolution.
Unlike many on the left, Marxists understand that this does not mean that the capitalist system simply collapses and the capitalists voluntarily leave the scene of history under their own volition. In fact the capitalists will vehemently resist this and will need to be overthrown and defeated by the working class. This is the task ahead of the working class here in New Zealand and internationally in the period that is opening up. With capitalist development being on a downward path, capitalism is likely to suffer another deep slump in the forthcoming period. Within the New Zealand context, that escaped the worst excesses of the 2008 downturn, a future slump will have a profound effect in New Zealand similar to what the advanced countries in Europe and the USA are experiencing at the moment. What this downward path means is years and perhaps decades of austerity coupled with falling living standards for the majority.
Therefore we will witness an upswing of the class struggle in New Zealand and catch up with (if not overtake) our brothers and sisters internationally. World events are having an effect on the consciousness of New Zealand workers. New Zealand is not immune from revolutionary convulsions that are beginning to engulf the world.
New Zealand has enjoyed a modest pick-up in the economy. Annualised GDP to December 2013 was 2.7%, the fifth highest rise in GDP in the OECD. Treasury predications suggest that similar moderate growth is forecast for the next few years (2.0 to 2.5 percent to 2016). Bourgeois economists have labelled New Zealand’s economic growth and predictions of future economic growth , as a “rock star” economy. This phrase was coined by a HSBC economic report at the beginning of 2014 and such propaganda is much repeated in the media. One thing we do know about rock stars is that their star rises very quickly and then suddenly they crash or burnout in a mire of drugs and alcohol. This may be the unintended meaning of the phrase in relation to the economy!
The question this raises is: is it correct that New Zealand has a “rock star” economy? The actual truth about the New Zealand economy is rather more sobering when analysed correctly. The CTU Monthly Economic Bulletin No 153 (January 2014) summed it up well when it said “It is easy to be a rock star if the rest of the world has laryngitis.”
The first question to answer is where this growth is coming from. The answer is that one percentage point of GDP growth is coming from the rebuild of earthquake ravaged Christchurch. The other main areas of growth are exports of commodities such as milk powder, logs and meat predominately to China, along with a property bubble in Auckland being driven by high demand for housing due to population growth, immigration and a lack of house building (despite the rate of house building in Auckland lifting recently) and public housing to meet this demand. This is no reason to be exuberant about the economy.
On the wider economic picture China has now overtaken Australia as New Zealand's biggest export market. It has to be noted that both the Chinese and the Australian economies are entering into a turbulent period. China's economy is slowing down as it is finding it difficult to export goods on to the world market. China is carrying out a major Keynesian policy of printing money to try to stimulate demand in a doomed attempt to arrest a downturn in the economy; in order to try and protect the capitalists’ profits and to also prevent socio/political unrest. The wider reasons for this have been explained previously in other articles of the IMT. As far as capitalist economics is concerned printing money not based on the wealth created at the point of production is the equivalent of the “rock star” overdosing on drugs!
Australia's economy is now facing major problems. It may have positive GDP growth (for now) like New Zealand. However, the mineral boom of the past period is over as the export of minerals to China has weakened significantly due to the problems in the Chinese economy. The mining sector was the only thing that had enough economic momentum in it to keep the Australian economy moving forward in the past period.
Already we are beginning to witness the hollowing out of Australian manufacturing. All the multi-national car companies that have car plants in Australia (GM, Ford and Toyota) have announced that they are closing their car plants. This will have a major impact on the Australian economy. On top of this was the announcement of major job losses at the privatised national flag carrier airline Qantas. Recent reports suggest that 50,000 manufacturing jobs are to be lost.
The right wing Abbott government response is to consider relaxing the laws regarding foreign ownership of Australian companies and not support further subsidies to Australian companies. Australia is no longer the lucky country with growing sovereign debt issues. Already the Abbot government is contemplating raising the retirement age to 70 and other attacks on workers' living standards are planned. This is a recipe for an upswing in the class struggle in Australia.
Much is made of the record prices for export commodities such as milk powder and logs etc that have been primarily driven by exports to China. Such a high price for these commodities cannot last because of the economic crisis that is unfolding in China. The Chinese government is racking up large public debts through its utilisation of Keynesian methods. As a consequence of such a policy it will lead to a domestic economic crisis in China based on state indebtedness. This will create a major shock to the New Zealand economy and New Zealand’s second largest export market Australia. Already with a slowing Chinese economy we are seeing a slowing in demand for commodities. This point has been made by the IMF. The IMF said "A sharp slowdown in China could weaken growth prospects in Australia, triggering a broad-based fall in demand for New Zealand's exports, and lead to a sudden decline in house, farm and commercial real estate prices ... this in turn could weaken consumer demand and negatively affect banks' balance sheets and their willingness to lend. The downside macroeconomic impact in a scenario where shocks compound each other could be large."
Additionally to this, Northern Hemisphere countries are increasing their milk production to take advantage of such high commodity prices which will further dampen down commodity prices as the market becomes saturated and sours.
Therefore New Zealand's “rock star” economy is (at best) based on exporting to countries where their economic woes are intensifying as a consequence of the global crisis of capitalism! Instead of a rock star perhaps a more appropriate phrase would be a one hit wonder economy soon to be forgotten!
Most workers in New Zealand have not noticed the upturn in the economy. This is due to the bourgeois having a conscious policy of attempting to maintain profitability by reducing wages, and increased exploitation in the workplaces. This is backed up with the further undermining and cutting of the social wage (public services, health, education, WINZ etc.) and continuing to push through parliament anti-worker legislation.
It is interesting to note that whilst New Zealand has the fifth highest GDP in the OECD it is thirteenth in the OECD as far as unemployment is concerned which languishes at 6.2 percent. Treasury predict that unemployment will fall slowly to 5.2 percent by 2017 or from 150,000 people now to 130,000 and accordingly real wages (after inflation is taken into account) are forecast to grow at a rate that will reduce the wage share of the economy between 2013 and 2017. It is no wonder that the National led government has been lecturing workers not to expect pay rises until 2017 as it will jeopardise the economic recovery and that the employers’ associations arguing that wage rises will be dependent on merit! Most workers seethe at such statements when they see the directors of companies award themselves excessive remuneration rises because “they're worth it” whilst holding down pay for the rest.
To illustrate this point further New Zealand has seen increasing inequalities from the mid 1980s to around 2004. New Zealand went from having the lowest inequalities in the OECD to being in the highest third now. In the same period workers share of the economy in wages fell sharply from 60% of income in 1981 to 46% in 2002. In 2008 New Zealand had the lowest labour share among the 32 countries of the OECD (greater only than Mexico and the Slovak Republic. To date two thirds of workers earn below the average wage. Between 1998 and 2013 median earnings fell from 88% to 83% of the average wage. Gross incomes for half of New Zealand households on the lowest incomes were virtually unchanged in real terms between 1988 and 2010. This is in spite of working longer. Additionally the number of two parent households where they both work full time has increased from 28% in1988 to 43%in 2007. This position has become further entrenched by the present government using the economic recession of 2008 as the excuse to further undermine workers' living standards.
Labour productivity in the private sector rose 48% between 1989 and 2011, but real average hourly wages rose 14%. In dollar terms it rose from $21.49 to $24.43 in 2011, but if it had risen as fast as labour productivity it would have been $31.85 (March 2011 $).
The position of beneficiaries is much worse. According to the OECD in the 1960s New Zealand had among the highest benefit levels in the OECD compared to average wages. By 2011 New Zealand had (or near) the lowest benefits compared to average wages out of 33 OECD member nations, for example it ranked 32 or 33 (last) for a two earner couples with two children. Further counter-reforms to welfare by the government will make this position much worse.
The numbers of workers entering the labour market is increasing, but the number of jobs the economy is creating is not meeting this demand. The peak number of jobs was in June 2008, before the world economic recession, was 1,732,300. In June 2013 for the first time it has reached that value again with 1,752,100 jobs or 19,800 more. In the same period the working age population (Statistics New Zealand defined as those 15 years and over) increased by 10 times that to 190,900 or 5.7%. Similarly the number of people in work passed the peak pre 2008 world recession numbers in 2011 and has barely changed since then. The number of people in work in June 2013 was 52,200 more than in 2008; about 25% of the increase in the working age population.
Additionally to this employment growth is extremely uneven across the country with employment falling in seven of the 12 regions (June 2013). The exceptions were Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Gisborne/Hawkes Bay (static) and Canterbury. Of this group three regions had falling working age population. Essentially real employment growth is due to Canterbury and the earthquake rebuilds that increased employment to 16,800 despite the working age population decreasing by 2,500. In Auckland 20,100 extra people are in work, but the working age population increased by 50,500. Auckland's increase in employment was virtually equal to the net loss of jobs in the rest of the country!
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) has just increased the Official Cash Rate (OCR) from the country's record low of 2.5% to 2.75%. The RBNZ is indicating further hikes in the OCR of 2% over the next 2 years. This is at a time when other advanced countries cash rates are at 0 to 1%. The RBNZ excuse for rising the rate was inflationary pressures in the economy not that there much signs of such a proposition. Such a move if it continues will choke of the domestic economy and further undermine exporters and manufacturers (as importers out compete them). Already we are seeing the NZ$ rise to a two year and a half year high against the US$ as the currency is further speculated on from hot money created by Quantitative Easing (printing money) overseas. Exporters, such as Fonterra can ride out the high currency for a short time as they trade in hedged US$. However, further hikes in the OCR will be disastrous for the New Zealand economy as the currency will further appreciate and will force New Zealand back into recession. Employers associations are increasingly worried as a lot of overseas hedged currencies are to be renegotiated in November. For workers it means increasing cost of living and further job insecurity. The RBNZ is playing with economic fire and the domestic economy will burn as a consequence if they continue on such a path.
This is a further signal that the bourgeois, through the RBNZ, have abandoned supporting the industrialist in favour of the financial capitalists. Here we reprint what we said last year on this subject: “The manufacturing sector is in crisis. According to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) report (“Manufacturing decline not just a dollar story”, February 2013) the manufacturing sector has declined from 25% in the early 1980s to 12% in 2013. The RBNZ does not see this as a problem as the New Zealand economy can survive on the service sector and the “knowledge economy” and that manufacturing is best placed in cheap labour emerging Asian economies. What the RBNZ fails to understand is that as these countries develop their manufacturing capabilities they too will develop science and technique in to the future and will no longer require “New Zealand's knowledge”! If this policy is further pursued of abandoning the manufacturing base then we have only to look at countries such as Britain that was the workshop of the world to where it is today: a rentier economy in serious economic decline, to see where New Zealand is heading. … In fact with the overseas policies of competitive devaluations through quantitative easing (or in plain English printing money) in the major advanced countries are allowing New Zealand goods and services to become uncompetitive on the world market with a knock on effect of exporting unemployment to our shores.”
The “rock star” economy is a complete fabrication. New Zealand's economic growth is not built on solid foundations and is vulnerable to both internal and external shocks. Another major downturn in the world economy will have a more devastating effect than the events of 2008 as the New Zealand capitalists are not able to develop the productive forces in any meaningful way and turn further toward turning the economy into a speculative rentier economy dominated by international capital.
Indeed with such an economic prognosis this can only mean the heightening of the class struggle as workers have no alternative but to struggle to maintain their living standards. The questions are not if but when the workers will they move into struggle. It certainly will mean that the ideas of Marxism will grow under the unfolding conditions as workers struggle towards socialism to end the anarchy and nightmare that is capitalism.
The National Party
The weakness of the New Zealand bourgeois to play an independent role in developing the means of production domestically is expressed through the National Party in its zealous pursuit of attracting foreign capital to our shores, allowing foreign ownership of New Zealand productive land as well as important New Zealand companies and at the same time allowing the manufacturing base to decline further.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal with the USA and other Pacific Rim countries, is a good example of this. When the National led government signs this deal it will threaten New Zealand's sovereignty by allowing US multi-nationals to overtly dictate and overrule domestic legislation that it sees as a barrier to US imperialisms interests and profits. Already US pharmaceutical companies are looking at ways to undermine the government supported pharmaceutical buying arm, Pharmac, as it is seen by such multinationals as anti-competitive. In other-words Pharmac stops US pharmaceutical companies from maximising profits through bulk purchasing and recommends what pharmaceuticals the country will use based on clinical evidence.
The TPP is being used by US imperialism as a tool to gain more economic influence in the Pacific region as a counterweight to the soft diplomacy and increasingly not so soft diplomacy of the Chinese imperialists. For New Zealand to gain a few cosmetic concessions for agricultural exports to the USA the National Party is about to sign away significant sovereign rights. This partnership can be best summed up as a partnership of horse and rider and New Zealand most certainly will not be in the jockey's seat!
As a consequence of the growing influence of Chinese imperialism in the region, British imperialism is wooing its former dominions in the South Pacific. It is no coincidence that British imperialism has turned its attention to its former colony as it struggles to find new markets outside of the EU and easy access to the Chinese market in a feeble attempt to stave off its economic woes at home. British imperialism understands that a better relationship means that it can gain economic advantage through New Zealand's trade deal with China. British imperialism is acting as the pet poodle of USA imperialism as far as garnering political influence in this region is concerned. John Key has had the delights of the British Foreign Secretary Hague visiting to rekindle trade with the Mother Country along with visits to Downing Street. John Key was invited to Balmoral by Mrs Windsor for the weekend with his family. It has to be noted that no Prime Minister of New Zealand has ever been invited to Balmoral and even within bourgeois circles it is not seen as the thing to do as keeping a respectful distance is. This is in order to maintain the illusion of an effective independent New Zealand bourgeoisie. John Key was daubed by the British tabloids as a colonial clot when he released photographs of his royal weekend. We would liken John Key's attitude as one of an obedient corgi to the British imperialists over-awed by the (if somewhat faded) baubles of the British ruling class.
The National-led government is continuing to follow a monetarist policy of cutting public expenditure in an attempt to recover the profitability for the capitalists and place the crisis of capitalism firmly on the backs of the working class.
The fig leaf for such a policy of austerity is to return the government accounts to surplus. New Zealand's public debt is extremely low when compared to the other advanced countries in Europe and North America for reasons we have explained before. The government will achieve a surplus either in 2015 or 2016 on the latest predictions from treasury.
To achieve such a surplus the government has carried out part-privatisation of the state owned electricity generators and a further sell down of Air New Zealand instead of borrowing from the international markets. These privatisations have been a disaster for the government as the share price of each company now languishes below well below the official float price. The government has not had the return it thought it would have. Each privatisation has meant that the shares are offered with further tax payer inducements to sweeten the deal for the big private sector investors. There is now not even a pretence of “mum and dad investors” or popular capitalism! No doubt the final sale of 49% of Genesis Energy will be worse than the last two sell-offs.
Within the masses there is no real support for privatisation, as the non-binding referendum showed there was overwhelming opposition to privatisation. What the Nats have achieved through these privatisations is a position where by the government coffers will lose future revenues as the government dividend is reduced into the future and a position where the private share owners will want to maximise their profits at the expense of the consumers and tax payers. There will be future pressure on the government to fully privatise these assets as a consequence of these initial sell offs as the contradictions of government/ private ownership models intensify. Already we have seen these companies subsidise dividend payouts to such investors to keep them sweet.
The National-led government remain highly popular in the polls. The reason for this is the ineffectual labour opposition who have offered no real alternative to National's capitalist economic policy which in a nutshell is to do nothing except cut public spending and hope the economy comes right.
With such a lead in the polls the National led government has announced an early general election date of September 20th. There are several calculations for such an early poll. The more serious strategist of capital understand the shallow nature of the economic upswing will not last and it is better for the National Party to go sooner to the polls rather than leave it to the usual November date as by then the economic optimism may begin to wear a bit thin with the masses. For example, the National Party understands that with the promise of higher OCR (up to 4.5%) it will affect their polls as voters get disgruntled with the higher cost of living that this will bring. The excuse used for an early poll is to have a government in place for the G8 summit to be held in Australia in late 2014 and also the possibility of a state visit by the Prime Minister's Hawaiian golfing partner President Obama! Previous governments have never been swayed by such considerations when it comes to general elections. However John Key's toadying to the major leaders of the imperialist powers knows no bounds!
As far as the polls go the right-wing block under MMP has a small lead when compared to the left-wing block. The problem for National is that the minor parties that generally support them cannot be relied upon as they are mired in scandal or in melt down. It cannot be ruled out that the National Party will cut a deal with the right-wing Christian Conservative Party to allow it a safe seat. Such a proposition under MMP may allow the Nats to be guaranteed a majority. However, the leader (Colin Craig) of the Conservative Party is not seen as a reliable safe pair of hands, as his recent comments and actions show. For example Craig is suing Russell Norman (co-leader Green Party) over comments he made at Auckland's Big Gay Out event, when he summed up the Conservative Party's leaders attitudes on gay people and women.
The general election is going to be a close run election under MMP. A return of 3rd term National-led government will be disastrous for the working class as more workers rights and civil liberties will be further undermined. If National manage to form a government it will be due an ineffectual Labour leadership to concretely offer a way forward for New Zealand society, i.e. socialism.
The Labour Party
The Labour caucus ousted the ineffective David Shearer as leader in late 2013. This triggered off a leadership contest under the new party rules. This was the first time in the history of the Labour Party of such an election taking place as the caucus up until then had no accountability with the rank and file. Previously, the caucus “palace coup” was the normal way of replacing the leadership. Marxists played a significant role in achieving these rule changes at the previous party conferences. This was an important reform for the rank and file to win as they saw their party being run by a clique at the top that was unaccountable to the party. Such a victory of the rank and file will encourage further democratisation of the party and shift the party to the left under the prevailing conditions.
The resultant leadership hustings up and down the country re-invigorated the rank and file as the 3 potential leadership candidates gave left wing May Day speeches attacking the rich and capitalism. Although there was little substance to such speeches the rank and file read into them more than was intended by any of the candidates. Plus the candidates knew that the mood of the party was much to the left of the caucus and had to speak left even if they do not believe it. As a consequence of the leadership election the Labour Party membership has doubled. Workers have joined or rejoined the Labour Party on the basis that the party was seen (if in words only) to be moving to the left and addressing their issues.
David Cunliffe was the rank and file's favoured candidate. Cunliffe is seen to be on the left of the party. Cunliffe won overwhelming in the electorates and affiliates section resulting in an outright victory at the first ballot. It is interesting to note that the caucus vote was not as clear cut. This reflects the point that the caucus is out of touch with not only the rank and file but the working class itself.
The Labour Party's tactic for the general election is to target the 800,000 people who did not vote at the last election. The Labour Party estimate that if 200,000 of these non-voters turned out to vote under MMP then the chances of Labour forming a government are good. At present the Labour Party languish in the low to mid 30% in the polls and Cunliffe has brought in Matt McCarten as his Chief of Staff. McCarten is on the left and can take an opportunist ultra left approach at times. Without doubt McCarten is astute enough to get the non voters out to vote Labour. However, to achieve this Labour will require socialist policies that at the moment are lacking. It is not enough to tap into a growing prevailing mood in the masses that are beginning to question the growing inequalities in society and who the economy is run for. Left rhetoric will go so far to capture this mood but without concrete socialist policies it is unlikely to bear fruit for Labour and the masses.
Since Cunliffe’s election as leader he has been seen to be on the left. Often quoted as saying the Labour Party is a red party and even the words socialism is heard. However we shall not get carried away with this. Cunliffe is of the opinion that the Labour Party can manage capitalism better than the capitalists. If the Labour party win the government benches in September he is in for a shock. On the one hand he will have raised the expectation of the masses to deliver meaningful reforms and on the other hand come under pressure from the capitalists to continue on the path of austerity. Let us be clear without a genuine socialist manifesto Labour will be dictated to by the capitalist and not the other way round. The laws of capitalism will come to the fore and a Labour led government will be a government of crisis caught in the crossfire of the class struggle.
United Future doesn't appear to have much of a future as a political party! United Future was de-registered as a party by the New Zealand Electoral Commission and struggled to get the 500 members to be re-registered. However, United Future has managed to re-register as a political party for now. United Future is a political vehicle for Dunne to get elected to parliament. United Future has supported both Labour and National led governments and sits on the government benches for the time being. Dunne is a parliamentary opportunist and is a modern day equivalent of the Vicar of Bray.
It is uncertain if Dunne will win his Ohariu seat as he has been mired in parliamentary scandal when he refused to hand over all 86 emails between himself and Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance relating to the inquiry into the leaking of Rebecca Kitteridge's GCSB report following its illegal spying on Kim Dotcom. It is almost certain that without an electorate seat the party will not reach the 5% party vote threshold under MMP to secure seats in parliament.
However, Dunne having done his penance on the back benches has been rehabilitated by National as they need Dunne to help secure them a general election win. Certainly if the general election swings to the left then Dunne is unlikely to keep hold of his electorate seat as he will not have changed allegiances quick enough!
The Maori Party is a rump of its former self. It is unlikely to survive the next general election as the Maori electorates are likely to go Labour and continue the swings to Labour at the last election. The Maori Party has lost credibility in the eyes of Maori workers due to it being in government with National. The fact that Tariana Turia MP and Pita Sharples MP are standing down at the next election and the debacle of the parliamentary co-leadership are all indications of a politically spent force and one that National cannot rely on to form a government. It is certain that without an electorate seat the party will not reach the 5% party vote threshold under MMP to secure seats in parliament.
ACT survival in parliament depends on whether or not National will seriously contest the safe seat of Epsom. John Banks, ACT's sole MP, has been discredited. Banks is before the court relating to whether or not he knew he accepted large undeclared election donations from Kim Dotcom for his previous attempt at securing the Auckland mayoralty. Banks's memory is known not to be as reliable as it could be! He could not remember whether or not he took helicopter rides to Dotcom mansion!
Banks has stepped down as party leader and as a government minister because of this he will not contest the Epsom seat. At the Act conference David Seymour became the Act candidate for Epsom and Jamie Whyte became party leader. For National this is a problem as they are not seen as reliable replacements to do a deal with especially when they openly tout their libertarian views in the media. It is certain that without an electorate seat the party will not reach the 5% party vote threshold under MMP to secure seats in parliament.
The multi-millionaire Colin Craig leader of the Conservative Party is being courted by the National Party to secure the Conservatives a safe seat. This may allow National to gain a majority. However, for National this poses several risks particularly with the party leader’s stance on the position of women etc. The Conservative Party is a right-wing Christian political party that is bank rolled by Craig. It has the possibility to potentially reach the 5% party vote threshold for seats if the right wing backs it in the hope of stopping the Labour Party coming to power.
The Green Party leadership is continuing to attempt to move the party to the right. This can be seen by adopting a Keynesian approach to economic policy and further adapting themselves to capitalism. There are rumblings in the Green Party with respect to this shift and it is likely that the present co-leaders may be challenged, in particular Dr Russell Norman. He may have been in the Australian CP but he didn't appear to learn much!
The electoral base for the Greens is the disgruntled middle classes and petit bourgeoisie. However amongst workers, where they may pick up protest votes, there is a distrust of the Greens as they are anti-industry and promote the utopian green economy on the basis of capitalism!
In all likelihood the Greens will be in the next parliament as a coalition partner with Labour. This is a conditional perspective if Labour can secure enough seats to form a government.
Mana is a left wing split-off from the Maori Party. The Mana Party is flirting with the idea of a forming an alliance with Dotcom's Internet Party. If this occurs it will fracture Mana. Already Sue Bradford has expressed her concern at such a foolhardy venture. The reason for such an alliance is purely a financial one so that the Internet Party can bank roll the election campaign. It is interesting to note that the Internet Party, although launched by Kim Dotcom as a vehicle to stop his extradition to the USA and further embarrass the government, has not got 500 members yet to formerly register as a political party or any policies!
New Zealand First
New Zealand First is most likely to be the Kingmaker after the general election. Generally New Zealand First attracts the more elderly disgruntled National voters who will not vote Labour but will vote for a Muldoonist approach that New Zealand First offers. Winston Peters with his populist demagogue is most likely to gain over 5% of the party vote to return to parliament with a number of MPs. Peters, like Dunne, is an opportunist and will accommodate himself with whichever party offers him the most baubles of office. Key is mellowing towards Peters in order to potentially do a coalition deal with New Zealand First to retain the government benches regardless of the fact that Peters is playing with the left parties at present.
The trade unions are a key area of work in the building of Marxist ideas. The CTU and the activists are moving to the political front to secure a Labour victory at the general election and are backing getting out the 800,000 non voters to vote in the forthcoming election. It appears that if Labour does not win the general election then the CTU has no plan B. A return of a National government will mean further counter-reforms that will casualise labour and attack organised labour head on in the workplace.
The CTU affiliated unions are also vigorously pushing policies for a new awards system under the guise of Industry Standards and the Alternative Economic Policy – in other words capitalist state interventionism and Keynesian economic policy. However, the unfolding process to democratise the Labour Party will take place in the unions where lay member control of unions is poor. It is apparent that the CTU leaders are incapable of leading a generalised movement against the government. This can be seen from the number of strikes days has declined to a recent all time low of 10 in 2012.
At present only about 23% of workers are in unions and the employers are on the offensive to further reduce organised labour in the workplace. Without doubt in the period that is opening up workers will turn to the traditional mass organisations starting with the unions to begin to address the issues they face. When the present leadership of the CTU is found wanting workers will conclude the need to elect representatives that will reflect their views and aspirations and begin to transform the union movement into a militant one to defend their interests. In such a process the ideas of Marxism will gain ground and we can win the best militant workers to the banner of Marxism through patient work in the movement.
The winning of youth to Marxism is crucial as they are the key to the future. Today young people in New Zealand have grown up in the conditions of a "deregulated" economy and, like the youth of many other countries, face huge student debts, low paid jobs, high unemployment and a future with no hope.
Youth unemployment remains persistently high. The National-led government's response to youth unemployment is to re-introduce the youth minimum wage rates. As for young New Zealander living overseas with a student debt the government has passed laws to arrest people in student loan arrears at the border! There is growing exploitation of young workers and anger developing in the youth. The period of the 'death agony of capitalism' will further radicalise a whole section of youth as they look for answers to the problems they face. At some point the anger of youth, with no real future, will be transformed into mass street protests and demonstrations.
New Zealand capitalism has entered a new period: a period of extreme turbulence and struggles between the classes characterised by economic instability of booms and slumps and an economic system that is an absolute fetter on the development of the productive forces. Under such conditions the ideas of Marxism in New Zealand will gain ground and the building of the revolutionary party is the key to the socialist transformation of society here in New Zealand and the world. Forward to international socialism!