Labour vs Greens or Labour+Green+MANA?: The Aotearoa Saltwater Project
While Scott York bitches about the little things, (imperatorfish is latin for 'so much effort, so few laughs'), conventional wisdom for Labour has been not to compete with the Greens but with the Greens recent success perhaps Labour needs a new strategy?
I mean, how does one compete with Metiria's speech at the conference? This is simply one of the best political speeches on social justice ever given.
How does Labour re-assert themselves over the Greens (a question I keep getting from desperate Labour Party MP's), the answer is so clear it's almost embarrassing. The Greens are still wedded to free market mechanisms to employ their green proposals, that won't go ANYWHERE near what is required to deal with the great depression about to hit us. David Cunliffe's discussion on the flawed free market mechanisms of Milton Friedman is the only intellectual political discussion in town right now, and it is as Brain Easton has pointed out in his brilliant MUST READ essay last April on how the left have to create an alternative economic argument that goes beyond the failed free market systems the Greens are reliant on to create their green sustainable economy.
That is the answer to Labour's terminal decline as the Greens continue to eat into their vote.
The reality is that while the environment is in collapse, the economic hegemonic structure that is helping destroy that environment is in a faster terminal decline. The Dow dropping 274 points on Friday is the latest signal that the second dip of this Great Recession to turn it into a Great Depression is now under way.
Doubt that? The Eurozone is months away from collapse, America was supposed to create 160 000 odd jobs, they only created 60 000 odd, India is cooling and China is on course for it's own credit bubble collapse predicted for next year.
The derivatives market is valued at $600 trillion, 10 times the actual total GDP of the planet, Milton Friedman's free market unregulated dogma has created a monster whose greed is imploding upon itself. Dealing to that economic reality is where Labour must focus their attention, and allowing the best articulator of that argument (Cunliffe) free to expand on it is the only solution for Labour (if they decide to keep Shearer on as leader). The House of Shearer, the House of Robertson/Ardern and the House of Cunliffe must meet and give Cunliffe Finance. The Clark/Cullen partnership was what built Labour, they need a Shearer/Cunliffe partnership now (the current Shearer/Parker team is like two wet blankets trying to start a fire).
Labour's appeal must be as Easton argues, to articulate and create an economic alternative to the free market failure...
While this battle rages overseas the New Zealand left is faced with the challenge of renewal too. Neo-liberals may be zombies but every reader of thrillers knows that is not enough for social democrats to triumph. Neo-liberalism has been a much more fearsome opponent than the conservatism that the left faced in the nineteenth century. The likelihood is that in due course – perhaps after they open themselves up to the evidence and criticism – there will be some sort of neo-liberal revival. The traditional battle of radicals versus conservatives may be a thing of the past, or at least cut across by radicals of the right versus radicals of the left.
If trends continue, today’s left may continue to drift into the irrelevance that its traditionalism offers. Certainly its concerns of foreign policy, civil rights and social diversity are very important but over half the respondents to a survey just before the 2011 election said their main concern was the economy or one of its manifestations of failure, such as unemployment. (Expect the proportion to go up during the next three years.) Adding poverty and inequality to the traditionalists’ concerns does not help much unless there is a coherent explanation of how they occur and how to address them. Nor is adding a spiritual concern with the environment of much use unless there is a robust analysis of how the economy impacts on the environment. So we are back to a social democratic analysis.
Labour need to articulate a 'NZ economic solution' wedded to egalitarianism, public ownership and progressive taxation and it needs to establish those solutions with actions NZers can see in real terms like universal union membership, a financial transaction tax and tax-free basic income alongside a living wage.
Bring in economists like Bernard Hickey, Gareth Morgan, the Fabian Society and BERL's Chief Economist Ganesh Nana to forward these debates and provide the intellectual grunt.
That would give Labour a leadership position over the Greens, but Labour also need to accept that the Greens are now a force to be reckoned with. It must be a Green cabinet with at least 5 Ministers (including Deputy), this is a political reality Labour must come to grips with.
2014 will be close, when I argued for the creation of a party to the left of the Greens in the form of MANA, it was with a view that National would only win by a one seat majority, it did. MANA didn't gain the wider voter traction (it was after all only fully formed 3 months before the election) but it has made sizable gains in street activism and Annette Sykes is set to take Waiariki, MANA could be the difference to make the majority, and it is in the Greens interests for that to be the case. NZ First and United hate the Greens more than Labour do, meaning any coupling with Labour plus those parties would be the exact same position the Greens have been relegated to during Labour's last 3 terms in power.
The wider left of NZ need to appreciate the structural change a Labour+Greens+MANA Government could actually achieve for NZ. We face a crises of capitalism akin to the 1929 stock market collapse and the real fallout from 2007 will be felt by 2014. The structural change needed for NZ to grow can not be found in the ideological failures of the right, it can only be found by a resurgent left prepared to articulate an alternative economic approach.
Almost a million NZers didn't bother to vote in 2011. The left need to inspire them and stop underestimating them. This redirection could do that.