Thursday, 19 February 2015

With A Little Help From Your Friends: Labour Betrays The Greens - Again.

With Friends Like These: Andrew Little's decision to exclude the Greens from Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee is proof of Labour's determination to shake the monkey of alleged Green "extremism" off its back. One is moved to inquire of the unfortunate Greens: "How's that Labour's left-wing conscience thing working out for you?"
 
DEAN PARKER, New Zealand’s leading left-wing playwright, tells a great story about two old Bolsheviks.
 
It’s 1917, half way between the February and October Revolutions, and these two old comrades are complaining about what’s happened to their local branch of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. They cannot believe the numbers turning up to branch meetings. Hundreds of people have been regularly packing out the little hall where, formerly, twenty was regarded as a good turnout. What’s more, most of the newcomers are people the regulars have never seen before. And so young! With no respect for older comrades who have been with the party for years and years – even when it was illegal – back before the Tsar granted Russia a parliament! Truth to tell, these poor old codgers actually preferred political life before the revolution. The meetings were quieter, and the comrades so much more polite.
 
According to Soviet historians, the membership of the “bolshevik” [majority] faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, in the year before the outbreak of World War I, 1913, stood at roughly 25,000. By the end of 1917, however, the ranks of the Bolsheviks had swollen to a figure in excess of quarter-of-a-million.
 
Dean’s story offers us a tiny glimpse of what that sort of explosive growth might have felt like on the ground. It is also a useful historical reminder of how ordinary people respond when politics suddenly stops being an elite sport and they find themselves invited to join the game. That’s when everything changes – including the rules.
 
The story should also remind us that the aspirations of most political parties – even those on the Left – are considerably less heroic when revolution is not in the air. In a capitalist society, under “normal” circumstances, the preoccupations of parliamentary parties are all about maximising their vote at the next election; securing more seats that their rivals; amassing sufficient funds; seeking out friendly journalists; and making themselves more electable by keeping the party’s radical elements under strict control.
 
It is absolutely pointless for non-parliamentary “revolutionaries” to wail about this state of affairs. Because behaving in any other way, under “normal” capitalist conditions, has been proved, over and over again, to be utterly self-defeating.
 
Which is why Andrew Little, as Leader of the Opposition, used the opportunity provided by Prime Minister John Key to humiliate and alienate the Greens. Rather than invite Metiria Turei to take Russel Norman’s place on the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, Little nominated his colleague, David Shearer, to join him in over-seeing the work of the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau.
 
In the current political climate, Little is acutely aware that Labour’s close association with the Greens is a big political loser. Too many people who would like to vote Labour are declining to do so because they fear the influence of the Greens within what all the polls tell them would be a coalition government of the centre-left. It is one of the reasons why so many Labour supporters split their votes. They are happy to give their electorate vote to the Labour candidate, so long as, by party-voting National, they can keep the Greens out of government.
 
Clearly, by so publicly mistreating the Greens, Little hopes to convince potential Labour voters that his party is no longer willing to be lumped-in with Green “extremism”. His message is clear: in any future coalition government the Greens will serve on Labour’s terms – or not at all.
 
The Greens, having digested this latest helping of dead rat from their Labour “friends”, should ask themselves (one more time, and with feeling!) how the job of being Labour’s left-wing conscience is working out. Has the strategy of locating the Green Party to the left of the empty ideological husk that Labour has become been a good thing or a bad thing in terms of advancing the Green agenda? If it’s been a bad thing (and Lord knows, after 15 years in the wilderness, it’s hard to characterise it any other way!) might it not be time to consider a new strategy? One in which the slogan “Neither left, nor right, but in front!” is fleshed out programmatically in a way that leaves the Green’s parliamentary caucus open to offers from both sides of the political spectrum?
 
It took a world war and almost complete internal collapse to propel the Bolsheviks into the job of effecting the revolutionary changes demanded by the Russian people. As climate change begins to bite, and the planet’s carrying capacity is exceeded once, twice, three times over; what sort of party will find its membership exploding? Will it be the mean-spirited party of an attenuated social democracy? The party of discredited neoliberal extremism? Or, will it be the party which, like Lenin’s Bolsheviks, has never ceased telling anyone who would listen that this day would come?
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 18 February 2015.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Labour cannot form Government without the Greens, full stop. Rather like how Helen Clark and Jim Anderton realised that the only way to win was to form a Labour-Alliance partnership in the run-up to 1999. People in 1999 knew the Alliance would be in power, yet they voted Labour anyway.

The Flying Tortoise said...

Another arrogant little politician...

peter petterson said...

Little has to take the party away from Rogernomics and back to democratic socialism. If it means walking over the Greens, so be it!

Bogusnews said...

I think this is a well considered post. The Greens didn't do themselves any favours by wanting to essentially disband a lot of our security and intelligence services. It's unlikely having them overseeing a review would be very palatable. Further, I would have thought David Shearer was a very good selection by Little.

Labour as "an empty ideological husk" is also very accurate. They need more than a savior at the moment. They need a competent team to form a new nucleus similar to the Lange/Douglas/Moore/Prebble group. I can't see it at the moment or anytime in the forseeable future.

Martin Connelly said...

He hardly betrayed anyone, but he did show that Labour are no longer going to be the Green's poodles.

David said...

Labour's got 99 problems and the Greens are one

greywarbler said...

What a funny lot of old fossils commenting here. Wanting to stride around throwing out their Labour chests and thumping them. Gorillas that do this are usually silverbacks which indicates age and maturity. Humans are different apparently - of a lower order.
The Greens are today's leftist fighters. I think commenters who don't want Labour to work with them are sweet little grannies in rocking chairs or what? Maybe they have images of themselves as noble class warriors or at least fellow travellers in the mass tramp of workers looking for decent conditions and a life worth living. Both lost looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"What a funny lot of old fossils commenting here."
Perhaps, but they're are a couple of cuts above the Colonel Blimps who comment on whale oil and other right-wing blogs :-).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Speaking of which, just got modded on whale oil – having discovered that I had been un-banned somehow – for saying that Enoch Powell's rivers of blood speech had not come true as some Wally claimed. So I told them off. Dammit sometimes you've just gotta let rip. Prolly get banned again :-).

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile a deathly silence from Labour/Green re the plight of the Food and Service Workers Union.
The Queenstown Chamber of Commerce want bags loads of cheap labour. F&S say it is too expensive tolive in Queenstown. C oC says "the market will correct housing". So what is the cost benefit? Why dont we bring in workers to pick the briar roses?

Anonymous said...

The neurochemical, neurostructural resonances within close relationships – couples, families, tribes – can gift members a sense of shared purpose. When we draw significance from these bonds, from their apparent strength and continuity, we are often driven to try to shape our environments to uphold and sanctify them. This drive has myriad positive effects, but it can also be perilously narrow. If we are to avoid relationship conservatism – and exclusion of those who do not identify with the love paradigm – we must allow the flourishing of love in the widest possible sense.
Steven Pinker
from edge.organization "This Scientific Idea Must Die "
........
Is Steven Pinker Nurse Ratchet, Chris?

Anonymous said...

Sorry not Steven Pinker, but still included in
"
This Idea Must Die: Some of the World’s Greatest Thinkers Each Select a Major Misconception Holding Us Back"
http://hplusmagazine.com/2015/02/13/cosmic-tug-love/

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Anonymous, can't get entry to that magazine even by doing a web search and clicking on their alleged website.