Thursday, June 02, 2005

Pulling leftward

Span has posted the latest in her long-running exchange with Just Left (into which I have occasionally intruded) on the best way to work towards a left-wing (rather than centrist) government in New Zealand. Should lefties join Labour and try and push it leftward from within, or use other parties (such as the Alliance, Greens or Progressives) to try and influence policy through the coalition process? She thinks we need to use both tactics - to "fight Labour on two fronts" - both to provide a ready alternative if Labour ever repeats its neo-liberal betrayal, and because it allows different people to work towards the common goal in different ways. She sums up by saying

Let us fight in our way, and you will fight in yours, and hopefully one day we will all win together

This is good as far as it goes - and as a liberal, I fully support a diversity of approaches - but it's also focused rather narrowly on those who join and are active within political parties. But they're only 2% of the population; what about the other 98% of us who don't? How can ordinary, left-wing voters best promote left-wing government?

Well, vote, and vote left, obviously. But which of the many alternatives? Here I think its important to realise that under MMP we are not voting on who should form a government, but on who should influence a governing coalition (and by how much). Labour will be the core of any governing coalition on the left, so the question then is whether we are happy with its policy direction, and if not, which direction we want to pull it in. This is a question that each of us must answer for ourselves, but if (like me) you are unhappy with some of Labour's more reactionary policies, then trying to pull it leftward by voting for one of the smaller "wing-parties" looks like a very good idea. Exactly which depends on what exactly you want: the Greens for human rights and social liberalism, the Progressives for social spending and lower student debt, or the Alliance (if they seem viable) to reverse privatisation and roll back the Revolution. The choice is up to you.


ahem, and the Greens for a focus on environment?

Posted by Kakariki : 6/02/2005 08:08:00 AM

I'm part of the 98%--in part because there is no political party in this country that really reflects all of my views.

Certainly I will vote but I'm increasingly moving away from thinking in terms of representative democracy as being all there is to democracy. I see a role for leftish leaning people in trying to influence the direction of policy on an issue by issue basis through activism, lobbying, media etc. I think its a view quite akin to the approach of the Fabians who had a saying something along the lines of we want change and we don't much mind who implements it...

Posted by Amanda : 6/02/2005 09:03:00 AM

Kakariki: yeah, that too. OTOH, they always deny that that is part of the left/right axis :)

MTNW: Absolutely. If we want to ensure that left-wing policies are enacted, we need to keep fighting for them, rather than just casting a vote every three years.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/02/2005 09:17:00 AM

How exactly is the Progressive (and it will just be Jim based on the polls) going to fund social spending and reducing student debt at the same time as cutting taxes for businesses? Either the Greens or the Alliance would be a better choice if social spending and lower student debt are your priorities.

Make Tea Not War: if nobody cares who implements change, there won't be anybody to do the implementing. It doesn't seem to me that it can be at all efficient or effective for everybody who wants something to sit on the outside and demand that people who don't want it should bring it about.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 6/02/2005 11:43:00 AM

CMT: I'm not sure - but remember, it will be Progressive influence, not a Progressive government - which means that Jim's business tax-cuts will come hard up against Michael Cullen's desire to keep a balanced budget.

As for "who implements", this is again an example of a diversity of approaches. Some people are happy within parties. Some refuse to have others speak for them or to be subjected to the whip. But this does not mean that the latter are going to be ineffective.

I think we need a left-wing coalition in government to produce effective change - but that's not the only way. Public opinion is all about forcing reluctant, even hostile, governments to do things they don't want to do. And if people can marshall some of that force to influence a government of whatever stripe in the right direction, it will be a Good Thing.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/02/2005 03:26:00 PM

BTW, if you are the sort to get involved in parties, I recommend Span's other post on which party should lefties head to?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/02/2005 03:46:00 PM

I whole-heartedly agree with the need for left-wing activism, outside parties and not, between elections, at elections, all the damn time! I got involved in the education campaigns of the mid-late 90s long before I ever considered joining a party, in fact I was very firmly in the 98% camp for several years, but I wanted an outlet for my activism beyond university that wasn't single issue, and i had to find a party to do that.

the Progressives are a short term fix at the most - when Jim goes they will probably go too, he isn't very good at succesion (sp?) building in my experience. if they continue to rely on his seat for a return, rather than seriously building their percentage, they will not outlast him. And Jim likes it that way.

Posted by Span : 6/02/2005 08:54:00 PM