Friday, 10 February 2012

Is Labour Beyond Labour Reform?

Taking A Lead: The CTU's Helen Kelly has made repeated attempts to lure the Labour Party towards meaningful labour relations reforms - with very limited success. The CTU's, and the broader labour movement's, proposals need to get a lot bigger and bolder. The restoration of universal union membership and the return of national awards would do more to reduce social and economic inequality than any other single measure of labour reform .

ACROSS THE WORLD political parties of the centre-left struggle for relevance. Those in power compete with their centre-right opponents for the title of “The Biggest Loser” vis-a-vis deficit reduction. Those in opposition, including our own Labour Party, adopt right-wing policies as proof of their “realism”.

Outside of Latin America there doesn’t seem to be a single centre-left leader who conceives of his/her mission as anything more than “administering capitalism” more successfully than “the other lot”. The notion that contemporary free-market capitalism has failed, and ought to be replaced, receives short shrift from all but the most radical of social democratic leaders. Advocates of overtly left-wing economic and social policies find themselves ridiculed and ignored; driven into that friendless no-man’s-land which separates the centre- from the far-left.

The only certain outcome of this kind of politics is that the ideological battleground is moved further and further to the right.

What lies at the heart of this abdication from principle? Is it the steady perfection of the science of opinion sampling? Is the professional pollster’s superior grasp of the electorate’s collective mind responsible for strangling the politician’s infant principles in their cradle? Does the judgement of the omnipotent Focus Group stop all radical policy in its tracks?

Certainly, the opinion polls play their part. But could they really prevent a politician convinced of the rightness of his/her cause from marching without flinching into a hail of unfriendly ballots?

We already know the answer to that question. Were the members of Helen Clark’s caucus listening to pollsters and focus groups when they backed her decision to give Labour’s full support to Sue Bradford’s “anti-smacking” bill? On that issue they were willing to defy the wishes of more than 70 percent of the electorate.

Clearly, then, there are some principles which the centre-left will uphold – even if 99 percent of the electors are arrayed in opposition. How many Labour members, do you suppose, would back the re-criminalisation of abortion – or homosexuality?

But, can the same be said of the centre-left when it comes to legislation held dear by the wealthiest 1 percent of the electorate? The Employment Contracts Act, for example? Judging by how much of the latter’s repressive intent somehow found its way into its pallid successor, the Employment Relations Act, the answer can only be “No.”

This is curious because more and more evidence is emerging that a healthy trade union movement is one of the prime guarantors of effective wealth redistribution. Statistics published recently in the Guardian newspaper show unequivocally that the point at which the top 1 percent of income earners in the UK controlled the smallest amount of national wealth was in the mid-to-late 1970s – the exact same moment when the number of British trade unionists reached its zenith. A CTU analysis of the same statistics here in New Zealand has confirmed the UK experience. Universal union membership, coupled with national awards, acted as a brake on the growth of inequality for nearly fifty years.


For any Labour Party worth its salt this evidence should be conclusive. Not simply because the maintenance of social equality is one of the centre-left’s traditional objectives, but also because rampant inequality manifests itself in a host of other social indicators relating to the general health and well-being of the population. More than any other single reform, the restoration of effective trade unionism in New Zealand would halt, and then narrow, the gap between rich and poor. The consequent improvements in the health and educational attainment of New Zealand’s most deprived citizens should make radical labour law reform even more of a no-brainer for social-democratic policy-makers.

Even those Labour leaders, like David Shearer, who speak eloquently about lifting the game of New Zealand’s manufacturing industries should embrace radical labour law reform. By raising wage levels across-the-board such measures would winnow out the lazy and inefficient managers of New Zealand businesses. The long-term effects on productivity of restoring powerful and progressive trade unions are positive – not negative.

Why, then, do centre-left parties run a mile from such policies? Why will they die in a ditch for gay marriage – but not an empowered workforce? Why defend a woman’s right to choose – but not a worker’s right to effective representation on the job?

In politics we are defined most accurately by the policies we refuse to promote.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times, The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 10 February 2012.

44 comments:

Sanctuary said...

1/ Supporting gay marriage does not threaten the profits of the global capital class. Labour market reform, however, does. And social reorganisation, like workplace reorganisation, has the virtue of appearing to be doing something even when you are in fact doing nothing.

2/ Political participation is largely a middle class sport. Since both the liberal and conservative middle class sides are by defninition winners from the current economic power structure, neither have much interest in changing the games rules to allow anyone else the chance to play.

3/ the media now only exists as long as it serves the requirements of its owners - the ruling classes.

3/ Points 1, 2 & 3 are mutually reinforcing, until the entire edifice collapses and we all wake up in Pinochet's Chile.

The Billy Bragg version of the Internationale tells us "For though they offer us concessions, Change will not come from above!" A point made more vigorously in more traditional forms for the song. People need work out that for themselves, not sit around waiting for a political party to do it for them.

Giovanni Tiso said...

Why, then, do centre-left parties run a mile from such policies? Why will they die in a ditch for gay marriage – but not an empowered workforce? Why defend a woman’s right to choose – but not a worker’s right to effective representation on the job?

Aside from the fact that, as Sanctuary notes, they are fundamentally different political problems (sticking to principle in civil rights battles is much easier than in labour legislation, which affects the economy – that’s how you get the most appalling defences of slave or semi-slave labour in the developing world, on the grounds of pragmatism), my sense is that social democratic parties no longer believe that the right to effective representation on the job is worth defending. They’ve fallen for the capitalist realist line that precarity – or, more cheerfully, flexibility – is the only way to sustain high levels of employment. Large sectors of the working class have fallen for it too, which is why Mana got the result that it did and also how the Greens came to realise that unless they abandoned the cause of workers’ rights they would never break 10% of the vote. But in Labour’s case I don’t think it’s so much an electoral calculation as a genuine political/ideological shift. Expect Shearer to make this shift far more explicit than either Clark or Goff.

Anonymous said...

re Helen Kelly, Chris

ahem,

she's set on being Labour pm.

Chris Trotter said...

Could do worse.

blueleopardthinks said...

One of the obstacles for left wing parties is that the right wing have half baked irrational approaches to societies problems and are therefore easier to package into memes and be retained in people's mind, influencing their choices than the more intelligent approach of left wing policies.

The best antidote to problems facing left wing parties would be that people start seeing the relevance of political structures and approaches in their lives and start engaging and thinking for themselves.

The media could assist in this, however their working with an approach of requiring information to be presented in 1 minute segments on the news, and being told to have their writing aimed at the intellectual capacity of 12 year olds (no offense intended; incidentally an age of 10 years is the level aimed for by US media, or so I was told), these, along with the requirement of drama in order to have popular ratings is not helping matters.

Politicians could help matters by ensuring their consciences are active and that they are acting from motives for the best interests of the people rather than spending all their time on appearances.

As it stands people are busy and distracted and are having their base prejudices preyed upon by political electioneering these days, most being too busy to do otherwise, and I personally believe our media and politicians need to start really focussing on informing the public and spend less time on appearances and dramatic spin. An informed public will lead to a public more interested in the real issues and less inclined to be swayed by shoddy spin doctor techniques.

Big Bruv said...

My god!

This post is the wet dream of all us right wingers.
If you have any influence at all Chris please make sure that compulsory unionism is at the center of the Labour parties next election campaign.

While you are at it can you also do your best to make sure Helen Kelly is the Labour party leader.

Both Kelly and removing choice for workers would be enough to see Labour never regain the government benches.
On another issue, I had to laugh at you using 1970's UK as the reason we should all be forced to pay union dues again, do you not remember the way that the unions nearly destroyed the UK economy in the 70's?

However, please don't let that stop your desire to see choice removed from the Kiwi worker, go hard comrade, all of us on the right will thank you.

teambuilding said...

Thank you for such a wonderful post.

leadership solutions uae said...

Thanks a lot for sharing the tips in going for development.

Anonymous said...

Spot on. Might be early days, but if Labour's going to sort itself out in this regard it won't be while Shearer's leader. Some of us had high hopes for him, just like we did for Pita Sharples, but he's showing us already they'll be dashed by the same forces you've described here. I predict Shearer to be gone within a year and a half. Cunliffe's already coolly angling for the job.

Anonymous said...

"administering capitalism" sums up the nzlp.

This has been the mantra of the nzlp since rogernomics hit.

It is hardly difficult to understand the voter turnout at the last election, or the previous one.

The POAL stoush pretty much sums it up. Rampant capitalism rules. OK!

Where is the nzlp? Nowhere.

Slaughterhouse workers in Marton have there income reduced to profit management. where is nzlp?

The minimum wage is raised by 50 cents ph? Where is the nzlp?

nzlp has been floundering since Rogernomics took hold.

Untrammelled capitalism has led us into our current mess.

Some serious intervention could be useful. Actually the chairman of the bank of england pretty much said the same.

the voice of the occupiers could reasonably heard via a robust union movement.

The Business Round Table and Employer Organisations have no problems.

Perhaps the rest of us could do with a bit of help.

Red Pete said...

What the 2011 election means is that the majority of ordinary people have worked out that Labour is just another managerial right-wing party, much like National. That's why they stayed home on Nov 26th. They understand that Labour couldn't care less about whether they live or die. Or how they and their families live.

Goff was never going to make it. It wasn't plausible that such a right-wing war hawk could suddenly become an friend of the poor.

Did Labour's managers care? No. Personal ambition, rank and time-serving counted for more than finding a strategy and a leader capable of defending the lives of ordinary people.

Lots of my friends are trade unionists: nurses, doctors, social workers, teachers. They all came around our place on election night. It was an awful mood as the results rolled in. All of them are kicking themselves for having voted Labour. I voted Mana. I'm pleased I did. My friends all wish they had voted for Mana too. They've given up waiting for Labour to do the decent thing, to protect their interests, to be a party of LABOUR. As far as they are concerned Labour is beyond reform. Shearer's elevation and Labour's apparent lack of any core principles are further proof of how far from useful Labour is.

The facts are simple. Shearer is making ridiculous and unrealistic claims about growing the economy for all. The international situation is bleak with a major depression unfolding. Key knows the economy is going to contract sharply and aims to increase the proportion of any surplus going to his friends. Key is a realist.

Labour needs to get off fantasy island. Small business is very well served with parties ranging from Act to the Greens. Labour's only hope of getting those cushy Wellington jobs back is if they become a party for working people, the poor and the disabled once again.

Yet Labour is still chock-full of Princes St. types and Rogernomes who quietly subscribe to and worship 'The Economist', so that won't happen.

When ordinary people think of Labour, if they are over 40 they remember the sell-outs. If they are under 40 they wonder what Labour are going on about, because they come across as just another bunch of managers.

Recently on 'The Standard' a post was taken down because it discussed the environmental crisis. Such crude pro-business censorship tells you a lot about who Labour currently serves.

Labour's failure to come out strongly behind the Ak wharfies signifies the depth of the rot. In some respects Labour's timidity is understandable as the union leaders themselves have conceded everything, yet are still being told by management to 'go away.' It seems that union leaders have forgotten how to do class war after years of "partnership." Those days are over. Unless the Maritime Union can widen the struggle to overseas ports, with scab-handled cargoes blacked, then they might as well de-register now. Will Labour still offer it's (timid) support if this turns into an indefinite strike or lockout?

Unless Labour starts supporting the struggles of ordinary people they can forget about 2017, 2014 is impossible already. If Labour fails in 2020, they are gone forever.brita

Red Pete said...

What the 2011 election means is that the majority of ordinary people have worked out that Labour is just another managerial right-wing party, much like National. That's why they stayed home on Nov 26th. They understand that Labour couldn't care less about whether they live or die. Or how they and their families live.

Goff was never going to make it. It wasn't plausible that such a right-wing war hawk could suddenly become an friend of the poor.

Did Labour's managers care? No. Personal ambition, rank and time-serving counted for more than finding a strategy and a leader capable of defending the lives of ordinary people.

Lots of my friends are trade unionists: nurses, doctors, social workers, teachers. They all came around our place on election night. It was an awful mood as the results rolled in. All of them are kicking themselves for having voted Labour. I voted Mana. I'm pleased I did. My friends all wish they had voted for Mana too. They've given up waiting for Labour to do the decent thing, to protect their interests, to be a party of LABOUR. As far as they are concerned Labour is beyond reform. Shearer's elevation and Labour's apparent lack of any core principles are further proof of how far from useful Labour is.

The facts are simple. Shearer is making ridiculous and unrealistic claims about growing the economy for all. The international situation is bleak with a major depression unfolding. Key knows the economy is going to contract sharply and aims to increase the proportion of any surplus going to his friends. Key is a realist.

Labour needs to get off fantasy island. Small business is very well served with parties ranging from Act to the Greens. Labour's only hope of getting those cushy Wellington jobs back is if they become a party for working people, the poor and the disabled once again.

Yet Labour is still chock-full of Princes St. types and Rogernomes who quietly subscribe to and worship 'The Economist', so that won't happen.

When ordinary people think of Labour, if they are over 40 they remember the sell-outs. If they are under 40 they wonder what Labour are going on about, because they come across as just another bunch of managers.

Recently on 'The Standard' a post was taken down because it discussed the environmental crisis. Such crude pro-business censorship tells you a lot about who Labour currently serves.

Labour's failure to come out strongly behind the Ak wharfies signifies the depth of the rot. In some respects Labour's timidity is understandable as the union leaders themselves have conceded everything, yet are still being told by management to 'go away.' It seems that union leaders have forgotten how to do class war after years of "partnership." Those days are over. Unless the Maritime Union can widen the struggle to overseas ports, with scab-handled cargoes blacked, then they might as well de-register now. Will Labour still offer it's (timid) support if this turns into an indefinite strike or lockout?

Unless Labour starts supporting the struggles of ordinary people they can forget about 2017, 2014 is impossible already. If Labour fails in 2020, they are gone forever.

Brendan said...

Chris

I think how easily I could have written your article, but from a centre right, conservative perspective a few short years ago. John Key, moved to the left in order to become electable. Once elected he disestablished none of the Clark Government's worst excesses, interest free student loans, WWF middle class welfare, etc etc etc.

This is the natural experience of those whose party sits on the opposition benches, and then worst of all transitions into Government and still does nothing about 'the problem'.

You talk of Trade Unions being the best means of ensuring wealth redistribution in NZ.

One might reasonably ask 'what wealth'?

Have you not noticed that for years now we have been borrowing $380 Million dollars each week from our children in order to keep each of us in the lifestyle that we enjoy?

Actually, its not each of us. I get nothing from the borrowing. It's all spent on bread and circus's (oops sorry) benefits and services for those whom you claim to represent.

As one labour party economics academic recently observed on Radio New Zealand, there will be no revolution in NZ while the biggest problem the 'poor' have is that their flat screen TV is not as large as their neighbors.

That's hardly enough to disturb the status quo.

As I have observed before. The Left in NZ have already won. We are living your narrative every day in 'borrow and redistribute' welfare NZ.

It's past time we cut the cloth to fit our income. If that also means taxing those who earn (say) $100K per annum more then so be it.

However, at the same time lets pre-empt the Greek experience, and trim the fat out of Government, stop spending on stupidity for the sake of political expediency, and take what ever medicine is necessary to re-align ourselves with the economic realities that we face.

Perhaps when we abandon the lose - lose politics of the class warfare narrative that dominates so much of the Left's thinking, and realize that we are all part of 'Enterprise NZ' we may come out the other side better off.

It's a long shot, but surely its worth the attempt.

As for Labour, their only hope is to stop fighting the battles of 1930, realize that the world has moved on, and that their only hope is to work for a brighter economic future for all Kiwis. That includes the rich 1% who we need to risk their capital, create employment, and innovate our way into this century.

Who knows but with Shearer this might be possible?

Anonymous said...

Quite a change of heart from the post you made on Friday, December 2, 2011

"Rebuilding Labour - Without The Unions"

So which is it to be then?

bsprout said...

"the Greens came to realise that unless they abandoned the cause of workers’ rights they would never break 10% of the vote."
Obviously, Giovanni, you didn't read the detail in our campaign material because you would have read:

The Green Party will:

→Create 100,000 new green jobs;

→Increase the minimum wage to $15 per
hour immediately, and commit to future
increases until it reaches 66% of the
average wage;

→Strengthen collective bargaining rights
— as recommended by the International
Monetary Fund38 and the International
Labour Organisation39 — recognising
collective bargaining as one of the key
ways to reduce income inequality and, as
a result, high levels of private debt;

→Raise the cap on apprentice numbers
and provide specific incentives for clean
technology industry training;

→Implement international standards
on the right to strike, worker accident
compensation, pay equity, flexible
working hours, and breastfeeding breaks;

→Remove the 90-day probation period for
new employees;

→Facilitate greater worker participation
on company boards, as has been
successfully implemented in Germany,
and encourage employees to take an
ownership stake in their companies.

This was included in our "Green Jobs' strategy. http://www.greens.org.nz/sites/default/files/gp_jobsbooklet_20final.pdf

And you would have noticed that our new employment spokesperson Denise Roche was the first MP to speak out strongly in support of the Auckland watersiders.

Olwyn said...

Brendan: "That includes the rich 1% who we need to risk their capital, create employment, and innovate our way into this century."

It is arguable, however, whether this holds when the people in question do NOT to risk their capital, create employment and innovate our way into this century. The past 30 years have shown us that simply letting the rich keep their money does not guarantee the follow-up of risk, job creation and innovation. Why take risks and create jobs when you can instead buy into the necessary infrastructure and rest on your laurels?

Anonymous said...

If Labour wants to revitalise it needs to spend some time doing some thinking on some very basic issues.

Labour and other socialist parties around the world have fallen into the trap of believing that democracy is about a set of political institutions, like parliaments and governments, and procedures like elections that anybody can theoretically stand in.

They appear to have forgotten (or never understood) that equality is a prerequiste of democracy.

We can only each take our place as a political being when we are all equal and we do not have a democracy if this is not happening.

A big chunk of the population recognise this at a gut level and are not keen on participating in the sham we call democracy.

So step one for Labour is to affirm a committment to a meaningful democracy and start convincing the people that it is indeed possible.

The next step is to take a good look at the role of the state.

The socialist state was only ever supposed to be a way station on the way to a society where a self governing and self managing population organised the utilizing of the commons and the distribution of surpluses in a free and democratic manner, that is, some form of communism.

Labour seems to have no understanding of this and have allowed, and even facilitated the state into becoming a means of enforcing privilige and economic advantage for the elite few, regardless of whether it is controlled by social democrats or tories.

With the very idea of the 'socialist' state discredited by a population who cannot avoid concluding it is the enemy, Labour is floundering for anything to differentiate itself and has fallen back on using the state to legislate and enforce new social mores (albeit these tend to be more progressive and fair) in the democratic vacuum they have been part of creating.

Of course this pisses people off.

Labour needs to rethink and come up with an agenda that makes the state an instrument of empowerment that is central in organising for equality, and is willing to progressively stand aside as a population emanicapated through participation in a genuine democracy, and confident in its ability to manage its affairs in a free society, is able to do without it.

Will they do this?

No way they were always a party with only half a dream and very little courage.

They have now reached the end of those self imposed limitations.

Anonymous said...

"In politics we are defined most accurately by the policies we refuse to promote."

How true, Chris.

Before a myth gets established, let's remember that the 5th Labour government did not promote gay marriage - it gave gays a second class category called civil union. As Marilyn Waring has said, "equivalence is not equality". New Zealand's civil union legislation compares very poorly with, say, Canada, where the issue was regarded as a matter of justice and led to full equality in the legal form of same-sex marriage.

Of course, on other social issues Helen Clark's government was at the forefront, eg prostitution law reform - oh, wait a minute, that came from Sue Bradford and the Greens.

But there was the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act aka the anti-smacking legislation - oh, hang on, that came from Sue Bradford too...

No-one, even in their most rose-tinted generous moods, could claim Clark's government was staunch for Maori. Or beneficiaries. Or workers. It rode a wholly fortuitous wave of global economic good times through the first half of the 2000s and flopped around at the whim of the latest focus group reports. It managed, in both senses of the word, but that was it.

All in all the neoliberal 5th Labour administration was a pretty pathetic excuse for a social democratic government. History will not be kind to it.

Olwyn said...

@ bsprout: yes I have noticed that people often speak of the Greens gaining middle-class votes by turning to the right, when what they have altered is their presentation rather than their policies.

As to Labour, the dust is yet to settle after the election, and I am still waiting to see whether I am able to remain a member of the Labour party or not. I will not wait indefinitely, but will give it a little longer.

As I have said before, I think that the Clark/Cullen compromise with neoliberalism was reasonable at the time, and that they did make real gains within that framework. However, I do not think that a similar move now would result in similar gains, since the space within that framework in which to make them is no longer there.

However, while the neoliberal grip on the economy has grown stronger, they no longer have the firm hold that they once enjoyed on what it is possible and permissible to think and speak about. You will notice how busy the right wingers are trying to close down alternative lines of thought on left wing websites and the like. And how their "rational" approach to problems such as poverty is more readily denounced as immoral than it once was.

There are three things I am waiting to see if Labour picks up on:(1) You cannot move further right now without standing for nothing at all, (2) There are people desperate for a workable left wing alternative to re-emerge, and (3) the conceptual space for its arrival is growing.

Anonymous said...

Dead in the water.

Barbarosa said...

I with Big Bruv on this one-please do your best to persuade the Labour Party to have compulsory unionism. That would illustrate for all to see the inherant fault in socialism-that if you can't persuade people to your point of view then you can always compel them to that view.
Helen Kelly for PM - the best laugh I have had in ages!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I spose we could do worse than Labour pm Helen

I mean, shes not a suspect greenie watermelon

She's not as fat as Lange, or big Norm K

more fun than Andrew Little any day

More cunning and hard hearted than Phil Goff

but no slower to secure

a good place in the trough

My own pick would be Grant, but if his belly

puts too many off, ok then,

go

get Kelly.

Giovanni Tiso said...

Obviously, Giovanni, you didn't read the detail in our campaign material because you would have read:

I read, I read. But I've also seen a party that - whilst remaining to the Left of Labour on labour issues - has shifted significantly to the right in the last term, and that was not beyond some pretty disgraceful equivocation on the issue of whether or not it might go into coalition with National. It's no wonder (or a matter of disgruntlement) that Bradford ended up working for Mana - the shift was substantive, and not just a matter of rhetoric. That said, I think it's quite clear that the Greens are now the main opposition party, and I salute them for it.

Brendan said...

Olwyn

I'm sure you are correct, that many wealthy people do simply invest in infrastructure, and rest on their laurels.

What that means of course is that the tax payer has not had to invest in that infrastructure, so to that extent at least the wealthy 1% have provided us all with a public service.

My experience of wealthy people, which I accept is limited, is that they have generated their wealth through risk and innovation. This type of person is rarely content to rest on their laurels. They are pioneers and continually look for new horizons to conquer.

We do need these people, even if many on the Left despise them, and the wealth that flows towards those who are prepared to 'risk all' in the hope of even greater gain.

Often they fail and this is usually overlooked by those on the left.

Recently I have met formally wealthy people who are now working in the service industry in their latter years because they, who were once multi millionaires, have risked all and lost. They were totally gracious and without regrets.

What we must strive for, regardless of our politics, and our personal circumstances, is generosity of spirit. This can be found on both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

If we can grasp that, then we may find that we have more in common than separates us, regardless of our wealth or 'status', or lack thereof.

These are interesting times for the Labour party and its members as they re-visit their philosophical base. Would that National had the courage and the foresight to have done the same while they were in opposition.

Anonymous said...

The Greens now believe we should have a price on water (as well as air through the ETS) because the market will then be able to bring about efficient allocation of resources.

They don't seem to understand that while markets can match goods,services and resources with people who will pay the most money for them this will always result in an unequal distribution of resources and power and speed the destruction of the environment.

They have been sucked in by the seductive market theory of the neo liberals.

And you can't be just a little bit neo liberal.

Once a party goes down that track the logic of the market will mean any progressive policy kept is simply window dressing to win votes from the left and becomes impossible to ever implement.

Thats what Labour has discovered and the Greens are about to learn

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nice to see you've finally caught up Chris.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Just remembered the lines of a Redgum song that sums up Labour to a 'T'

If you work with your hands for your livelihood

Some day you might have to choose

When the class war rages on the factory floor

If you don't fight you lose

Mark Wilson said...

The unions destroyed themselves by their intransigence, blooody minded stupidity and greed - MUNZ being the latest example.
The average kiwi got sick of it and voted to take them down.
Is democarcy only acceptable to you when the left is in charge?
If Labour rolls up to the next elcetion on a platform of reinstating compulsory unionism they will get destroyed.

Anonymous said...

Gosh you obviously unemployed articulate lumbering lads have trodden a great many miles around the mulberrty bush avoiding Chris's question havent you.

the answer is,

Yes.

Anonymous said...

actually that silly anon poet is right.

Labour had a chance to leap out into the stream by anointing Grant Robertson.

For the workers?

For the environment?

For the very poor people?

No no and no. Never. Grant will not sorry your sorry arses, forget about it. Grant is for Grant. First and foremost and foreclosure.

But he has got some chutzzpa that Shearer will never have.

If I was a Labour person and thank my personal gods from saving me from that I would promote Grant Robertson. In his narrow interests he will also raise your flag higher that any of your tribe are able.

Be ye quick, anoint him.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the CTU should affiliate to the green party and mana party instead. Labour is pretty neoliberal these days.

Anonymous said...

Nup. Hels' Labour didn't lurch to the right. Rather, it was pummelled, smashed and slashed by the most vicious and concerted talkback/media/whispering campaign ever seen in these fair isles and left maimed, dazed, scrambling and still bewildered.

Remember Closing the Gaps? Talk to anyone - including the most rabid NACToid - and all will agree on its obvious desirability: the succour and release from early death of a fifth of our population.

Yet it was overnight made poison, by nothing more than deliberate, racist, media opinion manipulation. The very utterance capable of bringing down a formerly highly-popular govt.

Ditto anything else Lab touched; "anti-smack" EFA, Mallard/Tau, you name it. If she'd cured cancer it would've been arrogant witchcraft.

Sad fact is, that poison is still entrenched - even among friends, such as in the comments on this very page and the MP supporters who ignore the history of National's Orewa One, apartheid support and racism down the decades.

Now it's started again, but weak, and flailing. Holmes, Laws, Henry, O'Sullivan. Talkback in print, but this time overwhelmed by angst and a wounded NACTUF circus: The Smiling Eunuch, Bob-oh the Clown and Dipton Doughboy - lying tamers trembling at the global tiger and reaching for a flimsy, family silver chair.

One thing at a time, Labour. Hunker down with friends is the order of the day: your prerequisite compulsory union.

"Not yours to sell" the unifying wedding gift.

ak

Victor said...

Chris

I'm a bit puzzled by these statistics, from both NZ and the UK, showing a marked widening of the wealth gap (call this 'A')coinciding with a sharp drop in union numbers (call this 'B').

The correlation is clear and unambiguous. But is this the same thing as causation?

Both societies went through multifaceted changes from the late 1970s onwards, changes that both of us would regard as broadly antipathetic to the interests of the overwhelming majority of citizens.

But did 'B' cause 'A' or vice versa? Or, rather more likely, might not 'A' and 'B' both be symptoms of some larger factor(s) at work (e.g. 'C' or 'D')?

For example, in both the UK and (slightly later) in NZ, the period in question saw the ending of post-war policies of full employment and effective demand management.

Such policy changes helped destroy jobs and (particularly in the UK) whole industries. A natural consequence of this was that union membership declined steeply (and all the more so as the defunct industries were those best suited to traditional unionism).

Meanwhile, increased unemployment widened income disparities. So did the de-stabilised business cycle, with its recurrent peaks and troughs and equally recurrent waves of 'winners' and 'losers'.

No doubt the decline in union membership fed its way back into this morass and further contributed to the widening wealth gap, as did a wide range of other economic and cultural factors.

But, essentially, 'C' or 'D' caused 'A' and 'B' at least as much as 'B' caused 'A'.

Am I splitting hairs here? I think not.

Are we necessarily correct in assuming that, in today's changed circumstances, a reversal of 'B' will lead to a reversal of 'A'?

Even if this assumption is correct, how much weight should it have as compared to a range of other desirable policy objectives that would both help narrow the wealth gap and prevent the further impoverishment of this nation as a whole?

And, hanging on the answer to this question, might be the answer to how significant a role the unions can and should play in a revivified Labour Party?

Anonymous said...

Red Pete, when did The Standard remove an article because it talked about the environmental crisis? The Standard publishes articles about the environmental crisis all the time.

http://thestandard.org.nz/category/environment/

Chris Trotter said...

The answer, Victor, is in the stats. Just compare the UK and NZ cases.

Where mass union membership was preserved through legislation (the NZ case) the growth of inequality was suppressed.

The moment that protection was withdrawn, inequality soared.

There's your causation.

Victor said...

Sorry Chris.

But I don't think you've answered my point.

Let me put it a bit more baldly.

Union membership declined because of the neo-liberal revolution.

At the same time, the wealth gap increased because of the neo-liberal revolution.

So perhaps it's the neo-liberal revolution as a whole that we should be blaming.

Of course the decline in union stats and the increased rich/poor divide were part of this revolution.

But I don't think it's a simple case of declining unions causing a bigger wealth gap.

There were many other factors at work, albeit that they were all in some ways inter-related.

I repeat; correlation is not the same as causation.

Brendan said...

Chris,

I think another factor feeding 'inequality' has been the growth of of people on the DPB since the late '70's.

We have gone from about 8,000 on the DPB in 1973 when it was introduced, to over 115,000 today, plus about 220,000 children who are dependent upon DPB households.

In the early 70's about 4,000 children were adopted in NZ each year, today it's about 100.

I put it to you that the gap between 'rich and poor' in NZ has more to do with the uptake of the DPB, particularly amongst Maori (just under 50% of all recipients), and less to do with the demise of unions.

Not very PC I know, but I suspect it is THE dominant factor, and particularly THE primary cause of 'child poverty' in NZ.

Coquecigrue said...

I can talk only of what I know. French laws have carry on protecting unions representations, and right wing governments have found easier to erase the laws protecting the right to strike, at least where unions are traditionally stronger.
But this had no direct effect on unions' strength here, as much as I can say. If I can give my opinion on this, I think the point is that our unions have followed the decline of the idea of what left wing means.
Here it started with the communists coming in partial power, back in 1981. At that time, the most powerful union was directly linked to the communist party. When Mitterrand let go the left policy he has installed at the beginning (in 1984, when he started to 'reconciliate' the socialist party with the market) the link between the CGT union and the communist party, who had choose to stay in the government despite the changing of policy, started to fade away. Other unions, well known for beeing far less implied in politics, as CFDT or FO, tied bounds with the government and grow as CGT get isolated from the power.
In the end, the idea came to many that unions strength is bound to their links to power, and in consequence, they will not defy power too hard. And they are now totally weaken, used only when a personal problem occur at work, and chosen for they ability to act in court and the competence of their lawyers more than for any political reason.
And, if I can add a very personal feeling : because everyone, specially the left wing politicians (Jospin, to name him), has accredited the idea that no one has power against markets.
You don't need laws to bring unions down : making people think they are piloted by the power in charge and that no power is bigger than the market itself, bingo. They still will be union, but they will be empty shells.


(and please, be indulgent about my grammar, will you ? Thanks !)

Chris Trotter said...

I really am surprised at you, Victor.

The destruction of organised labour as a significant economic and political player is the sine qua non of neoliberal counter-revolutions.

It is undertaken to MAKE SURE that the 1 percent can reclaim their lost billions.

I'm amazed how few people understand this (to me) glaringly obvious aspect of the history of the last 40 years.

Victor said...

Chris

I think your graph demonstrates my point at least as much as yours (not that there's all that much dividing us).

It shows New Zealand's wealth gap starting to widen dramatically in the 1980s with the start of the neo-liberal counter-revolution but well BEFORE the introduction of the ECA.

So, arguably, it's the cumulative force of neo-liberalism and its attendant economic restructuring that facilitated the growing gap.

Obviously the abandonment of pro-employment policies and the resulting drop in union numbers facilitated this process.

So, I'd agree that declining union numbers were a sine qua non for these untoward developments.

But THE sine qua non? I'm really not sure.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I see your xenophobia with the working classes continues, if we consider the following stats - albeit Finland’s - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Finland. The largest sector of the economy is services at 65.7 percent, followed by manufacturing at 31.4 percent. Primary production is 2.9 percent.

Considering NZ is not too
dissimilar – the working class is fast disappearing. If the lefties hang on to the exultation of the working the class Proletariat the Labour Party is heading towards extinction just like the Moa, and one day we will see a wax effigy of HC in museums as a curiosity.

Labour’s heartland of the blue collar worker slaving his guts out in 1930, fast forwarded to 2012, is more likely to be employed in a high tech service industry. The the constant bleating of social justice for the working class falls on deaf ears.

Labour needs a re-birth and redefining its way forward and have modern policies that enhance the above, and not some mythical beast long gone.

All Labour has left is pinko public servants and academics,fast dissapearing - Thanks to John K.

guerilla surgeon said...

Anon. 4.48. Service industries also includes the lowest skilled and worst paid.

Anonymous said...

Basically any worker in this country who works for someone else is being screwed over by the management class and upper ecelons of business.. even in the State Service..This country is becoming a country full of 'screwers'

These workers must realise that the right has you in their back pocket.. the workers have become lapdogs...

Day-by-day unions and more and more necessary...Close the door... turn off the lights...BECAUSE NO ONE IS GOING TO DO A THING ABOUT IT!

Anonymous said...

Just a thing Chris.. why on heavens does everyone and yourself use the identification bold words below when some letters are hard to read... WOW

Trying for the second time !!