The Workers Party recently received an enquiry from a high school student trying to get in touch with the New Zealand Communist Party. The year 9 student wanted to ask a few questions “concerning a project on whether democracy is the best type of government.”
Philip Ferguson replied:
We’re actually the Workers Party, not the Communist Party. The CP no longer exists and we are not descended from it. Our organisation contains a variety of views on historical questions - some people are pro-Mao, some are pro-Trotsky and some have no particular historical identifications.
Does your party support independence from Britain, and if so, how could this benefit New Zealand?
New Zealand is independent from Britain and has been for quite a long time. The British monarch may be the formal head of state, but that is a mere formality. For instance, the governor-general, in whose person the monarch’s (limited) power is vested, is appointed by the New Zealand government. In fact, New Zealand gained representative institutions back in the 1850s and the major decisions about what happens politically in New Zealand have been made by the New Zealand state, government and ruling class ever since then.
New Zealand is a fully-developed, independent capitalist state and, as such, is involved in oppressing other peoples and countries and denying them full political and economic independence. This is especially the case in the Pacific where the New Zealand ruling class and the New Zealand state have a long and dishonourable record of taking over whatever islands they could, denying them independence - most notably, New Zealand’s invasion of Samoa in 1914 and its suppression of the independence movement, which included the massacre of unarmed, peaceful protesters in Apia in 1929.
Is your party officially registered and would it be running in the 2008 New Zealand elections?
We have applied for registration and will know at the end of this month whether we have succeeded in becoming registered. We signed up about 570 members in order to meet the basic criteria for registration.
What is the most appealing part of your party’s stance on aiming for a socialist republic?
We aim for a working people’s republic because it is the working class that creates the goods and services which make the world go round. Workers create a greater amount of value, embodied in those goods and services, than what they are paid in wages. This greater amount is called surplus-value and is the basis for profits. We believe the people who create the wealth should be in charge of the wealth.
A working people’s republic is therefore a society that breaks the last remaining vestiges of imperial connections with Britain but, more importantly, breaks the hold of the small minority of ruling rich over the rest of society. Only in this way can we abolish poverty and inequality - whether income/wealth inequality, gender inequality, or inequality between ethnic groups, and so on..
So the most appealing part of aiming for a working people’s republic is the abolition of all forms of inequality.
Do you feel that our country’s democratic government is truly benefiting New Zealand and its citizens?
We would describe the democracy that exists in New Zealand as “bourgeois democracy” because it mainly operates to benefit the bourgeoisie or capitalist class. We’re certainly glad that there are some core democratic rights in New Zealand, although we’d point out that these rights exist because people, mainly workers and some progressive middle-class people, fought for them. No rights that we enjoy today just spontaneously emerged with capitalism.
The main problem, however, is the very limited nature of bourgeois democracy. We have no vote over most of the things which dominate our lives on a day-to-day basis. For instance, if you’re a Fisher and Paykel worker in Mosgiel and the company announces it is shutting the factory and all the workers are going to be made redundant because more profit can be made by locating the factory in some other part of the world, you have no vote on that. Yet that affects your life much more than which party, National or its Labour sibling, wins an election and gets to manage capitalism.
There has been a massive increase in social inequality in New Zealand since 1984. The vast majority of people in this country don’t like that, but have no democratic power over the decisions which have brought that about, because most of those decisions have been made in the marketplace - a place where workers have no vote.
So we would say that the democracy we have in New Zealand is very limited. In terms of Labour and National, you could say we get to choose between Pepsi and Coke. But when it comes to the major economic issues which affect our day-to-day lives, most of us don’t get a vote.
Thank you for your time. I hope you can contact me with your answers.
You’re welcome. Feel free to ask any follow-up questions.