The Spark November 2008
The Workers Party is primarily an organisation of activists who fight for workers’ interests on jobs and in the streets. We recognise that the struggle for workers’ rights and workers’ power mostly takes place outside of parliament. Taking mass actions against an employer offers workers more chance of controlling their destiny than voting. However, parliamentary elections provide a chance to raise alternative ideas, and socialists should make use of the opportunity. The reports below show some of the initiatives taken by the Workers Party in the 2008 general election. You can see that we got stuck in and stood up for socialist ideas without mincing our words. If you like the look of our approach, why not join us and help make the socialist voice even louder in 2011!
Workers Party grows in Wellington
The Wellington election campaign effort raised the branch’s morale and fostered Workers Party growth and consolidation in the district.
Activity for Tramways, the union representing Go Wellington bus drivers, fed into election activity. Under WP secretary Nick Kelly, the union held a one-hour strike which resulted in a day-long lockout by the company. Drivers showed organisation and determination, while other unions held fundraisers in support. Workers Party members joined the picketline, contributing placards, stickers and posters. Under pressure from the public and the City Council, Go Wellington lifted the lockout and improved on its previous “final offer.”
The Wellington branch designed, produced and posted hundreds of posters, as well as hundreds of small hi-viz stickers. We also put up over sixty A2 billboards proclaiming “Workers should be running the country!”
Street speaking was undertaken in Cuba Mall, Kilbirnie and Newtown. Party branch teams leafleted and talked to passers-by while taking turns to stand on a beer crate and speak through a megaphone. The quality of our street speaking improved as the campaign went on, with comrades increasing in confidence. This activity will be ongoing after the election.
Wellington Central electorate candidate Don Franks was interviewed on Te Upoko o te Ika radio and Radio Active. He also gave substantial interviews to local papers The Wellingtonian and Capital Times.
Over the course of the campaign Don addressed seven combined candidates meetings, one NZCTU local affiliates’ meeting, one MUNZ meeting, a gathering of bus drivers locked out by Go Wellington and four meetings organised by the Workers Party.
Highlight of the branch’s campaign was the well-attended Workers Party “left of Labour” debate. This assembly of Green Party, Maori Party, Alliance, Independent and Workers Party candidates debated radical ideas instead of the usual personality politics. For more about this meeting, see ” A vision of workers’ freedom“.
Workers Party Christchurch branch election campaign report
While for the capitalist establishment parties election year is all about votes, for the Workers Party Christchurch branch the 2008 election has been all about the opportunity to connect with a bigger working-class audience and recruit activists. In both these areas we have had some success, and whatever our final vote tally, Christchurch WP members will have reason to feel that our intervention in these elections has been worthwhile.
Since August, party members in Christchurch personally delivered over 4000 leaflets containing our WP election manifesto to residents in working-class neighbourhoods such as Wainoni and Linwood. as well as on street stalls and at election forums. We have also been using the election campaign to talk to council housing tenants about the need to form a tenants’ action group to fight recent rent rises, doorknocking around 500 council flats in the Christchurch Central and Christchurch East electorates where we have been standing candidates.
During the campaign, members of the Christchurch branch also travelled to Dunedin and in conjunction with local WP supporters helped to organise public meetings and street stalls there, boosting our party profile in that city.
Particular credit must go to our Christchurch East candidate Paul Hopkinson, who has undergone three weeks’ suspension without pay from his teaching position for challenging the undemocratic restrictions on public servants standing for parliament. While he had originally only intended to campaign during school holidays and weekends, in the final weeks Paul ended up working almost full time on the campaign as a result of his employer’s decision to suspend him!
Despite failing to gain much traction in the capitalist media, our campaign has resulted in a modest increase in membership for the Christchurch branch. The task now is to translate this increase in membership into more activists as well as (to use Gramsci’s phrase) more “organic intellectuals of the working class”.
Auckland: Laying a solid foundation
Solid efforts at Otara market in South Auckland and at other working-class venues laid the foundation of the party’s nationwide election campaign. Auckland comrades netted a huge proportion of the more than 500 people signed up so that the Workers Party could get on the official party list. That meant that for the first time ever, the red flag and a socialist party option were on every ballot paper in the country. Official party status also gained us a one-minute opening address on television and a one-minute radio advertisement on student radio Bnet, the Edge and the Rock.
For five weeks running up to the election the party ran soapbox forums at the Otara market. Workers Party candidates and members spoke about the party’s policies, the world financial turmoil, the economy and job losses. Comrades explained about Labour’s anti-worker laws and why Labour isn’t worker-friendly. We and highlighted the similarities between National and Labour, noting that the choice is rather like Pepsi and Coke. Around 10,000 Workers Party leaflets were distributed in Auckland. Comrades were also involved in the ongoing McDonalds pay dispute.
Auckland comrades attended three combined candidates meetings in the Manukau East electorate where Daphna Whitmore stood for the Workers Party. Daphna also spoke for the party at the Auckland left candidates meeting organised by Global Peace and Justice. For more about this meeting, see “Why we need fewer cops” .