The reign of Helen Clark

November 29, 2008

- Daphna Whitmore
The Spark
December 2008 - January 2009

The end was swift. Stepping down on election night Helen Clark ended 16 years as the Labour Party’s leader and nine years as Prime Minister. As Labour’s longest serving head, she was one of its most capable and helped shape the organisation into an urban liberal capitalist party.

Clark personified the new type of Labour politician. She came from a middle class farming background and was university educated. She studied politics and lectured for a few years at Auckland University, then headed straight to parliament in 1981.

In 1984 Labour won the elections and launched Rogernomics. There was not a peep of opposition to this rabidly neo-liberal programme from Clark. Later on she would try to distance herself from that period but as David Lange once quipped, Clark “was so dry she was combustible”. According to Michael Basset, who was a minister in that government, Clark begged Roger Douglas to return to the finance minister’s role in January 1990 when the party was rife with internal divisions over Rogernomics.

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Silence of the Lambs

November 19, 2008

- Don Franks

Before the election, NZCTU President Helen Kelly had much to say about the two main parties. On April 13th she told the Labour Party Congress:

“Working people have been given the chance to get back on their feet with this government. This is not just because of good policies. It is because we have a Government made up of people who care about workers, who understand the difficulties they face, and who try to make things better.”

Kelly was not ­ quite - absolutely obsequious in her praise of Labour, adding:

“Of course this does not mean that we live in paradise! There is more to do. And workers are really feeling the pinch at the moment with high food prices, rising petrol costs and high rents and mortgage payments.”

Then, even this mild admonition was hastily qualified into nothingness, with the soothing:

“So we need more change and with the continuation of a Labour led government we know that will happen. Labour is the Government with a proven record of change for the better and we need more of it.”

And, after the vision of heaven ­ the warning of hell:

“We have seen National’s industrial relations policy and it is dramatic and will have a major negative impact on working people.”

“National’s plans for industrial relations are the same as in 1991″.

Just before I began writing this, I took a look at the NZ Council of Trade unions website, to see if there was any comment on the election result. Still, after two weeks, not a peep. As we supposedly teeter on the brink of another 1991! It would seem that if National’s plans for industrial relations are really the same as in 1991, so too are the plans of the CTU. Determined inertia. Remember when the top leaders refused to take up calls for a general strike to defeat National’s Employment Contracts Act?

If National is poised for launching a major negative impact on working people, wouldn’t it be the task of union leaders to start rallying and mobilising opposition from day one?

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No illusions or delusions

November 17, 2008


The Workers Party has been rationally assessing the two main political parties for many years. This cartoon appeared with an article in The Spark February 2007 on the similarities between Labour and National.

Whereas a considerable section of the left had illusions in Labour and delusions about National, our analysis has proved to be sound.

Much of the left crying wolf over Nats

November 12, 2008

- Philip Ferguson

One thing the election and the days since have confirmed is the inability of many on the left to make a sober analysis based on reality and, in particular, the way in which bourgeois politics is related to the economy and how bourgeois politics is centrally concerned with the maintenance of conditions such as social stability which are necessary to the operations of the market. Instead much of the left has cried wolf about the new government, seeing it as a re-run of the 1984-1993 period of ‘new right’ dominance. John Key makes acceptance speech

For instance, the headline on the Socialist Aotearoa blog is “RESISTING THE NAT-ACT JUNTA- What is to be done?” Does the author of that piece really believe that we are about to be ruled by a “junta”? Are they unable to distinguish between bourgeois democracy and military dictatorship? If they are able to make the distinction why use terminology that bears no relation to the reality and simply misleads and misorients people?

Although, in the context of a worsening economic situation, there would certainly have to be attacks on the working class, Key is not creating a junta of any kind. In fact, he appears to not even be creating a National-ACT coalition but opting for Clark’s own strategy - a minority government with ministers out of cabinet from what he sees as both the ‘left’ (Maori Party) and ‘right’ (ACT) and support on confidence and supply. The temptation for the Maori Party to go for this will likely be pretty substantial, as Key and co. well know. This was apparent before the election - and was reiterated by Key on Saturday night, by Matthew Hooton on ‘Eye to Eye’ on Sunday morning, by Key again on TV on Sunday night and Monday night. In fact, Key even wants to talk with the Greens. (Since this was written on Monday 11 November, things have moved along further with the Maori Party.) Read the rest of this entry »

Armistice Day

November 11, 2008

Armistice Day in 2004 saw the Return of the Unknown Soldier

(From The Spark, November 2004)

The Dominion Post (November 2004) reminded us that Prime Minister Helen Clark is also minister for arts, culture and heritage. Under that subhead, the paper carried an article by the multi-minister; “reflecting on our maturing sense of national identity”. To Helen Clark,” our maturing sense ” is a preoccupation with selectively remembered mass murder.

The first half of her article was a gushing sentimental rehash of the Unknown Warrior commemorations, concluding:

“More than 80 years elapsed from the time Prime Minister William Massey first explored the idea of a New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior to the day we welcomed home a young man whose life was cut short by war.”

Helen Clark writes as though the poor bastard had somehow been resurrected. No young man “was welcomed home” last November the 11th. The youth and prospects of the anonymous victim died the day imperialism butchered him in the mud of France.

The only thing Helen Clark welcomed in Wellington last Armistice day was a whitewash of capitalist history.P060808SC-0722.JPG

Right: Laura Bush greets NZ troops in Afghanistan June 2008

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Time for a clean break with Labour!

November 4, 2008


Workers Party media release

When election time comes around every three years it seems that there is never any shortage of people on the left busy telling workers that they have to be ‘realistic’ and lower their horizons to whatever crumb is on offer in the electoral circus.

The object of the exercise becomes not how to advance an alternative to the existing system but how to soften the blows within the existing system (although that didn’t work too well in 1984 when the left urged people to vote Labour and the blows got ten times worse).

The Workers Party says that it’s precisely that approach that has gotten us in the sorry, weak situation the left is in today in NZ (and throughout the First World).

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A vote for the Workers Party is a vote for the Workers Party

November 2, 2008

So the commentators are all toeing the Labour Party line that “a vote for the Workers Party (or RAM or Alliance) is a vote for National”; first the The CWG, then Steve from The Standard and now Matt McCarten has joined in:

There will be a temptation for these [staunch left] voters to give their party vote to openly left-wing parties, such as RAM (Residents Action Movement), the Workers Party and the Alliance (my old party). The combined party vote of these left-wing parties will be less than 2 per cent. That will mean all their party votes they get will be allocated proportionately to other parties that make it into parliament.
Interestingly, that means that half of the staunch left vote will be added to National. If these left-wingers instead gave their party vote to the Greens it would give them another two MPs they wouldn’t otherwise get.

It is true that if a large percentage of the party vote goes to parties that don’t cross the 5% threshold the remaining seats would be divided up between the parties that did. However there will be no remaining seats this election, Jim Anderton, Peter Dunne and almost every Maori Party MP are likely to cause an overhang, meaning there will be extra seats in parliament, so no seats will be given to parties that didn’t win them. Hear that? There is no way voting Workers Party will give more seats to National.

The second myth is that votes for the Workers Party take votes away from Labour or the Greens. We probably will pick up some former Labour and Green voters, as well as some former Alliance voters, but I imagine the bulk of Workers Party votes will come from first time voters; young people and those who haven’t voted before. Our campaigning has not focused on conversions so much as it has focused on those who have been left behind by Labour and long since given up on them. Many left-of-Labour voters are not taking votes away from Labour at all, because they wouldn’t vote Labour anyway, for example this is a comment left on the Standard post:

I’m never going to vote Labour ever. This was the Party who put in place the highly repressive Terrorism Suppression Act. Helen Clark condoned the October 15 police raids last year. During the raids a whole community was blockaded by paramilitary style police and whole families, including young children, (who were not even related at all to those arrested) ordered out of their homes in the early hours of the morning at gunpoint and detained in sheds in the freezing cold.
Labour also sent SAS troops to support th[e] US led slaughter in Afghanistan. I get really angry when Helen Clark goes on TV saying Labour kept out of the war on Iraq. Between October 2003 and October 2004 the Labour government sent Army engineers to support the British occupation forces in Basra.

Most importantly however, is that its not about tactical voting at all, its about making a statement, voting for the Workers Party is saying you don’t support the status quo, and want something better. Every 1095 days there is an election, what you do in the other 1094 will make a bigger difference than what you do on the 1095th. At least now when the Workers Party vote is small, joining and getting involved with the union at your workplace, and joining progressive campaigns in your area will bring us closer to a better society than any vote will. Give us your vote, but get involved if you really want to help make change.

- from Proletblog

A constant air of unreality

November 2, 2008


Workers Party address to Kelburn election meeting 2 November 2008

Don Franks

Thanks for inviting the Workers Party to this meeting. We’ve contested several elections, but this is the first time I’ve stood myself and I must say it’s been a bit of an eye opener. There is a constant air of unreality to the whole affair.

 For example, the relentless muck raking that’s been indulged in by some participants coupled with rhetoric about “fairness” and “trust”.


Also, the many outrageously deceitful claims. for example the sticker saying ­ “more child poverty National - not the change we need” - as if there’s no such poverty today!

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Labour Day debate on progressive alternatives to Labour

October 26, 2008

Clark rewrites history to conceal Labour started the Dawn Raids in the ’70s

October 25, 2008

Workers Party media release

“Remember the National Party initiated dawn raids in the 1970s” Ms Clark told reporters on the election campaign trail in South Auckland on 23 October.

“Either Ms Clark is ignorant of the facts or she is knowingly concealing the truth” says Daphna Whitmore, Workers Party candidate for Manukau East. “Labour was in government from 1972 until 1975, and the dawn raids on Pacific Islanders began in 1974″.

A quick check of the Samoan history section of the Encyclopedia of NZ confirms that indeed Labour began the raids nearly two years before National came to office.

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