Tuesday, October 21, 2008

NZ: A Tactical Vote for Labour now!


The fast approaching election is not a normal election. The current international capitalist crisis has put the capitalist class under increased pressure, and the capitalist class is committed to solve this crisis at the expense of workers. Our attitude towards the competing parties now is about how the working class can defend itself from the bosses trying to make us pay for their crisis. We do not have the luxury of assuming that Labour and National are just two bosses’ parties, and that it makes no difference to our class which one we vote for. In the past we have argued for a tactical vote for Labour in order to expose it. This tactic has been overtaken by the crisis and what it means for workers. We have to assess which of the two main parties is the most immediate threat at to workers right now. We have come to the conclusion that the urgent task for workers is to keep National out of office. A National government would launch a massive attack on the working class and would weaken its still fragile organisations. That's why we advocate a tactical vote for Labour in this election.

Why do we say this? After all National and Labour have both shown that they are ruling on behalf of the capitalist class. Labour has moved to the centre and abandoned its earlier commitments to the labour movement and workers in general in the last decades. Under Key National clearly has an anti-worker agenda. So while it is true that neither have the interests of workers at heart, let us see what we can expect from each party after November 8 if it becomes the government.

The crisis, (see previous posts on this blog on the causes and effects of the crisis) can only be solved in two ways - at the expense of the bosses or at the expense of workers. Both National and Labour will try to solve it at the expense of workers make no mistake. But the way they do it is like sudden death versus slow acting poison. When offered a choice between being shot or poisoned, Trotsky once said, I'll take the poison because I can at least try to get an antidote. In fact, Trotsky survived an attempt at poisoning before he was ice-picked to death.

National's double barreled shotgun

National has shown in the last 2 weeks that it proposes to return to a market driven policy in which workers get wage cuts while bosses get tax cuts. It has ripped out the employers’ contribution to Kiwisaver and effectively made workers pay for it with lost wage increases. How do we know this to be true? Because National has said that it will give workers in or out of Kiwisaver the same wage increases.

When the crisis began to bite in the last week or so National's proposals were designed to rescue their big business mates not protect workers from job losses and wage cuts. Its two main proposals were first a 1% cut in the Reserve Banks rate of lending to banks. This means that the banks can get money more cheaply from the Reserve Bank than from the private banks facing a credit squeeze. While this may appeal to some workers as cheaper credit, in reality there is no expectation that any of this will be passed on to lower mortgage rates or any other debt servicing by the working class. This is effectively a tax-payer funded subsidy to investors to encourage them to take more "risks" and invest.

The second proposal was to force the Superannuation Fund to invest 40% of its fund in NZ. Key announced that this money would go into the pet schemes they are planning, Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) in toll roads, private prisons, private hospitals and schools etc. In other words, National would plunder the future pension funds of NZs for the short term profits of the private sector who would rake huge profits from these PPPs. This rip-off amounts to Rogernomics mark 2 except this time the state assets are not being openly privatised but rather plundered as taxpayers (created by workers) money going into private profits.

Its important to understand the link between National's cuts in taxes and social spending (e.g. taking the razor to the public service etc, cutting the R&D money going to industry and cutting Kiwisaver) and the use of the Super Fund to 'develop' the economy. Both amount to a redistribution of current savings all which originates in the labour of workers, into the pockets of big business.

National has also supported Labour's deposit guarantee that would pay out (without limit!) to depositors who might lose their savings in banks if they go bust. But National wants to extend this guarantee to the wholesale borrowing of NZ banks when the big 4 are Australian subsidiaries already covered by an Australian state guarantee. In the context of NZ as a semi colony, this amounts to National underwriting Australian and other imperialist profit-making in the NZ economy. National is only interested in solving this crisis by protecting and boosting profits at the expense of immediately cutting wages and social spending on the working class. This is the double barreled shotgun sudden death facing the labour movement.

Labours slow acting poison

Labour –and that of the closely aligned CTU –has a 'partnership' policy that claims that workers can be rewarded with their “fair share” of increased productivity (i.e. exploitation). Facing a crisis that threatens to destroy this 'partnership' Labour has revived the Keynesian economic methods of full employment and state spending to keep demand up in the economy so as to encourage investment and hence profits. Kiwisaver and Super Fund are part of this saving and investment strategy for profit growth.

National's policy to attack jobs, wages, spending and saving cuts out the foundations from this policy. That is why in response to the crisis Labour seeks to reinforce those foundations by a number of emergency measures. Job losses will be avoided with paid job training schemes and advancing house building and infrastructure projects. Labour's counter-crisis policy is designed to maintain the health of the capitalist economy and the slow acting poison of increasing exploitation and profits, but it has an immediate effect on workers in keeping them working, reasonably educated and healthy so that they are fit, ready and willing for exploitation.

Yet from a working class standpoint Labour's counter-crisis strategy opens up the opportunity for the labor movement to develop an antidote to capitalist exploitation. By keeping workers in work, training, education, and housing, and by allowing the unions to survive and grow, the labour movement can build the strength it needs to resist rising exploitation and increase its share of its own labor-power.

It can fight to reclaim that part of its former labor paid in taxes (including the bosses) that is being invested in public and private ventures. It can fight to reject all use of taxes by the private sector and to nationalise the key sectors of the economy -taking back former state assets and nationalising under workers control without compensation. All those industries that sack workers, close down, or are strategic in the economy like Fletchers, CHH, Fonterra, Telecom etc should be socialised. The antidote to the slow acting poison of rising exploitation is a fighting, democratic labour movement that pushes for socialisation of the means of production, distribution and consumption.

Short, sharp shock

Some on the left will still say it doesn’t matter if National becomes the government because it will give the labour movement a short sharp shock and galvanise it into action to bring down the government. Let's see how realistic this is. In the 1980s when we had a relatively stong labour movement, Labour got its new right agenda passed by short, sharp shock treatment. The labour movement was defeated and did not recover in time to stop the next short, sharp shock of the National Governments attacks on workers and beneficiaries in 1990-1991. Short sharp shocks have never resulted in the union movement being able to rally strongly enough to bring down new right Labour or National governments.

In fact it was the return of the 5th Labour government in 1999 that created a breathing space for the unions to recover and begin to rebuild. After 9 years the unions have recovered some of their former strength and have begun to tackle the difficult job of recruiting members who have never heard of unions or are in jobs that have never been unionised. The Employment Relations Act is designed to embed Labour’s class collaborationist 'partnership' policy and it cannot provide any real protection for workers. Yet National has promised to reform it and weaken those provisions that have allowed the unions to rebuild in the 2000s.

Therefore when some of the sectarian left say that a massive attack on workers is needed to revive and strengthen the unions, this is an insult to workers. On the historical evidence National will smother the weak child in its cot. The re-election of Labour facing this crisis will at least give the reviving union movement an even chance of surviving and consolidating its strength. A tactical vote for Labour facing this crisis gives workers more time and space to rebuild their forces and fight for an independent working class party.

Voting Tactics

  • Vote for Labour candidates in every electorate.

A vote for any other candidate may defeat the Labour candidate even where Labour has had strong majorities in the past. For example the total vote of Green, Alliance, Progressive, Maori Party, RAM and Workers Party candidates may lead to the defeat of Labour in a number of electorates and lead to its defeat. A vote for Maori Party candidates may not only defeat Labour candidates in the Maori seats but give National an ally to form an openly anti-worker government.

  • Vote Party vote Labour to give Labour the largest number of list members.

The Greens will probably have enough support outside the labour movement to get over the 5%. Therefore workers in the organised labour movement should give their party vote to Labour and not the Greens. Remember that the Greens can only play a role in support of Labour if Labour is returned. The Greens will not be able to stop National unless the party commits to Labour.

November 8 -Vote for a Labour Government

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