|Paul Henry a NACT media mouthpiece and maverick capitalist Gareth Morgan fall out over how to save capitalism|
As a Marxist I never thought I would say it, but Gareth Morgan, founder of The Opportunities Party (TOP), is to the left of Labour and the Greens on most things. Not only that, so far, he delivers on his promises, because he can. Morgan is open about trying to rescue falling profits by improving the management of capitalism. Labour and the Greens are much less open about their commitment to putting profits before people because they claim they don’t. They lie and most people know it. That is why Morgan the maverick capitalist is far to the left of Labour and the Greens, who are first and foremost the paid political lackeys of capitalism.
Labour and the populist swamp
Labour is the rotting corpse of the First Labour Government. Labour served a useful purpose for the City of London by herding NZ workers and small farmers away from mass rioting onto the Parliamentary road during the Depression. It convinced the Bank of England that it could run the farm and deliver cheap food to Britain by adopting an economic protectionist stance decades before Muldoon came along with Think Big. The Bank agreed because British finance capital profited.
Every Labour Govt since, and there have only been 5 all up, has accommodated to the demands of the dominant fraction of capitalists at the time including the Rogernomes. From the London Bankers to the Wall St. Wankers, Labour has faithfully served finance capital. Even Labour leader David Cunliffe before he was stabbed in the back failed to put up a fight to reject the policies of the 4th Labour Government. He has now gone back to a job serving finance capital. Today Labour has outlived its use-by date which is why it repudiates working class politics for a ‘classless’ middle ground of petty bourgeois greed.
The Greens are a footnote to all this, arriving on the scene when capitalism had already polluted the planet. It advocates a timid utopia where capitalism can be saved by turning it green. More like learning to live with the brown sludge of rotting life. Brown is the colour of populism, fusing bourgeois, petty bourgeois and working classes into one reactionary movement. If there is one classic example of a brown-sludge party in parliament it is the return of Mana to the Maori Party!
Mana/Maori populism is a disaster
Gareth Morgan at the Ratana celebrations attacked the One Nation populism of Winston Peters as no different to Don Brash’s One Nation. But honouring the Treaty so far has just led to the formation of iwi capitalists exploiting iwi workers. So, Gareth Morgan’s Maori namesake, Tuko Morgan, head of the Iwi Leaders’ Forum and now President of the Maori Party, takes the interests of Maori capitalism (beyond fancy underpants) and fuses it with Mana as the voice of working class Maori.
Not hard to see what is happening there, the Brown Table version of ‘trickle down’ where working-class Maori get pissed on. As if Maori as a people can use capitalism to advance the ‘people’ as a whole. This is the begging letter approach to honouring the Treaty which was, and will always be a fraud. Maori identity politics are a petty bourgeois populist/nationalist attempt to become shareholders in a failing NZ Inc., when global capitalism is tottering towards an almighty crash.
Does this mark a shift to the right for Maori? Yes, as Mana has conceded its minority status to the Iwi capitalists Maori Party in all the seats except Te Tai Tokerau which is reserved for Mana. That’s a win for Iwi capitalists over Maori workers. That’s why we say that all arguments that a Labour/Green/Mana/Maori coalition can form a government to get rid of the NACTs are bogged down in the parliamentary swamp. Populist front governments are not progressive rainbow coalitions. They mix red, green and blue into the colour of mud and tie workers hands to the bosses in parliament so they drown in the swamp. No Opportunities for workers here!
Along comes TOP
Along comes the capitalist entrepreneur Gareth Morgan who obviously sees an opportunity to breath life into a dying capitalism. He has learned the lesson that to survive in Aotearoa, let alone the world, capitalism has to be sustainable. He is bright enough to know that we are all doomed by the rip, shit, bust frontier politics of the Keyites. We don’t have the time left to muck about with a political establishment that serves up Pike Rivers, pollution, suicides, poverty, homelessness, and the destruction of nature.
Strategically, to implement his policies, it would be necessary to get rid of capitalism. Maybe Morgan doesn’t believe it yet, so he will have to wake up too. I suspect he already knows that capitalism and human survival are incompatible. If he doesn’t, he will soon find out and it’s up to revolutionaries to rub his nose in it. How to do this? Marxists don’t endorse TOP but we challenge it to turn its program into one that makes impossible demands on capitalism. That can’t happen unless the program activates mass working class demands to expose the limits of capitalism and advance the transition to socialism.
Let’s take the Universal Basic Income as one such a demand. There are left, right and centre arguments for the UBI. The right and centre like because it doesn’t empower workers. Its basic limitation for the left is that the UBI cannot be turned into a ‘transitional demand’ because it is a top-down state policy that does not require workers to self-organise and fight for a living wage. It is no more than a wage subsidy to bosses paid for by workers in the first place. Revolutionaries point out that the only UBI that is worth defending is that which is under workers control so that workers’ committees decide what wage is ‘liveable’, and not the bosses’ state.
As the state sends in the scabs and police to break strikes and occupations to impose their demands, workers will become conscious of the necessity for a workers’ government capable of implementing a democratic socialist plan ending capitalist exploitation and oppression, and empowered to take the revolutionary road to communist society where income equality is defined as: “from each according to their ability, and to each according to their need”. Between the UBI and the living wage is the socialist revolution!
Fabians vs Red Fed
Labour is NOT the mass workers party we need because it no longer identifies with nor acts in the interests of workers and will do deals with capitalist parties (Greens and NZF) to form a popular front government. It is the party of the Union Bureaucracy formed in 1916 to steer the defeated labour movement into the dead end of parliamentary democracy. Its political program was based on Fabian socialism, the British brand of parliamentary socialism that conned workers into thinking that the means of production, distribution and exchange could be nationalised by the capitalist state and the national income distributed ‘fairly’. It owed its origins to that very same state using scabs, police, army and ‘Massey’s Cossacks’ in 1913 to smash the ‘Red Fed’ – the breakaway union movement that rejected compulsory arbitration between Labour and Capital imposed by the Arbitration Court as labour’s ‘leg iron’.
Ever since, Labour has managed capitalism in the belief that the working class and boss class can both get a ‘fair share’ of the national income. The Labour Party became the party of scabs and strike breakers, banning strikes, locking up strikers, imposing military discipline on the labour movement during WW2, and claiming responsibility for the ‘welfare state’ when in reality the boom that made it possible was the result of the massive defeats of labour during the depression and WW2.
Then to prove what had been obvious to revolutionaries for generations, Labour became the party that put profits before people in the 1980 when then end of the post war boom brought a new structural crisis of global capitalism. The unions that had become part of the state arbitration system abandoned any militant actions in the expectation that the Labour Government would deliver labour reforms. They were unprepared for deregulation and the end of economic nationalism. Labour set about delivering a compliant working class to it new imperialist master the US. As a result, workers have never been organised to fight against the capitalist system itself and the gap between rich and poor has widened dramatically. To revive itself in the tradition of the old Red Fed – a fighting, democratic movement – the working class has to break from the Labour Party and build a new, mass workers party based on a socialist program.
We say break from all populist fronts with capitalist parties, and break from the union bureaucracy that serves capitalism by locking workers into labour’s ‘leg iron’. We reject any deals with capitalist parties and fight for the class interests of the working class on the basis of policies that will meet its needs. That calls for a struggle for a Transitional Program that can act as a guide to workers to fight for what we need now all the way to the formation of a Workers Government and a socialist plan.