Left's utopia must have room for aspirationOPINION: Another Aotearoa Is Possible - that's the hopeful title of a conference getting under way in Mangere tomorrow morning.
This grand political hui - featuring some of New Zealand's leading leftists - was conceived with not one, but two agendas. Or, to employ the steely jargon of yesterday's revolutionaries: a Maximum Programme and a Minimum Programme.
For the Maximum Programme to prevail, radical Unite Union leader Matt McCarten had to attract 5 to 10 per cent support in last Saturday's Mana by-election. If he'd ended the evening with 1200 to 1500 votes, Te Wananga O Aotearoa's Mangere campus - the conference venue - would almost certainly have witnessed the birth of a "New Left Party".
Unfortunately for the conference organisers, Mr McCarten ended up attracting the support of just 3.6 per cent of Mana voters. This failure to surpass even the 5 per cent MMP threshold means that tomorrow's conference agenda will default to its Minimum Programme: "A day of dialogue with activists against injustice and inequality".
We live in extraordinary times. The current global economic crises is unlike anything since the 1929 stock market collapse which spawned the great depression. We face a crises 'of' capitalism as the unregulated neoliberal greed of corporations has been allowed to replace managed Keynesian economic theory. In the 1970's the real economy and the financial economy were evenly valued but 40 years of deregulation, low tax, free market dogma has seen the real economy valued annually at $8 trillion while the financial economy is valued at $330 trillion, that disconnect between reality and the inflated bubble world of finance has gone pop, we must reconsider the rules of the game because the unsustainable consumer culture of SUV's, plasma TVs and cosmetic surgery all on the credit card game is over.
The decade long credit splurge debt chasm was caused by suppressed wages due to neo-liberal policies in the 80s and 90s creating the illusion of wealth from over inflated house prices.
The stimulus to date has merely prevented an all out collapse and the current policy of slashing public spending is the exact last thing this Government should do because all that will achieve is hurt the poor, make economic recovery even slower and see unemployment rise.
Where do we raise the funds to continue funding those services? There are plenty of ideas, tax evasion controls, a Tobin Tax and a land value tax could all provide the money needed to continue funding public services.
Attempting to use deregulation, low tax, free market Milton Friedman dogma domestically to solve a global crises caused by the same deregulation, low tax, free market Milton Friedman dogma is about as counter productive as a Paul Henry Supporter Book Club.
NZers don't need to have a university qualification in economics to understand what is happening to them, they feel the reality every single week. After the gst tax rise, half say they are worse off now
and that imbalance of inequality in society has only a negative impact which bears a terrible harvest in our communities
We know from our last recession that the suicide rate tripled to the depressing world highs they are today, we know economic stress causes social stress and that the most vulnerable in society bear the brute violence of that damage.
I find it the most disgusting of ethical molestations that the weakest and most vulnerable in society are being asked to do with less because the global economy was crashed by the greedy and corrupt, yet that is exactly what the ideologically stacked Welfare Razor Gang are proposing with their despicable bennie bashing attack on the welfare state.
It's time to say enough.
There are 338 000 beneficiaries in NZ, 85,000 have severe mental or physical disabilities. 58,000 have been documented by medical professionals as sick, 112,000 are raising children alone, and 65,000 are actively looking for work. The ideologically stacked Welfare Razor Gang are using voodoo math to claim that if every beneficiary never got a job for the rest of their life (something which simply would NEVER happen) Welfare would end up costing us $50 billion. This spin lie is being used to justify
slashing benefits for a crises they had no hand in causing.
The aspiration for an equitable society sort by beneficiaries are the exact same aspirations as those hundreds of thousands who are on the minimum wage. The promise of democracy is that it allows each citizen to look into the face of their child and know their child will get a better deal than they personally have. That promise of democracy is still born under Paula Bennett, a political hypocrite who was happy to have state support when she was a struggling solo mother, but has pulled the ladder up behind her now that she is employed.
These concerns for an equitable society demand political expression. Why shouldn't beneficiaries and those on minimum wage have political expression in the rooms where the decisions that effect them most are decided? This economic crises is unique and the poor will not be represented when the elites decide what must be done and those parties who do lean left need to have a political partner at the table who forces them not to forget the concerns of an equitable society once they are elected.
The next election will be down to the wire as New Zealanders wake up to the privatization agenda National will propose and a Social Equity Party with the welfare of beneficiaries and those on Minimum wage foremost on their agenda would be better placed than at any other time in our political history to force real concessions from major political parties to ensure the concerns of those on the bottom are foremost in decision making.
A new party on the left with social equity at its philosophical heart focused on making sure any changes benefit those on the bottom most would need to tap into every beneficiary support group and every minimum wage organisation to push myopically for the party vote. There are 338 000 beneficiaries in NZ, there were 2 376 480 votes in the 2008 election, those beneficiaries represent 14% of that vote, a new Political Party needs only 5% to gain representation, add those on minimum wage and a clearly defined Party with the concerns of beneficiaries and those on minimum wage foremost at their political manifesto can pass the 5% threshold, it's as simple as that.
To those who would scoff at beneficiaries standing and making their voice heard due to apathy i say this - stand in a welfare line for hours on end to jump through endless hoops purposely imposed to stop any welfare money and tell me beneficiaries are apathetic.
Matt's courageous last minute charge at the windmills in Mana must not be held up as the bench mark to judge the appetite for those with the least having political representation. The anger at how those on the bottom are being asked to do with less while the Sam Morgans of NZ arrange their finances to minimize their tax obligations is ripe for expression from those who must bear the brunt of public service cut backs. Forcing solo mothers, the sick, the mentally unwell and disabled back to work in a 6.4% unemployment environment while those on the minimum wage are disempowered with every passing week should anger every NZer who has a passion for social justice.
If you're not angry, you haven't been paying attention.
It is time to turn that anger into political expression.