Is there a future for Labour and what will happen if they move to the right?

The Labour Party, as they reflect on their biggest loss in 92 years, is struggling to come to terms with the consequences of being environmentalists. No self-respecting westerner these days would say they weren’t concerned about the deteriorating environment. The threat of global warming is a massive wake-up call. Even the Rockefeller Fund founded on oil has just divested from coal and tar sands. Politicians finally have to face reconciling protecting the environment with creating the fiscal and monetary conditions for a thriving economy.

That is a huge challenge. The Greens can talk all they like about ‘smart growth’ and a ‘green economy’ but unless they address the money system and stop the growth imperative at is source 'smart growth' will just continue to be nice rhetoric.

9115760Over the last few years we have noticed the Labour Party aligning itself more and more with the Greens. But in the last weeks of the campaign Labour leader David Cunliffe actually stole the Greens rhetoric. He said, “It's got to be a clean, green, smart, strong economy” (14 Sept, Stuff)

So while Labour has moved towards the Greens, for strategic purposes it had also to distance itself from them right at the beginning of the campaign. Doing the splits eh? Electoral realities dictated that it could no longer afford to align itself with a party who questioned every job creation initiative the National Government started. But there is a large faction in the Labour Party that wants expressways, deep sea oil drilling, mining in conservation areas and fracking – all for the sake of jobs.

But Labour’s resounding defeat in the 2014 election should really be seen in the international context. Labour Parties and Social Democrat parties are struggling all over the western world – in Australia, UK and Canada and even Sweden they are losing ground. Cunliffe hasn’t got it on his own. All social democrat parties are struggling to reconcile protection of the environment with the economy so voters just cast their lot with the conservatives who promise “economic growth” (no matter what kind of growth). IN the case of New Zealand you can add in a personable Prime Minister with the common touch, a Leader of the Opposition who is prone to lecture and the challenge is almost insuperable.

The price of West Texas oil on 23 Sept 2014 was $91.50 and Brent Crude was $97, due to falling demand. But it is costing $100 a barrel these days to produce “tight oil”, the sort that is costly and difficult to extract. As Richard Heinberg recently wrote “Extracting and delivering those resources at an affordable price is becoming a bigger challenge year by year.” We have the perfect storm of peak resources, climate change and economic instability and no Labour Party is has the facility to deal with them. Moreoever it is no good reminiscing about the great days of Micky Savage, Norman Kirk or David Lange. The Labour Party now has a huge leap to take to adapt to the real world of 2014.

While the Greens move towards the middle, the Labour Party probably has to move to the right for electoral purposes. With so many environmentalists in the party these days they are damned if they align with the Greens and damned if they don’t. The alternative is for the Greens to move over and let Labour occupy more of their territory.

The challenge requires much more than bandaid solutions of Kiwibuild, raising minimum wages and Working for Families. It requires the complete rethinking the political economy, one which works for a post fossil fuel age.

Over the last three years the New Economics Party has been doing this and we have come up with some proposals. We believe it requires a massive change to the tax system and fundamental currency reform so that we get public creation of money with strict inflation control. Furthermore it requires recognising we live in the age of automation so a Universal Basic Income must replace our welfare system. The Labour Party has been talking jobs, jobs and jobs. But it is more realistic to talk of having enough money and enough choices. Only a Basic Income will emancipate the welfare system, improve working conditions and provide a real incentive to work.

As Michael Bauwens, Founder of the p2p (peer to peer) Foundation said “any movement dependent on labour and the power of labour is futile, because labour is disappearing.” They are stuck in a Cold War narrative and have no stories for the future. The workforce has also been casualised as employees are made redundant. Many of them set up a small consultancy. The trend continues. Labour is bleeding and becoming freelanced.

Is the future 3D printers in microfactories in small towns ?

Is the future 3D printers in microfactories in small towns ?

There is another factor. According to economic historian Philip Mirowski the left doesn’t understand neoliberalism. When they don’t understand it, they underestimate the cleverness of their foe and simply cannot counter it. Neoliberalism has re-engineered society. We need to tackle Capital in a different way, by disempowering it through the empowerment of people. Through real democracy, through new technology allowing real people to own the means of energy and production. Maybe this is 3D printers in microfactories in small towns with a local bank. Many on the right will get on board with that.

Perhaps we have to write Labour off and accept they are not a movement of the future. Do they really have to move into National’s space to better “play the game”? Well, it’s not a game, it’s about survival and it’s about now. Fewer and fewer people will vote. Labour will be seen as a weak ineffectual version of National. And if the Greens continue to sing from Labour’s songbook, they’ll likely stay at 10% too. The more they try and portray themselves as CEOs the further they will lag behind the international Greens movement.

However, given the fact that the Labour Party is unlikely to adopt either the massive currency reform, tax reform and welfare reform required for a redesign of the political economy, it may either continue to thrash itself to death or stagger on as a less environmental party. Neither option is good. The challenges of the post fossil fuel age will indeed be very hard on social democracy parties with a proud history.

by Deirdre Kent and Aaron McLean

If not me then who? A personal reflection

New Economics Party Membership Form If not me then who? I’ve been thinking about why this project started. What on earth would motivate a woman of 73 to start a new political party?  Shouldn’t I just be enjoying life at that age, playing bridge, knitting for my grandchildren and travelling. During the winter of 2011 I had had a Skype call from Richard Sanders, an ecological economist in Brisbane. He was worried. His concern was that things aren’t getting any better and that Transition Towns won’t solve everything. He said: “Even if your town becomes self sufficient in food and energy, what are you going to do when the raiders come over the hill?” We talked and together decided that until we are all free, no-one is free. Although in transition towns we have traditionally said to politicians: “A pox on all your houses, we will take leadership here locally to prepare for life here after peak oil”, I have realised that national policies and international policies are just as vital as constructive local action for resilience.

If one is sick we are all sick, if one is poor we are all poor

I was in a classical music concert in Waikanae on 20th August, a Sunday afternoon, and dreaming away happily. I had nearly completed a nine-week e-course on evolutionary spirituality and was contemplating my future from the point of view of my evolutionary impulse, defined in the course as ‘the part of me that wants to make the world better’. We had all been mulling over the vexed question of our life’s work in the world. Since the phone call from Richard Sanders I had been wondering whether I wanted to stay working for my local transition town group and local timebank or get into something national? For me it was time to move back into national issues. What would I do? A few projects came to mind. So on the way home from the concert it became clearer. When my husband left the car to buy some fish I sent the following text to Laurence Boomert:  “Sounds a weird question but I just sat in a concert thinking if I could vote in the coming election or not. I wondered about the possibility of a Collapse Party.”  Back came the text:  “Have written a draft manifesto and was thinking of standing for Wellington Central.”  So it was all on. During the next few weeks we brainstormed on names, started working seriously on a manifesto and floated the idea among friends and colleagues. Soon it came clear people would rather it was just a pressure group. The Green Party members wanted to help but couldn’t if we were to be a party. Tricky. So for a while we called it a Working Party on New Economics in case we dirtied our hands with politics.  Maybe the thought was "Politics is a dirty activity only for liars"?

If we want a world without babies we should just go on – business as usual

At one stage we thought if we wrote policy and drew attention to it, then parties could all help themselves and adopt it. But of course they won’t. How naïve! Then somehow, I can’t remember how or why, we switched right back, and jumped in. It was back to a political party and we ended up with quite a conventional name. So the idea of a political party had surfaced for months, but was quickly dismissed as stupid. Yes I had played leadership roles before, but a political party? That is different. And back came the answer from the course “If not me, then who?” Well I had written a book on new economics, or at least the money side of it, and I had once been a city councillor, I had been a professional campaigner (for ASH in the 1980s) and had stood for the Values Party in 1975 and dabbled in the Green Party and the Alliance from time to time, even stood for local bodies as a Green candidate twice. But there are all sorts of reasons why it shouldn’t be me. I have a husband of 86 and we don’t travel far from home. We have a big garden and home to care for. I had eczema very badly last year and could hardly walk for the splits on my feet. But it is under control now. I have had heart trouble. But I have just had two cataracts replaced and now I can see without glasses, so that no longer is an excuse. Those are my limitations. But something happened inside me and I just jumped in. I have written most of this website, with suggestions and short pieces from others, and it is just a draft to discuss at our first get together in Turangi, 14 April, 2012. Because we have so little time to solve these Very Big Problems I have shamelessly cut and pasted from all sorts of sources, so if you recognise something as yours please take it as a compliment. Thank you for your contribution. I have no aspirations right now to be in Parliament, but will do whatever I can to advance the policies in any way you want me to. Many of you will be able to contribute your specialist knowledge. Mine is only one glimpse of the truth. To create a new economy on a war-like footing needs a whole army of highly motivated pioneers. We need those with knowledge on banking, investment, new business models, cooperatives, credit unions, new models of ownership for a start. We need those who have worked in economic think tanks, those who have worked in Treasury, the Reserve Bank, or those who have traded in derivatives. We need those who know about climate change, those who campaign against free trade and those who know that income tax is an illogical tax. We need those who have no particular knowledge on economics but just want to help somehow. Is this you? One theory is that there are four general types of people required to be an effective group. We need conscientious people who just want to help, to be given clear instructions. We need directors who work out who will do what and organise it to be done. We need visionaries who can see the rocks ahead. We need carers, those whose role is to care for others in the party. If you are one of these people can you please ask yourself the question “If not me, then who?” Environmental campaigner Bill McKibben has written: “We definitely need art and music and disciplined, nonviolent but very real anger. Most, we need to tell the truth, resolutely and constantly. Fossil fuel is wrecking the one earth we’ve got. It’s not going to go away because we ask politely. If we want a world that works, we’re going to have to raise our voices.” So stop waiting for someone else to fix the economic system that is killing our planet. There is no one else. It is you and it is me. If you want to raise your voice, go to Get Involved on the menu now and jump in! There is nothing to be lost and Life to be gained. In fact if you want to help us get 500 members before April 2014, here is the membership form for you to download, fill in and post with your sub. Deirdre