How the ‘Labour left’ sold out NZ workers in the 1990s

Book Review

No Left Turn: The Distortion of NZ’s history by Greed, Bigotry and Right-wing politics

By Chris Trotter. Random House, NZ, 2007

Part One: Keeping the social democratic torch alight

Chris Trotter’s new book is an attempt to revive the flagging hopes of the social democratic left in New Zealand. He sees NZ history as a long struggle of the working class majority to win state power and bring about the ideals of an egalitarian democracy. That they have been prevented, as the subtitle of the book says, is down to “greed, bigotry and right-wing politics”. Basically the right-wing minority with the power and wealth conspired to keep the worker majority out of power for most of NZ’s history. But it is the periods when workers did win parliamentary support for progressive legislation that Trotter uses to hold up hopes in the ‘pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’ and boost our hopes of taking power some happy day.

Trotter borrows heavily from the late Bruce Jesson, the left republican intellectual and journalist. He paraphrases Jesson:

“So it is in these shaky isles. While the successors of those who came to these shores in search of power and wealth remain locked in bitter conflict with those who came in search of equality and justice, nothing of enduring worth can be constructed in this country.”

But he couldn’t be more wrong. To say that conflict between these two forces is un-necessary and prevents real progress, is to reduce class struggle to the megalomania of ‘extremist’ and ‘undemocratic’ leaders who herd workers as if they were sheep. This is an insult to workers, especially as it is not true. In fact Jesson understood clearly that class struggle was not an epithet for ‘extremists’ pissing on the workers, but a real force that pushed people to extremes to fight for their class. Yet he could not see that the middle class is a potentially fascist force unless it is won over by a powerful working class.

Jesson made the mistake of seeing classes as a colonial hangover which could be overcome, or pushed to the margins, in a republican Aotearoa. Founding the republic was the task of the middle class socialist intellectuals. He died disappointed. He argued in his last writings that the new right won in the 1980s because the ‘left’ intellectuals did not put up a fight. The sad irony was that it wasn’t a failure of the revolutionary left to fight. It was Jesson’s ‘left, the social democrats in the Labour Party and unions who didn’t fight. They were not the vanguard of a republican anti-imperialism after all. They were part of the middle class who had always been in an alliance with international finance capitalism.

Historically they had earned their money dividing the working class and isolating the militants so they could be more easily smashed by the farmers and the bosses. This was the pattern in 1912, WW1, 1930s, 1951 and in the 1980s. Despite the arguments of Jesson’s one-time political ally, Owen Gager, that the Labour Party under Harry Holland betrayed the anti-war movement during the First World War, Jesson never recognized the historic treachery of social democratic intellectuals. Today, when a new fight against the new right is emerging, Trotter follows in Jesson’s footsteps, parading the petty bourgeois social democrats as the salvation of the working class.

Why another old Labour Party Story?

Or to put it another way, Trotter in following Jesson, is retelling the old story of the sell-out Labourites for today’s consumption so that the new layers of militants will reject revolution and stick with the worldwide ‘socialist’ utopia of the reformist World Social Forum. To do this he has to render the outright betrayals of the Labourites in the past as necessary, just and strategic, isolating the militant wreckers and rendering the completion of the democratic socialist project possible today.

This means patching together a ‘democratic socialist’ version of NZ history from the books of the petty bourgeois intellectuals who provided the ideological smokescreens for the ‘good’ men Trotter worships – the men who straddled the great divide between the greedy and the needy – Dick Seddon, Micky Savage and Norm Kirk. The first is W Pember Reeves the author of ‘Aotearoa: Land of the Long White Cloud’.

Reeves was the first Minister of Labour in Seddon’s earth-breaking Liberal government until he was sacked and sent off to London as High Commissioner. He was a ‘Fabian Socialist’ – the first official current of petty bourgeois intellectuals who saw the British Labour Party as the vehicle for democratic socialism.

Before he was removed for his ‘extremism’ Reeves was responsible for the Industrial, Conciliation and Arbitration Act which created a state Arbitration Court as ‘referee’ between labour and capital. But the great divide opened up again when the Court refused a wage order and the Red Fed broke from the Court in 1908 and began a strike wave that ended in the defeat of the General Strike of 1913. Of course Jesson was right up to a point. Working class militancy between 1908 and 1913 was imposed by British imperialist shipowners and mineowners.

But if NZ workers were going to defeat British owners they had to lead the national struggle to socialism –to nationalize industry, banks and the land – and not capitulate to the local capitalist agents of the British bosses and the militant petty bourgeois farmers who enlisted as Massey’s ‘Cossacks’ to break the General Strike. The militant left was defeated by the bosses’ state which used scabs and the military to impose the class alliance of the middle class and the bourgeoisie on the unions. This defeat was compounded by the jingoistic rallying of workers into the colonial class alliance that went to fight the bosses’ war.

But wait! The great hope for the future which could build a majority from the left and centre in the image of the Liberal Party (which had united workers and small farmers) was about to be born from the battle of the extremes – a social compromise in its conception –the Labour Party. Here of course Trotter has to argue that something good came out of an un-necessary class confrontation. Yet, almost every historian has recognized that the Labour party was an attempt to reconcile militant and moderate wings of the labour movement in the aftermath of the outbreak of class struggle. It gave birth to the vehicle of democratic socialism – the Labour Party, its main ideologues like Bill Sutch, and provided its leaders like Savage, Semple and Fraser.

Bill Sutch was the giant of social democracy from the 1930s to the 1970s. All social democrats in NZ are at heart Sutchites and Jesson and Trotter are no exception. The ‘golden age’ of NZ is period from the election victory of 1935 to 1949 when Labour was defeated in a right wing backlash linked to the onset of the Cold War and of US hegemony in NZ.

The issue is whether this period creates the template for re-founding democratic socialism in NZ, or a historic settlement that would only last so long as the middle-class and capitalist class profited from it.

‘State socialism’ or bust

The Sutchites take the first view. The workers and working farmers now formed the majority in NZ. Labour’s victory was a triumph for social democracy. It insulated the economy and nationalized the critical productive and distributional sectors, and introduced social security for the working class. What Jesson and Trotter after him call the ‘post-war settlement’ was a class compromise in which workers, petty bourgeois and capitalists all appeared to all benefit from economic growth. It was ended when Labour swung to the right to keep the centre onside after the war.

FP Walsh the leader of the FOL was backing Fraser’s rightward shift to keep the bloc of workers, poor farmers and manufacturers in power and to stop a right wing government from breaking the settlement and smashing the labour movement. He almost succeeded in 1949. What went wrong? As Trotter says: “Had the militants held their fire during the ‘scoundrel years’ of 1946-49, it is more than conceivable Fraser and Walsh could have made it across the churning waters that separated wartime stringency from peacetime plenty.” Labour lost 47.2% to National’s 51.9%.

The right wing National government, aligned to the rich farmers and foreign capital, came to power in 1949 determined to smash the unions so that they did not gain from the post war economic boom. Workers had fought the war on behalf of capitalism, suffered the losses, and now demanded a better share of the new wealth. When Labour and the FOL under Walsh denied them that victory bonus, the same unions that formed the backbone of the Red Fed in 1908 split from the FOL to form the TUC.

Now, according to Trotter, Walsh had his own stabilization plan to allocate fair shares in postwar wealth, but it would be allocated centrally from above by the FOL tops, the Government, and the bosses representatives in committee. He was determined to drive through this corporatist plan. He would smash the militants to save the whole labour movement and the prospects of selling his ‘stabilisation plan’ to Labour or National governments. He made sure the militants would rise up against the FOL by baiting Jock Barnes to force a confrontation that could only end in their total defeat. Unaware that they were pawns in this plan their struggle was “heroic but futile”.

For Trotter then, the militants let down the moderate majority by resisting Labour’s right swing, and were then sacrificed for the sake of defending the gains of the whole labour movement. Trotter tells us that not only Barnes but the whole militant wing of the movement brought their defeat on themselves for breaking with the moderates. Had it not been Walsh who did the dirty deed, National would have done it by breaking the Labour class alliance and smashing the post-war settlement for good. The Labour Party could never have recovered from such a defeat. Oh Dear!

Revolution and decolonization

Trotter is adamant that workers had no choice but to huddle inside the Labour Party to shelter from the rampages of capitalism in this period. The evidence is that post-war attempts at socialism outside the Soviet sector did not survive. But it was the Stalinist bureaucracies that played the main role in the defeating the socialist revolutions in Greece and Italy. When Trotter says that any attempt by the left to push towards socialism in NZ would have been smashed by an anticommunist bloc of local capital, the US and sections of the petty bourgeoisie, how does he know this? The evidence shows that the traitors were not the militants who went into fight to defend the interests of the whole working class and won the support of most workers and small farmers, but the leadership of the FOL and Labour Party who sided with US imperialism and the NZ capitalists, to split the militants from the moderates to then smash them.

The revolutionary Marxist argues that the war was an imperialist war which drafted workers to kill one another. But the war also had the effect of arming and radicalizing workers and in some countries such as Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy popular armies routed the Nazis and took power. These were not isolated ultra-left insurrections, but mass movements of workers and poor peasants. The imperialists had no means of defeating these movements by themselves. The Stalinists were the only force that could do this because they dominated the mass Communist parties and the unions. The US and Britain did a deal at Yalta in which the SU would get control of Eastern Europe in return for containing and defeating the revolutionary movements in Western Europe. The SU did this with ruthless efficiency justifying it in the name of workers joining with ‘progressive’ national capitalists to form ‘democratic socialist’ popular front governments.

The pattern in NZ is very similar. The working class was impatient for ‘its’ government to deliver on its promises. But this government was a bloc of workers, small farmers and manufacturers. Its purpose was always to subordinate the workers to the interests of national bourgeoisie; to put profits before people. So workers would have to wait until the bosses had their full dividend before claiming higher wages.

When F.P. Walsh was a burning revolutionary in the US in 1917, the workers of the world were afire with enthusiasm for the Bolshevik revolution. By the 1940s Walsh was a rightwing labor bureaucrat operating hand in glove with the Labour Party leadership of Fraser. The FOL was a bureaucratic machine with its numbers bolstered by compulsory unionism. Walsh collaborated with Fraser to suppress rank and file militancy during and after the war. When the big one blew up in 1951 he could be trusted by the bosses to isolate and smash the militants in an alliance with the National government’s emergency regulations and US imperialism’s backing. His role as the leader of the ‘responsible unions’ was warmly appreciated by both the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and by the National Party. http://eprint.uq.edu.au/archive/00000935/01/tb_bchp_04.pdf

What we see here is evidence that the Labour Party, while based in the unions, had to first protect the profits of the bankers, manufacturers and farmers, before it could pay out to the workers. To retain any hope of being the government Labour had to promise to control the labor movement on behalf of the capitalists. To do this it had to defeat the militant unions who objected to wage cuts when profits were climbing.

Walsh played the same role in NZ that the Stalinists did in Europe, blocking with the capitalists to smash the militant left to stop them winning the support of the majority of the working class to defeat the National Government and the rotten leadership of the Labour Party and FOL. Of course this was the position of Jock Barnes and is argued forcefully by Tom Bramble in his Introduction to Barnes’ memoirs Never a White Flag. http://communistworker.blogspot.com/search/label/Jock%20Barnes

For Trotter though, Barnes did not represent the interests of the working class at all. He was an embittered maverick. The defeat of 1951 was the lesser evil; the militants could never have won, and the vehicle for democratic socialism survived, if tarnished and burned off on the left. The Labour Party could live to fight another election and implement the ‘corporatist’ Walsh Plan where the union, government and bosses representatives collaborate to develop the economy and share out the increased productivity of the workers. Labour can bide its time with its structures and historic gains intact until a new opportunity to push forward the boundaries of democratic socialism arises.

That opportunity will not come until the postwar boom is over. Then facing a massive economic crisis, it is Labour that rejects its social democratic past and openly embraces imperialism with Rogernomics.

Part 2: Social Democracy fails the test of neo-liberal reforms

The first part of this review ended with Trotter’s claim that the Savage model of the Labour Party survived the post war cold war and attacks on the ‘left’ and lived to fight another day. That day was the Rogernomic revolution in the 1980s. This became the key test of social democracy. If the Fourth Labour government betrayed the workers in capitulating to the ‘new right’ what was left of democratic socialism?

The standard argument of the democratic socialists is that the party was hijacked by Treasury and the right wing cabal around Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble. The left and centre of the party are portrayed as victims of this hijacking along with the rest of NZ workers.

This is the story that Trotter retails with a few more twists. But the serious analysis of the failure of the ‘left’ to defend the workers from Rogernomics is conveniently overlooked. Especially since the ‘left’ around Anderton had more than a third of the party delegates in support of a program of nationalization! The centre under Helen Clark and the SUP/FOL was trying to do a deal with the Rogernomes along the lines of the Australian ‘compact’ i.e. a form of neo-corporatism where the government, unions and employers would run the economy together. This required that the unions remain a strong centralized organization with a compulsory membership.

However the ‘left’ remained dependent on the centre and was stopped by the centre from expelling the right. This was revealed most clearly when the Engineers union bosses stopped Matt McCarten from rolling Prebble in Auckland Central. To avoid Prebble taking the Labour Party to court, the centre threatened Rex Jones of the EPMU to end compulsory unionism. Jones used this threat to bring the ‘left’ into line. This tells us that the left was just as much part of the centralized labour bureaucratic machine as the centre.

The pretext that Anderton used to split was his opposition to the sale of the Bank of New Zealand [BNZ]. He was sacked by caucus but reinstated by the Party Council. But rather than stick around to fight in the unions and the Labour Party organization, he resigned on May1st 1989 to form the New Labour Party. This left Lange and the centre to battle on against the Rogernomic machine. Despite removing Douglas and Prebble from Cabinet, Lange could not oppose Douglas when he was re-instated to Cabinet by caucus on August 3. Without the left he was too weak to stop the Rogernomic machine from rolling on.

Anderton’s split allowed the right to use its dominance of the parliamentary caucus against the Party to undermine and destroy Lange and force his resignation on August 7, 1989. Trotter makes no criticism of Anderton’s decision to split clearly agreeing that Anderton made the right move. Trotter was himself a leading figure in the formation of the New Labour Party.

Isn’t it incredible that the left would abandon the party of Savage just because the Rogernomes had taken temporary control of the parliamentary party? The core working class did not abandon the party. Even at its lowest point of 1993 Labour support never went below 34.7% of the electorate. And as we will see in the core labour seats it fought back and rejected New Labour.

Thus Anderton showed absolute contempt for the rank and file organization of the party where he claimed he had a large minority. By turning his back on the Party he showed that the left had no confidence in the union movement, especially the more blue-collar Trade Union Federation [TUF] that had refused to join the state union dominated Council of Trade Unions [CTU]. It was also tactically stupid as the left knew that it was handing the party to the Rogernomes when there was no visible groundswell of support in the union ranks for a split or the formation of a new Labour Party that could quickly replace the old.

Worse, the left knew that the majority of Labour voters were not abandoning the party. In 1987 Labour was re-elected with an increased majority, despite some Labour abstentions, because non-Labour voters swung over to Labour on the strength of Rogernomics.

Yet the Anderton ‘left’ didn’t split then –it stayed on inside Labour for nearly two years. The reason was that Anderton hoped to reclaim some control at the top of the Party. He resigned after being narrowly defeated for the Presidency and still with support from the NZ Council which backed his stand against the sale of the BNZ. It wasn’t a split that took into account the left’s actual support inside and outside the party. It was a bureaucratic split designed to allow time to prepare an electoral challenge to Labour when it seemed to be heading for inevitable defeat.

But this gamble was based on a miscalculation. Anderton’s desertion wasn’t matched by Labour supporters. In 1990, 14% of 1987 Labour voters abstained, 13% went back to National (having switched to Labour in ‘87), 7% went to New Labour and 6% to the Greens. Overall, 35.1% voted Labour, 6.9% Greens and 5.2% New Labour giving a total for the combined left of 47.2% to National’s 47.8%! Put another way, Labour lost over 230,000 votes, while between them New Labour and the Greens got almost 220,000 votes. Yet, despite the abstentions and defections to New Labour and the Greens, Labour’s core constituency of over 640,000 voters remained intact.

What if the ‘left’ had stayed and fought inside?

The question that Trotter doesn’t ask is this: would the level of Labour voters’ abstention have been as high had the left stayed in the party fighting to the bitter end?

Would voters have left Labour in the same numbers if New Labour had not existed? New Labour supporters were those who opposed Rogernomics most strongly. They should also have been most committed to democracy within the party. But they rejected democracy inside the party when they walked out 18 months before the 1990 election effectively disenfranchising many party members and delegates.

Many of the Labour voters who abstained in 1990 were not prepared to vote for New Labour. A survey of Labour supporters found that 51% who abstained stated that they retained their loyalty to Labour compared with 37% of those who voted for New Labour (Vowles et al Towards Consensus? 165). These amounted to several thousand Labour supporters who abstained yet instinctively rejected the bureaucratic New Labour split.

Evidence that their political instincts were correct comes from The Great Experiment by Castles et al. They argue that Labour supporters in NZ reacted strongly against Rogernomics and wanted a return to ‘interventionism’ and ‘collectivism’. This suggests that when New Labour failed to stay and fight for these principles, especially after the defeat and resignation of Lange, the Government was seen as still committed to de-regulation and Rogernomics. In taking the defence of collectivism outside the Party, the New Labour split undermined the already weak labour movement and its fight against Rogernomics. (207-8).

The second question that Trotter does not ask is this: did those who switched from Labour to vote New Labour or Green split the Labour vote and lose Labour seats?

In 1990 National won by a massive 38 seats. How many of those were lost because of the split? In a number of core working class electorates the Labour, Green, New Labour and Democratic vote combined was more than that of the National winner. In a few of these the New Labour vote alone exceeded National’s majority and was likely to have lost the seat for Labour; [in Gisborne (Labour missed by 618; NL vote was 804); Horowhenua (Labour lost by 413 votes; NL got 744 votes); Miramar (Labour lost by 178; NL got 996); Onehunga (Labour lost by 679; NL got 880 votes); Onslow (Labour lost by 396; NL got 687); Roskill (Labour lost by 722, NL got 876); Te Atatu (Labour lost by 587, NL got 1086); Titirangi (Labour lost by 116, NL got 1160); Western Hutt (Labour lost by 532, NL got 645).]

So the New Labour vote alone cost Labour 9 seats. If we include Anderton’s own seat of Sydenham, NL cost Labour 10 seatsl. The total switch to New Labour, Greens and Democrats (the future Alliance) accounted for at least another 11 Labour losses. [Birkenhead, East Coast Bays, Eden, Glenfield, Hastings, Heretaunga, Manawatu, New Plymouth, Timaru, Waitakere, and Wanganui.]

So Labour lost 21 seats to voters who switched to the parties that would soon become the Alliance. A loss that would have been around 40 to 46 became as a result 19 to 67!

Thus when we look at the received wisdom as to why Labour was soundly defeated in 1990 we find that it was not only due to National winning support, but Labour losing it to abstentions and defections to the ‘left’ i.e. New Labour and the Greens. For the majority of defectors it was a protest non-vote or vote to the ‘left’ to punish Labour for its betrayals. But what a way to punish Labour, to leave it with only 29 seats in parliament facing an more draconian Rogernomics attack, Ruthonomics, that saw benefits slashed by 10% and the imposition of the ECA to smash the unions.

The National Minister of Labour, Bill Birch, conceded that he expected the strong union fightback outside parliament to force him to concede more to the unions, but this fizzled when Ken Douglas did a deal with Birch to ensure that the ECA would allow unions to be ‘bargaining agents’.

In other words, the ‘left’ New Labour Party had split the Labour Party and weakened it severely inside parliament, yet did almost nothing to put up a strong fight outside to lead the rank and file in the unions against the sell-out CTU leadership of Ken Douglas et. al. It was doing what the parliamentary party always did, refusing to support extra-parliamentary strike action, and keeping its powder dry to fight another day in parliament.

Moreover, the New Labour Party failed to mobilize much more than 5% electoral support. With the formation of the Alliance a few more former Labour voters and swingers moved to the Alliance whose share of the vote went up to 18.2% (4% more than the combined 1990 vote of the constituent parties).

Yet there is no evidence that it was core Labour voters that swung to the Alliance in 1993 after 3 years of National’s Ruthonomics, and the Rogernomes had been defeated inside the party. Labour’s share of the vote reduced marginally from 35.1% to 34.7%. But its tally of seats went from 29 to 45. That is, Labour won back 16 seats without any significant increase in the number of those voting because National’s support had greatly evaporated. What counted against Labour was the role the Alliance played in the marginal, mixed class seats in the smaller cities and provinces.

How the ‘left’ kept National in power through the 1990s

So the next question Trotter fails to ask is: was the NLP (which had formed the Alliance with Mana Motuhake, and the petty bourgeois Greens, Democrats and Liberals) responsible for this loss in 1993? If these parties had cost Labour 21 seats in 1990, how many did they cost in 1993?

Even though Labour’s vote remained static, the big loss for National meant Labour had the chance of winning many more seats. So how many seats did the Alliance cost Labour?

It seems that the New Labour component of ‘collective’ workers was itself was not a key factor. The most obvious result of 1993 is that in its core seats particularly in South Auckland, more workers rejected the Labour/Alliance split. In Otara for example Philip Field reclaimed the seat that New Labour and the Greens had cost Labour in 1990, with the SAME VOTE, while National lost nearly 7000 votes and the Alliance lost 1000 votes. Other core working class seats where the Labour vote held or went up while the Alliance, i.e. the New Labour vote, went down were: Christchurch Central; Eastern Hutt; Mangere, Mirimar, Mt Albert, New Plymouth, Pencarrow, Porirua, Roskill, Timaru, and Yaldhurst.

So while the New Labour component lost votes in the core Labour seats, reflecting the class wisdom of the rank and file Labour supporters in its urban heartlands, the Alliance cost Labour an electoral victory in many marginal seats where it would have won without increasing its vote, or even with a reduced vote: Awarua, Birkenhead, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Glenfield , Heretaunga, Kaimai, Kaipara, Kapiti, Marlborough, Matakana, Papakura, Raglan, Rangiora, Rangatikei, Rotorua, Selwyn, Waikato, Wairarapa, Waitakere, Wellington-Karori, Western Hutt and Whangarei.

So, despite Labour’s overall static vote, and the collapse of National, it was clear that almost two thirds of the electorate had voted against Rogernomics. A class re-alignment took place when the working class core of one-third of the electorate stuck by Labour, while National was reduced to its core one-third bourgeois support. The petty bourgeois Alliance and NZ First were now sharing a ‘balance of power’ in relation to the two main parties. So, for 10 days parliament was hung on the middle class.

Mike Moore, then Labour leader, tried to break this class deadlock by embracing the middle class. He said that National had no “moral authority to govern” and proposed that Labour, the Alliance and NZ First form a loose coalition around a 5 point Xmas present.

The 5 points in this plan were; to bring MMP forward to 1995 (looking at an early election!); reverse the privatization of health and the Accident Compensation Corporation; repeal the Employment Contracts Act, and abolish the 26 week stand down for the dole (which punished the unemployed by not paying up for 26 weeks after they lost their jobs). And all of this by Christmas!

Anderton played the Grinch and rejected this plan. Instead he offered Alliance support to the party had the most seats if it abandoned Rogernomics! Not repeal anything, just do nothing! A recount gave National another seat and Labour offered Sir Basil Arthur as speaker to allow National a majority. A by-election in Selwyn in 1994 saw National come within 346 votes of the Alliance winning the safe conservative seat! This confirmed what the ‘93 election had shown, that the Alliance had picked up the majority of its votes in mixed class electorates, because the Greens and Democrats appealed to middle class, self-employed and small business people.

Workers Power [a revolutionary Trotskyist group] wrote at the time:

“Opposition Collapses: the 1.2 million who voted against National last November have seen their votes go down the dunny [toilet]. All the opposition parties have refused to oppose National. The Alliance in the days after the election promised to use its two votes to keep National in power if it did nothing. This was a total betrayal of its supporters. The Government by ‘doing nothing’ could allow its radical reforms already in place to continue to destroy workers lives. The bosses would continue to see a ‘recovery’ in their profits but at the expense of a further collapse of the labour movement.” (Workers Power, “New-age or age-old exploitation?” #98 February/March 1994)

Here, then, we have the complete bankruptcy of the Labour Government of Savage that stays aloof from real class struggles so that it can supposedly defend the collectivist politics supported by the majority of moderate workers in parliament. When it gets hijacked by the new right which attacks that majority, the ‘left’ abandons it to rebuild the ‘Savage’ party. When that fails, it then forms an electoral Alliance with middle class Greens, Liberals and Democrats, while the core working class majority it claims to protect remains loyal to the Labour Party.

So, during the 90’s when two thirds of the electorate opposed Rogernomics, Anderton preferred to keep the lame duck National Party in power rather than allow the working class majority to put Labour’s promises to repeal major planks of Rogernomics like the ECA to the test. Instead, a decade of defaults and defeats accumulated while the labour movement marked time inside and outside parliament.

Communists don’t expect any capitalist government, including Labour Governments, to legislate for socialism. That’s something that can only come from a workers revolution that overthrows the state including parliament. But while workers have illusions in social democracy we need to re-elect Labour Governments in order to expose them and the futility of parliamentary reforms.

Trotter is an apologist for reformism, and seeks to cover up and prettify its betrayals to prevent workers from breaking with it. His failure to confront the betrayal of Anderton and the Alliance in serving the ‘new right’ for a decade in the 1990s clearly reveals this cover up.

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