The announcement of this agreement to work together is positive news. A year before the last election we were, down here on the Coast, trying to promote the necessity of such a partnership. Sure, there would be issues, especially among the fundamentalist members of either party, but there would have been time to talk through the issues and begin an educative process around a progressive government. Instead, crazy opportunism prevailed, typified by the Mana/Dotcom affair, leading to a fragmentation of purpose that could only have one outcome.
The forging of a progressive government will call on a number of genealogical strands: the social justice strand, now tested by automation, the rich-poor divide, casualisation and globalisation; the environmentalist strand – given that climate change is the most pressing of issues, together with species loss, chemical poisoning etc; the need to control technological innovation – do we really need self-driving trucks?; regional development rather than the whole population pressing into one city; just transition and reworking the concept of work; how to reduce consumerism; taking back the international order from the corporates; dealing with refugees; the role of the media; how to house a growing population; the nature of a progressive economy (are both Universal Basic Income and a Financial Transaction Tax required?); fair trade rather than free trade; the role of the state given that progressive energy keeps generating an anarcho-syndicalist model; how to build participatory democracy… It’s a big task, which requires continuing dialogue between thought and action.
The ‘natural’ supporters of each party will need to move outside their comfort zone: for Labour supporters a nostalgia for bygone days, for the Greens supporters to move outside a privileged wilderness cult. And where do Maori and the tiriti fit? Politically, at the moment, they are either playing an opportunist game with National, being loyal to Labour, or flirting with the Greens – now that Mana has, nationally at least, disappeared. Yet Maori, at the flax roots, remain regular and reliable opponents of globalising extractive agendas.
Above all, as Naomi Klein writes, there is a need to move past the extractive ideology of both the industrial and post-industrial periods and to establish different relationships with the natural world. For her, first nations, unions and environmentalists are vital players.
The process of integration suggested by this memorandum (and hopefully this is not an act of opportunism) will take time and education. It took Labour thirty years from its founding, and a capitalist crisis, before it first came to power and created social democracy in Aotearoa. Establishing an equivalent new order could also take time and patience – not a common quality in a society built on notions of instant gratification. And, as in the 1920s and 1930s, there could well be a fascist movement to combat.
Where is the energy, the passion, to come from? In those first decades of last century the simplicity of the communist ideal provided that energy: from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. That ideal, according to the French philosopher, Badiou, remains. But the means to realising that ideal is still being searched for.
Given the breadth of the task, it is unfortunate that prominent left-wing (?) commentators have responded to the announcement of this MOU with what Jodi Dean, calls ‘left melancholy’, a somewhat pointless and mournful claiming that, ‘the left doesn’t exist’. Their writing begins to have the grumpy self-importance, and irrelevance, of ex-pats, draped over the bar of a defunct colonial drinking spot.