Thirty staunch leftists gathered outside the Government’s Jobs Summit on Friday in Manukau, South Auckland. In the face of the growing recession they had come to chant on behalf of the working class that ‘We won’t pay for your crisis!’. In his latest From the Left column (‘New Zealand not ready for Irish anger – yet’) Chris Trotter draws attention to the very different protests being held against neoliberal recession in the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy of Ireland – where the numbers involved are somewhat larger: ‘an impressive 100,000 demonstrators marched through Dublin’s fair city to vent their anger at the centre-right’. Trotter points out the very different nature of the working class mood in the two comparative countries, and suggests that the slogan most likely to resonate with New Zealand workers at the moment is actually ‘We are all in this boat together’. A number of other interesting left commentaries on the Jobs Summit can also be found on the blogosphere. [Read more below].
The left are right to start organising to protect the working class from possible attacks on their living conditions. But this does not mean simply unreflexively importing the slogans, tactics, and general approaches of the left in other western countries. There are different local economic, social and political conditions that makes the job of leftists different here, as Trotter points out:
Like other left commentators, Trotter draws attention to the ‘250 businessmen, bureaucrats, union officials and so-called "community leaders"’ and suggests that an alternative ‘Jobs Summit’ might be convened. He draws up a rough list of his ‘dream team’ for such a forum: ‘Brian Easton, Robert Wade, Bryan Gould, Susan St John, Marilyn Waring, Jane Kelsey, Matt McCarten, Laila Harré, Jim Flynn, Tim Hazledine, Jonathan Boston, James Belich’.
In this regard, Simon Collins of the NZ Herald has done a good job in quantifying the makeup of those at the Government’s Job Summit – see: Groups upset at missing out on Jobs Summit. Collins says that there were ‘only three people from the community sector’, whereas:
Collins provides the following comprehensive breakdown on who was invited:
- Big business: 62
- Small business/ sector groups: 24
- Small hi-tech businesses: 6
- Finance: 22
- Central government: 30
- Local government: 10
- State-owned enterprises: 4
- Education & training: 8
- Academics & researchers: 4
- Unions: 12
- Iwi: 10
- Community: 3
- Total: 195
Matt McCarten wrote a useful critique of what he thought the summit was going to be about – solely ‘safeguarding private profits’. See: Job summit in three words? Rich getting richer.
Steve Cowan of the excellent Against the Current blog, has covered the politics of the summit a fair bit and has been particularly critical of the role of the union movement in the summit – see, for example: Little Standard. His post on Saving private enterprise is also well worth reading. Cowen says that ‘'The Jobs Summit', supported by the business class and the tame trade union hierarchy, might be promoted as minimising job losses but its really all about bailing out New Zealand capitalism’. For him, this once again just highlights ‘the political bankruptcy of the parliamentary parties that pretend to represent us’.
Expanding on some of Chris Trotter’s points, Oliver Woods has written an interesting post entitled Co-operation, not class warfare in New Zealand, in which he argues that unlike the left critics who say ‘the entire Summit is simply a savvy attempt, just like the 1984 Economic Summit, to put window dressing on a strategy of neo-liberal reform’, in fact there is more to it than window dressing and that the reforms being promoted by the elite are more than neoliberalism. Instead, ‘the conference seems more to be inclined toward tripartite corporatism than free market capitalism’.
Finally, one of the organizers of the counter-summit protest, Joe Carolan of the Socialist Aotearoa group, reports on what was achieved on the outside of the conference. He condemns those on the left that want to collaborate:
Carolan declares: ‘Now is the time to prepare and build our networks of struggle’. This is true - but I just hope he's read and reflected on Chris Trotter’s analysis.
Postscript: Steve Cowan has published yet another interesting analysis of the Summit and the left's orientation to it and the recession in the iconically-titled blog post What is to be done?