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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 24, September 27, 1976.

Labour Party Lost Class Consciousness

Labour Party Lost Class Consciousness

With this analysis in mind, what function does the Labour Party have in the state in capitalist New Zealand? The principle contradiction (the main opposition of forces driving society along) in capitalist society is economic, between capital and labour. On the political level this contradiction is reflected in the forms of class struggle.

Within the state itself the Labour Party does to some extent represent the working class. It certainly gains its basic support from this class, and is hence in antagonism to the National Party. However, as we noted before in surveying its history the Labour Party has lost much of its class consciousness even in this framework. In Australia Whitlam even claimed that Labour was the party of "the whole people", the Liberals representing special class interests.

Also within the state, and largely because it is more: attuned to the desires of the more oppressed members of the community. Labour takes a more humanitarian and involved role than National. But these actions, because they take place through the state apparatuses, have in themselves loaded political and ideological roles. Instead of encouraging people to work together, to form self-help groups, the state stresses "individual" pay outs.

This is part of the most important weapon the state has to fragment the working class - that of 'isolation'. It appears in various forms. Individual welfarism is one. Another is, because the state appears as a liberal democratic body with equal rights for all citizens it therefore confounds the unity of the working class steming from production. Through various of its agencies, particularly the education system, the state re-inforces individual bourgeois ethics.

A quick look at the present Labour Party shows it is pursuing this role of isolation to the letter. There is a stress on individual achievement, the 'meritocracy'. Douglas's superannuation debacle was reinforcing class and income divisions. And, most importantly as far as progressive movements are concerned, a Labour Government institutionalises and thereby disorganises them. This is clear in the emasculation of the trade union movement under Labour Governments. It is also clear from the dearth of protest groups under Labour, which are now getting back into swing.