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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 9. 9 May 1972

The Devil you Know

The Devil you Know

The other major side effect is that which the "Salient" writer sought to deny - the essential sameness of the Labour and National parties. The manner in which this sameness contributes to the consistent electoral failure of the Labour Party in N.Z. is well expressed by Ken Coates speaking of the Labour Party in Britain, "there has seldom been good reason to change the devil you know for the devil you don't know: and against a Labour Party every principle of deference to the Establishment is always active unless it can be undermined by credible alternative policies. That is after all, what an Establishment is about". And further "...no alternative administration can field itself until means have already been discovered to persuade enough people that there are good reasons why they need a change, until then all that exists is what already exists, which will present itself as all that can exist. All this is summed up in the conservative presumption that politics is the art of the possible, which always means the acceptance of what is actual as being also ultimate. Socialist politics is the art of enlarging the possible, not that of kowtowing to the actual, which is frequently absurd where it is not flagrantly dangerous. Understanding the need for a programme for change, and for alternative policies, the Farm Road Branch of the Labour Party has established "Policy Study Groups" and has so far held seminars on social welfare and workers participation, and has brought out a monograph on the first area. Viewed as dangerous insurrectionists they received the Party's cold shoulder, though apparently more interest in their activities has been shown shown in the last couple of weeks by the hierarchy. This is the kind of important change possible from within, but without having had Farm Road's first-hand experience I would still say that to change the Labour Party so, one must beat it first. To a party whose prime concern is to catch the prevailing wind, firm alternative policy is a liability - it may confirm friends, but more importantly it will almost certainly run the risk of alienating people.