In September 1991, just prior to the formation of the Alliance Party, Bill Andersen wrote a widely circulated open letter, from his Socialist Party of Aotearoa, calling for a “people’s coalition to form a government of national salvation” in order to “meet the broad interests of the NZ people“. Andersen said the key was forging an “electoral agreement” between Labour, the NLP and the Greens.
Andersen’s call was soon echoed by fellow Marxist-Leninist, Ken Douglas. As keynote speaker at the 1992 Labour Party conference Douglas urged Labour and the Alliance to get together around an “electoral agreement” to defeat the National Government. Labour’s then president Ruth Dyson (reportedly on friendly terms with Douglas’ partner Marilyn Tucker) backed the appeal.
While rejected by then, Labour leader Mike Moore, it was considered at the time, highly unlikely that Douglas would have spoken without significant support inside the Labour Party.
It is clear that socialist coalitions were considered likely by many pro MMP activists.
Former ERC Vice-President Rod Donald told “Monthly Review” of January 1993 “I tend to think that New Zealand will tend towards centre left coalitions rather than centre right”.
Incoming Labour President Maryan Street (a strong supporter of MMP) told Labour’s 1993 Congress that an important part of her job would be preparing Labour for the post-1996 political landscape. “We cannot predict at this stage what the various players in the field are going to look like, so I don’t know if the Alliance will still exist in it’s current form…It may be a possibility in the future that the Left will have to look quite seriously at representation of a broad coalition of interests…”
In an interview with Robert Mannion of the Sunday Times of October 24th 1993, SPA leader, Bill Andersen, outlined his party’s priorities and plans. According to Mannion, Andersen supported the Alliance and believed “the main issue now is to expand participatory democracy. Beginning with MMP…”
Mannion added that Andersen “would like to have seen Alliance/Labour accommodations in crucial electorates”. And interestingly “They had a good meeting with Helen Clark and Alliance parliamentary candidate Laila Harre at the Trade Union Centre recently.”
Harre a former Labour Party official, became General Secretary of the NLP, an Alliance cabinet minister and this year succeeded Bill Andersen as leader of the National Distribution Union.
Clark, of course shortly after, became leader of the Labour Party, in a coup described by Mike Moore as “almost Maoist“.
Why did these two supposed political rivals meet members of NZ’s most militant Marxist-Leninist Party? Was it to discuss their mutual interest in Nicaragua (Clark was there in ’86, Harre in ’87)? Or was it to discuss future “electoral agreements?”
Labour deputy leader Michael Cullen, was interviewed in the Socialist Unity Party’s “Tribune” of March the 18th. The piece was entitled “Progressive Forces Should Dominate Under MMP””
In it, Cullen laid out his thoughts on a Labour/Alliance coalition.
“The frustrating thing about relations with the Alliance is that if you talk about what we think as a just society, we’re not very far apart at all”… “The basic instincts of people in Labour, are pretty much the same I suspect, as the basic instincts of those who are Alliance activists”
“If we are capable of recognising that simple truth, and if the Alliance is capable of recognising that there is no route backwards….that there are certain fundamental constraints of being part of an international economy that we actually can’t opt out of…once they’ve accepted that, then I think we’ve got an awful lot to talk about”
“And we ought to be able to form basically a centre-left coalition which should be the dominant force under MMP for the foreseeable future”.
To achieve this near monopoly, Cullen expected there would be increasing contact between Labour and Alliance people“to establish networks, to establish common ground, establish confidence”
However the voting public would not know about this coalition government until well after they had cast their votes. “One doubts that we’re going to have formal talks before an election”…”but hopefully the sharp edges will have worn away enough that after an election we’ll be able to talk seriously and quickly in order to be able to form an effective government”
The drive for MMP came from across the political spectrum. These ranged from the Christian Heritage Party, NZ First and even the odd Nat, to the Communist Party, Workers Power and virtually every other socialist sect in the country.
The main thrust came however from the Alliance, the CTU, the ERC and elements of the Labour Party.
Standing behind these organisations were NZ’s two major Marxist-Leninist parties, Ken Douglas’ SUP and Bill Andersen’s, SPA.
It is clear that these groups intended to influence any likely coalition that arose from combinations of the NLP, Labour, Greens or Mana Motuhake.
Clearly MMP has not yet achieved everything that Douglas and Andersen thought it would. It did however, produce a Labour/Alliance coalition and damn near produced a Labour/Greens one. It has also brought Marxists like Matt Robson, Keith Locke and Sue Bradford into parliament
It has enabled ACT to get a foothold, but in my opinion has benefited the socialists more than the pro freedom forces.
Labour has effectively absorbed the values and many of the members of the SUP. Bill Andersen is dead and the Alliance nearly so. However his SPA is working with Matt McCarten, the Socialist Workers organisation and others to form a new leftist movement to replace the Alliance. Marxist=Leninists are nothing, if not long term, strategic thinkers.
MMP, was sold to the public as a means of making politicians more “accountable”. It could yet produce future coalitions that would give tiny Marxist sects, the power to influence policy affecting more than 4,000,000 NZers. It will certainly give NZ more Marxist MPs and more socialist governments than this great country deserves.