Mar 3, 2011

The trouble with a movement


He told NewstalkZB today that he was hitting the road to sound out support
for a new party.

He said he was keen to "build a movement'' and he hoped to announce a
decision at the start of next month.

I am interested in the fact that Hone is keen to “build a movement”. A strong movement underpins most parties, historically at least. However, there are crucial differences between a movement and a political party. Not every movement will spawn a new political vehicle and not every political vehicle will engage a movement.

Political parties are often confused with social movements. Political parties are highly structured, highly organised bodies with an official membership. On the other hand movements are characterised by decentralisation and an almost non-existent organisational structure. Political parties adopt a broad issue focus, addressing all areas of government policy and most societal concerns. Contrast with movements which tend to focus on a single outcome and a single approach to that outcome. Political parties are, in most cases, broad churches whereas movements are concerned, usually, with one or two shared values or ideals. Political parties must work within the established social construct and political parameters. Movements, more often than not, seek to challenge these constructs and parameters. As you can see it is often difficult to reconcile a movement with a party. Certainly, not impossible, history shows that is not the case, a bit implausible though.

One must also consider the make up of contemporary political movements. In the past political movements were born out of the struggle for equality, feminism, tino rangatiratanga etc, however in contemporary New Zealand movements tend to attract the young, white, educated and somewhat affluent, think of the green movement. The awareness among the oppressed, arguably, no longer exists, certainly not to the extent it did in the past. Contemporary movements often subscribe to a single idea, notion or ideology. I am not sure a single issue movement, such as a tino rangatiratanga movement, is enough to sustain a social democratic new left party. The two are at times incompatible. Furthermore, movements are so often about doctrinal discipline whereas modern politics seems to be moving towards an end to ideology, a preference for pragmatism over doctrine.

In my opinion a new left party will not be aiming for a wide electoral base. Therefore, it may be sensible to elicit a movement. The point of building a movement is to mobilise the masses and awaken political consciousness among the disaffected. Hone will not be interested in responding to the concerns of mainstream New Zealand – he is playing to one base. A movement can be used, not necessarily to sustain a party, but definately to launch a party.

As you can probably tell I still doubt the feasibility of a new left party. However, I think we need a new left party. A new party will have the effect of intergrating the underclass into the New Zealand political culture. It will be the first chance those on the bottom of the heap have a chance to influence political discourse in this country. If we are indeed a democracy then that can only be a good thing.  


  1. It may be that a movement of movements build. One that supports tino rangatiratanga, opposes free trade and selling off the resources of Aotearoa to foreign interests, and build a strong and just society. Such a movement would be built among the rangatahi, unions, those on low wages, and those who have had enough of inequality and ecological and social degradation.

    A party bringing together pacific and maori people, and those who seek a just Aotearoa, that provied leadership in and for the pacific, would be something fresh, timely and overdue. The people of Aotearoa have the skills, timing is the only question.

    I suspect that privatisation and round 2 of mining, plus the rising cost of living will see more and more discussions about what the alternative is - being raised. Perhaps the green movement will get a lot more brown in the very near future, and tino rangatiratanga will get a lot more visual, vocal and prominent as a new have of leaders come forward.

    I look forward to your writing on Hone's tour.

  2. Kia ora anon,

    I think a combination of movements could work. The only problem is compatibility. Each movement will have their own ideological purpose and the question is can a new party adequately address each purpose/ideological goal. However, at the end of the day a new party is only viable if a number of movements coalesce.

    It is my desire to see a movement of the poor. The, for lack of a better term, underclass, have enormous electoral power. If only they knew how to use it. A movement, and subsequently a new party, would hopefully educate them.

    I hope to able to write on Hone's tour. Not sure I would be able to make any of the hui though.



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