Recent media headlines indicate that the super-rich considers New Zealand a safe haven from the catastrophes they expect to overcome our planet. For example, Google’s co-founder, Larry Page, the world’s sixth-richest person, was recently granted New Zealand residency, following the lead of PayPal founder, Peter Thiel, another ultra-wealthy individual.
Often neglected because of its geographical isolation but now gradually increasing its participation in the World Socialist Movement is the small World Socialist Party of New Zealand that presently exists of a mere handful of members.
In a country noted for its supposed progressive social reforms whereas early as 1879 men had the vote, and by 1893 women were also entitled to vote, poverty and squalor has never disappeared. Living costs in New Zealand have risen sharply as has the price of homes, however, workers’ wages have lagged a long way behind.
History provides more proof that reformism cannot solve the problems of the working class. If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it is that we can see a greater than ever need for a socialist organisation for the overthrow of capitalism. Similar to Canada, New Zealand was a fertile breeding ground for quack remedies to cure capitalism such as with the Douglas social credit movement at one time proving popular. The World Socialist Party of New Zealand holds that socialism is the only solution for the effects of capitalism. While capitalism continues so the workers must suffer from its effects and their condition become worse.
Jacinda Ardern’s government has not succeeded in fixing poverty and it has offered many excuses for its failure. UNICEF in September 2020, compared the performances of 41 high-income countries on child welfare issues; from suicide rates to childhood obesity, education and environment. New Zealand was at the bottom third at 35.
The extent of wealth inequality in supposedly egalitarian New Zealand has been laid bare by 2020 figures showing the wealthiest individuals have over NZ$140bn in trusts – and overall have nearly 70 times more assets than the typical New Zealander.
The data show that New Zealand’s wealthiest 1% of adults – around 38,000 people – have $141bn in trusts. Another 150,000 or so people, rounding out the rest of the wealthiest 5%, have trusts worth a further $122bn.
The 1% have an average of $3.6m held in trusts, $1.6m in shares and $470,000 in cash. Their debts are on average just $80,000. The typical person in the 1% is worth $6.2m.
In contrast, the typical New Zealander is worth only $92,000 – 68 times less.
Among those in the poorest half of the country, meanwhile, the average person owns assets worth just $46,000 and has debts of $33,000, leaving them with a net worth of $12,000. They have negligible wealth in trusts and on average just $4,000 in the bank, leaving them vulnerable to sudden financial shocks.
When it comes to those on middle income – the 40% of the country who are above the mid-point but below the wealthiest 10% – have a higher net worth, on average $352,000, most of it tied up in housing.
Overall, the wealthiest 10% have 59% of all the country’s assets and the middle income is around 39%. That leaves the poorest half of the country with just 2%.
Jacinda Ardern’s government has shown little enthusiasm for redistribution of the riches of the wealthy, much less abolish the rich which is the goal of we socialists. Ardern’s suggestion that employers consider a four-day working week and other flexible working options to help employees address persistent work and life balance issues have excited many New Zealanders.
The World Socialist Party (New Zealand), however, has a better idea. What about socialism as the answer?
What distinguishes us from other political organisations is that we insist that it is futile to concentrate on just a part of capitalism’s problems. The only effective policy is to campaign exclusively for its abolition and replacement with socialism.
The WSPNZ is frequently chastised for advocating our fellow workers to spoil their vote by writing “world socialism” across the ballot. The media is full of messages which say, “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain”, or “it is your duty to vote”, or “Whatever you do, just make sure you get out there and vote”.
The members of the WSPNZ are always being lectured on the virtues of voting for the lesser evil. Don’t play the game, don’t be forced into a false and hypocritical “choice”. Between Tweedledum and Tweedledummer, our advice is to spoil the ballot paper and abstain from voting for either. If you cannot vote for what you want, it is folly to vote for what you do not want.
Our vote, like a razor, is an instrument for a purpose. If you cannot use it to shave as it was intended, it is madness to cut your throat with it. And by voting for your class enemies, full of traitors and charlatans, you are surely slashing your own throat.
Call the WSPNZ naive and idealists if you so wish but it aspires towards global revolution and world socialism. That is the message it sends and it won’t be distracted by squabbles within the capitalist class that doesn’t benefit us working people as a class.
World Socialist Party (New Zealand) P.O. Box 1929
Auckland, NI, New Zealand
Website: World Socialist Party – History (worldsocialism.org)
(Details on other pages of their website have not been updated and requires to be amended but cannot any longer be accessed. A new website is in the process of being developed)