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New Zealand Survey Finds 65 Percent Agree The Economy Is “rigged To Advantage The Rich And Powerful”


A survey of 1,001 people in New Zealand has found
widespread anger over social inequality, distrust of the
political establishment, and opposition to the running down
of public services and increased military
spending.

The “Populism Survey” by global market
research company Ipsos has been conducted since 2016, with
28 countries surveyed during November-December 2023
(including Britain, the US, Japan, Germany, Australia, South
Africa, and other countries in Europe, Asia and Latin
America). New Zealand was surveyed for the first time in
February 2024.

The Ipsos findings point to growing
anti-capitalist sentiments in the working class across the
world. This is the result of years of soaring living costs,
the never-ending COVID-19 pandemic, crumbling social
infrastructure, the vast concentration of wealth in the
hands of a small number of billionaires, and the diversion
of more and more resources towards imperialist war,
including the Gaza genocide and the war in Ukraine.

In
the case of New Zealand, the results confirm that there is
no popular support for the vicious austerity program being
imposed by the National Party-led government, which is
backed in all fundamental respects by the opposition Labour
Party.

Nearly two thirds of respondents, 65 percent,
agreed that “New Zealand’s economy is rigged to
advantage the rich and powerful” (similar to the 67
percent average result for the other 28 countries). Only 17
percent disagreed with the statement.

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Last year, the
Inland Revenue Department reported that the country’s 311
richest individuals pay less than half the rate of tax paid
by workers. This layer has profited from soaring property
prices, stock market speculation, and tax breaks and
bailouts under successive Labour and National governments.
Meanwhile one in five children lives in poverty and more
than one in ten people depend on food banks.

More than
half of respondents, 55 percent, agreed that “traditional
parties and politicians don’t care about people like me”
(only 18 percent disagreed) and 63 percent agreed that
“the political and economic elite don’t care about
hard-working people.”

In another indication of
distrust for politicians, 57 percent endorsed the statement:
“The most important political issues in New Zealand should
be decided directly by the people through referendums, not
by the elected officials.” The figure was higher for
people aged under 35 (62 percent), the unemployed (63
percent) and Māori (70 percent).

The October 2023
election showed that all the major parties are deeply
unpopular. Amid widespread abstention the Labour Party-led
government suffered a landslide defeat, following six years
in which it oversaw rising homelessness, soaring living
costs and increased poverty. The National Party only
received 38 percent and had to form an unstable coalition
government with the far-right ACT and NZ First
parties.

Significantly, 60 percent of those surveyed
agreed that “the main divide in [New Zealand] society is
between ordinary citizens and the political and economic
elite.” Among “low income” respondents, 69 percent
agreed, and among indigenous Māori, who are predominantly
in the poorest layer of the working class, 78 percent
agreed.

These results come despite strenuous efforts
by the government, as well as the opposition Labour Party
and its allies the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, to stoke
divisions based on race in order to divert attention from
the gulf between rich and poor. Working people correctly
identify the “main divide” not as race, gender,
nationality, religion or any other identity category, but
the class divide between workers and the
super-rich.

The survey indicates that efforts by NZ
First, Labour and other parties, along with sections of the
media, to scapegoat immigrants for the social crisis, have
had a limited effect. Some 29 percent of respondents agreed
with the statement: “Immigrants take jobs away from real
New Zealanders,” and 23 percent agreed that the country
“would be stronger if we stopped
immigration.”

While these figures are not
insignificant, anti-immigrant sentiment is lower in New
Zealand than in most of the other countries surveyed.
Approximately one in four people living in New Zealand were
born overseas and roughly one in six citizens lives outside
the country; the global mobility of the working class has
undermined the ruling elite’s promotion of nationalist
prejudices.

Ipsos also asked where people thought the
government should spend more money.

Most
significantly, 68 percent of New Zealand respondents opposed
greater spending on the armed forces, while only 28 percent
said it should increase—the lowest figure out of all
countries surveyed.

This finding will undoubtedly
cause concern in ruling circles. The major parties, backed
by the corporate media, are pushing to double New
Zealand’s military budget, as the country is integrated
into US-led wars against Russia, in the Middle East, and
preparations for conflict with China.

Deep-seated
opposition to war has erupted to the surface, with thousands
of workers and young people regularly joining protests
against the genocide in Gaza, in which New Zealand is
complicit as an ally of US imperialism.

While opposing
military spending, 65 percent said the government should
spend more on “reducing inequality and poverty,” 55
percent wanted more spent on “creating jobs,” 71 percent
backed increased funding for schools and universities, and
83 percent supported more public money for
healthcare.

The government, however, is committed to
brutal austerity in all these areas. Public services are
being gutted, in order to fund the military build-up and cut
taxes for the rich. Thousands of jobs are being eliminated
from government ministries, including education, child
welfare and conservation. Social welfare payments and the
minimum wage are being reduced, along with the food in
schools program.

The working class is on a collision
course with the government and the corporate elite, as well
as the trade union bureaucracy, which is collaborating with
the destruction of jobs and has suppressed opposition to the
sweeping attacks on living standards.

For the working
class to mobilise its power, it will have to rebel against
the trade unions by organising independent rank-and-file
committees in schools, hospitals and other
workplaces.

In opposition to the ruling elite’s
plans for increased spending on war, and the efforts to
divide workers based on race and nationality, workers should
adopt a socialist program: for the unification of working
people internationally to abolish capitalism and to
establish a workers’ government.

The vast wealth
hoarded by the rich, and the money being funnelled into the
military, must be redistributed to build hospitals, schools,
and to fund other vital services and to put an end to
poverty and inequality. We urge those who agree with this
goal to contact the Socialist Equality
Group.

 

By Tom Peters, Socialist Equality
Group

Original url:
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2024/04/22/vdxw-a22.html

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