The wet weather hanging over the camp site
Sharing ideas and socialising
James speaking at the Festival closing
Posing on the dance floor during the final party
It was suggested that some of the things that make US politics different are: that it is mainly candidate centred politics rather than party centred; that here is so much money in US politics; that while the US has lots of strong Left Wing movements they are not very electorally involved; and that while there are less Left Wing victories there is much better campaigning – the US has turned campaigning into a science and has really good non-direct electoral groups working hard and well in very uneducated electorates.
Other interesting points included:
-> Elected officials are only as good as we make them; even the good ones need pushing and outside support. After Obama was elected a million people should have been in Washington screaming “Yes we could, now you should!”
-> Rules are important, politics matters too, but if the rules are against you then often everything else can become irrelevant.
-> “The US is the worst form of empire except all those that have come before it.”
-> We need to build a bridge between Left Wing US organisations and outside organisations
I then went to session on “The Nordic Model” which was very interesting to find out more about. One thing that can be found in all the Nordic countries is a strong welfare state based on high taxation and sense of solidarity. You pay throughout your life and when you are strong so that you have support when you are young, old, and sick, so that your parent’s situation doesn’t determine your start to life and consequently rest of your life, and so that society can be more equal.
Everyone gets and everyone gives; there is even a lot of support and services even for those on high incomes. When you can see that you get something yourself too, then you are more willing to pay. In Finland the Youth Guarantee ensures that if you are under 25 and don’t have a job or are not in school, the state will to find you a place in a school or a job within three months to help prevent people from falling out of society. In Sweden you can stay at home for 13 months to look after you children with a lot of support, even if you are on a high income.
The second aspect that is present in most Nordic countries is the flexi-security model. It most of the Nordic countries is very easy to fire people from their jobs, but it is also a lot of security if you do lose your job. People, rather than jobs per se, are protected; failing factories are not protected but people hit by the changing needs of the market are. While often there is no minimum wage and politicians stay quite clear of industrial matters, a highly unionised workforce is able to negotiate directly with industry. Trade Unions also support each other.
A third key tenant of the Nordic model is democracy, transparency, and trust; when the state has a lot of your money you want to make sure it is spent well. Anyone can go to an authority and ask “I would like to know what you are doing with this issue? who did you meet? what decisions did you make?”. In Iceland 93% of people vote and a citizens assembly is drafting a new constitution on which anyone can go online and suggest a change to.
One of the challenges identified was a rise of individualism corroding solidarity; people are asking “If I vote for you, what do I get?”. Likewise the pressure of “success orientated lives” burns people out. Funding the model and keeping enthusiasm and momentum going – now that some of the goals have been achieved – was another challenge identified. The possibility was also raised that people could get used to the state taking care of everything and a state of passiveness could arise. Sustainability is another challenge with Nordic countries having some of the largest carbon footprints. Finally, comparative growth rates and the effects of globalisation and Europeanisation on these small countries formed another set of concerns; when people can move freely about and use state services, what does that do to states that spend a lot more on these services?
With all the sessions over the end of the day was marked by the closing ceremony, which was not as exciting as I had hoped. However, a long night of dancing and socialising (I only got one hour of sleep before the bus to the airport ) helped form a great send-off. It was a shame to leave, it seemed to soon. In many ways it felt like I was only just getting my legs in such a big and mutli-national forum (there were 2,500 participants!); I certainly took more out of the second half of the week than the first.
I left with two things in my mind certain: firstly, attending was absolutely worth it, the experience gained – even for what is now a rather veteran NZ activist – was unique and unreplaceable; secondly, I want to go back and ensure others go back. Going once was not enough to take advantage of the networking opportunities that arose and to ensure that as an organisation we take advantage of the experience and support our sister parties can bring. The core philosophy of Labour and Social Democrats can be said to be this: “That we are stronger together than we are apart”. Yet when it comes to international solidarity between Left Wing movements, and even solidarity between Left Wing movements within New Zealand, we have a very long way to go.
To conclude, I – and I’m sure the others – hope you enjoyed and learnt from out updates and I hope to post an overall summary video soon. I enjoyed during the last day taking some panoramas (why didn’t I think of it earlier?) so I will leave you with a bunch of pictures that provide a good little insight into the camp grounds. From the New Zealand Delegation – Andreas, Chelsea, and James – goodbye!
PS. Sorry that the last couple of updates took awhile to prepare and get posted but, well, we were having too much fun and the lack of power points, usable internet, and Andreas’ phone being stolen, meant to do things right, we had to wait, and I do try to do things right.
Just a few of the many many tents we slept in (on the left) and some of the tents we used for the discussion sessions (on the right)
The main outside area with a stage and organising building to the left, more tents and buildings in the middle, and a volleyball patch to the right
A good crowd at a very interesting session on US politics
The main tent in which meals took place, some of the whole conference sessions were held, and where there was much music and dancing in the evenings
The closing ceremony held in the main tent