The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Monday, November 07, 2005

goodbye to the great Green ginga

I was totally shocked, as it seems was everyone else, to hear that Rod Donald died yesterday. When The Man in the Comfy Chair rang me to say he'd just heard a newsflash on Nat Rad I was completely stunned. He seemed so fit and healthy - and I guess he was, but heart attacks seem to often strike those who live stressful lives, regardless of age or fitness.

I never met Rod Donald, as his time with the Alliance was well before mine. I respected what he achieved and that he was true to his kaupapa. His death is a loss for the environmental movement, for the broad Left, for politics, and of course it is a huge blow for the Greens.

My impression was that Rod was gagging to be a Cabinet Minister and was probably very angry about missing out this time, especially given the warrants for Peters and Dunne, and the fact that it is (at this stage) unlikely that Labour will get a fourth term. It always seemed that Jeanette would stand down first, and I suspect she intended to prior to the next election. Now though she will have to stay on to ensure some continuity, at least for the next year. The Greens leadership structure requires them to have one woman and one man, so whoever replaces Rod must be male. Keith Locke is the only other current male MP, and he's publically unpalatable (although not to me) because of the Pol Pot stuff. Nandor may come in now, or Mike Ward, but I don't think either of them would cut it. So the new co-leader may have to be outside Parliament, resulting in all sorts of interesting shenanigans come List Time 2008.

I sincerely hope they can sort this out, as the Greens are too important to NZ politics to be in disarray for long. Someone needs to stick it to National and Act, and remind Labour of what they should be doing - and while the Alliance (and others) try to do this from outside the House, the Greens get more media cut-through due to their Parliamentary presence.

To Rod's family and friends, and the Greens - arohanui. I hope that you are given time and space to remember and respect your partner, father, colleague and friend. Although he had much more to give, he had given so much already - Rod made a difference.

Frogblog has opened a condolence book here, which at the time of posting had 170 comments. Please add yours.

Update, 1.35pm 7th Nov 2005: Here is the Alliance release - MMP is Rod Donald's lasting legacy.

1 comment:

maps said...

It is natural to be shocked and saddened by the sudden death of a very healthy 48 year old.

I think, though, that the response of the media and politicians of all parties to Donald's demise goes well beyond those sentiments -I'd compare it with the response to David Lange's death earlier this year. And this sort of response is at odds with claims made on sites like indymedia and frogblog that Donald was some sort of thorn in the side of the establishment, an outsider politician untainted by the sort of grubby compromise which is the stock in trade of most MPs.

I think the reality is that by the time he had died Donald had become a very valued member of what we can call the political establishment. He and the Greens had spent much of their time in parliament trying to convince the other parties and the public of their 'respectability' - of their ability to be 'safe pairs of hands' running the state on behalf of New Zealand capitalism. A particularly poignant example of this camapign for respectability came in the aftermath of this year's election, when the Greens held a behind-closed-doors meeting with members of the Business Roundtable, in an effort to convince Roger Kerr and his comrades that they had 'nothing to fear' from a Labour-Green government. For any Green Party member who identifies with left-wing politics, such a meeting must have seemed infinitely more embarrassing than Keith Locke's nearly-nude run through Newmarket.

Rod Donald represented the right wing of the Green Party. Unlike Locke, Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei, who had a background in anti-capitalist politics and the labour movement, Donald traced his political descent back to the sort of petty bourgeois utopianism which found differing expressions in both Social Credit and the early Values Party. Most of his formative political work involved him setting up 'ethical' businesses, and his vision was of a kinder, gentler, greener, Kiwi-owned capitalism. His nationalism made him an opponent of free trade deals, the spy base at Waihopai, and a number of other causes associated with the left, but unlike the soicalist left he never took the working class and the labour movement seriously as possible agents for change.

Of all the Green MPs, he was the most enthusiastic to abandon shibboleths like opposition to GE field trials and Kiwi troops in Afghanistan in the quest for a place at the Cabinet table. Although he joined the other Green MPs in opposing Labour's decision to join the invasion of Afghanistan, Donald time and time again made himself invaluable to the ruling class of this country and their pals in Canberra and Washington, by giving a 'respectable' 'left' face to reactionary pieces of foreign policy. For example, Donald and his Green comrades beat the drum for last year's Australian-led invasion of the Solomons, which was motivated by a desire to enforce the implementation of a disastrous IMF 'austerity' programme, and by Washington's anxiety about France expansing its influence in Melanesia with an offer of assistance to the Solomons government. In 2003 Donald and the rest of the Greens also jumped into bed with the right to pass, under urgency, the so-called 'people smuggling' legislation which would make any 'boat people' fleeing the chaos that IMF policies have created in places like the Solomons liable to 20 years' imprisonment, should they reach New Zealand shores.

Had Donald lived, he undoubtedly would have kept shepherding the Greens towards the political centre, making more and more compromises in the quest for the illusory power that comes with being a minor partner in a Labour government. His death is a tragedy for his family and friends, but it is no loss to the left.