Sovereignty and The Left


Most of the opposition to the TPPA has been around the issue of sovereignty. People, especially those on the left, are concerned about taking power away from our democratically elected institutions and placing it in the hands of unelected suits who may work against our interests in the pursuit of profit.

Sovereignty is also the reason many conservatives most vocally oppose signing up to international agreements, like for example arms proliferation treaties and others. Many of these types of peaceful agreements have been signed by almost every nation except the USA.

The left/right progressive/conservative divide stands clear here.

Conservatives, or ‘the right’ seem happy to compromise sovereignty if it leads to greater freedom of business, because in their world view democracy can get in the way of growth of capital, which they see as the main practical goal of society and life. I vehemently disagree with that world view, but I understand their reasoning.

Us, on ‘the left’ or progressives, oppose things which reduce democracy, or our ability to make things better. The focus of the global Green/Left movement of which I am proudly a part being working towards dealing with poverty, inequality, environmental catastrophe caused by climate change, ending war, promoting education, and a multilateralism built on peace and cooperation.

To this end progressives are happy to have their governments cede sovereignty on the right to trade arms, develop biological weapons, and all other agreements that make the world better through supra-national bodies.

How then does someone on the left, which is meant to be about internationalism, justify opposing things like the TPPA which on the surface of things appears to be an instrument of international cooperation?

My Green charter, and the global Green charter talks about appropriate decision making, and in that the principle of subsidiarity.

Decisions being made at the lowest practicable level by the people it effects.

The global issues of nuclear non proliferation and climate change require a global response. Whether I can have a water tank of a certain size is an issue for my local community and local council.

I’m comfortable that my government doesn’t have the right to make biological weapons. I also hold the view that a Waiheke council could make better local decisions than a body in Auckland. Subsidiarity.

Many on the right prefer strong centralised nation states, locked in competition rather than working in cooperation. They lobby to make laws to override local council decisions to facilitate business, and they oppose notions of nations working together on international issues for fear of losing competitive advantage.

What I’m realising is that both world views left/right, progressive/conservative are prepared to cede sovereignty, but for very different reasons, and to different bodies for different reasons.

There are people out there just as terrified of their nation signing up to an agreement that could lead to greater peace, as many of us are about these so called trade agreements. Just check out the hysteria around the ‘agenda 21’.

And I’m realising that on this issue of sovereignty, the left/right or however you want to call it divide still exists.

And I’m proudly of the left.


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