Sunday, October 01, 2017

Uprising in Catalonia

 Catalonia’s independence referendum – outlawed by the Spanish state – has been taking place today, Sunday. As voting closed, activist David Karvala spoke to Socialist Aotearoa from outside a polling station in Barcelona

About 200 people were in front of my local polling station at 8pm as voting ended in the independence referendum. There was a countdown and huge cheer.
Some had been here since 5am. Others had stayed the night on Saturday. We then had to stay for hours more to protect the ballot boxes during the count. The result at our station was an 80 percent vote for independence. The turnout was 1,300 votes - impressive given the area and the police repression.

The paramilitary police brutally attacked a polling station just half a mile from here and all the ballot boxes were taken away. We are one of the few polling stations in the area that hasn’t been attacked.
The Catalan government released shocking footage of Spanish police attacking polling stations.
But the final images on its clip show people pushing back the riot cops. They show firefighters setting up a protective cordon for demonstrators—a decision they took collectively in an assembly.
The latest reports are that police attacks have injured 761 people with 128 of them hospitalised, including two serious cases.

There have been horror stories.

Police used tear gas in small polling station in a rural town. A village of 250 people was attacked by 60 or 70 paramilitary police.
Elsewhere the police targeted a woman with official responsibilities in the referendum. They dragged her down stone steps by her hair, touched her breasts, then broke the fingers of her hand one by one.
They shot a person at close range with a rubber bullet. He’s having emergency treatment and may lose an eye.

And then there are good stories.
In the county town of Tarrega around 1,000 people filled a square to protect the town hall as a single place for all remaining voters to vote. They had closed all other polling stations at 5pm.
Some of our contacts have sent videos of people voting in their towns.
One is from a town in the outskirts of Barcelona where many people speak Spanish, not Catalan, after migration from southern Spain in the 1960s.
The video shows an almost endless queue, right around the block, of people waiting to vote.

The Spanish police are beating the Spanish speaking workers towards support for independence.
Another contact in the small town of Pineda explained that a busload of police was sent in—but the people sent them away.
There have been urgent demonstrations elsewhere in the Spanish state showing solidarity against the repression.
Some 3,500 people took to the streets in Valencia. So did hundreds of people in Burgos—the civil war capital of former dictator General Franco.
It’s been an impressive day.
For a while this morning we had to wait to vote because the voting system was blocked for some time. People just got up to speak.

There were a couple of Scottish people here to support a referendum. A Polish woman sang a song in Polish that turned out to be a version of an anti-Franco song from the 1970s.
One of the most emotional things was when old people came to vote, sometimes with walking sticks or wheelchairs, and being cheered by everyone.
In the end it seems the police attacks only shut down a tiny minority of polling stations. The Spanish Interior Ministry said authorities had succeeded in closing down 92 of about 2,300 polling stations - or 4 percent.

But the count will depend on how many ballot boxes survive the evening.
We don’t know how many boxes will reach the stage of being counted. So the results are hard to predict and in some ways they aren’t the main thing.

Now the struggle has been massively intensified by the CCOO and UGT unions backing a general strike called for Tuesday of this week. Left unions such as the CGT had already called it - now the two main pro-independence movements have backed it too.
The main thing is that—in Barcelona neighbourhoods and even in small towns—people have come out on the street in their tens of thousands to defy the repression.


From Catalonia to Aotearoa- the Struggle for Independence.

Socialist forum this Thursday 5th October 7pm

at Unite Union.


 Denny Thompson, Ngati Paoa, and Diego Compa, talk about the struggles of Maori in Aotearoa and Catalans occupied by the Spanish State for Independence, and how the socialist movement should support and interact with struggles for national liberation.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Joe Carolan at the International Union of Foodworkers Global Congress in Geneva

#mcStrike- the Battle moves to the centre

#McStrike - The Battle is moving to the Centre- Joe Carolan from Unite Union in New Zealand speaking at the International Union of Foodworkers Global Congress in Geneva #WeAreIUF

Unions and the rise of a New Left

Joe Carolan from Unite Union speaks to the relationship between fighting unions and the rise of a New Left at the International Union of Foodworkers Global Congress in Geneva #WeAreIUF #McStrike

Friday, August 25, 2017

I will never forget the women of Highland Park Events cinema...

I will never forget the women of Highland Park Events cinema, who were made redundant by the company without getting a penny from the company. Three had worked there for over 15 years. Unite fought hard alongside them, and in the end we got a redundancy contract for future workers in our collective agreement. But this is not good enough- the Highland park workers got nothing, and thousands of workers without union protection will continue to get nothing. It's time for the law to be changed- will a new Labour Government in New Zealand introduce statutory redundancy provisions for all workers who lose their jobs? This law needs changing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Capitalism as pratfall.

Capitalism, that great and efficient distributor of goods and services. It has brought us, with its compatriots, colonization and Christianity, oppression and extinction of indigenous cultures, the creation and exploitation of the working class, systematic domination over nature and non-human animals, and other travesties. It’s given us over-consumption and species collapse, destruction of ecosystems and then biospheric conditions. It’s given us a plastic filled planet, more nurdles than fish. Fukushima. It’s given us global inequality as well as the contradiction of both poverty and obesity in the western world. It’s given us billionaires and homelessness. It’s given us information overload and antibiotic resistance.
You could argue the three C’s have also brought us education, health, longer life spans, medical advancements so women don’t die in childbirth, moral development (in the western tradition) and democracy. But in reality, those benefits and costs are so unevenly spread throughout society and throughout the world, that democratic capitalism doesn’t look so efficient at distributing goods and services after all.
Implicit in the role of the state, is an admission of market failure. A reluctant dance partner to regulation though, the market tolerates the least possible interference. Democratic processes and social action are an engaged audience to the dance. Environmental and social indicators in poverty and ruin locally and globally must condemn the whole. Resource exhaustion, market saturation and credit insecurity show capitalism is eating itself.
Capitalism seems to thrive on self-interest and greed. It taps into the egocentric impulses, the pursuit of the individual. It harnesses a latent Lord of the Flies culture in the homo sapiens primate. Ergo cynicism about the prospect of a benign, fair and utopian future.
But can critical political junctures such as elections or crises, offer potential for paradigmatic change? Wouldn’t we prefer that transition to a better model is organic and incremental not violent and brutal, the means justifying the ends? The Global Financial Crisis arguably provided Barak Obama with the opportunity for such paradigm shift and to live up to his messages of change, empowerment and hope. Instead, his legacies included bailouts for the fossil fuel automobile industry and corporate bankers, and increased militarization, so, no paradigm shift, just more of the same. Proving, after all, capitalism is too big to let fail.
New Zealand’s upcoming election is another one of those political opportunities where parties bearing the left mantle, in Government, could build incrementally, a vision and a construct for not just trimming the market’s branches, but planting a whole new tree. Would that be a politically feasible pre-election policy though? (No). Would middle New Zealand vote for it? (No, after all, ‘what are the costs and benefits for me’) And would local and transnational businesses stand for it, definitely not.
Is capitalism even redeemable through elections and changing the neo-liberal guard? Can democracy change the fundamental contradictions of market profiteering? Is a better way really possible in our time? What ‘better’ distributive model is there, that can be achieved without anarchy, violent revolution and the risks of power hungry subversion. If ‘property is theft’, what’s that really mean for the things I currently call my own? What sacrifices are people really prepared to make for some ideal, or Utopian goal? Is there really a chance of transition to a just society that wages peace not war, that shares power and resources, that respects and enables indigenous ways and wisdom, that offers creative and productive freedom for all? Now enters that cynicism again. And fear. Who’s going to stop the meltdown of nuclear power stations in a post-modern future, and who’s going to clean up the oceans?
Amid the worries of political, social and economic instability, from climate change, system change or war, we are well placed to remember that these conditions are actually the current reality for most others around the world. We’re just lucky it’s happening to ‘them’ not ‘us’. But in fact, it is happening to us. Just like the frog in the heating pot of water, while we weren’t looking, our rivers and lakes have turned to shit, our oceans have been raped by our own fishing companies, homelessness and debt slavery create a new proletariat. Capitalism has already had its pratfall, Donald Trump its biggest clown.
In many ways, capitalism has already failed. It’s failed people and the planet. It’s failed future generations. It’s failed the beauty of life. It’s humbled the integrity and mystery of ecosystems. It’s degraded humanity. It’s failed to live up to its potential and its hype. As Tennyson said, ‘from windswept cliff and quarried stone, she cries ‘ten thousand types have gone, all shall go’. Like the dinosaurs, and ancient civilizations, capitalism too shall pass. The ruins it leaves in its wake will force a whole new paradigm, sooner or later, whether we like it or not.
Christine Rose SA

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Mettle of Metiria.

Metiria stood with the Indian Students fighting exploitation and deportation in the sanctuary of the Unitarian Church.

 Metiria stood in solidarity with Unite Union workers who took strike action to defeat zero hours contracts.

She has been subjected to a vicious avalanche of manufactured outrage from media pundits, vilified by the rabid right wing and betrayed by opportunists within the left.

Her crime- to fight for the unemployed, beneficiaries and the poor.

A lot of people are sickened by what passes for politics in this country.

Thank you Metiria for being on our side fighting when it counts.

- Joe Carolan, Socialist Aotearoa.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Beyond Jacindamania.

In light of the leadership change Maria Hoyle from the Anti-Capitalist interviews Joe Carolan Unte union organizer and 2017 Mt Albert by-Election about the prospects of the leadership change.

Maria Hoyle for the Anti-Capitalist: With Jacinda Ardern taking over, there is a feeling of hope and expectation, that it will invigorate the campaign, that young people will go to the ballot box for a change… what’s your view on what Jacinda might offer?

Joe Carolan: We’re in the early throes of Jacindamania [just three days after she took over Labour leadership] and there’s a honeymoon period in the media. Established hatchet men like Patrick Gower have been given pom-poms by Steven Joyce to be her cheerleader. I would argue there’s another member of the Labour caucus that’s in power and his name is Paddy Gower. He seems to be the one who calls which one is their leader! Jacinda is very presentable, there’s a generational thing there, she’s 37. A lot of young people are saying, ‘What was looking very pale and stale and male, with Little and English, now suddenly becomes a generational and even gendered contest’. It becomes Gen Y versus boring old Bill English. So that will have an effect. She’s also pretty hip. For us it’s whether she is going to be a Corbyn-lite or a Trudeau… (ie. calling himself feminist, crying for the indigenous). Trudeau is presentable – he’s on the gay pride marches, nice counter to Trump, saying the right things - yet Canada is doing huge arms deals with Saudi Arabia, doing huge pipeline deals. During Sitting Rock Canada was happy to have a pipeline going through there. So he’s Mr Fossil Fuels, Mr Profiteering from arms deals with Saudi.. The same in France with the neo-liberal Macron – young, presentable, does the liberal stuff, yet you look behind these people’s politics and it’s business as usual.

We’ve had four or five Labour leaders since Helen. Goff – part of the crew who introduced neo-liberalism to NZ - Little, Shearer, Cunliffe. Let’s look at where this Jacinda effect started from. This started from a historically low poll of 24%. You’re dying there. But you don’t have to die… look at Corbyn in the recent UK election; he started at 26% and the media predicted the death of Corbyn. But Labour got stuck into it in terms of policy and it was the launch of that Labour manifesto that really sparked something. And 2.5million new young people registered to vote, by and large they voted Labour. There was a youthquake around policies like free education, abolition of fees, 10 quid an hour minimum wage. Some real grunty stuff. Because Corbyn doesn’t have that much charisma…

M: But he’s got integrity

J: Yes, you saw it at Glastonbury, he rocked the place. He is a genuine socialist, he’s been in the struggles. He’s not a revolutionary but there for the fight. But Jacinda?

M: Some people are saying Jacinda is just style over substance, dismissing her as just another middle class liberal blah blah. We [SA] want something more radical but to be realistic, we don’t want National… What are the chances of Jacinda suddenly pulling out something radical, saying yes we will bring in free education for example? Is that a blind hope?

J: It doesn’t have to be style over substance. You can have both. Style and substance. If Labour were to announce a bold policy initiative that put clear blue water between them and the rest… Little was a decent man but he dithered, he did some tinkering around union things…. But people were hard pressed to say what he stood for. I wonder if this time they’d be more astute and go, ‘If we put in a couple of policies then people would understand there’s a real difference here’. I think one of the big failures of the Clark era – they were in government for nine years – was not delivering on free education, abolishing the fees, the huge student debt - and the way that militates against working class people going to university. And the universities themselves turned into money making machines.

This time around the question for Labour is, what are you going to do that’s different? Their class basis is middle class and a lot of these people will be looking at uni fees and worrying, so that would be a sensible one to introduce. Their policy at the minute, they say in debates with us, is that they support free education, but in nine years’ time! But working class people are saying, if they believe in it why not do it? From January 2018 make university education free for everybody. Why are they so incremental? I think one reason is that they have no fundamental desire there to tax the rich. If you want to do the big initiatives you have to move the wealth from one class to another. Workers are pissed off that Labour supports high taxes for services… but that’s not high taxes on the rich but high taxes on working people who I think pay far too much tax anyway. We want to abolish GST and secondary tax and reduce taxes.

Me; That’s what I thought was missing from her maiden speech in parliament. She is very impressive; it’s what she didn’t say that I liked. She didn’t say we have to make the economy great, she talked about people. But she could have said right there ‘we are going to do something about inequality’ and been more specific. Higher tax for the rich, go after international corporations that don’t pay any tax here. But she would be wary of scaring people off.

J: Yes, the teary-eyed, nodding empath is a character she does well. But to be a leader, a change agent, you’re going to have to say how you are going to do it. When she was asked, does she believe in market capitalism, is she a democratic socialist, she fudged it. She said I am a pragmatic idealist. If you want to actually do these changes you have to say how to do it. Right now we’re only in day 3 of Jacindamania… The reality will be teased out in the next few weeks. She won’t be able to nod her head and have tears in her eyes… that’s not politics. Bourgeois politics that is. I’ve just come from SkyCity where we unionize 800 workers and we’re getting ready to fight for things like the living wage, weekend rates. A lot of our work is based around families.

I was talking to my workers, my delegates – because it’s important you’re not in a left wing bubble like the a lot of the left, the blogosphere, the media commentators – these working class people are the ones who aren’t voting Labour. I know because we have done campaigns to try to get them to vote. Most of these people look at the political class and don’t see themselves there. Do they see themselves in Jacinda? No. They say she is  presentable, but I still get a sense that she is not from their class.

M: Jacinda isn’t a figurehead… it’s not enough to be presentable. She has to make decisions every day that affect all of us. So she has to have substance. If you were talking to a young union member, who’s pissed off about housing, inequality etc, what would you say to that person as a socialist coming up to the next election? Would you say Jacinda is useless and Labour has betrayed its roots? Vote Green but join Socialist Aotearoa to fight for an alternative?

J: It’s important that we look at what happens with the class in the next few weeks. If there is a movement, and if there are some policy changes. If it’s a leftward shift that happens. This is a better position than a couple of weeks ago, where the despair around Labour - and the Greens moving to the centre - was infecting everything. And just as people have got excited about Corbyn’s reformism and Bernie Sanders, that has infected the rest of the Left and you have seen a growth of all of the left as confidence has increased. So if there’s increased confidence and people think National can be beaten (Metiria’ stance has been important, her turn to the left, where she stood up for beneficiaries, talked of her own experiences, putting it to the likes of Paula Bennett, raising the issue of people struggling with real poverty), if all of these things are happening you’d have to be a dogmatic sectarian to bury yourself in the sand an go ‘fuck this, it’s not pure; it makes no difference as they’re all capitalists. Real workers who are involved in union struggle know the difference between being paid $20 an hour and $15 an hour. If you are on the sidelines shouting “abolish wage slavery”, who the fuck are you? If you are in the union and help people win 20 or 30 percent more they understand then there is something to be gained by organizing. There’s been an increase in donations to the Labour Party, 1200 new volunteers…

M: Yet Jacinda hasn’t unveiled any policies yet!

J: This is what’s critical, seeing what she comes out with. The role of the socialist left is to start putting forward those sensible demands that would benefit working class and middle class people – night rates, weekend rates, like free education, decriminalization of marijuana, a living wage, rent controls and so forth… demands that actually her generation are ready for.

M: She talked about unions and improving industrial relations… I was listening to Checkpoint and they were talking about the 100 or so that have lost their jobs at A&G Price in Thames. So far they’ve been paid nothing. Wouldn’t it be great to hear Jacinda say ‘hey, we won’t let that happen again!’ To say something really specific about working conditions…

J: But it’s up to the radical left too, to rise to the challenge and stop being the commentariat. There’s a lot we can do in NZ - even under a Tory government we organized, beat them, won the victory against zero hours. If you get organized you can do things. If those Cadbury workers in Dunedin had occupied the factory and produced ‘New Zealand chocolate’, we’d all have bought it and supported the occupation. This is where the radical left needs to get out of the grumbling, ‘boo sucks’ mentality. It needs to get out among working people, get some victories so people can feel we can organize and win. So in Thames, if they had occupied that factory, put demands… I mean, there’s no statutory redundancy in NZ. But we need to put concrete demands rather than just slagging things off. In all the places we [Unite] have organized, we’ve got redundancy clauses now for workers. That’s achievable. That can be done in the next few months.

M: That comes back to not being sectarian… you can only have these conversations with people when they are no longer in despair. The Jacinda effect opens things up a bit more. So, at what point, in the Mt Albert election you got 190 socialists signed up, under what circumstances would you say we need to stand a socialist candidate?

J: It’s important to be clear here. If National were beaten by Labour and the Greens that would be good. That’s what working class people think. That’s not what sectarian little groups think. We know when we organize workplaces that not all workers are revolutionaries. Reformism is inside the class. It’s how workers negotiate daily life, fighting for a bit of improvement. What’s most important right now is that confidence has returned and people believe a change is possible. So what side are we on? Are we on the side that goes, ‘Boo, she’s shite, Joe represented the true 190 socialists in Mt Albert’ Or do we engage with those people who are looking to defeat the Nats, enthused by a new generation led by a young woman. It’s important to be on the side of our class. Not on the side of Labour and the Greens, but on the side of our class who wants to beat the Tories and win some practical things. That is the juncture at the minute. Will it just be rhetoric and smiles, or can we make them fight for real things for us.

And if a government is elected that doesn’t deliver on these things, will people fight for these. I will say, having lived under nine years of the Clark government, we had to fight her to increase paid parental leave. She actually said to Laila Harre ‘Over my dead body’, regarding increasing it from 12 to 14 weeks. Youth rates, we had to fight. It was Sue Bradford vs Helen in parliament, but the movement was on the streets through Unite union to get rid of youth rates. There were repressive things done by Labour last time: sending troops to Afghanistan, the crackdown on Maori and radical activists in the Urewera raids, the foreshore and seabed... We should remember that is the reality of the last Labour nine years. And in all that time they couldn’t deliver a simple thing like free education. This time around there’s a bigger radical left, more people in the activist left, outside Labour and the Greens. It might be more dispersed because there isn’t a strong left-wing party which I still think we need to organize, something outside of Labour and the Greens. That could stand in elections if it wanted to, but it has to be a party of the movement. Labour could tack left, but the Greens definitely have. There’ll be a lot more people than last time to hold them to account because we are suffering. People are suffering. That is our most important role – to put concrete demands and hold them accountable.

Maria Hoyle SA

Thursday, August 03, 2017

From Kakariki to Tui and back again

To recent political viewers, the Green party appears to have taken a sudden swing to the left with the release of their ‘Mending the Safety Net’ policy. While overshadowed by Metiria’s confession that she had undeclared flatmates while on the DPB, the policy itself is more striking than her so-called fraud. After all, anyone who has been on a benefit has probably had to tell a ‘white lie’ to survive the process.
‘Mending the Safety Net’ is the first substantive attempt to roll back the social warfare attacks of the 1990’s and for a party that has, for the past 10 years, been devoid of socially controversial policy it seems dramatic.
But the Greens were not always so bland. Up until the untimely death of their male co-leader Rod Donald, the Greens were a progressive party championing radical environmental and social policies. Remember, the first lot of Green MPs included Sue Bradford, Keith Locke and Nandor Tanczos!
In those early years the party was made up of environmentalists, social progressives, the disenfranchised (including many ex-McGullicudies), freaks, weirdos and hippies.
However, after the first flush of electoral success in 1999, the Green Party began to be invaded. Invaded by mainstream conservatives who were attracted by the environmental policies (think middle class tramper’s), but repelled by the social policies (and the freaks, weirdos and hippies). This group were epitomised by Green MP Ian Ewen-Street – who left the Green Party in 2004 and went on to join National and help write their Blue-Green policies.
Tension grew within the party. By the time of Rod Donald’s death in 2005, the party was about 50/50 progressives/conservatives. The ensuing battle for the next male co-leader became pivotal for the party. It was not just a contest between the socially progressive Nandor Tanczos and the centrist populist Russel Norman – it was a significant decision as to whether the conservative invaders could turn the party into an environmental party, and expunge the social progressives, the disenfranchised and the freaks, weirdos and hippies.
The conservatives won. Nandor lost. And as the socially progressive MP’s left (Nandor, Sue, Keith, Sue Kedgley) they were replaced with bland, uncontroversial and environmentally focused MPs.
Russel’s influence was considerable. And while there is no question Metiria has personal beliefs that uphold the party’s original socially progressive views, she did not become co-leader until Jeanette Fitzsimmons stood down in 2009.
The supposedly ‘sudden’ swing back to socially progressive policies is in response to Russel Norman standing down as male co-leader in 2015 – allowing the now-politically-mature co-leader, Metiria, to assert influence on the party and champion the progressive social policies which have always been dear to her heart. Her boldness is encouraged by her long 15 years as an MP, and a desire to achieve a win for the poor before she leaves parliament.
It is not a surprise that she has made this move. At this time. Not to anyone who knows her. What is a pleasant surprise is that the voters have backed her controversial move. Will the party also support her?