Thursday, May 15, 2014

Working poverty can only be defeated by worker unity.

Representatives from 33 countries met up in New York last week for a conference. Minimum wage in "land of the free" is $7.25. People are starving themselves to feed their children, people are homeless, people are working two jobs.

But the benefit of having this meeting with different countries is that you can catch them out on their excuses. Corporations like McDonald's frequently lie to our workers here as well as in NZ and say they can't afford to pay $15 an hour. Denmark workers make $21 an hour and Switzerland is $27 an hour so now we know that's bullshit.

Fast food workers in New Zealand have fought the same battle for a long time, but the difference is, in New Zealand we are entitled to a union (Unite Union), which collectively fights for workers rights with thousands of workers pushing for better conditions.

In America, they don't have unions in fast food. This means workers can get fired for standing up for their rights and it's just wrong. I have heard the most heartbreaking, and inspirational stories while being here.

The common misconception is that fast food workers are all young teens living with their parents that don't need the money. First of all, that statistic is wrong. Single parents and people that can't get another job can rely on these jobs for their only income, and it's crippling. That does not mean they are not educated. In our current day and age people are being made redundant from their jobs on a regular basis and qualifications are over looked. Also, even if you are a teenager living at home, have you seen the prices to get into university? Not to mention the prices of textbooks and tutorials? Have you seen the prices of cars, of food and even public transport??

Fast food workers are criticized for often messing up "simple orders". Try working an 8 hour shift in the hot back area next to a burning hot grill, or in the front counter dealing with rude cutsomers for hours on end, and having your boss tell you "it's too busy for you to take a break". It's not the worker's fault they're understaffed. It's not the worker's fault they haven't gotten a chance to eat or relax for hours on end, while dealing with harsh conditions or rude people, that they forget to put one extra pickle on your burger or something like that.

Hours are also a problem in NZ and here. You could go from 45 hours a week to 3 hours a week with no notice and have it be completely legal. How are you meant to survive on 3 hours a week?

So in short, we're having a protest in NZ in solidarity with the USA and the other 31 countries. But also, we want to see $15 in NZ as the minimum wage (Living wage in NZ is $18.40, this is set by our own government and assumes you're working 40 hours a week. You could need to be making $18.40 to survive comfortably). We want to be respected.

$7.25 is a poverty wage. $14.25 is STILL not a living wage. And without a union, conditions in the USA will simply not improve. We're fighting for these things to be resolved at home but we're also fighting for $15 and a union in solidarity with our comrades.

Taylor, S.A.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"hey Chong just cool it"- Prohibition, Mana and the Left.

Guest Post- Olivier Jutel, DJ Radio One Dunedin.
Dear Comrades,

I wanted to offer my thoughts on the politics of the recent successful push to ban synthetic cannabis. My consternation about the Internet Party and the libertarianization of the Left will have to wait for another post. Let me begin by saying that I have not been neck deep in some of the internal dialogue of the Mana Party at either the AGM, social media or at party meetings, so maybe I’ve missed something. I Just want to offer my humble opinion as someone who cares deeply for the Left and the cause of emancipation and equality in NZ and globally. 

I present a politics radio show on Radio One in Dunedin called ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ and co-host the program with Abe Gray of Aoteroa Legalize Cannabis Party. Its fair to say the brother is pretty passionate about decriminalization/legalization as it is up at the top of his list of political priorities. As a Marxist I would be happy to see Marijuana and drug reform as a lower priority to the class struggle, gender, racial and sexual equality, however this has become a central issue to our national politics and will be key in the upcoming election. Therefore it is incredibly important for us to formulate a position on the Psychoactive Substances Bill (PSB), drug reform and the prison industrial complex that reflects our deep commitment to workers emancipation, community empowerment and the health and well-being of our peeps. Sadly I don’t see how the Mana Party’s current prohibitionist politics align with these goals of the Left. The Green Party is also disappointing in this regard as well. It may well be that Mana’s position is not being properly reflected in a mainstream media onslaught that is full of populist fervor in favor banning Synths. 

Let me begin by stating that it is clear that synthetic cannabis is having a damaging effect in communities across New Zealand. But if Peter Dunne and John Campbell wanted to hang outside a bottle shop in Dunedin or cruise through the Octagon at 1am on a Sunday morning that could just as easily gather some harrowing footage to whip their viewers into a moral panic. Tobacco, Alcohol, Gambling, Drugs of various sorts can all fester in the social crisis of exploitation and alienation that capitalism produces. These are all symptoms of the beast we call capitalism that we’ve vowed to fight. Synthetic Cannabis is clearly bad shit anecdotally my friends say its gross and there is obviously nowhere near the amount research that has been done on Marijuana which is by all accounts safer than alcohol (this was the basis for legalization in the US state of Colorado and alcohol is of course exacting a tremendous toll on our public health system (

While it is clear that some corporates and some petite bourgeois shop keepers are exploiting people’s misery, I do not believe that prohibitionist politics helps us in the broader class struggle, in fact it does the opposite. First anyone who does not believe that decriminalizing marijuana at a minimum would destroy the synth market instantly is not being intellectually honest. Bad legalisation policy might risk that marijuana becomes controlled by the weed equivalent of Lion-Nathan but for now we can say that weed has decentralized production. We would also be striking a blow against the criminal economy and the prison-industrial complex, two things that should be priorities for us. Thus if we want to ban synths its imperative that we push for decriminalization at a minimum and address the problems of abuse as a social public health issue. 

Okay so the common refrain might be to say “hey Chong just cool it, weed is not a big issue”. Well, right now New Zealand is in full populist backlash mode against synths but I believe that the politics of this backlash are extremely retrograde, demonizes the poor and working class Michael Laws-style. The media have been making synth a drug of the poor and working class with portraits of teenage mums, the unemployed etc… And we all know that the drug laws that the state enforces are about criminalizing communities the bourgeois don’t like. That is why whether it is intentional or not the Mana Party writing press releases about some of the horrifying stories of abuse (children selling themselves) fits into a predominate narrative of drug abuse and the poor that the Tories trot out like the “culture of poverty and dependency”. Perhaps this is bad media strategy or the media ignoring broader points the Mana Party is making but I frankly see these prohibitionist politics as very harmful. It is the kind of politics that creates a wedge in the working class by demonizing the poor. This is the way that Shane Jones can “represent” the working class, if by working class we’re talking about angry reactionaires that hate “dole bludgers” and “pointy-headed academic types” (me). I know very well that is not Mana’s intention but to repeat myself this is how there position will be used if decriminalization is not part of policy plank. I see this as the biggest problem the Left and Mana face, the populist backlash within the ranks of the working class. All this to say nothing of the problems with prohibitionist policies. If we do not articulate a proper position on marijuana, then drugs and the culturalization of poverty will continue to be a weapon the ruling class wield against us. 

I want to conclude by expressing a certain acknowledgement of where I think the prohibitionist streak in Mana comes from. I understand the notion of militant revolutionary discipline and those that see intoxicants as obstacles to a clear eyed militancy. Malcolm X is an inspirational figure to us all and an important example of a personal and political transformation through kicking intoxicants and inspiring a movement of the lumpen proletariat. And of course Malcolm articulated the role intoxicants play in keeping the people in a stupor:

Every time you break the seal on that liquor bottle, that's a 
Government seal that you're breaking!

For those who make that choice, cool but I don’t think that is the basis for formulate broad social policy on drugs. By all means lets fund whatever treatment and empowerment programmes that work, but lets not give the ruling class the ability to criminalize and demonize. Mana should not be trying to steal the thunder of National’s PSB revamp, its a politics that can only help the right. Tell me where my analysis is wrong comrades, have I missed something?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

National, Rotten to the core.

By Nico, SA.

The writing's on the wall as yet another Minister in John Key's government
is forced to resign over the inappropriate use of their position. This has
become a reoccurring theme to John Key's tenure as Prime minister. This
pattern of behaviour has become more than just isolated bad apples making
poor decisions, instead it's a reflection of the way National and it's
support partners abuse the power they have as the governing elite of New

27 years in politics couldn't teach Maurice Williamson right from wrong,
ethical from unethical, or the difference between helping a friend and
corruption. The fact that he called the police about an internal matter
that had nothing to do with the MP or his duties is of course very
concerning. But what is more alarming is that preceding this, he had
lobbied for this person; millionaire property developer Donghua Liu, to be
granted citizenship against official advice. To make matters worse, he
conducted a VIP citizenship ceremony in his own parliamentary office,
instead of having him granted citizenship in public like most new citizens
do. This blatant favouratism stinks of corruption as yet again, the
National party bends over backwards for those moneyed individuals or
corporations that have been given an easy ride in New Zealand. All they
have to do is say 'Jump', and National rush to ask 'How high'?

It seems that all it takes to get citizenship in New Zealand is to donate
money to the National Party ($22,000 in Mr. Liu's case). This apparently
stands them in good stead as individuals of merit and deserving of the full
rights and privileges of New Zealand citizenship. Furthermore, according to
Maurice Williamson, Mr Liu's investment in the building and construction
sector was necessary to the police investigation of whether he beat his
wife. How these two are linked will leave most people scratching their

Maurice Williams was right to resign, but he should not just resign as a
Minister, but from Parliament altogether. The people of Pakuranga deserve
better than this from their MP. As we head towards the election in
September we need to remember that National's time in office has not been
squeaky clean, but rather has shown a pattern of arrogant behaviour that
does not inspire hope that New Zealand is heading in the right direction.
We have a government that tramples on workers rights, a complete disregard
for the environment and a disdain for democracy.

National has been beset by forced resignations and while they might like to
forget them, or brush them under the rug, we need to make sure they are
remembered as people make their choices in the election this year.

National MP Aaron Gilmore was forced to resign after he verbally abused a
waiter who refused to give him free wine at a  restaurant in Hamner Springs
in 2013.

National MP and Cabinet Minister Nick Smith was forced to resign in 2012
from his portfolios after it was found he had also used his ministerial
position to 'help' a friend. As the Minister for ACC, he helped advance
National Party activist Bronwyn Pullar's ACC claims.

In 2010, National MP Phil Heatley resigned after it was made public he had
repeatedly misused his Ministerial credit card. He had previously been
warned after it was found he was claiming $1000 a week in accommodation
expenses when he'd moved into a larger home while renting out his

In the same year, National MP Pansy Wong was forced to step down as a
Cabinet minister and later as MP for Botany after it was revealed her
husband had been conducting private business while on a taxpayer-subsidized
trip to China.

In 2009, National MP Richard Worth resigned both as a Cabinet Minister and
as a list MP after a pattern of behaviour demonstrated poor judgment
befitting an MP. He had actively promoted an aviation training academy in
India while having a conflict of interest in the academy. He had
inappropriately visited a taxi driver who was attacked by a group, one of
the group being the son of a friend. But the icing on the cake was when
serious sexual allegations were brought against him by an Auckland business

As for National's support partners they have little to be proud of.

United Future's sole MP and leader Peter Dunne resigned as a Minister in
2013 after he withheld information from an inquiry into the leaking of a
GCSB report.

Act MP David Garrett was disgracefully forced to resign in 2010 after it
emerged he had forged a document using a dead 2 year olds identity to
obtain this persons birth certificate and subsequently a passport in the
dead child's name with him in disguise.

And in 2013, Act's sole MP and leader John Banks resigned from his
Ministerial Portfolios after he was committed to trial for knowingly filing
a false electoral return when he was running for the Auckland Mayoralty in

New Zealand deserves better than this!