Friday, December 08, 2017

Migrant Workers Fight Back.

Migrant workers are among the most vulnerable and exploited sections of the working class. The system and its laws conspire to put them in a position where they are easy targets, often too afraid to take on exploitative bosses for fear of losing even their meagre income. They are frequently used as slave labour, and it’s common for them to be bonded to a particular company for the duration of their visas. But recently a group of migrant workers in Tauranga showed how unity and direct action can give them strength, dignity and the resolve to stand up for their rights. Sunny Sehgal of the Migrant Workers Association tells the story, which came to his attention when he was approached by a worker in a liquor store

“The owner of the liquor shop had five other liquor shops across the North Island, paying workers below minimum wage, with no basic entitlements. These migrant workers had been used for a long time as slaves. They became friends and colleagues and planned among themselves, without the help of any union, that on the same day at the same time they would hand over the keys of the shops to the boss and not open the stores. They did this with no support. They walked off the job there and then. After this they hired a consultant to represent all of them to get their money back from the employer. In total, the six of them were owed around $400,000 (in under-payment, holiday pay etc). The consultant got a deal from the owner saying he would give them $10,000 each. The workers rejected the offer. Now the associate has sent a bill of $2000 each to every worker. So now they are even more in debt. They’ve turned to the Migrant Workers Association to take on their case.”

We salute these brave and principled workers for fighting for what is rightly theirs, and for calling an exploitative employer to account. We’ll keep you updated on developments in their case.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bring Them Here

“In the West there was panic when the migrants multiplied on the highways. Men of property were terrified for their property. Men who had never been hungry saw the eyes of the hungry. Men who had never wanted anything very much saw the flare of want in the eyes of the migrants. And the mean of the towns and of the soft suburban country gathered to defend themselves; and they reassured themselves that they were good and the invaders bad, as a man must do before he fights. They said, Those goddamned Okies are dirty and ignorant. They’re degenerate, sexual maniacs. Those goddamned Okies are thieves. They’ll steal anything. They’ve got no sense of property rights.”
– John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Sex with underage girls. Rampant violence. Tables awash with gambling money. No, it’s not the latest Netflix blockbuster, but allegations against the 370 men detained on Manus Island. the claims.... some of them by Australian intelligence - are yet to be proven, or disproven, but it smacks of yet another outrage against vulnerable, desperate people whose only ‘crime’ is to have sought asylum and a safe haven. You can’t help but be sceptical of the claims. Smear campaigns against refugees is nothing new… but more of that in a moment. And the timing of the leak is suspect. If this behaviour was rife, how come it’s only just been revealed hot on the heels of PM Jacinda Ardern offering - to Australia’s immense displeasure - to resettle 150 of the men in New Zealand?

First up, who are these men? They are asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat from various strife-torn countries throughout the Middle East and Asia. In 2012, Australia began offshore processing of those seeking refuge on its shores under the rather chillingly named ‘Pacific Solution’. A washing-of-hands, more like, and certainly not a ‘solution’ for the refugees themselves. The policy was condemned from the start for its ad hoc nature, and for the removal of desperate people to facilities that were barely inhabitable, with unreliable water and power supplies, poor medical facilities, as well as the mental impact that remaining in limbo would have on a population already fleeing dire situations in their home countries.

Since July 2013, about 1500 people have been transferred to Manus, in Papua New Guinea, from Australia. As The Conversation reports, ‘The number of asylum seekers on Manus Island has slowly reduced over the years as people have either accepted packages to return to their country of origin, been deported from PNG, been resettled in the US or temporarily settled in PNG. Six others have died.” A war of attrition, designed to do anything but welcome these people to Australia, to do the decent thing and resettle them. The very act of shipping them to a detention centre suggests they have committed some crime. ‘Asylum seeker’ seems almost synonymous, in some minds, with ‘outlaw’.

And then in October, the Manus detention centre was closed. Ever since, they’ve had limited food, water and power supplies. The men were offered relocation to premises that have been deemed unacceptable by both the refugees and humanitarian experts - not least for well-founded fear of attack by local townspeople. So the men have refused to budge from their current place. A case of better the hell you know, if ever there was one. The UN has said of the situation: “The abrupt ending of services and the closure of the regional processing centre needs to involve the people who have been in this regional processing centre for years in a very vulnerable state… It is really high time to bring an end to this unconscionable human suffering.”

Human suffering. To address human suffering, you do one of two things. You either take steps to end it. Or you somehow make those involved appear less than human. You accuse them of crimes that alienate them from sympathy.

As stated at the start, smear campaigns against refugees are hardly original. Just think back a couple of years to Germany, where it was claimed a ‘mob’ of asylum seekers assaulted women on one of Frankfurt’s main shopping streets during New Year celebrations. Leading German newspaper Bild was forced to apologise earlier this year for the the false allegations.

Again in Germany, a Muslim ‘mob’ was accused, falsely, of burning down the country’s oldest church.

In Hungary, migrants have been portrayed as a danger to society. A government-sponsored poster campaign on billboards around the country claimed sexual harassment of women has risen sharply across Europe since the beginning of the migrant crisis.

In 2015, Amnesty condemned UK foreign secretary Phil Hammond for his ‘shameful’ comments about migrants. Speaking during a visit to Singapore Hammond said those migrants arriving in Europe were undermining its “standard of living”.

He said Britain’s “number one priority” was to find a way to send back would-be asylum seekers to where they came from. He attacked the freedom of movement laws with the European Union and warned that in Calais, "there are large numbers of pretty desperate migrants marauding around the area".

Steve Symonds of Amnesty was rightly shocked, saying: "Rather than throwing up the drawbridge and talking about how Europe can 'protect' itself from migrants, Mr Hammond should be working with our EU partners to ensure that people don't drown in the Mediterranean or get crushed beneath lorries at Calais.”

This contempt for those genuinely seeking safe haven goes way back. Reel back to post-war Britain, when you’d think fleeing Jews would have been welcomed with open arms - and it’s a similar story. There was widespread intolerance by the media at the notion of accepting refugees. As Tony Kushner and Katharine Knox write in their book Refugees In an Age of Genocide, "Of all the groups in the 20th century, refugees from Nazism are now widely and popularly perceived as 'genuine', but at the time German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian Jews were treated with ambivalence and outright hostility as well as sympathy." Adds Kushner, "People feel that the country should maintain asylum for genuine asylum seekers, but they're always in the past, never today."

The fact is that capitalism creates wars, and dire poverty and fuels climate change, engendering the conditions that give rise to refugees in the first place. And then it closes or opens its borders to them as it suits. Capitalism has a long history of moving people around the globe, sometimes forcefully - aka slavery - to meet the needs of the system in its expansionary phases. And yet when the system is in crisis, and struggles to provide houses or feed ‘its own’, migrants are a convenient scapegoat for the ills that capitalism creates.

As socialists we say there should be no borders dividing workers. We should welcome all immigrants with open arms - and especially those who are fleeing war, genocide, terror, the loss of land thanks to climate change, poverty and political persecution. Workers are not pieces on a chessboard to be picked up and put down at will. These men on Manus, and all migrants/refugees/asylum seekers, are human beings with hopes and dreams just like the rest of us. Above all we should reject the notion that some refugees are somehow ‘unworthy’ of a place in our society.

Bring the Manus refugees here and let’s stop demonising migrants - both those wishing to come here and those already in our midst.

Maria SA

Manus Island- Refugees are Welcome in Aotearoa this Christmas
Rally at the Auckland Unitarian church
1A Ponsonby Road, Auckland

November 26th at 2:20pm

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?

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The prospects of Labour's latest leadership change

A week is a long time in politics, and Meteria Turei must have thought the last ten days was an eternity. The media baying like hounds focused on her admission of non-disclosure of flatmates’ rent while receiving the DPB, deliberately took attention away from significant new social policy. The ‘benefit fraud’ story was picked at in every possible way, inflicted upon the public like Chinese water torture.

In contrast, the media pressure on and stare-down of Andrew Little, leading to his departure, was politics at the speed of light. Time always goes a bit crazy in an election year, and hyperbole, and character attacks on the left are de rigeur. Let’s not forget the Donghua Liu lies attacking David Cunliffe, that saturated the front page of the Herald during the 2014 election. We shouldn’t be surprised that Andrew Little has been undermined and resigned under pressure.

A steady hand on the tiller is required to navigate tumultuous political waters, full of snapping sharks, but it was apparent that for the time being at least, there wasn’t much public confidence in Andrew Little’s hands on the Labour Party wheel, and even he didn’t have confidence in his own.

Like many Labour leaders before him, most people admit Andrew Little is a ‘decent’ guy. He’s ‘a good unionist, sincere, a man with integrity’. But even as the media quickly zeroed in on Labour’s negative polls, Little scored his ‘own goals’ in admitting he was uncertain of his position as leader and by claiming that ‘you can’t form a government at 24% in the polls’. In fact, despite the decline in support for Labour in the latest polls, the chances of the current opposition parties forming a coalition (pending agreement with New Zealand First), increased while National’s support and chance of governing alone further declined.

After the third poll released last night showed a cluster of negative (disastrous?) results, putting Labour in the low 20% vote share, and ‘left wing’ commentators started saying Andrew Little could and should resign, his departure became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even then Andrew could have stood his ground and refused to buckle. ‘The signs are printed and already erected. The policies are sound. We have to stay the course’. Instead, another Labour leader bit the dust, his ‘lack of charisma’ failed to ignite the electorate, his confidence (never actually overwhelming) was mortally wounded. “In the interests of the party” he handed the reins to his younger, ‘more charismatic’ deputy, Jacinda Ardern. Another Labour Party leader is history.

Critics on the left and the right look at Labour’s dismal poll results, and the emergency change of leader and ask whether the Party is in terminal decline, in a death spiral, no longer relevant. ‘They’re on their fifth leader in nine years’. ‘They’re National-lite, not clearly distinguishable in policy or style – so why not just vote National? And if you want a party that’s strong on immigration, vote NZ First; or for environmental policies, vote Greens or maybe ToP’. Gone apparently, are the days of strong binary politics in New Zealand, and Labour’s a victim of the spread of choice across the broadly left and liberal vote. And after all, National and Labour are quite alike too.

Labour definitely couldn’t afford to poll any lower – without risking key senior MPs. So the departure of Andrew Little probably couldn’t damage the party any more than if he were to stay. Even though it’s extraordinary (but not unprecedented) for a leader to resign so close to an election, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Looking at feedback online in social and mainstream media, you might think that the appointment of Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis as leader and deputy, was an inspired move, that couldn’t have been planned better. Their appointment has given rise to optimism and positivity but concern about the timing. Without irony people are using the Little / Ardern tag line ‘A fresh approach’ to define what Ardern and Davis offer. Ardern is talking about values and hope. I saw a video where the caucus were actually laughing together and seemed unified and excited (maybe that was nervousness!). That all seemed unusual, and encouraging in itself. Jacinda seems to have got over her reservations about being leader and is rising to the challenge. Can you imagine the courage that must take at this time? Some suggest it’s ‘greatness, being thrust upon her’. Others say she’s jumping on a grenade, using her one (?) shot at leadership in a forced, false start that’s doomed this close to an election when the party is so far behind.

The new leadership team say they’ll take stock of the campaign and Party position for 72 hours. That’s prudent given the polls and the opportunity presented by the media attention and space to genuinely take a ‘fresh approach’. As leader, Jacinda will be more able to develop style and substance that’s more authentic to her, instead of the sidekick, trailing Andrew Little that she has been so far in this campaign. James Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party said Jacinda’s election drastically improves the chances of a rise in Labour’s fortunes and a change in government. Though the invisible wildcard in that picture is still Winston Peters not Jacinda Ardern.

The commentariat seem to love comparisons, and there are questions about whether Jacinda’s our Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders, with potential to offer radical alternative policy options, or maybe just our Trudeau (a young, handsome, moderate left / conservatively progressive leader). There’s definitely an opportunity for Labour to step away from its current conservative incrementalism that still seeks to ameliorate the worst travesties of capitalism rather than remove them. There’s room for a seriously alternative, radical vision, that deals with the causes of entrenched poverty, inequality and environmental destruction that are intrinsic to the neoliberal, capitalist programme, at both national and international level.

Such a radical policy framework for the left could revisit business and capital gains taxes and operational settings, international trade and security arrangements, peace and disarmament, even changes in the definitions and ownership of property, an inversion in the power and wealth imbalance in work relations, fundamental improvements in the rights of nature and the environment, consideration of intergenerational equity. That’s what real change could look like. There could be an alternative agenda, but it’s highly unlikely. At more local pragmatic level, Kelvin Davis’ concerns about prisoners and prisons could be addressed by the decriminalisation of (natural) cannabis, but we’ll see whether they’re up even for that as part of a ‘fresher’ approach.

It would take some leader to carry such a different vision in New Zealand, and an increase of about 200,000 votes to get Labour to a strong enough position to implement such a plan. That’s a lot of change from the current Labour Party position and a lot of votes.

Christine Rose.

All hitherto existing history of the New Zealand Labour party is a history of ignorance to class struggle.

In recent years the Labour leadership fiasco has been an ongoing fight against the inevitable decline of the 101 year old party as predicted by its former leader David Lange in a 1991 column in the Dominion newspaper.
"TRANS Tasman Labour Party celebrations have become a tad maudlin. The Australian Labor Party celebrates its centennial this year [1991] teetering on the edge of the electoral cliff. The New Zealand Labour party saw its 75th birthday out having gone over the side in large numbers [1990 general election defeat]. It is no great comfort to us that we have to roll aside smartly to deny the National Party lemmings a soft landing.Given there is no warrant to assume immorality the question must be raised as to whether Labour will make it to another significant anniversary. It would be foolhardy in these volatile times to predict what will happen, so I pursue instead the question of what should happen. The obvious question is as to whether there is still a place for labour."(David Lange 15 July 1991)
Indeed this crisis in the leadership is really nothing at all new Lange himself faced a long uphill battle to replace the ill-fated bill Rowling as leader in the early 1980s. considering this I would argue that labour has been going through an on and off leadership crisis since the death of Norman Kirk in 1974 and perhaps has its roots as far back as the founding of its predecessor organization the Social Democrat Party in 1913.

Like any party that is large enough to govern Labour has been long beset by opposing factions from the rather diverse labour movement and exacerbated by the fact that the party attracted liberal opportunists after it began to gain momentum. The root of the problem may be traced back to the Labour movement response to the 1912 Waihi miners’ strike. the United Labour party and its associated moderate unionists were critical of this action perhaps due to the moderate party's rejection of the all-important class struggle concept that defines the Anti-Capitalist left from the reformist left. The strike in Waihi was one of the leading factors in creating the labour party we know today a party that in its early years thrived under the leadership of those who had come from the radical "Socialist Party" faction within the Labour movement.

By the early 1980s however Labour was no longer the force it had been in the 1930s to 1940s National had dominated government throughout the mid-century and Labour had struggled to reach the rural working class after the "furlough" controversy of 1943 that weakened the parties standing among the provincial working class. The young up and comers in the labour party became critical of the failure of Kensian economics in the 1970s and believed that something else was needed to bring about the goals of the Labour movement. Crucially however the answer that silver spoon opportunists such as Roger Douglas presented was not Marxism (which we know is unacceptable to the moderate core of the labour party due to the "Class Struggle" foundation that is abhorrent to the opportunists in the Labour movement) but was rather the ill-suited Neo-Liberalism born out of Milton Friedman's rebranding of the stale and dated Classical Liberalism that had brought the workers of the world so much hardship during the great depression. Lange himself an economic lightweight fell for this and the die was cast for the labour party of today.

In the United Kingdom Labour has faced a crisis very much like what we have faced here however the rise of the outspoken Jeremy Corbyn who advocates for Democratic Socialism (an early revision of Marxism that is almost acceptable to the opportunist moderates but not quite) has provided a fresh hope that is almost absent in New Zealand and has been all but ignored by the New Zealand Labour party establishment who continue down the same path to oblivion that they have trod since the 1980s. so with little chance of the New Zealand left being able to follow the path laid out by Corbyn in the UK the New Zealand left and more importantly the Anti-Capitalist left must take a lead in bringing the politics of class struggle back in to the public mind. But for a deeply divided sectarian mess this is a true challenge as ideological purity has become more important than the class struggle itself for many among us. A unified anti-capitalist movement is crucial to progress a movement free from the opportunists who have beset the New Zealand left for the past 30+ years a movement of our class for a better world.

Comrade Eva.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Crisis in the New Zealand Left.

The abysmal polling of Labour at the weekend, barely clearing 26% of the vote, followed today by the resignation of Andrew Little as leader, shows a party in terminal decline. The caucus has no discipline, the factions plot against each other, and non entity after non entity gets thrust before the poison chalice of "leadership".

Vacuous rebrandings, cautious timidity, and a lack of boots on the ground for the issues that are crucifying working people, make toast of the "Fresh Approach" (TM) that is stale as last months bread. The focus group that decided on the latest rebrand must have been well aware that Approach drips of caution, but we dont need caution- we need a head long attack, a War on Poverty, not on the poor.

Abroad, the Left rises in many countries, not only inspired by dedicated veteran leadership, but also by substance- by a rediscovery of Socialist politics. It has become crystal clear that the NZ Labour Party is in terminal crisis, and those who thought it was a reformable vehicle that could be won back to some golden age social democratic mission see nothing but smoking ruins.

Now more than ever, we need a Socialist alternative in Aotearoa- one that fights the evictions, holds the picket lines, and begins the hard work of building a real left alternative in each local community.

Join us for a Socialist Forum on the Crisis in the NZ Left this Thursday 7pm at Unite Union, 6a Western Springs Road, Morningside.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Must Watch Movie- Brave New World.

Having been sick in bed with the flu for the past 2 weeks, I amused myself with some movie distractions. My first one is the 1980 movie version of “Brave New World”. This is originally a sci-fi novel originally written by British author Aldous Huxley in 1932 in the middle of the great depression, about a dystopian future earth society set in London 500 odd years in the future.

Unfortunately it’s dated as movies were in those days before modern cinema. Compounded by the characters being shallow without much personality which is obviously part of the story. But it’s nevertheless a well told story about a man named Thomas who is the assistant director of the hatching and conditioning department, who travels from an advanced “civilized” society with a woman (Linda), on holiday to a New Mexico Indian reservation (called savageland as its uncivilized). While there Linda falls off a cliff and being presumed dead is left behind. Years later an awkward semi-outcast boy (Bernard ) on a similar holiday to the same place with a woman (Lenina), finds Linda and Lindas son John. John was born on the reservation to Thomas the man Linda went on holiday with. All four travel back to civilized London. At first John is curious and in awe of the new place/world that is technologically much more advanced, but then is repulsed by it. After starting an unsuccessful riot in a drug dispensing room John agrees with the Leader/controller of the area to go to an isolated island. But he becomes a sideshow as people come to stare at him and ends up hanging himself.

How could such an advanced society that had eliminated birth, sickness, doctors, hunger, senility, hard work, poverty and wealth inequality be so repulsed by John? Because it was a heavily controlled totalitarian society that had also eliminated the concept of "parents" and "couples", music, movies and books, free thought, questioning and emotional expressions especially love. In addition to this, everyone is on multiple daily doses of a drug called Soma to combat the alienation, boredom and lack of freedom and be happy with it. No one in the society could see how wrong it is. While there were a few unfulfilled citizens (Bernard and Hemholtz), it took someone from outside (John) to see how wrong and inhuman this future society had become. Which poses two trick or enigma questions - is it better to be drugged and happy but not free or free but not happy as John was and secondly, what is freedom? This theme is repeated in the movie ”Matrix” by the traitor Cypher who says “ignorance is bliss" when he justifies his decision to betray his friends and reenter the Matrix. All three of course get banished to “free” islands of their choice. On these islands they are not run by London’s advanced civilized state and you are allowed to read any books poetry and think and discuss and do whatever you like. But John is said to be unable to either go to back to the reservation or a free island as he knows too much. His questioning nature is too ingrained in him, implying he is untrainable/unbrainwashable and needs be isolated . This implies that those on free islands aren’t that free which raises the other question of what is freedom?

The society Huxley has envisaged in brave new world is unlike most modern movie depicted dystopian societies, as most, except for the movie “Gattaca”, show dystopian societies as controlled by terror. Whereas brave new world citizens are merely controlled by brainwashing and hiding of truth. They also combine this with a daily dosage of soma which placates their depression and misery and questioning, creating a “stable state” all the while monitored by alpha stability monitors.

While there is no story as to how society got to where it is in the movie, and it’s not clear what exact type of economy brave new world is, I think it’s a combination of Capitalism, Fascism and Stalinism. Huxley obviously disliked authoritarianism /totalitarianism system of which communism had come to be under stalin by that time. The movie is littered with references to Russian communism with one of the main characters called Bernard Marx referencing Karl Marx the writer of the communist manifesto, and another called Lenina referencing Vladimir Lenin one of the major players of the Russian revolution. The egg splitting/fertilization assembly line process was given a Russian sounding name. The riot police are called solidarity forces. Huxley just as obviously didn’t like the capitalist system and where it may end up and took it to its logical conclusion in his book. There is no distinction between the state and private business, and there is no mention of profit or buying and selling , possibly another reference to communism. But Part of the alpha graduation film is “which has given us the perfect endless assembly line for more things, for more wants, in perfect balance for more wants, for more things”, this being a right wing saying that there is no distinction between needs and wants and everything has a price and is for sale at a price. Further this is continued in the main reinforced goal of the society to be efficient at producing and consuming. Consuming and consumer products being a capitalist ideology and method of obtaining profit.

In the brave new world society they worship Henry Ford . The western controller is called your Fordship. They have a radiator grill from a Ford Model T as a podium stand in alphas induction room, where as part of the graduation they say “of sanctified life thoughts and holy works of our ford whose divine inspiration came the “. There’s a Ford monument. Everyone in a higher position is called sir. Their symbol when they meet is a crossing similar to the old catholic sign of the cross reminiscent of a army master/subordinate salute supposedly from the model T. The ultimate assembly line is used to remove human ovary eggs and split and fertilize them with a process called Bokanovsky's process to make up to 93 identical humans . These babies are given shock treatment to learn to hate nature and books to keep them in the city to help reinforce producing and consuming. There is an emotional engineering institute. There's no art or poetry, instead being replaced by short jingles which are propaganda carefully written to not alter ideas and status quo.

In real life Henry Ford invented the assembly line and revolutionized production with his model T in 1913 and was also a fascist and big admirer of Hitler. Even selling and supplying motors and other parts to Hitler’s war effort, thou that came after the book was written as Hitler hadn’t been elected to parliament in 1932. In brave new world embryos are assigned a future role in society and educated to that level creating distinct classes of humans and roles with different knowledge, ie a class system which is a strong element of fascism. Being divided into alphas (top class), beta, delta , epsilon (workers). The brainwashing is blatantly evident in the screening of the short film on ford’s history to alpha graduates being given as a synto culture lecture “ as select alphas conditioned to believe without knowing and to know without believing you have been chosen to view the surrogate revelations”

Huxley postulated god is eliminated by science and soma and to a lesser extent substitution of Ford by eliminating the need for the comfort of god and that the brave new world scenario is possible .

Huxley was a pacifist and a humanist which tend to go together, and basically means we should be nicer to each other and offer no violence - both fatal flaws of democratic parties in a world controlled by money power and violence . This may be what gave his story a non violent control aspect.

My conclusion is, that I think capitalism will never reach utopia where class war is eliminated to any extent to produce such a society that could be merely controlled by brainwashing, science and drugs because capitalism is too exploitative and unstable. Brave new world is a satire that is still applicable to modern society where govt uses terrorism and other scaremongering tactics to install itself as desired and necessary by the voting public all the while limiting freedom as voters who are workers produce more for less wages and consume endlessly. Meanwhile voters lap up unquestioningly, the lies and mistruths told at the govt education system - the schools . This is carried on by the media and government itself . With not only drugs but also religion, music, TV, video games, celebrities and consuming, distracting the citizens and voters into a self reinforced coma to live their lives and carry on voting producing and consuming as powerless individuals. Its foreseeable in the future that corporations and government who are already dangerously too big, get to where big corporations who already direct and manipulate government policy, simply just become government in the future.

Huxley’s riot squad is extremely prophetic – given that its method is to simply play calming music and speech over loud speakers and spray the pacifying happy drug soma in the air to rioters. The A riots only started by drugged out workers who prefer the drug to reality, because John destroys their current day’s dose. A very astute telling of society 500 years in the future when you can already see that today humans are acting like trained, subdued wild horses or dogs with the fight gone out of them compared to huxley’s time when by protesting, striking and fighting most of the population had just won workers and voters rights from the capitalists and the government that we still mostly enjoy today.

I am puzzled thou by the fact that huxley living in a time having just been thru a big economic bubble and large amount of hedonism and then a crash and in the grip of the world’s biggest depression when the book is written, does not mention it in the story as part of a possible future. I can only conclude that not having read Marx, Huxley failed to see the inherent problems of capitalism and perhaps didn’t attribute the great depression to capitalism, but only assigned other minor or symptomatic problems to capitalism to be solved ?

Thou not covered in the book, in a 1958 interview in north america where Huxley had moved, he described the citizens in brave new world controlled by a drug called soma. But he thought in future autocratic societies, citizens would be controlled not by terror by say Hitler or by drugs, but in order for dictators to preserve power indefinitely, dictators would need to get consent of the ruled by propaganda. Huxley thought the biggest danger to democracy was that democracy depends on intelligent and rational choice for voters enlightened self interest. He thought that propaganda bypasses this by persuading voters to vote for a candidate we don’t know, persuaded below level of choice and reason. This would bypass the rational mind and get citizens to like their slavery, appealing to their subconscious and deeper emotion, happy with their new slavery all the while they ought not to be, and therefore by passing democracy. He was of course talking about the propaganda of political parties which was just emerging, and in that way political campaigns merchandised themselves as if soap or toothpaste, using recent examples saying it would only get greater (worse). And it has come to be today.

While Huxley still thought the brave new world scenario would come to North America, he had no answer for its coming. His quote “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than try to be a little kinder” tells us, like others, while he knew of Marx, he remained ignorant to it as he hadn’t read or understood it. Yet he knew the answer to the brave new world happening would be to break society down into smaller parts of decentralization. Which is a very Marxist view and goal of a possible outcome of a workers revolution and that is to eliminate the class war and thereby make government smaller and even redundant.

Malcolm-Daniel Freeman SA
Brave New World 1980 Directed by Burt Brinckerhoff based on Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel of the same name.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

New Zealand General Election 2017 and Temporary Migrants

This year’s general election is a very strange affair in some respects and yet majority of the on goings are not unexpected at all. The anti-immigrant rhetoric that most political parties are employing is not only spreading racism against migrants but it has also deepened a division between well settled migrants and migrants on temporary visas. Such ploys are the norm for right wing neo-liberal parties but it is quite shocking to see the ‘left wing’ parties sing to the same tune.

Like most countries on this globe we live in a capitalist economy. To put it very simply the capitalist model’s primary goal is continuous growth of profit. All other forms of growth under this model are secondary, sometimes a by-product, and not necessarily a strategic part of the plan. In order to increase profit on an ongoing basis while competing aggressively, cost cuts are necessary for capitalism to thrive. In the process there has been and always will be exploitation of natural resources, environment and labour to say the least.

My focus in analysing the current political environment in New Zealand is labour in the form of migrant workers, particularly those currently in New Zealand on temporary visas.

The fact that thousands of migrant workers have been brought in year after year under the guise of world class education that could lead to permanent residence (as advertised by government websites), the fact that the English language requirements for studying in New Zealand are abolished when the vulnerable migrant labour pool needs to be flooded, the fact that we have a system of bonded labour by tying migrant worker’s visa to their employer and allowing exploitation to flourish, the fact that international students can be deported for being victims of fraud committed by immigration agents that the government refuses to license because it is too expensive to do so, the fact that the government provides no protection to whistleblowing migrant workers in exploitative situations, the fact that there’s only about 60 Labour Inspectors for the entire country, the fact that exploiting employers can wind up and open shop under different names and the fact that the government allows the wages and working conditions to be driven down for all workers in New Zealand by allowing sub-human treatment of migrant workers is enough to conclude that the ruling National party sides with the rich minority and not the majority working class (residents and migrants) that struggles to make ends meet.

The remaining right wing parties like NZ First, ACT, United Future and others are just varying shades of blue on either side of National and therefore don’t require further elaboration here.

Historically migrants have generally voted for the Labour party that is currently in opposition. However, that may not be the case in the upcoming election given that Labour managed to create an anti-Chinese sentiment by releasing a ‘report’ about the Auckland housing market back in 2015. The election policies announced by Labour mention tightening of rules for foreign property speculators to buy existing houses. The foreign speculators will then be allowed to buy new houses built under a Labour government? The policies do not include clear statement about houses are for living in and the owner must live in the house they own i.e. one family/person equals one house. Plenty of rich New Zealanders have also used houses as an investment. What will happen to them under a Labour government? Labour’s Fiscal Plan released few days ago is about budget responsibilities, the document looks very corporatised and is not easy to follow for a lay person. Workers don’t need to be blinded with gloss, they simply need to know if they will be uplifted enough to make ends meet. But Labour promises to increase the legal minimum wage to $16.50 per hour and then to two thirds of average wage when economic conditions allow. That could be never if it does not suit the ledger. Under Labour the living wage would only be for ‘core government employees and overtime for contractors to government agencies’. Why not pay all workers at least a living wage? Contractors to government agencies? That translates into Labour will continue to support privatisation.

And now in the race for vote grabbing Labour has once again proven to be anti-immigrant by announcing a severely reduced quota of migration into New Zealand should they form government. The reason being that the infrastructure cannot cope with recent migration of approximately 70,000 per year. The present government has certainly not invested in the infrastructure at the required rate. Nett migration has always been controlled and known to the government. Therefore the problem lies with the government’s inability or lack of will to fix the issue and not the migrants themselves. Let’s suppose cutting nett migration to low numbers (20,000 to 30,000 as suggested by Labour) would alleviate problems such as housing shortage, traffic congestion etc. in the near future. But that is a number for the future, what about the migrants already here on temporary visas? Temporary migrants who have invested all they have financially, emotionally and socially face a dim future. These workers have contributed to New Zealand economy heavily through international student fees, income tax and general living costs. On average each international student spends about $30,000 per year making up approximately $5bn export industry. Hospitality, tourism, farming and building industries are also heavily reliant on temporary migrant workers. It would be much more sensible for Labour to keep hold of these migrant workers permanently and strengthen their rights instead of replacing them with another set of vulnerable migrant workers like National plans to.

There is a glimmer of hope among the atmosphere of despondency and disillusionment. The Green party announced their election policies last week. All benefits will be increased by 20%, beneficiaries will be able to work longer hours without taking a cut to their benefit, minimum wage will increase to 17.75 per hour next year and will keep increasing until it is 66% of average wage by 2020, income above $150,000 per year will be taxed at 40%, removal of all financial sanctions on beneficiaries, no intrusive interrogation of sole parents by WINZ. For migration the Greens will increase the refugee quota to 5000 being the highest compared to all other parties so far and there will be no cap on ‘sustainable migration’ for all other categories. While in absolute terms these policies are not radical or revolutionary, but relatively speaking the Greens have announced the most positive, progressive and easy to grasp changes for the working class should they be in government. Despite the fact that the Greens’ policies do not address the settlement of migrant workers in New Zealand on temporary visas, we should be positive about the Greens’ leftward move. Should Labour form a government after 23 September we expect the Greens to keep travelling further Left and pulling Labour along with them.

As the temporary migrants have no voting rights, it is up to the rest of us to take their concerns further this election. It is also the responsibility of more settled migrants to take under their wing the newly arrived fellow workers and migrants.

Anu Kaloti
Migrant Workers Association of Aotearoa

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Must watch movie- Spirit of '45 by Ken Loach

This insightful 2013 documentary about the birth of Britain’s welfare state, by left-wing moviemaker Ken Loach, is both uplifting and depressing at the same time. Inspirational in that Britain’s post-war Labour reforms were nothing short of revolutionary: visionary social democracy at its finest. Depressing because of how far our own Labour party has strayed from these ‘for the many, not the few’ principles.
In 1945 Britain’s returning troops were hailed as wartime heroes… yet they marched back from the horrors of battle to the horrors of working-class life. Lice-infested tenements, overcrowding, hunger, mass unemployment, disease, a bleak existence all round. Against this background, Labour leader Clement Attlee swept to a landslide victory in the 1945 elections on the promise of, among other welfare reforms, a free health service for all (the NHS); public ownership of the railways, mines and banks; and a massive social housing programme. Miners actually wept when they heard of Labour’s victory. To know that no longer was profit to come before health and safety (at the time a miner had an average life expectancy of 42) was like a beautiful miracle. As one ex-miner told The Guardian: “We owed trillions to the Americans at the end of the war, we had nothing, but we said ‘knickers to the debt’. We are going to put this country back on its feet.”
Think of it. Here was a country that was financially and physically devastated. Slum housing was rife, and many cities suffered severe bomb damage. And yet the government undertook a massive house building programme. The political will was there to do so. Tens of thousands of homes were thrown up speedily, to house the poor. Sure, many were prefabs and intended as temporary housing (even though some remain to this day) – but the point is that it was accepted that housing was a priority, no matter the financial difficulties. As was free access to health and education, regardless of a person’s income or social background. It was a given that ordinary people had to come first.
As we head towards another election, we need to bear this historic precedent in mind. Our own Labour Party’s response to people living in garages and cars and most working class people barely able to afford their rent, never mind their own home? Cut down on migration. Scapegoating migrants is pathetic – not to mention anti-working class - at best, dangerous at worst.
We’re told that solving the housing problem is complicated. So much energy goes into explaining why we can’t meet the need. Yes, it isn’t straightforward. We need to launch widespread apprenticeship schemes so we have the tradespeople, and to relax some of the red tape around building among other things. But it is possible. There are many models in Europe and Scandinavia of affordable, safe, medium density developments built of sustainable materials and that foster community interaction. But first and foremost we need the political will. What we need is a return to solid socialist principles, where the wealth of a nation is measured on how well we treat ordinary people, on how well the most vulnerable are cared for.
The Spirit of 45 is about precisely that. Download it. Watch it. Then put it on a USB and send it to Andrew Little.
Review by Maria SA.