by Philip Ferguson

At Redline, our insistence on clear-eyed, clinical, Marxist analysis of reality leads not infrequently to accusations that we are very ‘down’ and ‘pessimistic’ and unduly so.  One of the noticeable things about the September 20 general election and its aftermath, however, is that we seem to be quite upbeat about it all while many on the left are downcast, regarding it as a massive defeat.

OK, in my personal view it is unfortunate that Hone lost his seat.  He has fought the good fight on many issues over many years and is clearly personally committed to fighting poverty.  However, it is not simply, or even primarily, Hone’s loss of the Te Tai Tokerau seat to Labour’s Kelvin Davis that has the left in poor spirits; the crushing defeat of Labour is probably more important in their misery.  After all, even the far-left groups involved in Mana/InternetMana were placing hope in a Labour-led government, even if they shied away from being open about their auto-Labourism by talking about “a change in government”, a rather coy way (to put it kindly) of supporting Labour into power.

Graph from Child Poverty Monitor shows that levels of child poverty were higher for most of the last Labour government than they have been under National

Graph from Child Poverty Monitor shows that levels of child poverty were higher for most of the last Labour government than they have been under National

Despite the continuing illusions on much of the left, however, there is no sense in which Labour is a left party or on our side.  Far from wanting a transformation of society, Labour defends the existing order and is absolutely committed to doing so.  As we have argued again and again, on this blog and in its predecessors in hard copy, the two times NZ Capital Inc was up shit creek without a paddle in the 1900s (the Great Depression and the early-mid 1980s), it was Labour, not National or National’s predecessors, that came to the rescue.

Moreover, take the last Labour government and its Read the rest of this entry »

We are running a series of discussions around similarities between National and Labour.

Starting with foreign policy, is there a distinct difference? Is Labour more progressive than National?


NZ troops in the ‘Malaysian Emergency'; the first Labour government (1935-49) sent NZ troops to Malaya in 1948 to help crush a left-wing insurgency and the second Labour government (1957-60) kept them there

Prime Minister John Key has shown he is hesitant about committingto military involvement in the US-led bombing campaign against ISIS. He has said he “would be reluctant to extend New Zealand’s involvement beyond providing humanitarian help.”

While he “won’t rule out sending New Zealand’s elite SAS personnel to assist US efforts to counter Islamic State (Isis) militants in Iraq or even Syria,” he says “that would be done reluctantly as a last resort, if at all” (NZ Herald).

Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff isn’t ruling out supporting the intervention, but like Key he’d rather not get drawn into a ground war and says: “I don’t see us having boots on the ground but I do see us having diplomatic and humanitarian support through the United Nations, most particularly if we’re a member of the security council next month.”

Labour’s foreign policy has never been significantly to the left of National’s, as we examined in The Truth About Labour:

“Decade after decade Labour remained consistently Read the rest of this entry »

by Andy Warren

The TPP is being discussed in the channels of the left, wary and sometimes nationalistic. I did, however, find this previously unknown wee site while reading an article on new legislation on (Alex Jones – a strange mix that man): – which immediately started off on sensible note with some rational points about the election:

Elsewhere on the intellectual spectrum, the Electronic Frontier Federation (EFF) remind us that it is Banned Book Week:

“Global Warming” and “Climate Change” have dominated various social media channels. Various cities have seen massive marches demanding an end to Capitalism as a means to solve Climate Change, save the planet, and hence save humanity.  Even Naomi Klein has joined in with a new book “This Changes Everything : Capitalism vs Climate” – I struggled through George Monbiot’s awful book on the subject – although I like Klein’s other work I may be able to only Read the rest of this entry »

by Michael Roberts

You see the cause of slumps under capitalism is easy to discern and, as a result, what to do to avoid them is also straightforward. John Maynard Keynes sorted this out nearly 70 years ago – and without any reference to Marx or any other theorist of crises.

So says Philip Pilkington in a recent post on his blog (“Keynes’ Theory of the Business Cycle as Measured Against the 2008 Recession”). Pilkington is a research assistant at Kingston University and member of the Political Economy Research Group (PERG) at Kingston University, a UK centre of radical post-Keynesian economists, with its economics department now headed by the brilliant Steve Keen (see my post, Pilkington blogs at

Pilkington tells us that Keynes sorted all this out in Chapter 22 of the General Theory when he discussed the nature of the ‘business cycle’ and Pilkington concludes that of Keynes’ explanations: “I think they hold up pretty well today”. Pilkington says that Keynes makes clear what the “key determinate” of slumps in production and investment under capitalism: (Keynes quote): “The Trade Cycle is best regarded, I think, as being occasioned by a cyclical change in the marginal efficiency of capital, though complicated, and often aggravated by associated changes in the other significant short-period variables of the economic system.”

As Pilkington says, Keynes’ category of the marginal efficiency of capital (MEC) is “basically the expected profitability that investors think they will receive on their investments measured against the present cost of these investments.” Keynes’ concept of MEC is his version of Marx’s rate of profit. But it is different in some very important ways. First, Read the rest of this entry »

On July 4, we reprinted an article from the site of the International Socialist Organisation, in which Wellington ISO member and long-time socialist and union activist Martin Gregory wrote a powerful critique of the ISO national committee statement endorsing the Mana Movement’s electoral lash-up with super-rich pirate capitalist Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party (for Martin’s critique, see here).  While Martin’s critique contained much that we would agree with, its weaker side was that it counterposed ‘critical support’ for Labour, one of NZ capital’s two main parties, to the ISO leadership endorsement of the Mana-Internet Party multi-million dollar lash-up.

The ISO debate continued on facebook, hardly the best place for this to occur.  It would have been better if ISO opened up its site for comments and restricted the comments to serious political discussion among serious political people.  We offered Redline as a site for discussion and some activists took this up although, sadly, no comrades from ISO joined in the discussion there.  

Last month the ISO site put up a further contribution to the discussion, this time by Shomi Yoon, a longtime ISO member who is also a member of the ISO national committee.  We welcome Shomi’s article as it reaffirmed the importance of class politics as opposed to inter-class alliances, thus reinforcing the key element of Martin Gregory’s critique of the NC position. 

Shomi’s article is also welcome because it avoided the weaker side of Martin’s critique, ie it contained nothing about support for Labour. 

On the weaker side, it still presents an ISO view of Key and National which is flawed.  We have argued against the dominant far-left view of Key over and over throughout the period since he became leader of National and, especially, since the 2008 National election victory.  We think our view has been confirmed by the actual record of the Key-English government.  

Below is Shomi’s article; we welcome discussion, including from ISO members.                              

- Philip Ferguson 

We Need Independent Class Politics, Not Cross-class Alliances

by Shomi Yoon (August 21, 2014)

The latest polls show National in a comfortable lead with Labour trailing woefully behind. If the polls remain where they are, we’ll have to brace ourselves for another three years of a National-led government. John Key remains streets ahead of Labour’s David Cunliffe as preferred prime minister. We live in paradoxical times. For many child poverty and inequality remain key issues – issues that the National Party has an appalling record on.

The Government has waged ideological war on families on the benefit, like taking punitive measures against women on the DPB. It has shown scant concern for the growing homeless in Christchurch while pouring billions into a reconstruction plan that will little help those in need. For workers, National’s changes to the employment law leaves vulnerable workers even more vulnerable. And students have had their allowance stripped if they want to continue postgraduate studies in an ever-increasing competitive job market.

Issue after issue National has chipped away at entitlements that people have fought for and won. They have been able to weather significant storms like the selling of state assets, corruption scandals and the ongoing Christchurch rebuild debacle just to name a few. And yet they remain popular. Why this paradox?

We in the International Socialist Organisation have argued that the support for National is surface at best. Behind each issue there is simmering resentment towards National’s policies.

The problem is that there is no real outlet for this resentment. The Labour Party, which should be the opposition, is no opposition at all. Despite myriad issues from the GCSB’s illegal spying to the selling of state assets – they have not been able to take a lead. On several key issues from raising the retirement age to using the race card against foreign ownership, Labour have tried to outdo the National Party from the right.

This time last year, thousands of workers around the country protested against National’s changes to the employment law. This just goes to show that when an organization like the CTU, with real roots in the class takes a lead on an issue, people will mobilize to oppose National’s agenda.

David Cunliffe had the insight to tack left in his leadership bid. He hinted at “socialist” credentials and was backed by the unions and wider membership. But he has not developed this insight into a fighting programme; once leader, he reverted to type. He’s just as out of touch Read the rest of this entry »

by Moshe Machover

The strategy of Israel’s leadership towards the ‘peace process’ is patently designed to prevent the supposed outcome of that process: a two-state ‘solution’, with a sovereign Palestinian Arab statelet ‘alongside Israel’.

On the ground, the actions of all Israeli governments since 1967 speak for themselves: they have persistently initiated and promoted Israeli colonisation of Palestinian lands, seizing and devouring chunk after chunk of the territory vital for any viable Palestinian state. In the negotiating chamber, presided over by its American senior partner, Israel’s tactics and manoeuvres have been quite transparent, revealing the strategy behind them: dragging the process out interminably, periodically upping the ante by stipulating new preconditions that the Palestinians were required to concede before the talks could resume. If the Palestinian side – represented by the grotesquely misnamed Palestinian Authority – rejected the new condition, Israel broke off the talks, blaming the Palestinians’ ‘intransigence’, which ‘proved’ that Israel has no-one to negotiate with. But if the PA humbly accepted the new condition, Israel found some pretext to suspend the process. Typically, the pretext was some bloody and globally publicised atrocity committed by Palestinians, following a series of Israeli actions – such as ‘targeted’ assassinations of Palestinian activists and their families and neighbours – carefully calibrated to provoke revenge, but pass under the radar of the ever-indulgent western media. It worked every time.

And so the charade went on intermittently for over Read the rest of this entry »


ISIS: a product of western intervention

by Corey Oakley

The Australian government’s attitude to the cataclysmic spiral of violence tearing apart the Middle East gives the notion of blissful ignorance a new and deeper meaning.

Abbott is like a kid in a candy store. As far as he is concerned, this Iraq War II is John Howard’s war on terror all over again, only this time the AFP raids and terrorist beheadings are tweeted live, and Tony “Team Australia” Abbott is the man with the plan.

It’s an all-new Boy’s Own Adventure, a rollicking tale from a world in which the Iraq war had nothing to do with the creation of ISIS, and George W. Bush was a president known for his gravitas and wit. And, most important for Abbott, Islamic State is a lot more fun to talk about than a budget that makes genital warts seem popular.

Glee for war

The glee with which the Australian political and media establishment is getting its war on is made all the more horrific when considered next to the maelstrom that is being unleashed in this new Iraq crusade.

According to Barack Obama, the new US mission in Iraq aims to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, or ISIS, an organisation UK prime minister and ally David Cameron described as “pure evil”.

There is no denying that the Islamic State is a grotesque and reactionary organisation. But it did not fall from the sky. The Islamic State is the child of the 2003 Iraq war. It is a barbaric consequence of an even more barbaric invasion and occupation that destroyed an entire society and killed more than a million people.

Al Qaeda first entered Iraq through the haze of white phosphorous that destroyed Fallujah, through the guns of US soldiers trained on small children, through the savage torture cells of Abu Ghraib, where a generation of young Iraqis learned the true content of Read the rest of this entry »


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