923390960by Don Franks

National’s tea-break-busting bill will pass through parliament this week.  What will this mean?

The Government’s Employment Relations Amendment Bill makes several changes, including removal of guaranteed tea breaks and meal breaks.  Such breaks have long been part of union awards and agreements but were not in New Zealand law until Labour introduced them in 2008.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill makes other changes, mostly to the disadvantage of workers and union organisation.  Changes include rights for employers to opt out of multiemployer agreements and removal of the requirement to offer new employees the same terms and conditions for 30 days of employees doing the same work as those covered by a union.

The bill also requires written notice of industrial action, which must include a start and finish date.
And workers lose their existing right to transfer to a new contractor taking over their work and to bargain for redundancy payments.

What to do?

Going on past form, we can expect Labour Party chiefs will tell us to wait until they get back into government and then they’ll sort it out.

That’s not good enough. For starters, the way they’re going at the moment, Labour may never win another election!

Seriously though, Labour has repeatedly shown it can’t be trusted on these matters. They promised to Read the rest of this entry »

by Tony Norfield

The credit market works like this: one person’s debt to another is the other person’s asset. As long as the debtor can pay, then the creditor feels fine, if a little anxious when the weather changes. Now consider what happens in the wake of a credit-fuelled economic boom and its subsequent collapse. What if the mountain of debt is also a deep well of crap? That is the situation today.

This is the basic reason behind the never-ending policy from the world economy’s major central banks to keep interest rates at close to zero. Every time there is a suggestion of raising interest rates (some time in the current century. . .) from zero point nothing percent to zero point something, financial markets threaten to implode. Despite data in some countries recording improved profitability of capitalist companies, this is the more tangible reality of capitalist prospects.

News has not been good, in any case: from falling equity markets, to ever more desperate measures from governments and central banks, especially in Europe and the US. Below is a striking picture given for the US, by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.

The chart shows the asset holdings of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, since 2007 (the annotations are mine). In the initial phase of the crisis, the Fed boosted its lending to financial companies dramatically and did a series of rescue operations. These have now diminished to negligible proportions, as what remained of the US financial system was put back on its feet by zero interest rates and financial bail outs. However, there are two measures that have not been reversed. In fact, they have increased, even though the crisis was meant to be over: an increase in Fed holdings of US Treasury (government) securities, now totalling $2,457bn (data up to 22 October 2014), and mortgage backed securities of $1,417bn. Consider these figures against the US GDP in 2013 of $16,800bn, and also remember that this is just private debt to the state, not private debt to others, which is even bigger.

Many American citizens paying their mortgage interest will no doubt be somewhat surprised to learn that the recipient is actually the US government. Still, you can’t keep an innovative, private capitalist system down, can you. As for the US Treasury paying interest on its bonds and notes to the US Fed, well they manage to find a way to get the money back again. The wonders of finance!

These numbers show more fully Read the rest of this entry »

Books

Owen Jones, The Establishment; Martin Wolf, The Shifts and the Shocks: what we’ve learned — and have still to learn — from the financial crisis; James Galbraith, The End of Normal: the great crisis and the future of growth; Alex Callinicos, Deciphering Capital 

Reviewed by Michael Roberts

I’ve been reading a few new books recently. The first is The Establishment by Owen Jones (Allen Lane/Penguin Books). I reviewed Jones’ first book, Chavs, a perceptive account of the way the media turned the concept of the working-class into a bunch of feckless, benefit-seeking layabouts or ‘chavs’ (see my post, http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/the-working-poor/). As Jones showed, the ruling class and their lackeys in culture want to obliterate the idea of the working-class in society, in a way that reduces social strata to just the middle-class (with just the elite above and ‘chavs’ below). Jones applied to this Britain but it had gone just as far in the US, where the term ‘working-class’ has totally disappeared and every politician and pundit now refer only to existence of the ‘middle class’, when they mean working-class.

Jones’ new book is a well-written, even racy, account of how the British ruling class know each other and work together in all the ‘estates’: monarchy, capital, media and politics. What Marx used to call the ‘executive committee of the ruling class’ is not just the state or government, but all the layers of CEOs in business, newspaper moguls and editors, and government ministers and MPs. They all went to broadly the same schools and universities, belong to the same clubs and meet each other on a regular basis, both formally and informally.

Of course, as Jones says, there is nothing new in this idea of ‘the establishment’, but Jones brings it up to date with plenty of facts, observation and interviews with establishment figures and their hangers-on. He reveals the interconnected Read the rest of this entry »

Even though bad things happen, it’s hard to get much consistent protest against the government these days.  Many people are understandably put off parliamentary politics, but don’t see any alternative.

Sometimes it helps to look back into the past , to see what seemed to work then. With that in mind, here’s an article written just seven years back.  It first appeared in the December 2007 issue of The Spark, a journal a number of us at Redline were heavily involved with.

Intolerant of  bureaucratic anti-worker bullshit from the Labour Party and EPMU head office, this article sets out a spirit and attitude that we’d do well to revive today.

We don’t know what the author’s up to these days but trust he’s keeping up the same principled revolutionary position.

by Nick Kelly (Dec 2007)

On Saturday 3 November, around 100 to 150 people demonstrated outside the Labour Party conference at the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna, keeping alive the recently-established tradition of leftist protest outside Labour conferences.

It was a loud and angry protest but mostly peaceful.  Demonstrators focused their anger on the police raids, the trumped-up charges against activists, and Labour’s anti-democratic “terrorism” laws.

Inside the conference were Labour’s predominantly middle-class and elderly members, and a number of union officials.  At one point Jill Ovens, former Alliance leader and now northern secretary of the Service and Food Workers Union, came out of the conference and told the demonstrators that she was on the same side as them.  She got booed, and loads of people shouted things like “What are you doing in the Labour Party then?”

She stormed off, but her partner, Len Richards, came out to remonstrate and yelled to the crowd that they’d never effected change, they’d “destroyed the left”.  When Workers Party member Jared Phillips reached for the megaphone to reply, Richards whacked Phillips. His blow also hit protester Bronwyn Summers.

Richards then threw the megaphone on the ground and walked off, while the police arrested a protester who tried to intervene.  The guy was dragged away and taken to a police van where he was cuffed and searched.  Richards’ assault was seen by police who were by his side, but he walked away scot-free.

This quite graphically demonstrates Read the rest of this entry »

imagesWe’ve asked several readers to contribute their thoughts on the way forward for the left after the 2014 elections.  The people we invited cover a range of viewpoints from class-struggle anarchist to independent Marxist and include at least one person involved in the Mana Movement. 

Rather than invite ‘high profile’ left individuals, who already have plenty of platform space elsewhere, we’ve invited people who have been battling away as much as they can in their own ways across a number of campaigns and groups.  We gave them complete leeway in terms of what they wrote, and which question/s they wanted to take up. 

This is the third contribution in the series; Olly is a member of Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement (AWSM) and has contributed pieces to Redline in the past.

by Olly Hill

“Modern capitalism’s spectacularisation of reification allots everyone a specific role within the general passivity.” Situationist International

For anyone who has spent time amongst the various tendencies of the far-left, from anarchist to social democrat and everything in between, it will probably seem the norm that many of the more committed activists turn their political ideals into some kind of full-time paid work. Such work could involve working within the trade unions, pursuing a university thesis on some progressive topic or other, working full time for a community group, climbing the ranks of a political party and so on. In some cases the pursuit of such movement jobs flows naturally from one’s personal or collective political positions; socialist groups send their more ‘alpha’ members into trade union work as part of a project of capturing these institutions and assuming a leadership role amongst the workers. Other times such roles clearly contradict the political principles of those pursuing them, in this case it is often necessary for a moment reckoning to occur, at which point one’s ideological perspective must play catch up with a shifting terrain of daily activity and social relationships. Formerly implacable enemies of the State reassess bourgeois political life and find it is ‘not so bad after all’.

It is my opinion that often times it is those who are most ideologically committed to the total destruction of modern society who are the most likely to wind up playing a role in this society’s reproduction. As 21st century capitalism continues to decompose proletarian social life, turning us all more and more into ‘self-employed contractors’ and the like, it remains the case that the vast majority of the dispossessed class manages to feed and clothe itself without performing Read the rest of this entry »

Reviewed by Daphna Whitmore

The slim contours of this paperback are deceptive. Although at just a hundred pages it is more of an essay than a book, every sentence is laden with content. Arundhati Roy has produced a weighty work.

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

Since winning the Booker prize for her novel the The God of Small Things in 1997, Roy has lent her voice to the cause of the poor, the dispossessed and the environment. In Capitalism a Ghost Story she focuses her poetic prose on the grotesqueness of corporate India. ” “In the drive to beautify Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, laws were passed that made the poor vanish, like laundry stains.” The numbers are staggering: India’s new middle class, who have reached 300 million, are still dwarfed by the country’s 800 million impoverished. Then there are the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves.

In this work she returns again to the government’s war, Operation Greenhunt,  being waged against the people living in the forests of central India which she introduced the world to in Walking with the Comrades, in 2011.

She has a challenge for the feminists: “Why is it that the dispossession and eviction of millions of women from land that they owned and worked is not seen as a feminist problem?” Read the rest of this entry »

Although the Alliance for Workers Liberty has no co-group in New Zealand and is a minor player on the British far-left, we’re running the article below because the AWL ideas being critiqued in it are certainly relevant here (and probably in the rest of the imperialist world).  These ideas are, indeed, widespread among the liberal left in this country.

Sean Matgamna; founder of the tendency and self-proclaimed Zionist

by Patrick Smith

In 2013 I resigned from the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty following the publication of Sean Matgamna’s ‘Marxism and religion’ article and subsequently became a member of the CPGB. Since then I have spent some time reflecting on my experience and clarifying my ideas.In particular I have been considering social-imperialism: what it is and how it has changed over time. In that light I would like to discuss the AWL’s positions on various conflicts, its heterodox theory of imperialism and capitalist development, and why it is wrong.

Social-imperialism

Throughout history, the systematic violence and coercion that maintains the current imperialist world order has been justified by various ideas. Prior to World War I the big idea was that the imperialist nations were bringing civilisation to the uncivilised. In the late 20th century it was bringing democracy to totalitarian states. More recently it has been about preventing genocide or mass murder.

The ideas that justify imperialism are always noble. Who but an uncaring intransigent could oppose spreading civilisation and all that it brings to those unfortunate enough not to have developed it themselves? Who could oppose bringing democracy to those trampled under the heel of authoritarianism? Who could oppose the only thing capable of preventing a genocide?

It is within this context that social-imperialism occurs. These questions tend to dominate the arguments put forward by the AWL, for example – US imperialism is seen as preventing massacres or bringing stability. The AWL has developed its own theory, of course, to justify its positions, but in its day-to-day literature and slogans it is the ‘common sense’ bourgeois ideas that lurk beneath the surface.

This is not unique to the AWL. Both Ernest Belfort Bax and Eduard Bernstein accepted the thinking of the day that imperialism drew “barbarian” or “savage” peoples towards civilisation. But they differed over whether this was historically progressive and chose a side accordingly.

Bernstein thought that capitalist social relations had to be spread across the world as a precondition for socialism. He therefore did not oppose colonial conquest in circumstances where he thought the people being colonised were Read the rest of this entry »