protestOn Tuesday, November 25, The Freedom Shop, an anarchist centre in Wellington, held a meeting about the way forward for the activist left.  A number of speakers were invited to give ten-minute presentations; below is the presentation given by Don Franks

Kia ora kou tou.  

Thanks for inviting me here this evening.

I appreciate the chance to participate in this discussion of how the activist left might make progress. Discussion of political ideas is something the New Zealand left hasn’t done very well. 

We’ve spent more time discussing other things. Such as how we can get this or that “good” person elected to some position. Or how we might achieve mainstream media coverage of a political stunt. 

We kiwi leftists are practical down to earth people, aren’t we? We like to get on with the job, do something real, get something going now, not later.  We care, we want to stop the drilling, feed the kids, not wank off over an economic textbook.

So, political study for long-term strategising is something we do, if at all, after completing our other supposedly more relevant duties.

That’s how it’s mostly Read the rest of this entry »

51mv9h8wIPL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Henryk Grossman, Fifty Years of Struggle over Marxism 1883-1932, translated by Rick Kuhn and Einde O’Callagan, with an introduction by Rick Kuhn; Ebook AU$6.34 from http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OE6KF7O and paperback AU$10 from redflag.subs@gmail.com

reviewed by Tom O’Lincoln

There is a story about Marx’s legacy that we have passed on through generations. After the old man’s death Frederick Engels fixed up the loose ends. Then along came two evil men. Eduard Bernstein who invented reformism but at least was honest about it, and his evil twin, Kautsky. A heroic Rosa Luxemburg warned of dangers, but only Lenin was perspicacious enough to challenge and defeat the “Renegade Kautsky” in the battleground of ideas.

This fable isn’t wrong, but it skips over the lesser players. How much do most of us know about Rudolf Hilferding,  who gave Lenin so much of his background on imperialism? We have heard of Michael Tugan-Baranovsky, but have only a vague notion who he was. Let alone those obscure Americans like Hillquit and Baudin.

Now there’s a  short book that puts them and others in context, written by someone living close to the events and yet also close to our time.

The author is Henryk Grossman, himself until recently a figure Read the rest of this entry »

imagesby Michael Roberts

In a great new book, Billionaires: reflections on the upper crust (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120092/billionaires-book-review-money-cant-buy-happiness), Darrel M West outlined various social surveys that show the richer a person is, the less likely they are to redistribute some of their wealth and earnings to those less lucky or ‘talented’.

A University of California study found that people driving expensive cars were four times more likely to cut in front of other drivers or ignore pedestrians right of way than those in cheap cars. They considered themselves kings of the highways. In another study, the richer the person, the more likely they were to take candy from a jar left outside a laboratory, despite a sign saying that it was for Read the rest of this entry »

The following statement was issued by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on 18 November 2014 in relation to the attack on a synagogue in the Har Nof area of Jerusalem.

image“The operation today in Jerusalem is a natural response to the ongoing racist policies and crimes of the occupation, and it is the occupation that is responsible for the escalation in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine. We are witnessing lynchings, the targeting of Palestinians, demolishing homes, confiscating land, building colonies, taking unprecedented measures against Muslims’ and Christians’ holy sites in Jerusalem on a daily basis,” said Khalil Maqdesi, member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“Every day, thousands of supporters of the PFLP – and our entire Palestinian people – resist occupation in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine. There will be more of these kinds of actions so long as the occupier’s assault continues,” Maqdesi said. “The PFLP will continue to Read the rest of this entry »

iraqbases

by Workers Fight

As this issue of our journal goes to press,* four months have elapsed since the first of Obama’s “special advisers” officially set their “boots” – sorry, their “civilian shoes”, since they were not meant to be there in a combat capacity – on Iraqi soil. They arrived on August 1st.

In fact, whether they wore “boots” or “civilian shoes”, was hardly relevant. With 35,000 heavily-armed private contractors operating in Iraq, 17,000 employees at the US embassy in Baghdad (the world’s largest!) and countless military minders and trainers “embedded” within the Iraqi forces, the US government already had “boots” all over the land of Iraq, anyway!

Western “precision bombings” against ISIS began a month later. They were first carried out by the US air force at the beginning of September, then by the French from September 19th and, after the Commons vote on September 26th, by the British RAF – with a host of smaller players joining the US-led coalition over the following weeks.

Two months on, however, this new Western intervention in the Middle East seems to have melted into the general background noise of international politics. Of course, given the right opportunity, like the gruesome beheading of a western hostage by ISIS, the past hysterical media coverage will undoubtedly come back – to provide yet more “moral” justification for the western governments to use their lethal arsenal against the population of the region and to whip up fears here that, unless this is done, the ISIS henchmen will soon be knocking at our doors.

As to the bloody mayhem which the Iraqi and Syrian populations have to live through, the deaths and injuries they suffer, the hardship experienced by the massive numbers of refugees fleeing the war zones, whether they are internally displaced or forced into makeshift camps in neighbouring countries – all that is carefully ignored by the media.

But isn’t this entirely predictable? Who would want the public to come to realise that the situation of these populations is only made worse by this new Read the rest of this entry »

The following open letter to “journalists of the mainstream media” was issued by Professor Richard Jackson on his blog, on October 8, under the heading “Hey mainstream media! Here are some pointers for doing your job”.  Professor Jackson is deputy-director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University although, of course, his blog represents his personal views; we don’t necessarily agree with all of this piece – see the comments section – but welcome it as a challenge to the largely uncritical role of the media in terms of the deployment of NZ forces to Iraq and the new ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation.  Academics speaking up in this frank way are rare indeed in this country.

by Richard Jackson

Dear Journalists of the Mainstream Media,

It is fair to say that, pretty much exactly as in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, you have failed once again to fulfil your professional mandate and live up to even the minimal standards of journalism. For the most part, you have simply repeated the ridiculous speculations and hysterical statements of politicians, without any rigorous questioning or adequate investigation into their veracity. I know you work in a 24-7 news environment in which you feel like you don’t always have the time to find whether the things that officials say are not nonsense, and that most of you belong to a few large media conglomerates which impose a strict editorial line. But, come on! I know you can do better than ” Islamic state is an apocalyptic death cult and we’re all going to die! Launch the bombers now!” In the process of being so pathetically uncritical in the past few weeks, you have fuelled the moral panic that currently surrounds Islamic State, created an atmosphere of fear and Islamophobia, and offered almost no critical analysis of the patently pointless and counterproductive decision to bomb Iraq for the umpteenth time. As a consequence, you have utterly failed to provide a check on the politicians who are determined to roll back civil liberties, restrict protest and dissent, surveille the whole world, torture people and ironically, muzzle the freedom of the press. Yes, you didn’t even notice until it was too late that their plan to fight the purported existential threat of Islamic State included further restricting the activities of the press.

As a consequence of this pathetic failure, it is my duty to suggest a series of fairly simple and obvious questions which you, as professional journalists, can ask politicians and security officials during press conferences, or radio or television interviews on the subject of Islamic State, terrorism and/or bombing Muslim countries. Trust me, these will really help you to do your job properly, and may in the long run, bring back a little credibility to your profession. On the other hand, they may also get you banned from official press conferences or shunned by the hacks who are happy to act as paid government mouthpieces. In any case, by asking these questions, you’ll definitely feel better, reduce the shame you must feel for how you got sucked in again, and perhaps get a little bit of your dignity back.

So these are a few basic, random questions you might ask Read the rest of this entry »

e00b626cd93edab07a343e270c3d632e8ba6a26a_big

The pretence of ‘honest broker’ helps NZ’s ruling class pursue their own interests in the Pacific, Asia and elsewhere

The article below was written in 1997 and appeared in revolution #3, Aug/Sept 1997, a Christchurch-based Marxist journal; as NZ intervention in both the Pacific and elsewhere since shows, the article very much retains its relevance

by Linda Kearns

Negotiations recently concluded between the Papua New Guinea government-appointed regime on Bougainville and Bougainville separatists. The talks were held at Burnham military camp outside Christchurch, producing the ‘Burnham Agreement’.

At a time when its popularity is plummeting in the polls, and politicians are held in deep contempt, the New Zealand government is delighting in being able to play the moral card, as a disinterested observer helping Third World warring factions sort out their problems. Even left-wing Alliance Party leader Jim Anderton describes New Zealand as an “honest broker” in the process.

This country’s interests in the Asia-Pacific region are, however, anything but noble. In fact, it is the ability of our rulers to appear as a moral player, or ‘honest broker’, which is crucial in allowing them to pursue their regional interests as a capitalist class.

How the policy makers see things

Both New Zealand’s military capacities and its relations with the region are key topics of discussion in foreign and defence policy circles in this country.

Deputy-director of the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University David Dickens, noting that three quarters of NZ’s export income and imports are generated from the Asia-Pacific region, holds that this country’s “economic well-being depends on overseas trade” and that “New Zealand’s strategic interests are global” (Dickens, “Building peace through credible defence”, New Zealand International Review, vol 22, no 3, May-June 1997, p11). “(I)f detractors can show that New Zealand is not serious about conventional defence, then Wellington’s credibility on security issues will be undermined. Without a credible defence posture New Zealand will struggle to create a credible foreign policy” (ibid).

Dickens argues that NZ’s military forces “are an ideal instrument to underpin Wellington’s claim that it is genuinely interested in security in the region” (ibid, p14), ‘security’ being a euphemism for a state of affairs in which the business of exploitation and oppression proceeds with the least disturbance.

New Zealand needs, in Dickens’ view, “a defence force that is Read the rest of this entry »