Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

khalidaj-300x187Comrade Khalida Jarrar, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said on July 20 that any Palestinian leadership must be committed to the option of resistance, the people and their right to defend themselves.

In comments to Palestine Today, Jarrar denounced the statements of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas regarding the aggression on the Gaza Strip, saying that “The leadership today appears to exist in a different reality from the situation of the Palestinian people in the streets.” She demanded a full and immediate end to security coordination with the enemy, saying that these security commitments by the Palestinian Authority keep the Palestinian people at the mercy of the occupation.

She also demanded (more…)

140122 Callam 2by Ben Hillier

There hasn’t been much good news for workers in the last few months. The May budget is an obvious disaster and confirms, if confirmation were needed, that the Liberals want to construct a society characterised by misery for many and splendour for a privileged few. A number of reports and decisions have shown how far we have already moved in that direction.

The June annual Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management World Wealth Report estimates that the number of Australian millionaires is up by 12,000 in a year and 30 percent since 2007. Oxfam calculates that these 219,000 individuals, representing just under 1 percent of the total population, own as much as the bottom 14 million. The nine richest billionaires own as much as the poorest 4.5 million people.

These astonishing figures might be underestimates: the Forbes rich list, released in late June using more up to date data, shows that the average wealth of the richest 200 has reached $968 million, up 9.5 percent from 2013. Australia is now home to a record 39 billionaires.

Contrast that result with the Fair Work Commission’s national minimum wage order last month, which imposed a pay freeze in real terms on (more…)

indexJuly 4, 2014 – Comrade Leila Khaled, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, saluted the martyred child Mohammed Abu Khdeir, murdered, tortured and burned by Zionist settlers, greeting his mother: “Your son did not burn; he lives in the heart of every Palestinian and every young man who now revolts.”

In an interview with Al-Mayadeen TV, she said that this moment requires immediate action for national unity and the establishment of a new level of struggle to confront occupation and settlements. “Leaders who will not act in this moment must step down,” she said.

She called for an immediate (more…)

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A hongi too far?  What about class lines in politics?

The following article appeared on the site of the International Socialist Organisation yesterday.  It is a critique of ISO’s involvement in the Mana Party and, even more so, a critique of its support to the Mana Internet Party lash-up.  Interestingly, it makes many of the same points that we have been making on Redline; indeed a Redline contributor was already thinking of writing something taking up the article that appeared in Andrew Tait’s name, the article that Martin Gregory begins his examination with.  Since reading Martin’s article, our contributor has decided he needn’t bother as Martin’s article makes the salient points!

We have some rather large disagreements with ISO, however we strongly commend them for running Martin’s article.  The revolutionary left can only benefit by having organisations that are prepared to conduct their political debates in public.  When the original Workers Party and revolution group merged, part of our merger was the decision that members could express their views publicly, rather than enforcing the standard bureaucratic-centralist nonsense that people with minority views had to pretend publicly that they agreed with majority positions.  We always felt this was simply lying to the working class and had no place in a serious revolutionary organisation.

We’re running Martin’s article here for several reasons.  Obviously, we politically agree with most of it; moreover, Martin is a veteran Marxist and trade union activist.  His views carry some weight.  However, we’re also running it because there’s simply no other facility for having a discussion about it.  For instance, there’s no comments section on the ISO site.  As important as this issue may be to ISO itself, it is also a clear dividing line for revolutionaries as a whole.  Simply put, we believe support for the Mana Internet Party lash-up means crossing a class line.  Some on the left recognise a class line when it takes the form of something rather obvious like a picket, but have a great deal of difficulty recognising that there is a class line in politics that is just as important (if not more so).  Mana Internet Party is, whether it lasts three months or three minutes, a cross-class alliance in an imperialist country.  There is no way that it can be justified in terms of fundamental class politics.

We do not believe, obviously, that it is some kind of life-and-death question.  In the overall scheme of things, the lash-up is a relatively small affair.  However, it is important because it does mean people who support the lash-up are crossing class lines and history shows us that crossing class lines almost always begins with something small, something that is accepted on the grounds of being small and for short-term tactical reasons.  This, of course, has a certain logic; it means that the next step in crossing class lines becomes a bit easier, and the one after that easier still.

We hope that people, including ISO members, will respond to Martin’s article here.  While we disagree strongly with some of ISO’s practice, we have no particular axe to grind against them.  We’re not trying to build a rival organisation (and, indeed, when a number of us were leaders of the Workers Party we went out of our way to try to establish a positive working relationship with ISO and get them to join the merger process that we led); we would much rather see ISO adopting consistent revolutionary politics than see it fall apart.  Moreover, we frequently run excellent material produced by ISO’s Australian co-thinkers, Socialist Alternative.

Below is what was published July 3 on the ISO site:

[The ISO recently published an article 'Should Socialists Support the Internet-Mana Alliance?', the product of discussion within our organisation. This is a response and a contribution to the debate from Martin Gregory, a member of our Poneke branch.]

The publication of ‘Should socialists support the Internet-Mana alliance?’ on 18 June on this website marks, in my opinion, a new low-point in the trajectory of the International Socialist Organisation. The article was sanctioned by the ISO’s national committee. A continuation along this track will spell the end of the organisation’s prospects of becoming the nucleus of a revolutionary workers party. Theoretical clarity is essential, and we are losing it.

The developments of the last few months have given the ISO ample opportunities to re-assess its affiliation to Mana and return to principled socialist politics. We have had the prospect of the alliance with Dotcom prior to Mana’s April AGM, the AGM decision to seek alliance, the interval for negotiations, and the announcement of Internet Mana. Unfortunately but a change of direction has not been taken.

So where does the ISO stand on the Internet-Mana alliance? Although not baldly stated, it is clear from ‘Should socialists support the Internet-Mana alliance?’ that the ISO’s publicly declared position is for an Internet Mana party vote. Whether the ISO will support Internet Party candidates in electorates is not discussed. The article is equivocal, although overall it is an apologia for the alliance and the ISO’s continued support for Mana.

One of the contradictions of the article is that it states that the ISO was (more…)

Drone1words by Don Franks, pictures by Val Morse

Last Sunday (June 29) a meaningful action took place outside the National Party conference. Participants were opposing the New Zealand state’s support for the drone, a lethal modern weapon of war.

Drones are unmanned aerial military vehicles. The US Obama administration has carried out hundreds of drone strikes against political opponents, killing thousands of Drone2civilian bystanders in the process.

Outside the National Party conference about thirty-five mostly young people in bloodstained clothes lay down and “died” on the driveway at the Michael Fowler Centre.  Above them, on a big speaker stand,  was an almost life-size USA drone. Made of cardboard but shaped and painted to look very real and menacing.

The protesters’ action was timed to coincide with (more…)

Guildford 4, clockwise: Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Carole Richardson, Paddy Armstrong

Guildford 4, clockwise: Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Carole Richardson, Paddy Armstrong

Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four who were arrested in 1974 and framed up by the British state for IRA bombings in Britain and spent 15 years in jail, has died.  After being freed when the convictions were finally overturned in 1989, Gerry became a prominent campaigner for human rights.  Gerry’s case was dramatised in the famous feature film In the Name of the Father, in which Daniel Day-Lewis starred as him.  The film was nominated for 7 academy awards.

When Gerry was being held in prison in London, his father Giuseppe traveled to Britain to organise a lawyer for his son.  He too was arrested, framed up and convicted, dying in prison in 1980.  Gerry’s aunt, Annie Maguire and other members of her family were also framed up with Giuseppe (the Maguire Seven).  The Maguire Seven served their full sentences before their convictions were overturned in 1991.

In February 2005 British prime minister Tony Blair apologised to the families of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven.  He stated, “I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and injustice… they deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated.”  (Rather hypocritical considering his own record in relation to Afghanistan and Iraq, of course.)

Below is a moving speech (in two parts) delivered by Gerry in 2011 at the Maritime Union of Australia conference in Melbourne.  The speech details his transformation from a young lumpen-proletarian into (more…)

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Internet Party CEO Vikram Kumar, pirate capitalist and Internet Party’s founder and official ‘Visionary’ Kim Dotcom, corporate-hire Internet Party leader Laila Harre (whose official blurb actually describes her as a ‘national treasure’) and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.

The text below was written several years ago by veteran Australian Marxist John Percy.  It has appeared in several places.  The text here is taken from its most recent place of publication, the Australian journal Marxist Left Review (#5, Summer 2013), theoretical publication of Socialist Alternative (SA), the largest Marxist organisation across the ditch.  At the time John wrote the article he was a leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, a group which fused with SA in March last year.  John is now a leader of SA.

The article is particularly relevant in New Zealand where three left groups – Socialist Aotearoa, Fightback, and the International Socialist Organisation – have thrown themselves into the Mana Party, using the same rationalisations which John critiques below.  The acceptance by these three groups of the Mana/Kim Dotcom lash-up – which is the opposite of independent working class politics – shows that the consequences John talks about below are already becoming clear here.

The ‘broad party’ perspective, of course, has its defenders among Marxists.  One of the leading defenders is Murray Smith.  The latest issue of MLR (#7, summer 2014) contains a critique of Smith’s defence; the critique is written by Mick Armstrong, another veteran Australian Marxist and leading figure in Socialist Alternative.

Comrades involved in this blog don’t necessarily agree with every point made by John or Mick, but their articles are well worth reading and thinking about in relation to the examples they cover and in relation to NZ left groups’ involvement in Mana Party.

 

by John Percy

There have been “broad parties” aplenty in the past claiming to represent workers, or broader classes, or “progress” in general – parties that are sometimes mass, mostly with electoral ambitions, but with programs that are social democratic, or left liberal, sometimes “all-inclusive”, but non-Leninist and non-Marxist. Such parties are not able to bring about fundamental social change; they cannot break the state power of the capitalist class. For that we need a revolution. We know a revolutionary party is necessary to carry that out, a Leninist party.

The program of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, which used to be the program of the Democratic Socialist Party, is very clear on this question:

The working class cannot as a whole or spontaneously acquire the political class-consciousness necessary to prepare and guide its struggle for socialism. For this, it is indispensable to develop a party uniting all who are struggling against the abuses and injustices of capitalism and who have developed a socialist consciousness and commitment to carrying out revolutionary political activity irrespective of the conjunctural ebbs and flows of the mass movement…ultimately, only a revolutionary socialist party that has deep roots in the working class, that is composed primarily of workers, and that enjoys the respect and confidence of the workers, can lead the oppressed and exploited masses in overthrowing the political and economic power of capital. The central aim of the Revolutionary Socialist Party is to build such a mass revolutionary socialist party in Australia.[i]

The DSP has now ditched this program, and dissolved itself into the Socialist Alliance “broad party”, with a non-revolutionary program.

Such broad parties can and do develop outside the initiative of revolutionaries. Then it’s just a normal, standard, tactical question as to what approach revolutionaries should have towards such a party. Sometimes it’s correct to intervene, sometimes it’s not.

Of special interest to us, however, is when revolutionary Marxists elevate such broad parties into a special case, thinking that they might somehow be the replacement for revolutionary parties, or think that revolutionaries have to create such broad parties if they don’t exist, or dissolve their forces permanently into such parties.

This is what has been happening in the last 15 years or so among the Marxist left in advanced capitalist countries, so that it has become an issue in itself, the “broad party” question. It has been taken up by a number of Trotskyist currents, certainly the Fourth International, which unfortunately generalised, as it tends to do, and developed an overall strategy of “building anti-capitalist parties” in Europe,[ii] and tended to promote such tactics in other countries. The British Socialist Workers Party has also investigated this perspective, and it has been adopted by some of the parties that follow its lead, organised in the International Socialist Tendency.[iii]

This article looks at the experience of the “broad party” tactic/strategy as implemented by revolutionary socialists internationally in recent decades.[iv]

The political context

The generalised push for “broad parties” hasn’t just come out of the blue. It is related to both a crisis of political perspective due to retreats and defeats, for example the final collapse of the Soviet Union, and a mis-estimation of upsurges, the anti-globalisation movement for example, giving some false hopes.

1. The last two decades have been very much under the shadow of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the final unwinding of the gains of the Russian Revolution. There were defeats in Eastern Europe; the Chinese Revolution was unravelling in a capitalist direction; Cuba’s economy suffered special problems. The old Communist parties were dwindling before; now they declined further.

2. This was a period of imperialist cockiness, bragging about the “end of history”. The bourgeoisie was increasingly confident and aggressive; neoliberalism was rampant. Many unions and workers’ organisations were weakened or even totally smashed by this onslaught. The social democratic leadership dominant in many countries demonstrated their utter uselessness, capitulating further, or even leading the neoliberal charge.

3. This period also saw the rise of the Greens. The Green parties’ politics varied. They represented a growing environmental consciousness, and often became a political vehicle that attracted people on a range of left liberal issues. They soaked up some of the break from the more traditional “workers’ parties”, Communist parties, Social Democracy, Labor parties. Increasingly as they have consolidated, they have settled into more right wing positions.

4. This has also been a period of impressive campaigns against globalisation around the world, from the Seattle demonstration in 1999 through multiple demonstrations in Europe, and the World Social Forums initiated in Brazil and hosted in other countries also. These indicated a radicalisation of sorts, and for a while seemed a hopeful development, but politically these movements also exhibited a confusion about or hostility to the need for building revolutionary parties, with the anti-party strictures of the World Social Forum, and the NGOs and right wing parties in control.

The initial motivation when the DSP launched the Socialist Alliance in 2001 was that the tide had turned, that we were looking ahead to a period of upsurge from the end of the 1990s. The DSP experienced some growth, and was buoyed by the successful S11 mobilisation in Melbourne, surrounding Crown Casino, venue of the World Economic Forum in 2000. We looked to some seemingly successful broad parties such as the Scottish Socialist Party. The 2001 DSP Congress, 3-7 January in Sydney, still projected building an explicitly revolutionary party.[v] But soon after we’d noticed the International Socialist Organisation’s conference held in Melbourne later that month,[vi] taking note of the English Socialist Alliance and the British SWP’s participation in it and elections. We were waiting to see if the ISO here would follow the line of the SWP before tossing up the proposal for a Socialist Alliance. The Socialist Alliance was launched with meetings in Melbourne on 6 March and in Sydney on 10 April. At the DSP National Committee in April, Peter Boyle said we were “looking at the Socialist Alliance as more than an electoral tactic”. [vii]

Adopting this tactic was dependent on that upsurge, the possibility of (more…)

by Susanne Kemp

Arresting Palestinian children and holding them without charge or trial is a common practice of the Israeli occupation on the West Bank

Arresting Palestinian children and holding them without charge or trial is a common practice of the Israeli occupation on the West Bank

Since the start of June, over 400 Palestinians have been kidnapped by Israeli forces on the West Bank. This is Israel’s supposed response to three (illegal) Israeli settlers going missing in Hebron on June 12.  In fact, the Israelis show no signs of giving up their occupation of the West Bank and, short of abject surrender, anything the Palestinians do can be used by Tel Aviv as a pretext for a new clampdown.

In this case, a constant lockdown has been imposed on Hebron, the largest city on the West Bank with a population of about 250,000 Palestinians.  The Israelis have also carried out continuous raids in Nablus, Ramallah and other cities and killed five Palestinians, including a 14-year-old since the new clampdown began ten days ago

Yesterday, June 22, Israeli deputy defence minister Danny Danon told Radio Darom “In my opinion there is room for extensive actions against the civilian population.”  He suggested one such action should be to  “shut off the electricity in the West Bank and Gaza”.

At the same time as this new wave of repression, there are perhaps 125 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, in opposition to (more…)

US bombing Baghdad; the western imperialist invasion killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and destabilised the region further; the western powers need to get out and stay out

US bombing Baghdad; the western imperialist invasion killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and destabilised the region further; the western powers need to get out and stay out

Iraq totters on the edge of social meltdown and western imperialist powers and their allies flounder for a half rational response. What’s going on and what are the implications for the wider region? Yassamine Mather of Hands Off the People of Iran spoke to Mark Fischer about what is happening and why. . .

Mark Fischer: In contradiction to some of the commentary that has appeared in western media and political sources, this situation has clearly not simply appeared from thin air. What is the background to it?

Yassamine Mather: The background is really the Iraq war of 2003. This fundamentally altered the balance of forces in the region. It surgically removed the reactionary, but more or less secular rule of Saddam Hussein and put in power a Shia government, albeit under the auspices of the US occupation.

ISIS forces marching in Syria; Western intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan led to upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism

ISIS forces marching in Syria; Western intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan led to upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism

That government was very close to Iran. It was strongly opposed by Saudi Arabia and most of the Sunni states and manoeuvres against it started from the very beginning. There is also no doubt that the Iraqi government followed sectarian policies from the very start. So the present situation is not at all surprising – there has always been opposition to that discriminatory practice. That opposition was being used by forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), loosely associated with Al Qaida.

So there is nothing surprising about it at all. The same jihadists fighting in Syria were very clear – they were fighting for the (more…)

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Emmerson – NZ Herald 26 March 2014

by Don Franks

Every Thursday afternoon, us car assembly workers used to get a little extra break. A couple of security officers would go round the plant with a trolley with metal trays, in which there were little brown packets. We’d line up to be passed the packet with our number on it. A few of the guys took the packet home intact and gave it over to their wives. Most of us tore the thing open to check that the amount was right and then put the cash away somewhere safe.

On many of these afternoons the union delegates would enact another ritual. Armed with one of the plastic bags that nuts and washers came in, we’d do the rounds of our section collecting money. This would be for workers on strike in another car factory, or another New Zealand workplace. Once in a while, for workers in another country. We’d prime the bag with our own contribution and go first to the most generous workmates we knew. That would set the trend.

Some were reluctant and others would closely question the activities of the strikers being funded – were they demanding too much? Some workers put in very little but just about everyone put in something, it was our culture. After the collection the delegates would bend over a workbench, count the contents of the oily bags and report the exact total back to the donors. These regular donations came because our union members were on high enough pay to be able to afford regular solidarity donations. They also came because we knew exactly how we’d got our relatively high pay, by application of union pressure and industrial action.

The other regular payment we all made was our (more…)