Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category


The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine issued the following statement last week, marking its 47th anniversary:

As our people’s struggle continues against the rising fascist Zionist attacks, we reach the 47th anniversary of the founding of our party and the 27th anniversary of the outbreak of the great Intifada of our people in 1987. On these two occasions we rise and pay tribute to the martyrs of the march of our people over a century of struggle for national liberation.

We remember all of those who fought on the path of national struggle: Jamjoum, Hijazi, al-Qassam, Abdulqader al-Husseini, and all of the martyrs who have fallen in the battle for liberation. We recall the leader and founder of our party, Al-Hakim (George Habash), whose revolutionary commitment and integrity instilled in us our values; the great martyr Abu Ali Mustafa, who worked tirelessly for our people; we remember Wadie Haddad, Ghassan Kanafani, Abu Maher al-Yamani, and Guevara Gaza.

We recall the long line of national leaders of the Palestinian people whose blood was shed on the road of freedom, Abu Ammar (Yasser Arafat), Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir), Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Fathi Shikaki, Khaled Nazzal, Omar al-Qassem, and the list goes on.

We remember the suffering of our brave prisons in the enemy jails, led by the General Secretary of our party, the national leader Ahmad Sa’adat, and we salute the wounded, emphasizing our determination and our pledge to remain firmly loyal to the banner of struggle until the liberation of all of Palestinian national soil and the realization of the full national rights of our people to return, self-determination, independence and a free Palestine with its capital in Jerusalem, as our people continue their comprehensive struggle and Intifada in all forms.

On the anniversary of the founding of our party and the great Intifada, our people are mounting a struggle against (more…)

Redline’s readership has, since we began, grown consistently and substantially. At the same time, it can be quite daunting going to a website for the first time and reading a few things on the home-page and then wondering what to look at next and where to go to find it.  So, over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sticking up some lists of important articles in a range of categories.

We’re starting with some important pieces on the state of the working class in New Zealand.  In a couple of days time we’ll list some key articles on the subject of Whatever happened to workers’ resistance?  After that, we’ll list some material on the alternatives to accepting this shite, how workers can fight back, with some inspiring contemporary and historical examples.  The following list will be of key pieces on the current government’s economic and social policies.

Anyway, here’s our first list – remember this is only partial, but each article will also provide some links to related articles.

Coming apart down under: the decay of New Zealand capitalist society from the 1970s to 1993
The state of the working class in New Zealand, 1997
A united front against low-paid workers
A strange paradox: can New Zealand workers really be happy with this crap?
Information Technology and the rise of New Zealand’s modern servant class
Bending over backwards: New Zealand’s temp economy and capital’s growing need for ‘flexible’ labour
The real working life of a chef: a view from the inside
Low horizons and the legacy of defeats
Last machinist at Achilles Industries
Pike River: ‘cashflow’ versus workers’ safety

And most recently: ANZ bank workers take action and Ructions at Lyttelton Port

You will also find lots of reports and other stories about specific workers’ struggles of recent years in the Unions – New Zealand category, here:; among these is the substantial coverage we gave to the Ports of Auckland dispute in 2012 and the firefighters’ struggle of the same year.

imagesThe way ideologues of capitalism often talk you’d think this system arrived by some kind of immaculate process.  In reality, as Marx noted, “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production.”  Below we reprint a piece by Kenan Malik which looks at that ‘rosy dawn’ and its implications for what became the ‘Third World’ and for migration.

by Kenan Malik

This is a coda to my review of Paul Collier’s book Exodus. In Exodus, Collier makes a case for restrictions on immigration, from the perspective both of the countries of origin and of the host countries to which they migrate. In my review I questioned the moral and social arguments that Collier employs to justify his arguments, and suggested that ‘there is often a chasm between that evidence and Collier’s more contentious arguments’, while many of his policy prescriptions ‘are morally questionable’.

There is an important aspect of Collier’s argument that I did not address in my review – his ideas about what leads to global inequality, and hence drives people to migrate.  These ideas form a thread throughout the book and undergird the arguments about migration. They are, in many ways, even more dubious and debatable than his claims about migration.

The ‘primary cause of the poverty’ of most countries in Africa and Asia, Collier suggests, rests with their ‘cultures – or norms and narratives’ and ‘their institutions and organizations’. Rich countries are rich because they have better ‘narratives’, that is, they tell themselves better stories about what makes a good society. This in turn allows them to adopt more enlightened norms and create more stable institutions. Collier lays out an ‘influential line of argument’ according to which the historical roots of prosperity lie in an ‘efficient tax system’ which in turn

gives a government an interest enlarging the economy, and so induces it to build a rule of law. The rule of law induces people to invest, confident that productive assets will not be expropriated. Investment drives growth…. Protest from the many excluded forces the rich to commit to inclusive political institutions: we arrive at property-driving democracy.

Not just formal institutions but informal social norms, too, distinguish rich and poor countries. In rich countries, unlike in poor countries, most people have renounced the use of violence and are more willing to cooperate, a willingness expressed in ‘mutual regard’, the readiness to help each other out and to redistribute resources. ‘The French’, Collier suggests, ‘are more willing to cooperate with each other and to make transfers to other citizens than are Nigerians, and this supports a range of institutions and norms that have enabled France to become richer and more equal than Nigeria’.

For Collier, then, the key difference between rich and poor countries is primarily (more…)


by Peter Manson

Cape Town has just played host to the “largest global gathering of trade unions ever to take place in Africa”, in the shape of the December 7-10 world congress of the Swiss-based UNI Global Union. Originally called Union Network International, UNI groups together 900 service-sector unions worldwide – including the Communication Workers Union and Connect in Britain – with a total membership of 20 million.

Hosting this gathering of 2,000 delegates was seen as a bit of a coup for both the African National Congress government and the main trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions. However, two embarrassing factors have removed a good deal of the gloss. The first is the rolling power cuts – “load shedding”, as they are called – whereby every day the state-owned electricity supplier, Eskom, desperately tries to get round its disastrous lack of capacity and failure to maintain the grid by pulling out the plugs for a couple of hours. These rotating cuts, currently taking place at the height of the South African summer, are due to go on until 2016 at the very earliest. Inevitably, it will be the working class and poor, with no access to private generators, who will be worse affected.

The second embarrassment takes the form of the split in Cosatu driven by the South African Communist Party. In the early hours of November 8, a special meeting of Cosatu’s central executive committee (CEC) voted by 33 votes to 24 to expel its largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa). Led by Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini and National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni, the SACP loyalists insisted that the 350,000-strong Numsa must be booted out because of its desertion of the ANC and rejection of the ANC-SACP-Cosatu triple alliance.

The leaders of every Cosatu union are (or were) SACP members – and that applies to Numsa and its general secretary, Irvin Jim. But, after two decades of cuts, privatisation and attacks on the working class, a good number of them, with the Numsa leadership in the fore, have finally realised (more…)

canstock13273778Election 2014, the Mana Movement and the left

What is to be done about the radical left in New Zealand?

The miseries of political life

Making our own revolutionary kaupapa and fighting for it


indexThis piece originally appeared on Redline back in March; we’re highlighting it again due to the latest discussions about poverty in this country, following the release of a new OECD report

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by Philip Ferguson

For twenty years inequality was off the mainstream radar as an issue of any importance.  In the past few years, however, especially since the global financial crisis has undermined the supposedly mythic qualities of the market, public discussion of the issue of inequality has become more common.  Among those raising the issue most forcefully at present are Max Rashbrooke and the people at

Last Monday (March 17), the Canterbury Workers Educational Association hosted an early evening meeting for Max, as part of his tour promoting his 2013 book Inequality: a New Zealand crisis and the brand new The Inequality Debate, which is a shorter work drawn from last year’s book.  The meeting attracted about 50 people, not bad for a tea-time meeting in a city centre that remains largely deserted at night three years on from the February 2011 quake.

Max began by emphasising the human side of inequality: that it is real and lived.  And that it is also not something that just appears; it is created.

He looked at what has happened here since the fourth Labour government began slashing wages and conditions, with the following fourth National government doing the same.  Focussing on incomes, and adjusting them all for inflation, he noted that since 1994 the disposable income of the bottom 10% of income earners has stayed about the same.  The next 80% of income earners have seen their disposable incomes rise by only about $5,000 in the past 20 years – far, far below total inflation over that period.  The top 10% of income earners, however, have seen their disposable incomes double, while the top group within that decile, the top 1% of total income earners, have seen their pre-tax incomes (more…)

imagesThis article first appeared on Redline back in May 2013; because of the importance of the increasing precarious workforce, we’re running it again

by O’Shay Muir

Five years on from the height of the global financial crises in 2008 there has been much talk in the media of what is being referred to as the jobless recovery ( During the crises business learnt how to better manage and organise their labour force more effectively, learning how to do more with less. This improved organisation of labour combined with greater investment in technology has led to what many experts believe is a jobless recovery, greatly affecting middle class jobs (  One of the main drivers behind this phenomenon has been vast improvements in computer technology, most especially computer software, with many experts noting that such technological advancements are replacing human labour at a pace never before witnessed in history (

Technology replacing human labour is nothing new, however, most especially under capitalism.  One of the best ways to understand this phenomenon is to use Marx’s concept of relative surplus-value. In volume one of Capital, Marx notes that there are two ways in which capitalists can increase their rate of surplus-value. The first is absolute surplus-value, which involves a lengthening of the working day and the second is relative surplus-value, which involves improved organisation of the labour process and investment in new/better technologies to increase production, allowing one to produce at a lower cost than the competition. While both, especially relative surplus-value, give bosses a competitive advantage for an initial period of time, sooner or later the competition will catch on and what was once competitive advantage will become the new social average.

The other drawbacks are that the gains employers can make from absolute surplus-value are limited, as there are physical limits to how long workers can work, while the production of relative surplus-value leads to a fall in the rate of profit (see here).

While absolute surplus-value production has an obvious effect on workers’ well-being, Marx’s investigation into relative surplus-value indicated the impact that new technologies have on replacing (more…)