Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

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 (more…)

imagesThis article is a slightly abridged version of one which was written in 1997 and appeared in issue #3 of the Christchurch-based journal revolution, Aug/Sept 1997

by John Gillot and Manjit Kumar
(with additional information from Simon Faraday)

Is science the liberator of humanity, or the tool of despots? Is the attempt to control the laws of nature the handmaiden of progress, or the suicidal act of ignorant fools? These are the kind of issues being raised today, as the world’s pressing demographic and environmental problems make more people ask whether progress is such a good thing. What answers can we come up with?

Marxists support the unlimited growth of scientific knowledge and capacity. The dangers posed by the application of modern science arise from the nature of the societies in which it takes place not from the science itself. The system which dominates the globe – capitalism – is at best stagnant. Without the constraints this system imposes, the potential exists for fundamental scientific advances to be made and used for the good of us all. In opposition to the Marxist view, however, there is a growing belief among radical thinkers that humanity is inevitably threatened by technological and scientific advance.

This view has been put clearly by the modern Green movement. Discussing the environmental problems of today, Fritjof Capra has argued that these “manifold health hazards are not just incidental by-products of technological progress; they are integral features of an economic system obsessed with growth and expansion, continuing to intensify its high technology in an attempt to increase productivity.”

The Green view of science and technology as inherently dangerous makes sense to many people. Mention biotechnology, for example, and images of man-made mutants are more likely to come to mind than thoughts of a cure for genetic disorders. Such a reaction is understandable, given the misuse of scientific research. If people like Capra and his colleagues only wanted to expose the abuse of science by the capitalist system, we could have no objection. However, they go much further, asserting that “technological progress. . . growth and expansion” as such are the problem. This simply will not stand up to scrutiny.

Technological growth and scientific progress have vastly improved the state of human existence through the ages. A glance at (more…)

It would be good to get some discussion going on this issue, obviously a big one for the anti-capitalist left internationally anyway but an especially pertinent one in this country, where the working class remains almost perversely passive.

. . . and yet it survives. . .

. . . and yet it survives. . .

by Michael Roberts

Last weekend, I attended this year’s London version of the Historical Materialism conference (, which for those who don’t know is an annual gathering of mainly Marxist academics, students and activists organised by the Historical Materialism journal. A host of papers and book launch presentations are made, often bringing out new ideas in the analysis of capitalism.

This year’s main theme was “How Capitalism Survives” and was apparently attended by over 750 scholars, academics and activists. It’s not possible to attend all sessions, of course, so my review concentrates on the economics papers and even there is sometimes based on reading the papers presented rather than on actually attending the session (so be forewarned!).

How does capitalism survive? Well, according to John Weeks, emeritus professor at SOAS, it’s because the capitalist mode of production has had very few of what could be called proper crises (2014 Weeks_Crisis_Izmir). Weeks reckons that only the Great Depression of the 1930s and the recent Great Recession could be considered generalised crises (“episodes of severe contraction”) that affected the world capitalist economy for any length of time or to any depth. Other so-called crises were merely mild recessions or financial crashes that were short and limited to the national economy concerned.

As for the causes, Weeks argues that it was the (more…)

balfourThe following statement was issued by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on Nov 2

On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Alfred Balfour delivered a treacherous stab in the back to the Palestinian Arab people, through a letter sent to Lord Lionel Rothschild, expressing the support of the British state for the establishment of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine. This promise marked the stamp of approval on the Zionist project in Palestine and its work to impel the migration of Jews from various countries of the world in order to constitute Zionist military forces, supported with various types of modern weapons, who proceeded to commit massacres as a prelude to the establishment of the Israeli state on the ruins of our homes and lands and the displacement of our people in the region and around the world in 1948.


PFLP continues to resist the occupation and fight for a secular, democratic and socialist society

This historic crime, in which the British colonial state gave away what it was not its to give, continues to be a stain on the British state and global imperialism. The Palestinian people will not forget and will not forgive, over successive generations, the great crime committed against them.

The Palestinian people swiftly rejected this declaration on a popular level. Immmediately upon its announcement, Palestinians engaged in fierce clashes with the British occupation and the Zionists, refusing the dismantlement and destruction of their homeland, Palestine, and giving (more…)

The manifesto below first appeared in MidEast Solidarity #1, Spring 2001, the Middle East bulletin of revolution magazine. Although now thirteen years old, it is still highly relevant, given the Western powers’ ever-expanding, never-ending wars in the Third World.  It lays out a basic approach needed to build what is needed – an anti-imperialist movement – and is counterposed to simply accepting lowest common denominator peace politics, which often reinforce myths about this country’s ruling class, their political servants and their foreign policy.  In Christchurch, the Middle East Information and Solidarity Collective generally operated along the lines of the Manifesto, although its sphere of action was most specifically Palestine and Iraq.  Similar sentiments to those contained in the Manifesto animated the Anti-Imperialist Coalition in Auckland and the work of ACA activists in Peace Action Wellington.  As New Zealand’s ruling class plays its own part in the West’s wars abroad and migrant workers remain on the receiving end of discrimination here, we need to revive the spirit of this Manifesto; we need not a ‘peace’ movement but an anti-imperialist movement.  Lastly,  a few explanatory notes have been added.

Workers as a global class is the basis for internationalism and solidarity

Workers as both a global class and the universal class is the basis for internationalism and solidarity

The assault on Afghanistan points up the desperate need not for a wishy-washy peace movement, which treats New Zealand imperialism as morally superior to other imperialisms and pleads with Wellington to exert greater leverage in world affairs, but for an anti-imperialist movement.


An anti-imperialist perspective in New Zealand can only begin with total opposition to the policies and initiatives of our own ruling class. New Zealand is an advanced capitalist society, part of the First World, presided over by an exploiting ruling class which is part of the problem not part of the solution.

New Zealand nationalism has been historically the ideology through which the capitalist class here coheres society around its own interests and power. In particular this ideology binds NZ workers to their lown exploiters, obscures class divisions within this country and keeps workers from developing an anti-capitalist outlook. At crucial times it serves to line workers up behind our ruling class in wars against workers of other countries.

Much of the left has been part of this reactionary nationalist consensus, most blatantly in the forms of labourism, Stalinism* and anti-’foreign control’ groups. But even the Marxist left has succumbed to it, as war clear around the campaign against French testing at Moruroa, where most far left groups lined up behind the NZ ruling class.**

In contrast to middle class peace groups and leftists who make calls on the New Zealand government to take action against other capitalist governments, thereby prettifying our own ruling class, a genuine anti-imperialist movement in this country promotes (more…)

The article below was written in 1982 by Ygael Gluckstein, just after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and a number of massacres. Gluckstein grew up in Palestine, but later lived in Britain where he became best-known as the left-wing theorist and political leader Tony Cliff; the text is reprinted from issue # 1 of MidEast Solidarity, the Middle East bulletin of the revolution magazine group

indexby Tony Cliff

Looking back on my own experience in Palestine I can see how today’s horror grew from small beginnings. Zionism, Jewish separateness and the belief in a Jewish homeland, have developed into state violence.

My parents were pioneering Zionists, leaving Russia for Palestine in 1902 to join a total Zionist population of a few thousand. I grew up a Zionist, but Zionism did not have the ugly face we see today. However, there was always a fundamental crack between the Zionists and the Arabs.

Dispossessing the Arabs

Zionists took over Arab land, often evicting the occupiers. They systematically discriminated against the thousands of Arab unemployed. In our area, 80 percent of the population was Arab, but my school was exclusively Jewish.

My parents were extreme Zionists. My father told me, “The only way to look at an Arab is through (more…)

Mass protests have met the Dublin government’s attempts to impose on a water tax on people throughout the southern Irish state.  The government is a Fine Gael-Labour coalition, which has been imposing a vicious austerity programme.  Anne McShane of the British paper Weekly Worker recently spoke to a leading member of the ‘Cobh Says No’ campaign:

Working class in rebellion

The introduction of water charges in Ireland is the latest of the anti-working class measures in the austerity package agreed with the troika by the last Fianna Fáil/Green government and continued under the present regime. Previous protests in 2012 and 2013 against the austerity deal included a boycott of the household tax. But the government then employed direct taxation measures to beat the working class into submission.

The state was confident that it had won the battle. Earlier this year a semi-state company was set up and water meter installation began. The government and its cronies in Irish Water did not even consider that the working class would resist. They were very wrong. Protests began over the summer in Cork city and Dublin, where they prevented meters being installed across entire estates. Now that movement is spreading right across the country. A national demonstration took place in Dublin on October 11 with numbers claimed at between 80,000 and 100,000. More local protests followed and on November 1 up to 200,000 people took part in marches in villages, towns and cities all over the country. The message from every one of those marches was clear – scrap water charges now. The working class has had enough and will not be pushed to pay any more.

The government is in crisis. Backbench TDs are rebelling and ministers are panicking. Taoiseach Enda Kenny says he will not back down and promises “clarity” on the payments. But the government is refusing to acknowledge the reality that is facing it. The majority of the Irish working class is very clear – they want no water meters and no water charges.

Karen Doyle and two others were arrested on October 30 for trying to block the installation of meters on a working class housing estate in Cob

Karen Doyle and two others were arrested on October 30 for trying to block the installation of meters on a working class housing estate in Cobh

I spoke to Karen Doyle, a leading member of the Cobh Says No campaign, which has been active against the household and property taxes and is now leading a mass struggle in Cobh to prevent the installation of water meters. She is now a national leader in this struggle.

What stage has the campaign against water charges reached?

In the past few weeks there have been street and estate meetings throughout Cobh. This was the result of a community meeting we held seven weeks ago. Before that our campaign, Cobh Says No, was operating with a couple of dozen core activists. But, with the news of water metering, the meeting was really packed. It was decided that people would go back to their estates and knock on their neighbours’ doors and call street meetings. We promised we would support the residents and would discuss how to prevent the meters being installed and do all we could to stop Irish Water.

What was the response at these street meetings?

The first meeting was in an estate called Russell Heights. There were about 90 people, plus a lot of apologies – and this is a small estate. The meeting was led by residents themselves, although we had drawn up a (more…)