Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category


Gaza is a prison whose inmates are being strangled and killed, not a bantustan

by Tony Norfield

Israeli racism and violence should obviously be condemned, but land theft is the key question. Consider this: on what basis should the slaughter by Europeans of Jews before 1945 result in the allocation of Palestinian land to Zionist settlers by imperialist powers in 1948? It is not only the post-1967 land grab by Israel that is a crime. The Israeli state is illegitimate and a result of imperialism in the region.

The term ‘apartheid’ to describe the Israeli system is also incorrect. Israel far prefers to kill Palestinians and steal their land, which is not the same process as formerly in South Africa. For example, Gaza is not Israel’s Bantustan for the (more…)

mikebrownThe following statement was released by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and first appeared on their site on August 18

In light of the police murder of the martyr Michael Brown and the ongoing struggle in Ferguson, Missouri, in the United States, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine salutes and stands firmly with the ongoing struggle of Black people and all oppressed communities in the United States.

Comrade Khaled Barakat said in an interview with the PFLP media outlets that “Police brutality, oppression and murder against Black people in the U.S., and against Latinos, Arabs and Muslims, people of color and poor people, has never been merely ‘mistakes’ or ‘violations of individual rights’ but rather are part and parcel of an integral and systematic racism that reflects the nature of the political system in the U.S.”

“Every time a crime is committed against Black people, it is explained away as an ‘isolated incident’ but when you see the GlobalIntimassive number of ‘isolated incidents’ the reality cannot be hidden – this is an ongoing policy that remains virulently racist and oppressive. The U.S. empire was built on the backs of Black slavery and the genocide of Black people – and upon settler colonialism and the genocide of indigenous people,” said Barakat. “The people of Ferguson are resisting, in a long tradition of Black resistance, and we support their legitimate resistance to racist oppression.”

“As people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab World see the brutality of the United States outside its borders, these communities confront its racist and colonial oppression within (more…)

Below are two important articles on the current state of the world economy.  In the first article, Michael Roberts suggests that recent data shows the weakness of the ‘recovery’ from the partial meltdown of the financial sector (itself a result of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in the productive sector).  Usually crisis indicates not only the sickness of the system but also acts as a cure, opening the way to a new round of accumulation; Michael notes that this does not seem to be much in evidence this time around.

The second article is by the French revolutionary workers organisation Lutte Ouvriere.  LO also note the weakness and fragility of the current ‘recovery’. 

The two articles should be read together.


The Myth of the Return to Normal


The latest economic data for the main capitalist economies is not encouraging for the optimists that the world economy is set to resume normal service.

Last week, we had the first estimate for US GDP for the period April to June (see my post, ). The US economy has been the better-performing top economy over the last few years. But even here, real GDP growth was just 2% yoy, well below the long-term average since 1946 of 3.3% a year.

US nominal GDPThe recovery has been weak.  In the five years after the Great Depression troughed in 1933, US nominal GDP (that’s before inflation is deducted) rose 52%. In the five years since the end of the Great Recession in mid-2009, US nominal GDP has risen only 18%.  The gap between US nominal GDP and where it would have been without the Great Recession remains wide – and even getting wider.

Indeed, US economic growth appears to be in secular decline. In the 1980s and 1990s, the US economy generated nearly 40 quarters where GDP was 4% or higher on an annualised quarter or quarter basis (not yoy). But there have been just seven of these “hypergrowth” quarters since 2000, if you include the last quarter. But that will be revised down when the huge rise in stockpiles of goods that were included in the 4% quarterly figure are reduced. So US real GDP growth was less than 2% yoy last quarter.  And yesterday, figures for American spending in shops came out and they were not pretty either. Retail sales were flat in July and the yoy rate slowed from 4.3% in June to 3.7% in July.

Things are far worse elsewhere. The data from the (more…)

We wouldn’t normally put up a video this long, however Michael Roberts’ presentation on Marxist crisis theory and the current state of the world economy is one of those occasions where we think it worth putting up the video and not just a link to it.  We frequently run material of Michael’s so for folks who read his stuff on Redline, here’s a lot of what he writes about presented in a very straightforward talk – and with illustrations!  The questions and comments from the audience are also very good, making some important points and allowing Michael to expand on key ideas.

Marx’s crisis theory doesn’t get dealt with much on the NZ left; many of our ‘Marxists’ don’t bother themsevles much with Marx’s most important works, most especially the three volumes of Capital, the Grundrisse and the three-part Theories of Surplus-Value, so we hope there will be a good amount of interest in the video below among NZ readers of ours in particular.

US bombing of Baghdad that preceded invasion; Western intervention destroyed Iraq, creating the present situation

US bombing of Baghdad that preceded invasion; Western intervention destroyed Iraq, creating the present situation

Iraq is facing a catastrophe. The country is now threatened with implosion. The offensive launched in western Iraq, in January, by the fundamentalist Islamic Sunni militia ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) took a new turn on 10 June, when it took over Mosul – the capital of Nineveh Province and Iraq’s second largest city, with 2 million inhabitants. Over the following days, ISIS pushed on further towards the capital, Baghdad and, by the end of June, its fighters were in control of a new Sunni territory straddling across the border between Syria and Iraq.

In front of this ruthless militia, the forces of the regular Iraqi army collapsed, thereby highlighting the fragility of the central state machinery inherited from the western occupation. The leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region seem to have decided to seize this opportunity to declare their independence from Baghdad.

Meanwhile, in the capital and in the southern part of the country, Shia militias are parading in the streets in full military gear, proclaiming their determination to oppose the ISIS advance. Not only is Iraq breaking up, but it may be engulfed in a war with unpredictable consequences for the stability of the whole region.

The imperialist leaders are now worried that this threat of destabilisation might endanger the profits of their companies. After having considered for a while resorting to air strikes, Obama alluded to possible concessions to Iran should its government undertake to do the dirty job of helping to restore order in the region. However Iran did not seem willing to co-operate. In the end, the US leaders confined themselves to sending a few hundred “military advisers” to Baghdad, officially to protect their diplomatic staff, but probably with some special forces as well.

In any case, if anyone is responsible for today’s unfolding catastrophe in Iraq, it has to be the imperialist powers and their endless manoeuvres aimed at reasserting their domination over this part of the world, in order, among other things, to shore up their control over its oil resources. After decades of meddling, the forces unleashed in the region by the imperialist powers – especially by the most powerful among them, US imperialism – are now escaping their control.

The ISIS offensive
For over a year, ISIS fighters have been attacking government forces in the western Al Anbar province, using suicide attacks, taking hostages and carrying out (more…)

Kirk's cabinet and the governor-general (sitting next to Kirk at the front)

Bitter enemies of the working class: Kirk’s cabinet and the governor-general (sitting next to Kirk at the front)

by Philip Ferguson

While pretty much everyone on the left views the fourth Labour government (1984-1990) as obviously anti-working class, illusions remain about most of the other Labour governments, especially the first and third. The Labour prime ministers of the third Labour government are often still seen in a very positive light compared with the National government that followed, led by Robert ‘Piggy’ Muldoon and the fourth Labour government which gave us ‘Rogernomics’. Norman Kirk, who swept into power in a massive victory in late 1972, after 12 years of conservative National government, is still viewed by Labour supporters of the time as Labour’s last “working class hero”, a nostalgia all the more poignant as Kirk died in office in 1974. Bill Rowling, who took over from Kirk, is seen as the gentlemanly politician who was overthrown in a coup by Roger Douglas’ wide boys, respectably fronted by David Lange.

Talk about Kirk usually revolves around his working class roots, how he left school at 14, how he built his own house, how he was largely self-educated, how he ended compulsory military training, provided support for ohu (rural hippy communes), stood up to the French over nuclear testing at Mururoa, and began to seriously address Maori land issues.

What is often lost is that both Kirk and Rowling were absolutely committed to the maintenance of capitalism and thus inevitably prepared to take whatever measures were necessary to protect it. Since the third Labour government coincided with the end of the long postwar boom and the onset of years of recessionary quagmire, their commitment to managing capitalism could only mean (more…)

The article below was written last year on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration by Joseph Massad, Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.  It appeared on the Al Jazeera site, here.

SONY DSCOslo Accords

In the wake of the 1973 War, the US had started an earlier version of the so-called “peace process”, one that fully adopted Vladimir Jabotinsky’s model. The US was represented by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kissinger’s plan, which would lead in a few years to Egypt’s capitulation at Camp David, was to eventually include the PLO in “peace” talks, whereby the organisation would only be invited after Egypt, Jordan, and Syria had recognised and accepted the irreversibility of the Jewish settler-colony. Kissinger declared: “We need first to get them [PLO] under control and bring them only at the end of the process.”

Recognising that talking to the PLO of the 1970s, which, even then, was willing to concede many of the rights of the Palestinian people, but was still not ready to fully resign itself to the irreversibility of Jewish colonisation, Kissinger added, “We cannot deliver the minimum demands of the PLO [at present] so why talk to them?” Kissinger explained that “recognition will come at the very end after the Arab governments have been satisfied.” While the US could not deliver the minimum to the PLO in the 1970s, Israel would be able to do so in the 1990s.

It was in this context that 20 years ago the PLO accepted to fully surrender to Israel and accept its colonisation of Palestine in what came to be known as the Oslo Accords. The abandonment of the anti-colonial struggle would be first formalised with the unofficial dissolution of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, especially the “Liberation” part of its name, and its re-emergence as the Palestinian National Authority (PA), an authority that no longer sought to liberate anything, much less offer any resistance to colonialism. Instead, the PA would offer its services to Israel by collaborating with its forces in suppressing (more…)