My trade union is engaged in a long term fight against Amazon for half-way tolerable pay and working conditions in its distribution centres in Germany.  Basic stuff like trade union representation or even a works council, reasonable breaks, being paid for the time spent while standing in line for security checks. Compliance with local labour law.  Some degree of respect for workers from the management. etc.

We are trying to extend this fight internationally and have had some initial success.

But it would help all those who are not uncritical admirers of totalitarian hyper-capitalism knew a thing or two about Amazon’s business strategy and role in the great cancer.  Matthew Stoller’s piece here has a good brief summary of just how and why this electronic trading monopolist has become so powerful.

Firstly, this isn’t an electronic retailer any more.  (Amazon CEO Jeff) Bezos’ ambitions are much wider – he is constructing a monopolist trading empire, something like a global East India Company. Amazon itself says that it competes in the following sectors:

physical-world retailers, publishers, vendors, distributors, manufacturers, and producers of our products, other online e-commerce and mobile e-commerce sites, including sites that sell or distribute digital content, media companies, web portals, comparison shopping websites, and web search engines, either directly or in collaboration with other retailers, companies that provide e-commerce services, including website development, fulfillment, customer service, and payment processing, companies that provide information storage or computing services or products, including infrastructure and other web services, companies that design, manufacture, market, or sell consumer electronics, telecommunication, and electronic devices.

Amazon is hardly taxed because all its profits are Read the rest of this entry »

Over the last six months an average of around 100 strikes and worker protests have been recorded every month in China – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

Over the last six months an average of around 100 strikes and worker protests have been recorded every month in China – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

by Han Dongfang

In early September, about 16,000 workers at two Chinese factories producing touch-screens for well-known brands such as Apple went on strike after management reneged on a promise to pay a US$100 holiday bonus.

The strikes were quickly resolved but still hit the headlines in the West because the bonus was supposed to include a box of moon cakes, a traditional gift during the Mid-Autumn Festival in China. The New York Post issued a dire warning to Apple fans, “No cake, no iPhone 6!”

The ‘moon cake strikes’ were further proof, if any were needed, that China’s workers are not afraid to take a stand and defend their legal rights and interests when they are threatened, no matter how trivial the dispute might seem to be about.

At China Labour Bulletin, over the last six months, we have recorded on average around 100 strikes and worker protests every month, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Although protests by factory workers tend to catch most of the international headlines, strikes in the manufacturing industry only account for around 40 per cent of all the strikes in China. Transport workers, teachers, construction workers, coal miners and those in the retail and service industries, are all willing and able to take industrial action if needed.

More often than not, worker protests in China follow the pattern of the Read the rest of this entry »

The article below is by Murtaza Hussain, a Toronto-based writer and analyst of Middle Eastern politics.  It appeared on the Al-Jazeera site last November and tells a moving story of the West’s double standards in relation to the Third World in general and the Arab and Islamic-Central Asian world in particular.  As the NZ government considers throwing in its lot with Washington in relation to ISIS in Syria, articles like this are important reminders of these double standards.

Nabila Rehman: seven of her siblings were wounded and her grandmother was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan

Nabila Rehman: seven of her siblings were wounded and her grandmother was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan

“Nabila, a slight girl of nine with striking hazel eyes, asked a simple question in her testimony: ‘What did my grandmother do wrong?'” writes Murtaza Hussain [Reuters].

On October 24, 2012 a Predator drone flying over North Waziristan came upon eight-year-old Nabila Rehman, her siblings, and their grandmother as they worked in a field beside their village home. Her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was teaching the children how to pick okra as the family prepared for the coming Eid holiday. However on this day the terrible event would occur that would forever alter the course of this family’s life. In the sky the children suddenly heard the distinctive buzzing sound emitted by the CIA-operated drones – a familiar sound to those in the rural Pakistani villages which are stalked by them 24 hours a day – followed by two loud clicks. The unmanned aircraft released its deadly payload onto the Rehman family, and in an instant the lives of these children were transformed into a nightmare of pain, confusion and terror. Seven children were wounded, and Nabila’s grandmother was killed before her eyes, an act for which no apology, explanation or justification has ever been given.

This past week Nabila, her schoolteacher father, and her 12-year-old brother traveled to Washington DC to tell their story and to seek answers about the events of that day. However, despite overcoming incredible obstacles in order to travel from their remote village to the United States, Nabila and her family were roundly ignored. At the congressional hearing where they gave testimony, only five out of 430 representatives showed up. In the words of Nabila’s father to those few who did attend: Read the rest of this entry »

Apexby Michael Roberts

This time last year, I outlined the results of the Global Wealth report published by Credit Suisse Bank (see my post, http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/global-wealth-inequality-10-own-86-1-own-41-half-own-just-1/). Compiled by Tony Shorrocks and Jim Davies, formerly at the UN, the report last year showed that the top 1% owned 41% of all the personal wealth in the world; the top 10% owned 86% and the bottom 50% of owned less than 1% of all the wealth. This staggering level of inequality certainly attracted interest and my post on this was the most popularly viewed one on my blog ever.

Now Credit Suisse have published its 2014 report (cs_global_wealth_report_2014_vF) compiled by the same academics. According to the latest calculations, global wealth inequality has got even worse. Taken together, the bottom half of the global population still own less than 1% of total wealth. And the richest 10% still own more or less the same, now 87%. But the top 1% now own 48% of all global personal wealth! If you like a soundbite: the top 1% of adults in the world own nearly half of all personal wealth. There seems to be no stopping the growing inequality of Read the rest of this entry »

Cops in the six counties (‘Northern Ireland’) block activists from the revolutionary movement éirígí in Newry.

Below we’re running an article by the Irish revolutionary-socialist group Socialist Democracy.  While parts of it deal with the particularity of the cops in the two statelets on the island of Ireland, it also makes wider points about the role of the cops, applicable in all capitalist societies, including here in New Zealand.  We’ve very slightly edited it and provided an explanation of several terms to make it more accessible to non-Irish readers.

The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker – Leon Trotsky. 

It is not surprising, given the constant stream of propaganda that daily reinforces bourgeois ideology, that some workers should become convinced that the police are somehow above the demands of the class struggle. Revolutionaries see the police and army as the repressive organs of the state but reformists see the police as simply a group of ‘workers in uniform’, that will be driven by objective economic contradictions towards ‘revolutionary’ change. All that is required is to maintain ‘comradely’ relations with the rank and file of the state forces. Engels, Marx, Lenin and Trotsky were under no such illusions. 

For Engels there was no ambivalence about the role of the police and the state, particularly in Read the rest of this entry »

Jorge Medina, Sandro Salazar and René Córdoba with Wendy at Donnelleyby Wendy Z. Goldman

In late September, I was invited to Buenos Aires to speak about the recent Spanish translation of a book on the Bolshevik vision of women’s liberation that I first published in 1993, Women, the State, and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936.  The book, translated and published by Pan y Rosas (Bread and Roses), a socialist women’s organization, received a new life when it was published in Spanish in Argentina, and then in Portuguese by Boitempo in Brazil.  Workers and students embraced the ideas that the Bolsheviks had put into practice almost a century ago.

indexIn Buenos Aires, I spoke to a crowded auditorium of 700 workers, students, and faculty.  Workers came from the Lear plant, from the transportation sector, and from other factories.   One of the most moving comments was made by an older domestic worker who came up to the stage.  She explained that she spent her entire life cleaning the houses of wealthy people.  “The Bolsheviks talked about the socialization of household labor,” she said.  “Today, only women do this work.  And if a woman is wealthy enough, she pays another women like me to do it.”  One of the members of Pan y Rosas later told me that some of the women workers in the audience cried when they heard about the early socialist vision for transforming daily life and human relationships.

As part of my visit, Celeste Murillo and Andrea D’Atri, two committed members of Pan y Rosas and Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (Party of Socialist Workers), took me to the Donnelley printing factory, which had recently been taken over by workers.  For me, the factory immediately conjured images of the early soviets in Russia in 1917.  Russian workers, like their latter day comrades in Argentina, had also been propelled into Read the rest of this entry »

Key at the Big Day Out: the Nats are no longer the party of whisky-soaked, racist homophobes

Key at the Big Gay Out: the Nats are no longer the party of old, whisky-soaked, racist homophobes

by Philip Ferguson

Throughout the past six years, those of us involved in Redline (and, before that, in the Workers Party/Anti-Capitalist Alliance) have consistently noted that the Key-English government is not a neo-liberal regime.  They are not, and never intended to be, pursuing some ‘secret agenda’ of imposing a full-on ne0-liberal economic programme on New Zealand, finishing off the work of Douglas and Richardson, as much of the left claimed throughout that time.

Our insistence on an actual analysis of the policies of the government and situating those policies as responding to the actual needs of New Zealand capital didn’t make us especially popular.  Indeed, some folks on the left seemed positively annoyed that we wouldn’t join in their consensus on Key, no matter how daft their, essentially, emotional non-analysis was – and how weird it appeared to the person in the street.

The thumping victory of National in the September elections, a victory which was signaled well in advance in the polls where National was recording twice the support of Labour, has led to some reconsideration among some of the leftists who once demonised the Key-English government.  Among some a more sober and rational analysis has appeared.

The first to break ranks was Read the rest of this entry »