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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 Read the rest of this entry »

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's new headquarters occupies 900,000-square-feet and cost $(US)500 million

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s new headquarters occupies 900,000-square-feet and cost $(US)500 million

by Sandhya Srinivasan

“There is no better place to have an impact than India.” – Bill Gates1

How much money does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) spend in India?

urban-poverty-in-india-1

According to World Bank figures, 68% of India’s population live on less than $US2 a day

BMGF has a substantial presence in India, directly funding projects totaling at least $1 billion from 2003, when it entered, to 2012.2 Apparently, this does not include funds given to international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that run projects in India. (For example, BMGF has donated a total of almost $1 billion to a single international NGO, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), to conduct and fund various projects; indeed PATH has been described as an agent of the foundation more than a grantee.3 PATH in turn runs projects in India.) In India, BMGF’s activities are largely in the fields of health and nutrition, where it co-funds government programmes, non-governmental organisations’ activities and pharmaceutical companies’ ventures here.

However, BMGF’s funds are small compared to India’s public health expenditure. The latter was $18.3 billion in 2010-11 alone.4 Thus BMGF’s funds as such cannot make a major contribution to meeting the health needs of India. Rather, if BMGF funds were withdrawn or declined, even a small (in percentage terms) increase in allocations by the Central and state governments would more than compensate for the loss.

What are BMGF’s objectives?

Key elements of the BMGF strategy5 – as described on the Foundation website – are as follows:

(i) using partnerships to leverage public and private resources to influence policy;
(ii) using State projects as ‘incubators of innovation’; and
(iii) underscoring the role of technology.

The BMGF strategy (as described on a website page that has since been changed but is available as an archived6 page) says:

“The foundation does not invest in delivering health or education services. Instead, we identify ways to leverage systems and innovate so these services achieve better outcomes for people.
All strategies leverage our partnerships to achieve impact…
All strategies underscore the role of technology.” (emphasis added)

In other words, BMGF’s objective is to influence Government policy. The foundation’s Read the rest of this entry »

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 Read the rest of this entry »

ayatollah-ali-khamenei_art_full

Ali Khamenei: anti-imperialist, nationalist, Islamist

by Yassamine Mather

The sharp improvement in the relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic (and subsequently between the United Kingdom and Iran) has been remarkable – Washington is seriously considering military cooperation with Iran over the civil war in Iraq.

Above all else, this is a reflection of the absence of any strategy by the western powers. All they are pursuing in the Middle East is short-term aims – a situation that goes beyond the politics of the current holders of power in Washington and London. Indeed there is unanimity regarding current tactics between Democrats and Republicans, as well as between Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats.

In 2003, at the time of the invasion of Iraq, the US claimed it would build democracy on the ruins of the Ba’athist regime – we were told that market forces would create the conditions for democracy. No other solution could be contemplated: the entire infrastructure, economic and political, together with the social fabric of the Ba’athist state, had to be destroyed to allow this new system to flourish. During subsequent years both Republican and Democrat politicians have proposed similar solutions for Syria and Iran.

Yet, more than a decade after the invasion of Iraq, we are witnessing a complete U-turn: a softening of attitudes towards Iran, an acceptance of Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship in Syria. Has anything changed in Iran or indeed in Syria to warrant this change of heart? The answer is clearly no. What has changed are immediate geopolitical priorities – the elevation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) to the position of the main enemy and the US need to ally with anyone as long as they oppose this group of jihadists.

Political commentators used to mock Kurdish organisations in Iranand Iraq for their shallow politics, for aligning themselves with the enemy of their enemy, irrespective of the consequence of such politics. Throughout the last five decades Iraqi Kurds have relied on Iranian support for fighting successive Iraqi governments and Iranian Kurds had, until the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, relied on financial and logistic support from the government in Baghdad. Yet today we seem to be witnessing a superpower, the United States, following the same type of politics in the region.

A lot has been written about Isis and its religious ideas – the forced wearing of the hijab, the attacks on Christian communities in Syria, the banning of alcohol. Of course, in opposition all Islamic groups, Sunni and Shia, are puritanical, following the rules of amr bil maroof and nahi anil munkar (‘guidance for good’ and ‘forbidding evil’). It is when they come to power, as they did in Iran more than 35 years ago, that the population finds out they can be as corrupt and hypocritical as the secular states they replace. So, as Isis brands Shia Muslims ‘apostates’ who have brought Islam into disrepute, it is worth examining the position of religion in Iran – America’s Read the rest of this entry »

US imperialismby Don Franks

Press release from Mana party leader Hone Harawira  25/2014:

“When John Key says ‘New Zealand fully supports the current steps announced by President Obama (in Iraq) 100%’ he is one step away from committing our troops simply to get a good trade deal with the USA,” said Mana Leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau, Hone Harawira “and that should worry all New Zealanders.”

“It’s the same deal that Prime Minister Holyoake was forced to agree to by President Johnson back in the 60’s” said Harawira “when the USA told us that if we didn’t send troops to Vietnam, they wouldn’t buy our butter.”

“And all we got out of that was dead soldiers flown home in body bags, troops being abused for fighting a dirty war, and the lingering death we now know as Agent Orange.”

“The ugly thing about the current crisis is that America isn’t actually sending troops to Iraq to defend democracy. They have openly stated that they will deploy troops to defend their embassy, their assets, and the deals they struck for oil.”

“So we’d be sending NZ soldiers to defend American interests, not Iraqi people.”

“We’d be better off standing with the independent nations of the world in condemning human rights abuses in Iraq and supporting efforts to reduce violence in that area of the world” said Harawira “and spending our money on feeding thousands of hungry kids here rather than on an American crusade which has already killed thousands of Iraqi kids over there.”

It’s  not often that a New Zealand parliamentarian makes a statement opposing New Zealand troops defending US imperialism.  That being so, itg feels churlish to criticise such a statement, but that needs doing.  In several places, Hone’s statement is factually wrong.

“Committing our troops simply to get a good trade deal with the USA” is not a thing that will or can ever Read the rest of this entry »

indexby Michael Roberts

I was at the London conference of Rethinking Economics over the weekend. Rethinking Economics is an international network of economics students calling for changes in the curriculum of university departments and in the economics discipline in general (http://www.rethinkeconomics.org/). It was formed in 2012 in disgust at the failures of mainstream economics after the Great Recession and against the unwillingness of university economics departments to allow alternative courses or even pluralist critiques of the prevailing neoclassical mainstream. It is financed by George Soros’ Institute for New Economic Thinking among others.

The London conference drew a range of academics and other speakers, first, to explain why mainstream economics is unchanged, despite its failure to forecast, explain or even accept the failure of modern market economies in the light of the Great Recession. Second, the conference had speakers to discuss different strands of alternative or heterodox economics.

The conference theme of ‘alternative economics’ was dominated by the Keynesian view. In my view, Keynesian economics is mainstream, even if it is not dominant. By that I mean that Keynesians accept the existing mode of production, capitalism, as eternal and the only one possible. They differ from the neoclassical school in recognising that there are Read the rest of this entry »

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 Read the rest of this entry »