Rosa Luxemburg, rallying workers for struggle

by Don Franks

In a February 13th interview in The Listener, Public Service Association national secretary Erin Polaczuk makes a valid point: by going on strike, workers may get hurt.

“I remember some strikes. . . and dad losing his job. In the ’90s he was made redundant and survived on his redundancy pay. It terrifies me to think that some people don’t have that backup, so have no way of feeding their families if they lose their jobs. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way things were. Maybe we are in the mature era and the feminisation of the union movement has changed things. We are not guys coming in and having a punch up any more.”

In New Zealand industrial punch ups have sometimes got quite heated, but not to the extent of some overseas confrontations. For example: “During the night two delegates of the railwaymen were arrested. The strikers immediately demanded their release, and as this was not conceded, they decided not to allow trains leave the town. At the station all the strikers with their wives and families sat down on the railway track-a sea of human beings. They were threatened with rifle salvoes. The workers Read the rest of this entry »

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Rio Turbio miners

by Nicolás Daneri (Feb 20, 2018)

In the recent midterm elections in Argentina, the right-wing Cambiemos party of President Mauricio Macri was able to secure the largest share of votes. As a result, the elections were widely interpreted as political support for his austerity program. However, shortly thereafter, his government saw a rapid dwindling in popular support when it passed a major pension reform. The proposed law was met by a major resistance movement this past December. Although it succeeded in passing the pension reform, the government paid a high price for its offensive and had to retreat from its initial plan to pass a labor reform law as well.

20,000 attended election rally of the Left & Workers Front in Nov 2016

During the summer months, when there’s generally very little political activity in Argentina, the government continued to lay off workers in the public sector, and unemployment rose in the private sector as well. This summer though, in almost every industry, workers fought back with strikes, roadblocks, and marches, in stark contrast to the previous year in which the majority of the layoffs were carried out without a fightback from workers. Some of the most important struggles this summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere) include the miners’ strike of Rio Turbio and the strike by workers of the Posadas Hospital. These actions point to a growing political unrest among the working class

Because the government wasn’t able to push through a Read the rest of this entry »

This article was written three-and-a-half years ago, and we may have been a bit tardy in reblogging it here.  However, since the bitcoin phenomenon is still about and many people who have heard the term may not know what it is, how it works and how on earth some people have made a lot of money from it, we’re running the article at long last.

by Tony Norfield (June 2014)

I first paid little attention to Bitcoin, thinking that there are probably more Elvis Presley impersonators than there are people in the world who have traded or owned it. But seeing that central banks have issued policy statements on Bitcoin, that the FBI has ‘seized’ Bitcoin assets used by drug dealers and that tax authorities have given guidance on capital gains liabilities, while financiers are planning to offer exchange traded funds denominated in Bitcoin, I decided to take a second look. This article gives my assessment of this digital, alternative ‘currency’.*

Bitcoin emerged from the rubble of the Read the rest of this entry »

As part of commemorating 1968, “The Year of Revolutions”, we are running the piece below.  It is the text of a talk given by Ernest Mandel, plus excerpts from the discussion, at the International Assembly of Revolutionary Student Movements, which was sponsored by the Columbia University Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the major radical youth movement in the USA in the 1960s.  Mandels’s talk took place on Saturday evening, September 21st at the Education Auditorium of New York University. More than 600 people packed the auditorium and the question and answer period extended for several hours.

The introduction to the pamphlet based on the talk notes, “Mandel’s speech was a powerful polemic against the tendencies of pure ‘activism’ and ‘spontaneism’ which have recently sprung up among some radicals in the West. He argued in defense of the Marxist conception of the indispensable integration of theory and practice. During the question period, Mandel gave extended replies to a number of controversial questions in radical circles today. Among them were the socio-economic nature of the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution in China, the necessity for a Leninist party, and moral vs. material incentives in the construction of socialism.

A Belgian, Ernest Mandel took part in the resistance movement there during the Nazi occupation in World War 2.  He became a leader of the Fourth International after the war and an important Marxist theorist and educator.  He wrote widely on political struggles of the 1960s and was popular with radicalising students in many countries.  Mandel was the author of Marxist Economic Theory,  and a number of other important texts, including An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory.  His The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx traced the main discoveries of Marx from his first economic investigations in 1843 to the publication of Capital. Mandel’s work was translated into a range of languages from English to Arabic.

by Ernest Mandel

Rudi Dutschke, the leader of the Berlin students, and many of the other representative student figures in Europe, have advanced as the central idea of their activity the concept of the unity of theory and action, of revolutionary theory and revolutionary action. This is not an arbitrary choice. The unity of theory and action can be considered the most important lesson of historical experience drawn from past revolutions in Europe, America and other parts of the world.

The historical tradition which embodies that idea goes from Babeuf through Hegel to Marx. This ideological conquest means that the great liberation movement of mankind must be directed by a conscious effort to reconstruct society, to overcome a situation in which man is dominated by the blind forces of market economy and starts to take his destiny in his own hands. This conscious action of emancipation cannot be carried on effectively, and certainly not carried through, unless man is aware of the social environment in which he is living, of the social forces he has to confront and the general social and economic conditions of this liberation movement.

Just as the unity of theory and action is an essential guide for any emancipation movement today, so Marxism teaches that revolution, conscious revolution, can only be successful if man first understands the nature of society in which he is living, if he understands the motive forces behind social and economic development in that society. In other words, unless he understands the forces that command social evolution, he will not be able to change that evolution into revolution. That is the main conception that Marxist consciousness has been introducing into the revolutionary student movement in Europe.

We will try to show that these two concepts, unity of theory and action, and a Marxist understanding of the objective conditions of society, which existed for a long time before the student movement in Europe was born, were rediscovered and reintegrated in practical struggle by the European student movement as a result of its own experiences.

The student movement starts everywhere – and it is no different in the United States – as a revolt against the Read the rest of this entry »

Our 1968 coverage continues although, strictly speaking, this is October 1967. . .

Che was executed without trial in Bolivia on October 9, 1967.  The Cuban leadership declared 1968 “The Year of the Heroic Guerrilla” and supported revolutionary movements throughout Latin America in particular.  Che’s reputation, already very high among newly-radicalising young people around the world, grew significantly in 1968.

Below is the speech about Che delivered on October 18, 1967 by Fidel Castro to a rally of several hundred thousand people in Havana.

I first met Che one day in July or August 1955. And in one night — as he recalls in his account — he became one of the future Granma expeditionaries, although at that time the expedition possessed neither ship, nor arms, nor troops. That was how, together with Raúl, Che became one of the first two on the Granma list. 

Twelve years have passed since then; they have been 12 years filled with struggle and historical significance. During this time death has cut down many brave and invaluable lives. But at the same time, throughout those years of our revolution, extraordinary persons have arisen, forged from among the people of the revolution, and between them, bonds of affection and friendship have emerged that surpass all possible description. 

Tonight we are meeting to try to express, in some degree, our feelings toward one who was among the closest, among the most admired, among the most beloved, and, without a doubt, the most extraordinary of our revolutionary comrades. We are here to express our feelings for him and for the heroes who have fought with him and fallen with him, his internationalist army that has been writing a glorious and indelible page of history.

Che was one of those people who was liked immediately, for his simplicity, his character, his naturalness, his comradely attitude, his personality, his originality, even when one had not yet learned of his other characteristics and unique virtues.

In those first days he was our troop doctor, and so the bonds of friendship and warm feelings for him were ever increasing. He was filled with a profound spirit of hatred and contempt for imperialism, not only because his political education was already considerably developed, but also because, shortly before, he had had the opportunity of witnessing the criminal imperialist intervention in Guatemala through the mercenaries who aborted the revolution in that country.

A person like Che did not require elaborate arguments. It was sufficient for him to know Cuba was in a similar situation and that there were people determined to struggle against that situation, arms in hand. It was sufficient for him to know that those people were inspired by genuinely revolutionary and patriotic ideals. That was more than enough.

One day, at the end of November 1956, he set out on the expedition toward  Read the rest of this entry »

This year is the 50th anniversary of “the year of revolutions” – 1968.

One of the things that marked 1968 was that massive revolutionary upsurges took place in the Third, Second and First Worlds.

The Tet Offensive in (Third World) Vietnam, which began at the end of January, shook US imperialism to the core and made it clear that the western imperialists, including NZ, could never win in their massive armed intervention there.

In May-June the students and workers of (First World) France shook the French ruling class to their core, with the biggest general strike in history (in terms of percentage of the population involved), along with workplace and university occupations.

In (Second World) Czechoslovakia, the masses demanded socialist democracy against the privileged elite running the country and pretending to be communists.  It took the tanks of the Soviet Union and its minion states to crush the ‘Prague Spring’.

In Yugoslavia there were significant student protests against the privileges of the bureaucracy – the “red bourgeoisie” – and the concept of the Red University was born.

All over the world – from the examples above to the civil rights movement in the north-east of Ireland to the most significant trade union action in NZ since the defeat of 1951 to guerrilla movements in Latin America to the strike by women workers at Fords Dagenham in Britain for equal pay – massive numbers of people, especially young people, were in motion.

In the United States, a poll taken by Time magazine showed that among young people the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara was more popular than any of the candidates in that year’s presidential election.

At the Olympics, two black American athletes on the podium gave Black Power clenched fist salutes, and were supported by the white Australian athlete who shared the platform with them.

For some examples of the radicalism of 1968, see the following:

This article on Vietnam includes the Tet Offensive and this one is about the My Lai massacre and the horrendous nature of the imperialist war on Vietnam

This article covers the strike by women workers at Ford Dagenham

This is an appreciation of Che Guevara

This article covers the momentous ‘evenements’ in France in May-June

This article covers the student rebellion in Mexico and this one covers the 1968 Olympics

This article looks at NZ at that time

This article deals specifically with the protest over the nil wage order at parliament in Wellington in June 1968

The start of this interview contains material on the civil rights movement in Ireland in 1968

Future articles will look at the upsurges in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, as well as more parts of the world, in 1968.

by Tony Norfield

Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest people in the world. He is also Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire Hathaway, a huge US investment conglomerate. Looking at Berkshire’s investment policy reveals some important features of the economics of imperialism today and the role of money capitalists. Buffett’s public image as a kindly old gentleman – the Sage of Omaha – who favours increasing taxes on the rich and donates to charitable causes, does not sit well with evidence that he is a predatorygouger of profit. But these are the times in which we live.[1]

Berkshire’s nondescript name belies the fact that it is the Read the rest of this entry »