by Don Franks

After several days of rumors, Fonterra today confirmed a series of massive job cuts.

Apparently the company held meetings with all finance delivery staff on Wednesday to announce proposed layoffs. Previously, Fonterra refused requests for comment.

Fonterra workers entering a meeting in Hamilton were instructed not to speak to the media

Fonterra workers entering a meeting in Hamilton were instructed not to speak to the media

Fonterra forecast last month that the whole company would undergo a sweeping review in an effort to generate more cash for farmers facing a $4.40 per kilogram of milk solids payout this year, after a record $8.40 payout last year.  The CEO said at the time “hundreds” of jobs would go, with support services in the cross-hairs, while production and sales would see a boost.

No information on how many new jobs might be created has been released. Instead the firm put out a press release on Thursday saying it had begun “consulting staff on proposals to streamline its business structures”. The release also said the review was aimed at making sure Fonterra is ready to respond to a rapidly changing global environment.

“The world is changing and global dairy markets are increasingly volatile. To keep ahead of the game, we need to be more agile, reduce costs and generate value,” it said.

Accordingly, the firm was now developing “defined plans that will drive further improvement across the business, allow Fonterra to fund its growth strategy and deliver stronger results”.

“In other words, we’re kicking some of our workers out to make more profit for the bosses.”

No, of course Fonterra didn’t add that last bit, though it says exactly the same thing in fewer words. Like hourly-rated employees, plain English speaking is often a victim of capitalism.

In fact, capitalism denies any sort of speaking at all if it emanates from the wrong quarter. More than 100 Fonterra workers in Hamilton were called to a meeting at the Salvation Army Hall on Wednesday, which was one of many simultaneous meetings across the country. These workers were  given strict instructions on interaction with the media via internal email just prior to the meetings, including instructions to bring identity cards so they could be checked at the door.

What would you do if placed in these circumstances? 

All things being equal, my own first impulse would probably be to Read the rest of this entry »

Redline has received an eyewitness account from Greece. Here he talks about the referendum announced last Friday by the Greek government, and the latest “proposal” presented by the troika (The IMF, the European Union and the European Central Bank).

No

Campaigning for a No vote in the referendum

Keypoints

The extreme demands of the EU and IMF forced the Greek government to withdraw from the “negotiations” and call for a referendum.

Syriza’s call for a referendum is a “radical” political move; however the government is using the referendum as a negotiating tactic to strengthen its hand to reach “a mutually beneficial agreement.”

For instance, the Finance Minister Varoufakis, has said “there is still chance for presentation of a reformed proposal by the lenders,” which will subsequently change Syriza’s stance from NO to a YES. There is a real risk the referendum could be cancelled at the eleventh hour. Read the rest of this entry »

428b Youth & ageby Don Franks

Below are some reflections on a recent short trip to China, nearly forty years since my first visit.

That two-week tour was a stunning experience, but, for several reasons, I never thought I’d ever revisit the country.

In 1976 I was, as now, a Marxist-minded person; back then, a Marxist greatly impressed by the Chinese Communist Party. From an initial gathering of just twelve comrades, the CPC had, in very tough conditions, grown into a powerful force, remaining intact after huge repression and massacre of its members. After incredible effort, the party’s goals of sweeping away feudalism and foreign imperialism were finally realised and in 1949 the CPC united the country under its leadership.

The national democratic revolution carried out by the party did not follow the model of the previous Russian revolution. Many of the CPC’s working class members had been killed in struggles against imperialists and local reactionaries. The party which took power was a largely militant peasant force led by intellectuals. That composition was to influence the party and country’s future.

Chairman Mao had died a couple of months before our 1976 trip took place. Roughly half the local population was wearing a black arm band in mourning for the dead leader.

We visited several cities, factories, kindergartens, an army base, a hospital and a couple of neighborhood communities. At each site we went to there would be a sit-down for green tea, cigarettes and a ‘brief introduction’. That meant a talk of at least one hour about the history of the workplace we were visiting, its output and its attention to the current campaign of the Communist Party. We then had a question and answer session, followed by a meal.

The people we met were friendly, happy looking and very attentive to our our well-being. They spoke with enthusiasm about their goals and projects and showed much interest in overseas revolutionary movements. We sang old union songs with our interpreters while traveling along in the bus. It was a jolly time and most inspiring to be at what seemed to be the forefront of an international revolutionary movement of the working class.

Our hosts were fond of declaiming slogans. Some were specific to the then current campaign to criticise Lin Piao and Confucius, others were more general. Such as “the road is torturous, but the future is bright!” That one appealed to me, it still does.

Back in New Zealand after the 1976 trip I subscribed to the Peking Review and closely followed Chinese developments.

As the years rolled by it seemed that the fire of CPC’s revolutionary internationalism was dying down. With diminishing keenness, I still supported China as a compromised workers’ state. Then, in June 1989, came Tien an Min and everything changed. The Chinese Army murder of democracy protesters in the square where I’d once dreamily wandered came as an horrific shock. I renounced the Chinese Communist Party forever and took no part in any sort of politics for several years.

Then, a quarter of a century later, I fell into the company of some Wellington Chinese musicians. Playing a mixture of jazz and traditional folk music, their band included a pianist who was sometimes required elsewhere. I learned a little Chinese music and substituted occasionally for the piano player. After a while the thought came to me that maybe one day I’d be playing this music in China. And so it turned out to be.

One of my Chinese friends said he’d like me to play the piano at his wedding in Wuhan; if I was up for it he’d fly me over and put me up for ten days. On returning to New Zealand I posted seven short essays on Facebook, here is the concluding entry.

Return to the Middle Kingdom, coda.

This will be my last report from the People’s Republic. In just a few days, from a very sheltered, privileged position, it’s only possible to superficially glimpse a few facets of the vast conundrum that is modern-day China. It’s difficult to make sense of the few things you do see, because so much in China is writ so Read the rest of this entry »

220px-Richard_John_Seddon,_Vanity_Fair,_1902-04-17

Liberal premier and leading anti-Chinese crusader Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon

by Philip Ferguson

As Judith Bassett has noted, “The 1880s marked the end of the colonial era in New Zealand.”1 The 1890 election resulted in the Liberals coming to power and the advent of party politics and a new political regime. Although the Liberals were not yet a party in the sense we use the term today, they were a coherent political bloc united by a common set of beliefs, a new development in New Zealand politics. The single most important element of their politics, as David Hamer has noted, was nationalism.2 This, in turn, reflected the actual socio-economic and political development of New Zealand, from a series of separate settlements and communities into a coherent nation-state. People were beginning to see themselves as New Zealanders, rather than primarily Cantabrians, Aucklanders or some other parochial identity; now “(t)he policies of central government and the political conflicts in Wellington would shape the development of the whole country.”3

Nationalism was also a response to class differentiation and conflict as the depression years from the late 1870s suggested New Zealand was ceasing to be the ideal society envisaged not only by the architects and propagandists of settlement but also many ordinary citizens. Liberal political figures, for instance, were often relatively recent arrivals, people influenced by the propaganda of what the country was supposed to be like and thus Liberalism was partly a movement against the denial of this promise and partly an attempt to fulfil it.4 The Liberals were not anti-capitalist, but opposed the extremes of capitalism: monopoly, sweating, unfair practices and so on.

The people who became the Liberals had railed in opposition against the ‘Continuous Ministry’ for representing the rich and landed interests, contrasting these to the interests of ‘the people’.5 Liberalism meant, as Hamer notes, “the advancement of the general interests of the community and of all classes without distinction as against he privileges of an aristocratic ruling caste.”6 The enemy was clearly defined. Ballance, shortly before coming to power had spoken of “two great evils” in New Zealand, these being “the absentee evil and the monopoly evil”.7 Earnshaw, one of the ‘working-men’ among the Liberal MPs, attacked the “landed estates class” and the “banking institution class”8 and Seddon pointed to the “squattocracy”, “financial rings, financial institutions, and land-mortgaging and landowning associations”.9 These elements were considered to be working against the interests of the country.

Dissatisfaction had grown on the part of many workers, as the class structure appeared to become solidified. The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants attacked the “vast accumulations of wealth in the hands of the few, for the purpose of enslaving the many” and the treasurer of the new Maritime Council, which grouped together many of the unions, declared of the workers, “Let them remember they are brothers and sisters in one great battle, and work to assist one another.”10 There was a general feeling among sections of workers that things could dramatically change. Union membership rose from a mere 3000 in 1888 to 40,000 by mid-1890 and continued to rise in the months leading up to the great conflict of August-November.11 Workers “gathered together to protest, march and picket in larger numbers than had ever been seen in the colony.”12

The maritime dispute was a particularly sharp and bitter struggle between the rising Read the rest of this entry »

by Yassamine Mather

On June 19, 2015, the third anniversary of Julian Assange seeking asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, Wikileaks posted around 60,000 files, out of a possible 500,000, in what was described as a long-term, steady hacking of Saudi government material.1

The group credited with infiltrating Saudi government computers is the Yemen Cyber Army, whose first success was in April, when it hacked the website of London based Al-Hayatdaily, a paper owned by and associated with the Saudi government, “to support the Yemen revolution”. By late May the group was claiming on Press TV (an English-language station of Iran’s Islamic Republic) that it had “full control of over 3,000 computers of Saudi Arabia’s interior, defence and foreign ministries”.

There has been no independent verification of the authenticity of the documents released. However, there seems little doubt that they are genuine – they all carry the official green letterhead of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia or its ministry of foreign affairs, and they include a few from Saudi embassies worldwide. According to Arab veteran columnist Abdel Bari Atwan, it is very likely that former Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal was dismissed from his post in April because his ministry had been hacked.

Serious blow 

This is a serious blow to the secretive rulers of the reactionary kingdom, who claimed immediately that the documents were fake – although at the same time they warned Saudi citizens not to forward or publish any of them: foreign ministry spokesperson Osama Naqli declared that Saudis who distributed the documents would be prosecuted.

However, there are no major surprises in the documents released. They range from the sublime Read the rest of this entry »

downloadThe following article was originally published on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Arabic language website on May 18, 2014 and the movement’s English-language site a month later.  A year on, the core PLO leadership – essentially the leadership of Fatah – has gone even further in reducing its programme and demands and making concessions to the murderous Israeli state.

One of the interesting points in this article is that the PFLP puts the cause of Palestinian liberation ahead of any particular organisation/organisational form, such as the PLO, which is a coalition of the secular Palestinian organisations, the largest of which remains Fatah.  This is a good lesson for revolutionaries in the West: building a real movement of resistance rather than more sect-building or loyalty to any particular organisation rather than loyalty to the cause of emancipation.

Despite the massive pressures on it, and the scandalous lack of support for it by so much of the Western left, the PFLP continues to maintain the core principles of Palestinian liberation.  It’s all well and good to be involved in BDS, but anti-capitalists in the West need to be in active solidarity with the secular vanguard of the Palestinian cause too, the PFLP. 

by Khaled Barakat

“If we fail to defend our cause, then we should change the defenders, not the cause” – Ghassan Kanafani

khaled-barakat

Khaled Barakat

We all know that those who monopolize the Palestine Liberation Organization deal with this most important Palestinian institution, the PLO, as if it were a private farm of the “President,” Abu Mazen, and thus what is required is loyalty and obedience to him, the owner. This is a fact that cannot be denied. We do not say anything new when we note that the Palestinian arena is not an exception, nor is it far from the reality of the Arab regimes governed by the leader, the king or the prince, considering the king to embody the people and the nation, or from the logic of King Louis XIV, who declared in 1655, “L’etat, c’est moi!” [I am the state!]

Mimicking Louis XIV: the PLO leaders today

This is exactly the case of Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the substance of the relationship between him and the Palestinian political system, governed today by the logic of Louis XIV. The Palestine Liberation Organization is in a state of clinical death, transformed from the Organization for liberation and return, founded by refugees, impoverished people, the popular classes, revolutionaries and intellectuals, into an Organization to cover up its failures, the failures of official Arab regimes and to provide cover for the so-called “peace process” and negotiations with the occupation under US imperial auspices.

This was not the vision of the Fedayeen [the early Palestinian revolutionary fighters] when they re-established the Organization in 1968; it was intended to be a Read the rest of this entry »

republican-democrat-two-wings-the-same-corrupt-bird-republic-politics-1380958633The piece below is a radio commentary from April 15 by Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report, a class-oriented black liberation project in the United States.  While it’s about Hillary Clinton and the twin parties of US capital, the Democrats and Republicans, it’s highly relevant to NZ.  Labour and National essentially play the role of twin parties of NZ capital, although National is a lot more liberal socially than the Republicans.  The writer’s analysis of what the Democratic Party is – trap rather than big tent – is especially apposite. 

by Glen Ford

The Democratic Party has become a desert where nothing grows – except the One Percent’s hold on the party machinery. No need for primaries; Hillary Clinton’s rich contributors have already locked up the nomination. “Wall Street is determined that there will be no serious Democratic deviation from the corporate agenda set by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.”

“It is the triumph of filthy rich campaign contributors”

Hillary Clinton just announced that she’s running for president. However, this commentary is not really about her. It’s about a nation of more than 300 million people in which politics has become the sole property and domain of the rich. The rich decided some time ago that Hillary Clinton would be the virtually unchallenged presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. The 48 percent of Americans that express an affinity with the Democratic Party have not yet chosen Clinton. There has been no primary election in any state. But, that does not matter because the selection process that counts occurs in the boardrooms and mansions and private clubs and getaways of the Read the rest of this entry »