by Michael Roberts

imagesLeftist journalist and broadcaster, Paul Mason, has a new book out at the end of this month. It’s called Postcapitalism.  I don’t have a copy but Mason has written a long article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, outlining his main arguments, http://gu.com/p/4ay9c

Mason has been a doughty publiciser of labour struggles in his journalism and also offered on occasions a more theoretical and strategic analysis of where capitalism and labour is going.  I think this book is an attempt to sum up his views.  As Mason has some influence among labour activists in Britain and internationally, it’s worth considering what he has to say.

Mason argues that capitalism is set to be replaced by ‘postcapitalism’ (not ‘socialism’, it seems). And this is for three reasons. First, there is an information revolution which is creating a society of abundance in information, making a virtually costless and labour saving economy. Second, this information revolution cannot be captured by the capitalist market and the big monopolies. And third, already the ‘post-capitalist’ mode of production, based on free ownership and cooperation in information, is emerging from within capitalism, just as capitalism emerged from within feudalism.  Is Mason right? Does he make sense?

Paul Mason: doughty publiciser of labour struggles

Paul Mason: doughty publiciser of labour struggles

Problems

Well, I have a lot of issues with what Mason argues and concludes.  He starts his article of explanation pessimistically by suggesting that neoliberalism has more or less triumphed in its aims for capitalism leaving ‘old labour’ methods and ideas in disarray: “over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did.”

The first question that springs to mind here is: Read the rest of this entry »

by Don Franks

Apart from a few one-off nights after political demonstrations, I only spent one period in prison.

prisonSome years back, a friend of mine said she was down to run a creative writing course in Linton and wanted to add a song-writing component. Could I help?

I knew little about songwriting and less about teaching but my friend was insistent.

“The main thing about writing a song is making one line. Start there and you’ll get some sort of result.”

When you think about song titles and hook lines, that’s pretty useful advice. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daphna Whitmore

The latest political poll shows Labour has not gained support through its campaign against people with Chinese-sounding names buying houses in Auckland. Tapping into prejudice and nationalism has been a proven poll booster in the past, but not this time. Their scaremongering about a ‘tsunami of Chinese investment’ has been condemned by a broad range of people who have called them out for playing a dirty race card.

Labour may have felt encouraged at the initial outpouring of xenophobic ranting supporting them. They probably thought they were being politically savvy and had their finger on the pulse. They were saying what ‘everyone knew’ according to Labour’s housing spokesperson, Phil Twyford. Instead, Labour has been shown to be unprincipled and stupid. Almost 1 in 4 people living in Auckland identified with one or more Asian ethnicities in the 2013 census. Just how will Labour relate to these people from here on?

They have alienated thousands of voters. skykiwiSkykiwi.com, the most visited Chinese online community in New Zealand, had forums seething with anger at Labour over its scapegoating of Chinese. They say they will not be voting Labour and are getting that message out. The website attracts over 60,000 daily visits, generates over 700,000 daily page views and has 160,000 registered members. Now there’s a tsunami of anti-Labour voters! Read the rest of this entry »

Labour’s latest scapegoating of Chinese people – or people with “Chinese surnames” – is a reminder of the hostility of the early Labour Party for the Chinese and their full-on support for the ‘White New Zealand’ policy.  For instance, immediately following WW1, Labour competed with the Liberal and Reform parties to see who could be most gung-ho for the ‘White New Zealand’ policy and most anti-Chinese (it was a draw!).

The White New Zealand policy is one of the dirty secrets of NZ history and its role in that policy is one of the dirty secrets of the Labour Party.  For instance, when Helen Clark apologised for the treatment of the Chinese in New Zealand, she left out any mention of her own party’s role.

Come along to this public talk, which focuses on the period immediately following the First World War.  The talk deals with the main political parties and civil society organisations promoting anti-Chinese discrimination, including the NZ Labour Party.

Speaker: Dr Philip Ferguson

(Phil’s PhD was on the White New Zealand policy; he subsequently taught at Canterbury University for ten years)

2pm, Saturday, August 1
Otago Room
Clubs and Societies building
84 Albany Street

by Don Franks 

The NZ Labour party has set down self described “non-negotiable”conditions for signing the TPPA.

Leader Andrew Little said his party supported free trade but would not back the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) unless five “non-negotiable bottom lines” were met.

They are:

  • Drug-buying agency Pharmac must be protected.
  • Corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest.

  • New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers.

  • The Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld.

  • Meaningful gains are made for farmers in tariff reductions and market access.

To recap – The TPPA is a proposed regional free trade deal between 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Negotiations began in 2005 and were supposed to be concluded in 2012, but some issues have been so contentious that agreement has not yet been reached.tppcountries

Countries involved in the negotiations are New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, United States, Vietnam, Mexico and Canada.

Labour’s latest conditions are designed to placate voters worried about the outcome of the TPPA.  Described as “non-negotiable”, they are certainly extremely flexible. Read the rest of this entry »

by Don Franks
Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson

The nineteenth century search for gold always fascinated me when I was a kid. Gold fever and gold rushes were something we had in New Zealand history too, something we shared with America’s magical old west. 

I pointlessly sluiced in Butterfly creek with an old frying pan and dreamed of shanty towns. Around that time I discovered bush ballads, poems in word easily understood, poems written about exciting actions, like gold prospecting.  Henry Lawson’s rhythms pleased me, until the day his wagon went off the road, via the Cambaroora Star.

The Cambaroora Star is for those sentimental about small newspapers. The operator sets up his press on the gold field, advocates for the miners, struggles to make a living and eventually goes the way of all little battlers. Lawson’s poem chugs along nicely until the reader is asked to stomach verses nine and ten:

Diggers then had little mercy for the loafer and the scamp —
If there wasn’t law and order, there was justice in the camp;
And the manly independence that is found where diggers are
Had a sentinel to guard it in the Camboora Star.
There was strife about the Chinamen, who Read the rest of this entry »
The Labourites are tapping into a long tradition of anti-Chinese racism in western colonial-settler societies

The Labourites are tapping into a long tradition of anti-Chinese racism in western colonial-settler societies, including that of the early Labour Party here

by Philip Ferguson

Labour’s attempt to scapegoat people with “Chinese surnames” for the shortage of “affordable” house properties in Auckland is blatantly racist.  

Firstly, they’re not targeting people with “English surnames” or “Welsh surnames” or “pakeha surnames”.  They’re targeting Chinese surnames.  Racist!

Secondly, when have Little, Twyford et al attacked white/New Zealand capitalists?  They don’t.  So the part of the term “Chinese capitalists” which is relevant is the word “Chinese” not “capitalist”.  That’s not  anti-capitalism, that’s racism!

Moreover, how likely are the Chinese super-rich to buy rental properties in Auckland anyway?  About as likely as Donald Trump or Gina Rhinehart or Eric Watson.  If you’re super-rich and interested in property, you build tower blocks, you own mines, you own big factories or massive retail chains.  You don’t piddle about buying a few rental properties in Auckland.

Classic racist scapegoating

Labour’s campaign is classic racist scapegoating.  And it’s part of a tradition.  A hundred years ago the Labourites waged racist campaigns against impoverished Chinese workers; today they wage racist campaigns against people with “Chinese surnames” who buy a few rental properties in Auckland.  The common theme is that if you’re “Chinese” – defined as such by the Labourites because you have a “Chinese surname”! – you just can’t win.  Poor Chinese worker or middle class with a “Chinese surname” and owning more than one house in Auckland, Labour doesn’t like you and will scapegoat you.  That’s racism.

On the positive side, however, are several things.  Firstly, a tiny and fairly poor community of Chinese in New Zealand targeted by Labour a hundred years ago found it extremely hard to fight back.  Today, that community is much larger, has a much wider network of friends and allies, and the confidence to fight back.  They are capable of doing damage to Labour and putting a stain on the Labour Party and its hacks that won’t be washed off.

Secondly, as tiny as it is, the far left left in New Zealand, thanks mainly to modern technology, can mount some serious resistance to the racist Labourites and their enablers and apologists.  We can put a much-deserved stain on Labour that Read the rest of this entry »