download-1At midday today National Party leader and prime minister John Key announced that he is resigning from both positions, effective next Monday (December 12) and that he will be leaving parliament before the 2017 election.

We’ll have more to say about the resignation over the next few days, but below are links to some articles we’ve run about Key.

Our analysis has stood up remarkably well.  We pointed out from day one that Key was not a new righter or neoliberal in terms of economic policy and that the majority of the left who kept pretending he was were simply making themselves look foolish.  The last thing the capitalist class in NZ needed, we noted, was a new round of ‘Rogernomics’ and ‘Ruthanasia’.  Key was a middle-of-the-road capitalist manager.  In fact, it should hardly be surprising that, on a number of core issues, he has been to the left of Labour.

He has been to the left of Labour on the retirement age and on social welfare benefits, to mention just two examples.  Plus he’s less racist against Asians than Labour.

One possible consequence of his departure will be that the Nats who follow will ally with Labour in a bipartisan move to make workers work more years and create more surplus-value for the capitalist class whose interests both Labour and National serve.

Labour will certainly be delighted with today’s announcement.  The departure of the popular Key just might open things up a bit and give a boost to them and their plans for fresh attacks on the working class once they get back in power.

Anyway, check out the articles below:

The Key-English government in the context of capital accumulation  (parts written in 2008 and 2009)

Key’s ‘vision’: managing the malaise of NZ capitalism

Key’s government not neoliberal, admits Unite union leader

imagesby Phil Duncan

Whatever way the Mt Roskill by-election went, Labour was always going to spin it.  Of course, it would have been more interesting – and amusing – to see how they would have spun it had Labour lost.  Since the seat, and its predecessor constituencies, were historically safe Labour seats a loss wasn’t likely.  However, the trend in this seat has been for a steady drift of the party vote to National and while Labour veteran Phil Goff won it in 2014 with an 8,000 majority, the party vote actually went to National by about 2,000.

This time around Labour are crowing that they won by 6,500 and took 67% of the vote, as opposed to 55% of the vote taken by Goff two years ago.  But this is a crock.

The most salient points about the by-election are that the turnout was not simply down, as you might expect in a by-election, but especially dramatically down; that Woods, despite being given a free run by NZ First and the Greens, took about 7,000 fewer votes than Goff did just two years ago; and that, since National had no need to win, most National voters didn’t bother to vote.  There was no sign of any drift of votes from National to Labour.

What explains Woods’ 6,500 majority is that Read the rest of this entry »

Redline has run articles with different perspectives on Syria – from those who emphasise imperialist involvement to those that emphasise the awfulness of the Assad regime and the need to solidarise with its victims and those fighting it.  Below is the third perspective, presented by one of our Iranian readers (Redline is blocked in Iran, but we have readers there as well as Iranian readers around the world).  This third perspective is that the Assads are brutal and corrupt dictators but the alternative is even worse, as happened in Iran in 1979 – and, for that matter, more recently in Libya.  This perspective also suggests that western leftists who place emphasis on getting rid of Assad, at virtually any cost, are playing with fire but that it is not them who have suffered the consequences of the replacement of Gaddafi and it won’t be them who will suffer the consequences of the replacement of Assad by Islamic fundamentalists – it will be the working class, women, and national and religious minorities; the western left will just walk away unscathed (and unreflective).

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As bad as the Assad regime is, the alternative is even worse

by Karim Pourhamzavi

The tragic and brutal chaos is getting close to completing its fifth year. Recently, the siege of Aleppo by the Syrian army and its allies, along with the Russian heavy bombardment, has attracted a large amount of media attention, particularly by the anti-Assad camp. The extensive advance of the troops loyal to the Syrian regime, at the time of writing, put an end to the controversial siege.

Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, did not witness a large-scale uprising in 2011, when the wider rebellion took place and steadily became a transnational armed struggle by the end of the same year. Various militant groups who fight in Syria, most prominent of which is the Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, took over eastern Aleppo in 2012. The eastern part of the city includes approximately 300,000 residents and the western part, which has remained under the control of the Syrian regime to this day, is home for over one million residents, although you would not know this from ‘mainstream’ media coverage – you would think the whole of the city has been in ‘rebel’ hands and is being bombarded by the regime.

Propaganda

Any attempt of the Syrian regime to regain the eastern part of Aleppo was confronted by extensive propaganda in much of the western media. Not to mention the increase of multi-dimensional supports to the militants, including the Nusra Front, by the anti-Assad camp. The focus on civilian casualties whenever the Syrian army tries to regain Aleppo is, however, only one side of the story. The other side is that Read the rest of this entry »

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Key: laughing all the way to the party polls? Photo: Chris Loufte

by Phil Duncan

Just two months ago, back on September 12, an article on Redline noted, “The latest Colmar Brunton poll, taken in the first week of this month and issued earlier this week, shows yet another fall in support for Labour, now down to just 26%, with National steady on 48% and the Greens and NZ First rising to 13% and 11% respectively.  Given that National is now almost two-thirds of the way through its third term, one might expect the shine to have gone off the Key-led government and Labour to be ahead in the polls instead of so far behind.  Moreover, Andrew Little is the fourth Labour leader since the party, then led by Helen Clark, lost the 2008 election.  Plus, it’s not as if there aren’t some serious issues which National has been very clearly unable to get sorted – in particular rising house prices, especially in Auckland.”

It then asked, “So why can’t Labour get traction?  Is the Labour Party in terminal decline? Should serious leftists be at all concerned?”

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Dazed and confused: Labour leader Andrew Little

Well, ten weeks on, Labour has dipped even further.  The new Roy Morgan opinion poll has put Labour at just 23%, even lower than their abysmal showing in the 2014 general election and with just under a year to the next election – and two-thirds of the way into three terms of the current National-led government.  Yes, just when Labourites might have thought it couldn’t have gotten any worse – it has.

Moreover, this is not the only bad news for this particular band of capitalist managers.  Popular Read the rest of this entry »

hoursby Phil Duncan

A Newshub story yesterday, written by Tony Wright, highlights the longer hours workers in New Zealand have to put in to make ends meet.  It takes recent OECD data to build stats on hours worked by full-time employees in NZ and countries that are comparable, although the writer couldn’t find figures for the United States and Canada.  Nevertheless, it is clear that workers in this country are working more hours than workers in Britain, western Europe and Australia.

While Tony Wright has done a good job, it should be noted that, if anything, the stats he has compiled, downplay the actual number of hours put in, on average, by NZ workers.  What doesn’t show up here is that many full-time workers also have part-time jobs and many part-time workers have several part-time jobs.  And the stats often won’t show up the full hours worked in the ‘black economy’ as people are reluctant to fill out these hours for the census and the Household Labour Force survey.

Longer hours

Household Labour Force Surveys and censuses do, however, show large numbers of workers here putting in over 50 hours a week.  According to the 2013 census, 20% of employed people were working more than 50 hours a week (although this was ‘officially’ down from 25% in 2001).
The latest (2013) census declares cheerily,  “The proportion of employed people working 50 hours or more per week dropped to 20 percent in 2013, according to census results released by Statistics New Zealand today. This is down from 23 percent in 2006, and 25 percent in 2001.”  This neatly sidesteps, however, the fact that the percentage working 40-49 hours has actually risen for workers in the 20-50 age group (the group most likely to have children and/or other dependents).

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Hours worked overall rose steeply in the 1990s, a product of the defeat of the working class at the hands of the fourth Labour government (1984-1990) and then in the first term of the fourth National government (1990-1993), a defeat eventually codified in the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 and that year’s ‘Mother of all Budgets’.

Hours and the ‘rock star’ economy

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2011 stats

Around the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, official hours worked fell somewhat but then, starting in 2010, they began to rise again.

This coincides with the impact of the global financial crisis and the fact that hours worked have continued to rise indicates the shallowness of the notion promoted by Key that NZ has a ‘rock star’ economy, unless the rock star he is referring to is some clapped-out, drug-besotten, senile old rocker, kept together only by continuous injections of publicly-funded booster drugs.

Why longer hours?

Why people in this country work relatively long hours can be understood for two key, inter-related reasons.  One is Read the rest of this entry »

The PFLP released the following statement on November 26:

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The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine extends its condolences to the Cuban people, the Palestinian people and the revolutionary movements of the world upon the loss of the former prime minister and president of Cuba and the historic international revolutionary leader, Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz, on Friday, November 25, 2016.

castro-habashCastro’s internationalist revolutionary commitment to fighting imperialism and capitalism – manifest in the revolutionary victory against US imperialism and its puppet Batista regime in the 1959 Cuban revolution – consistently stood with the oppressed peoples of the world in their confrontation of imperialism, Zionism, racism and capitalism. Throughout his life, Fidel was a supporter and an example of revolutionary struggle in Read the rest of this entry »

60172François Chesnais, Finance Capital Today: Corporations and Banks in the Lasting Global Slump, Brill, Leiden, 2016; reviewed by Tony Norfield

This book is well worth reading. It is written in a clear and accessible style and discusses key points about the limitations of capitalism and the role of contemporary finance. Perhaps its most important point is how the financial system has accumulated vast claims on the current and future output of the world economy – in the form of interest payments on loans and bonds, dividend payments on equities, etc. These claims have outgrown the ability of the capitalist system to meet them, but government policy has so far managed to prevent a collapse of financial markets with zero interest rate policies, quantitative easing, huge deficits in government spending over taxation, and so forth. The result is an unresolved crisis, a ‘lasting global slump’, in which economic growth remains very weak and vast debts remain in place.

There are two related points in his approach to the world economy and finance that distinguish Chesnais from many other writers, and for which he deserves to be commended. Firstly, he states clearly that we are in a crisis of capitalism tout court (pp1-2), not a crisis of ‘financialised’ capitalism – the latter being one that could presumably be fixed if only the evil financiers were dealt with by a (capitalist) reforming government. Secondly, he takes ‘the world economy as the point of departure’ for his analysis, although that is ‘easier said than done’ (p11). While he shows the central role of the US, he avoids the wholly US-centred analysis common to radical critics of contemporary capitalism, and instead highlights how the other powers also play a key part in the imperial machine.

Finance Capital Today helps the reader’s understanding of the realities of contemporary global capitalism by Read the rest of this entry »