It's time for workers in NZ to stop sobbing and start fighting

It’s time for workers in NZ to stop sobbing and start fighting

by Phil Duncan

There used to be a sort of joke in the 1960s that the prime minister, Keith Holyoake, knew the names of all the unemployed. I say sort of joke because it may well have been true. And it wasn’t because he had the snoops spying on people out of work. It was because hardly anyone was unemployed.

Hard to believe now, but during the long postwar boom from the late 1940s to the early 1970s that was actually the case. Of course, there was also a certain falseness about it because married women out of work couldn’t register as unemployed and, indeed, for a chunk of that era, the dominant capitalist ideology said that married women with children, especially small children, weren’t really supposed to be in paid employment outside the home. One wage – typically that of the husband/father – was supposed to be sufficient to maintain a family of four, five or even more. (The state also helped out with a universal child benefit.)

From boom to bust

Not only was unemployment negligible, there was an ongoing shortage of labour. To meet the needs of an ever-expanding economy, Maori were drawn from rural areas into the cities, workers and their families were drawn from the Read the rest of this entry »

downloadby Philip Ferguson

I’ve been involved in the left for a long time. I went on my first political protest when I was 14 and that same weekend or very shortly afterwards I attended the founding meeting of CUSS (Canterbury Union of Secondary Students) which tried to organise high school students to fight for their rights – for more democratic schools, for education about racism and sexism, for the right not to wear uniforms and be subjected to all kinds of petty discipline. Then I joined High School Students Against the War in Vietnam. I generally hung out with radical students, a imagesfew young radical workers and, in general, people older than myself and my pre-politics and non-politics mates.

I think it was in that time that I first started thinking about the choices people make in life, including in politics. It is a subject that impresses itself on my thinking at regular intervals, most recently over the past few weeks.

To be political or not

I guess the first two types of choices I used to think about way back then in my early teens were why really nice people often went into relationships with pretty awful people (as a teenager I thought, of course, a lot about sex and relationships). The other thing was why so many of my friends at school, most of whom were nice, pleasant, thoughtful young people, were so uninterested in what was going in the world. Vietnam was the massive political issue at the time and protests and organising activities went on continually. Around big national demos me and my one semi-political friend at school would manage to sell badges and get a few of our schoolmates to turn out, but it was very limited. Why, I wondered, would my friends choose not to be interested in Vietnam and doing something about the fact that the western imperialists were engaged in a brutal invasion accompanied by mass murder, all being carried out in our name. How could they just look the other way.

A very early protest I attended was against the world surf lifesaving championships which were held at Brighton Beach in Christchurch. I went to Aranui High and some of my schoolmates lived along Brighton Beach and surfed. A few of them were Read the rest of this entry »

To New World workers

Posted: October 8, 2015 by daphna in Uncategorized

by Don Franks

fire-of-the-cosmosEach Wednesday night, in term time
my little ritual comfortingly rolls
a Tawa train to teach guitar
to thirty something olds
they say that little kids love repetition,
its surety,
well, so do we.

Gold carded, guarded
in our still surviving carapace
with ready money, anxious face
our brittle little clutch on space

Key part of Wednesday’s ritual’s buying supper bits
to have before the class
a dither at the station Deli in the throng
a sausage roll, two mandarins, a nicely burnt cheese scone
The best part, now I look back, is not chowing down this stuff.
It’s that reassuring line of kids before the door.
bright faced black shirted eager, bare arms waving

No purchase is too small or big or dumb
their smiling line stands firm,
beside their sure machines, their certain youth
they beckon COME

Whatever they get paid it can’t be fair
where they vanish to beyond their shift I cannot go
may their new world revolution
explode into a bigger brilliant cosmos
than my head can ever know.

Creating another obstacle to workers' ability to fight for their interests

Creating another obstacle to workers’ ability to fight for their interests

by Phil Duncan

Already quite ground down enough, the New Zealand working class is about to blessed with yet another obstacle to its self-emancipation.  The two biggest unions affiliated to the capitalist Labour Party – the EPMU and SFWU – are merging.  The new union formed by the merger is to be announced tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.  It will be the largest private sector union with about 50,000 members.

While the merger is dressed up in the language of how campaigning for workers’ rights will be assisted by the ‘economies of scale’ of the new union, the real reason for the merger is simple necessity in terms of the bureaucrats sitting atop the apparatus.  Both unions have been hemorrhaging members in recent years, making life a bit less comfortable for the people at the top.  Less union dues, less power and so on.

Incapable of enthusing workers about joining these two unions, the leaderships have opted for Read the rest of this entry »

South Korean workers' protest. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean workers’ protest. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

by Workers Fight

With its 52 million inhabitants crowded into a territory about 40% the size of Britain, on the eastern coast of China facing Japan, South Korea is portrayed as a capitalist “success story” in every respect, both economically and politically.

Economically, the western media point to the fact that although South Korea was a late-comer to the industrial scene – since it only joined the OECD industrialised countries’ club in 1996 – its industrial production per head is now among the world’s highest. Its two main car manufacturers, Hyundai and Kia, are household names across the world. Its largest electronics conglomerate, Samsung, is Apple’s main rival on the world market of mobile phones and the world’s largest producer of semi-conductors. The world’s most gigantic ships are built in its shipyards – owned by companies like Hyundai, Samsung or Daewoo. Of course, those who hail the South Korean “model” fail to mention how this economic development was achieved, especially the exorbitant price the South Korean working class had to pay – and is still paying – for it!

Politically, South Korea is celebrated by the same media as a ‘democracy’, which is supposed to stand in stark contrast to North Korea’s opaque dictatorship. But what does not get mentioned is that if it had not been for the working class uprising of the late 1980s, South Korea would still be living under the yoke of the long lineage of military dictators brought into power by the western imperialist armies, back in 1946. Likewise, little is ever said about the very narrow limits of South Korea’s so-called “democracy” nor about how its repressive state machinery imposes the iron rule of a handful of very large conglomerates on the working class.

So what does this capitalist ‘success story’ really mean for the South Korean working class in general and for its activists? These are the questions that Read the rest of this entry »







by Allen Myers

Presenting his new ministry on 20 September, Malcolm Turnbull said, “If we want to remain a prosperous, first world economy with a generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive, above all we must be more innovative”.

It’s become quite common for politicians to bang on about the “need to be competitive”, but Turnbull evidently intends this idea to be a hallmark of his prime ministership; it was the theme on which he concluded his announcement that he was challenging Abbott.

But consider what it means.

If Turnbull is right, and the only way to prosperity and social welfare for a country is to be more competitive than other countries, then it follows that there are always going to be Read the rest of this entry »

Graph: Michael Roberts

Graph: Michael Roberts


The piece below is extracted from a discussion on the Marxmail list where here has been some recent debate between upholders of Marx’s crisis theory and ‘Marxist’ opponents of Marx’s crisis theory; the piece below deals with crisis theory and the NZ working class, so we’re posting it up on Redline. 

by Philip Ferguson

Roberts (following Marx and LTRPF)* shows that crisis is inherent in capitalism, the system simply can’t escape it and therefore the possibility of overthrowing capitalism can’t be avoided either.  That possibility is always present, whether it is really, really weak (as at present) or strong (1930s Depression, period at the end of the post-WW2 boom as well).

I’m not arguing, of course, that immiseration causes revolution – frequently it results in demoralisation and passivity.  But improvements in workers’ general conditions leading to rising expectations which are then blocked by a slump certainly can help radicalise workers’ thinking.

In New Zealand we had a long period of workers’ passivity, from the start of the 1950s until the end of the 1960s.  The two key factors in this passivity were Read the rest of this entry »