nationalcolaThis month marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of one of New Zealand capitalism’s two major political parties – Labour.

No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons.

Nevertheless, there are certainly sections of the anti-capitalist left who, in practice, retain illusions in Labour.  Some think Labour is still, at its core, some kind of “workers’ party” and that it is therefore permissible to vote for it and call on others to vote for it.  Or to take sides in Labour leadership elections.  Or to invite Labour speakers to speak at their educational conferences.  Or to demonise National in a way that points clearly to support for Labour, without actually saying so.

Even on the anti-capitalist left, there are also some illusions about the first Labour government.  And illusions about the early Labour Party from its founding in 1916 to the formation of the first Labour government.

It is a form of comfort politics.  Just as some infants require comforters, a left which hasn’t yet grown up and been prepared to face the harsh realities of the 21st century capitalist world requires the comfort of thinking that there was once a mass force for socialism in this country and that it was the early Labour Party.

In fact, there has never been a mass force for socialism in New Zealand.  There were certainly revolutionary elements in this country – marxists, anarchists, syndicalists – in the early 1900s and there were far more of them then, when New Zealand only had a million people, than there are today when the country has 4.5 million people.  One of the functions of the early Labour Party was to destroy these revolutionary elements, in part by mopping them up and sucking them into Labour, transforming them into harmless social democrats.  Where they couldn’t do this, they worked to marginalise them and destroy their organisations.  All the while, through the 1920s, Labour moved rightwards, becoming more and more oriented to saving and running the system than getting rid of it.  Labour was always far more hostile to the anti-capitalist left than it was to capitalism.  And, of course, the early Labour Party staunchly advocated for the White New Zealand policy, indicated that they preferred a divided and politically weakened working class – ie one more likely to turn to Labour as its saviour – than a united, politically powerful working class which didn’t need the Labour Party.

Over the five years that this blog has existed, we have run a lot of articles on Labour, including some major, lengthy pieces.  Below are many of the major ones but, for a full list, go to the Labour Party NZ category on the lefthand side of the blog home page.

The truth about Labour: a bosses’ party

Labour’s racist roots

First Labour government wanted ‘Aryan’ immigrants, not Jewish refugees from the Nazis

Labour’s introduction of peacetime conscription and the fight against it

1949 Carpenters’ dispute: Labour and the bosses versus the workers

A stain that won’t wash off: Labour’s racist campaign against people with ‘Chinese-sounding’ surnames

More Labour anti-Chinese racism and the left tags along behind them still

Anti-working class to its core: the third Labour government (1972-75)

Labour’s legal leg-irons – thanks to fourth Labour government

Some further observations on the fourth Labour government

Workers, unions and the Labour Party: unravelling the myths

For a campaign for union disaffiliation from the Labour Party

Labour’s leadership contest: confusions and illusions on the left

Recalling the reign of Helen Clark

Income and wealth inequality unchanged by last Labour government

Darien Fenton at the fantastic conference

New Labour Party general-secretary indicative of party’s managerial capitalism

Why Labour wasn’t worth the workers’ ticks

Why do otherwise sane, well-meaning people choose to delude themselves about the Labour Party and make up rosy nonsense about its past?

Chris Trotter’s false recovered memory syndrome

Empty Andy and the ‘Eh?’ team

Union movement gathers for ‘fairness at work’; Labour gathers missionaries

Labour parties and their ‘left’ oppositions

by Daphna Whitmore

The imperialism study group had its first discussion today. We linked up via Zoom to video conference across several time zones. Tony Norfield led the study with a 15-minute introduction to Lenin’s pamphlet Imperialism, and how it relates to today. That was followed by questions and discussion.

Tony’s notes for discussion sent out prior to the video conference are worth reading, and what follows are just brief notes from today’s video talk.

First off ,Tony noted we need to see Lenin’s description of imperialism as a holistic description and that the five key features need to be seen as part of a whole.

lenin_on_imperialism

An important aspect is that imperialism is a world system of domination and hierarchy. Lenin saw you couldn’t understand what’s happening in a particular country outside of the context of the way it related to what is happening everywhere else. That is still important for today. For instance you can’t understand Syria by even looking at the history of Syria, you’d need to look at where it sits in the hierarchy of world power – obviously very low down in the hierarchy – and then look at who’s trying to do what to Syria. In the context of imperialism you can’t understand individual country developments outside of a broader approach of examining where different countries sit in the global system. Read the rest of this entry »

On September 4, 2010 British war criminal (and former prime minister) Tony Blair arrived in Dublin to promote his self-serving book.  The Irish socialist-republican current éirígí called a protest at Eason’s, the central city bookshop where Blair was doing a book signing.  éirígí had demanded that if Blair set foot in the 26-county state he be arrested as a war criminal.

Announcing the protest, éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mhaistír said Blair’s legacy is one of illegal invasions, occupations and war crimes, noting “Tony Blair is a war criminal, with the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians on his hands. Alongside his US allies, Blair launched brutal and bloody wars against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 1.3 million Iraqis are believed to have been killed during the illegal invasion and subsequent occupation.

“This man should be arrested and put before the International Criminal Court.”

He continued: “In Afghanistan, casualties continue to mount as the occupation and slaughter of civilians continues. Blair’s justifications for these invasions are a tissue of lies and deceit. His book is an attempt to rewrite history and justify his role in these illegal wars and the countless war crimes committed by British troops.

“In his time as British prime minister, Blair also oversaw the normalisation of the British occupation in the Six Counties and the murder by pro-British forces of nationalist civilians, including human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson. He also blocked all attempts to secure the truth about collusion between British forces and unionist death squads, in particular their role in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.”

Mac An Mhaistír concluded: “The book promotion in Eason’s is an insult to the victims of Blair’s war crimes and Eason’s should withdraw their invitation to him. If Blair proceeds with his visit, éirígí will be highlighting his crimes and staging a protest outside Eason’s from 10am on Saturday [September 4].”  Below is the video of the protest called by éirígí:

 

13626596_1560857097544175_9178814662085013390_nby Workers Fight

The Chilcot enquiry was originally commissioned by Gordon Brown’s Labour government, in June 2009, to look into “the period from summer 2001, before military operations began in March 2003, and our subsequent involvement in Iraq right up to the end of July this year [2009]”.

The inquiry held its last public session in 2011 and its report should have been published by 2014. However, it was held up for another two years due to Cameron’s reluctance to release documents which might have upset the US administration. Seven years on, this report was finally published on 6 July.

Despite its size – 15 volumes and 2.6 million words – it does not actually contain anything new. It goes into minute detail of what had already been known for a long time: the Blair government’s very conscious manipulation of public opinion in order to justify blairjoining the US invasion; its failure to anticipate the consequences of the US-British “regime change” strategy; its lack of any serious plans for the country’s reconstruction, etc.

But what the report does not deal with at all, are precisely the most important issues: the real reasons why the Read the rest of this entry »

On this day eleven years ago, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by the London Metropolitan Police at Stockwell underground station.  This is a beautiful song about a horrific murder.  Chris Wood is a leading figure in Nu Folk in Britain, both as a solo artist and as a leading participant in the Imagined Village project.  We picked this up from the left-wing Irish site, The Cedar Lounge Revolution.  The song won Song of the Year at the prestigious British Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2011.  Chris won Folk Singer of the Year at the same awards.

 

61KZcsFsm4L._UX250_Mark Lause is a veteran Marxist and author of a series of books on the history of the working class in the United States, especially in the 1800s and in relation to ‘the race question’.  We talked to him about his new book which examines the interconnections between free and unfree labour, the US civil war and the emergence of a distinctly American working class.  

Philip Ferguson: What interests you about this period of US history in particular? How did you come to write this book?

Mark Lause: This marked a very critical point in shaping the United States. Both Marxists and contemporary Lincoln Republicans and Unionists
– ie supporters of the union of the states, as opposed to the confederate separatists – described the conflict as a “Second American Revolution,” and it arguably marked far greater, more pervasive, and more rapid changes than the first one, marking American Independence from Britain.

downloadWar in general is under-studied by social and labor historians. I had a friend—another historian—who used to take great pride in never teaching about war in his history classes. I understood his point, of course, but history can’t be understood without studying the subject. To me, something like the Civil War represented a kind of Hadron Collider that smashed ordinary social relations and permits us to see what makes a society tick.

In the case of this particular conflict, we are discussing an essential period in the making of an American working class. In many respects, the conflict of 1861-1877 represented the most indispensable few years in that entire process.

Phil: I guess to most people in NZ, the American civil war was about the north wanting to end slavery and the south wanting to keep it. Could you elaborate on the wider issues?

Mark: It’s an accurate generalization, though there were many different kinds of Northerners with many different reasons for getting rid of slavery. From the Read the rest of this entry »

7311854._UY200_The Imperialism study group is finally getting underway.  We have participants from Ireland, Britain, Spain, Canada, the United States, Australia and NZ.  The first two sessions are being led by Tony Norfield.  Below are his notes for the first session, in which we examine the ‘economic’ aspects of Lenin’s Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism.  This session is taking place at 9am, Sunday, July 24 (NZ time).   Sorry Australian comrades; it’s going to be very early for you!

LENIN’S IMPERIALISM & IMPERIALISM TODAY

The following points are based around Lenin’s arguments in Imperialism, but with the intention of raising questions (and giving my answers to some of these) about what this means for imperialism today. After the more general introduction, my comments discuss the ‘economic’ aspects of imperialism; the ‘politics’ of imperialism is planned for next time.

US factory workers make 76 times as much money per hour as their Indonesian counterparts

US factory workers make 76 times as much money per hour as their Indonesian counterparts

Introduction

Lenin worked on Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism in early 1916, nearly two years after World War One began. When published, it was subtitled ‘a popular outline’. It is often seen as a political response to the war, rather than a work that has much depth or much theoretical content. But this would be to underestimate two important things. Firstly, that the pamphlet grew out of more than 800 Read the rest of this entry »