1-5pm, Saturday, Sept 6


West Country

This Saturday afternoon course is in two parts; firstly we visit some of the most beautiful parts of the West Country, including Bath (one of Britain’s oldest cities), Dartmoor, Newquay (the surfing capital of Britain), the wonderful Minack near Land’s End, and look at their history and current status.

In the second part, we look at stories of working people’s experiences in the region, using some songs from several albums by the magnificent Devon musician Seth Lakeman as points of departure. These stories range from the Tolepuddle Martyrs to the story of a young working woman (Kitty Jay) and her grave on Dartmoor, a ‘friendly fire’ incident in WW2 that was covered up for many years to the depiction of the life of a woman miner in nineteenth century Cornwall. . . and more.  We’ll also look at the making of his Tales from the Barrelhouse in an old industrial workshop that is now a heritage site plus a track about miners recorded down an abandoned mine shaft.

Presenter: Dr Philip Ferguson

To enrol, you will need to contact the WEA at:

Canterbury WEA
59 Gloucester Street,
P.O. Box 1796
New Zealand

Phone: 03 366 0285
Fax: 03 366 4530
Email: admin@cwea.org.nz

Lucky countryby Michael Roberts

The FT published a piece over the weekend claiming that Australia is on track to surpass 26 consecutive years of growth, surpassing the record set by the Netherlands in the post 1945 period of capitalism.

Australia’s right-wing finance minister Joe Hockey was bullish, claiming that the slowdown in China would not damage the Aussie economy because there were big investments coming from the Chinese and other Asians that would keep the Australia’s record of avoiding a capitalist recession.

“Cassandras are loud, whereas optimists are getting on with the job. We are going to break the record and go beyond the Dutch,” he said.“Our growth is somewhere between 2 and 2.5 per cent and that’s with the biggest fall in the terms of trade in our history.”  The Netherlands enjoyed 26 years of economic growth between 1982 and 2008 on the back of discovery of North Sea oil. In comparison, Australia has enjoyed 24 years of uninterrupted growth.

However, that might be coming to an end.  The latest real GDP figures for Australia came out today (September 2).  Real GDP growth Read the rest of this entry »

The rogues' gallery: in centre are Helen Clark and governor-general (and longtime Labourite) Cath Tizard

Rogues’ gallery: in centre are Helen Clark and governor-general (and longtime Labourite) Cath Tizard; next to Clark is Alliance leader Jim Anderton, who served as deputy prime minister

The piece below appeared as the editorial in issue #14 of revolution magazine (Xmas 2000-March 2001), one of the print predecessors of this blog. It looks at the first year of the fifth Labour government (2000) and argues for a new political movement. Such a new movement is more needed that ever today in 2015.

by Philip Ferguson

It is now a year since Labour and the Alliance formed a government. This was to be a government which put some heart back into the administration of the country and undid the most harmful effects of 15 years of ‘new right’ restructuring, initiated by the previous Labour regime and continued, although not in such an extreme manner, by National in the 1990s. But, a year on, how much has really changed?

The government renationalised ACC, a measure which is really in the interests of business as it shields them from the kinds of premiums which private insurance companies would charge. This was a point that Labour politicians, such as fnance minister Cullen, were keen to point out to the more short-sighted sections of the exploiting class.

They brought in the Employment Relations Act, which continues to deny workers’ basic rights – and necessary rights if industrial disputes are to be won – such as political and solidarity strikes. The ERA reflects the Labour leadership’s understanding that the working class has been defeated and can be given a little breathing room, while the leash remains firmly around our necks.

Even where Labour could have taken very token measures which might have made life just a little easier for some of the not well-off people that voted for them – for instance, Read the rest of this entry »


Chomsky speaking at Canterbury University, 1998

In late 1998 Noam Chomsky briefly visited New Zealand, receiving star treatment. The writer of this article attended Chomsky’s ticket-only performance in Christchurch and was less than dazzled. While we respect Chomsky’s long anti-imperialist record, there are also some important weaknesses in the man’s analyses. The article is part of our series of reprints from our print predecessors such as The Spark, revolution, MidEast Solidarity and Liberation; this piece appeared in issue #8 of revolution (Dec 1998/Feb 1999).

by Grant Cronin

Noam Chomsky certainly hit the big time when he visited recently to be a special presenter at the New Zealand Media Peace Awards in Auckland. His arrival was heralded by adulatory coverage in newspapers not usually known for their progressive politics, as well as a feature in The Listener. A few hastily-organised public meetings drew packed halls. In Wellington more than 1500 people turned out to hear him.

Originally trained as a philosopher, Chomsky subsequently made his mark in the early 1970s as a linguist, with his theories on language acquisition. Over the last three decades he has also established himself as a leading and often insightful critic of US foreign policy. His book At War With Asia was an important intervention in the public debate over Vietnam. Subsequent works, such as Manufacturing Consent, have been damning indictments both of US foreign policy and of the way in which the media effectively collaborates to create public consent – or the appearance of it – to the American ruling elite’s bloody wars and exploitative policies across the globe. Chomsky has also been a critic of many of the most glaring iniquities of the capitalist system. Through his outspoken criticisms of US foreign policy and championing of liberal causes he has also become a worldwide media star. For instance, Chomsky t-shirts were on sale after his talks.

At Canterbury University, Chomsky only had 50 minutes to speak before catching a plane back to Auckland. Of course, 15 minutes of it had to be taken up by the inevitable and totally apolitical Read the rest of this entry »

downloadby Phil Duncan

Last night saw the first of two meetings on the subject of child poverty currently being organised on campus at Otago University by the recently-founded Choose Kids group.  The first meeting was designed to feature politicians while the second meeting, next Monday night, will feature experts from academia.

The parties invited last night were National, Labour and the Greens.  National didn’t respond, so the third speaker was Bryce Edwards, a lecturer in the Politics department and prominent left political commentator.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei spoke first, outlining the extent of the problem and focusing on low wages and low benefits.  She said a much higher minimum wage was necessary and beneficiaries needed more income.  My impression was that she is genuinely outraged by poverty levels and means well, but is stuck within the limits of parliamentary politics where no radical solutions are really on offer.

By contrast, local Labour MP David Clark engaged in quite a bit of dissembling.  He pretended that Labour cared deeply about child poverty and claimed the last Labour government had addressed this with Working for Families.  What he avoided in his speech was that the big growth of poverty began under the fourth Labour government and that the fifth Labour government never raised benefits, which had been substantially cut by the fourth National government, although it had nine years of surpluses in which to do so.  If it cared a hoot about the poorest, why didn’t Labour, blessed with all those surpluses, raise benefits.  It was actually left to the current National-led government to raise benefits for the first time in 43 years.  Moreover, the Working for Families package applied only to those in paid employment, drawing a distinction between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor.  Clark’s speech, however, was only the beginning of his dissembling.

Clark suggested that people wanting to do something about child poverty could do so by Read the rest of this entry »

The short article below was written in late 1998 and first appeared in the December 1998/January 1999 issue of revolution magazine (issue 8), one of the print predecessors of this blog. It deals with Labour, a year out from the 1999 election which brought the fifth Labour government to power, led by Helen Clark. The original title was called ‘Labour farcade’; we used a made-up word to best express an analysis of the Labour Party at the time of its late 1998 conference. While written almost 16 years ago, the piece succinctly notes those very characteristics of Labour which are even more pronounced today. The piece also proved accurate in its predictions about the fifth Labour government, 1999-2008.

Growth of wealth among the richest NZers; note how well they did under Helen Clark's Labour government; the fall in the end was due to the global financial crisis, not from any intrusion on their wealth by Labour

Growth of wealth among the richest NZers; note how well they did under Helen Clark’s Labour government; the fall in the end was due to the global financial crisis, not from any intrusion on their wealth by Labour

by Linda Kearns

What can be expected should Labour get into government in 1999 was made clear at the party’s national conference in Auckland in November. While the mood was quite upbeat, indicating the party’s confidence in forming the next government, it was the lowering of expectations which stood out most.

The key phrase was “the National government has left the cupboard bare” and therefore “we” won’t be able to afford new expenditure. Instead, it looks like Labour will aim to reform things which don’t have any fiscal implications.

In other words, more tokenism for women and Maori, more social control for society at large, and more support for western intervention in the Third World, all of it dressed up, of course, under the guise of ‘human rights’. Deputy-leader and finance minister-in-waiting Michael Cullen gave a speech at the opening of which he disputed criticisms that a Labour-led government would be radical. Instead, he said, they would be very pragmatic. It was also clear that Labour is opposed to increasing the cost of workers to employers – ie they want to maintain low wage levels. While this is argued partly under the guise of helping the unemployed into jobs, it is really a message to business that Labour will serve their interests better than National.

It is also clear that important sections of the ruling class are swinging behind Labour. Right-wing Read the rest of this entry »

MauriPacificLogoEver hear of Mauri Pacific? Chances are, you haven’t – or you have forgotten it. It was essentially the vehicle through which Tau Henare transitioned from NZ First into National. It was one of several groups set up by existing MPs from various parties and which were wiped out at their very first election. The short article below was written in late 1998 and first appeared in the December 1998/January 1999 issue of revolution magazine (issue 8), one of the print predecessors of this blog.

by Huw Jarvis

Tau Henare’s new party, Mauri Pacific (‘Spirit of the Pacific’), is apparently not a ‘Maori party’. Instead it is more reminiscent of the unfortunate United Party, which was launched in 1995 as a ‘centre’ party by a ragbag group of seven defecting Labour and National Mps.

As with United, opportunism and policy vacuousness are the key features of the new party. At its launch, its leaders could not point to any real guiding principles or philosophies apart from Henare’s belief that NZ needed to “grasp another paradigm”, go on a voyage of “rediscovery towards cultural integrity” and “take the world by storm in a totally unique and awe-inspiring manner”. This is therefore another party that is formed around personalities, personal ambition and flakiness.

Typical of the vacuousness of the party, Henare said that Mauri Pacific is neither a Read the rest of this entry »