by Don Franks
Every Thursday afternoon, us car assembly workers used to get a little extra break. A couple of security officers would go round the plant with a trolley with metal trays, in which there were little brown packets. We’d line up to be passed the packet with our number on it. A few of the guys took the packet home intact and gave it over to their wives. Most of us tore the thing open to check that the amount was right and then put the cash away somewhere safe.
On many of these afternoons the union delegates would enact another ritual. Armed with one of the plastic bags that nuts and washers came in, we’d do the rounds of our section collecting money. This would be for workers on strike in another car factory, or another New Zealand workplace. Once in a while, for workers in another country. We’d prime the bag with our own contribution and go first to the most generous workmates we knew. That would set the trend.
Some were reluctant and others would closely question the activities of the strikers being funded – were they demanding too much? Some workers put in very little but just about everyone put in something, it was our culture. After the collection the delegates would bend over a workbench, count the contents of the oily bags and report the exact total back to the donors. These regular donations came because our union members were on high enough pay to be able to afford regular solidarity donations. They also came because we knew exactly how we’d got our relatively high pay, by application of union pressure and industrial action.
The other regular payment we all made was our union fee. This was compulsory in those days, but seldom begrudged.
The union fee gave us a bit of power. Sometimes at stopwork meetings a critical worker would remind their union official: “Remember, our fees pay your salary!”
A smaller trickle of workers’ money was collected by myself during work time when I made surreptitious sales of Unity, the Workers Communist League’s newspaper. Many of the workers in my little circle of Unity sales did not bother to read the paper they bought from me. Their subscription was a token of their support for my opposition to the boss. It encouraged me and reinforced my resolve.
Because they find it hard to get, and because it is usually their only asset, workers see money as very important. They recognise the political power that even small amounts of money can effect. The collection of voluntary donations from workers is an indispensible part of building working class solidarity.
That truth makes it impossible for me to applaud Mana’s readiness to shortcut funding with Kim Dotcom’s millions.
The case for acceptance is put by Mana supporter Mike Treen at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/06/12/why-the-mana-internet-alliance-is-a-potential-game-breaker):
“The final argument against an alliance with Kim Dotcom is that it is somehow inappropriate for a left wing movement to take $3 million dollars from an individual. The fact is that every election in NZ costs the main parties millions of dollars. They get that money mostly from big business. That is true for National, Labour, Act and NZ First. National sell tickets for $5000 a head for dinner with John Key. The Maori Party used Key in the same way. A few years back, big business imposed Don Brash as leader of the National Party under threat of the withdrawal of their donations for the election. When that plan blew up, big business imposed Brash on the Act Party. Big business forced Act to dump Rodney Hide in Epsom and put in John Banks. All that happens in secret, behind closed doors. All Kim Dotcom has done is say openly what he is going to do. For The Internet-Mana Party, they have only one generous millionaire donor.”
One who has already turned on ACT MP John Banks for not doing his bidding after being donated to.
Will Dotcom, at a future Internet-Mana hui, call out like a unionist to his officials: “My money pays your salaries, so do my bidding!”