Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

The piece below appeared in the latest issue of the French revolutionary workers’ paper Lutte Ouvriere:

2469The terrorists who struck on the evening of November 13th coldly and methodically killed the greatest number of men and women that they could: people at cafés and bars, the Bataclan concert hall, and the Stade de France. At least 129 died, and more than 300 were injured.

They killed indiscriminately, at random, in order to instill terror. In the face of such a shocking expression of barbarity, it is impossible not to be seized with horror. Nothing can justify such massacres. Those who carried out these acts are enemies of all humanity, and therefore enemies of the working class.

At this moment when all of us are so devastated, the politicians are taking advantage of this emotion in order to silence any opposition and force everyone to line up behind their policies. On Monday afternoon, the entire political class held a solemn session in the French Congress to call for national unity behind them.

They speak to us of unity, but does this mean that the right wing and the National Front are going to stop their disgusting competition over who can attack Muslims and immigrants the most? Will the government put an end to this climate of generalized mistrust? Of course not! The state of emergency and the intensification of police powers will surely result in an (more…)

1416881010-white-ribbon-day-in-wellington-highlights-violence-against-women_6338025by Philip Ferguson

Yesterday, November 25, police around the country took part in White Ribbon Day events in opposition to violence against women.  The event included male police officers engaged in a “walk a mile in her shoes” exercise, trading in their regular footwear for high heels and other women’s shoes.  Part of the day’s focus was also on ‘informed consent’, a notion integral to contemporary establishment sex education and capitalist ideology (which is not to suggest it always ‘gets through’).  No wonder the police are at the top of the pile when it comes to the part of the state that is most sensitive around ‘diversity’ issues (see ).

Being politically-correct is very useful to the cops in the twenty-first century.  The much greater diversity of NZ society means the most effective ways of containing people these days, and preventing them from being any kind of threat to the status quo, are forms of ‘respect for difference’ and ‘inclusiveness’.  Get Maori to police Maori – not just through more Maori cops but through cultural correctness programmes which are even more effective in making Maori behave in particular ways, ways compatible, even necessary to, the maintenance of the socio-economic status quo.

At the same time, the cops continue to play their role in the frontline of defence for a system based on, and impossible without, exploitation and oppression.  Exploitation of labour-power by capital and oppression of those who won’t meekly submit to that order with all its offshoots such as alienation and its effects.

While embracing ‘diversity’, ‘informed consent’ and other liberal-left nostrums, every now and then the pc mask slips and we see part of the repressive face of this institution, and the secrecy that its repressive role entails. (more…)

. . . and remain passive, wrapped up in ur 'difference', while our existence continues to be stunted by the limits of capitalism

. . . and remain passive, wrapped up in our ‘difference’, while our existence continues to be stunted by the limits of capitalism

This post first appeared on the blog on October 31, but has been added to since.

by Philip Ferguson

On Tuesday, November 17 an interesting gathering of business leaders took place.  Over 30 key business figures and finance minister and deputy prime minister Bill English launched the ‘Champions for Change’ initiative.  The initiative, which takes its name from campaigns for healthy eating in the United States, is about encouraging ethnic and gender ‘diversity’ in business leadership in New Zealand; such ‘diversity’ is seen as crucial to fast-tracking the success of NZ capital today.

The co-chairs of the drive for diversity are Dame Jenny Shipley, NZ’s first female prime minister, and Anthony Healy, the chief executive of the Bank of New Zealand.

Bill English told the gathering that past attempts to improve diversity hadn’t managed to get business leaders to make the kind of changes that are now needed. Tao Lin reported on Stuff, “English said diverse boards and management teams encourage productive, innovative and forward-thinking organisations, which was crucial to New Zealand’s future success” (see here).  Shipley told the gathering that business leaders who didn’t get with the diversity game would be left behind.

Such support for diversity is, as we will examine below, mainstream bourgeois thinking these days – and has been for quite some time.

This is why, for the best part of twenty years now the demand of the liberal-left (or left-liberals) for ‘respect for diversity’ has part amused me and part indicated to me how most of the left in this country is simply the left of bourgeois society rather than an anti-capitalist left.  Just as chunks of the left still bang on as if neo-liberalism was running rampant here, when it hasn’t been the dominant economic ideology of the ruling class for about two decades, so the liberal-left – parts of which mistakenly think they are more than liberal – bangs on about discrimination and prejudice as if nothing much has changed since the even earlier era of Muldoon (National) and Kirk (Labour), both of whom were intensely socially reactionary.

Yet the ruling class, certainly its main elements, have long since abandoned the kind of social views that were dominant a generation and more ago.  The ruling class oversees a now entrenched system of political correctness in practically every significant institution of modern New Zealand society, from schools to universities to the military to the public sector to the private sector.  ‘Respect for diversity’ is, indeed, crucial to 21st century NZ capitalist society.  Several factors have brought this situation about.

One is battles waged by trade unionists, the old left (or sections of it) and the new social movements for an expansion of the rights of women, Maori, homosexuals and others who were intensely discriminated against in the past.  The old barriers to (more…)

Islamic State bombing in Burj el-Barajneh, a largely Shi'a neighbourhood in Beirut; at least 43 died and about 200 were injured

Islamic State bombing in Burj el-Barajneh, a largely Shi’a neighbourhood in Beirut; over 40 died and about 200 were injured


by Yassamine Mather

The horrific attacks in Paris on November 13, and the terrible loss of life they caused, came at the end of a week of atrocities committed by Islamic State. On November 11, 41 people died and 100 were wounded in two attacks in Burj el-Barajneh – not far from a Palestinian refugee camp in a Shia neighbourhood of Beirut. On the same day as the Paris bombing, 21 Muslims attending ceremonies in a Baghdad mosque were killed, and 33 were wounded, by an IS suicide bomber.

The Baghdad bombing did not make the headlines, mainly because such IS attacks in the Middle East, resulting in dozens of deaths, have become a daily event. For example, earlier in the week tens of thousands of Afghans took to the streets of Kabul and other Afghan cities to protest against the beheading of seven people from the Hazara ethnic minority. The Muslim Afghan protestors were chanting: “Down with Daesh” – the Arabic acronym for IS.

The assailants in Baghdad, Paris and Beirut were not local Muslims fighting Christians – many are recruits from western societies. In Paris they were until recently disco-going, alcohol-drinking, second-generation immigrants. Some were (more…)

Laurence ScottElsewhere on this blog we have argued the importance of workers’ occupations when resisting workplace closures and/or mass redundancies.  Here, we run material from the frontlines of an historic occupation that took place at an engineering factory in Manchester, England in 1981.  The Laurence Scott occupation, although it took place well over 30 years ago and on the other side of the world, is of enduring significance.  The forces arraigned against each other at Laurence Scott’s are typical of most such disputes, including the tactics of the bosses, the role of the state and the role of the top union officials.  Also of enduring importance is the need for politics that are up to the requirements of these kinds of struggles.  Indeed, all the problems that confront our class in vital industrial disputes were there at Laurence Scott in 1981.

This article is in three parts, by three different authors: Dave Hallsworth, Kate Marshall and Pat Roberts.

  1. The Road to the Occupation
  2. The Occupation
  3. The Sell-Out and Lessons

SnipeThe three parts look at the background to the dispute, the politics of the union officialdom, the problems that workers faced from the start and how revolutionary-minded workers in the factory, and their supporters outside it, dealt with the problems confronting them, the evolution of the dispute, its outcome and lessons for workers who want to fight rather than just be walked over.


Part 1: The road to the occupation

by Dave Hallsworth

On 7 April 1981, Arthur Snipe, owner of Doncaster-based conglomerate Mining Supplies, announced the closure of the Manchester plant of his recently-acquired group of companies – the Laurence Scott and Electromotors group.   Mining Supplies bought up the Scott group only a few months previously for a knockdown price of ₤6.5 million.  At the time market value was estimated by independent accountants to be around ₤18.5 million.

At the time of the takeover Snipe gave the usual assurances about maintaining the LSE Group as a going concern and guaranteeing jobs and conditions.  But Snipe didn’t spend ₤6.5 million for fun.  Like all capitalists he wants to get the highest rate of return on his investment.

Following the announcement that the factory would close on 10 July the workforce began to discuss its response.  There was agreement that some action had to be taken to (more…)

12243338_10153432943037886_6024192322429988400_nThe following piece is taken from the site of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the leading secular-progressive force in the overall Palestine liberation movement:

Comrade Leila Khaled, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, began a visit to the Philippines on November 11 with an address at the International Women’s Assembly, a gathering bringing together women involved in liberation movements around the world. Khaled’s visit to the Philippines comes in the context of the Fifth International Assembly of the International League of People’s Struggles, which includes numerous mass organizations, popular organizations, unions and social movements around the world, especially from Asia and Southeast Asia.

Comrade Leila Khaled will participate in a series of events and lectures organized by ILPS and associated organizations, as well as the GABRIELA women’s organization in the Philippines and the International Women’s Assembly. She will deliver a keynote speech at the Fifth International Assembly of ILPS.

In her speech to the IWA, Khaled called for (more…)

Tomorrow, November 19, marks the 5th aniversary of the deaths of 29 mine workers at Pike River.

These workers didn’t die in one of those freak tragic accidents that just happens and nothing much could have stopped it.

Their deaths were the result of a combination of dangerous conditions and poor safety.  Neither National (who were the government at the time) nor Labour (who were in power when the mine was created and who gave it the go ahead) nor the EPMU (whose leader was current Labour Party leader Andrew Little, who supported the mine and OKed its safety) come out of this well.

National would rather the whole thing was brushed under the carpet, while Labour and the EPMU leadership would prefer all the blame was placed on National.

There should have been a major, national campaign around the Pike River deaths.  There wasn’t because Key moved adroitly to defuse the issue and kill it with sympathy, while both Labour and the CTU had no interest in such a public campaign because it would lead to awkward questions about their own duplicity.

What happened at Pike River indicates the urgent need for workers to take control of on-the-job safety.  It also indicates the wider need for a new working class movement.  One based on the actual needs of workers, rather than career politicians and company profits.  And that means, too, no union links with or support for capitalist parties like Labour.  And it means the election and right of recall in relation to all union officials.

Please circulate the links to the articles below as widely as possible.

And, if you’re interested in the idea of building a working class current across the labour movement and the wider working class – most workers not being unionised – please get in touch with us.

Below are articles about the Pike River explosions that killed 29 miners and the subsequent manoeuvrings by the company, the government and the EPMU leaders around the issue. They’re in chronological order, starting with the first article and ending with the most recent:

Pike River Blues
Pike River lessons
Pike River: ‘cashflow’ versus workers’ safety
Pike River company’s safety breaches killed 29 workers – it’s official
What’s the latest at Pike River?
Pike River third anniversary
Pike River injustice: taking up Helen Kelly’s offer
Pike River – the final cover-up?