Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

Once again, Key-English have delivered a budget no different in any fundamental way than the budgets delivered by the last Labour government.  Indeed, given that the last Labour government had nine years of surpluses while Key-English have been operating in the economic environment of the GFC and its aftermath, National appears a bit more generous to workers than Labour.

This will not, of course, stop the Labour liars.  They’ll be complaining about this, that and the other as if their nine years of surpluses – in which they didn’t do the this, that and the other they are criticising National for not doing – never existed.

Meanwhile, the working class (more…)

Game Over - the people have awakened; the atacks of the French Labour Party government (SP) on workers has provoked widespread resistance

Game Over – the people have awakened; the attacks of the French social-democrat government (SP) on workers has provoked widespread resistance

Article 49.3 of the French constitution essentially allows the government to put through legislation without a vote.  The Socialist Party government (equivalent of Labour here) used this on May 10 to put through new anti-working class legislation.  The state and government’s attack on workers has met large-scale resistance from within unions and working class communities and among youth mobilised in new currents such as the Nuit Debout movement.  The article below is from just two days ago, May 24, and looks at the assault on workers’ rights by the French Labourites and the new wave of resistance.  It’s important to keep in mind that union membership in France is very low – only about 8 percent of French workers are unionised, less than half the NZ equivalent.  But French workers are far more politicised and militant than workers in this country – the result of a revolutionary tradition in France that goes back to 1789 (and even before).  It’s politics not union density which matters most!

by Léon Crémieux

France has entered a new situation since the beginning of March. Previously it was dominated by the political polarization exerted by National Front and the parallel rise of the “national security”climate following the terrorist attacks in January and November 2015.

None of these elements has been cancelled out and you would have to be blind to think that all of that had been swept away by the present movement.

But the key political event of recent weeks is that despite these two elements, which weigh heavily on political and social life, there has developed a multifaceted mobilization which already deserves to be compared with the great mobilizations of workers and youth over the last fifteen years: those of 2003, 2006 and 2010.

In the months preceding March, we could sense the beginnings of a social confrontation. First of all with the broad current of sympathy expressed with the mobilization of Air France workers, with the episode of the shirt last October. [2] In the same period, the number of walk-outs and strikes in workplaces, especially small and medium-sized ones, increased significantly, especially on issues of wages during mandatory annual negotiations. Similarly, there was the strength of the mobilization on climate change at the time of COP21, even though the terrorist attacks in November and the introduction of the state of emergency allowed the state to break the momentum of the street mobilizations. Big demonstrations against the Notre Dame des Landes airport and the establishment of support networks for migrants were also the result of action by tens of thousands of young people and activists that were coordinated by associations and social networks.

The first lesson of these reactions and these mobilizations was that the management of capitalist interests by social democracy, weak political opposition to the left of the PS and the lethargy of the union leaderships were not synonymous with an equivalent lethargy and drift of the whole of society, starting with a large section of workers and young people, hit (more…)

FreeFrom éirígí:

Great result today as éirígí’s Sean Doyle and Citizens Against Privatisation stalwart Eamonn McGrath were released from Cloverhill prison on unconditional bail.

The unexpected outcome came virtue of a “technicality” in committal warrants as papers that were due to be served at Cloverhill Prison apparently incorrectly ended up in Bray Courthouse.  As a result both men had to be released.

And this saved the State from yet again encountering men who would not back down to bullies or be forced into accepting unconstitutional bail conditions.

And the papers weren’t the only things mislaid by the State, they also lost Sean and Eamonn!  Yes, that’s right, despite the fact that neither of the men left the custody of the prison where they have been held for over two weeks now they couldn’t find them when (more…)

The Black Power slogan of the 1960s was replaced with empowerment for the black American middle class and burgeoning capitalist layers

The Black Power slogan of the 1960s was replaced with empowerment for the black American middle class and burgeoning capitalist layers

The reign of the first black president in the United States is coming to an end.  Obama, or O’Bomber as he is known to chunks of the US left, has been very much a capitalist manager.  In that sense he is also a representative of the upwardly mobile black middle class, a class which owes its openings in American society in no small measure to the liberation movement of the 1960s.  While the black middle class is happy to have aspects of black history taught in schools and universities, it says that the ‘bad old days’ are basically over so 60s-style militancy – not to mention opposition  to capitalism – is no longer needed, is in fact counter-productive.  The following article was produced by an American Marxist group, The Spark, back in 1987, towards the end of the Reagan period.  The black movement had already ended by this time and one after another black radical was being either incorporated into mainstream capitalist politics or giving up in despair, with a few notable exceptions.  There were no new Malcolm Xs or Martin Luther Kings, no new Black Panthers or SNCCs or Freedom Now parties.

The article looks at the strengths and gains of the 1960s movement and its weaknesses, arguing that it never went outside capitalist limits and this, ultimately, we what destroyed it.  While this underestimates Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and their political direction at the time of their assassination, there is much in the article that is useful in understanding what happened in the United States and also what happened to radical Maori and Pacific Island politics here in roughly the same period.

by The Spark

The movement of black people, which was so dominant a part of American political life for the better part of thirty years, has receded to the point that we are now marking its last important anniversaries as historic events. The prison revolt at Attica, which attested to the potential the black movement had to pull after it the poor, Hispanics, all the oppressed was also an announcement of the beginning of the end of that movement. Attica was 1971, more than fifteen years ago.

By the time of Attica, this black movement had accomplished what might have seemed impossible in 1947, when returning veterans of World War II were lynched because they no longer had the acquiescent manner demanded of black people in the South. Such a movement would have seemed impossible even as late as 1955, when a black man was lynched in Mississippi because he had registered to vote and 21 others were killed by racists in that same state. Within a few years the black struggle had torn down the legal recognition of segregation in the South and the worst aspects of its more insidious, institutionalized version in the North. Black people showed that when the rulers of this society fear a social movement sufficiently, they can be brought to overturn long-standing social ills, to change the face of society.

The impact the struggle of black people had on their own place in this society can be measured in stark terms. The number of black people (more…)

download (3)by Denis Godard

The movement of occupation of squares in France is [over] two weeks old. [1] Its evolution is difficult to predict, because it is open to many unforeseen events, even though its roots are deep.

At this point in time, there is no way of knowing whether the emblematic occupation of the Place de la République in Paris will really be able to continue, nor in what form it might do so.

It is characteristic of movements which contest the dominant order not to have a linear trajectory. On the one hand because even the steps forward that they take confront them with new challenges, new goals, new questions. After two weeks of occupation the movement is thus faced with questions of strategy concerning its attitude to repression, its relationship with movements in struggle, the need for its extension…

On the other hand, because the first effect of surprise has passed, the dominant order is reorganizing. So the government is openly seeking to take back possession of the Place de la République. All the mainstream parties, from the Socialist Party (PS) to the National Front (FN) now demand that the police clear the square.

But the unforeseen is also the result of much deeper reasons, related to the government crisis and the nature of this movement, of which Nuit Debout (“Stay up all night”) is one of the forms of expression that are developing widely outside traditional frameworks.

A movement that does not come from nowhere

Nuit Debout is the result of several dynamics: widespread anger, the more or less subterranean development of different struggles, the emergence of a general struggle against an anti-social law (the El Khomri law, from the name of the Minister of Labour, also called the “labour law “) and the initiative to occupy the Place de la République on the evening of March 31, taken outside traditional frameworks.

To understand this is not to act as an archivist of the movement. It enables us to anticipate the depth of the movement and its capacity to react, and it gives us some idea of how it will develop in the future.

The widespread anger against the (more…)


Protests against the imprisonment of these two activists are taking place around Ireland and also in Britain.  Anyone fancy organising something at the Irish embassy in Wellington  There is also an Irish consulate in Auckland?


nationalcolaNo-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.

Below are some of the articles we’ve run here on the history of the Labour Party.  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