Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

by Michael Roberts

imagesLeftist journalist and broadcaster, Paul Mason, has a new book out at the end of this month. It’s called Postcapitalism.  I don’t have a copy but Mason has written a long article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, outlining his main arguments,

Mason has been a doughty publiciser of labour struggles in his journalism and also offered on occasions a more theoretical and strategic analysis of where capitalism and labour is going.  I think this book is an attempt to sum up his views.  As Mason has some influence among labour activists in Britain and internationally, it’s worth considering what he has to say.

Mason argues that capitalism is set to be replaced by ‘postcapitalism’ (not ‘socialism’, it seems). And this is for three reasons. First, there is an information revolution which is creating a society of abundance in information, making a virtually costless and labour saving economy. Second, this information revolution cannot be captured by the capitalist market and the big monopolies. And third, already the ‘post-capitalist’ mode of production, based on free ownership and cooperation in information, is emerging from within capitalism, just as capitalism emerged from within feudalism.  Is Mason right? Does he make sense?

Paul Mason: doughty publiciser of labour struggles

Paul Mason: doughty publiciser of labour struggles


Well, I have a lot of issues with what Mason argues and concludes.  He starts his article of explanation pessimistically by suggesting that neoliberalism has more or less triumphed in its aims for capitalism leaving ‘old labour’ methods and ideas in disarray: “over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did.”

The first question that springs to mind here is: (more…)

by Don Franks

Apart from a few one-off nights after political demonstrations, I only spent one period in prison.

prisonSome years back, a friend of mine said she was down to run a creative writing course in Linton and wanted to add a song-writing component. Could I help?

I knew little about songwriting and less about teaching but my friend was insistent.

“The main thing about writing a song is making one line. Start there and you’ll get some sort of result.”

When you think about song titles and hook lines, that’s pretty useful advice. (more…)

The Labourites are tapping into a long tradition of anti-Chinese racism in western colonial-settler societies

The Labourites are tapping into a long tradition of anti-Chinese racism in western colonial-settler societies, including that of the early Labour Party here

by Philip Ferguson

Labour’s attempt to scapegoat people with “Chinese surnames” for the shortage of “affordable” house properties in Auckland is blatantly racist.  

Firstly, they’re not targeting people with “English surnames” or “Welsh surnames” or “pakeha surnames”.  They’re targeting Chinese surnames.  Racist!

Secondly, when have Little, Twyford et al attacked white/New Zealand capitalists?  They don’t.  So the part of the term “Chinese capitalists” which is relevant is the word “Chinese” not “capitalist”.  That’s not  anti-capitalism, that’s racism!

Moreover, how likely are the Chinese super-rich to buy rental properties in Auckland anyway?  About as likely as Donald Trump or Gina Rhinehart or Eric Watson.  If you’re super-rich and interested in property, you build tower blocks, you own mines, you own big factories or massive retail chains.  You don’t piddle about buying a few rental properties in Auckland.

Classic racist scapegoating

Labour’s campaign is classic racist scapegoating.  And it’s part of a tradition.  A hundred years ago the Labourites waged racist campaigns against impoverished Chinese workers; today they wage racist campaigns against people with “Chinese surnames” who buy a few rental properties in Auckland.  The common theme is that if you’re “Chinese” – defined as such by the Labourites because you have a “Chinese surname”! – you just can’t win.  Poor Chinese worker or middle class with a “Chinese surname” and owning more than one house in Auckland, Labour doesn’t like you and will scapegoat you.  That’s racism.

On the positive side, however, are several things.  Firstly, a tiny and fairly poor community of Chinese in New Zealand targeted by Labour a hundred years ago found it extremely hard to fight back.  Today, that community is much larger, has a much wider network of friends and allies, and the confidence to fight back.  They are capable of doing damage to Labour and putting a stain on the Labour Party and its hacks that won’t be washed off.

Secondly, as tiny as it is, the far left left in New Zealand, thanks mainly to modern technology, can mount some serious resistance to the racist Labourites and their enablers and apologists.  We can put a much-deserved stain on Labour that (more…)

This is how memory works. . . until loyalty to Labour gets in the way

This is how memory works. . . until loyalty to Labour gets in the way


by Philip Ferguson

Only three weeks after the peculiar DominionPost opinion piece in which Victoria University history associate-professor Jim McAloon misremembered a lot of Labour Party history – all the inconvenient bits that tell us a lot more than the whitewashed version he presented – another well-meaning leftist has been struck with false recovered memory syndrome.

In a piece ironically titled “Memory and forgetting: why knowing Labour’s history is so important”, veteran left political commentator Chris Trotter not only forgets and misremembers Labour’s past but does the same with Richard Seddon’s Liberal Party.

Seddon, for whom Chris seems to have such respect, was this country’s leading Sinophobe – historians’ politesse for leading anti-Chinese racist – for decades.  He introduced racist bill after racist bill to cut off Chinese immigration and make those already here feel as unwelcome as possible.

In relation to Labour, he claims that progressive opposition to World War 1 and the oppressive policies of the Massey government brought together the forces that formed the new party in 1916.  More important, however, was that the working class had suffered a substantial defeat on the industrial plane in 1913 and, lacking a way forward in the workplaces, fell back on parliament and parliamentary politics, just as they had after the defeat of the 1890 maritime strike.  Labour has long thrived on working class defeat in the industrial arena.

After the 1890 defeat workers turned to the Liberal Party and helped put it very quickly into government.  By the time World War I broke out, however, the Liberals were very clearly simply one wing of the political forces at the disposal of New Zealand capital.  Class had come to the fore in NZ politics, replacing the unity of the working class, the liberal middle class and the section of capitalists against both big industrialists in sweated industries and big landowners.  The fundamental divide between the working class and capitalist class had come to the fore.  So now, when workers lost in the workplace and fell back upon narrow parliamentary politics, they had little choice but to form a party of their own.

Chris suggests “New Zealand’s left-wing historians spend the next twelve months acquainting today’s progressives with the facts of Labour’s history. They must loudly give the lie to those who attempt to deny the radicalism of Labour’s past; and who argue that moderation and compromise have always been the party’s watchwords. The blatantly political purpose of such historical revisionism is to promote the idea that the extreme timidity and ideological conservatism of today’s Labour Party is nothing out of the ordinary; that Labour has always been timid and conservative.”

Today, it’s hard to believe that someone of Chris’ generation – and as a founding leading light of the NLP and Alliance, Chris has direct experience of Labour perfidy – can be making these kinds of claims.  It’s certainly true that the very early Labour Party was good at the (more…)

by Philip Ferguson

In part 8, I look at the way in which White New Zealand immigration policies became consolidated and entrenched in the 1900-10 period.

As well looking at specific legislative moves, I examine the more general social and political context in which these policies became an integral part of the political mainstream, indeed stretching from the conservative right to much of the radical left.  What links these points on the political spectrum is New Zealand nationalism.  This nationalism involves a subset of ideas, against all of which the Chinese are seen to offend.

New Zealand nationalism was expressed in, represented by, and furthered developed through, a number of events – the Russo-Japanese War, the Lionel Terry case, the Christchurch Exhibition and the visit of the ‘Great White Fleet’.  Nationalist ideology was also shaped by the spread of particular variants of Social Darwinism, such as eugenics, a new emphasis on masculinity, and more general notions of ‘improvement’ and ‘purity’.  This kind of broader examination of the dominant ideas of the time suggests that these ideas were manufactured in the middle and upper classes and spread into the working class, or into the more politically moderate sections of the labour movement.

New century, new restrictions

The new century opened with several events of importance to White New Zealand policies.  The (more…)

Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki via Getty Images

Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki via Getty Images

STATEMENT by 109 (out of 201 in total) members of Syriza’s Central Committee:

Athens, July 15, 2015.

The 12th of July in Brussels, a coup took place in Brussels which demonstrated that the goal of the European leaders was to inflict an exemplary punishment on a people which had envisioned another path, different from the neoliberal model of extreme austerity. It is a coup directed against any notion of democracy and popular sovereignty.

The agreement signed with the “Institutions” was the outcome of threats of immediate economic strangulation and represents a new Memorandum imposing odious and humiliating conditions of tutelage that are destructive for our country and our people.

We are aware of the asphyxiating pressures that were exercised on the Greek side, we consider nevertheless that the proud NO of working people in the referendum does not allow the government to (more…)

by Don Franks

“What we need is an outright ban on foreigners owning land or houses in New Zealand, a tough capital gains tax to drive local speculators and investors out of the housing market and a massive state house building programme to meet the housing quality and affordability crisis where it’s having its most devastating impact – on low income New Zealand tenants and families”.

propertyThe author of the above is long-serving left activist John Minto, writing in The Daily Blog on July 13th “National playing the reverse card on housing”.

I think John is wrong here and his main proposition, actioned, can cause workers nothing but trouble.

I don’t have a problem with John’s second and third points – although, frankly, this side of a socialist revolution they’re just rhetoric.

“Driving local speculators and investors out of the housing market” has a nice Jesus cleansing the temple ring, but so long as private property is lawful, capitalists will be capitalists.

A massive state house building programme for low-income families sounds worthy and decent, but which builder will sign up for it while better returns are to be made housing the super rich? (more…)