Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

imagesThe following is extracted from a longer article about political polarisation globally, written by Ben Hillier, which appears in Red Flag, the paper of Australia’s largest Marxist current (Socialist Alternative), here.

It is beyond reasonable doubt, for anyone who cares to look at the actual county and district results, that the New York billionaire won a section of the white working class across the rust belt of the northern United States. But this was no US-wide worker rebellion; the election was won on the margins. And it is folly to conflate all the people who voted for Trump with his core base of support. Most of his votes did not come from that. They came from a diverse coalition that was, with a few qualifications, bog standard Republican – western plains evangelicals, big money reactionaries, rural and regional middle classes, traditional affluent conservatives from the suburbs who lambasted him as a charlatan, people who voted reluctantly, people who voted despite, not because of, his bigotry, people who voted just to stick the finger to liberal Washington, as well as his die-hard far-right supporters.

In fact, according to one August Quinnipiac poll, 64 percent of Trump “supporters” said that they were voting primarily (more…)

scczen_a_20092014hoskey01_620x310

Key: laughing all the way to the party polls? Photo: Chris Loufte

by Phil Duncan

Just two months ago, back on September 12, an article on Redline noted, “The latest Colmar Brunton poll, taken in the first week of this month and issued earlier this week, shows yet another fall in support for Labour, now down to just 26%, with National steady on 48% and the Greens and NZ First rising to 13% and 11% respectively.  Given that National is now almost two-thirds of the way through its third term, one might expect the shine to have gone off the Key-led government and Labour to be ahead in the polls instead of so far behind.  Moreover, Andrew Little is the fourth Labour leader since the party, then led by Helen Clark, lost the 2008 election.  Plus, it’s not as if there aren’t some serious issues which National has been very clearly unable to get sorted – in particular rising house prices, especially in Auckland.”

It then asked, “So why can’t Labour get traction?  Is the Labour Party in terminal decline? Should serious leftists be at all concerned?”

andrew-little

Dazed and confused: Labour leader Andrew Little

Well, ten weeks on, Labour has dipped even further.  The new Roy Morgan opinion poll has put Labour at just 23%, even lower than their abysmal showing in the 2014 general election and with just under a year to the next election – and two-thirds of the way into three terms of the current National-led government.  Yes, just when Labourites might have thought it couldn’t have gotten any worse – it has.

Moreover, this is not the only bad news for this particular band of capitalist managers.  Popular (more…)

hoursby Phil Duncan

A Newshub story yesterday, written by Tony Wright, highlights the longer hours workers in New Zealand have to put in to make ends meet.  It takes recent OECD data to build stats on hours worked by full-time employees in NZ and countries that are comparable, although the writer couldn’t find figures for the United States and Canada.  Nevertheless, it is clear that workers in this country are working more hours than workers in Britain, western Europe and Australia.

While Tony Wright has done a good job, it should be noted that, if anything, the stats he has compiled, downplay the actual number of hours put in, on average, by NZ workers.  What doesn’t show up here is that many full-time workers also have part-time jobs and many part-time workers have several part-time jobs.  And the stats often won’t show up the full hours worked in the ‘black economy’ as people are reluctant to fill out these hours for the census and the Household Labour Force survey.

Longer hours

Household Labour Force Surveys and censuses do, however, show large numbers of workers here putting in over 50 hours a week.  According to the 2013 census, 20% of employed people were working more than 50 hours a week (although this was ‘officially’ down from 25% in 2001).
The latest (2013) census declares cheerily,  “The proportion of employed people working 50 hours or more per week dropped to 20 percent in 2013, according to census results released by Statistics New Zealand today. This is down from 23 percent in 2006, and 25 percent in 2001.”  This neatly sidesteps, however, the fact that the percentage working 40-49 hours has actually risen for workers in the 20-50 age group (the group most likely to have children and/or other dependents).

hours-week-1

Hours worked overall rose steeply in the 1990s, a product of the defeat of the working class at the hands of the fourth Labour government (1984-1990) and then in the first term of the fourth National government (1990-1993), a defeat eventually codified in the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 and that year’s ‘Mother of all Budgets’.

Hours and the ‘rock star’ economy

hourschart-1

2011 stats

Around the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, official hours worked fell somewhat but then, starting in 2010, they began to rise again.

This coincides with the impact of the global financial crisis and the fact that hours worked have continued to rise indicates the shallowness of the notion promoted by Key that NZ has a ‘rock star’ economy, unless the rock star he is referring to is some clapped-out, drug-besotten, senile old rocker, kept together only by continuous injections of publicly-funded booster drugs.

Why longer hours?

Why people in this country work relatively long hours can be understood for two key, inter-related reasons.  One is (more…)

The PFLP released the following statement on November 26:

cuba-palestino

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine extends its condolences to the Cuban people, the Palestinian people and the revolutionary movements of the world upon the loss of the former prime minister and president of Cuba and the historic international revolutionary leader, Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz, on Friday, November 25, 2016.

castro-habashCastro’s internationalist revolutionary commitment to fighting imperialism and capitalism – manifest in the revolutionary victory against US imperialism and its puppet Batista regime in the 1959 Cuban revolution – consistently stood with the oppressed peoples of the world in their confrontation of imperialism, Zionism, racism and capitalism. Throughout his life, Fidel was a supporter and an example of revolutionary struggle in (more…)

60172François Chesnais, Finance Capital Today: Corporations and Banks in the Lasting Global Slump, Brill, Leiden, 2016; reviewed by Tony Norfield

This book is well worth reading. It is written in a clear and accessible style and discusses key points about the limitations of capitalism and the role of contemporary finance. Perhaps its most important point is how the financial system has accumulated vast claims on the current and future output of the world economy – in the form of interest payments on loans and bonds, dividend payments on equities, etc. These claims have outgrown the ability of the capitalist system to meet them, but government policy has so far managed to prevent a collapse of financial markets with zero interest rate policies, quantitative easing, huge deficits in government spending over taxation, and so forth. The result is an unresolved crisis, a ‘lasting global slump’, in which economic growth remains very weak and vast debts remain in place.

There are two related points in his approach to the world economy and finance that distinguish Chesnais from many other writers, and for which he deserves to be commended. Firstly, he states clearly that we are in a crisis of capitalism tout court (pp1-2), not a crisis of ‘financialised’ capitalism – the latter being one that could presumably be fixed if only the evil financiers were dealt with by a (capitalist) reforming government. Secondly, he takes ‘the world economy as the point of departure’ for his analysis, although that is ‘easier said than done’ (p11). While he shows the central role of the US, he avoids the wholly US-centred analysis common to radical critics of contemporary capitalism, and instead highlights how the other powers also play a key part in the imperial machine.

Finance Capital Today helps the reader’s understanding of the realities of contemporary global capitalism by (more…)

Fidel and Che

Fidel and Che

Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban Revolution, died on Friday, November 25.  Below is an extract from the speech made in court by Fidel Castro Ruz, during his 1953 trial, following the revolutionaries’ attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba on July 26 of that year.  

Those who survived the attack and the state tortures and murders afterwards were initially jailed.  However, they became popular heroes and the dictatorship was forced to release them.  They then established the July 26 Movement.

 In Mexico, they began training and organising and in November 1956 they sailed to Cuba on the yacht Granma to launch the revolutionary struggle that just over two years later toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.  Batista fled on Thursday, January 1, 1959 and the following Thursday the Rebel Army entered Havana and quickly began implementing the changes that had been promised in History Will Absolve Me.  

This, indeed, was one of the crucial differences between the July 26 Movement and other radical-democratic movements in Latin America and elsewhere.  Under pressure from domestic ruling classes and the imperialists, most such movements backed down – often part of these movements organised a counter-revolution.  But the July 26 Movement was determined to implement their programme of sweeping reforms and when they found that would require carrying through a socialist revolution they did not hesitate to begin abolishing capitalism. 

Rebel Army enters Havana

Rebel Army enters Havana

. . .  In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we’re talking about the six hundred thousand Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the five hundred thousand farm laborers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don’t have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the four hundred thousand industrial workers and laborers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the one hundred thousand small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot
(more…)

by Michael Roberts

pyramidThe top 1% of the adult wealth holders in the world own 51% of all global wealth, while the bottom half of adults own only 1%.  Indeed, the top 10% of adults own 89% of all the world’s wealth!  This is the new figure reached for 2016 by the annual Credit Suisse global wealth report.  Every year, Credit Suisse presents this report, authored by Professor Tony Shorrocks, James Davies and Rodrigo Lluberas, who used to do it for the UN.  I report on the results each year and it is usually the one of the most popular posts I write.

The last time that I discussed the Credit Suisse results, the top 1% had 48% of global wealth.  So, in the last year and a half, global inequality on this measure has risen yet again.   The shares of the top 1% and top 10% in world wealth fell between 2000 and 2007: for instance, the share of the top percentile declined from 50% to 46%. However, the trend reversed after the financial crisis and the top shares have returned to the levels observed at the start of the century.

The Credit Suisse researchers reckon these changes mainly reflect the (more…)