Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

Creating another obstacle to workers' ability to fight for their interests

Creating another obstacle to workers’ ability to fight for their interests

by Phil Duncan

Already quite ground down enough, the New Zealand working class is about to blessed with yet another obstacle to its self-emancipation.  The two biggest unions affiliated to the capitalist Labour Party – the EPMU and SFWU – are merging.  The new union formed by the merger is to be announced tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.  It will be the largest private sector union with about 50,000 members.

While the merger is dressed up in the language of how campaigning for workers’ rights will be assisted by the ‘economies of scale’ of the new union, the real reason for the merger is simple necessity in terms of the bureaucrats sitting atop the apparatus.  Both unions have been hemorrhaging members in recent years, making life a bit less comfortable for the people at the top.  Less union dues, less power and so on.

Incapable of enthusing workers about joining these two unions, the leaderships have opted for (more…)

South Korean workers' protest. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean workers’ protest. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

by Workers Fight

With its 52 million inhabitants crowded into a territory about 40% the size of Britain, on the eastern coast of China facing Japan, South Korea is portrayed as a capitalist “success story” in every respect, both economically and politically.

Economically, the western media point to the fact that although South Korea was a late-comer to the industrial scene – since it only joined the OECD industrialised countries’ club in 1996 – its industrial production per head is now among the world’s highest. Its two main car manufacturers, Hyundai and Kia, are household names across the world. Its largest electronics conglomerate, Samsung, is Apple’s main rival on the world market of mobile phones and the world’s largest producer of semi-conductors. The world’s most gigantic ships are built in its shipyards – owned by companies like Hyundai, Samsung or Daewoo. Of course, those who hail the South Korean “model” fail to mention how this economic development was achieved, especially the exorbitant price the South Korean working class had to pay – and is still paying – for it!

Politically, South Korea is celebrated by the same media as a ‘democracy’, which is supposed to stand in stark contrast to North Korea’s opaque dictatorship. But what does not get mentioned is that if it had not been for the working class uprising of the late 1980s, South Korea would still be living under the yoke of the long lineage of military dictators brought into power by the western imperialist armies, back in 1946. Likewise, little is ever said about the very narrow limits of South Korea’s so-called “democracy” nor about how its repressive state machinery imposes the iron rule of a handful of very large conglomerates on the working class.

So what does this capitalist ‘success story’ really mean for the South Korean working class in general and for its activists? These are the questions that (more…)







by Allen Myers

Presenting his new ministry on 20 September, Malcolm Turnbull said, “If we want to remain a prosperous, first world economy with a generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive, above all we must be more innovative”.

It’s become quite common for politicians to bang on about the “need to be competitive”, but Turnbull evidently intends this idea to be a hallmark of his prime ministership; it was the theme on which he concluded his announcement that he was challenging Abbott.

But consider what it means.

If Turnbull is right, and the only way to prosperity and social welfare for a country is to be more competitive than other countries, then it follows that there are always going to be (more…)

Graph: Michael Roberts

Graph: Michael Roberts


The piece below is extracted from a discussion on the Marxmail list where here has been some recent debate between upholders of Marx’s crisis theory and ‘Marxist’ opponents of Marx’s crisis theory; the piece below deals with crisis theory and the NZ working class, so we’re posting it up on Redline. 

by Philip Ferguson

Roberts (following Marx and LTRPF)* shows that crisis is inherent in capitalism, the system simply can’t escape it and therefore the possibility of overthrowing capitalism can’t be avoided either.  That possibility is always present, whether it is really, really weak (as at present) or strong (1930s Depression, period at the end of the post-WW2 boom as well).

I’m not arguing, of course, that immiseration causes revolution – frequently it results in demoralisation and passivity.  But improvements in workers’ general conditions leading to rising expectations which are then blocked by a slump certainly can help radicalise workers’ thinking.

In New Zealand we had a long period of workers’ passivity, from the start of the 1950s until the end of the 1960s.  The two key factors in this passivity were (more…)

Women workers taking on the bosses' gun thugs

Women workers taking on the bosses’ gun thugs

During the night-time hours of September 26-27, 2014, policemen attacked students at a rural teachers college in the town of Iguala, located in the state of Guerrero in southern Mexico. They then handed 43 of these students over to the enforcers of a local cartel, who promptly murdered all of them. The brutal nature of this action exposed the collusion between the police, the gangs, the mayor of Iguala, and the governor of Guerrero, revealing not only the corruption of the political regime in Mexico but also the degree to which it has fallen into utter decay.

Iguala’s local government, like so many others, had been under the control of criminals and corrupt functionaries. The mayor had married the sister of a prominent cartel member. One of the governing officials of the state of Guerrero had chosen him for this position because of his family ties. This “Guerreros Unidos” cartel, like all of the others, uses terror to impose itself on the population with the support of the local authorities. Long before this particular case, the state governor had been implicated in the kidnapping and execution of militants and students linked to peasant organizations or community self-defense groups. For the local authorities, it is a common practice to call on the gangs to repress protest.

The mayor and the governor were forced to resign as a result of this scandal. Both belonged to the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the same party that was formed 25 years ago claiming to represent a fight against the corruption and patronage devouring the country. However, the PRD had clearly become just as corrupt as its rivals.

The murders in Iguala are far from the first (more…)

The massive French worker-student upsurge of May-June 1968 reverberated around the world; even in New Zealand

The massive French worker-student upsurge of May-June 1968 reverberated around the world; even in New Zealand

In the article below this one, “Revolution in New Zealand (1969)”, Hugh Fyson mentions the June 26, 1968 demo at parliament – a watershed moment really as it represented the beginning of a new student and youth radicalisation and the renewal of class conflict after 17 years of quiescence following the defeat of the watersiders and their allies in 1951.  This article looks in more depth at that particular protest – or convergence of protests.

by Toby Boraman

Hot on the heels of events in France in May-June 1968, a worker-student protest of several thousand people converged on parliament [Wellington, New Zealand] on June 26 1968.1  Students held ‘Students and Workers Unite’, ‘Student-worker Solidarity’ and ‘Bursaries and wages must be increased’ banners.2  Some also carried ‘billowing red and black flags’,3 a symbol of the French revolt. It has been claimed that the protest nearly ended in the storming of parliament.4  The Dominion exclaimed that the allegedly violent protest ended in a near riot.5  An editorial in the Evening Post sternly remarked that it ‘will be long remembered with shame as one of the most discreditable affairs in the history of this land.’6

Given these assertions, it is puzzling that this protest has received little attention.7  I’ll attempt to shed some light on this event, and discuss whether or not it was violent.  I’ll also look at whether the one-day stoppage on the day of this ‘riot’ can be called a Wellington general strike.

What was the June 26 1968 protest all about?

It was a very broad protest at the opening of Parliament. According to various press reports, from 3,000 to 7,000 attended. 8 A multitude of causes were (more…)

Protest of workers, students and anti-Vietnam War activists at parliament, Wellington, June 26, 1068

Protest of workers, students and anti-Vietnam War activists at parliament, Wellington, June 26, 1968

The article below first appeared in 1969 in the very first issue of the journal Red Spark, publication of the Victoria University of Wellington’s Socialist Club. The VUWSC was one of the first organisations that emerged as part of the youth radicalisation in New Zealand that began in the late 1960s and continued into the early 1970s. VUWSC activists were particularly influenced by the Cuban revolution, the May-June 1968 worker-student upsurge in France and the 1968 Prague Spring, but the issue that most moved them was the struggle of the Vietnamese masses against US imperialism and its allies (including NZ imperialism). (And 1968 was also the year of the Tet Offensive.)

A core of young VUWSC activists, including the author of this article, went on later in 1969 to found the Socialist Action League with a layer of activists who left the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) in Christchurch. The author was a member of the SAL’s original central leadership and for a while the editor of its fortnightly paper; he dropped out of politics in the late 1970s.

The article gives a flavour of the youth radicalisation – and the general optimism – of that period. Its author would have been in his very early 20s, which also gives an indication of the relatively high political level of the young radicals of that era. It’s also interesting to compare trends between then and now in NZ (and, indeed, global) capitalism. Hugh rightly critiques the sociological notion that the new layers of white collar workers were part of the middle class and, instead, suggests that whatever their consciousness might be at that particular point in time – ie not seeing themselves as workers – they were indeed part of an ongoing process of proletarianisation. That analysis has long since been borne out – indeed, as we show elsewhere on Redline, these same layers today, far from being privileged, are often in precarious employment with poor pay and conditions. (See, for instance, here and here.)

by M.H. Fyson

The momentous events in France last year sent out a fresh ripple of revolutionary enthusiasm that spread across the world; it even contributed to the spirit of the demonstration we had here in Parliament Grounds, June 26.1 And not only some students, but even the bourgeois press – the Evening Post and the Dominion – began to speculate on the possibility of there being “another Paris” here. But as soon as it was all over, the students’ premature optimism and the papers’ premature fears melted away, and ‘normality’ returned.

We have already included two articles on the French events in this magazine, for not merely academic interest. But because of their significance for left-wing activists here in New Zealand. The basic lesson for us is this: that under capitalism, no matter how much the government intervenes in the economy, whether or not it makes an attempt to appease or ‘buy off’ the workers, the (more…)