Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

The following statement was endorsed by Dunedin PSA union members at Dunedin Public Library and the University of Otago: 

Solidarity with Auckland Libraries workers!

PSA and TEU members at Dunedin Public Libraries and University of Otago libraries stand in solidarity with their colleagues and fellow workers at Auckland Libraries who are undergoing an incredibly divisive and unsettling restructuring process. We oppose Auckland Council’s plans to disestablish hundreds of roles and force workers to reapply for a diminished number of jobs. This restructuring is being cynically sold to the public as a future-proofing exercise whereas we recognise it for what it is – simple cost cutting.

There appears to be insufficient recognition by Auckland Council of the vital social and educational role of public libraries in a democratic society. Libraries provide educational, informational and recreational resources which contribute to the development of literacy and critical thinking – vital components of today’s society.

Reducing staffing across the board is (more…)

freedom-quotes-53982-statusmind-com

The following article first appeared in issue #6 of revolution magazine, May-June 1998.  Although nearly 20 years old, the article – which is actually based on talks given between 1995-97 – unfortunately remains highly relevant.

by Philip Ferguson

Over the last few years the term ‘political correctness’ has started to enter the vocabulary here.  Originating with a layer of liberals and leftists in the United States, politically correct practices and outlooks have gained a hold among elements of the professional classes in New Zealand.  The Anna Penn case in 1993, in which a trainee nurse was expelled from the nursing course at Christchurch Polytech for allegedly being “culturally unsafe”, and several cases in other nursing schools and social work courses, have garnered widespread media coverage.

In many ways, political correctness is stronger in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.  It has become an important industry, with lucrative financial rewards, for a host of touchy-feely middle class liberals.  We have a range of counsellors now operating in most spheres of human problems, along with various consultancy agencies and individuals doing very nicely for themselves advising establishment institutions on how to be “culturally sensitive” to the people upon whose oppression these institutions depend.

In a real sense, political correctness in New Zealand has become the new (more…)

Tame Iti and mate Jenny Shipley, the Tory prime minister of NZ at the time.

The article below first appeared in issue #14 of revolution magazine, dated Xmas 2000/March 2001.  The introduction to the article stated that it argued “Trendy liberal race relations nostrums are more about social control than emancipation”.  Footnotes have been added for this re-publication. 

by Philip Ferguson

From cultural safety in nursing training to the banning of vegetables from primary school play groups – use of vegetables to make, for example, potato stamps is now regarded as ‘culturally insensitive’ because ‘traditional’ Maori society didn’t use spuds for such frivolous activities – Maori culture appears to be increasingly important and respected.

Virtually everyone from the far left through to much of the National Party (with the exception of the minor-league redneck element typified by the now-retired John Banks)[1] appears to be in favour of cultural diversity and the ‘empowerment of Maori.

Yet, as has been noted in this magazine before, the cultural revival coincides with a worsening of the actual material conditions of the majority of Maori (see, in particular, revolution #7) and the collapse of old forms of collective class organisation.  It is in this situation that some Maori have retreated into idealised versions of the past.  This retreat coincides with an interest on the part of the ruling class in finding new forms through which to mediate conflicting interests and establish social control in the midst of the decay of society itself.

Changing ruling class ideology

The ruling class ideology today is clearly not the one which existed in the decades before 1984 and was reflected in commitment to the welfare state, monoculturalism and the kind of old-fashioned patriotism and nationalism epitomised by powerful right-wing groups like the Returned Servicemen’s Association (RSA).

Today’s ruling class, for instance, actively promotes multiculturalism, liberal pluralism and has no problem with homosexuality and other things that were taboo in the past.  A lot of formal legal inequality has been abolished as it was an obstacle to the needs of a new round of capital accumulation and the new style of managing an increasingly fragmented society.

For someone seen as right-wing economically, such as recent National Party prime minister Jenny Shipley, ‘respect for difference’ is a key principle, as she made clear when (more…)

The piece below is taken from the site of Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, here, March 20.  Please support their work. 

Two Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike to demand their release from indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial under administrative detention. Mohammed Alaqimah of Jenin has been on hunger strike for 24 days, even after his health has deteriorated. He was joined by Raafat Shalash, 34, of al-Khalil, currently on his fifth day of hunger strike against administrative detention without charge or trial.

Alaqimah, 27, from the vilage of Barta’a, has been imprisoned without charge or trial since 16 August 2016. He launched a hunger strike for eight days in late December after his four-month administrative detention order was renewed. He launched his current hunger strike against the renewal once again of his imprisonment without charge or trial. Alaqimah is married and a father of two.

Shalash, from Beit Awwa village, held in the Negev desert prison, announced that he launched his hunger strike against the renewal of his administrative detention. He was seized by occupation forces on 17 January 2016 and has been subject to three consecutive administrative detention orders; his current order expires on 14 April 2017 and he is demanding that it not be renewed. He is married with three children and has spent seven years in Israeli prisons.

Alaqimah and Shalash are among over 530 Palestinians held without charge or trial under (more…)

by Michael Roberts

Financial markets may be booming in the expectation that the US economy will grow faster under president Donald Trump. But they forget that the main emphasis of Trump’s programme, in so far as it is coherent, is to make America “great again” by imposing tariffs and other controls on imports, and forcing US companies to produce at home – in other words, trade protectionism. This is to be enforced by new laws.

That brings me to discuss the role of law in trying to make the economy work better for bourgeois interests – an area that has been badly neglected. How is the law used to protect the interests of capital against labour; national capital interests against foreign rivals; and the capitalist sector as a whole against monopoly interests?

Last year, there were a number of books that came out that helped to enlighten us both theoretically and empirically on the laws of motion of capitalism. But I think I missed one. It is The great leveler by Brett Christophers, a professor in human geography at Uppsala University, Sweden.1 His book looks at the nature of crises under capitalism from a refreshingly new angle. He says that we need to examine how capitalism is continually facing a dynamic tension between the underlying forces of competition and monopoly. Christophers argues that, in this dynamic, law and legal measures have an under-appreciated role in trying to preserve a “delicate balance between competition and monopoly”, which is needed to “regulate the rhythms of capitalist accumulation”.

Monopoly/competition imbalance

He reckons this monopoly/competition imbalance is an important contradiction of capitalism that has been (more…)

The article below was written late last year by a veteran Canadian Marxist and anti-imperialist.  It appeared in the Australian-based international Marxist journal Links.  We’ve included the discussion on the Links site, as it contains comments representative of the two positions taken by anti-imperialists: one which focuses on the imperialists’ machinations against the regime and one which focuses on the nature of the Syrian regime and its backers in Tehran and Moscow.

by Richard Fidler

November 14, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — In Syria the rebel cities that rose up four years ago in revolt against the brutal Assad dictatorship are now under a genocidal siege, bombed and assaulted from the air by Assad’s military aided and abetted by Russian fighter jets and bombers. Their desperate fight for survival, if unsuccessful, will put paid to the Arab Spring and with it the potential for building a democratic, anti-imperialist governmental alternative in the Middle East for an extended period to come. Socialists and antiwar activists everywhere have every interest in supporting the Syrian people and opposing that war.

But where is the antiwar movement? And what if anything is it doing about Syria? The most recent statement on the Canadian Peace Alliance web site is headlined Stop Bombing Syria. But it is focused on NATO. Not wrong in principle, but the statement, addressed to Canada’s previous bombing of ISIS positions in Syria, is many months out of date. There is nothing on the CPA site about the current murderous air and bombing assault on Syria’s cities. And it would appear that across the country the movement is doing nothing to protest the war.

Why the silence? Is it only because Trudeau has pulled Canada’s fighter jets out of Syria; after all, Canadian planes and troops are active in other parts of the Middle East. The CPA denounces the bombing of Syria by Harper and Trudeau but says nothing about the bombing now by Putin. And most of the left and labour movement are likewise maintaining a disquieting silence on the war in Syria.

Part of the reason lies no doubt in the complex and confused situation on the ground in that country, and throughout the Middle East.

In Syria the Assad regime has from the outset responded with brutal repression, displaying no willingness to negotiate with the democratic and popular opposition forces. It has sought to deflect attention from its war by various tactics, including the release from its prisons of Islamic fundamentalists who are now fighting with Daesh, the reactionary Islamic State forces that have been drawn into Syria from Iraq as a result of the civil war.

Iran and now Russia have intervened in support of Assad, while traditional allies of the United States (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, with the obvious sympathy of Israel) have backed the opposition, although for their own reactionary purposes and without providing the opposition forces with the weapons and other material support they so desperately need.

The United States, no friend of Assad but fearing his overthrow will further destabilize the Middle East and jeopardize Israel’s defense, has doled out aid to the opposition as if through an eye-dropper, denying it the (more…)

The following is based on a presentation at the International Communist Forum in London last month (February 2017).  ICF is organised by the British Marxist workers’ group Workers Fight, which is aligned with the French revolutionary movement Lutte Ouvriere.  This is part of our efforts to make available to readers several different viewpoints on the conflict in Syria.

Introduction

It is almost exactly 6 years since the wave of protests of the Arab Spring spread to Syria, in February 2011. Within only a few months of these protests, the confrontation between the protesters and the Syrian dictatorship turned into a bloody civil war, which remains as rife and brutal as ever today.

These six years of bloodshed have already claimed nearly half a million casualties and forced an estimated 4.5 million Syrians to seek shelter outside the country around 20% of the population. As to the state of the country, most of us have seen TV footage of Aleppo when it was recently retaken by government forces: it is a ghost town, covered in rubble. Some buildings still appear to be standing upright, but, on a closer look, most have been hollowed out by the blasts of many explosions. In fact many of Syria’s small and bigger towns have suffered the same treatment. As to the country’s infrastructure it has either been destroyed or else, it is falling apart for lack of maintenance.

In other words, the same tragedy which took place in Iraq as a result of the country’s invasion by the imperialist powers is being played out again in Syria, but this time, without (more…)