Archive for the ‘Class Matters’ Category

Workers’ protest, Noumea, January 2016

by Phil Duncan

Sunday November 4 saw the long-awaited referendum in New Caledonia on whether to become independent or stay part of France.  Given the population make-up, as the French government has historically ensured a sizeable pro-French settler population, the rejection of independence was hardly surprising.  The vote was 56.4% for staying with France and 43.6% for independence.  French president Macron declared this outcome to be a show of “confidence in the French Republic”.  However, the voting figures suggest that the majority of Kanaks, the Melanesian indigenous population, continue to favour independence.

France maintains artificial majority

For instance, the territory is divided into three provinces and in the two with predominantly Kanak populations, people voted decisively for (more…)

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by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

Belisario Betancur, the ex-president of Colombia (1982-1986) died in his bed on the 7th of December, 2018.  He corpse hadn’t even time to go cold before he received and avalanche of eulogies from politician, ns and the press.  El Espectador gave over various pages to him and the magazine Semana did likewise.  They are all in agreement, the man of peace has died, but unlike Salvador Allende, the real Man of Peace in Benedetti’s poem, he did not die under fire from the bullets, warplanes and tanks of the Empire, but rather he died in peace and will be buried in the midst of a wave of praise.

The eulogies from the press are not surprising.  Betancur was, after all, one of them and social etiquette is to speak well of the dead, especially if he happens to be a president of the country.  You only have to look at all the liberals praising the recently deceased president of the USA, George H.W. Bush, the man who brought new vigour to conventional warfare and also to the death squads in Central America.  Death pardons everything.  It would seem scientists can discuss whether we are born with a blank slate, but without a doubt the press and the powerful give a kind of blank slate to some when they die.  It is hardly surprising.  But, what has the reformist left in Colombia to say for itself?

Reformist view

There are two tweets that embody a certain vision of Betancur and the issue of (more…)

The increasingly parasitical nature of capitalism today is reflected today in a number of ways.  One is the artificial nature of share ‘values’ and how workers’ jobs, pay and conitions are affected by this.  Below is a piece dealing with the latest round of massive layoffs by GM in the United States and how these layoffs reflect the increasingly parasitical forms of capital/ism today.  It is the editorial from the latest set of fortnightly workplace bulletins produced by The Spark, a US Marxist workers’ current.

General Motors is closing down five plants and laying off 14,500 workers.

That announcement – shocking because it comes in the midst of so-called “good times” – was justified by one lie after another.

No one wants cars, says GM. Not true. In 2018, six million cars will be sold. The problem isn’t car sales. The problem for GM and the other two “American” companies is that cars produce less profit than do trucks and SUV’s. GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have now decided to hand over the car market – except for the biggest, most profitable luxury models – to Japanese companies.

Remember, the three companies did this once before, when they ceded the market for small cars to Japanese and German automakers.

Ford, GM and FCA are now throwing away the whole car market. They don’t give dealers many choices, and they push consumers to “step up” to an SUV or even a truck – all the while counting out more profit.

GM expects these job cuts to provide it with 4.5 billion dollars (US) more profit by the end of 2020.  But, says GM, the auto industry is changing rapidly, and GM needs to accumulate more profit to invest in electric cars and self-driving vehicles.

Well, if that were the issue, GM already could have been investing – and many times that much. It had the money, but instead GM gave it away to Wall Street. Over the last three and a half years, GM bought back stock to the tune of 10.6 billion US dollars, and put in motion plans to buy back almost four billion more – 14.5 billion US dollars.

Stock buy-backs do nothing but (more…)

Militant (and illegal) strikes by teachers and other school employees in the US won major gains earlier this year; it’s an example worth emulating. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

by Don Franks

“In 2018, we’ll be making the message loud and clear – It’s Time. Time to lead, teach and learn. This means freeing teachers to teach so every child receives the personal attention they need to learn and thrive. It means freeing principals to focus on leading and it means ensuring we have enough teachers by attracting more people to teaching, by respecting them as professionals and paying them properly.

“We currently have a growing teacher shortage crisis already showing itself in our schools, which looks set to worsen with growing student numbers and less (sic) people training to become teachers.

“Our students come to school to learn all the skills and abilities that they’ll need to grow up healthy, happy and productive in the 21st century. Our nation can afford to ensure every child receives the education they need to succeed in life, and for every educator to be trusted and resourced to make that a reality. It’s simply a matter of priorities.

“As we go through negotiations for the Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement this year, we’ll be standing together for our students and for an education system that values, attracts and retains the amazing teachers who are entrusted with the education of our children.”

So says the New Zealand Educational Institute, the union for primary school teachers.  It’s the NZEI union office lead piece on the teachers’ impending pay struggle. 

The  campaign title page carries no target figure, no specific claims argued, no bottom line. Payment is barely mentioned in passing.  NZEI’s “loud clear message” is an abstract empty slogan “Time to lead, teach and learn”.

The original claim of 16% over two years appears further down, inside the document, beside the government counter offer of 3% over three years .

The union office does not make any defence of the original offer. It says in relation to the counter offer:

“Do you think the increase offered is sufficient to address the recruitment and retention issues?”

“Do you think there is enough benefit in the current offer to accept a 3 year term?”

Reasonable negotiation or the thin end of a sell-out?

Does it matter if the NZEI choose to waffle like this? (more…)

Pic: Caribbean 360

On Saturday October 6th, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake hit the northwest region of Haiti. The worst-affected area was ​​Port-de-Paix, a city of just over 460,000 people and the capital of the North-West department. The quake killed at least 17 people and injured about 430.

The North-West Department is one of the most remote areas of the country. Running water, electricity, roads, hospitals, schools, universities, are mirages – the government talks about them but the people do not see them.

Just over 200 years ago Haiti was at the front of the struggle for human freedom

Indeed, the state does not provide any public services.  The roads linking this department to other parts of the country are in a sorry state.  In the houses anti-seismic or anti-cyclone standards have not been applied. The state does not apply them in public buildings either.

The area of Port-de-Paix struggles under the weight of poverty and ill-health, while the situation is even worse in the other communes of the department. With such a cocktail, any natural phenomenon, depending on its scale, can be transformed into a social catastrophe and a human tragedy. And it is always the poorest who are the most affected.

Some areas are difficult to access, because of the state of the roads, so relief is hard.  The hospital in Port de Paix is ​​ (more…)

by Don Franks 

jail_5“New Zealand has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the world, second only to the United States, with over 5000 people currently in our 17 prisons. We could be excused for thinking the problem is huge, too big too handle …”

Social reformer Celia Lashlie wrote that in 2002. Today, 10,645 inmates are crammed inside 18 overflowing jails.

Successive government policies paved the way for this massive increase. (more…)

The Christchurch-based Canterbury Socialist Society has been organising educational talks, film showings and social events since last year.  The public talks have ranged from Marx’s analysis of the working day to war resisters in New Zealand to the Frankfurt School.

Last month the Society decided to adopt a more formal structure and a founding statement.  Below is the founding statement.

In mid September 2018 the Canterbury Socialist Society was officially founded in Christchurch. A constitution was ratified and an executive board was elected. Those in attendance have prepared the following statement to mark our formation as a Society:

As capitalism lurches from crisis to crisis, the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, social ties are growing weaker, and working life is increasingly exhausting and insecure. Poverty, alienation and despair are now ubiquitous features of daily life. A burning question presents itself to the public consciousness: Is this the kind of society, the kind of world, we want? For a growing number, the answer is an emphatic no.

But this first question demands a second: If not capitalism, then which system? Our answer is this: Socialism.

We do not delude ourselves that the public en masse have yet reached the same conclusion as us. However, as capitalism continues in its tendency towards crisis, the political situation will become ever more fractious and violent. The original question therefore will become sharper and its resolution that much more urgent: Socialism or barbarism?

The socialist proposition is that capitalism is neither a (more…)