Archive for the ‘Commodification’ Category

Below is an article submitted to Redline by Alec Abbott written 18 April 2017

1. A quintessentially liberal cycle: from smugness to despair, from despair to hope and from hope to smugness

The initial blow

Trump’s election victory left the liberals reeling with shock and incomprehension. Detached from the poverty and discontent around them, and supremely confident in the Democratic Party’s electoral machine, they saw Hillary Clinton as unassailable. Her defeat did little to diminish their disdain for ordinary working people, or to improve their grasp of US realities.download

Rather than consider the socio-economic forces that brought Trump into office, the liberals focused almost exclusively on his personality, his egocentric greed for power, money and fame. Some went so far as to detect the sinister hand of Moscow at work. When asked how he viewed Trump’s relationship with Russia, Bernie Sanders, always hovering between radical liberalism and mild social-democracy, replied:

‘The American people are astounded that when you have an authoritarian like Putin who is moving Russia more and more towards an authoritarian society, President Trump has only positive things to say about this authoritarian figure. What hold does Russia have over the President? We know that Russian oligarchs lent Trump and his associates money. Does that have anything to do with Trump’s relationship with Russia?’ (CNN News, 30/3/2017)

From the start of the election campaign, liberals viewed Trump as an impulsive maverick, a right-wing bigot who has little regard for civilized norms of behaviour. Only by pandering to the worst prejudices of disaffected Americans, they maintained, would he succeed in capturing the presidency. The great unknown was how this relative new-comer to politics would behave once in office. Would he adapt his election pledges to political reality or would he pursue his outlandish agenda to the bitter end? That was the question on the minds of liberal commentators as Trump assumed the position of the 45th president of the US.

In no time at all the liberals gave vent to their despair. Maggie Lake, CNN commentator and political analyst, bewailed: ‘He hasn’t changed. There was the expectation that the office changes the man but we have not seen this with Donald Trump.’ (CNN News, 23/3/2017) Not long after, The Los Angeles Times, a prominent liberal organ, delivered the following lamentation:

‘Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office. Instead … it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.’ (4/4/2017) (more…)

Anwar Shaikh, Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016, £35.99; reviewed by Michael Roberts

Anwar Shaikh is one of the world’s leading economists who draws on Karl Marx and the classical economists (“political economy”, if you like). He has taught at New York’s New School for Social Research for more than 30 years, and authored three books and six dozen articles.1 This is his most ambitious work. As Shaikh says, it is an attempt to derive economic theory from the real world and then apply it to real problems. He applies the categories and theory of classical economics to all the major economic issues, including those that are supposed to be the province of mainstream economics, like supply and
demand, relative prices in goods and
services, interest rates, financial asset prices and technological change.

A classical approach

Shaikh says that his approach “is very different from both orthodox economics and the dominant heterodox tradition”.2 It is the classical approach as opposed to the neoclassical one. In other words, he rejects the approach that starts from “perfect firms, perfect individuals, perfect knowledge, perfectly selfish behaviour, rational expectations, etc” and then (more…)

nationalcolaNo-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons.

Nevertheless, there are certainly sections of the anti-capitalist left who, in practice, retain illusions in Labour.  Some think Labour is still, at its core, some kind of “workers’ party” and that it is therefore permissible to vote for it and call on others to vote for it.  Or to take sides in Labour leadership elections.  Or to invite Labour speakers to speak at their educational conferences.  Or to demonise National in such a way that points clearly to support for Labour, without actually saying so.

Even on the anti-capitalist left, there are also some illusions about the first Labour government.  And illusions about the early Labour Party from its founding in 1916 to the formation of the first Labour government.

It is a form of comfort politics.  Just as some infants require comforters, a left which hasn’t yet grown up and been prepared to face the harsh realities of the 21st century capitalist world requires the comfort of thinking that there was once a mass force for socialism in this country and that it was the early Labour Party.

In fact, there has never been a mass force for socialism in New Zealand.  There were certainly revolutionary elements in this country – marxists, anarchists, syndicalists – in the early 1900s and there were far more of them then, when New Zealand only had a million people, than there are today when the country has 4.5 million people.  One of the functions of the early Labour Party was to destroy these revolutionary elements, in part by mopping them up and sucking them into Labour, transforming them into harmless social democrats.  Where they couldn’t do this, they worked to marginalise them and destroy their organisations.

All the while, through the 1920s, Labour moved rightwards, becoming more and more oriented to saving and running the system than getting rid of it.  Labour was always far more hostile to the anti-capitalist left than it was to capitalism.  And, of course, the early Labour Party staunchly advocated for the White New Zealand policy, indicated that they preferred a divided and politically weakened working class – ie one more likely to turn to Labour as its saviour – than a united, politically powerful working class which didn’t need the Labour Party.

Over the five years that this blog has existed, we have run a lot of articles on Labour, including some major, lengthy pieces.  Below are many of the major ones but, for a full list, go to the Labour Party NZ category on the left-hand side of the blog home page.

What every worker should know about Labour’s 1987 Labour Relations Act

Can the Labour Party survive?

A comment on Labour’s ‘Ready to Work’

Latest opinion poll – Labour just can’t catch a break

The truth about Labour: a bosses’ party

Labour’s racist roots

First Labour government wanted ‘Aryan’ immigrants, not Jewish refugees from the Nazis

Labour’s introduction of peacetime conscription and the fight against it

1949 Carpenters’ dispute: Labour and the bosses versus the workers

Twyford is at it again

A stain that won’t wash off: Labour’s racist campaign against people with ‘Chinese-sounding’ surnames

More Labour anti-Chinese racism and the left tags along behind them still

Anti-working class to its core: the third Labour government (1972-75)

Labour’s legal leg-irons – thanks to fourth Labour government

Some further observations on the fourth Labour government

Workers, unions and the Labour Party: unravelling the myths

For a campaign for union disaffiliation from the Labour Party

Labour’s leadership contest: confusions and illusions on the left

Recalling the reign of Helen Clark

Income and wealth inequality unchanged by last Labour government

Darien Fenton at the fantastic conference

New Labour Party general-secretary indicative of party’s managerial capitalism

Why Labour wasn’t worth the workers’ ticks

Why do otherwise sane, well-meaning people choose to delude themselves about the Labour Party and make up rosy nonsense about its past?

Chris Trotter’s false recovered memory syndrome

Empty Andy and the ‘Eh?’ team

Union movement gathers for ‘fairness at work’; Labour gathers missionaries

Labour parties and their ‘left’ oppositions

Price of Raytheon shares. Notice the big spike immediately following the missile attack. Source: New York Stock Exchange

by Phil Duncan

The US strike against targets in Syria seems like a slap with a wet bus ticket – it appears the US administration felt it had to do something in response to the use of chemical weapons by the regime again, but not too much.  While the strike will hardly frighten the Russians or Assad, it has been a nice little earner for weapons manufacturer Raytheon.

Raytheon, you see, makes the Tomahawk missiles.

And Trump had shares in Raytheon, (more…)

marx_3Check out some of the articles on Redline about Marx’s Capital and its ongoing relevance:

How capitalism works – and why it doesn’t

How capitalist ideology works

4,000 words on Capital

Karl Korsch on “tremendous and enduring” impact of Marx’s Capital (1932)

Capital, the working class and Marx’s critique of political economy

Marx’s critique of classical political economy

From the vaults: two articles on wages, profits, crisis

Pilling’s Marx’s Capital: philosophy, dialectics and political economy

Capital and the state

Value, price and the ‘transformation problem’ in Marx’s Capital

The ‘transformation problem’ and Marx’s crisis theory

Labour prime minister David Lange and pal Roger Douglas. The fourth Labour government launched the most vicious attack on workers and unions since the Depression. Union leaders put loyalty to the Labour Party ahead of the interests of the working class, as usual.

While trade union density remained similar until the Employment Contracts Act, industrial action by workers fell off dramatically under the fourth Labour government. That government viciously slashed jobs, conditions and wages and commodified large chunks of the old state sector. The union leaderships delivered up the working class to their Labour Party friends. Labour and their union pals destroyed working class resistance *before* National came in to put the icing on the cake for the capitalists.

In 2014 more blue-collar workers voted National than Labour, while large numbers of the poorest workers in the country abstained from voting.  In its ongoing attempts to present itself as ‘worker-friendly’ and trick workers into voting for it, however, the Labour Party leadership and its various mouthpieces in the union movement routinely lie to working class audiences about the record of Labour governments in relation to the trade unions and the working class in general.  They seem to rely on workers having short memories.

For instance, these creatures talk about the ‘new right’ reforms that slashed workers’ rights and living standards as if they began under National and the fourth Labour government never existed.  They also try to make out that National’s Employment Contracts Act was the only viciously anti-union legislation of that period.  Side-by-side with this, they either try to airbrush their own Labour Relations Act 1987 out of history or pretend that it was somehow helpful to unions and workers – they assume that no-one is going to dig out what that Act actually did.

As part of our ongoing From the Vaults series, we intend to run a number of pieces on the Labour Relations Act 1987.  These pieces are taken from an eight-page supplement and two-page additional insert that appeared  in the October 26, 1987 issue of the left-wing working class paper People’s Voice.  PV was published fortnightly by the now-defunct Communist Party of New Zealand.

While we at Redline would all have a number of disagreements with and criticisms of the CPNZ[1], it was the most significant force attempting to rally workers against the fourth Labour government and its repressive legislation such as the Labour Relations Act.  The CP did a solid job in this area and much of what it wrote on the decade from 1984-1993, in which both Labour and National waged full-scale class war against workers and unions, is well worth reading and studying today.  The CP was also the leading force in the trade unions taking on the ‘labour lieutenants of capital’, the bureaucrats who sabotaged workers’ resistance from their privileged positions atop unions and in cahoots with Labour.  While very few unions are still affiliated to Labour today, it remains the case that many union officials put the interests of this capitalist party ahead of the interests of workers.

The material below consists of the CPNZ’s synopsis of the 1987 Act and the main article in the supplement. 

Brief outline of the Act
  • The right of workers to organise themselves in unions with less than 1,000 members is abolished
  • Unions can compete for coverage of members of other unions which will allow employers to promote the cause of their ‘favourite’ unions
  • Second-tier wage bargaining is outlawed which takes away a traditional tactic for lifting wage levels
  • The national award system is undermined and unions are pushed in the direction of separate ‘house’ agreements which will undermine working class unity
  • Successful attempts by workers under an award to claim more from an employer than what the award says they can get will now allow the employer to scrap the award, which opens the way for back-door ‘voluntary’ unionism
  • A powerful Labour Court is established to enforce more repressive state control over trade unions
  • The right to strike over awards and agreements is restricted to within 60 days of their expiry date
  • Almost all other strikes are outlawed which severely undermines the legal right of the trade union movement to fight for the interests of its members
  • Workers in ‘essential industries’ can be ordered by the Labour Court to stop even a lawful strike
  • The Labour Court can impose vicious penalties against workers standing up against employers and the state
  • The employers are given free rein to take million-dollar law suits against unions and workers involved in strikes deemed by this Act to be ‘illegal’, which could completely bankrupt unions
  • Each employer is required to make detailed records of strikes available to Department of Labour officials which turns employers into willing spies for the state

(more…)

Tame Iti and mate Jenny Shipley, the Tory prime minister of NZ at the time and a keen advocate of ‘respect for diversity’.

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…)