Archive for the ‘Morbid symptoms’ Category

Resisting factory closure: Rixen factory occupation, Levin, 1981

by Don Franks

We call it an act of God. A natural calamity, outside human control, like an earthquake, forest fire or flood, for which no human can be held responsible.

In past times, acts of God covered much greater range; unexplained livestock deaths and crop failures for instance. When we knew no material explanation for a disaster, all we could do was wring our hands and pray. Hoping that if we showed contrition for our sin which must have caused the calamity, a stern parent-like deity might help us.

Today, because our understanding of the universe is better, fewer acts of God are accepted as such.

Acts of God are simply events that humans can’t control to their advantage yet.

Scientific leaps in recent years have been breathtakingly exciting and huge, but there are some areas where human behaviour remains in the dark ages.

A prime example is the field of industrial relations. Awful disasters for workers take place, quite regularly. Disasters like the loss of one’s job – one of the most punishing losses that can beset a person – and they are essentially accepted as acts of God. You can see an example below in this union media release from 18 January 2018. The words happen to be from the union E tū, however it’s a fairly  (more…)


Jacinda Ardern & Clarke Gayford: first-ever privileged, First World, white, middle class couple to have a baby

by Susanne Kemp

Forget the war and repression in Syria.  Forget the massive protests against the theocratic regime in Iran.  Forget mass hunger and poverty across the Third World.  Forget the millions of refugees.  Forget the women (and men) of the world labouring for a pittance in horrendous conditions in factories, mines and other workplaces across the Third World.

Jacinda Ardern’s ability to ‘work’ and give birth is very much a middle/upper class privilege built, in part, on the super-exploitation of the Third World; but don’t expect liberals to talk about this

For the NZ ‘mainstream media’ none of this counts for much.

You see, Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford are going to have a baby.  Judging by the gush it would appear that they are the first-ever highly-privileged First World, white middle class couple to be doing so.

No First World, privileged, white, middle class people have ever had a baby before.

Presumably this is why TV broadcaster Hillary Barry tweeted, (more…)

Michael Wolff, Fire and fury: inside the Trump White House, Little, Brown 2018, pp336, retailing for $NZ34 at  The Warehouse and just over $2o from the Book Depository (free delivery); reviewed by Paul Demarty

The appearance of Michael Wolff’s extraordinary account of Donald Trump’s presidency has already become the pre-eminent succès de scandale of 21st century letters thus far.

The White House response has been trenchant and hysterical, with the president denouncing it as a complete fiction, and the latest in what the book reminds us is a long line of press secretaries reinforcing the condemnation. Legal action is threatened against Wolff, publisher Henry Holt and – not uninterestingly – Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. It is surely more than mere gratitude that led Wolff to thank in his acknowledgements, pointedly, the libel lawyer he hired to give Fire and fury a once-over. The truth is that Trump has blundered directly into what is now called the ‘Streisand effect’, whereby attempts to suppress some item cause it to spread more rapidly among outraged enemies.1 Even British readers, whose much trumpeted national veneration of liberty reaches no further than the door of the libel courtroom, will benefit from the samizdat PDFs circulating online once Trump’s legal team cast an eye over the Atlantic in pursuit of a cheap victory.


What we find, in whatever format, is a very peculiar book, albeit compulsively readable, droll and frankly horrifying. The sourcing of various anecdotes in here is a particular problem, to which we shall return; certainly, there is a great deal of eyebrow-raising material, which will be confirmed or refuted in the coming months and years. If even a third of it is true, however, Americans are living through some of the most preposterous events in modern political history. Certainly, those looking for evidence that Trump is not what he often appears to be in the presentation of his hated enemies in the media – a narcissistic, vindictive man-child, a demonic cross between King Joffrey of Game of Thrones and (more…)

Fighting casualisation in New Zealand; pic – Simon Oosterman Beckers

by Workers Fight

Out of Britain’s total workforce today, as many as 24% are in part-time jobs, 15% are self-employed, 4.8% on short-term, casual or seasonal full-time contracts, 2.8% on zero-hours contracts and 1.6% on apprenticeships. Add it up and this means that almost 1 worker in 2 is in an insecure job or one which doesn’t pay a full wage. For those trying to find a job, the only choice is between short-term, precarious work, with or without a contract – or long probation periods without the guarantee of a permanent job down the line.

The government may well boast about employment being “up to a record high”, as did Theresa May in her speech to the Tory Party conference, in September. But the 75.3% employment rate her government boasts about includes all these precarious, low-paid jobs, which barely provide workers with enough to live on!

The fact that these jobs have expanded to all sectors of the economy illustrates a rising trend in this capitalist society, a trend that has even been noticed by some bourgeois economists and commentators, like this Financial Times editor who described the growing casualisation as “a conscious choice by investors and entrepreneurs to dodge laws that exist to protect workers.” As if this was anything new!

But how have workers’ conditions reached such a degree of deterioration – and this, over such a relatively short period of time?

From the “boom” years to the economic slump

Casualisation has not always been that widespread. During the two decades of the modest post-war economic expansion – often referred to among trade-union officials and Labour politicians as some kind of “good old days” – casual jobs were, in fact, the exception.

But although casual jobs were rare, they were disproportionally present in certain industries, like for instance in the (more…)

by Luigi Morris

4:30 a.m. The first alarm rings, then the second, and so on. Little by little the sound invades your sleep; it starts to disturb you. Not so much because of the noise, but because of what it means. A tired body, sleepy head and relaxed legs are forced to suddenly get up. First you sit up and understand little or nothing. You just realize you already have to leave and you won’t come back until the evening. One more day that slips away from you while you’re working.

Eight, 10, 12, 14 or 16 are the number of working hours that many of us have to endure in a day—multiplied by 5, 6 or 7 days, with shifts and/or rotating days off—”American Inventions” that lengthen the week, that only give you one or two days off. Overtime, forced by pressure, threats or wages that aren’t enough for anything. Awards, for production, sales or perfect punctuality, are just other means of extortion. And so it is with these different combinations that we arrive at the life of daily work in which we wage a class struggle that is silent, but no less brutal: we hate going to work. We struggle to get more minutes or seconds for rest or distraction, doing everything a little more slowly, going to the bathroom or defying the time limits of our breaks while the hours DO NOT pass. The hands on the clock are heavy; they don’t move. We can’t wait until (more…)


The following is the text of a talk delivered by veteran journalist and film-maker John Pilger at the British Library in London last Saturday (Dec 9).  His talk was part of a festival called “The Power of the Documentary” organised by the Library.  The festival was held to mark its acquisition of the archive of his written work.

by John Pilger

I first understood the power of the documentary during the editing of my first film, The Quiet Mutiny. In the commentary, I make reference to a chicken, which my crew and I encountered while on patrol with American soldiers in Vietnam.

“It must be a Vietcong chicken – a communist chicken,” said the sergeant. He wrote in his report: “enemy sighted”.

The chicken moment seemed to underline the farce of the war – so I included it in the film. That may have been unwise. The regulator of commercial television in Britain – then the Independent Television Authority or ITA – had demanded to see my script. What was my source for the political affiliation of the chicken? I was asked. Was it really a communist chicken, or could it have been a pro-American chicken?

Of course, this nonsense had a serious purpose; when The Quiet Mutiny was broadcast by ITV in 1970, the US ambassador to Britain, Walter Annenberg, a personal friend of President Richard Nixon, complained to the ITA. He complained not about the chicken but about the whole film. “I intend to inform the White House,” the ambassador wrote. Gosh.

The Quiet Mutiny had revealed that the US army in Vietnam was tearing (more…)

by Barnaby Philips

In Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism, Lenin wrote that ‘the world has become divided into a handful of usurer states and a vast majority of debtor states’. Since formal decolonisation in the 1960s, his work has been dismissed as antiquated, even among sections of the radical Left. Now in 2017, with the capitalist system sinking into its deepest crisis since Lenin’s day, a new study into global trade has shown his analysis to be as relevant as ever. It revealed that between 1980 and 2012, the net outflows of capital from ‘developing and emerging’ oppressed countries being funnelled into ‘developed’ imperialist nations totalled $16.3 trillion. The truth about our ostensibly post-colonial world is that poor nations are still developing rich nations, the opposite of what we are so often told.

On 5 December 2016, the US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics published the report Financial flows and tax havens: combining to limit the lives of billions of people.1 It found that in 2012, the last year of recorded data, ‘developing and emerging countries’ – in Central and South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia – received a total of $1.3 trillion, including all aid, investment, and income, but that $3.3 trillion flowed out in the opposite direction to the ‘developed world’ – North America, Western Europe, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

These figures express the contemporary reality of imperialism: that a minority of oppressor nations, led by the US and Britain, plunder the rest of the world, oppressed nations, for profit and resources. As Lenin explained, the economic imperative behind this social relationship stems from the fact that capital exported from oppressor to oppressed nations is (more…)