Archive for the ‘New Zealand history’ Category

The Health Sector Workers Network, a rank-and-file grouping of workers in the health sphere, has as one of its current projects the assembling of stories of resistance by workers in this sector.

HSWN are conducting interviews with people who have direct experience of taking industrial action – or engaging in any form of struggle or resistance – while working in the health sector.

Your story will be recorded and run on the HSWN site, but you can be anonymous if you wish.

So please get in touch with the Network’s project on struggle and resistance in the health sector.  You can email: 

The HSWN site, meanwhile, is here.

And HSWN on facebook is here.


The third Labour government under Norman Kirk enabled employers to take out injunctions against workers withdrawing their labour; Northern Drivers Union leader Bill Andersen was jailed for his union’s defying an injunction; the jailing sparked massive workers’ protests

by Don Franks


Jacinda Ardern’s dead against it.

Today’s unions accept tight government constraints on it.

At some time in the future workers will recall this potent weapon, because it gets results. I wrote the history below when the previous Labour government was in power, our circumstances today remain essentially the same.

Strikes have brought workers suffering and death. They’ve also won money and righted wrongs. Striking involves risk, excitement and, dare I say it – (more…)

by Don Franks

It was a stinking hot afternoon down at Fords Lower Hutt assembly plant when one of us deliberately smashed a new truck windscreen. The truck trim line was a small non-automated section where four or five painted cab shells got fitted out each day, their windows fixed in place by skilled use of a big rubber hammer.

A worker would tap around the edges of the glass, on this occasion whacking it hard in the middle so it shattered. This meant work in the area had to stop until a cleaner’s union guy was located, had made his dignified way across to us and methodically swept up all the pieces. That process took a good twenty minutes, during which we were able to enjoy a break.

Of course we didn’t pull that stunt too often or it would have looked suspicious. There were other, less dramatic ways to get a break.

This time as we sat watching (more…)

But not an alternative to capitalism

by Don Franks

Jim Anderton’s death revives memories of recent political times that will not be repeated.

When the past president who’d revived Labour broke away from his party and formed NewLabour I was one of those lefties who became excited. Not since the resignation of Matt Rata had a major politician broken with the Labour Party and become active somewhere on its left. This time the rupture was very much wider and possibly a fine opportunity for becalmed kiwi socialists. Initially it looked like some new political space had opened up. We might move in from the margins and make some inroads.

So a huge proportion of the New Zealand left were bedazzled when Jim’s NewLabour Party was formed. No MPs but many left Labour activists decamped to go with Anderson. A notable exception was my mentor, Pat Kelly, trained in the old communist tradition that you stayed and fought in the existing organisation rather than joining spinoffs. In my recollection the only left group who definitely stood aside and criticised was the Communist Party of New Zealand. Those other of us who joined the gold rush saw it as an easier option than the hard slog of taking revolutionary politics out to workers who didn’t seem to be very interested in our message.

Soon Jim made it clear that NewLabour was not going to be a vehicle for revolutionary ideas. He cleaned out the obvious communists very early on, beginning with the Communist Left and then the Permanent Revolution Group. Ironically, Anderton was at one stage in a position of defending the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, mostly to support his allies in the union bureaucracy-dominated (pro-Moscow) Socialist Unity Party. Not publicly, but in a closed meeting, David Steele and I wound up in a very tense tussle with Anderton over this issue. As time went on, several of our Workers Communist League comrades, including David, finished up putting a lot of time and energy into the Alliance. Because, for a while, it still looked like some solid reforms at least could be achieved. But for all the hopes Jim’s party raised, it was (more…)

At the beginning of the NLP (NewLabour Party); vice-president Sue Bradford; president Matt McCarten; party MP and leader, Jim Anderton

by Philip Ferguson

Jim Anderton passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 7, just two weeks away from his 80th  birthday.  I have two sets of views about Anderton: a political assessment and also a personal view, as my parents were friends and strong political supporters and co-workers of Anderton’s for several decades.

First, the personal side.  This Anderton, I’ll call Jim.  I only met him once and this was when my mother was dying.  She had collapsed at home and been subsequently diagonised as riddled with cancer.  She went home for a fortnight before being transferred into a rest home with hospice facilities.  Jim showed up at my parents’ house with a load of food when my mother came out of hospital.  During the visit he gave me his personal cell-phone number and told me to call him at any time; also, that if he was in a meeting and couldn’t answer, he would get back to me straight afterwards.  He was particularly concerfned if we had any trouble with the public health bureaucracy – he told me to just let him know and he’d get onto them straight away.

Ferocious in dealing with petty bureaucrats

I knew from my mother that he was  ferocious in dealing with state bureaucrats who put any obstacles at all in the way of people receiving their just rights.  She had volunteered in Jim’s constituency office for years, both when he was a Labour MP and later, when he (and my parents) departed from Labour and founded the left social-democratic NewLabour Party and, subsequently, the Alliance.  I had heard stories from her of being in the office when Jim, outraged at one or other a tale of officious state mistreatment of one of his constituents (or anyone from across Christchurch who visited his office) would literally rip the jumped-up bureaucrat a new one.

My mother had also told me of his personal generosity.  The office was in a small block of shops in Selwyn Street in Spreydon and Jim and Carole Anderton’s home was up a driveway at the end of the row of shops.  This made it easy for him to dash back to the house and grab (more…)

NZ Capitalism Ltd’s smiley new manager

by Phil Duncan

When Helen Clark led Labour into government in 1999, little was on offer for workers.  True, to the left of Labour was the Alliance Party which wanted the introduction of paid parental leave and forced this on Labour as part of the price of coalition, Helen Clark having said initially that it would be introduced “over my dead body”.  However, overall, Labour had been engaged in ensuring workers did not have any high expectations of the incoming government – thus there was no way of workers being disappointed and possibly looking left.

All Clark and her party had to do was sit out enough terms of National in the 1990s – three, as it happened – and rely on people getting bored with the traditional Tories and turning to the new, shinier Tories of the Labour Party.  Moreover, the National-led government came apart in the middle of its third term, with Shipley overthrowing Bolger and with New Zealand First going into parliamentary meltdown – NZF leader Winston Peters entered a major ruck with Shipley and many of his MPs decamped to keep National afloat.  Clark could comfortably walk into power over the rubble.

Altered political landscape

In the few weeks run-up to the latest election Clark fan/acolyte Jacinda Ardern faced a somewhat altered political landscape.  In (more…)

by Phil Duncan

With Winston Peters announcing that his New Zealand First party is going with Labour and not with National, it looks like the Tories are out and the Xenophobes are in. We’ll now have the two most xenophobic of the four main parties in coalition government (Labour and NZ First). Although the last Labour government was pretty racist in relation to immigration, a Labour-NZF coalition may well be the most xenophobic government since Muldoon in the late 1970s (and the pre-Muldoon Labour government which began the dawn raids on Pacific Islands immigrants).

Watch out immigrants, especially poor people who want to migrate here to make a better life for themselves!

While no-one is under any illusion about Winston Peters’ xenophobia, given that for the last several decades he has made a career out of anti-immigrant – especially anti-Asian immigrant – policies, the liberal left prefers to turn a blind eye to Labour’s anti-Asian racism.  In fact, much of the liberal or centre-left shares  (more…)