Archive for the ‘Politics in general’ Category

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.

Labour on immigration – from bad to worse

Political donations and the National-Labour siblings

Labour’s immigrant bashing has a human cost

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

by Daphna Whitmore

“Auckland is creaking under the weight of too many people and not enough investment in infrastructure” according to Phil Twyford, Labour’s spokesman for housing. Twyford is again calling for cuts to immigration, after his shameful anti-Chinese campaign last year. Instead of saying let’s invest and build to make this a haven for people in need Twyford was taking a moment to bang the anti-immigration drum again.

“The Te Atatu MP said migrants were very important to New Zealand’s growth, but it was no good if the city could not house them or they were stuck in traffic jams.” So, migrants are just fodder for ‘growth’ according to Twyford. While National are also opposed to the free movement of people, they are far less inclined to peddle blatant xenophobia. (more…)

by Phil Duncan

In 2014, most of us at Redline favoured not voting in the New Zealand general election.  There was simply no party that represented the interests of workers, much less that attempted to politicise and organise workers to represent themselves.

Labour and National are the twin parties of capital in this country and a vote for either is a vote for capitalism.

The other parliamentary parties represent variants that still ‘play the game’.

Mana might have been worth considering in 2014 but the lash-up with pirate capitalist Kim Dotcom and giving the presidency of InternetMana to Laila Harre. who had not long before taken a job which meant she oversaw the laying off of a swathe of workers in Auckland. put that party beyond the pale.

This year Mana is in an alliance with the Maori Party, a political vehicle of Maori capitalist interests.

Another issue to take into account is that (more…)

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…)

images-1by Daniel Taylor

When he took office in January, Donald Trump declared that he was “transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you: the people”. As the rain fell on the half-empty National Mall, the new president predicted: “January 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again”.

It was a strange claim to make, given that “the people” had just been defied: 75 percent of the American voting-age population had either not voted for Trump, or had voted against him. In fact, 20 January 2017 was the inauguration of the most hated person ever to run for president in modern history, according to all available polling data.

Outrages against democracy

It was only the most recent outrage against democracy perpetrated in the name of the democratic process itself. Trump’s anti-democratic triumph came six months after the Democratic Party machine systematically dismantled the campaign of Bernie Sanders; two years after the Greek people voted in a landslide referendum to reject austerity, and then had the most sadistic austerity imposed on them as punishment; five years after police drove Occupy Wall Street from the streets, ending its campaign for “real democracy”; and 13 years after that epoch-defining atrocity, the US invasion of Iraq, was inflicted on a world that overwhelmingly opposed it. Meanwhile, polls showing landslide support for higher taxes on the rich and increased funding of social services are ignored year after year.

It’s no wonder, then, that many have little interest in what passes for capitalist “democracy”. For many of us, that lack of interest manifests as (more…)

images-2by Sarah Black

Art critic, novelist, writer and academic John Berger died last week, aged 90. Amid the media accolades, Suzanne Moore writes an opinion piece for The Guardian entitled ‘I do not recognise the stereotype of John Berger as a dour Marxist – his work embodied hope’. Though the headline is provocative, Moore’s piece does remember the man as kind, interested and warm.

Berger originally trained as a painter at the Chelsea School of Art, but stopped painting in the late 40s, as the post-war images-1nuclear threat seemed to him to render his work trivial. Instead he threw his energies into writing. He managed to enrage the art and media establishment by his pro-Soviet stance, as well as his criticism of big figures in the art world, such as Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso (whose work he felt further mystified art). Berger wrote extensively throughout his career – not just criticism, but fiction and other non-fiction works. In 1972 he won the Man Booker prize for his novel, G. His 1975 book, The seventh man, focuses on the plight of the urban poor.

Berger’s warmth comes across in his most well-known work,Ways of seeing. Unlike contemporary programmes of the time, this 1972 BBC four-part series of films-turned-essays was not presented by a stuffy old man in an art gallery with a suit and a pipe. Filmed in an electronics workshop, Berger, sporting an Aztec-patterned shirt, talks to the viewers at home in a laid-back, conversational manner – the aesthetics of the production have a dynamism that transcends the very 1970s look. Berger places advertising images next to still lifes and soft porn beside nudes, in order to make the viewer interrogate the image, the artist and the subject. His aim was to demystify western European painting from its holy status (where criticism’s purpose was to help us pray) and instead find a different way of (more…)

imagesby Phil Duncan

Whatever way the Mt Roskill by-election went, Labour was always going to spin it.  Of course, it would have been more interesting – and amusing – to see how they would have spun it had Labour lost.  Since the seat, and its predecessor constituencies, were historically safe Labour seats a loss wasn’t likely.  However, the trend in this seat has been for a steady drift of the party vote to National and while Labour veteran Phil Goff won it in 2014 with an 8,000 majority, the party vote actually went to National by about 2,000.

This time around Labour are crowing that they won by 6,500 and took 67% of the vote, as opposed to 55% of the vote taken by Goff two years ago.  But this is a crock.

The most salient points about the by-election are that the turnout was not simply down, as you might expect in a by-election, but especially dramatically down; that Woods, despite being given a free run by NZ First and the Greens, took about 7,000 fewer votes than Goff did just two years ago; and that, since National had no need to win, most National voters didn’t bother to vote.  There was no sign of any drift of votes from National to Labour.

What explains Woods’ 6,500 majority is that (more…)