Archive for the ‘Poverty & Inequality’ Category

Ardern and English: two faces of what is really one party

by Phil Duncan

Two events yesterday provided a micrcosm of the problem with the NatLabs, and yet more evidence of why workers and progressive people generally shouldn’t support either wing of this party.

One of the most obnoxious events in politics, and in elections in particular, is when capitalist politicians – people dedicated to managing the system that exploits workers- show up at workplaces.  They put on hi-viz jackets or hard hats or hair nets or whatever and walk around making absurd chit-chat with workers and posing for photo opportunities.  The more obsequious workers agree to be part of the photo opp and the most obsequious even take selfies and stick them on their facebook pages.

But, thanks to the courage of Robin Lane and several other workers, Bill English found one of these workplace walkabouts highly embarrasing.  Shortly after inspecting a tray of lemons at Kaiaponi Farms (near Gisborne), English looked like he was sucking on a (more…)

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Camilo Mones

Camilo Mones worked and organized for decades at the PepsiCo plant in Buenos Aires until this past June, when the corporation abruptly closed it and about 700 workers were fired. Today, he continues to fight alongside other dismissed workers for the factory’s reopening.

In the following, Camilo describes their struggle, the crisis of the CGT (General Confederation of Labour), politics and opposition within the national unions, and the need to fight for a class-struggle perspective within the labour movement.  

The interview was conducted by Left Voice and translated by Nicolas Daneri. 

Left Voice: The media is saying that, apart from the CGT, the PepsiCo workers were one of the main participants in the rally on August 22.

Camilo Mones: We managed to gather a broad range of organizations under the PepsiCo banner that represented the fight against the layoffs, the demand for the appearance of Santiago Maldonado (a political “desaparecido” during a repression against indigenous Mapuches in the south of the country) and the motto, “For a general strike.” There were people from other food factories, the tyre factories workers’ union, the Buenos Aires province teachers’ union, delegates and shop stewards from the subway, railroad workers, airport, left-wing parties, and a delegation of workers from MadyGraf–a printing company under workers’ control.

Although the bureaucracy did not want us to go to the rally, we decided to go in full force. There, we planted our banners with the demand for a general strike, which we chanted throughout the speech. This and our early morning demonstration that blocked 9 de Julio Avenida (one of the most important avenues in Buenos Aires City) led the media to highlight our participation.

LV: Did the CGT’s call to action and their speeches at the rally seem a bit soft?

CM: Completely. The rally–among the smallest in recent years–revealed the crisis within the federation and its leadership. Most of the unions did not take part and some of them only sent small delegations. This crisis is partly a result of 19 months of inaction, when unions had no policy to oppose the austerity measures of (more…)

by Don Franks

I don’t care what anyone thinks, I’ve had enough of all the talk about child poverty.  Some of the talk is well-intentioned, but much of it’s actually bullshit

Phrases roll off the tongue but what does poverty mean in New Zealand today?

The Ministry of Social Development works from the level of income set at  60% of median household disposable income after housing costs. This is deemed a reasonable level to protect people from the worst effects of poverty.

Source: Stats NZ 2016

In these terms it’s calculated that the poverty line after deducting housing costs for a household with two adults and two children lies at $600 per week or $31,200 annually in 2016 dollars. For a sole parent with one child it is $385 per week or $20,200 annually in 2016 dollars. Inadequate amounts of money for a decent life and, by such reckoning, there are around 682,50 people in poverty in this country, or one in seven households.

New Zealand is a far more unequal country than it was a generation back. Over the past three decades, under both National- and Labour-led governments, New Zealand has gone from being one of the most equal to one of the most unequal nations in the wealthy OECD countries.  In those 30 years, incomes for the average of the top 10% income earners roughly doubled while lower and middle incomes barely increased. Let’s compare two reports, almost a decade apart.

The 2007 Statistics Department study Wealth and disparities in New Zealand revealed that the top 10% of wealthy New Zealand individuals owned over half of New Zealand’s total net worth, and nearly one fifth of total net worth was owned by the top one percent of wealthy individuals. At the halfway mark, the bottom half of the population collectively owned a mere 5 percent of total net worth.

The most recent available information is a 2016 Statistics Department study Household Net Worth Statistics: Year ended June 2015 (published 2016).  It reveals that the (more…)

by Walter Daum

Thanks to John Smith and Michael Yates for calling attention to David Harvey’s latest twists on the actuality of imperialism  (see here). John’s critique of Harvey’s assessment of imperialism today is devastating. I want to take up a related point.

Harvey’s work is often rich in detail and connections, but his intricate tapestry conceals the main threads of imperialism today. John notes that similar failures are common among Marxist theorists in the imperialist countries, many of whom insist that the most highly exploited workers are in the North. As to Harvey’s particular claim about the reversal of flows, one guess might be that he is impressed by the wealth being amassed especially in China. If so, what he overlooks is that China’s capitalists got rich by super-exploiting their own proletariat (sharing the profits with imperialist-country capitalists), not the workers of the West or North. Little of the Chinese ruling class’s wealth comes from any reverse transfer of surplus-value.

Harvey notes that the rise of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan etc, and then the growth of China among the still-poorer countries, “has altered (more…)

ILWU Local 10 taking part in protest against police killings of black Americans.

In New Zealand, industrial law supported by National and Labour alike bans political strikes.  Both parties are aware of the criplling effect this has on working class politics.  Without engaging in political strikes, NZ workers simply can’t press their interests as members of a global class.  And without acting as part of the global working class, workers here can’t develop a genuinely radical consciousness.

In the past, unions here did engage in political strikes.  For instance, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement in the early 1970s, the seafarers would take industrial action against the imperialist intervention in Vietnam on the same day that national protests against the war would take place.

In many other countries, political strikes are an important feature of working class politics and industrial action.  Below is an example from a few days ago in the United States. 

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 in San Francisco have passed a motion to stop work and march on the site of a white nationalist gathering later this week.

The rally has been organised by the far-right Patriot Prayer group, whose leader Joey Gibson has a history of organising rallies attended by white nationalists and violent racists such as Jeremy Christian, the man who stabbed two men to death on a Portland MAX train as they intervened to stop him racially abusing and threatening two teenage girls.

Gibson has made pains to distance himself from more explicit neo-nazis in the fallout following the Charlottesville protests, where a white nationalist drove his car into a group of anti-racist demonstrators.

However, Gibson’s sincerity has been questioned particularly has it has come to light that the Oath Keepers, a heavily-armed far-right militia composed largely of ex-military and ex-law enforcement personnel, will be providing security for the event.

To combat this, a rank-and-file union meeting of ILWU Local 10 has resolved to stop work on Saturday 26th August, the day of the rally, and march to Crissy Fields, where the rally is due to take place.

In a statement, the ILWU Local 10 declares (more…)

Even in the US there is greater awareness of the importance of opposing immigration controls

by Phil Duncan

In New Zealand, working class struggle remains – as it has been for a couple of decades now – at an historic low.  In fact, abject surrender to exploitation and acceptance of the contempt of the employers and their political representatives in National and Labour seems to be thoroughly normal now.  Occasionally a group of workers will struggle, but these workers are a tiny minority and their struggles are limited to immediate conditions and take place entirely within narrowly-prescribed industrial law.

The share of wealth going to workers, meanwhile, continues to decline.  For instance, official figures show that business operating profits have grown from $NZ47 billion in 2009 to just over $NZ65 billion in the latest financial year, an increase of about 38 percent.  But the median-average hourly wage grew by less than 20 percent.   Large numbers of workers simply haven’t received wage rises in the past couple of years.

Mourning sickness

Even when faced with workplace closures, and a possible future of unemployment, the tendency of the employees generally is to look (more…)

As Jacinda Ardern spoke at Labour’s election launch about child poverty the Town Hall was packed with people pinning their hopes on her. Did any give a thought to how deftly she had just a few weeks earlier fed Metiria Turei to the wolves?  Announcing she would not have Turei in a future Cabinet because “When you’re lawmakers, you can’t condone lawbreaking”,  Ardern sided with the pearl-clutching judgmentalism that columnist Zoe Williams writes about in the Guardian.

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The downfall of the New Zealand politician Metiria Turei shows how little empathy is left for those on the dole

 

Some things are easier to see from far away, and a collective slide away from empathy and common sense, towards pearl-clutching judgmentalism, is one of them. At the start of August the co-leader of New Zealand’s Green party, Metiria Turei, was forced to resign, following an outpouring of opprobrium that threatened to poleaxe her party’s prospects in September’s elections.

The crime for which this tide of hate would have been proportionate is hard to imagine: in fact, it was spurred by her admission that she committed benefit fraud in the early 90s, a confession she made freely to highlight how hard it was then, and is now, to raise a child as a single parent under New Zealand’s notoriously punitive welfare system.

More than half of all that country’s benefit claimants owe money to their work and income department, in what appears to be a version of Gordon Brown’s working family tax credit overpayments, where you identify the country’s poorest families, pay them slightly more than you intended by a metric you haven’t really explained, then saddle them with a debt they have no hope of repaying. When you get to the point that these debts affect 60% of claimants, this is no longer a glitch in the system: this is the system.

As the journalist Giovanni Tiso described in a moving essay, “once the blood was in the water, the sharks had to do as nature commanded them” – her admission of guilt was deemed not quite penitent enough. The media set out to “investigate” the extent of her fraud, and found that she had also had support from family members when she was young, so couldn’t possibly have been as destitute as she claims. (more…)