Archive for the ‘State capitalism’ Category

by Michael Roberts

Sweden has long been the poster child of the ‘mixed economy’, the social democrat state – where capitalism is ‘moulded’ to provide a welfare state, equality and decent working and living conditions for the majority. The 2018 general election result has put that story to bed.

In yesterday’s election, the Social Democrats, the supposed standard-bearer of the ‘mixed economy’, remained the largest party with just over 28% of the vote.  But this was its lowest share in an election since 1908.  The main pro-business party, the so-called Moderates, also lost votes, coming in with 19.7%.  Cutting through both these parties, who have alternated for decades in controlling government, was the rise of Sweden’s so-called Democrats (an oxymoron), an anti-immigrant party with neo-Nazi roots, which polled 17.7%.  The smaller parties of the centre-right and the left also gained – the Left party jumping to 8%.  The middle-of the road Green party was run over and nearly failed to gain the 4% necessary to enter parliament.  The two alliances of the social democracy and the pro-business parties are virtually tied with 40% of the vote each – leaving the Democrats with the balance of power in the new parliament.  Such is the impasse.

It was an illusion anyway about Sweden being the ‘third way’ between untrammelled free market capitalism and command economy autocratic Communism.  The great gains of the Swedish labour movement in the early 20th century have slowly been reversed.  And the post-war diversion to public services of some of the profits of the Swedish engineering and manufacturing (owned by a handful of families) (more…)

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Kim Moody, On New Terrain: how capital reshaped the battleground of class war, Chicago, Haymarket Press, 2017, US$18; reviewed by Guy Miller

On November 8, 1954, US (Republican Party) President Dwight Eisenhower wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. . . their numbers are negligible, and they are stupid.”

On August 3, 2018, the headline on the New York Times front page blared: “The Downside of Apple’s $1 Trillion Valuation: Income Inequality May Grow as Mega-Firms Dominate Economy.”

How we got from November, 1954 to August, 2018 is the story Kim Moody’s book, On New Terrain, tells well, and in great detail.

The Old Terrain

After being discharged from the U.S. Army, I entered the blue-collar work force in late 1967.  My fellow workers and I started with the basic assumption that decent-paying jobs were our birthright.  We also believed that our standard of living would always be on an unending upward trajectory.

Jobs were plentiful. Quit your job during the lunch hour and there was a chance you would have a new one that afternoon. We were a mixed demographic of Vietnam era veterans, young black nationalists,  counter culture youth, and older workers with the victories of the rise of the CIO still  imprinted in our memory banks.

Fifteen-minute coffee breaks routinely stretched to 25 minutes, a half-hour lunch meant 45 minutes away from work.  Assembly line moving too fast?  Simple solution: stop it by any means necessary.  Two-day weekends often ballooned into three days, thanks to the “bridge”, that is, calling off work on Fridays or Mondays.  With or without a union, we called the shots, or at least many of them.  It was almost too good to last, and it didn’t.

Shifting Terrain

As the war in Vietnam began to wind down, the American capitalist class saw itself besieged on several fronts: (more…)

The interview below was conducted with members of the rank-and-file Health Sector Workers Network who belong to the nurses’ union (the NZNO).

Philip Ferguson: What have been the key issues in the nurses’ dispute with the DHBs?

Health Sector Workers Network actvists: They really are two-fold.

There are the issues around safe staffing, which with chronic staff shortages, have seen Nurses, Midwives and HCAs working in dangerously unsafe working environments.  In many worksites, particularly the Emergency Departments and Mental Health facilities, there are daily incidents of verbal and physical abuse and assault of staff.

The ability to give excellent patient care without the need for care rationing will only be possible with more staff and clear patient-staff ratios.

Pay equity is the other important issue that members are passionate about.  The need to have remunerations that reflect skills and responsibilities is essential.  We need staff retention and the ability to attract new people to the profession.  If this doesn’t occur, Nurses, Midwives and HCAs will look elsewhere for better wages and conditions, like jumping the ditch to Australia.  Already nurses are leaving on an almost daily basis, resulting in chronic staff shortages and if these issues aren’t addressed it will only get worse.

PF: How successful has the industrial action been?

HSWN: There have been mixed feelings on the success of the strike action.  Due to this dispute being (more…)

Labour’s key concern is keeping in with business and making it more profitable (Photo: Thomas Coughlan)

by Don Franks

Sometime next year your pay and working conditions may be completely rejigged by the government.

For better or worse?

The fine print is yet to be penned. Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has announced that a 10-person working group would report back by the end of 2018 on the design of new workplace laws setting minimum terms and conditions for workers in the same industry or occupation. The resulting terms will be called Fair Pay Agreements.

Through strike action Unite has won significant improvements in pay and conditions for fast food workers. This, not corporatism, is the way forward for workers. Photo: Unite

What’s prompted this new course?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has stated that employers approached the government to express their interest in sector-wide agreements, because they wanted a level playing field when bidding against competitors who currently have lower labour costs.

“This isn’t just something that employees have been asking for so I want to correct the record on that,” she said.

What employees have been actually asking for, or rather, demanding, in sectors where they’re organised in unions is (more…)

Pic: Rosa Woods/Stuff

by Don Franks

Delivering her pre-Budget speech to a Business New Zealand audience, Labour prime minister Ardern said business confidence was “the elephant in the room”.

Business confidence has apparently been low since the new government took office. A business confidence survey conducted by NZIER found businesses had become pessimistic about economic outlook for the first time in two years after Labour assumed office.

There is no need to worry.

Over the last hundred and two years, Labour has demonstrated a loyalty to capitalism that can’t really be faulted. During the 1951 waterfront workers lockout, possibly the most tense class standoff after the land wars in New Zealand history, Labour delivered for the class they have always answered to. “Labour is neither for nor against the watersiders,” party leader Walter (later Sir Walter) Nash declared.

The pattern of behaviour continued in later years, all down the line.

Following the stock market crash of October, 1987 capitalism was in trouble. State-owned enterprises started (more…)

The current struggle by health workers has the potential to knock quite a hole in government/employer attempts to hold down wages across the board.  The struggle also points up the underfunding and misfunding in the health sector.

Health workers have not only been prepared to take industrial action, but they rejected the union leadership’s recommendations that they accept the woefully poor pay increase offered by the bosses.  At present what health workers and saying and doing suggests they are in no mood for really miserable compromises.

Below are links to articles that have appeared on the site of the Health Sector Workers Network, a rank-and-file group of workers across the various unions that operate in the health sector.  These articles are linked to as they chronologically appeared on the HSWN site.

We are also currently planning an interview with some activists from the HSWN.  We highly recommend their blog – read the article and support their work in whatever way you can.  To workers in health, we recommend you get involved in the HSWN.

Let’s Actually Do This

With negotiations concluded for this round of the DHB MECA, NZNO members are faced with an offer being recommended by the bargaining team. Reading comments from the NZNO facebook page, there is an overwhelming sense that members are extremely unhappy with the current offer on the table. This comes after. . . continue reading here.

 

The Time is Now

A confusing part of the NZNO DHB MECA negotiations has been the pay equity claim. The negotiating team has recommended the deal and considers the pay equity claim as part of the reasoning for accepting the deal. These are separate issues. If people want significant change, HSWN believe the time is not tomorrow to bring this, the time is now. . . continue reading here.

 

Health worker silence due to Employment Relations Act?

The ‘decision makers’ representing NZNO should reconsider their strategy. Following increasing questions over “Why is NZNO not in the media?” this ‘MECA offer FAQ’ was released (pictured here). Health Sector Workers Network take a different perspective. . . continue reading here.

 

The NZNO DHB MECA — what is at the heart of members’ anger and what can be done?

There has been a lot of frustration amongst NZNO members about the way the DHB MECA negotiations have unfolded. Health Sector Workers Network (HSWN) has been vocal about this process and the flaws in strategy. With the vote currently underway for the second offer, frustration has given way to anger in different forums. What are some of the possible causes?. . . continue reading here.

 

Why should health workers in DHBs expect an 18% pay rise in 2018?

With District Health Board (DHB) nurses in the Nurses Union voting no to their latest 2% pay offer, union members need to set some demands. If members expect a certain percentage increase, then there needs to be a clear figure in people’s minds. If this is not clear, then what are people fighting for?

Health Sector Workers Network (HSWN) have considered this and detailed a clear rationale for this target. Our focus has been specifically on the NZNO (New Zealand Nurses Organisation) DHB collective agreement. This collective agreement covers most Nurses, Midwives and Health Care Assistants (HCAs) in DHBs across New Zealand. This agreement is referred to as the DHB MECA which stands for DHB Multi-Employer Collective Agreement. The previous DHB MECA can be found here as a reference. This agreement expired on the 1st of August 2017.

If you do not read anything else from this article, then just remember this. . . continue reading here.

 

Say NO to the ‘independent’ inquiry into DHB health worker pay

The Health Sector Workers Network (HSWN) is concerned that the suggestion from Jacinda Ardern and the Labour government for an independent inquiry could see NZNO members shafted. . . continue reading here.

Left, Cyril Ramaphosa; Right, Marikana Massacre

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of South Africa has produced a plethora of articles hailing a new dawn for the nation.  The Irish Times published an article written by the South African psychologist and current John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill chair in peace based at the International Conflict Research Institute, Ulster University, Professor Brandon Hamber.  The title of the article was the unimaginative A new dawn for South Africa, but a false start for Northern Ireland.(1)

But here I want to focus on South Africa.  He is after all from there and Ramaphosa was hailed in Ireland as a champion of peace and an important figure in the decommissioning process.  If his election as president of South Africa is a new dawn, then it will not be long before he is once again held up as an example to us all, which is what Hamber does, in effect.

He acknowledges problems in South Africa, but states that with Ramaphosa’s election, “A wave of new-found optimism has swept the country. In his state-of-the nation address on Friday, Ramaphosa spoke of a new dawn, turning the tide against corruption and tackling inequalities, while maintaining economic stability.”  He further states that “South Africans have a new belief in democracy and people power, and have learned first-hand the value of a free media and an independent judiciary. There is new hope in the constitution, the rule of law and the institutions developed to protect democracy.”  Were that true it would be a remarkable accomplishment in a matter of days.  The hypebole of people power is overwhelming and nauseating.

To be clear, the new president of South Africa is a mining magnate, a multimillionaire whose fortune is calculated, depending on the source as being between USD 450 and 700 million.  Yes he was once a lawyer and a leader of the National Union of Mineworkers.  But that is in the past.  How he became rich says more about the South Africa he will build than all the fine words that we expect at inaugurations or the sycophantic faith of academics who should (more…)