Archive for the ‘Wharfies’ 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


This piece first appeared on Redline in March 2012, but we’re giving it another airing as a lot of people don’t know about this history.  Since this year marks the 100th anniversary of NZ Capitalism Ltd’s ‘B’ – but sometimes ‘A’ – management team, we’ll be making sure that Labour’s history is very well highlighted on the blog. 

by Philip Ferguson

For Labourite mayor of Auckland, Len Brown, screwing over wharfies is the name of the game

The Ports of Auckland dispute has shown yet again – as if any more proof should really be necessary – that it is absolutely futile for workers to support Labour, give the Labour Party money or have their unions affiliated to the outfit.  While the left and union movement rally around the wharfies, Labour mainly sits on the fence.  One of their politicians, Len Brown, whose mayoral election campaign MUNZ in Auckland rather foolishly gave several thousand dollars to, is actually part of the assault on wharfies’ conditions.

There are so many examples of how, when it’s not directly attacking workers, Labour is always in the rearguard and never the vanguard of struggles for people’s rights.

For instance, these days Labour likes to parade its ‘anti-racist’ credentials.  However take something that was only 50-odd years ago – the way in which the NZ Rugby Football Union excluded Maori players from All Black teams touring South Africa.  Labour actually supported that piece of racism.  As the official New Zealand History On-line site records: (more…)

It's time for workers in NZ to stop sobbing and start fighting

It’s time for workers in NZ to stop sobbing and start fighting

by Phil Duncan

There used to be a sort of joke in the 1960s that the prime minister, Keith Holyoake, knew the names of all the unemployed. I say sort of joke because it may well have been true. And it wasn’t because he had the snoops spying on people out of work. It was because hardly anyone was unemployed.

Hard to believe now, but during the long postwar boom from the late 1940s to the early 1970s that was actually the case. Of course, there was also a certain falseness about it because married women out of work couldn’t register as unemployed and, indeed, for a chunk of that era, the dominant capitalist ideology said that married women with children, especially small children, weren’t really supposed to be in paid employment outside the home. One wage – typically that of the husband/father – was supposed to be sufficient to maintain a family of four, five or even more. (The state also helped out with a universal child benefit.)

From boom to bust

Not only was unemployment negligible, there was an ongoing shortage of labour. To meet the needs of an ever-expanding economy, Maori were drawn from rural areas into the cities, workers and their families were drawn from the (more…)

The massive French worker-student upsurge of May-June 1968 reverberated around the world; even in New Zealand

The massive French worker-student upsurge of May-June 1968 reverberated around the world; even in New Zealand

In the article below this one, “Revolution in New Zealand (1969)”, Hugh Fyson mentions the June 26, 1968 demo at parliament – a watershed moment really as it represented the beginning of a new student and youth radicalisation and the renewal of class conflict after 17 years of quiescence following the defeat of the watersiders and their allies in 1951.  This article looks in more depth at that particular protest – or convergence of protests.

by Toby Boraman

Hot on the heels of events in France in May-June 1968, a worker-student protest of several thousand people converged on parliament [Wellington, New Zealand] on June 26 1968.1  Students held ‘Students and Workers Unite’, ‘Student-worker Solidarity’ and ‘Bursaries and wages must be increased’ banners.2  Some also carried ‘billowing red and black flags’,3 a symbol of the French revolt. It has been claimed that the protest nearly ended in the storming of parliament.4  The Dominion exclaimed that the allegedly violent protest ended in a near riot.5  An editorial in the Evening Post sternly remarked that it ‘will be long remembered with shame as one of the most discreditable affairs in the history of this land.’6

Given these assertions, it is puzzling that this protest has received little attention.7  I’ll attempt to shed some light on this event, and discuss whether or not it was violent.  I’ll also look at whether the one-day stoppage on the day of this ‘riot’ can be called a Wellington general strike.

What was the June 26 1968 protest all about?

It was a very broad protest at the opening of Parliament. According to various press reports, from 3,000 to 7,000 attended. 8 A multitude of causes were (more…)

Protest of workers, students and anti-Vietnam War activists at parliament, Wellington, June 26, 1068

Protest of workers, students and anti-Vietnam War activists at parliament, Wellington, June 26, 1968

The article below first appeared in 1969 in the very first issue of the journal Red Spark, publication of the Victoria University of Wellington’s Socialist Club. The VUWSC was one of the first organisations that emerged as part of the youth radicalisation in New Zealand that began in the late 1960s and continued into the early 1970s. VUWSC activists were particularly influenced by the Cuban revolution, the May-June 1968 worker-student upsurge in France and the 1968 Prague Spring, but the issue that most moved them was the struggle of the Vietnamese masses against US imperialism and its allies (including NZ imperialism). (And 1968 was also the year of the Tet Offensive.)

A core of young VUWSC activists, including the author of this article, went on later in 1969 to found the Socialist Action League with a layer of activists who left the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) in Christchurch. The author was a member of the SAL’s original central leadership and for a while the editor of its fortnightly paper; he dropped out of politics in the late 1970s.

The article gives a flavour of the youth radicalisation – and the general optimism – of that period. Its author would have been in his very early 20s, which also gives an indication of the relatively high political level of the young radicals of that era. It’s also interesting to compare trends between then and now in NZ (and, indeed, global) capitalism. Hugh rightly critiques the sociological notion that the new layers of white collar workers were part of the middle class and, instead, suggests that whatever their consciousness might be at that particular point in time – ie not seeing themselves as workers – they were indeed part of an ongoing process of proletarianisation. That analysis has long since been borne out – indeed, as we show elsewhere on Redline, these same layers today, far from being privileged, are often in precarious employment with poor pay and conditions. (See, for instance, here and here.)

by M.H. Fyson

The momentous events in France last year sent out a fresh ripple of revolutionary enthusiasm that spread across the world; it even contributed to the spirit of the demonstration we had here in Parliament Grounds, June 26.1 And not only some students, but even the bourgeois press – the Evening Post and the Dominion – began to speculate on the possibility of there being “another Paris” here. But as soon as it was all over, the students’ premature optimism and the papers’ premature fears melted away, and ‘normality’ returned.

We have already included two articles on the French events in this magazine, for not merely academic interest. But because of their significance for left-wing activists here in New Zealand. The basic lesson for us is this: that under capitalism, no matter how much the government intervenes in the economy, whether or not it makes an attempt to appease or ‘buy off’ the workers, the (more…)

In order to have an effective trade union movement, we need to break the chains that bind any unions to Labour

In order to have an effective trade union movement, we need to break the chains that bind any unions to Labour

Since we began this site in mid-2011 we have argued that Labour is a capitalist party.  Before this site, we argued the same position in the Anti-Capitalist Alliance/Workers Party and, before that, in the original WP and revolution groups which came together to form the ACA (subsequently the new WP).

Events since 2011 have simply confirmed our view.  For instance, the Ports struggle in Auckland where Labourite mayor Len Brown certainly proved to be no friend of the workers.  Yet, almost unbelievably, the port workers union, MUNZ, one of the more radical unions at that, had donated to Brown’s election fund.  They may as well have just gone to the board of directors of the Port company and handed them over the money directly!

As we think about MayDay and workers’ struggles of the past, we need to reflect on the state of the union movement and the working class in New Zealand today.  It’s not pretty.  And a big part of that is due to unions not seeing through Labour, although many individual workers have.

The political subordination of the unions, or certainly their leaderships to Labour, was a crucial factor in the massive defeats suffered by the working class during the fourth Labour government of 1984-1990.  Because Labour suffered a massive defeat in 1990, it was left to National to finish off the job and codify the defeat of the class in the Employment Contracts Act of 1991.

Today, a campaign to disaffiliate unions from Labour could serve as an indispensable part of recreating a movement of unions of, for and by workers.  One not subordinated to any party that manages capitalism, one that stands for the political independence of the working class as a class.

See the following pieces on unions and the Labour Party:

Union movement gathers for fairness at work, Labour gathers missionaries

Ports of Auckland fight shows futility of unions giving money to Labour

Workers, unions and Labour: unravelling the myths

Labour’s legal leg-irons

And our history of the Labour Party:

Dirty PoliticsHow attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment by Nicky Hagerdirtypolitics

Reviewed by Daphna Whitmore

For over a week Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics has been in the news. With its promise of a tell-all about the links between the political right and their bloggers revealed in hacked emails, the first print run was sold out in a day.

At just over 100 pages Hager’s book is an easy, though not pleasant, read. Delving into the thoughts and motives of blogger Cameron Slater, and others around him who specialise in attack style political campaigning, is a putrid business.

Most of Dirty Politics confirms what we already knew from reading Slater’s Whale Oil blog. His style of politics is vicious and crude. What Hager adds to the picture is Slater as a PR agent for hire. (more…)