The article below first appeared in issue #7 of revolution magazine (August/Sept 1998), one of the precursors of this blog.  Its original title was “Have you got protection?”  The core arguments remain highly relevant as economic nationalism still dominates most of the NZ left and the vast bulk of the trade union movement.

downloadby John Edmundson

May Day in New Zealand is not traditionally the focus of large demonstrations by workers.  This year, however, was different.  Textile workers in many centres were given time off work and provided with free bus transport to march alongside their employers in support of a campaign to freeze the tariff reduction programme.  Both employers and workers in the industry are seriously concerned about the long-term viability of clothing manufacture in New Zealand in the face of competition from low-wage Asian economies.

The textile industry in New Zealand employs approximately 25,000 workers and is traditionally one of the lowest-paid sectors of the economy.  The Trade Union Federation (TUF), a federation of left-leaning unions, supports the anti-tariff removal campaign in the interests of defending its members’ jobs.

So what is behind this unlikely alliance between sections of New Zealand capital and left labour – united in opposition to the freeing up of this section of the economy?


The election in 1984 of a Labour government dominated by Roger Douglas’ programme of deregulation and economic liberalism has changed the complexion of the New Zealand political and economic scene.  Whereas in the past regulation was an accepted feature of economic management by both Labour and National in government, the post-1984 era has been marked by a strong aversion to Read the rest of this entry »

by Philip Ferguson

While the Chinese Immigrants Bill was languishing for lack of a second reading, the Asiatic Restriction Bill was introduced, and passed into law as the Asiatic Restriction Act of 1896.  In fact, the first version of the bill failed but a rapidly-introduced second version passed.  This repealed the Chinese Immigration Act 1881, The Chinese Immigration Act Amendment Act 1882 and the Chinese Immigration Act Amendment Act Continuation Act 1889.  However, the repeal of these Acts would not affect any regulations under them nor discharge penalties against anyone who had been liable under them.  The new Act contained 24 sections.  Its preamble declared that it was “expedient to safeguard the race-purity of the people of New Zealand by preventing the influx into the colony of persons of alien race. . .” An “Asiatic” was defined as “any native of any part of Asia, or of the islands adjacent to Asia or in Asiatic seas, and the descendants of any such natives”, but not to include people of “European or Jewish extraction” nor “British subjects, being natives of that portion of Her Majesty’s Dominions known as the Indian Empire. . .”

The Act made owners and masters of ships liable to fines of up to £100 for each “Asiatic” over the limit of one per 200 tonnes of ships’ tonnage.  Ships’ masters were, upon arrival to provide the principal customs officer with a list of all ‘Asiatics’ on board, including their name, place of birth, apparent age, and former place of residence.  Failure to do so made the master liable to a fine of up to £200.  The master was to pay a poll-tax of £100 per ‘Asiatic’, and there was no legal entry without this tax being paid.  In the event of a master not paying the tax, or any “Asiatic” landing before payment or escaping ashore, the master was liable to a penalty not exceeding £50 for each, as well as still having to pay the tax.  ‘Asiatics’ evading the Act could be fined a similar amount or, if the fine was not paid, they faced 12 months imprisonment.  “Asiatic” crew members were only to be allowed ashore in pursuance of ships’ duties; breaking of this regulation made the crew member and captain liable to a fine of £100.  Masters had to muster Asian crew members on arrival in the presence of the Customs officer and provide him with their number and names, and repeat this on departure.  In the case of any discrepancy, there was a fine of £100 for each “Asiatic” missing.  In order to overcome the problem of Asian passengers being moved from one ship to another and then ashore, the Act stipulated that the original ship would still be deemed to be the ship bringing them in.  No ship could leave port without all the provisions of the Act being met and all monies being paid.  Vessels could be detained anywhere until monies were paid or a bond with two sureties.  In cases of default, ships could be seized and sold.

Every Asian not already naturalised was declared an Read the rest of this entry »

6192086589_76b3c01820by Kenan Malik

The ambitions of the Islamists have been checked, those of the left revived. That is how most commentators viewed the results of last week’s Turkish general election. The ruling AKP, whose roots lie in the Islamist tradition, lost its parliamentary majority, in part because of the rise of HDP, a leftwing, secular Kurdish party. However, to view developments in Turkey through the prism of ‘Islamism’ v ‘secularlism’ is to misunderstand the real drivers of political change. For a start, whether the AKP is an Islamist party is a matter of debate. Despite its Islamist links, it is probably best seen as a deeply authoritarian, socially conservative organization.


More importantly, the pattern of political change that we are witnessing in Turkey is visible in many countries across the world, and not just Muslim-majority ones. From India to Algeria, from Egypt to South Africa, the organizations that led struggles for freedom from colonialism, or the ideologies that claimed to represent the identity of the free nation, have become senile or corrupted. People have become disaffected with the old order. But the new opposition movements that have emerged to give voice to that disaffection are often rooted in religious or ethnic identity, and are often sectarian or separatist in form This then leaves a hole where national progressive movements should be.

Every country has a distinct political history and culture, so the ways in which these trends express themselves are highly Read the rest of this entry »

Memo from NZ working class to the  bosses?

Memo from NZ working class to the bosses?

by Philip Ferguson

On Monday (June 15) the NZ Herald published the latest figures on CEO salaries.  The paper noted, “The bosses of New Zealand’s biggest companies enjoyed an average pay rise of 10 per cent last year, their biggest bump since 2010.”  By contrast, the average wage and salary earner gained an average increase of only 3 percent and many workers have not had a pay rise at all.  Moreover, as Council of Trade Unions secretary Sam Huggard noted the same day, “Half of New Zealand’s households receive no more income, in real terms, than a generation ago.”


The highest-paid executive is ANZ New Zealand CEO David Hisco who was paid $4.27 million, up about $250,000 from the previous year.  This is the same guy who last October was offering bank workers a 2 percent pay rise, while he was on about $2,152 an hour, about 86 times the hourly rate of long-serving frontline staff.  (See here for our report on the ANZ workers’ dispute.)

The next highest-paid exec is Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings on $4.18 million, a massive $660,000 increase on 2014.  Just over a fortnight ago, the Herald reported of Fonterra’s payout to farmers, “$4.40, the current season’s farmgate milk price is the lowest in eight years.”  So it would appear that the massive pay increase – the increase alone amounts to what a dozen workers on the median income would earn in an entire year! – is clearly not due to delivering a great performance to Fonterra’s farmer-owners.

The highest-paid CEOs, moreover, enjoyed far more than 10 percent pay hikes.  The biggest rise in percentage terms was for Alex Sodi, the boss of Diligent Board Member Services – his increase was a whopping 174 percent.  Meridian Energy boss Mark Binns saw his pay rise by 70 percent to $1.86 million, while Mighty River Power’s Doug Heffernan got a 68 percent rise, taking his final year’s pay to $2.18 million.

The CTU has also pointed out that it’s not just the top CEOs who are doing so well, but the wider layer of wealthy: “The average income of the top 0.1% is estimated to have risen from $665,000 to $892,000 between 2011 and 2013 (latest available figures from IRD).”  Unlike CEOs, who get replaced, these folks Read the rest of this entry »

imagesThe article below is another in our series of reprints from the Christchurch-based magazine revolution (1997-2006), one of the precursors of this blog. The article discussed seven books and concluded that America’s quest for a new world order was revealing its weakness rather than its strength in the post-Cold War world. The article appeared in issue #7, August/September 1998. It actually seems to have been reprinted from the British journal Living Marxism, but we can’t work out which issue. In the near two decades since the article was written, the Western powers have had more success in talking up the threat of ‘Islamic extremism’, but this has come at the cost of the destruction of much of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. And the West is no more united now that when the article was written. Moreover, the hunt for an external threat to cohere Western societies has cost hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of lives. . .

Burgessby Adam Burgess

Looking back from today, ‘1989 and all that’ seems a long way off. Back then, somewhat to its surprise, capitalism found itself triumphant over the old Soviet enemy. Everybody was invited to join the celebrations, with Francis Fukuyama’s End of History eulogy to the wonders of liberal democracy as the main party piece. Yet within a few years, although still without any challengers, red or otherwise, the mood among the political and intellectual defenders of the capitalist system became decidedly downbeat. Since the early 1990s their ‘New World Order’ has been widely derided as a new world disorder, and history, ignoring Fukuyama’s notice that it is at an end, has gone careering off into a chaos of local passions and conflicts. Read the rest of this entry »


Renewed imperialist interventionism in the Third World has been a characteristic of global politics since the end of the Cold War. Crucial to this new era of intervention has been a propaganda offensive that the Third World is full of bloodthirsty leaders and tribes who are continually carrying out war crimes. The main part of the article below was written in 1997 when this trend was still relatively new. It appeared in the Christchurch-based revolution magazine, #3, August/September 1997.  The section on napalm has been added today.


Top: Hiroshima; Above: The USA dropped 8 million tons of napalm in Vietnam. Western war criminals will never be brought to trial.

by Sharon Jones

War crimes, it seems, are pretty common these days. They seem to be breaking out virtually everywhere – except in the West. For instance, every time some repressive regime in the Third World carries out the kind of policies which Western governments encouraged in the past, during the Cold War, they are now denounced by those same Western governments as perpetrating ‘war crimes’.

Have the Western elites turned over a new leaf and become humanitarians? Or is ‘war crime’ fever in the West an indication of a sickness within the Western body politic?

Let’s begin by looking at the latest example of the obsession with war crimes, the American government’s attempt to get Pol Pot extradited to face a war crimes tribunal in the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

The article below first appeared in the Backtalk section of issue #3 of the magazine revolution, August/September 1997. While 18 years old, it deals with issues that are still very much with us.

by Grant Cronin

downloadThere has been much hoopla in the media recently about the victories of Aranui High School’s First XV and their success in this year’s under-18 competition. This media coverage reached a climax with the arrival of the All Blacks in Christchurch to play the Bledisloe Cup test against Australia, as the Aranui team got to meet and train with the All Blacks. The Christchurch Mail of July 3, for instance, ran a picture of the captain of the Aranui team, Daniel Iosefo, shaking hands with Sean Fitzpatrick.

While there is much to applaud in the Aranui team’s victories over the horse-faced sons of the ruling class – and the complaints of parents from the elite schools about ‘hard tackling’ by Aranui players provide a good laugh – the important battles in society are not won and lost on the footy field. In spite of their rugby success Aranui remains one of the poorest schools in Christchurch and the community it serves is still trapped in a spiral of poverty, unemployment and poor health.

While the students of St Andrews and Christchurch Boys meet the Aranui players as equals on the field, in the wider society the story is much different. What this means is that, in the face of Read the rest of this entry »