Walter Nash, Labour’s immigration minister, helped keep doors largely barred to Jewish refugees from Nazis

by Phil Duncan

While the Labour Party showed its knee-jerk racism in relation to the Chinese yet again last year – a modern-day equivalent to the early party’s keen support for the White New Zealand policy – few people are aware of the first Labour government’s shoddy record in relation to refugees, particularly Jewish refugees, from Nazism in Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  Below is essentially a summary of chapter 13 of Oliver Sutherland’s Paikea, a book about his father (I.L.G. Sutherland), which throws an interesting light on this.

Michael Joseph Savage: first Labour prime minister wanted white British immigrants, not Jewish refugees from the Nazis

Michael Joseph Savage: first Labour prime minister wanted white British immigrants, not Jewish refugees from the Nazis

I only became aware of this hidden part of Labour Party history when, by chance, I saw Paikea in a display in a public library.  I knew of Oliver as a prominent figure in the Auckland Committee on Racial Discrimination (ACORD) way back in the 1970s, so I picked up the book and had a look at it.  I was interested to see that Ivan Sutherland had been very involved in campaigning for European refugees in the late 1930s and into the 1940s and had been up against it as the first Labour government wasn’t keen on Read the rest of this entry »

by Don Franks

camdenEarlier this month I took a trip to the States, to visit a musician friend from Oakland.

When she drove me round her home neighbourhood, Amirh pointed out numerous houses that had unwillingly been vacated in recent years. Live examples of a burning issue for locals  – gentrification.

To long-term Oakland residents, “gentrification” means displacement of the former working class residents, by means of rent rises and aggressive house buy-ups.

Between 2000 and 2013 Oakland lost almost a quarter of its African-American population. The white population increased by a similar amount, while rents went through the roof. The number of tenants paying over 50% of their income in rent increased by 39%. People forced out of Oakland by economic attack had to exchange their familiar communities for inferior areas. Areas lacking ammenities like social services and public transport.

Next day I walked downtown, a street a vendor offered me a copy of Read the rest of this entry »

51Gblu33XmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Donny Gluckstein (ed), Fighting on all Fronts: popular resistance in the Second World War, London, Bookmarks, 2015; reviewed by Philip Ferguson

This is a fascinating book.  Its ten contributors provide eleven chapters – two are by Gluckstein – on people’s resistance to dictatorship in Europe and Asia/Pacific during World War 2 and struggles within two capitalist democracies (Australia and Ireland, the latter not being formally involved in the second great imperialist conflagration).

The struggles range from Jewish resistance to the Nazis and the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, especially Poland, to the Slovak national uprising of 1944 to resistance to French rule in Algeria to Burmese resistance to both British and Japanese imperialism to the Huk rebellion in the Philippines.  While the countries covered exclude key imperialist players, and sometimes the choice of places to cover seemed a little strange, hopefully there will be a second volume to cover struggles in the United States, Britain and Germany – especially since Gluckstein is an expert of Nazi Germany and has already written a fine book about the rise of the Nazis and the course of their regime.


One advantage, however, of covering the places that are covered is that these are generally the least-known.  I certainly found that most of the chapters added considerably to my knowledge of resistance during what several generations of us used to call “the war”.  Perhaps the most fascinating for me was Janey Stone’s impressive account of struggles by East European Jews, and non-Jewish supporters, against repression and annihilation.  The ‘mainstream’ impression is that Jews went meekly to the slaughter but Janey, Read the rest of this entry »

images (1)We were saddened to hear that Richard Levins died on January 19.  An outstanding scientist and veteran Marxist, Richard would have been 86 in June this year.  We were delighted to notice some time back that Richard sometimes looked at material on Redline and even commented on a couple of articles.  Below we reprint a short tribute to him and his life well-lived that appeared on facebook.

by Rob Wallace

imagesRichard Levins, the dialectical biologist extraordinaire, has passed. He revolutionized population biology multiple times, making foundational contributions to modeling evolution in changing environments, the theory of biological control, the philosophy of biology, modeling complex systems, mathematical biology, disease ecology, public health, and agroecology. He coined the term “metapopulation”.

His thinking remains profound enough to keep us busy for many decades to come. So much so, I think, that he reads like a traveler from another timeline. Imagine a working class Charles Darwin showing up in King Arthur’s court. He collaborated with evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin to develop, via a series of beautifully written essays, a modern-day dialectical Read the rest of this entry »

imagesThe piece below is the main part of a very interesting letter that appeared in the current issue of the Weekly Worker newspaper in Britain.  The author is a former member of the Socialist Workers Party in that country and was a member of one of the several significant groups of activists that left following the central leadership’s serious mishandling of rape accusations against one of that leadership’s members.  

For a layer of SWPers the core problem was the wider, unhealthy, anti-democratic internal culture of a party which, while claiming to stand for ‘socialism from below’, has a long record of autocratic control from on high.  The British SWP also has a long record of misjudging the dominant political mood, usually exaggerating the level of struggle and whipping up ‘the troops’ to simply get out there and do more, sell more newspapers and so on, rather than engage in clinical Marxist analysis of reality.

The writer of the letter touches, however, on several things that are widespread on the British left, far beyond the SWP.  A couple of particularly interesting points are the way he establishes how little involved workers are in unions and union decision-making and how the affiliation to the British Labour Party of a layer of trade unions with substantial memberships does not reflect any enthusiasm for that dreadful party on the part of workers.  Indeed, hardly any workers in these unions even voted in the LP leadership election, let alone for Jeremy Corbyn – the new LP leader who has been ridiculously ‘talked up’ by a lot of the left around the English-speaking world.

We’re running it because it has direct relevance to the current state of working class struggle in NZ – although British workers are almost fiery compared to the prevailing despondency in the working class here.

by Jara Handala

According to The Guardian, the Labour Party has estimated how devastating will be the cut in income if the anti-trade union bill becomes law this summer. Instead of detailing this, I just want to look to the future by examining the recent past and the present, to indicate that a mood for action is not to be expected if the participation rate in two important recent elections are anything to go by: perhaps 1.4% in the Corbyn election, 10.6% in the re-election of Dave Prentis as head of Unison – ie, abstention rates of 98.6% and 89.4%.

In the LP election 422,871 voted, 71,546 being affiliated supporters (the Weekly Worker reported this on September 17). These were members of affiliated organisations – mostly trade unions, but also the Cooperative Party (7,936 members – last annual report) and sectional groups. To vote all you had to do was request a ballot, and you could even vote online. So how many were eligible? Only 14 trade unions are affiliated to the LP, but the website doesn’t say how many people give money through their union. However, the 2014-15 annual report of the state certification officer says 4,954,606 members contribute to their union’s political fund (this as of December 31 2013). So (only) 1.44% voted Read the rest of this entry »


Yuppies rule! New LP general-secretary Andrew Kirton

by Phil Duncan

We have consistently argued on this blog and in prior print publications – The Spark and revolution – that the NZ Labour Party is a bosses’ party.  It is the management team for the ruling class when National is exhausted and, while in Opposition, acts as a loyal agent of the ruling class too.  It always does its best to obstruct any sort of effective protest movements and channel dissent into the harmless dead-end of party membership.  It is also the great devourer of souls when it comes to former left activists.

As the party has evolved since the 1970s into, in terms of social composition, a party of the liberal middle class, this has been reflected in terms of its MPs and top staffers.

Once upon a time, to get anywhere in the Labour Party you had to be able to point to some connection to the working class.  Labour MPs, for instance, typically came up through the trade union movement, much of which, especially in the private sector, was affiliated to Labour.  Labour staffers, similarly, came up – or sideways – through the trade unions.

As we show in our major in-depth study of the Labour Party (here), this began changing quite noticeably in the Read the rest of this entry »

by Kenan Malik (January 7)

Copertina anniversario Charlie Hebdo

It is a year today since Islamist gunmen burst into the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, including eight of the magazine’s staff. A few days after the attack I was interviewed by the BBC. ‘Don’t you think’, the interviewer asked, ‘ that the degree of solidarity expressed towards Charlie Hebdo represents a turning in attitudes to free speech?’ ‘I doubt it’, I replied. ‘There may be expressions of solidarity now. But fundamentally little will change. If anything, the killings will only reinforce the idea that one should not give offence.’

A year on, my pessimism, unfortunately, seems justified. Shock and outrage at the brutal character of the slaughter led many in the immediate aftermath of the killings to close ranks with the slain. ‘Je Suis Charlie’ became the phrase of the day, to be found in every newspaper, in every Twitter feed, on demonstrations in cities across Europe. But none of this changed underlying attitudes to free speech, nor challenged the climate of censorship in any meaningful sense.

Indeed, many found it difficult even to show solidarity. Hardly had news begun filtering out about the Charlie Hebdo shootings, than there were those suggesting that the magazine was a ‘racist institution’ and that the cartoonists, if not deserving what they got, had nevertheless brought it on themselves through their incessant attacks on Islam.

Perhaps the most disgraceful refusal of solidarity came with Read the rest of this entry »