Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard

The piece below is reprinted from the Australian journal Marxist Left Review #4, Winter 2012; it presents a damning indictment of the Rudd and Gillard Labor Party governments across the ditch and those who propped them up.

by Diane Fieldes

Less than five years after the landslide defeat of the hated Howard government in 2007, Labor is so unpopular that the return of the Liberals to office seems assured. By the 2010 election Labor was already close to losing office. Despite the much-vaunted success of the Australian economy since the start of the global economic crisis, both parties’ 2010 election policies made clear their commitment to the capitalist class’s desire for pre-emptive austerity measures (cuts to public spending, a budget surplus) while business profits were propped up. Both parties went to the 2010 election committed to a reactionary consensus: undermining workers’ rights while kowtowing to the ultra-wealthy, continuing the slaughter in Afghanistan, locking up refugees behind razor wire, and continuing the genocide of Aboriginal people.

The result of Labor’s 2010 election campaign was that the ultra-reactionary Tony Abbott came within a whisker of winning. The ALP could not form government without the support of the Greens’ single House of Representatives member, Adam Bandt, and three independents – the ex-Nationals Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, and former Green Andrew Wilkie. Some on the left welcomed the formation of this minority government as a positive outcome. It supposedly presented an opportunity for progressive advance. The day after the election long-time left wing activist Tim Anderson declared:

“Unexpectedly… a great opportunity for social change has emerged… The August election was a strong statement against… shallow electoral politics… there is room for a range of new voices, including the Greens, including the maverick MPs, but also including all those of us who have been disillusioned with conventional politics.”[i]

Prominent Greens member (and former Democrat senator) Andrew Bartlett, argued that:

“this new parliament is likely to be Read the rest of this entry »

This is the transcript of the TB Davie Memorial lecture given by the author at the University of Cape Town on Thursday 13 August.

by Kenan Malik

It is truly an honour and pleasure to be able to deliver this lecture, and to be able to follow the speakers who have gone before me; speakers such as Walter Sisulu, Wole Soyinke, Edward Said and Noam Chomsky. It is an honour, too, to be the fiftieth speaker in this great series. But being the fiftieth speaker raises an interesting question: Is there anything left to say about academic freedom that the 49 before me have not already said?

To appreciate why the debate about academic freedom is not yet exhausted, and probably never will be exhausted, we need to understand two points. First, that while there is something special about the academy that requires freedom of speech, there is nothing that should make us privilege academic freedom above other forms of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is a right, not a privilege. We need to defend academic freedom. But we need to recognize, too, that freedom of expression in the academy is intimately related to freedom of expression more widely in society. Our ability to defend academic freedom is intimately linked to our ability and willingness to defend freedom of expression more widely. So, I will talk today about the academy and academic freedom. But I will talk much more about the wider social context of free speech and the assault upon it.

And second, to defend free speech, whether in the academy or in society more widely, we need to know not simply why freedom of expression is important but also in what ways that freedom is being threatened. The importance of freedom of expression is broadly same now as it was when Albert van de Sandt Centlivres, the first TB Davie Memorial lecturer, took to the podium in 1959; indeed it is broadly the same as when John Milton in 1644 wrote Areopagitica, his famous ‘speech for the liberty of unlicenc’d printing’, and one of the great polemical tracts in defence of free speech.

But if the significance of free speech is much the same, the ways in which freedom of expression is threatened are very different now from the ways they were 50 years ago, even more from the ways they were 400 years ago. In different times, in different places, there exist different kinds of threats to Read the rest of this entry »

The piece below appeared in a four-page brochure promoting the magazine revolution, one of the print predecessors to this blog. The brochure was undated, but was likely produced around 2000-2001, as the ERA was passed in 2000. This particular piece deals with the fifth Labour government’s industrial relations law.

The fifth Labour government, led by Helen Clark, was no friend of the working class

The fifth Labour government, led by Helen Clark, was no friend of the working class

The government’s Employment Relations Act, which replaced the notorious Employment Contracts Act, was allegedly about creating a more level playing field, in particular for workers. During the 1999 election campaign, the proposed new legislation was criticised by employer lobby groups, which accused the Labour and Alliance parties of wanting to return workplaces to a period of “union domination”.

As workers have found out, however, under this government life has changed very little. Whether it is watersiders fighting casualisation or health workers weighed down beneath bloated bureaucracies while pay and conditions continue to deteriorate, workers remain up against it.

This supposedly ‘worker-friendly’ government has no intention of re-establishing even the limited rights which were ripped up under the 1991 ECA. That legislation, although passed by National, primarily codified the worsened conditions of workers inflicted by the last Labour government – the Read the rest of this entry »

The article below details and reflects critically/politically on life in a modern NZ office situation.  Much thanks to Vomiting Diamonds for drawing our attention to it and suggesting we might be interested in re-blogging it from his site.  We’d also encourage other readers to send us stuff about their workplaces. . .


A fairly typical open office, not our workplace, but vaguely similar if you remove all the clutter

Part One: Swipe in, log in, begin. . .


I’m treading slowly down a white, shiny corridor. As I head towards the lifts, I get a bit anxious about having to get through yet another shift as a data processor, and how to deal with the boredom. I get that oh shit feeling, here goes another day wasted in this slow, ritualistic daily torture, like I’m snared in an absurd Kafka-esque nightmare full of meaningless but never-ending nasty games that we call work. Oh well, I think “it has to be done”, “another day, another pay”, “I need to pay the bills”, so I can force myself to enter the workplace and avoid that fleeting feeling that you just want to flee, to escape, and say “bugger it” with it all. That daily lived contradiction between being legally free, but having to sell yourself in the work marketplace in order to live. Even though I’d love to steal some time and arrive late – or better still take the day off – I’ve managed to get there just in time.


As I walk, I reluctantly hang my lanyard around my neck, which contains my swipe card and ID card. Some workers are seemingly happy to wear their lanyards on the street, like some sort of perverse pride in these days of Read the rest of this entry »


Brash: an historical oddity

by Phil Duncan

Immigration is a hot topic in this country again.  It seems to surface as a big issue whenever a party is in the doldrums – either NZ First or, most recently, Labour.  Immigrants, especially when they come from Asia, make easy scapegoats for populists who have no intention of challenging the way the system works.

In recent years, however, people on the economic right have been pretty relaxed about the issue.  Labour was, until years of poor electoral and opinion poll performances led to their recent anti-Chinese outburst,  National still is.

However, on Q&A on Sunday, former National Party leader Don Brash, who also served briefly as leader of the ACT party, and before politics was governor of the Reserve Bank, took up the cudgels against what he considers to be overly high levels of population inflow (in fact, this inflow includes many NZers returning home from abroad).

Brash has a rather Read the rest of this entry »


by Michael Roberts

As I write on Monday 24 August, stock markets around the world are taking another plunge.  Most markets have already fallen by 10% in the last month.  Why is this happening?

The reasons are clear.  The Chinese economy, now officially the largest in the world (at least as measured by the IMF’s rather weird purchasing power parity method), is slowing fast.  Every bit of data coming out of China shows a worsening situation for manufacturing output, investment, exports and, above all, the purchase of raw materials from other countries.  The drop in demand from China for basic commodities has caused a huge drop in Read the rest of this entry »

Labour's Michael Joseph Savage: Labourites are still covering up for his anti-Chinese racism

Labour’s Michael Joseph Savage: Labourites are still covering up for his anti-Chinese racism

by Philip Ferguson

The racist, anti-Chinese ‘dog whistle’ statement by Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford in relation to people with “Chinese-sounding surnames” buying houses in Auckland and pushing up prices to where they make housing in the city impossible for most New Zealanders to buy has prompted a range of reactions.  National has rightly, but hypocritically, pointed to this being sheer racism.  The left has been divided between their commitment to anti-racist principles and their inability to totally break with the Labour Party.  A tiny number of Labour Party members have attacked the ‘dog whistle’ racism, while pro-Labour blogs have generally attempted to cover for the outfit’s virulently anti-Chinese racism, as have many Labour members and supporters.

People who have disgraced themselves over Labour’s anti-Chinese racism include veteran left political commentator Chris Trotter.  To his credit, Trotter parted company with Labour in 1989 and was a prominent figure in the early NLP/Alliance.  More recently, however, he seems to have made peace with Labour and his disgraceful position on the attempt to stir up anti-Chinese prejudice is part of the price he seems willing to pay to be a member of the club.

Matt McCarten, another founding figure of the NLP/Alliance and later the key figure in the radical Unite trade union, has also since made peace with Labour taking the job of chief-of-staff to the current Labour leader and his predecessor.  It seems likely that McCarten would have been an integral figure in the decision to play the anti-Chinese card.  And so much for the position of Unite leader Mike Treen who declared, at the time of McCarten’s defection to Labour, that the left should welcome this.

Labour’s anti-Chinese antics have, however, also occasioned strong criticism from other progressives.  For instance, Morgan Godfery of FIRST union, who also blogs at Maui Street, particularly on Maori rights issues, took a strong stand.  The anti-capitalist left, as opposed to the merely anti-National party left, have rejected the dog-whistle racism, although some yet to clearly abandon their flirtation with NZ nationalism.

In this article, however, I want to primarily look at the anti-Chinese racism of the early Labour Party, because this capitalist management team have form.  Big form.  Most of what follows is drawn from an article called “Labour’s racist roots” which appeared in issue 17 of revolution magazine, March-May 2002.  That, in turn, drew on some of my PhD research; in particular a section on the Labour Party that was part of chapter 9 of my doctoral thesis and which went up on Redline a few weeks ago.  (See the chapter links here; the references for all the quotes below are in the relevant part of chapter 9.)

The White New Zealand policy

In early 2002 Labour prime minister Helen Clark apologised to New Zealanders of Chinese descent for racist treatment through the immigration poll tax which was in place from 1881 to 1944.  What she didn’t do, of course, was apologise for the Labour Party, whose early leaders and MPs were virulently anti-Chinese and who campaigned for expanding the White New Zealand policies and attempted to outdo the Liberal and Reform parties to see who could be most racist against the Chinese in the few years after the First World War leading up to the Read the rest of this entry »