An encouraging aspect of the struggle was solidarity from Cotton On distribution centre workers in Australia

An encouraging aspect of the struggle was solidarity from Cotton On distribution workers in Australia; pictured above, workers at the company’s Brisbane distribution centre show support

by Phil Duncan

Workers employed in the distribution centre for retail chain Cotton On, which has 80 stores across New Zealand, have beaten back an attempt to mess with their tea-breaks and won some significant gains in pay and conditions.

After the government passed legislation allowing employers to make inroads into workers’ right to tea breaks, Cotton On became a test case in late March. Prime minister John Key stated at the time of the legislation, “will you all of a sudden find thousands of workers who are denied having a tea break? The answer is absolutely not.” Yet this was exactly what employees of the retail chain faced last week when the company proposed to remove tea and meal breaks in its distribution centre in Auckland.

The company’s proposal was not part of its original negotiating position last July but was added after the legislation was passed.

In a statement issued in response to the company’s new demand, Robert Reid, the general-secretary of FIRST union, which represents Cotton On workers, pointed out, Read the rest of this entry »


Thousands of farm workers in the Mexican state of Baja California walked out of the fields on Tuesday, March 17, at the peak of the winter harvest season.

This strike pits against each other two diametrically-opposed social forces. On the one side, there are some of the biggest and richest companies in the world. The large farms in Baja, about 200 miles south of San Diego, specialize entirely in produce for the U.S. market – for big companies that we all know: Walmart, Safeway, Kroger, Albertsons, and others. Mexico’s produce exports to the U.S. are a business worth more than 7.5 billion US dollars a year.

On the other side are fruit pickers, the vast majority of whom are indigenous people from the southern states of Mexico. Many of them are illiterate and don’t even speak much Spanish. Trying to escape extreme poverty, they have migrated hundreds of miles north, only to be caught up in extremely bad working and living conditions.

The companies pay the fruit pickers as low as Read the rest of this entry »

New Zealand disribution workers

New Zealand disribution workers

While the article below is about the United States, it is highly relevant to the New Zealand situation.

by Joe Allen

Amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics,” US Army General Omar Bradley famously said. Bradley’s declaration was of course an overstatement, but it was also a necessary correction. Logistics — the mobilization of vast resources and, most importantly, people — was the lifeblood of a winning military strategy. Without full and competent logistical support, any strategy, no matter how brilliant, will fail. It is a point worth remembering when discussing the importance of the logistics industry to the US economy.

Most people know the word logistics from UPS’s ubiquitous advertising campaign, “We [Heart] Logistics.” It is sometimes seen as a fancy word for old-fashioned warehousing and distribution, an advertising makeover for the twenty-first century. “For many [others],” Marxist geographer Deborah Cowen writes, “logistics may only register as a word on the side of the trucks that magically bring online orders only hours after purchase or that circulate incessantly to and from big-box stores at local power centers.” On still other occasions, it is more glibly understood as the “supply chain.”

The US economy revolves around the sprawling logistics industry, and the potential power of these workers is enormous. Socialists should always seek a political relationship with those sections of the working class that have the potential power to elevate the organization and politics of the entire class. Without a strong left wing based in the most powerful workplaces, both the working-class movement and the socialist left will continue to be of marginal influence.

After three decades of gut-wrenching changes to the industrial economy, I believe that socialists can, once again, have an industrial strategy in the United States.

The “Old” Supply Chain

The production of capital goods (machines and tools for manufacturing) and consumer goods (for personal consumption) has been and will be central to the capitalist system. Every generation or so, however, capital reorganizes its methods of Read the rest of this entry »

unnamed (1)by Kenan Malik

First it was Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, three schoolgirls from Tower Hamlets who smuggled themselves to Syria during their half term holiday. Then it was ‘Jihadi John’, the IS executioner who was unmasked by the Washington Post as the Kuwaiti-born Londoner Mohammed Emwazi.

The stories of the three schoolgirls and of Jihadi John are very different. But the same questions are being asked of them. How did they get radicalized? And how can we stop it from happening again? These are questions being increasingly asked across Europe. A recent report from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization suggests that there are now some 4000 European fighters with IS, a figure that has doubled over the past year.

Push and pull?

What is it that draws thousands of young Europeans to a brutal, sadistic organization like IS? ‘Radicalization’ is usually seen a process through which extremist groups or ‘hate preachers’ groom vulnerable Muslims for jihadism by indoctrinating them with extremist ideas. Some commentators blame Western authorities for Read the rest of this entry »


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images (1)by Tony Greenstein

At a time when virtually all bourgeois pundits and their echo chambers were cheering for an expected Israeli Labour Party (Zionist Union) victory, I wrote: “The Israeli Labour Party, running with Tsipi Livni’s Hatnuah, has high hopes of forming the next government. It is likely to be disappointed.”1

I do not possess a crystal ball, but I do have an analysis of Zionism and settler-colonialism which tells me what political direction Israel is travelling today. Settler-colonial states do not reform themselves of their own accord. The only thing that makes them change their behaviour is massive pressure on the settlers – external and internal. So far Israel has not experienced anything more than the mildest of social disapproval.

Furthermore, settler-colonial states develop their own momentum and dynamic, which, unless they come up against determined opposition or natural barriers, such as the sea, are likely to result in the expulsion or extermination of the indigenous population. In South Africa’s case it was a combination of military defeat in Angola, the struggle of the black working class and a growing sanctions and divestment movement abroad which led to the apartheid system being dismantled.

In Israel the original victims of Zionist colonisation, the Palestinians, have not been finally vanquished. They still continue to sit stubbornly in their villages and on their lands in the West Bank. Barring extermination (which an increasing number on the far right advocate) or transfer across the Jordan, in Zionist eyes there is an uncomfortable Read the rest of this entry »

Northland has a chunk of the poorest housing in the country

After having National Party MPs for 50 years, Northland has a chunk of the poorest housing in the country

by Phil Duncan

From the moment Winston Peters announced his intention to stand for Northland, the outcome was a foregone conclusion.  Indeed, it baffled me that mainstream political commentators didn’t see it until poll after poll, week after week, finally shone a bunch of lights in their eyes simply too bright to ignore.

The by-election was brought about by the resignation of National MP Mike Sabin, currently the subject of a police investigation.

There were two reasons I thought Peters would win.  One is that he’s the past master of populism, able to appear as anti-establishment and opposed to right-wing economics while being thoroughly enmeshed in capitalist politics.  The other is that Northland electing a National MP for the past 50 years hasn’t helped the majority of people there and this was a chance to “send a message” to National without changing the government.

The socio-economic situation there was described by progressive blogger Dave Kennedy at Local Bodies a few days ago:

“Poverty can be seen everywhere in Northland, it is evident in the housing, the health statistics and stories from local doctors like Lance O’Sullivan.

“Schools struggle to meet the diverse needs of the mainly Maori communities and while there seems to be ample money to support elite private schools, Northland schools get ignored and bullied instead. Many of the successes in education in the region are due to communities doing what they can despite the Government.  Kerikeri High School has lifted Maori achievement by supporting a successful programme that has had its funding cut. Much special education support, under the current system, is not directed to where there is greatest need and the likes of Kings College have greater access to services instead.

“Northland has amongst the worst health statistics in the country and this is most obvious in the area of child health. Diseases most closely related to poverty are common in Northland children. Hospital admissions for: Bronchiolitis, pneumonia, bronchiectasis, pertussis, meningococcal, tuberculosis and serious skin admissions are significantly higher than the New Zealand rate. Rheumatic fever is common and tamariki Maori have a 1 in 200 chance of a damaged heart by the end of school. The KidsCan charity had to step in to ensure that Northland children got necessary prescriptions because families struggled to pay the $5 dollar charges.

“Rheumatic fever in children is often related to poor and overcrowded housing and the shocking state of many Northland houses is very visible when traveling around. Many houses reflect what you would expect in third world countries, not an affluent nation like ours. While the attention is on the housing shortage in Auckland there is little being done to help upgrade the poor homes in the far north. It has since been revealed that poor maintenance has reduced the availability of state housing and this has obviously been an issue in Northland too.

“Maori, in particular, have greater difficulties than most to access funding for housing and even building on their own land and this is well documented.”

And, as Don Franks noted on this blog,  “it’s one of the most shit-poor parts of New Zealand. In 2013, Northland was assessed as having the lowest electorate proportion of wage and salary earners. Earning stuff all, Northland was also assessed as having the second lowest median family income – just $51,400.”

Moreover, unemployment remains consistently higher than the national average, almost a quarter of the constituency’s population aged 15 and over have no Read the rest of this entry »