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 »

by Tony Norfield

A pervasive economic euphemism is ‘the value chain’. This neatly glides over what is meant by ‘value’ and simply notes, as far as statistics allow, how much each part of the initial development, production and marketing of the overall cycle takes of the final selling price of the good that is sold.

The overwhelming lesson is this: to use use fashionable parlance, absolutely worst thing you could do, OMG, is to produce anything! How could you be so dumb?!What you need to do instead is to get poorly paid underlings to produce the goods. Then, assuming that you have any business sense, you take your cut from the branding, design or marketing of what the underlings have sweated over. If this simple lesson of modern international capitalist economics has escaped you, then let me present the ‘Smiling Curve of Sam Shih’, the founder of Acer, Taiwan’s main IT company, as reproduced in an 8 June UNCTAD report:

As Mr Shih illustrates, if you want to Read the rest of this entry »

imagesThe article below is part of our series of reprints from the magazine revolution (1997-2006) , one of the precursors to this blog. It appeared in the ‘Living’ section of issue #3, August/September 1997.

by Susanne Kemp

Everything is political. When you do everything you can to avoid politics, that’s still political.” So says Salif Keita, one of the highlights of this year’s Womad in Auckland.

Unfortunately, Keita is not much known in New Zealand and so unlikely totour here outside appearances like Womad. Yet he is at the forefront of world music, possibly the most rapidly-growing category of music around today.

Rise of African music

African music is the biggest component of world music, a fact that probably owes quite a lot to the way in which it has been promoted by big-name Western artists whose own music had run out of steam. Paul Simon, for instance, dabbled in South African township sounds and managed to revive a flagging career and shift copies of Graceland by the lorry load as well as introduce white middle class America to the music of the downtrodden of Soweto. Peter Gabriel has been more consistent; African influences have been a genuine part of his music since at least his fourth album in 1982. Working with a range of West African artists, most notably Youssou N’Dour, and initiating Womad, he has played a central part in opening up European and North American audiences to the exhilarating sounds of the region.

The fact that so much Western music had Read the rest of this entry »

Incinerated Iraqi soldier on the 'Highway of Death', 1991; despite Iraq having already agreed to pull out of Kuwait and its forces leaving, the US attacked the departing Iraqis, bombing, strafing and incinerating them for hours

Incinerated Iraqi soldier on the ‘Highway of Death’, 1991; despite Iraq having already agreed to pull out of Kuwait and its forces leaving, the US attacked the departing Iraqis, bombing, strafing and incinerating them for hours

This article was written 18 years ago and appeared in just the second issue of revolution magazine (June/July 1997). Its analysis of the trend to greater imperialist intervention in the Third World remains startlingly relevant, along with its argument that an anti-imperialist movement is badly needed in this country. The introduction to the original article stated, “Over the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in Western military intervention in the Third World. At the same time there appears to have been a collapse of opposition within the West to such intervention.” In the reprint below we have added about a few words in several places – about a dozen words altogether – in order to clarify a couple of points for a 2015 audience.

by Grant Pheloung and Phil Duncan

Today, imperialism is on the rampage. Whereas in the 1960s and 1970s, the Western powers had a hard time justifying themselves, they now intervene wherever and whenever they like. The US administration openly discussed when it should invade Haiti, for instance, with few voices of dissent being heard. Similarly, the West intervened in Somalia with scarcely a word of criticism or public protest. From Albania to Zaire to Papua New Guinea, Western powers discuss or carry out direct intervention. Meanwhile, the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague churns out its predictable verdict against Serb Dusko Tadic for ‘crimes against humanity’.

The absence of protests against the sham trials in the Hague and the imperialist logic behind them, Western intervention in ex-Yugoslavia, US bombings of the Serbs and the deployment of 20,000 US ground troops, are indicative of the degree of the collapse of radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, in New Zealand the left groups which fell over themselves to join the middle class populist outrage over French testing failed to organise a single protest against the 18-month deployment of NZ troops in Bosnia. It is now generally accepted that the West has the right to tell people in the Third World how to conduct their affairs and to send in its armed forces whenever it wants.

How has this situation come about and what can we do to change it?

There are three main factors explaining the new situation: the Read the rest of this entry »