by Daphna Whitmore

Last Sunday ten thousand people marched to the graves of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Berlin.


Since the late 1920s Luxemburg and Liebknecht have been commemorated on the second Sunday of January to mark their deaths on 15 January 1919. In the former East Germany it was an official state event but since the country’s unification in 1990 the tradition has continued without state support. Read the rest of this entry »

US_econ_bailout_66Despite all the free market rhetoric, the simple reality is that capitalism can’t function without a strong state, including one that steps in to make up for the continuous failures of ‘the market’.

Often this requires all kinds of taxes.  Often these are hidden by not being direct taxation like income tax – they are things like, in NZ, GST, tax on petrol, cigarettes and so on.  Other times and places they come in a more direct tax form, such as water charges.

On Tuesday, there was a very interesting article in the Irish Times on the various levies charged by the southern Irish state, levies which are designed basically to underwrite the market.  They involve quite a range of stuff from a levy people are charged on plastic bags to the water charge levy.


In this country, the government has a bunch of levies too, driving up the prices of goods that are especially consumed by workers.  See our article on GST and tax policy: here.



This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rebellion in Ireland.  The rebellion took place from April 24 to April 29, essentially in Dublin.  April 24 was Easter Monday, so the insurrection became generally known as the Easter Rising and is usually commemorated at Easter; this means it ‘moves’ each year.

In New Zealand there are a number of events being organised to mark the centenary of the Rising.

In Dunedin, members of Clann éirígí are organising an afternoon event on the Rising on Saturday, April 23.  As well as several talks, there will be actual film footage from the Rising.  Entry by koha.  For further info, contact Colin:

In Dunedin, there is also going to be an academic conference on the Rising, to be held at the Toitu Settlers Museum in March.

In Christchurch, Dr Philip Ferguson will be giving a talk on Countess Markievicz on Friday, April 1 at 7pm.  It’s organised by the Irish Society and will be at the Irish Society hall in Spreydon.

The next day, Saturday, April 2, the Canterbury Workers Educational Association is offering a one-day course run by Philip Ferguson of Clann éirígí.  See course details here:

Dr Marla Hughes of the Canterbury University history department will also be speaking on the Rising at an event organised by the city’s Irish Society.  The talk will be at the Society’s hall in Spreydon, 7pm, Wednesday, April 6.

The Society has a number of events planned, including a street procession.

We’ll stick up more details of the events in Christchurch and Dunedin regularly.

You can also read all about the Rising over on theirishrevolution site.

In particular, for the Rising and the period through to the triumph of the counter-revolution, see the following (these were written in 1995 and early 1996, but remain relevant and valid):

Nationalisms and anti-nationalisms in Irish historiography

Politics and the rise of historical revisionism

Rekindling the sparks of revolt: the cultural revival, labour, women’s and republican movements, 1908-1913

From sparks to flames, 1913-1916

The Home Rule crisis

The labour and women’s movements on the eve of World War 1

Connolly, Markievicz and the debate over 1916

In sight of freedom, 1916-1921 (introduction)

Republicanism and the national independence struggle, 1916-1921

The working class and the national struggle, 1916-1921

Women’s rights and the national struggle, 1916-1922

From truce to treaty: the pan-nationalist front divides

Civil war, counter-revolution and the consolidation of the Free State

Winners and losers in an unfree state


For a recent look at the global-historical significance of the Rising, see:

And check out the Irish revolutionary movement éirígí.



downloadLast week an article on the Australian left site New Matilda dealing with the work/life balance went viral.  The article dealt with why we are working longer.

Several of the most-viewed pieces on Redline have been on the same subject.  Check out:

Whatever happened to the leisure society?:

Pensions and the retirement age – the problem is capitalism, not an aging population:

It’s pretty widely agreed these days, even among many business gurus, that a good work/life balance is important.  What is not discussed is why we – and by ‘we’ I mean the vast majority of the workforce – don’t have a good work/life balance.  And why things appear to be getting worse.  We’re working longer, harder, faster and the retirement age is going up in many advanced capitalist countries (and retirement scarcely exists in much of the Third World).

Briefly, there are two answers.  One is that there has not been another capitalist boom period like the long one following WW2 (late 1940s to early 1970s) and there is not likely to be another one.  The other is that workers’ resistance to attacks on our rights and living standards have, largely, not been resisted.  This is especially so in New Zealand.

Thus the result here for workers has been especially bad.  See here.

For the New Matilda article, see here.



The material below, including the introduction, first appeared on Redline in June 2011 – just as this blog was beginning – although it was written and appeared elsewhere in 2008 and 2009.  Seven-eight years on, it is increasingly acknowledged on the left that the Key government are not hardened neo-liberals with a secret agenda to finish the job begun by Labour and National (‘Rogernomics’ and ‘Ruthanasia’) in the 1984-93 period.  It’s a sad comment on the NZ left that no-one has had the good grace to say, “Hey, you folks were right” – especially those who attacked us for our analysis – but unfortunately chunks of the left here are rather mean-spirited and that’s the way it is until we have a new left.  We’re highlighting these pieces again, however, primarily because of the discussion set off by the recent OECD report.

johnbillFrom before the 2008 election to today, confusion has reigned on the left about the nature of the National government. People involved in this blog have been to the forefront in trying to analyse the government and its actions in the context of the actual process of capital accumulation in New Zealand today – ie analyse the Key-English government from a Marxist point of view – rather than fall into the left’s tendency to simple-minded Nat-bashing. Nat-bashing may have a ‘feelgood’ factor for many but is useless in understanding what is going on and why – and why Labour is no better.

Below are pieces written during the course of the current government, two of which originally appeared in Party Notes, the internal bulletin of the Workers Party. Party Notes used to contain the minutes of the monthly WP steering group meetings and political pieces designed to guide the work of the organisation. The third was written in February 2009 and first appeared in the April 2009 issue of The Spark.

These pieces argued that the government was not about to launch a cut-throat attack to smash the working class, as claimed by much of the left. The reason for this is that the productivity gains to be made by making workers work harder, longer and faster had largely been made and had failed to inject new dynamism into the economy. The key problem for NZ capitalism is the low rate of productivity growth and this was what the ruling class would be trying to address. At the same time, we noted there would be attacks on the public sector because it is still largely financed out of surplus-value and therefore tends to be a partial drain on profits. If the economic situation worsened significantly, moreover, all bets were off.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be putting up more pieces people involved in Redline wrote in the last couple of years on government policy in the context of the real problems faced by the New Zealand economy, and new material on the state of play at present. Read the rest of this entry »

Working class women protesting for equal pay, Australia, 1969

Working class women protesting for equal pay, Australia, 1969

These days talk of class in NZ is often greeted with groans.  While this is not hard to understand when it comes from the right, it is often found on the left as well as many leftists have shifted attention to other factors as causal in terms of oppression and discrimination.  It has also become more common to talk of things like the struggle for equal pay as feminist-inspired and any gains as being the result of feminism.  In the article below, Australian Marxist Katie Wood reminds us that the struggle for equal pay came much more from within the union movement than the feminist movement.  While she is dealing with a specifically Australian context, her analysis is backed up by what happened in First World countries from New Zealand to Britain, on the other side of the world. 

Working class men demonstrating for equal pay for women in Australia, 1969

Working class men demonstrating for equal pay for women in Australia, 1969

by Katie Wood

The year 2014 marked the forty-fifth anniversary of the first decision in the federal arbitration court supporting equal pay for women, yet today the gender pay gap stands at a staggering high of 18.8 percent, or nearly $300 for full-time weekly earnings.[1] Even more troubling is the fact that the gap has been growing rapidly since a “low” point of 14.9 percent in 2004. This percentage is huge in real terms. It means that full-time female workers are on average over $13,000 a year worse off than men and over the length of a working life; when combined with time out for raising children, it amounts to around $1.4 million.[2] Women also accumulate only 59 percent of the superannuation savings of men on retirement.[3]

In recent years there has been something of a backlash against concern about the gender pay gap. Numerous articles have been written arguing that there is in fact no such thing – that any statistical differences can be explained solely by individual women’s choices to work in lower-paid industries or to leave the workforce for a time to raise children.[4] This argument ignores the connection between such individual decisions and the sexist structures of society. It is total rubbish.

A 2009 study of the variables associated with the gender pay gap found that the predominant reason for the gap was the indirect factor of “simply being a woman”, by which the authors meant the experience of direct or indirect sexist discrimination. This factor far outweighed others such as industry segregation, labour force history and qualifications; a finding that the authors maintain is consistent with other Australian studies in the field.[5]

Sexism in the workforce plays out in many different ways, sometimes complex and sometimes seemingly contradictory. For instance, it is well documented that women who ask for pay rises or promotions are seen in a more negative light than men who do the same, and that the socialisation of women to be more self-effacing and passive means that they are less likely to ask for pay rises or promotions in the first place. Sexism shapes the assumptions that bosses make about their workers and it pervades the daily interactions in the workplace. It is a key factor in the endurance of the pay gap and cannot be ignored just because those daily interactions may be harder to quantify or seem to be individual and personal rather than systemic.

Industry segregation along gender lines is of course an important factor in the continuing pay gap. Women are poorly represented in the highest-paid industries, such as mining, but over-represented in the lowest-paid, such as retail.[6] Again, all the complex elements of women’s oppression come into play here. Women are less likely to enrol in engineering, geology and related courses, more likely to take up “caring” professions such as childcare, nursing and teaching. And these industries, because they are historically feminised, are lower paid; a fact that was acknowledged by Fair Work Australia in the 2012 Australian Services Union equal pay claim decision.

Women are also more likely to take time off work to undertake unpaid care of children, the elderly and the sick. Again, if this is presented simply as a “choice” it ignores the fact that it is stereotypically a woman’s role to take on caring responsibilities. Also material factors may affect the decision, as women are likely to earn less than their partner in a heterosexual relationship and such a “choice” makes clear financial sense.

So women’s oppression operates in myriad ways to reinforce the gender pay gap. It is really just one of the more obvious signs of the ongoing problem of women’s oppression. The pay gap, just like women’s place in society more generally, is not subject to some gradual, linear improvement as society develops, presumably for the better. Changes in government policy and the strength of working class organisation, in short various aspects of the class struggle, impact on the gender pay gap. The assault on union rights and collective bargaining under WorkChoices (and its offspring FairWork) undoubtedly contributed to the recent increase in the pay gap, as the gap is wider for women on individual contracts than for those on collective agreements (20.2 percent compared to 15.8 percent).[7]

Equal pay is a class and a union issue, and always Read the rest of this entry »

imagesThis month, January 15 to be precise, marks the 97th anniversary of the murder of the great revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg.  She was murdered on the orders of German social-democrat leaders.

Check out some of the material on this blog by and about her.

Rosa Luxemburg in the 21st century:

Rosa Luxemburg’s last article:

Rosa Luxemburg on Marxism, class struggle and the fight for women’s right to vote:

Rosa Luxemburg’s political legacy: