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Friday, August 05, 2016

Don't Block our dreams-homes for people not profit



"There is something deeply morally wrong about a small minority in our society making huge profits from non-productive speculation, setting the economy up for a crash, whilst hard working people struggle to keep up with rack renting, never mind never being able to afford their own home," he says. "Unions have had enough of this, and we are going to build a movement to solve this problem like we did in the 1930s."- Joe Carolan, Unite Union.


Ben Peterson, Unions Auckland Housing Action Committee


Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union





For Sale ? For Living ?










Who destroys our dreams ?























Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Park Up For Homes

Recently around the country, mostly in Auckland, a peaceful protest movement called Park Up For Homes is growing and spreading. Organised by community members in conjunction with Child Poverty Action Group, the protest is about the complete inaction by the government to provide warm, dry, safe and affordable homes for the most venerable in our society. As a result of their inaction more people are homeless and sleeping in cars and many more people having 15+ people living in one 3-bedroom house as private rentals are becoming unaffordable for many. So the general public are coming out in support by sleeping in their cars overnight to show their solidarity for the people who this is a constant sad reality for. Hundreds have turned up at each protest.
So far we have seen protest action in Otara, Mangere, Onehunga, Henderson, outside of parliament and protests also being planned for Hamilton and Napier. A few politicians have come out to give a speech and show support. The most frequent being Marama Davison from the Green Party. Park up Onehunga even had world renown boxing great David Tua showing his support.
What has caused this? Wages over the last 30 years have not kept up with the cost of living and inflation, we have a housing market which is a “free for all” for investors buying up houses and leaving them sitting empty due to excessive capital gains being made in short periods of time. We have over 33,000 empty homes in Auckland alone. We have a housing shortage in Auckland of approx. 40,000 homes.
An uncontrolled thirst for property ownership caused by successive capitalist governments only serving the interests of the rich with their neo-liberal policies for the last 30 years are fuelling this crisis. The current government is so pre-occupied in selling of state housing to private developers in the middle of this shortage to serve the own selfish and inhuman ideology.
The National party has proposed giving out $1b in loans to councils for infrastructure which is really only going to be going to rich private developers. Labour has reached out further announcing it would build 100,000 homes, 50,000 in Auckland and at least 10,000 homes each year nationwide. Whilst this is definitely an improvement, it does not go far enough to stop housing from being an investment option. With Labour saying that an affordable house is going to be approximately $600,000. Even someone on $70,000 annual salary wouldn’t be able to service a $500,000 home loan, neverlone a $600,000 one. And what would you even get for $600,000 in Auckland anyway? And to top this off, neither party has mentioned anything about rental control.
Average rental prices are over $500 per week in Auckland. To move in you’re going to need at least $2,500 in bond and advance rent. How’s someone on minimum wage of $15.25 going to afford the rent, never lone the bond to get it? “Too bad!” according to our two main political parties.

Socialists and community activists must keep the pressure on our capitalist government to ensure that as much attention as possible can be brought to this monstrosity of an issue in hope that people power will prevail and we’ll get some real action. People before profit all the way.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Black Lives Matter; Kiwi Lives Matter.

In recent times we have seen a lot of police brutality on a global scale and especially in the US, and then last week we saw similar crimes in New Zealand with two separate incidents within a few days of men being shot by police – one, who was unarmed, died, and the other is in a critical condition.
 
There seems to be a culture developing among US police that this is a war and that the public are the enemy, especially if you are black and poor. This trend has been continuing for some time now and is steadily getting worse. We have seen many examples of police shooting and killing unarmed black people for no apparent reason and yet we have yet to see a police officer brought to justice. This year alone police in the US have shot 600 people. It is obvious from the actions of the police that they know they have complete impunity.
 
As someone who has been on the front line of pickets and protests I have seen this culture developing in NZ. While a lot of police are reasonable people I have witnessed an increase in the amount of thug-like behaviour by police in recent times and a reluctance by the authorities to address or even acknowledge it. In the US this has given rise to the 'black lives matter' movement which is becoming increasingly popular and is spreading to be a popular movement of the people with the involvement of many people of different ethnicities.
 
MILITARISATION OF THE POLICE
In recent times we have seen a militarization of the police with the use of military style weapons and military type vehicles being deployed at peaceful protests. I have read recently about US police doing training in Israel in the horrific and illegal methods used by the Israeli military to oppress, torture and murder Palestinians including women and children. It shows an attitude in policing that “treats minorities as enemies that must be pacified rather than citizens to be served” as Aljazeera America put it in a 2014 article about the Israel connection.http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/8/ferguson-police-violenceisraeliandusmilitarizedpolicies.html One must wonder what is behind all this.
 
PROPERTY RIGHTS OF THE RICH
In capitalist society the police are the main barrier between wealth and poverty. The privileged members of society, the 'one percent', could not exist in the form they do with vast inequality and extreme poverty if there was not this barrier to protect the property rights of the rich. The poor would simply take back what is rightfully theirs and that would be the end of it.
 
CRIMINALISATION OF THE POOR
We see in the US the criminalisation of the poor by the use of petty crimes to convict and imprison people, especially black people, and this is then being turned into an industry that is very profitable for large companies like Serco, which has recently taken over some of our prisons here in New Zealand. 
 
The US is the most incarcerated country in the world. In spite of having a relatively small population, it has more people locked up than any other nation. This is no accident – it serves as a reminder to anyone who is considering civil disobedience or crime, in the same way that unemployment serves to remind workers of the consequences of not working hard enough or not being obedient subjects of their bosses and the ruling elite. This US trend is slowly creeping in here at the hands of right wing governments and their cronies and business owners.
 
PETTY CRIME 
In NZ in the last three to four decades we have seen an increase in the use of petty crime to collect large sums of money from poor people and to criminalise them and eventually incarcerate them. Often these people who end up in prison, apart from being disproportionately from the poor and working class, are members of society that are less docile, more rebellious and less submissive than the average, and by removing them from society it makes us more docile members a lot easier to control.
 
ORIGINS OF POLICING
The origins of policing in the US go back to early slave patrols and Native American police to keep the indigenous people in their place. They were basically necessary to keep an immoral practice of slavery operating without rebellion and were used to capture escaped slaves and punish them. In the south these patrols operated with a similar impunity that police officers seem to today.
 
In NZ we have a history of the police recruiting 'special oficers' from rural areas of the landed classes and using them as strike breakers to put down workers strikes, as in the case of Massey’s Cossacks during the great strike of 1913.
 
WHO PROTECTS US FROM THE PROTECTORS
One of the main excuses for having a police force in the first place is to "protect us" but I would say that to most poor black Americans the biggest danger would be the police themselves.
 
WHAT IT COULD BE LIKE 
You may think that I am a bit of a Utopian fool but in my experience most of my encounters with the police have been very negative ones, usually costing me money and in the worst cases being physically attacked by them. I often wonder if we really need them at all. I think in my case I would have fared a lot better without them.
 
I think it is time we seriously looked at the role of the police, where they come from, who they are and what their purpose is. Do we need police to cruise around in vehicles handing out tickets intimidating people and generally causing trouble and misery or would communities be better off policing themselves? What if police only came out when a member of the public requested them to. It seems at the moment that is the only time they don't come out. Are the police here to protect us or do we, as in the case of the Black Panthers, need to have patrols to protect us from the police and other racist groups? Here is an example of a positive alternative. http://www.newsweek.com/police-norway-havent-killed-anyone-nearly-10-years-359074
 
LOCAL IMPLICATIONS
I would like get back to the recent shootings of two New Zealanders by police. This is a very worrying development, although not entirely without precedent (there have been similar killings in the past). If there is not a full inquiry to this, and if those responsible are found guilty and not punished, then I think it is a very bad omen for NZ society and I would urge all people who care about freedom and justice to get out on the streets and tell the government that this is not good enough and we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour by police.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Do not Pass Go- let’s play a game of Auckland Monopoly


Last weekend, we had our first game of Monopoly with the kids in the Carolan household. It was Oisin’s birthday present, and pretty soon both him and his sister Aoibheann were buying up the streets of the old London version, from his cheap 100 pounds fixer upper of the Angel, Islington, to her well appointed exclusive 400 pounds loft in Mayfair.

The kids asked what all the green houses and red hotels were for.
“Collect all the streets the same colour, and then you can build houses on them to jack the rent up by hundreds of dollars” said Heather.

“But that’s not fair, Mum”, said Ois- “houses are for living in. What if we can’t afford it?” Ahhh, that’s my socialist boy! And in a nutshell, that’s why the original Landlord’s Game was invented by socialist Elizabeth Magie. The world is not fair, and Auckland has turned into one big board game of Monopoly, one where everyone does not start equally with fifteen hundred pounds, and the Bank is rigged.

The kids are angry- so here’s my proposal.

There are 33,000 empty rental properties on the board at the moment in this city alone. Organising 33,000 seperate protests or occupations is a challenge that even General Strike could not command. Instead, let’s play a game of Auckland Monopoly.

On the one Glorious Day, we carry out four colour coded occupations of four empty properties in Auckland City.

Team Brown is for the low income streets.



Here we will organise an occupation of an empty state house, raising the demand to stop the sell offs, and to build 10,000 new State Houses and Council Houses every year.

Team Orange is for the low paid workers trapped in the rental sector, who have few tenant rights and can be evicted by landlords upping the rent by $100 or more a week. Here we will occupy to fight for Rent Controls, Tenant Rights and a WOF for healthy, warm homes.
Team Red is for those workers who dream to one day own a family house of their own- bit of a garden, Kiwi dream etc. This action will be about what’s affordable and what’s not- even if a worker was paid a living wage of $20 an hour- how many years would it take them to buy a $600,000 house?
The last team, Team Green, would identify the elite 1%, and capitalist speculation, as the enemy, whether foreign OR domestic.

It would target a property valued in the millions of dollars, one which could house dozens of people, or one that lies empty whilst our homeless freeze in garages, in cars and on the streets. This action would demand that empty properties faced stiff Empty House taxes and fines- a punitive Rich Tax that could send some of these speculators straight to Jail, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars.

Four actions, co ordinated on one day, by a united front of Auckland’s Unions, Community groups and progressive groups. A strong visual theme using the Monopoly iconography, with top hats, monocles, colours and props. A big huge boot outside John Key’s residence, for one.


It’s time to take to the streets, to demand
(1) the building of ten thousand new state houses a year
(2) Rent Control and increased Tenants Rights
(3) Healthy and Warm homes WOF
(4) Affordable homes linked to workers real wages.
(5) A Rich Tax on speculators and empty houses.

My union, Unite, voted to take action on Housing at our Conference this year. I believe that only unions, with mass working class membership reaching into thew communities affected, have the social weight and the organisational capacity to mobilise thousands of people on this issue so that we can win these demands for real. Who would like to see a Game of Auckland Monopoly kick off a of Housing Rebellion on the streets of Auckland involving thousands as Spring heats up into Summer?

Advance to Go!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Is it time for some Community Communism in Aotearoa?


The outlawing of Zero Hours Contracts in Aotearoa this April was big news for the Left and union movement abroad, with the result that Unite union activists were invited to speak at conferences and parliaments in Ireland, Britain and the USA last month. Myself, MIke Treen, Alastair Reith and Unite president Victoria Hopgood spoke to a panel in Westminster, where the Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party is seriously examining our campaign, both industrially and politically, of how we scored this victory. We had a very good meeting with Shadow Chancellor John Mc Donnell, where he outlined an ambitious plan to unionise millions of fast food and zero hour contract workers working with fighting unions and other left wing and socialist activists.
In Ireland, I spoke to a cross party committee in the Dail, where TDs and activists from Sinn Fein, the Anti Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit considered how Irish unions could turn to the Left, in the wake of the decimation of Ireland’s neoliberal Labour Party and its replacement in may working class areas by socialist and radical MPs.

In the North of Ireland, myself and Mike Treen were present during the Assembly elections, which saw the election of two Marxist MLAs in the heartlands of the struggle- Derry and West Belfast. Zero hours are a plague on the working poor in both parts of Ireland- it was great to see the rise of a socialist alternative to the politics of Green and Orange win representation for a working class that feels communal politics has ignored their suffering.

All of these things have led me to think of what we can learn from these experiences here.

First off, people abroad were very happy that a fighting union like Unite has successfully unionised the fast food industry and won some tangible victories there- in the USA, the SEIU union has been fighting for $15 and a Union for several years now, but now wants formal union recognition in these industries. The defeat of Zero Hours also raises new answers to the academic theorists who argue there is a new class- the Precariat, who cannot be organised. So, in this respect, many of these countries think the example of Unite in NZ is one worth repeating abroad.

BUt when you are abroad, you can see the advantages that the Left has in these countries as well.
Even though I have some strong disagreements with the Corbyn/McDonnell leadership of Labour on issues like the reformabilty of the EU, there is no doubt that the program they have to revitalise the union movement and take the fight to the Tories both inside and outside of parliament, is one that every radical should get behind. Many people in New Zealand ask the question- where is our Jeremy Corbyn? With the recent announcement on maintaining 90 day trial periods, I struggle to think it is Andrew Little.

In Ireland, this went a stage further. The Irish Labour Party has been practically wiped out, after betraying the massive mandate it got from Irish workers to stop austerity- instead, it joined a right wing coalition government and introduced brutal taxes on working people, including a hated Water Tax, which saw a massive movement explode onto the streets. Hundreds of thousands of people marched, not only mobilised by radical groups such as People Before Profit, the Anti Austerity Alliance or Sinn Fein, but also by five large trade unions that broke from the Labour Party stranglehold on action, mobilising workers through union channels in huge numbers.

The rise of a new Left in Ireland was not an overnight occurence. Marxists made a turn away from propaganda group campus rhythyms after the Battle of Seattle, instead concentrating on community activity in working class areas. In many working class areas in Ireland’s major cities, the socialist left have been active fighting attacks on working people for decades- fighting for housing, rent control, refugee and gay rights, and against Household, Bin and Water taxes. The result has been the election of dozens of councillors, 6 AAA-PBP TDs, and another dozen or so radical left independent TDs, as well as a bigger group of 30 or so Sinn Fein TDs.

One of the reasons why the Left in Irleand concentrated on community politics, was, in my mind, that any radical route in the unions was blocked by the Labour Party bureaucracy and its ideology of partnership. Gino Kenny, TD for working class Clondalkin, describes himself as a Shop Steward for his area, which has suffered severe economic deprivation. He famously flew the Palestinian flag on his election, which shows also a deep internationalism in the Irish working class with the suffering of people abroad.

Here, in Aotearoa, with local elections coming up later this year, we start to see the same old faces and the same old tickets shuffle forward for the local boards. Interest in local and community politics is at an all time low, because very few of these tickets talk the language of the working class, or have taken a lead in the grassroots on issues like rent control and state housing. Groups like the Tamaki Housing Association in Glen Innes and the Save Our Community Coalition in Mangere have battled the effects of the housing crisis largely by themselves, with no serious support for what passes for a parliamentary Left.

Could something in the community to the left of the Labour-Greens alliance emerge from the current crisis- prehaps concentrating on a burning issue for working people like the Zero Hours Campaign began. A working title could be Housing Action or Rent Control Now? There are hundreds of activists to the left of both Labour and the Greens who could be organised by such a campaign- and we could force the issue onto the agenda.

IN the absence of a Bernie Sanders or a Jeremy Corbyn figure to pull establishment politics to the Left , that no saviour from on high delivers- maybe we do need to realise the truth of two Irish words- “Sinn Fein” -that change can only come from Ourselves Alone.

Joe Carolan SA

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Social Welfare and Debt the Left hand of Capitalist Oppression.

The social welfare of today would be unrecognisable to those who witnessed the birth of what was known as the cradle to the grave. Sadly I was barely out of the cradle when the social welfare of old was consigned to the grave. In its place a welfare system that barely satisfies the loosest definition of the word. A welfare system that’s acts as a brutal tool of capitalist oppression rendering its very existence a contradiction of principle. Today work and Income works to perpetuate poverty encourage debt and intimidate the unemployed in to unsuitable employment.
Debt is a curse on the proletariat yet even work and income is in the business of putting low paid workers and the unemployed in to debt a situation that has become necessary as these people can no longer afford basic living costs that WINZ should be covering but for some reason is unable to. In recent years rent has spiralled beyond what the basic benefit can cover. This is compounded by the WINZ department’s unwillingness to provide any more than the bare minimum of support unless prompted to do so. For many the only course of action left is credit leaving them in debt that they will struggle to cover.
When at last you manage to get proper help from WINZ you find yourself with a very limited range of options. The first is temporary additional support this has to be reapplied for every three months and unless you happen to be in debt WINZ will not pay any significant amount.  The second is an advance on the benefit a sort of interest free loan that can be provided for things like bond and temporary accommodation. In recent years this has resulted in people owing thousands of dollars to WINZ without having received any meaningful support.

A welfare system that is centred on debt is by definition rotten to the core. Instead of helping the poor and unemployed it serves to perpetuate poverty while providing only token support. Debt is a burden that is best avoided yet our modern welfare system is unable to offer any alternatives. 

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Real Reason for our Housing Crisis



Our biggest city is going through its worst housing crisis since the opening of the first state house in 1937. The dire situation in Auckland is now extending to other urban areas like Tauranga, as was recently reported in media. People are homeless, sleeping on streets, in tents, in cars - and where they do have a roof over their heads, as many as 10-15 can be sharing a three-bedroom home. The working middle-class cannot afford to buy houses as they’re now worth more than 10 times the average annual salary of over $76,000. The people of our country are suffering.

So what has caused this? There are a number of contributing factors but the biggest and most important is supply. We now have the lowest amount of social housing per population since 1949. The seeds were sown in the 80s, when the capitalist left (Labour Party) turned its back on the working class, passing its own economic version (Rogernomics) of what the right-wing politicians call neo-liberalism. These reforms paved the way for the capitalist right-wing (National Party) government of the 90s to get stuck into selling off and restricting the supply of social housing. The party was caught up in its usual “user pays/must be privatised for profit ” money addict ideology.

When the capitalist left came back into power in the late 90s, they didn’t really do anything substantial about the erosion of social housing quality and stock. So when the capitalist right returned to power in 2008, the attacks on social housing continued. This has effected a socio-economic cleansing of parts of our city so that land can be freed up for wealthy private development - forcing poor people to move further out of the city.

Making the housing crisis worse is the fact workers’ wages have remained stagnant and have not increased at the same rate as those of the CEOs they answer to. They’ve also not kept up with inflation and the cost of living. Many people now can’t even afford a private rental. Even rental on a room-to-let boarding situation is over 50% of a worker’s minimum wage.

The capitalist left has tried to make racist attacks on Chinese immigrants saying Chinese foreign speculators have driven up the pricing of private housing. While foreign speculation is definitely a contributing factor, it’s certainly not the largest - and it’s not just Chinese overseas speculators. The majority are baby boomer (born 1946 - 1964) Kiwis who bought their homes for $30-$40,000 in the 70s and 80s and whose properties are now worth over $1m. Clearly they’re just trying to deflect attention from the true cause of this crisis, and that is lack of supply from successive NZ governments. For the past 30 years our political rulers have been trying to keep the supply of housing down to increase demand and therefore drive up pricing for their own personal economic capital gains.

Housing shouldn’t even be something that you buy and invest in to make capital gains for profit. If you must invest your money then invest it somewhere else like green technology. Everyone should have a right to a clean, warm, dry home. If you cannot afford to buy your own house privately through the bank then there should at least be government assisted schemes such as a “rent-to-buy” so that people can pay what they can afford. The NZ government has access to the cheapest money in their beloved fake “free market”. There is no reason not to.

As socialists, where social housing is pretty much in our moral code, we will need to work harder to gain public awareness to the capitalist causes of this continuing crisis. We will need to network with our comrades and other organisations to rally against this atrocity. Whether it eventuates to the beginnings of our hoped for revolution or not, we should be at least demanding from the NZ government 100,000 homes be built immediately, rent control, social housing and strict regulations on making sure that every home is safe, warm, secure and dry. No one should ever be homeless. It’s called showing dignity for your own species.

Wayne SA