Monday, June 11, 2018

It's time to call their bluff.

 Workers are gaining confidence since the election of the new Govt.  Now is the time to push forward.

There is a pervasive myth on the left that while we may want to see significant, systemic change to society, we have to constantly tone down the demands we make and the reforms we argue for, because doing so will win support from business and the media and neutralise the arguments that National and their outriders try to make. This argument has been disproven time and time again, and this article demonstrates precisely why. Simon Bridges is saying that Ardern and her Government "must pause radical reforms or risk economic consequences of falling business confidence".

Now, which of the policies that the Government is proposing are "radical reforms"? Apparently, the main "radical reform" is the ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling--a supposed environmental win which in reality is tiny and fairly meaningless, given the likely expansion of onshore drilling, and given the difficulty at this stage of finding anywhere else to drill in our oceans since all of the low hanging fruits for offshore drilling have already been handed out in decades-long permits, which Labour have committed to honouring. The other concern Bridges mentioned is the minor changes the Government is proposing to industrial relations.

We saw this exact same thing during the election. National didn't care for a second that Labour and the Greens had committed to neoliberal, small government economics with the Budget Responsibility Rules. They accused Labour of having an $11 billion hole in their manifesto, the media endlessly repeated it as if it were true, and the kind of people who fall for that kind of rhetoric were convinced. The kind of people who aren't inclined to believe National didn't. Labour didn't fight back, they conceded ground, and did a u-turn on their tax policy.

It is so important for those of us who do want real change to understand that moderating all of the reforms we propose, that giving up on hope of significant progress in favour of tinkering around the edges to blunt the worst aspects of the system we live under, never actually works. A supposedly progressive Government can put forward the most pathetic, milquetoast platform, and still get attacked by business, the media, and of course the National Party, with the exact same lines they would use if we were actually fighting for a transformational agenda: business confidence is down, the economy is going to collapse, stop these "radical reforms", the left are crazy radicals, etc.

Both the National Party and the corporate-owned media exist to perpetuate the interests of the business and property owning class. They will fight tooth and nail against the tiniest concession to the working class or the environment if it at all harms the capital accumulation of the wealthy. They will NEVER compromise with us.

So we need to stop compromising with them. Call their bluff. See how ordinary people feel about a programme which fights for the interests of the many, not the few. And stop paying attention to the lies, smears and attacks of those who will never, ever stop howling that we are ruining everything every time we take any action, no matter how small, against the vested interests of the establishment.

Elliot C.  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

May 68: The year that Paris erupted



It’s 50 years since Paris witnessed the incredible power of workers and students united, as millions took to the streets to challenge the reactionary French state, and shook the very class system to its core. We look at how events unfolded, and why the demands and action at their heart remain relevant today.

On the 22nd of March 1968, 150 students, far left groups, poets and musicians occupied the administration building of Nanterre University outside Paris to protest /discuss class discrimination in French society and political bureaucracy that controlled university funding. The university was still under construction, and some 12,000 students were expected to study in what was effectively still a building site. Not only that, but there was strict segregation between male and female students – which didn’t go down well at a time of growing sexual emancipation. In response to the occupation, the administration called the police. After announcing their demands, students left without incidence. But then they took their protest movement to the Sorbonne in the very centre of Paris.

On the 2nd of May, following months of conflict, the administration shut down Nanterre university. Students at Sorbonne university met on the 3rd to protest the closure and expulsion of several students at Nanterre. On May 6 the national student union (UNEF) and the union of teachers called a march. More than 20,000 students, teachers and supporters marched toward the Sorbonne, which was still sealed off by the police, who charged wielding their batons. As the students dispersed some started building barricades and throwing cobble stones, forcing the police to retreat. The police responded with tear gas and charged again. Hundreds of students were arrested The following day the protest numbers swelled as high school students joined in. Students, teachers and workers gathered at the Arc de Triomphe with three demands. First, that all criminal charges against arrested students be dropped. Second, that police leave the campus. And thirdly, that the authorities to reopen the university. On Friday another huge crowd congregated on the Rive Gauche, when they were blocked from crossing the river. Again they threw up barricades. Police attacked at 2.15 am, there were hundreds of injuries and arrests, fighting lasted until dawn the events were covered on television and radio with allegations that police provocateurs burned cars and threw Molotov cocktails, causing sympathy for the students. After initially being very critical of the students, the major unions, the CGT and the CGT-FO – embarrassed by the support from rank and file worker for the students, contrasted with their own inaction - finally called a general strike and demonstration for the 13th. Well over a million people marched through Paris on that day. The police stayed out of sight – clearly vindicating Marx’s view that the workers are the only group in society capable of overthrowing the bourgeois capitalists. Alone, the students had been victim to police violence; with the backing of the workers, their power was unstoppable.In a very telling interview with the head of police afterwards, he said “The real danger was when the workers took part… when the large forces of the CGT and the [union federations], understanding that their credibility was at stake, call for the generalization of the strike. It is then that the fragility of the state appeared clearly. The police could disperse a demonstration, overturn 10 or 20 barricades. It could not clear out 100 or 500 factories, workshops, department stores, banks and train stations, less still get them back to work."
The prime minister announced the release of all the detained students, the reopening of the Sorbonne, and the students moved in and occupied, naming it the people’s university.A total of 401 action committees were set up to take grievances to the state and French society. The workers started occupying factories - 50 by the 16th May, 200,000 on strike on the 17th, 2 million by the 18th. Then 10 milion – two-thirds of the workforce and 20% of the population of France – took part the following week.

The CGT tried to channel the energy into wage demands, but the workers and students demanded the ousting of the government and President de Gaulle, and attempted to run their own factories. The CGT negotiated a 35% increase in the minimum wage and a 7% increase for all workers, but the workers and students jeered at the officials. This is another important lesson, demonstrating the follies of reformist parties.The French communist party was a Stalinist reformist organisation that had ambitions of being in a coalition government with the socialist party. It was wedded to the parliamentary system and did not want revolution because it would destroy their privileged position in the capitalist system. It was their influence on the workers that discouraged them from going the whole hog and achieving a workers’ and people’s democracy based on workers’ soviets and people’s councils as opposed to the fake so-called democracy based on voting every few years. And then leaving the lying politicians to look after the interests of the corporate powers . The general strike continued for 2 weeks until finally De Gaulle fled the country and most officials believed the revolution was a fait accompli. On the 30th May, thousands of protesters marched through the streets chanting ‘Adieu de Gaulle!”. That same day, de Gaulle announced an election on the 23rd of June, which he won by a large majority. But the lessons of May 68 remain clear and relevant. First, the importance of having an organised group of socialists ready to respond when these events erupt - which they can at any time. Workers will, and should, be the ones to make the revolution but the role of an organised group that can cut through the fakery of reformism and guide workers to taking power, is key. A group which has won the confidence of workers well beforehand by supporting them in their struggles. Another important point, often discussed among socialists and anarchists, is the question of violence in a revolution. In May 68, when a small group of radicals were involved, the state used violence against them, but once the workers came out en masse, the police were nowhere to be seen.This has been demonstrated repeatedly in history; the police and army are very brave when they outnumber you easily and obviously but when revolution is imminent they start reconsidering there options.A la victoire!

Doug SA

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

May 68: The year that Paris erupted



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It’s 50 years since Paris witnessed the incredible power of workers and students united, as millions took to the streets to challenge the reactionary French state, and shook the very class system to its core. We look at how events unfolded, and why the demands and action at their heart remain relevant today.


On the 22nd of March 1968, 150 students, far left groups, poets and musicians occupied the administration building of Nanterre University outside Paris to protest /discuss class discrimination in French society and political bureaucracy that controlled university funding. The university was still under construction, and some 12,000 students were expected to study in what was effectively still a building site. Not only that, but there was strict segregation between male and female students – which didn’t go down well at a time of growing sexual emancipation. In response to the occupation, the administration called the police. After announcing their demands, students left without incidence. But then they took their protest movement to the Sorbonne in the very centre of Paris.

 On the 2nd of May, following months of conflict, the administration shut down Nanterre  university. Students at Sorbonne university met on the 3rd to protest the closure and expulsion of several students at Nanterre. 
 On May 6 the national student union (UNEF) and the union of teachers called a march. More than 20,000 students, teachers and supporters marched toward the Sorbonne, which was still sealed off by the police, who charged wielding their batons. As the students dispersed some started building barricades and throwing cobble stones,  forcing the police to retreat. The police responded with tear gas and charged again. Hundreds of students were arrested 
 The following day the protest numbers swelled as high school students joined in. Students, teachers and workers gathered at the Arc de Triomphe with three demands. First, that all criminal charges against  arrested students be dropped. Second, that police leave the campus. And thirdly, that the authorities to reopen the university.
 On Friday another huge crowd congregated on the Rive Gauche, when they were blocked from crossing the river. Again they threw up barricades. Police attacked at 2.15 am, there were hundreds of injuries and arrests, fighting lasted until dawn the events were covered on television and radio with allegations that police provocateurs burned cars and threw Molotov cocktails, causing sympathy for the students. 
After initially being very critical of the students, the major unions, the CGT and the CGT-FO – embarrassed by the support from rank and file worker for the students, contrasted with their own inaction  - finally called a general strike and demonstration for the 13th. Well over a million people marched through Paris on that day. The police stayed out of sight – clearly vindicating Marx’s view that the workers are the only group in society capable of overthrowing the bourgeois capitalists. Alone, the students had been victim to police violence; with the backing of the workers,  their power was unstoppable.
In a very telling interview with the head of police afterwards, he said “The real danger was when the workers took part… when the large forces of the CGT and the [union federations], understanding that their credibility was at stake, call for the generalization of the strike. It is then that the fragility of the state appeared clearly. The police could disperse a  demonstration, overturn 10 or 20 barricades. It could not clear out 100 or 500 factories, workshops, department stores, banks and train stations,  less still get them back to work."
The prime minister announced the release of all the detained students, the reopening of the Sorbonne, and the students moved in and occupied, naming it the people’s university.
A total of 401 action committees were set up to take grievances to the state and French society. The workers started occupying factories - 50 by the 16th May,   200,000 on strike on the 17th, 2 million by the 18th. Then 10 milion – two-thirds of the workforce and  20% of the population of France – took part the following week.
The CGT tried to channel the energy into wage demands, but the workers and students demanded  the ousting of the government and President de Gaulle, and attempted to run their own factories. The CGT negotiated a 35% increase in the minimum wage and a 7% increase for all workers, but the workers and students jeered at the officials.
 This is another important lesson, demonstrating the follies of reformist parties.
The French communist party was a Stalinist reformist organisation that had ambitions of being in a coalition government with the socialist party. It was wedded to the parliamentary system and did not want revolution because it would destroy their privileged position in the capitalist system. It was their influence on the workers that discouraged them from going the whole hog and achieving a workers’ and people’s democracy based on workers’ soviets and people’s councils as opposed to the fake so-called democracy based on voting every few years. And  then leaving the lying politicians to look after the interests of the corporate powers .
 The general strike continued for 2 weeks until finally De Gaulle fled the country and most officials believed the revolution was a fait accompli.
 On the 30th May, thousands of protesters marched through the streets chanting ‘Adieu de Gaulle!”.  That same day, de Gaulle announced an election on the 23rd of June, which he won by a large majority.
 But the lessons of May 68 remain clear and relevant.  First, the importance of having an organised group of socialists ready to respond when these events erupt - which they can at any time. Workers will, and should, be the ones to make the revolution but the role of an organised group that can cut through the fakery of reformism and guide workers to taking power, is key. A group which has won the confidence of workers well beforehand by supporting them in their struggles. Another important point, often discussed among socialists and anarchists, is the question of violence in a revolution. In May 68, when a small group of radicals were involved, the state used violence against them, but once the workers came out en masse, the police were nowhere to be seen.
This has been demonstrated repeatedly in history; the police and army are very brave when they outnumber you easily and obviously but when revolution is imminent they start reconsidering there options.
A la victoire!
Details



Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Health sector workers pay dispute and Labour's "Independent" pay panel.

From Middlemore to Whangarei Base and in little old Waitakere hospital the health sector workers have been making their voices heard in recent weeks. At Middlemore over 300 nurses and health sector workers rallied, supported by Unite Union, First Union and Etu. Notable was the absence of many public sector unions, though PSA did have a limited presence. At Waitakere, Auckland Action Against Poverty were there in solidarity, while in Whangarei there was a chorus of car horns as the public enthusiastically voiced their support.
What is clear from the strong turnout is that the 2% pay offer offered by the District Health Boards (DHBs) is not even close to what is required by our nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants.
In a bid to ward off strike action, Jacinda Ardern proposed an independent panel work with the NZ Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and DHBs to find agreement on pay equity and working conditions.
NZNO members are currently in the process of making a decision on industrial action should the independent panel not provide a desired outcome.
But exactly how independent is the ‘independent panel’?



Margaret Wilson is the ‘independent’ chair of this panel. She has held various positions in Labour governments of Geoffrey Palmer and Helen Clark as well as being the director of the Reserve Bank from 1985 to 1989. She is a member of the Labour Party of NZ. With such strong ties to the Labour party her independence and neutrality must be questioned.

Geoff Annals is representing the NZNO but he is the former chief executive of NZNO. At present he is the chief executive of Accuro Health Insurance. While Accuro, according to its website, is a not for profit health insurer, it is an insurance company that provides cover for private healthcare. Such organisations can only thrive if the public health sector is in decline. New Zealand’s public health sector has been run down over the years and now the workers in this sector and NZNO members have decided enough is enough. The fact that NZNO members are being represented by a non NZNO person who has a direct conflict of interest with the public health sector casts doubt on that proposed 2% increase shifting much in a positive direction.
Then there’s Julie Patterson, former Chief Executive of Whanganui DHB, who is representing the DHBs. She was Whanganui DHB’s chief executive until October 2017. One of her main achievements has been turning around Whanganui DHB’s $10 million deficit from nine years ago to being on budget before she resigned. It is notable that NZNO members from Whanganui DHB have also been holding pickets recently to demand a higher than 2% pay rise like their fellow members from other DHBs. It would not be surprising at all if Julie prioritises DHBs’ budget responsibilities over needs of nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants.
So it seems all the panellists on the  ‘independent’ panel are well placed to look after the dollars at the expense of workers in the public health sector. The outcome of panel negotiations, due mid-May, looks bleak for the working class.

Instead of running budget surpluses the government needs to invest in our public health system by employing more nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants.
The government must provide and adhere to timeframes for delivery of these demands.
And after all this carry-on at tax payers’ expense, “the panel’s recommendation is not binding on either side, but it is based on a joint approach and submissions and reflecting the views of both sides,” says panellist Wilson.
Meanwhile, the call is growing for ’18 in 18’ – an 18% pay rise for nurses to make up for years of underfunding. Strike action would be the first in decades by health workers, and they wouldn’t be doing it lightly. It is not industrial action, but ongoing underfunding of the health service, that is putting patients’ lives at risk. To offer 2% is not just to disrespect the nurses, but the ordinary Kiwis whose wellbeing depends on them. A victory for the nurses is a victory for all workers,

SA Editorial

Waitakere

Whangarei
Middlemore

Monday, April 16, 2018

Rising in the North, South, and West Heath Sector Workers Reject 2%.

From Middlemore to Whangarei Base and in little old Waitakere hospital the health sector workers are making the voices heard. At Middlemore over 300 nurses and health sector workers rallied supported by Unite Union, First Union and Etu. Notable was the absence of many public sector Unions though PSA did have a limited presence. At Waitakere Auckland Action Against poverty were there in solidarity while in Whangarei there was a chorus of car horns as the public enthusiastically voiced voiced their support for their nurses.

Turnout has been rather good With the Whangarei picket notably stronger than expected with around 50 people present. What is clear from the strong turnout is that the 2%pay offer is not even close to what is required by our health sector workers. Rather a figure closer to 18% would address the needs of the diligent heath sector workers.

Our workers deserve more 18% in 2018.

SA.

Whangarei
Waitakere

Waitakere

Waitakere

Waitakere

Whangarei

Whangarei

Middlemore

Middlemore

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Return to the "Oppositional Behavior of Last Century"



A couple of months back, PSA union leader Erin Polaczuk told the Listener magazine she was glad to be operating in a ‘mature era’, where battles are won in court rather than on testosterone-fuelled picket lines. Okay, so those weren’t her exact words but that’s pretty much the gist. That thanks to the ‘feminisation of unions”, that “stupid oppositional behaviour” – ie strikes – are a little bit, you know, last century.

She cited the case of the huge settlement last year for care and support workers, led by the amazing Kristine Bartlett. That it was won in court. And yes, kudos to Kristine for taking her stand. But, crucially, Kristine had behind her the mass power of her union, and the real source of that power? The ability to strike.

Strikes – and I say this as a longtime female unionist – are not macho, they’re not old-fashioned, they’re not “stupid”. They are, quite simply, the only real firepower we have. The ultimate expression of the power of collectivity.

I have been a union member for almost 30 years and in that time I’ve heard a lot of different reasons why striking, even belonging to a union, isn’t smart or modern. As a sub-editor on London’s Daily Mirror in the early 90s, I heard ‘ah but we’re white collar’, ‘we’re part of the new middle-class’ ‘we’re creatives; we don’t clock on and off… unions are for blue collar workers’; ‘we should form a staff association; they’re less confrontational’. Lol. Why not form a book club while you’re at it.
I haven’t heard the ‘it’s not ladylike’ before. But hey.

So Erin, you think strikes are macho? Tell that to those American women teachers who, despite living in a country ruled by an arch-sexist, recently went on strike for nine days and won a pay rise for all state employees in West Virginia.
Tell it to the all-female kindergarten workers in New Delhi who last year won a doubling in their salary after a strike by their, also female, union leader Shivani.

Closer to home, tell that to Joyce Hawe of Te Arawa, a machinist at Progress Manufacturing in Porirua who organised a successful strike for higher pay. Or Bertie Ratu, who organised a protest when Talleys sacked her for being a unionist. Or any number of women throughout labour history. The Dagenham machinists whose action in the 70s led to not just pay rises for them, but a pay equality law change. The many women throughout history at the forefront of revolutionary action, from the Paris Commune to the Russian Revolution.

Striking is a proud and mighty tradition – for men and women, side by side. And strikes have often been led by women because in a world where we suffer discrimination and sexism, we understand that it’s by withdrawing our labour that we can really be heard. We understand that while the 1% hold the wealth, it’s us - ordinary men and women - who create it.

Why do I mention this now? Well, we’ve just seen a week of strong, vocal rallies by nurses from the NZNO union, many of them women. They are on the brink of strike action after rejecting a paltry 2 per cent pay offer. They feel undervalued. They feel their work conditions are jeopardising quality of care for patients. They don’t want to strike. They’re in their profession because they care about sick people, so of course a vote to withdraw their labour – however minimal the risk to patients – is not taken lightly. But they know, as I and millions of women before me have known, that strikes make the bosses sit up and listen.

All power to them.
Maria SA



A couple of months back, PSA union leader Erin Polaczuk told the Listener magazine she was glad to be operating in a ‘mature era’, where battles are won in court rather than on testosterone-fuelled picket lines. Okay, so those weren’t her exact words but that’s pretty much the gist. That thanks to the ‘feminisation of unions”,  that “stupid oppositional behaviour” – ie strikes – are a little bit, you know, last century.

She cited the case of the huge settlement last year for care and support workers, led by the amazing Kristine Bartlett. That it was won in court. And yes, kudos to Kristine for taking her stand. But, crucially, Kristine had behind her the mass power of her union, and the real source of that power? The ability to strike.

Strikes – and I say this as a longtime female unionist – are not macho, they’re not old-fashioned, they’re not “stupid”. They are, quite simply, the only real firepower we have.  The ultimate expression of the power of collectivity.

I have been a union member for almost 30 years and in that time I’ve heard a lot of different reasons why striking, even belonging to a union, isn’t smart or modern. As a sub-editor on London’s Daily Mirror in the early 90s, I heard ‘ah but we’re white collar’, ‘we’re part of the new middle-class’ ‘we’re creatives; we don’t clock on and off… unions are for blue collar workers’; ‘we should form a staff association; they’re less confrontational’. Lol. Why not form a book club while you’re at it.
I haven’t heard the ‘it’s not ladylike’ before. But hey.

So Erin, you think strikes are macho? Tell that to those American women teachers who, despite living in a country ruled by an arch-sexist, recently went on strike for nine days and won a pay rise for all state employees in West Virginia.

 
Tell it to the all-female kindergarten workers in New Delhi who last year won a doubling in their salary after a strike by their, also female, union leader Shivani.

Closer to home, tell that to Joyce Hawe of Te Arawa, a machinist at Progress Manufacturing in Porirua who organised a successful strike for higher pay. Or Bertie Ratu, who organised a protest when Talleys sacked her for being a unionist. Or any number of women throughout labour history. The Dagenham machinists whose action in the 70s led to not just pay rises for them, but a pay equality law change. The many women throughout history at the forefront of revolutionary action, from the Paris Commune to the Russian Revolution.

Striking is a proud and mighty tradition – for men and women, side by side. And strikes have often been led by women because in a world where we suffer discrimination and sexism, we understand that it’s by withdrawing our labour that we can really be heard. We understand that while the 1% hold the wealth, it’s us - ordinary men and women - who create it.

Why do I mention this now? Well, we’ve just seen a week of strong, vocal rallies by nurses from the NZNO union, many of them women. They  are on the brink of strike action after rejecting a paltry 2 per cent pay offer. They feel undervalued. They feel their work conditions are jeopardising quality of care for patients. They don’t want to strike. They’re in their profession because they care about sick people, so of course a vote to withdraw their labour – however minimal the risk to patients – is not taken lightly. But they know, as I and millions of women before me have known, that strikes make the bosses sit up and listen.

All power to them.

Monday, April 09, 2018

A Return to Union Solidarity.


To attempt a gargantuan struggle alone is a mammoth task indeed. Just as we unite together to fight the bosses unions must band together in solidarity when the negotiations break down and the struggle hits the streets. As the Nurses struggle intensifies the class is faced with the cruel reality that what eventuates here will set the tone for the worker's struggle under this somewhat misleadingly named Labour government.

For my generation the class struggle under a Labour government is a totally new game far more insidious than the cut throat front stabbing nature of the struggle under National. And many of the freshly graduated nurses are younger still. This it is vital that we stand on the shoulders of giants and knowledge the mighty struggles of the past. Wihi, and the Waterfront strikes, to Mc Strike and the Zero hours campaign we must struggle together and stand in solidarity with the nurses.

Nurses wages have stagnated in relation to inflation. Care has become a commodity under the cut throat regime of recent health policy with flow on impact in the community.  With patient care not up to standard. Inexperienced nurses forced to perform to a standard far beyond their years resulting in inordinate strain on our youngest healthcare workers. Nursing has become a low wage job which is totally unacceptable. Middlemore is falling apart DHB's are rotten to the core. The government won't do it we must get out on the picket lines and support the Nurses.



So where is the money going to come from? Put simply there is only one way to collect the funding to sort this colossal mess the current tax system is skewed to extort funding from those who can least afford it while the capitalist classes pay little to no tax on the surplus value that they extract from our tireless labour. We have the money to fix this it is simply sitting captive in the pockets of the wealthy. We must Tax the Rich to Sort the hospitals. Pay the nurses a living wage and fund the care to standards that will be the envy of the world.

Solidarity Forever
Comrade Eva.