Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fascist Thugs Terrorise Passengers at Bangkok International Airport

Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok.

Bangkok International Airport has now been closed by Fascist thugs from the anti-government PAD. The PAD are demanding that the elected government resigns. This is despite the fact that the government has the backing of the majority of the Thai population and even the majority of Bangkok citizens. This backing has been proven by repeated elections. The PAD want a dictatorship to replace democracy because they deem that the majority of the Thai electorate are too ignorant to deserve the right to vote. How did the PAD thugs manage to seize Bangkok International airport? Airports are supposed to be high security areas. Thai airports are controlled by the Thai military. It is obvious that the Thai military, who staged an illegal coup in 2006, have quietly supported the actions of the PAD. It is obvious that the military is unwilling to provide basic security to air travellers and air crew. But they are happy to rake in huge salaries associated with their control of the Airports Authority. Foreign governments and airlines should reconsider whether the authorities in Thailand are willing to provide international standards of safety and security.

Back in early October, the PAD thugs surrounded parliament to prevent the Prime Minister from making a policy speech. When the police used tear gas to try to disperse the PAD, the police were roundly condemned by the Thai media and most Middle-Class intellectuals. It is no secret that the PAD are armed with guns, bombs, knives and wooden batons. They constantly break the law with impunity. Earlier today PAD thugs were filmed by PBS ThaiTV, shooting at taxi drivers who were trying to defend their pro-democracy community radio station. The PAD thugs were holding up pictures of the King. Yesterday the PAD kicked and punched a senior policeman. The police are powerless to act.

The PAD is a Royalist Fascist mob which has powerful backing. Apart from the army, they are supported by the Queen, the so-called Democrat Party, the Courts, the mainstream media and most university academics. What these people have in common is a total contempt for the Thai electorate who are poor. They are angry that the Thai people voted for a government that gave the poor universal health care and other benefits. They want to turn the clock back to a dictatorship which they call “the New Order”. They are hoping that the Courts will now dissolve the ruling party and that an authoritarian “National Government” will be set up.

It is clear that the PAD, the Military, the Democrat Party and the Conservative Establishment would rather see total chaos in Thailand rather than allow democracy to function. This is despite the fact that we face a serious economic crisis. Interestingly the anti-government groups are extreme neo-liberals with little grasp about how to deal with the economic crisis or how to stimulate the economy. Apart from opposing welfare, they have attacked Keynesian policies of the previous Thaksin government.

Where is the King in all this? Throughout the 3 year political crisis, the King has never attempted to diffuse the problem. Many Thais believe he supports the PAD, but it is more likely that the Monarch has always been too weak to intervene in any crisis.

Those who support democracy and social justice in Thailand must condemn the PAD and those advocating a dictatorship. We must be with the pro-democracy Red Shirts, while refusing to support ex-PM Thaksin, who has a record of Human Rights abuses. I hope that all those friends of Thailand abroad will support all our efforts to defend Thai democracy and to defend those of us who may face arrest in the future.

Shockwaves of the crisis of capitalism spread round the world

Panic over the recession often focuses on the Western economies. But it is the world’s weaker economies that are bearing the brunt of the turmoil, argues Sadie Robinson

The global ruling class is caught in the grip of panic and confusion. Until only recently there were hopes that the world’s newly emerging economies – such as China and others that had undergone rapid growth – could offer a way out.

Some economists even talked of a “decoupling”, through which these countries would insulate themselves from the West and avoid recession.

Today even those faint hopes have gone. As swathes of small and medium size Chinese businesses close due to lack of orders, the country’s rulers have been forced to admit that its employment outlook is “grim” and that this could lead to social unrest.

Already many towns and cities report growing numbers of “mass incidents” – the Chinese state’s euphemism for riots and demonstrations.

Professor Joseph Cheng, of Hong Kong’s City University, points out that the legitimacy of the Chinese government is built on prosperity.

“If people see that economic growth can no longer be maintained, then the very basis of the government has been eroded,” he says.

The widening gap between rich and poor in China could make the current problems worse, he adds. “Because of this, the hardships of those who suffer might become unbearable.”

The crisis is by no means restricted to China, as one day last month, 6 October, showed. In Brazil, the powerhouse of Latin American economies, the stock market closed down 5.4 percent.

Trading had been suspended twice throughout the day – in one instance when stocks fell by 15 percent. Stock markets in Chile and Argentina both fell by 6 percent.


Indonesian markets fell by 10 percent after being hit by the withdrawal of huge quantities of foreign investment.

Other countries with large deficits and dependence on foreign money – such as India, Turkey, and the Baltic states – also suffered.

This instability led counties that had been previously regarded as rising stars to scramble to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) too, seeking help to ward off bankruptcy.

Countries including Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Pakistan, Turkey and Ukraine have sought, or are seeking, a bail out.

Unfortunately the IMF’s money comes with neoliberal strings attached.

The fund demands that recipient countries agree to “open up” their economies to international competition and push through privatisation – usually the same policies that have made their economies vulnerable to crisis in the first place.

Decades of free market policies, such as scrapping import tariffs, and cutting government spending and subsidies, have made developing countries increasingly dependent on the global economy, but less well placed to cope with the fluctuations in the global market.

This fact is well illustrated by the recent crisis of spiralling food prices.

Countries that were pushed to sign up to IMF structural adjustment programmes as the price for financial assistance in the past saw their markets flooded by cheap food imports from the West – decimating local food production.

But this year the price of imported basic foodstuffs rocketed, and millions of the world’s poorest people are going hungry as a result.

The IMF package’s pay-off was supposed to be “export-led growth”, but as the world economy slides from recession into slump many poorer countries that relied on export earnings are being hit hard. They now find that they are forced to spend an ever-greater proportion of their resources on paying the interest on their debts.

In a time of crisis the fragile nature of the weaker developing economies means that investors rush to withdraw their money and minimise their “risk”.

This trend has hit countries such as Hungary and Indonesia particularly hard – both have a large trade deficit and rely heavily on foreign investment.


By authorising a massive bailout of the banks, the rulers in the West have been quick to abandon their old prescription that the market be allowed to do its work.

Unfortunately, there has been no change in their insistence that poorer countries must continue to swallow the free market medicine.

Hungary, the eastern European country worst affected by the crisis, got a $15.7 billion loan from the IMF earlier this month. In return, the IMF demanded “essential upfront measures” that focus on slashing government spending and further “reform” of public services.

Ordinary people in Hungary are well aware of what this means – cuts to wages, pensions and social spending.

Hungary joined the IMF in 1982 and pushed through a number of structural adjustment programmes in return for loans. Several waves of attacks on wages and services followed, leading to soaring unemployment and rising poverty.

Between 1989 and 1993, as the economy shrank by a staggering 20 percent, official unemployment figures grew from zero to 13 percent. In the first half of the 1990s real wages fell by around a quarter.

Today, even before the next round of IMF inspired cuts takes effect, child malnutrition is a growing phenomenon in Hungary and there is a widespread realisation that the free market has failed.

This is a feeling echoed among the millions across the world whose lives are in the process of being destroyed by unemployment and poverty.

The twisted logic of capitalism – which closes factories and throws engineers and steel workers on the dole on one side of the world, while denying others the basic technology that could deliver clean water – is apparent to all.

The hope must be that anger at the scale of economic destruction can be turned into a protest movement so powerful that the rule of the rich and their market can be ended.

The following should be read alongside this article:
» Indonesia: Jangled nerves and the begging bowl
» Pakistan on the edge
» Turning against the privateers in Poland

Saturday, November 22, 2008

John Minto- the Maori Party is wrong

From whatever way you look at the deal between National and the Maori Party it’s a hopeless, cringe-inducing arrangement and a disaster for most Maori. How could they have reached such a lame-duck agreement?

Significant progress for Maori is dead in the water once more. Compare it with the deal signed between National and Act. Like the Maori Party agreement there are two MPs who become ministers outside cabinet in return for support on confidence and supply. However the ACT agreement has several policy concessions and specific mechanisms to set in motion policy development for further concessions down the line. The Maori Party deal has none of this. There are no policy concessions but simply agreements to review the foreshore and seabed legislation and the future of the Maori seats. What’s worse is that neither of these are bread and butter issues for Maori families involved in the day to day struggle to make ends meet.

The Maori Party say National did not have to do a deal with them and so anything they got is better than nothing. Hone Harawira says they were offered more in three days by National than they were offered over three years by Labour. That might be true but it misses the point. Even if they decided to go with National they were in a stronger negotiating position than Act because Act had nowhere else to go. It had no option but a coalition deal with National. Where are the policy concessions the Maori Party could have extracted?

National is the big winner from the deal. It gains 70 votes for confidence and supply and goes into the next election with greater coalition options. Most importantly however it gives National political cover as it moves to implement what will be deeply unpopular policies as the global financial crisis hits the real economy hard in the next year. As I’ve said before it won’t be the global bankers and currency traders, of which John Key is a card-carrying member, who pay the price for their greed and stupidity. Instead it will be Maori who disproportionately suffer the greatest. And when the inevitable motions of no confidence in the government are tabled in parliament it will be the Maori Party MPs who are wheeled out to defend the degradation of Maori families and communities by unemployment.

In all the self-justifying statements made last week to defend dealing with National there was only one I saw which made any real sense. It came from Syd Keepa of the Maori runanga within the trade union movement. Syd said he could see value in the Maori Party doing a deal with National if it meant the extreme right wing of National and Act would be kept in check. From the experiences of the 1990s it was a well-made observation but in this context it is somewhat misplaced because John Key’s main objective will be to contain Act if he is to have any hope of being re-elected in 2011. The process we observed last week is what is often described as “elite-pacting” whereby the leadership of a dominant political grouping, National in this case, woos and seduces the leadership of a potentially strong opponent. Tariana Turia’s comment that John Key seems a nice man sums it up. In this deal National gained a great deal but gave up nothing of significance. The Maori Party gained nothing of importance but has been neutralised in the process.

The world is full of examples where grassroots movements are undermined and derailed by co-opting the leadership. The US government for example uses a mixture of assassination and co-option while the corporate sector internationally feted the leadership of the South Africa’s ANC before it came to power and through the process successfully reversed the ANC’s economic policies. The principles of the Freedom Charter were abandoned and free-market policies drove the post-apartheid economy much to the delight and relief of the wealthy. Fourteen years on and the majority of black South Africans are worse off than ever.

The Maori Party are right to be scathing of Labour’s treatment of Maori and Maori issues. Despite nine years of strong economic growth and huge government surpluses Labour left low-income families to struggle and as Tariana Turia said just last week, 27% of Maori children still grow up in poverty. Labour has no solution but even a person with the shortest memory would know the Maori Party should be even more scathing of National. With their coalition agreement with National the Maori Party has blown it. In doing so they have in a single week moved from aspirational movement to co-opted doormat.


Join the Resistance!

7pm Thursday 11th December
Auckland Trades Hall
147 Great North Road
Grey Lynn

New Zealand is heading for recession. Our jobs, wages, homes, pensions, benifits and public services are all under threat. We did not cause this. It was the financial elite of wealthy bankers, investors and speculators who have put us in this situation, yet they expect us to pay for their crisis. Already we have seen job losses, cuts in services and price rises.

We can not rely on the New Government to protect us. National and Act are the parties of big business, so they will be sure to secure the bosses profits ahead of our jobs, wages and conditions.

We can fight back. Through our unions, our political and community organisations and our ability to protest, we represent a force that can stop these attacks. To do this it is vital we put aside our differences and concentrate on what we agree about, the need to get resistance organised.

Socialist Aotearoa has invited a wide range of speakers; trade unionists, socialists, environmentalists, community groups and interested individuals, to begin the debate on how to unite the left against the effects of the global financial crisis.

Join the Resistance!

7pm Thursday 11th December
Auckland Trades Hall
147 Great North Road
Grey Lynn

Sunday, November 16, 2008

John Minto- Key faces cabinet isolation

Key faces cabinet isolation

Waking up on Sunday morning was different to most post-election days after a change in government. Usually the euphoria of the winners is greater and the depths of despair of the losers is deeper. Not so this time when an eerie feeling of sameness seems to hang in the air.

In part this is because while National and Act will form a government their win has not been the landslide it would have been under first past the post. In fact had New Zealand first gained just an extra 0.7% of the party vote then the Maori Party would be the kingmakers and we would probably be looking at a coalition government run again by Helen Clark.

The more important reason for the ho-hum post election mood is that there are no longer the sharp differences in policy which have often characterised Labour/ National politics. Labour has moved so far to the right it has on many issues passed John Key while he has been moving National’s policies closer to the centre.

John Key can run a right-wing government comfortably just by following Labour’s key economic policies.

In post election interviews Key has restated for the umpteenth time he wants to form a compassionate, inclusive government. He says he has rejected hard-right politics and there is no place in his cabinet for Labour’s hard-right Finance Minister from the 1980s, Roger Douglas.

John Key has reinforced this message with his intention to develop a relationship with the Maori Party as part of his government in some way or other.

But is this more centrist position credible? The answer is almost certainly no. John Key will be under heavy pressure to adopt more hard-right policies.

Consider the makeup of his cabinet. National has been careful to keep its front bench off the TV screens during the election campaign for good reason. Figures like Maurice Williamson, Lockwood Smith, Murray McCully, Tony Ryall and Nick Smith and are all associated with the darker days of the 1990s. They grew up in politics selling state assets, cutting benefits, slashing government spending, increasing student fees, contracting out government services and rewarding the rich.

Have any of these leopards changes their spots? Not as far as Lockwood Smith is concerned. He’s told us they have simply swallowed some dead fish to get elected. Also in cabinet will be Rodney Hide whose behaviour post-election has been typically aggressive. He is confident not just because he brings five MPs to support National but because he knows he will have a lot of John Key’s cabinet backing him up. There are plenty of National MPs looking for a decent feed after a diet of dead fish. Hide will have plenty of support as the pugnacious tail determined to wag the National dog.

In his cabinet John Key could well be the sole moderate voice.

Also to be factored in is the approaching economic storm which has only yet been glimpsed in the distance. The economic forecasts for the incoming government are likely to be far worse than we have seen predicted so far.

In times of turmoil such as this politicians seize opportunities to push hard line policies.

The political right has well-rehearsed and practised approach. Firstly keep on with tax cuts and even extend them while maintaining government expenditure in the short term. When government income drops, borrow and then when the spending becomes unsustainable deep cuts in big spending areas such as health, education and social welfare become inevitable. In the last couple of weeks in Ireland, once a poster-child for the Business Roundtable and now an economic mess, there have been large marches by pensioners and students protesting against government moves to cut spending and reduce standards of living.

Nothing is surer than most in National will try to push the same kind of medicine onto working New Zealanders while insulating bankers and the wealthy from the effects of their stupidity and greed.

In this context National’s olive branch to the Maori party is smart politics. John Key knows economic catastrophe is around the corner and having the Maori Party on board will help provide political cover for very unpopular policies. We all know that those who suffer the economic crisis will be working New Zealanders and their families and disproportionately they will be Maori.

There is no need to doubt John Key’s honesty in trying to put together an inclusive government but this political novice will likely be the most centrist person in his cabinet and when the economic crisis bites hard he will be the most isolated.

The real question is the extent to which he will remain more than a figurehead.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Value of Money

How do the billions wiped off the stock market relate to the rest of the capitalist system?
Joseph Choonara goes back to Karl Marx to explain.

Pity money. Over recent months it has been "injected" into markets, "destroyed" in financial meltdowns and stock market collapses; it has been "devalued" and "revalued" and passed along the increasingly unfathomable webs spun by capital.
This raises some questions. Take the concept of the economic "bubble". Assets - shares or properties perhaps - soar in price and then the bubble "bursts". But this implies that it is a bubble relative to something else, relative to some "real" measure of wealth. Similarly we might ask how the "paper wealth" recently wiped off stock markets relates to the "real wealth" that presumably lurks in the background.

The great classical economists such as Adam Smith (1723-1790) had to answer such questions. Back then the capitalist class was still establishing itself against the old landed aristocracy. These pioneers of economics looked for some yardstick of "value", and they found it in human labour. "Labour", wrote Smith, "is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities."
Karl Marx developed this "labour theory of value" far more rigorously. He pointed out that capitalism, now entrenched as the dominant economic system, was creating a uniform yardstick for wealth in "socially necessary labour".
This was not the labour of a particular individual or the amount expended in producing a particular commodity. It was the amount of labour that would be required by the typical worker using the normal technique and equipment available at that point in history. These assumptions made sense in a world where machinery and the division of labour had simplified production, stripping it of all artistry, and where a mass working class was emerging.

This kind of labour could be measured - in person-hours or even person-seconds. The value of the machinery and raw materials used in production could also be measured. Such things are "dead labour" - the crystallised past labour of workers. So machinery acquires value when workers fashion it from iron, just as the iron itself acquires value as workers smelt it.
As raw materials are used their value passes into the commodities produced from them. So too with machinery: a machine that costs $10,000 and lasts ten years would, all other things remaining equal, add $1,000 of value to the commodities produced with it each year. If that is the case, then the capitalist makes neither a profit nor a loss on their dead labour. The amount they pay to acquire it is the same as the value it adds to their output.

"Living labour" is different. The capitalist gets a whole day's labour from each worker. But the worker only needs to take home enough value to get them back to work the next day. They might work eight hours but produce the value of their wage in just four. Only living labour "expands" - creating new, unpaid for, value for the capitalist. Living labour is the source of profit, and squeezing labour to get this profit is called "exploitation".

The rate of profit
Of course, capitalists are ignorant of Marxist economics. For them it appears as if all of their investments are "creating" value, both machinery and workers. So it seems perfectly logical to the capitalist to invest in an ever-greater stock of machinery, computers and factories.
Even if the capitalist had read Capital, they would still be obliged to accumulate dead labour. Investment in dead labour makes workers more productive, reducing the total labour time in each commodity. Capitalists compete by cheapening their commodities, and any capitalist who does not play the game is soon driven out of business. The capitalist who invests earliest can win this battle of competition, so investment seems perfectly rational to the individual capitalist. But across the system as a whole its effects seem completely irrational. In the long term an ever-greater mass of dead labour is accumulated compared to the amount of living labour exploited.
If dead labour grows faster than living labour (the source of profit) then the capitalists must be getting fewer pennies of profit for each pound of investment. In other words, the "rate of profit" falls. Because the rate of profit governs how fast the system can expand, its fall seems to pose a threat to capitalism itself.

How can profit rates recover? Capitalists could simply squeeze workers harder. If workers toil longer (and for less) they create more value for the capitalist (and get less for themselves). But there are limits to this. Eventually the workers would die of exhaustion or starvation. And, presumably, they would resist long before that happened.

The second way capitalism recovers is through crisis. In a crisis, goods, including the dead labour bought by capitalists, pile up in warehouses and are sold at bargain prices. Failing companies are bought up cheap by competitors. Workers suffer unemployment and wage cuts. Investments of all kinds are "devalued", boosting profit rates.

The bigger the problems, the greater the destruction needed to solve them. But, as capitalism ages, companies get bigger as they accumulate value and take each other over. Eventually the failure of the biggest companies threatens to drag down healthy bits of the system. The "painful medicine" of crisis becomes more dangerous, so states bail out unhealthy companies and seek to postpone the crisis.

Prophet and swindler
Finance is an important part of capitalism. Finance, Marx said, is both "prophet" and "swindler". It is a means by which capitalism expands more rapidly, but also a source of instability and crisis.

Banks allow some capitalists to save profits they cannot invest immediately and others to invest profits they do not yet have. If capitalism is like a balloon, with the various firms painted on its surface, credit is like the air being pumped inside. As the balloon expands the surface tension grows. Credit and debt bind the different firms together. A pinprick at one point on the balloon can cause the whole thing to collapse.

The financial system gives new dynamism to capitalism but is linked to the production of value by living labour - the growth of credit must not lose touch with the production of new value. If you want to keep pumping more air into the balloon, eventually you need a balloon made from a greater amount of rubber.

Finance and the rate of profit
The bloated financial system we see today reflects changes in capitalism over the past century. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the Second World War saw the destruction and reorganisation of capital on a vast scale, paving the way for the "golden age" of capitalism - the 1950s and 1960s. But by the 1970s falling profit rates had halted this period of expansion. The ruling class responded by attacking workers to boost profit rates. Profitability was restored but only partially, and certainly not to the levels seen in the early 1950s. This meant that for those with spare cash it seemed more logical to pump it into the financial system than the "real economy". This meant lending to banks, to certain states or directly to consumers.
Workers are drawn into the financial system both as a source of potential money (savings, pension funds, etc) and a source of borrowing. Personal debt has allowed capitalists to hold down our pay but still have us purchase more of the goods they produce. The bubble of debt helped keep the system going. Subprime mortgages were part of this bubble. And waves of "financial innovation" saw mortgage debt repackaged as complex assets that could then be bought, sold and gambled on.

Into the casino
There are whole chunks of the system with little discernable social value - and these have expanded along with the financial system. The most well known examples are stock markets. For Marx these were markets in "fictitious capital". Capital is simply value that expands through the exploitation of living labour. So what is fictitious capital?

If I buy shares in a company and the money I pay is then invested in wages and machinery, then that money is being used as real capital. In exchange I hold in my hand a bit of paper, which may entitle me to a claim on the future profits of the enterprise ("dividends"). But this paper is not, in itself, capital. Nonetheless, huge markets can exist to trade these bits of paper. And the prices these bits of paper attract may bear little resemblance to any underlying flow of value. This is an example of a market in fictitious capital.

Now, if the stock market comes crashing down, making my piece of paper worthless, no real value has been destroyed (although it may not feel this way if your pension is wiped out in the crash). It is only if the firm itself goes bust that there is a real destruction of value.
The stock market is simply the most visible such example. Another is the $50 trillion market in credit default swaps that insure against the risk that debts cannot be repaid. This has become a vast arena for speculation. If companies measure their profit by subtracting the price of such assets at the beginning of the year from the price at the end, such speculation can help create the illusion of profitability - at least for a time.

Just as the study of the human body relies on pathology, so the study of capitalism relies on crisis. Now the patient is sick, we can see what makes it tick. The underlying problems in the "real economy" and the difficulty in solving these through crisis meant that any resolution was deferred. It is as if the patient has been treating a tumour with aspirin. The sickness has grown and shifted in the body. Once the disease becomes unmanageable with painkillers, the sickness is revealed all the more rapidly.

It manifests itself first in the chaos sweeping the financial system and markets in fictitious capital. But these are symptoms, and dealing with the symptoms is not a cure. The disease lies deeper, as we shall see in the coming months. It is a disease rooted in the drive for profit, a drive that must lead the system into crisis again and again. It is a crisis of capitalism.

Notes on the falling rate of profit
Assume that one worker produces $100 of value each day but receives only $50 in wages. If they also use up £100 worth of "dead labour" each day, then the total value produced is $200 ($100 living labour plus $100 dead labour) and the total investment made by the capitalist is $150 ($50 wages plus $100 dead labour). The capitalist has made $50 profit. (All these figures are per worker, and we will assume that the number of workers does not change.)
$50 profit from $150 investment is not bad. It means that the capitalist can double the size of their investment every three days by reinvesting their profits.
Now, let's say that this capitalist invests in more machinery and raw material. Now the worker uses $400 of "dead labour". The total value produced is therefore $500. The investment is $450, so the profit is still $50. (The amount of living labour exploited has not changed.)
$50 profit from $450 investment is not so good. Now it takes nine days to double the size of the investment. The "rate or profit", the return on investment, has fallen.

However, the changes in production make sense for the capitalist if, in the short term, they allow them to compete more effective.
So if initially the worker was creating 100 widgets each day, then the value embodied in each was $2 (a total value of $200, spread over 100 widgets). If after the investment they were producing 500 widgets, then the value of each falls to $1 ($500 spread over 500 widgets).
The first capitalist to make this investment would clean up. They could undercut competitors by charging, say, $1.90 a widget and corner the market. Only when competitors started introducing the same technology would the market price of widgets be pushed towards $1, putting pressure on the rate of profit.

Joseph Choonara is deputy editor of International Socialism journal

Saturday, November 08, 2008

RESISTING THE NAT-ACT JUNTA- What is to be done?

The mobile's been hopping all day with texts from activists and disillusioned union members- all looking for a post electoral strategy. When the Soft Left was in power, many people saw us socialists as a moral conscience, out fighting the brave fight that might push things a little further to the left- like the $12 an hr minimum wage and youth rates campaign.

But now the Soft Left is in disarray- people are actually looking for some bravery and firm ideas. Who's going to take the battle to Key and Hide? And a lot of rank and file members are calling for a harder fightback than they got from the weak reformist electoral leaders- there is a huge potential anger in a lot of the young Greens, Labour and working class Maori Party voters.
What;s going to happen?

First, strength and bravery from the Radical Left. We will be getting our shit together and uniting at a rapid speed of knots in the next few weeks.

Two, massive attacks on our rights and conditions as NAT-ACT implement the Shock Doctrine.

Three, resist or perish.

Shock doctrine? What do you mean?

How does that apply to NZ?

The International Financial Crisis applies everywhere- in Ireland they're sacking teachers, cutting health care to the over 70s, introducing fees for 3rd Level.When it hits, this Crisis is gonna rip thru NZ and the poor are going to be hammered by NAT-ACT -we're going to need hardcore fighters for the next 3 years of shit.

We need to hit the ground running this week, preparing the network of struggle in the universities, unions and communities.

We start this week by uniting the radical left around the slogan-

"We won't pay for their Crisis"

Hold a major conference with international speakers on the theme in Feb/March and get ready to amp up the street politics with protests at every cutback and attack- recruit an army of those who want to resist this new right wing government.

Yeah, that sounds good. But need a proper solution to the problem too.

The problem pretty soon is going to be mass unemployment, huge cutbacks and attacks on our rights- the proper solution is to resist.

Resist and then what?

The world is entering a new economic period- similar to the 1930s: Mass unemployment, maybe even the collapse of world trade- People wont just be thinking of electing a nice government anymore.

Many will turn to the racist right and many can turn to the radical, even revolutionary left. The problem is Capitalism itself

-what we need now is a combative, homegrown Anti Capitalist movement.

And it starts from tonight.


Ready to resist the Tory-ACT government, starting Monday?


Emergency Hui in Auckland on Weds- txt 021 1861450

or email if you're ready to fight.

Socialist Aotearoa Post Election Debate begins

The NZ Election- Notes to kickstart a Socialist Aotearoa electoral analysis
from Joe C

1. Labour Party- end of the Clark Era- many time wasters like Judith Tizzard in the electoral dustbin of history- Clark resigned- leadership contest will be lacklustre- party bereft of ideas and leadership- Mike Williams seriously damaged by his own Neutron bomb- Labour party affiliated union leaderships now will have to fight or die under a National-ACT government

2. National Party- strengthened under Key's "Centrist" sheeps clothing- now face a Global Crisis in Capitalism- will implement a shock doctrine in cuts after honeymoon period- will ensure that the working class, not the wealthy, pay for the crisis with cutbacks in public services, freeze on wages, attacks on union rights.

3. ACT- the radical neoliberal tail that will wag the Time for a Change Nats- Roger Douglas reelected an MP- increased to 5 MPS. Irish example- Fianna Fail (Irish conservative party) ruled with Progressive Democrats (Irish hard right neoliberal party) for many years, blaming the unpopular policies on the junior partner. ACT commited to implementing SHock Doctrine attack ideologically.

4. Greens- smaller improvement than what they hoped for- their timidity in the final weeks, attaching themselves too close to a floundering Labour party, not being vocal and strong enough about core issues cost them votes. Delahunty in as an MP, joins Left Green bloc with Locke and Bradford. Young Green voters also looking to anti capitalist ideas and a movement for climate change- ACT and many Nats still climate change deniers, this issue will heat up in ways that the parliamentary reformist left will not be able to deal with- Labour govt rhetorical about climate change, emissions actually increased on its watch.

5. NZ First- History. Good riddance to racist nonsense. Labour damaged by defending a corrupt Winston Peters and dealings with dodgy capitalists for favours. WInston's economic nationalist tack "left" didn't help him enough- 4.3% but no cigar.

6. Maori Party- increased MPs by one, but now risks forming a deal with National government. Left-right split within Maori party supporters will open up. Leadership will be tainted forever if they make a deal with Key.


Alliance Party- 1,721 votes, 0.08%
Workers Party- 824 votes, 0.04%
RAM- 405 votes, 0.02%

Left of the Left campaigns largely invisible- no billboard presence or aggressive realpolitik intervention. Alliance increased its vote slightly from 2005's 1641 votes (0.07%), Workers Party got 500 members on paper and 824 party votes, just short of their informal target of 1000. RAM had publicly claimed 3000 members- this will be a disappointing result for the "Broad Left" party.

Are the Left of the Left content with running their seperate propaganda campaigns? The movement now needs radical socialists to change gear- National and ACT will start the Shock Doctrine soon, and union rights, public services and will come under attack. Labour party affiliated unions have no clear strategy to fight. Socialists within the unions now have to step up and organise the defence and fightback.

Socialist Aotearoa- emergency Hui on Wednesday, txt 021 1861450 for details.
- public meeting next week "Right Wing Government and Global Capitalism in Crisis- Resisting the Shock Doctrine!".

SA to start recruiting from anti capitalist Greens, left Maori party supporters opposed to a deal with Key, disillusioned social democrats bereft of strategy but wanting to fight back, union members opposed to destruction of workplace rights.

SA to meet with Unite union, Workers Party, Alliance, Anarchist network and RAM to begin organising joint radical Left fightback campaign.

party votes % of votes seats
% change electorate list total change

National 951,145 45.45 +6.36 41 18 59 +11

Labour 706,666 33.77 -7.33 21 22 43 -7

Green 134,622 6.43 +1.13 0 8 8 +2

ACT 77,843 3.72 +2.21 1 4 5 +3

Māori 46,894 2.24 +0.12 5 0 5 +1

Progressive 19,536 0.93 -0.23 1 0 1 0

United Future 18,629 0.89 -1.78 1 0 1 -2

other parties 137,452 6.57 -0.48 0 0 0 -7

total 2,092,787 100.00
70 52 122 +1

informal votes ?

disallowed special votes ?

total votes cast 2,103,842

turnout ?%

Non-parliamentary parties

Summary of MMP vote for minor
unrepresented registered parties.
Party Votes % Change

New Zealand First 88,072 4.21 -1.51

Kiwi Party 11,659 0.56

Bill and Ben 10,738 0.51

Legalise Cannabis 7,589 0.36 +0.11

New Zealand Pacific 6,991 0.33

Family Party 6,973 0.33

Alliance 1,721 0.08 +0.01

Democrats for Social Credit 1,112 0.05 ±0.00

Libertarianz 1,070 0.05 +0.01

Workers Party of New Zealand 824 0.04

Residents Action Movement 405 0.02

Republic of NZ 298 0.01 -0.01

Minor parties, total 137,452 6.57 -0.46
  2. ^ Key dates, 2008 general election,

New Zealand Elections 2008- Party Vote results

The National Party has won the general election, ending nine years of Labour Party reign under Prime Minister Helen Clark.

National's leader, John Key, will form a coalition government with the ACT Party and it will hold a clear majority in Parliament.

The results give National 59 seats and ACT 5. United Future leader Peter Dunne adds one seat, making a total of 65.

Labour has 43 seats, the Greens eight, and they are joined by Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton for a total of 52.

The Maori Party holds five of the seven Maori seats but does not hold the balance of power in Parliament.

It is expected to reach a support agreement with National and support the new government on confidence votes.

Miss Clark called Mr Key at 11pm to concede defeat.

New Zealand First did not reach the 5 percent it needed to hold seats in Parliament, and leader Winston Peters' long political career is almost certainly over.

Labour has lost seven of the seats it held in the last Parliament and National has gained 11.

National Party951,145 45.45411859
Labour Party706,666 33.77212243
Green Party134,622 6.43088
ACT New Zealand77,843 3.72145
Mäori Party46,894 2.24505
Jim Anderton's Progressive19,536 0.93101
United Future18,629 0.89101
New Zealand First Party88,072 4.21000
Kiwi Party11,659 0.56000
The Bill and Ben Party10,738 0.51000
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party7,589 0.36000
New Zealand Pacific Party6,991 0.33000
Family Party6,973 0.33000
Alliance1,721 0.08000
Democrats for Social Credit1,112 0.05000
Libertarianz1,070 0.05000
Workers Party824 0.04000
RAM - Residents Action Movement405 0.02000
The Republic of New Zealand Party298 0.01000

Friday, November 07, 2008

Sticking the Boot into John Key in AK's CBD

OPINION PIECE- Oisin O Connell, Socialist Aotearoa member

This election has been so boring. Not even the LabNats have stepped up for anything in anyway – I'm not talking about dirty tactics but excitement. I haven't seen any real energy or enthusiasm from any party.

I received an sms today calling for a demonstration against a National led government as Key was to walkabout through the CBD this afternoon. Great, I thought this would be a good opportunity to make some last minute noise before polling tomorrow. Logically I assumed it would probably be a group of Labour and Greens and well, it kinda was - but nothing happened on their part.

Dani and I arrived to meet Joe and eventually we met up with some Labour and RAM members. Where were the Greens? Still up at uni as they decided they didn't want to 'go negative' right before the election. No leadership of any kind came from the Lab camp – apparently you shouldn't do anything if you're not going to be totally successful or some such. There was about a dozen of us in the square with banners and flags. I didn't understand what was up with these wimps – I thought we were set to go, and so we should have. The National crowd around Key wasn't that big and we could have had a decent spot on the last prime time news broadcast before the election. As I have already voted, this made me feel better that none of the above got my party vote.

Eventually they all left and Joe decided something should still happen. When Key arrived Joe got right into the sea of blue placards and kept asking Key 'Who will pay for the financial crisis?' over and over. This of course was ignored by Key but not by the Nat supporters. One of them quipped that the Irish will fund the crisis – a racist jibe at Joe. This was most amusing, when it was pointed out as a racist dig an Asian Nat supporter piped up "That's not racist, I'm Chinese"

Joe kept on Key, making the point over and over. The Nat supporters kept trying to cover Joe's presence with placards so I kept the red flag flying high. Every time Joe spoke the Nat lackeys chanted over him, so in the end we something to the tune of Joe calling "Who will pay for the financial crisis?" and the reply, "National! National!" right until Key boarded the bus and left.

The TV news spot was overshadowed by something similar that got physical elsewhere, however we still made the radio news.

Joe made a good stand and the message was loud and clear. What he did in 15minutes is far more than some MPs & 'activists' have done in years. If only our comrades stepped up and put their money where their mouths are instead of the cash register at the cafe where they ended up.

Free Lex Wotton! Aboriginal Political Prisoner gets 6 Years whilst murdering cops get promotion

Whilst politicians electioneered, Auckland's radical left organised a solidarity picket for Lex Wotton, Aboriginal political leader, who was being sentenced today for his part in the Palm Island uprising against black deaths in police custody. The CBD Downtown area echoed to the chants of "Free All Political Prisoners- Free Lex Wotton NOW!", "No Justice, No Peace, Abolish the Police" and "White Australia- Black History!" as about 30 people joined an info-picket, which then marched on the Australian Consulate.

Socialist Aotearoa's Joe Carolan promised that Lex's cause would be adopted by anti racists in Aotearoa, and that Kevin Rudd and Australian Labour party officials could expect a hostile greeting every time they turned up to Auckland from now on-

"Sorry Day was not enough from Rudd and the Labour government. The military occupation of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territories continues, and now we see all white jury Klan Justice in the sticks, with racist cops getting medals for kicking black men to death in their colonial jails. Lex Wotton will now be a Mandela, a Mumia for the struggle for Aboriginal Rights and Soverignity, and Socialist Aotearoa will be organising ungoing solidarity to bring this case to national prominence. Kia kaha, Lex, much Aroha from your comrades across the ditch-
Always was, always will be, Aboriginal Land."

Wotton will be eligible for parole in July 2010.

You have probably heard by now that Lex Wotton was sentenced today to 6 years, with a minimum of two to be served. for the best coverage of the case, please see The National Indigenous Times

But Lex is not giving up. There will be an appeal, and Lex and his family will need money to continue with the appeal, and to allow Lex to continue to see his family throughout the ordeal. 100% of this money goes to Lex's family. Please give today so we can continue to support Lex!

Bank name: Melbourne University Credit Union Limited
Account name: Free Lex Wotton
cuscau2sxxx (only if transferring from overseas)
BSB: 803-143
Account number: 13441 (all transfers)

And please please keep sending your emails of support to Lex at

We send a batch off every week to Lex and will continue to do so until he is free!

Lex Patrick Wotton has been jailed for six years for inciting a riot on Palm Island off north Queensland in 2004. The sentence was handed down in the District Court in Townsville by Judge Michael Shanahan.

Two weeks ago, a jury in Brisbane found Wotton guilty of inciting the 2004 riot following the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee.

This morning Judge Shanahan sentenced Wotton to seven years, but that has been reduced to six taking into account time already served.

He will be eligible for parole in July 2010.

Last year, Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was found not guilty of Mulrunji's death and this week police involved in quelling the riot were awarded bravery medals.

Obama and Change in the USA

Millions of people are celebrating across the world after Barack Obama was elected as the first black president of the United States – a momentous achievement in a country with a long history of entrenched and vicious racism.

Not since the 1930s have expectations around a US president been so high. The excitement around Obama’s campaign has shown how desperate people are for a different kind of politics after eight years of George Bush and the neoconservatives.

Obama’s campaign tapped into the demands of millions of ordinary Americans for serious political change in the US. It was marked by huge numbers of people mobilising and engaging with politics, many for the first time.

The crucial factor that sealed his victory was the global economic crisis. And now that Obama has won, people will want him to deliver the “change” that he promised.

Over a million homes in the US are currently in foreclosure, and the figure is rising. People will want this trend reversed and these home repossessions stopped.

They will want their new president to intervene to safeguard car workers at Ford and General Motors who are facing job losses. They will want further challenges to the still high level of racism in the US.

People also expect a change in the “war on terror” – the disastrous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan that have helped stoke Bush’s record levels of unpopularity.

But we must be aware that there is a clash between these demands from ordinary people and those of Obama’s rich corporate backers.

The Democratic Party is primarily a party of the rich and wealthy. Obama attracted the lion’s share of funding from corporate America. The Democrats are not the same as the Labour Party in Britain, which is far more tightly linked to trade unions and the workers’ movement.

Some 93 percent of political funding from US trade unions goes to the Democrats – but this only makes up 14 percent of the party’s funding. In contrast, the Democrats raise up to 67 percent of their cash from big business amounts.

Obama’s campaign war chest was $650 million. He made much of the idea that these donations came from ordinary people. But only half of this sum came from these grassroots – the rest came in huge donations from big business and other interests.

The reasons why people in the US are so desperate for change are not hard to see. The country has more black men in prison than in higher education.

Almost a quarter of black Americans live below the poverty line. Yet according to Obama the US is the home of “democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope”.

Obama has pledged to pull US troops out of Iraq – but wants to send them into Afghanistan. He happily signed up to the $700 billion bailout plan for Wall Street banks.

Many of the people around Obama were in the previous Democratic administration of Bill Clinton, which was also elected on a wave of hope.

Yet under Clinton, the gap between rich and poor increased. The number of federal prisoners almost doubled. He ended the US’s welfare system and went to war as many times as his four predecessors combined.

Many of the mainstays of Clinton’s administration are now being touted for office under Obama. These include Richard Holbrooke, one of the architects of the Balkans war of the 1990s and Zbigniew Brezinsky, an enthusiast for the “war on terror”.

There will be many battles ahead as the expectations on Obama run into the limitations of the Democratic Party. The central question for the left in the US will be whether they can relate to the enormous hope that Obama’s election has generated among ordinary people.

The left has be part of building grassroots campaigns that can force Obama to deliver, but also build up forces in opposition to the pro-capitalist policies of both major US parties.

Obama’s election has opened up a space for the left, the working class, the anti-war movement, black people and others to push their own agendas. They have to seize this opportunity.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Socialists in the USA- What next for the struggle in the Obama era?

Obama supporters celebrate in Chicago's Grant Park on election night. (Stan Honda | AFP)

Millions of people have been waiting for Election Day 2008, when the Bush regime would finally fall. The book is about to shut--or slam, more like it--on eight terrible years of Republican rule in the White House.

As people on the left celebrate the end of a rotten regime, it’s also time to ask: What kind of change will an Obama administration bring? American Socialist website brings together a roundtable of activists and writers on the left to discuss what new openings they see with an Obama administration in power--and what challenges still lie ahead for social justice movements.

Howard Zinn

Historian and veteran activist Howard Zinn is the author of the classic book A People's History of the United States.

I CONFESS I am excited by the thought of Obama becoming president, even though I am painfully aware of his limitations--his smooth, articulate intelligence covering up a quite traditional approach to domestic and foreign policy, aided and abetted by a group of advisers recycled from the Clinton administration and other parts of the Establishment.

Does he really think Robert Rubin will come up with a bold approach to the economy? Or that Madeleine Albright will carve a new path in foreign policy? (It was she who ran around the country in 1998 to defend Clinton's bombing of Iraq, warning of "weapons of mass destruction.")

If Richard Hofstadter were adding to his book The American Political Tradition, in which he found both "conservative" and "liberal" presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, maintaining for dear life the two critical characteristics of the American system, nationalism and capitalism, Obama would fit the pattern.

His obsequious joining with McCain in approving the $700 billion "bailout" for the financial giants is a sad sign. See my article (I say arrogantly) in a recent issue of the Nation about the bailout, as a futile "trickle-down" act, instead of using the money directly for the people Obama claims to represent.

So it will take a revivified social movement to do for Obama what the strikers and tenant organizers and unemployed councils and agitators of the early 1930s did for FDR, pushing him into new paths, so angering the superrich that FDR, in one of his best moments, said, "They hate me, and I welcome their hatred!"

Obama needs such fire. It is up to us, the citizenry--and non-citizens too!--to ignite it.

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Mike Davis

Writer, historian and socialist activist Mike Davis is the author of several books, including The Planet of Slums, In Praise of Barbarians and City of Quartz.

FORTY YEARS ago this week, the Democratic Party (the party of Jim Crow and the Cold War, as well as the New Deal) shipwrecked itself on the shoals of an unpopular war in Vietnam and a white backlash against racial equality.

The "emerging Republican majority," as Nixon's Machiavelli, Kevin Phillips, famously branded it, was always episodic and often paper-thin in national elections, but it was galvanized by impressive ideological and religious fervor, as well as lavishly subsidized by an employer class everywhere on the offensive against New Deal unions and social programs.

Republicans, although more often than not the minority party in Congress, dominated agendas (the New Cold War, the tax revolt, war on drugs and so on) and led the restructuring of government functions (abolition of direct federal aid to cities, deliberate use of debt to forestall social spending and so).

The Democratic response to the Reagan revolution from 1981 was not principled resistance but craven adaptation. The "New Democrats" under Bill Clinton (whose personal model was Richard Nixon) not only institutionalized Nixon-Reagan economic policies, but sometimes surpassed Republicans in their zeal to enforce neoliberal doctrine, as with Clinton's crusades to "reform" welfare (in fact to create more poverty), reduce the deficit and implement NAFTA without labor rights.

Although the New Deal working-class core continued to supply 60 percent of the Democratic vote, party policy was largely driven by the Clintons' infatuation with "new economy" elites, entertainment industry moguls, affluent suburbanites, yuppie gentrifiers and, of course, the world according to Goldman Sachs.

Crucial defections by Democratic voters to Bush in 2000 and 2004 had less to due with Republican manipulation of "family values" than with Gore's and Kerry's embrace of a globalization that had devastated mill towns and industrial valleys.

This week's election paradoxically augurs both fundamental realignment and fundamental continuity.

The Republicans now know what 1968 was like for the Democrats. Blue victories in formerly bedrock Red suburbs are stunning invasions of the enemy's electoral heartland, comparable to George Wallace's and Richard Nixon's victories more than a generation ago in Northern ethnic-white, CIO neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the desperate marriage-in-hell of Palin and McCain warns of the imminent divorce of mega-church faithful and the country-club sinners. The Bush coalition built by Karl Rove's thuggish genius is breaking up.

More importantly, tens of millions of voters have reversed the verdict of 1968: this time choosing economic solidarity over racial division. Indeed, this election has been a virtual plebiscite on the future of class-consciousness in the United States, and the vote--thanks especially to working women--is an extraordinary vindication of progressive hopes.

But not the Democratic candidate, about whom we should not harbor any illusions. Although the economic crisis as well as the particular dynamics of campaigning in industrial swing states finally drove Obama to emphasize jobs, his "socialism" has been far too polite to acknowledge vast public anger about the criminal bailout or even to criticize big oil (as has off-and-on populist McCain).

In policy terms, what would have been the difference if Hillary Clinton had won instead? Perhaps a marginally better health care plan, but otherwise the result is virtually the same. Indeed it might be argued that Obama is more a prisoner of the Clinton legacy than the Clintons themselves.

Waiting in the wings to define his first 100 days is a team of Wall Street statesmen, "humanitarian" imperialists, ice-blooded political operatives and recycled Republican "realists," which will thrill hearts from the Council on Foreign Relations to the International Monetary Fund. Despite the fantasies of "hope" and "change" projected onto the handsome mask of the new president, his administration will be dominated by well-known, pre-programmed zombies of the center-right. Clinton 2.0.

Confronted with the Great Depression of globalization, of course, the American ship of state, whatever the crew, would probably sail off the edge of the known world.

Only three things, in my opinion, are highly likely:

First, there is no hope whatsoever of the spontaneous generation of a new New Deal (or for that matter, of Rooseveltian liberals) without the combustion of massive social struggles.

Second, after the brief Woodstock of an Obama inauguration, millions of hearts will be broken by the administration's inability to manage mass bankruptcy and unemployment, as well as end the wars in the Middle East.

Third, the Bushites may be dead, but the hate-spewing nativist Right (particularly the Lou Dobbs wing) is well-positioned for a dramatic revival as neoliberal solutions fail.

The great challenge to small bands of the left is to anticipate this mass disillusionment, understanding that our task is not "how to move Obama leftward," but to salvage and reorganize shattered hopes. The transitional program must be socialism itself.

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Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith is the author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States and Women and Socialism.

IT IS worth remembering that only 50 years ago, African Americans were denied the right to even cast a vote in presidential elections, much less run for office. These rights were won only after the massive struggles of the civil rights movement finally broke the Democratic Party from its segregationist legacy.

Obama's victory marks a blow against racism of similarly historic proportion. Despite McCain's and Palin's best efforts to whip up racial animosity toward Obama, they failed to garner a majority of voters for their hate-filled campaign. To be sure, the changing demographics of the U.S. voting population has reduced the relative importance of the white vote, while boosting that of Blacks, Latinos and other immigrants.

But contrary to pundits' claims, many white workers enthusiastically voted for the Black candidate in the 2008 election. Obama's victory would have been impossible without them.

Racism--stoked and enforced from above--has held a chokehold over the U.S. labor movement since its inception, as evidenced by the failure of unions to gain a foothold in the South. As long as white workers mistakenly believe that they share more in common with their white exploiters than with their Black or immigrant fellow workers, labor loses. At long last, the working-class movement is poised to begin moving forward after decades of decline.

Obama's election does not mean that racism has disappeared overnight. On the contrary, McCain/Palin rallies have drawn racists by the thousands, who were then emboldened by the vitriol emanating from the stage. Police brutality, racial disparities in jobs and education, and housing segregation will all continue as before, no matter who is in the White House, until there is a renewed struggle explicitly against racism.

But Obama's victory also represents a surge in class consciousness and a decisive rejection of neoliberal policies that have lowered working-class living standards around the world for more than three decades. Opinion polls have shown popular sentiment shifting leftward on nearly every social issue, from the Iraq war to same-sex marriage in recent years.

If there is a historic parallel for the class dynamics at work in the 2008 election, it would be Franklin Delano Roosevelt's victory in 1932. Roosevelt's win, like Obama's, was the product of mass class anger in an era of unfettered corporate greed that discredited the free market.

Although Roosevelt vaguely promised voters a "New Deal," it took pressure from below to determine the content of presidential policy during the Depression era. The scale of the class struggle was such that workers not only won the legal right to unionize and other working-class reforms, but also tipped the balance of class forces in favor of workers for decades to come.

We have not seen a rise in class struggle for more than three decades in the U.S. But the class anger on display in this election could well be a prelude to such a rise in coming years. Obama has promised "change," but the scale of change that is needed requires mass struggle from below.

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Tariq Ali

Historian and novelist Tariq Ali is a veteran activist of the social movements of the 1960s and '70s. His books include The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power and Pirates of the Caribbean.

THE FORMER head of British intelligence recently stated that in her view, the whole concept of a "war on terror" was misguided from the beginning--that it is an overreaction to a terrorist attack.

If this view is shared by her colleagues in the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, then we could begin to see some changes in U.S. foreign policy under an Obama administration--in particular, a reversion to the tried-and-tested way of defending U.S. interests by relying on local relays.

This would entail using the Pakistani government to look after Afghanistan, and a post-Ahmadinejad Iran to do the same for Iraq. The reason for this is that both the wars have been a disaster.

Obama's views about Afghanistan/Pakistan are seriously misguided, to put it mildly. The fact that the U.S. is engaged (and has been for some time) in direct talks with the neo-Taliban resistance is a serious indication that they regard the war as lost.

The neo-Taliban have told Washington's emissaries that they will not enter any coalition as long as there are foreign troops on Afghan soil. Afterward, they are open to offers. Surely Obama knew this was going on. Expanding the war to Pakistan would destabilize that country even further. How does that help anyone?

In Latin America, U.S. foreign policy is characterized by a great deal of confusion. Under discussion are plans to repeat Nixon's trip to Beijing with an Obama flight to Havana. The problem here would be that preaching the virtues of neoliberal capitalism will sound a bit hollow after the capitalist debacle in the West.

To continue the Cheney line on Venezuela and Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, would be totally counterproductive, since what has failed already will not succeed even with a more human face at the helm. Even the pro-U.S. states like Chile and Brazil are opposed to any new U.S. adventures.

From day one of the Obama victory, which will unleash a wave of high expectations on the domestic and global fronts, activist pressure is crucial to achieve anything. I think antiwar activists should turn up in large numbers to the inauguration with banners reading, "Congrats Barack, now out of Kabul and Iraq!"

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Ken Riley

Ken Riley is president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 in Charleston, S.C.

ELECTION DAY has been phenomenal in South Carolina. Among young African Americans, the idea of not voting is unpopular and uncool.

I was in line to vote early on Election Day and saw a lot of young people I knew--I couldn't believe they were 18 already. I gave one young man who just turned 18 a ride to vote, and he couldn't have been more proud. That's the kind of energy and excitement we have in the African American community in Charleston. We expect 2,000 people at the union hall tonight.

These are very difficult times, and a complicated economy. Some of the factors affecting our economy we have never faced before. For us in organized labor in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, one of the most important things about an Obama administration is whether we get the Employee Free Choice Act [proposed legislation that would make it easier to join unions]. We hope that it would also have an impact on the anti-union laws in the public sector here.

The election shows that trickle-down economics just doesn't cut it. I think the Obama victory is going to help people become organized in general and more involved. You do not get this excited and optimistic about the future just because the first African American is elected president--you want to see this administration succeed.

Therefore, you won't see people cast a vote and back off. There will be significant organizing. If there is such a thing as trickle-down, that is what's going to trickle down.

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Donna Smith

Health care activist Donna Smith, who was featured in the movie Sicko, is the national coordinator of American Patients United.

I THINK most of us are walking around with a little bit of knot in our stomachs, almost afraid to really hope that this will come out a win. It's a scary time, but at the same time, assuming Obama wins this election, and they get a few more progressive members in the House, I think our work is just only begun.

I think there is so much that is fundamentally wrong with the way we've been running our government for the last several years. And I'm not talking about just the last eight years. We had some years running up to those eight years that were not necessarily the most hopeful for people who were working, and middle class and lower class. It's been a difficult 30 years.

There's a lot of tough work ahead of us, and all of us are going to be required to work together in ways we maybe have not in the past.

So I think the gift that has been given to us by the Obama campaign beyond ending the reign of Bush and Cheney is that we know that if we organize together, we can change things.

It's going to be tough. I think the fight is going to be as tough, if not tougher, going into the next few months for single-payer. We are going to be clearer than we've been in the past about single-payer being the right way to go.

I think we're going to see lots of moves by lots of people to quickly do some reform that isn't necessarily going to fix the system. It may expand coverage options for some Americans, but may not fix what is broken in the system, which is the middleman in health care, the for-profit health care industry and what they're doing to our ability to access health care.

So I think in the effort to do something quickly, we might not do what's smart. I think those of us who support single-payer are going to have to be very directed and very clear, and are going to make ourselves very organized to accomplish our goal.

What we have to bear in mind always is that electing one individual cannot possibly fix all the systems that we need fixed. It's only a step toward perhaps a more open government. I think this is the hope we all have. But to think the election of Obama or a more progressive Congress is going to immediately launch us into a new dawn is just not realistic.

It's going to take continued, hard and focused work to clean up the mess that's been in place since the Reagan revolution. The full impact on working people of the Reagan revolution has taken a while to play out in its full flavor, as far as I'm concerned. And I feel like it will take us a little time to clean it up.

And in the process, people are going to suffer while we try to clean it up. My hope and concern is that we find ways to help one another move things along, and help a new president and Congress make this a better country.

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Camilo Mejía

Camilo Mejía was the first active-duty soldier to go public with his decision to refuse redeployment to Iraq and is the chair of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

During the final presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) requested that moderator Bob Schieffer allow them to ask each candidate a question.

The question for Sen. McCain was about veterans' benefits since, being a war veteran and former POW himself, he should have a better voting record when it comes to veterans' well-being. The question for Sen. Obama, who voted against the invasion of Iraq and called the invasion illegal at one point, focused on whether he would be willing to support soldiers who wanted to become conscientious objectors.

Not only was IVAW not able to ask the questions, but we were attacked by the Hempstead mounted police. Ten of our members, along with some civilian activists, were arrested, and two of our members were injured, one suffering a broken cheekbone. Neither candidate mentioned either Iraq or Afghanistan during the entire 90-minute debate.

The promise of a better nation, one whose resources are dedicated to improving social conditions and where wealth is distributed to lift up the working ranks of society, rings hollow when military veterans can't ask a question without being violently repressed. All this to say that regardless of who gets elected, the work of building a better world remains in the hands of the people and rests on our ability to assert ourselves as the true architects of our future.

Obama is regarded as the antiwar candidate for having voted against the invasion of Iraq and for promising a progressive withdrawal of troops from that country, and both he and McCain have spoken about the success of the troop "surge" in Iraq.

But to seriously address the situation in Iraq and the eventual withdrawal from it would require Obama to address the 180,000 private contractors in Iraq, the permanent military bases, and the diplomatic and corporate complex from which the U.S. government intends to run the country. And of course, the "success" of the surge fails to recognize that more than half of the population of Iraq is either displaced, in need of emergency aid or dead.

The "global war on terror," the name given by the past and now present administrations to justify profit-driven invasions and occupations, needs a new centerpiece. The Iraq war has become too unpopular to continue justifying the U.S. imperial agenda.

We cannot allow any president to shift focus to Afghanistan in order to continue American warmongering. President Obama has promised to continue pouring troops into that country and to see the war spill into Pakistan if he deems it necessary.

The antiwar movement has to realize the need to continue the struggle for peace and justice, a struggle that starts at home where, in opposing costly and illegal wars of aggression, we wage battles against poverty, racism and exploitation of the working class by the ruling elite.

Only by building a true grassroots movement to combat a corporate-controlled government will we be able to create a world where peace, justice and social equality can prevail. This is the work of the people, not of the politicians, regardless of who is president. It has been going on, it continues, it can never stop, not for one minute.

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Anthony Arnove

Anthony Arnove is the author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal and is also on the board of Haymarket Books.

THE FIRST thing to say is that there should be no honeymoon. The Democrats have held a majority in the House and Senate for two years, yet have continued to fund the occupation of Iraq, to allow warrantless wiretaps, to expand the military budget.

But the Democrats can no longer use the excuse of Bush and the need to win the White House to continue to defy the widespread desire for change. That means we need to challenge Obama from the first day he takes office, with public protest and mobilization.

Second, we have to insist that Obama's "let's not and say we did" position on withdrawal from Iraq is unacceptable. Withdrawal means withdrawal, not redeployment of some troops to Afghanistan while leaving tens of thousands of troops for "counter-insurgency," maintaining long-term bases, establishing the largest foreign Central Intelligence Agency station and U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and allowing mercenaries to remain.

We can't let Iraq slip into the background, out of the headlines, and accept a repacking of the occupation as a solution.

Third, we need to be clear that the problem with the so-called Bush Doctrine of preventive war is not that it was misapplied, but that it is wrong on principle. We must pressure Obama to renounce--which so far he has shown no signs of doing--regime change in Iran and the right to strike countries like Syria and Somalia at will.

That applies to U.S. allies such as Israel as well, to which this obscene power has long been extended (along with the right to maintain an arsenal of nuclear weapons, like other U.S. allies that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India and Pakistan, in contrast to Iran).

Last, we need to say to Obama that we want an end to the ideological war on Arabs and Muslims, on immigrants, and the outrageous powers according to the executive to detain and torture, to use secret evidence, to hold people in Guantánamo Bay or prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq. Guantánamo should be closed immediately and the territory completely returned to Cuba.

Renditions and torture should be renounced without qualification. The United States should end its defiance of the international convention on violence against children (protecting the right to execute minors) and on the use of land mines and cluster munitions, as well as nuclear weapons (the new generation of so-called mini-nukes).

Now is not a time for "bipartisanship." We have seen all too much of that. Bipartisanship has led to all the problems we presently confront, with the complicity and, in many cases, full-throated support of the Democrats. Now is time for a radical break.

But we should not for a moment hold our breath or expect Obama to deliver this of his own initiative. Nothing in his career or policy statements--or in the lessons of our history--should lead us to expect that.

If anything, we should anticipate Obama will govern to the right of his campaign promises, not the left. Last century, we saw two presidents legislate to the left of the policies they advocated as candidates: Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. The reason was not to be explained by their personal characteristics, but the fact that both were confronted by massive social movements that disrupted business as usual and forced unexpected democratic changes from below.

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KT and Billy are coeditors of, an independent, online journal established to promote awareness and facilitate discussion and organization by providing commentary on politics, entertainment and culture.

IN AN Obama administration, the American political left will have to readjust to the political reality. An honest assessment of our situation will uncover much work to be done in terms of political education, organizing, activism and outreach to those newly engaged by Obama's candidacy--which may be extremely difficult given the degree of stargazing that abounds.

Obama's ascendance to the highest office in the land will prove to be primarily symbolic, as most lefties should know when they're honest about it, thus requiring direct challenge and confrontation over those things that we value--justice, peace, solidarity and equality--taken broadly.

Lefties will have to fight for renewed political relevance--largely absent in the current state--in the form of such things as livable wages, the right to organize, form unions and bargain collectively, abolishing the death penalty, ending the murderous and brutal war and occupation, releasing political prisoners, acquiring single-payer universal health care coverage--among too many others to mention at this time.

These are the kinds of reforms needed in the near term as we work for more fundamental structural changes, so that people will one day own and control the institutions that govern their lives in terms of their workplaces and governing bodies.

With the advent of an Obama administration, lefties should recognize that we will be organizing and pushing for these initiatives among many optimists satisfied with seeing the end of the terrible Bush era.

Lefties must raise the expectations of those engaged--indeed, even their own. Our role is to empower people with the information and organization for support and work so that the country is unmoved--in fact indignant--about corporate-owned politicians and their vague promises for "change" on their behalf.

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Rosi Carrasco

Rosi Carrasco is an immigrant rights activist in Chicago and organizer with the Latino Organization of the Southwest.

I THINK that the election is historic, and it is great moment to be here in Chicago, because for the first time, we have a president who is against all the politics the Bush administration has been practicing over the last eight years. I think there is hope not only for the immigrant rights movement, but for the people against the war, and all of the progressive movements.

There will be an open space for continuing the fight for immigrants, against the war and for many issues affecting our communities. It's not that with the election, everything is going to change magically, but that we have the opportunity to change things in America.

Immigration legislation was defeated last year because of racism. The main targets of the racists were immigrants without documents. Having an African American president is historic. It is going to make racism harder. That is what I think we should celebrate.

We need to continue organizing our communities, because this is the only way we can change anything here--without fighting, there won't be change.

It also means the politics of Bush are being rejected by a lot of people in this country, but also around the world--the war in Iraq, invading other countries, against the rights of immigrants. The policies of this government have been terrible for people in Latin America. The government has been focused on helping only the richest people.

I am very surprised to see how active the youth are and the hope they have for change. I think this is going to be a new moment in which we have the opportunity to open new spaces for our issues. The immigrant rights movement became demoralized last year, but now, we are getting ready to start to fighting again. We'll have a new government and a new direction in this country.

The new government needs to assure us that they will stop raids and deportations. This is a demand everyone supports. We need to demand immigration reform. It's not clear what sort of reform the government will be willing to offer, because up until now, the Democrats have not had very clear policies in favor of immigration.

We need to keep very clear that our fight is for civil and human rights. We have to be mature enough to understand that we need to work together with many different people, with different points of view.

I think we need a very open and wide movement that includes every single person that believes in human and civil rights.

Workers are being fired because of no-match letters, they are not receiving good salaries because they are undocumented, their rights are not being respected because of their situation. So we have to keep organizing people in their workplaces and their communities. If we forget that part, we will not have the kind of movement that can put forward a strong proposal and defend people. Everyone agrees we need to march.

On May 1, we need to take to the streets again, but we also need to organize people in their workplaces and communities so they know their rights and can defend themselves.

The election is a historical moment and a great opportunity to challenge and change politics in this country. It's a great opportunity for us to organize ourselves, but it is just an opportunity. We have to work very hard to organize our communities. Otherwise, we will miss this opportunity.

I think people are ready to fight--look at how many people are involved in the antiwar movement, the immigrant rights movement, for housing, for health care insurance, for good salaries, for workers' rights, for many things. Now, I hope we can these change things.

I'm really excited about this election. I'm really excited about having Obama as president. I hope we can celebrate this historical moment. This will change politics fundamentally, but it won't happen by itself. We have to have people organizing and ready to take advantage of this new opening.