Monday, March 30, 2009

Solidarity with Air New Zealand Workers

EPMU members at Air NZ Zeal 320 need your support to get a fair deal. At the moment they're paid tens of thousands of dollars less that other Air New Zealand cabin crew but do the same job.

Rather than negotiate a fair deal the airline has spent six months stalling, has been threatening our members with legal action and is now trying to hire strike breakers.

You can help by visiting http://www.epmu.org.nz/zeal/ and taking action.

You can also support them through their supporter facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=61304859532

Their open letter follows:

"You might have heard that Zeal 320 flight attendants are taking industrial action at Air New Zealand because our wages are tens of thousands of dollars lower than people doing the same job but who are employed directly by Air NZ.

We've got ourselves organised and are committed to getting a fair deal but the company is trying to hire strikebreakers through Hudson Recruitment and has even threatened to make us redundant and outsource our jobs to them.

But they're doing it online. Which means you can help us out.

We need as many people as possible to apply for these jobs. If they want CVs to hire strikebreakers then we'll give them CVs - in their thousands.

Please go to www.epmu.org.nz/take-action/ to see what we need you to do (we've included template CVs). It's time to show Air New Zealand that solidarity beats big business every time!

If you don't have the time to apply please send them an email at aklapply@hudson.com to tell them to stop strikebreaking. Just make sure you put their reference number (BZ/28520) for the strike breaker jobs in the subject line.

You can find out more about our campaign and why we're taking the action we are at www.epmu.org.nz/zeal/

Thank you so much for your support,

The Zeal 320 Crew."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

G20 London-Tens of thousands protest against crisis, war and climate change










Tens of thousands join Put People First protest to demand economic justice

from SWP in Britain

The week of protests against the G20 summit to be held in London this week kicked off on Saturday with the Put People First march in central London organised by a broad coalition of trade unions, NGOs and activist groups.

Some 40,000 people came to the march—more than organisers expected, despite repeated attempts by the police and right wing newspapers to put people off demonstrating.

They were there to demand decent jobs and public services, an end to global poverty and inequality, and serious action taken now to avert catastrophic climate change.

But the march was also marked by a deep sense of anger at the economic crisis—anger that had a class edge to it, directed against bankers, the rich and the politicians that had presided over an economic system that has failed to deliver jobs, justice or environmental sustainability.

The march started at Victoria Embankment and made its way to Hyde Park for a rally. The comedian and activist Mark Thomas was cheered when he attacked Gordon Brown and the Labour government for their complicity in creating the crisis.

“We are here to kill neoliberal capitalism,” he told the rally. “People ask, what’s the alternative? We are the alternative. We have to build a movement that can go from strength to strength. This struggle is about democracy against capitalism—and we have got to win.”

Trade unions had a strong presence on the march, with large contingents from the GMB, Unison and PCS unions. Many of them spoke of their anger at the wave of job losses sweeping through Britain at the moment.

Stuart Fegan, a senior organiser for the GMB, was on the demo. “There’s been a failure of capitalism,” he told Socialist Worker. “This the first recession in my lifetime that hasn’t been blamed on the unions. We have to show governments around world that workers can act collectively.”

Pete Millward, an Usdaw union member from Andover, said, “Unions aren’t dinosaurs—we just want equality and fairness. We need to protest more. I want a real choice, not just between two kinds of Tory government.”

There were also several international delegations of trade unionists on the protests, including workers from France’s CGT, Italy’s CGIL and the Dutch FNV union federation. This international flavour was also represented at the rally, with speeches from US and Australian union leaders.

The march was also marked by large numbers of young people and students who had come to London to make their voices heard over issues ranging from climate change to the “war on terror”.

Sarahelen is from Stirling and currently studying at Oxford. She told Socialist Worker, “We want to see people put first. A lot of our concerns are about war—we’re against all the wars that are happening.”

Her friend Shona added, “We also want world leaders to think about developing countries. We want them to think about something other than money for a change.”

The radical mood of the demonstration was reflected by veteran anti-capitalist campaigner Susan George, who spoke at the Hyde Park rally. She attacked the G20 for wanting to give more money to discredited institutions like the International Monetary Fund.

“The banks are ours—they belong to the people and should be treated like public utilities for the good of the people,” she added. “They should be providing credit to create jobs and for a massive conversion programme to a green fossil-free economy.”

The protests against the G20 are set to continue this week. On Wednesday the Stop the War Coalition will be leading a march against war starting at 2pm from the US embassy in Grovesnor Square and heading to Trafalgar Square.

Stop the War will also be protesting on the first day of the summit proper, assembling at 11am on Thursday 2 April at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands.

Go to » www.stopwar.org.uk for more details.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Capitalism Isn't Working- SA workshop at Auckland Uni, Thurs March 26



Date:
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Time:
7:00pm - 9:30pm
Location:
Algie Lecture Theatre, University of Auckland Law School
Street:
Waterloo Quadrant
City/Town:
Auckland, New Zealand

Phone:
0211861450
Email:


Socialist Aotearoa gathers activists from the unions, movements and the anti capitalist left to discuss the twin evils of economic and climate crisis, and why we must move beyond capitalism as an outdated and failed economic system.

The workshop will be divided into a number of phases, discussing-
(a) marxist theory on the economic crisis
(b) strategies to build a combative anti capitalist movement
(c) what kind of socialist organisation, what kind of socialist society?

http://www.socialistaotearoa.org


The University of Auckland Law School is one of the nine faculties that make up the University of Auckland. It forms part of the city campus but is separate from what is termed the "main campus" which spreads across four blocks, two on each side of Symonds Street. In contrast, the Law School sits between Waterloo Quadrant and Eden Crescent, in buildings formerly used by the High Court of New Zealand in Auckland. Prior to that, the land was used by an ice cream manufacturer, leading to its nickname "the ice cream factory".

The law school is accessible by a right of way down a small hill from Waterloo Quadrant. Originally, this was only a mud track nicknamed the Ho Chi Minh trail but this was paved when the Davis Law Library was completed and replaced Eden Crescent as the main entrance into the Law School grounds.



BACKGROUND READING-

Can ‘new markets’ rescue the bosses?

by Ken Olende

As the recession deepens capitalists face a quandary – how are they going to make money?

Companies won’t invest unless they believe they’ll get a decent profit, no matter how much governments encourage banks to make funds available to them. But they are already finding that the goods they have manufactured can’t be sold at a profit.

In earlier crises, bosses have regained their ability to make profits by developing new markets, either by creating them in areas outside those already dominated by capitalism, or by redividing control of existing areas. Alternatively they can try to create new products or services within their existing economies.

For modern capitalists there is a problem with the first of these approaches. It worked for European economies during the first “Great Depression” of the 1870s and 1880s. This was when most of the planet was divided into empires and spheres of influence.

Even during the better known Great Depression in the 1930s, there were areas of the globe that could be brought into the system as new markets for manufactured products or as new sources of cheap raw materials.

But now capitalism covers every part of the world. And the imperial division of the world is not just a matter of Western powers dominating poorer countries. It is a process of competition between the most powerful countries that has often led to military conflict.

Both the First and Second World Wars were primarily about states fighting over markets and resources.

Cold

From a coldly capitalist point of view, the Second World War can be viewed as a success. Despite 50 million deaths, it ended the 1930s Depression and made the system profitable again.

But it is not easy to repeat such a feat. There is a danger that any conflict between major powers today would swiftly become so calamitous that the system could not recover.

Alternatively a cycle of smaller imperial war could continue without end, with the destruction and destabilisation of markets outweighing any gains it might make. A hint of this dynamic can already be seen in the “war on terror”.

The alternative for the bosses to imperial conquest or war is to search for new markets and develop new products within existing spheres of influence.

This is not a simply matter of some industries doing well while others stagnate – replacing jobs provided by the manufacturing of cars with jobs in burger bars will not end the recession.

But capitalists always hope that the development of new industries will restore profitability. This was what appeared to happen with the growth internet in the late 1990s. While there was a speculative bubble over this “new media” that soon burst, the hope has remained that new technology can be a genuinely new source of wealth.

Such hopes were rife during the 1930s Depression as one technical innovation after another emerged onto the new mass market – the radio, cinema, mass produced cars, fridges and telephones.

But these new products did not solve the economic crisis.

Capitalists worry more about how to increase their share of profits than about where value is generated.

This means they often fail to understand why innovation doesn’t create profitability in itself.

To explain that we have look at the Marxist analysis of where profit comes from in the first place.

It is the labour of workers that adds value in the production process. This value that people create by their work is greater than what they are paid in wages. The bosses’ profit comes out of the difference between the two sums.

Pressure

But the pressure on bosses to compete means that they try to cut the amount that they invest in labour.

Instead they invest in new technologies that allow them to spend less on workers. They can produce the same, or more, with fewer workers thanks to new technology or machinery.

But since profits are ultimately generated by workers’ labour, reducing the proportion of that labour tends in the long run to reduce the rate of profit.

Individual firms might benefit in the short term from investing in new technology. But once their competitors catch up this advantage is lost – and the whole cycle must start again.

Furthermore, the first company to develop a new technique will often face research and development costs greater than those of later competitors.

There are various factors that counter this tendency. One is scientific innovation. Some new technologies will use less machinery and raw materials per worker than old technologies. Thus the proportion of labour in the production process is increased – and with it the rate of profit.

But such scientific innovations will always tend to be in the minority. The most reliable way to increase efficiency under constant competition is to invest in machinery.

In the end, on average, it will be the firm that invests the most that makes most profitable innovations, not the lucky ones that make a breakthrough that increases labour power.

So it turns out that each and every one of the capitalists’ solutions to the crisis is temporary and unreliable.

The world is already, in practical terms, entirely capitalist, so there is little room for expansion.

Imperial competition tends towards war and brings the threat of destroying the system rather than repairing it.

New products and production methods can restore profitability, but then the competitive logic of capitalism tends to wipe out the profits yet again.

Capitalism is a very flexible and tenacious system. But each way out of the crisis that it offers will only ultimately create more problems.

Also in the Capitalism isn't working series:
» Is this capitalism’s worst ever crisis?
» Can countries become bankrupt?
» What on earth is quantitative easing?

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Coming Storm- French workers pelt one boss, take hostage another


As the crisis deepens in Europe and more and more workers face redundancy and unemployment, traditional methods of union struggle are being replaced by direct action occupations, confrontations and in one case, hostage taking. See this video footage from France at the moment.

Kiwi workers, take hope.
Kiwi employers and Union bosses, take note.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reggae for Blair Peach- remembering a Kiwi socialist and anti-nazi, murdered by British police


"but his memory lingers on" - LKJ

Thursday April 23rd 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of Blair Peach at the hands of London's Metropolitan Police. Blair was a revolutionary socialist and member of the SWP, and was an activist with the Anti Nazi League opposing the rise of the National Front when he was killed on an anti-fascist demonstration in Southall. To this day, no one has been brought to justice for his death.

Socialist Aotearoa is hosting a night of music, poetry and talks to celebrate Blair's life, and to build support in New Zealand for the campaign to expose his killers.

(Two papers, the Sunday Times and the Leveller, published leaks naming the officers that had travelled in the van that held Peach's killer. They were Police Constables Murray, White, Lake, Freestone, Scottow and Richardson. When the lockers of their unit were searched in June 1979, one officer Greville Bint was discovered to have in his lockers Nazi regalia, bayonets and leather covered sticks. Another constable Raymond White attempted to hide a cosh. No officer was ever prosecuted.)

Come to Reggae for Blair Peach,
Tom Forde's Bar,
122 Anzac Avenue, Auckland
8pm Thursday April 23rd, 2009.

organised by Socialist Aotearoa


from the British Socialist Worker paper-

"As the police rushed past him, one of them hit him on the head with the stick. I was in my garden and saw this quite clearly. He was left sitting against the wall. He tried to get up, but he was shivering and looked very strange. He couldn't stand. Then the police came back and told him, 'Move! Come on, move!' They were very rough with him and I was shocked because it was clear he was seriously hurt."

This was the shocking testimony of Southall resident Parminder Atwal, one of the witnesses to the murder of Blair Peach at the hands of the Metropolitan Police on 23 April 1979.

Blair was an east London teacher who had come over from New Zealand. He was also a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Anti Nazi League. He was killed protesting at the Nazi National Front (NF), which was holding a meeting in the predominantly Asian area of Southall, west London. His police killers still walk free.

The National Front had announced it would hold a "general election" meeting in Ealing Town Hall on Monday 23 April 1979. Local people were appalled. They knew that fascist meetings bring fascist violence. Three years earlier an NF-inspired gang had stabbed Gurdip Singh Chaggar to death in Southall.

But the local Tory council gave the Nazis Ealing town hall to meet in. Local people did all they could to get the meeting banned. The day before 5,000 people marched to the Town Hall.

Southall Anti Nazi League activist Balwinder Rana recalls, "The march was attacked by the police, who picked fights all along the way." The then Labour home secretary, Merlyn Rees, refused to ban the meeting. Three thousand police, with dogs, horses, riot vans, a helicopter and units of the notorious Special Patrol Group poured into Southall.

At lunchtime Southall's shops closed in protest at the Nazi meeting. Some factories shut down and Asian workers at nearby Heathrow airport walked out. Anti-Nazis arrived in Southall in solidarity. At around 3.30pm some demonstrators tried to get on a bus going through the police cordon. The police threw everyone off. Those arrested included Mr Rihal, on his way home to look after his wife who had just left hospital.

The police later lied and said he had damaged the bus. He got three months in jail. As Balwinder recalls, "At about 6.30pm people started to go towards the town hall. Suddenly the cordon parted and police on horseback came through and started to hit people with long batons. They attacked men, women and children." Police vans speeded through the hemmed-in crowd.

Inside the Nazi meeting the local NF candidate was pledging to "bulldoze Southall to the ground and replace it with an English hamlet". People outside were confronted with a full-blown police riot. The Daily Telegraph recorded what happened:

"Within three minutes mounted police had cornered about 50 demonstrators against the churchyard walls. As we watched, several demonstrators were dragged crying and screaming to the nearby police station. Nearly every demonstrator had blood flowing from some injury."

The police surrounded 6 Park Road, which been designated a first aid and advice centre. The police kicked the door in and forced everyone to run a gauntlet of truncheon blows to get out.

Local activist Clarence Baker had been told earlier by the police, "You black bastard. We are going to get you." He remembered, "About six were hitting me with their truncheons. I felt one blow. I did not feel anything after that."

Clarence ended up in intensive care with a blood clot on his brain. At least three protesters were hit so hard their skulls fractured. Blair Peach was one of them. "At least two Special Patrol Group vans came up," remembers Blair's friend Jo Lang, who chaired last week's memorial meeting. The officers got out and charged us. We ran, but Blair wasn't with us. So we went back to look for him. An Asian family had taken him into their living room. You couldn't see how badly injured he was. It was later said that he was hit with a lead-filled cosh. While he was in the ambulance he started having fits. At 12 o'clock they phoned and told us he was dead."

News of his death sent shock waves through the British working class. The day before he was buried 4,000 local Asian people filed past Blair Peach as he lay in Southall's Dominion Cinema. Throughout the night Southall youth maintained a guard of honour over him. The next day the cortege travelled to east London.

Bengali people from Brick Lane, who Blair had stood with against Nazi terror, paid their respects. There were 13 national union banners on the 10,000-strong funeral procession. TUC president Ken Gill spoke at the graveside alongside Tony Cliff of the SWP.

When the lockers and some houses of Special Patrol Group members were later searched coshes, knives, bayonets, swords and Nazi regalia were found. The unit was later disbanded. But since then the police have been consistently deployed to defend Nazi events in Britain.



"Reggae Fi Peach", a song on Linton Kwesi Johnson's album Bass Culture, chronicles the death of Blair Peach in the form of Dub Poetry, representing a position of defiance to the attitudes of the UK government at that time. The Ruts also commemorated the death in the tune "Jah War". The 2 Tone album The 2 Tone Story is also dedicated to his memory. Hazel O'Connor wrote "Calls the Tune" in his memory.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Iceland and the saucepan revolution



Frontline article by Christophe Chataigne, March 2009

"We managed to topple the government using the best of non-violent protests, civil disobedience and political satire," - 24 year old receptionist Guðjón Heiðar Valgarðsson encapsulates what many of the protesters felt when on 26 January the then prime minister, Geir Hilmar Haarde, announced the resignation of his government.

"The Saucepan Revolution" as it is called, because of the pots and pans protesters had with them, made Haarde the first leader to resign as a result of the global economic crisis.

Haarde's right wing Independence Party had been in power for nearly two decades, steering Iceland's economy away from the fish industry and geothermal energy to finance by deregulating the banking sector in the late 1990s.

But in the autumn of 2008 Iceland felt the full impact of the crisis. Its currency, the Krona, collapsed. Banks' debts are ten times Iceland's gross domestic product and the people who were encouraged to take low interest mortgages in foreign currency are now unable to meet their repayments. Inflation is now over 20 percent and unemployment is rising dramatically.

The human cost of the crisis is revealed by some churches offering food for a small fee and the under-reported increase in suicides. Valgarðsson's grandfather told of two of his friends who had hung themselves because "they were plunged into debt". One man even asked a protest organiser to build a gallows outside parliament so that a member of his family could hang himself in public.

One person central to Iceland's shift to finance is Davíð Oddsson. Oddsson was Iceland's longest serving prime minister before he became chair of the Central Bank of Iceland. Over his reign as prime minister he enforced neoliberalism on Iceland with a programme of tax cuts, large scale privatisation and "reforms" of the banking sector.

This saw a handful of people become millionaires. Father and son Jóhannes Jónsson and Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson transformed their small retail chain, Bónus, into a near-monopoly (explaining why one of the protesters climbed onto the roof of parliament and replaced the Icelandic flag with Bónus's piggybank logo). They also took control of many high street retailers through their investment company, Baugur.

The scale of the crisis in Iceland hit the population when Haarde announced that the country was near bankruptcy. The population's fury at the government didn't take long to express itself. People started to converge on the tiny parliament to protest at the recklessness of their government. "I was outraged at the ridiculous wages, bonuses and special deals a small portion of the population was being rewarded while at the same time Iceland remained one of the most expensive countries to live in," said Valgarðsson. The weekly protests became the biggest to hit Iceland since the ones against the country joining Nato in 1949. At their height the protests involved 10,000 people in a city of 120,000.

After the fall of Haarde's government a new minority government took over, led by the Social Democratic Alliance and the radical Left Green Movement. This made Social Democrat Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir the world's first openly lesbian head of government. Their main task is to prepare the ground for new elections on 25 April.

But there are divergences between these two parties, especially around two issues. Iceland has received a $10 billion financial aid package led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - the first Western country to ask for IMF help since Britain in 1976. While the Social Democrats welcomed the conditions attached to the loan the Left Greens are more cautious. "Of course we are worried about the conditions," Drífa Snædal, the secretary of the Left Greens, told Socialist Review, "but the good news so far is that the IMF does not demand strong fiscal cuts as it has to other countries in the past." Another disagreement is over Iceland joining the European Union - with the Left Greens opposed to it.

Election polls suggest the Left Greens will become the biggest political party and lead a new coalition. This reflects the protesters' hope of a shift away from neoliberalism. "Right now we have a chance to build a truly revolutionary society, which aims to benefit the whole of it, not just a privileged few," said Valgarðsson. That opinion is also shared by the Left Greens. "I think the situation in Iceland is just the beginning of what will happen all around the world," said Snædal, "I hope this is the end of pure capitalism and we will see the rise of more humane policies. People are getting more interested in politics and want to have more influence on their society."

But whatever the outcome of the next elections, or the conditions imposed by the IMF, the people of Iceland had better keep those saucepans handy if they want to "steer this country away from the absurdities of the past", as Valgarðsson puts it.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Crunch Time- a film on the Crisis by the EPMU




Socialists say "We WON'T pay for their crisis". We didn't cause it, and where workers are threatened with redundancies, we point to the examples of factory occupations in Chicago, Waterford and Buenos Aires as an alternative to capitalist greed and mass unemployment.

The new film from the EPMU differs in tone. Whilst it puts forward some valuable economic information and gives rank and file workers a voice to raise their fears, it also sees the Union's role as softening the effects of the Depression in partnership with employers, rather than fighting them militantly for every job. SA presents the film and welcomes readers to post their take on the EPMU's line.

Crunch Time. For workers, for bosses and for union bureaucrats.





THE ALTERNATIVE TO REDUNDANCIES- FACTORY OCCUPATIONS IN "THE TAKE".

We're not in this boat together.


Guest Commentary: Louis Riel

And so it begins...
Somehow, despite John Key's optimism, the real world is arriving on Aotearoa's doorstep. Today, workers in Wellsford and Nelson have faced massive layoffs--105 jobs lost at Irwin Industrial Tools, and 60 at Nelson Pine Industries. This on top of the nearly 350 other jobs lost nationwide in less than one week.I read this news piece today right about the same time I was reading some other blog entries on last week's Job Summit (what was the purpose of that again?) where I was told that "We are all in this boat together". If that's the case, then can somebody tell me why I haven't heard about any CEO's facing redundancies? Why have I not heard about any bankers (not bank staff, mind you) facing redundancies? And why don't they seem very worried?


Let me tell you how it is in the boat that I'm sitting in.I'm employed, and for now I'm in a "safe" position. That's for now--I can see how things could change overnight. Many of my fellow passengers are, however, sitting on leaks. I've got neighbors who have already been made redundant, and a new job is proving to be the haystack needle. And of the ones that are still employed, they are all starting to get more than a little worried too. And none of us, not a one, seems to be able to find the bail bucket. We also don't see Johnny and his crew anywhere on board.So when I get told how we're all in one lovely egalitarian ship, and simply facing some rough water, I get pissed off. And so should every other worker out there--things are rough enough already, we don't need to be insulted on top of everything else!


We on the socialist left oppose this placating position being put forth by the capitalists, and stand by the mantra "we won't pay for your crisis. As such, I am going to openly call for the occupation the Irwin factory in Wellsford. If anyone there has to go, it should be the CEO and any other over-priced directors at the top that do nothing but take. They have proved that they don't know how to run a sustainable business, so let's turn it over to the workers instead and let them show the capitalists how to do it instead! Let's stand up, and fight back!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009