This is the text of a speech given by Socialist Aotearoa activist Derwin Smith in Dunedin last week.
There can be no mistake - the laws being proposed by the government are the biggest attack on working people in 20 years. The last time something like this happened was in 1991 with the Employment Contracts Act. The Unions at the time didn’t fight... and it has put us in the position we are in today – with weak unions, massive inequality, poverty, social isolation and a general feeling of apathy among the working class. Sadly this time round may not be all that different – the complete lack of militant leadership of the CTU will hinder us at every turn. There is no doubt that they will try to convert this campaign into an electioneering exercise for the labour party.
However this government is not untouchable! The anti-mining campaign has shown us that concerted campaigning including massive street protests can make the national party back off.
As revolutionaries we must be very clear. Our enemies are the employing class... and their lackeys in parliament. The employers as a class have been pushing for these reactionary reforms and by building the power of workers on the job we can stop them.
If we are to win this battle then we must continue building resistance in the community but most importantly – at work. This is where the working class have the most power. The one thing that will most effectively stop the employing class in its tracks is strike action... as Lenin once said “one good strike is worth 1000 elections!”
In concrete terms this means that we need to be out building for protests as much as we can with leaflets and posters and building on worksites through our union contacts and at our own workplaces.
If we do not win this campaign – which is likely – we must use it to continue building an independent and democratic workers movement that is controlled by the rank and file themselves... the anti-thesis to the labour controlled union bureaucracy.
What I would like to see is a rank and file network within the unions develop that is organised independently of the right wing bureaucracy to counteract their inept leadership and eventually put the unions under workers control. We also need to help every new person we meet that is interested in class politics organise their workplace.
As we have seen in Unite Unions petition campaign for a $15 dollar minimum wage – even though we didn’t get the numbers – a nationwide network of class warriors was born – it is a slow process but it will be worth it in the end.
By solid work building the campaign against these laws the revolutionary left can not only grow in numbers – but form organisations that have discipline and cohesion needed to make a difference in the class struggle.
To put it bluntly – this is only one battle in the class war. Our action as activists in this campaign needs to be focused. At the end of it we want not only our organisation to be stronger but we want the whole workers movement to be stronger – but from the bottom up. Then even with these reactionary laws – we will be in a better position to build and fight.
Our task is clear – we need to build a fighting workers movement. This is a task of decades not months.
As part of this fighting movement we need to lay the foundations for a mass workers party so when the time comes – there will be the political clarity and militant leadership needed for the working class to overthrow capitalism and institute a truly free society – one democratically controlled by the workers.
Photo credit: John Darroch