Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The courage to resist – how a 22 year old changed the world

"God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. If not … than we're doomed as a species. I will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens." - Bradley Manning

Behind the headlines of the Wikileaks leak of a quarter of a million cables is one of the most remarkable tales of our generation. It is fascinating to watch as the full extent of the cables leak becomes known and as the global public begins to realise the full extent of the atrocities and ironies of the United States imperial reach.

Noam Chomsky has rightly said that Wikileaks shows us, “That one of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population”. As Chomsky has also said, “Perhaps the most dramatic revelation, or mention, is the bitter hatred of democracy that is revealed both by the U.S. Government – Hillary Clinton, others – and also by the diplomatic service.”

As the newspaper pages fill in coming weeks and months with the details of more and more of the leaked documents the world will undoubtedly change. We can only hope that more and more residents of planet earth wake up to realize just how blood soaked and opportunist the US empire really is. We must also hope that more and more of us realise just how great a gift Bradley Manning has just given our world.

Bradley, a US intelligence analyst working in Baghdad and the alleged leaker of the diplomatic cables and thousands of other documents concerning the Iraq and Afghanistan war, was arrested in May 2010 by American authorities after being betrayed by a hacker. Facing up to 52 years in jail, Bradley, at just 22 years of age has undertaken one of the more courageous acts in order to ensure the people of the world can see and know the dark side of the US empire.

The transcripts of the instant messaging chats between Bradley and the hacker who betrayed him give an unusual glimpse into the soul of Bradley and can only inspire a sense of confidence in the humanity and courage of this man. Bradley best represents the motto of wikileaks that “Courage is contagious”. Quickly we have seen the editorials by corporate newspapers and the columns hastily written by US ambassadors arguing that this leak represents a massive threat to diplomacy, to human life and to history itself. Instead our editorials should ask why it took a 22 year old to expose the travesties of our time? Are those aged over 30 so timid and spineless that they dare not stand up for what they believe in?

Let it be said and said again that there would be no war, no human rights abuse, no autocracy and tyranny if Bradley’s courage swept across the globe faster than swine flu. The despotic Arab dictators, the repressive Asian juntas, the fanatical European financer capitalists wouldn’t last a second if every human was prepared to stand up and say enough. We can only hope that the global revolt that Bradley could inspire doesn't have as its soundtrack the song that he lipsynched as he copied the myriad of secret files from the military database he had access to.

As Bradley Manning said,
“I think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”… the Iraqi Federal Police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so I was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the “bad guys” were, and how significant this was for the FPs… It turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki… I had an interpreter read it for me and when I found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet I immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on. He didn’t want to hear any of it. He told me to shut up and explained how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees. Everything started slipping after that, I saw things differently. I had always questioned the things worked, and investigated to find the truth, but that was a point where I was a *part* of something, I was actively involved in something that I was completely against.”
As Bradley says about his former colleagues, “Most didnt care… but i knew, i was playing a role in the lives of hundreds of people, without them knowing them… but i cared, and kept track of some of the details, make sure everybody was okay.” Bradley’s humanist leanings and anti-authoritarian nature meant he snapped far quicker than most in his environment. Releasing the documents he hoped to give the world a “public good” that could be used to make informed decisions. As Bradley goes on, “i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore… only a plethora of states acting in self interest… with varying ethics and moral standards of course, but self-interest nonetheless.”

A queer army officer who had survived growing up in a town with more “pews than people” where he refused to recite the religious parts of the pledge of allegiance and then becoming a minimum wage retail worker living in his car after being kicked out of home for being gay, Bradley didn’t owe the world much. Yet with his courage he has shown that one person can change history and that we all have a role to play in defending democracy, freedom and peace from the tyrants and bureaucracies of the world.

Even now as some bay for Bradley’s blood, let us hope that in Bradley’s actions we find the courage to renew our own activism to end the carnage and the chaos that the governments of the world create and which we and our brothers and sisters from Baghdad to Boston and from Kabul to Kiribati must bear.

As so many sit idly by while so much devestation is done, let’s hope that Bradley gives more of us the courage to resist.

Commentary- Omar Hamed

Austerity on steroids - Socialistworker.org

Protesters in Dublin march against the government's plan for deep cuts in public services (William Murphy)

Protesters in Dublin march against the government's plan for deep cuts in public services (William Murphy)

FIRST, THE government devotes enormous sums to bailing out the banks. That causes budget deficits to balloon. Then the government imposes austerity by cutting wages, raising regressive taxes and slashing social spending.

This is the essence of what happened in Ireland to lead to the approximately $114 billion "rescue" of the economy by the European Union (EU). The same happened to Greece before Ireland, and the dynamics have been similar in the U.S. and other countries.

It's an international drive to impose austerity--from European bureaucrats twisting arms in Dublin and Athens, to the bipartisan gang in the U.S. that wants to carve up Social Security and Medicare. The same people who spared no expense when the banks were in trouble now want working people to pay for it all.

The EU's deal for Ireland, reached November 21, could fall apart if the Irish parliament, the Dail, fails to approve a proposed austerity budget in a vote set for December 7. But if it does fail, the "troika" of the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will keep up the pressure.

The terms of the Irish deal were complicated by political considerations in both Ireland and across Western Europe. But its goal was not in question. Irish workers, who had supposedly escaped a long history of colonialism and poverty thanks to the roaring "Celtic Tiger" economy of the 1990s are now being told that they must give back the gains of those years--and then some.

The IMF's proposal? Cut the minimum wage and reduce unemployment benefits--for starters. The government is complying with a proposed budget that includes a 12 percent reduction in the minimum wage, cuts in welfare spending of between 5 and 10 percent and a 5 percent cut in weekly unemployment benefits. Groups that get government funds to work with people with disabilities were told to expect cuts of 20 percent, and an unstated number of public-sector jobs will be cut.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE IRISH economy has been a ticking time bomb since October 2008, when the government stepped forward to guarantee the transactions of the Irish banks, which had become huge in proportion to the economy of a country with a population of only about 4.5 million people.

Ireland's low corporate tax rate of 15 percent had made the country an attractive destination for foreign direct investment by big U.S. and European companies. At the same time, Ireland used its membership in the EU to attract financial capital, while offering tax breaks similar to the notorious offshore banking centers of the Caribbean.

To try to preserve all that, the Irish state gave its unconditional backing to the banks after the crash on Wall Street and other world financial centers. The British, German, French and U.S. governments--as well as those of smaller countries like Greece--were compelled to do essentially the same thing.

The problem for Ireland was that its political leaders had bitten off far more than the small country could chew. Before the EU rescue deal, the Irish government had predicted that it would spend a total of $60 billion to bail out the banks--a huge amount for an economy with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of $228 billion. In fact, the assets of Ireland's private banks are five times bigger than the country's GDP.

As was the case in Greece earlier this year, speculators concluded that Ireland would eventually be unable to fully repay its debts. As Alen Mattich wrote on his blog at the Wall Street Journal Web site, "When Ireland's banks were threatened by depositor runs during the early days of the credit crunch, the government stepped in to guarantee the sector's liabilities. A huge burden of private-sector Irish debt suddenly became public."

As a consequence, interest rates on Irish government bonds eventually spiked upward, which threatened to cripple state finances. Still, Irish political leaders resisted a rescue. That's because Germany and France were demanding that, as a condition for receiving the money, Ireland must raise its corporate tax rate to increase revenue to repay its debt--which would just so happen to take away Ireland's competitive advantage with...Germany and France. Britain went along.

At the same time, the biggest EU countries are desperate to prevent Ireland's banks from triggering a domino effect across the continent. According to the Bank for International Settlements, British banks hold about $131.6 billion in Irish debt, and their German counterparts are on the hook for $138.6 billion. French banks have $43.6 billion, and for U.S. banks, the figure is $57 billion.

In the end, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen of the Fianna Fail party claimed that Ireland had retained its corporate tax rate in negotiations over the terms of the bailout. How long that will last is another question. Ireland has effectively lost control of its finances to European bureaucrats and the IMF.

What's left for the Irish government is to draw up plans to further downsize social spending and cut the consumption of working people. Emigration from Ireland, which had stopped during the go-go years of the 1990s, is already on the rise, thanks to a 13 percent unemployment rate--an estimated 100,000 people are expected to leave the country by 2014.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE IRISH meltdown came despite the creation earlier this year of the $589 billion European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The EFSF was part of a $950 billion pool of money rounded by European governments in May to try to stop the Greek financial crash from spreading to other heavily indebted countries--not only Ireland, but also Portugal, Spain and Italy.

By creating this emergency fund, European leaders were trying to make an implicit guarantee of those countries' debts without having to actually fork over the money. The idea was that the very existence of the fund would stabilize the situation.

Of course, it hasn't worked out that way. Greece, despite a savage series of cutbacks, still won't be able to meet its debt obligations and is stumbling towards an almost certain partial default on its debts sometime in the next few months. Ireland, although it had cash on hand to cover its obligations for the near future, was increasingly seen by investors as a similar risk. The wealthier European governments--in particular, Germany--will therefore have to pay up.

In return for its money, Germany is demanding that the entire economies of Greece and Ireland must be subordinated to repay those debts. France and Britain are going along, too, since, like Germany, they fear that even a partial default on Greek and Irish debt could bring down banks that are still vulnerable from the crash of 2008. Nevertheless, though German Chancellor Angela Merkel is using the IMF and politicians from other European countries as debt collectors so as to avoid allegations of German aggression, Germany is calling the shots.

The problem for Greece and Ireland is that they are chained to Germany through a common currency, the euro. Normally, heavily indebted countries going through recession will try to devalue their currencies in order to make their exports less expensive on the world market and reduce their debt in real terms.

In fact, that's exactly what Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke is attempting to do with the U.S. dollar.

But as long as Greece and Ireland remain in the euro, they will be forced to carry out what economists call an "internal devaluation"--a severe cut in wages and social spending to try to lower labor costs.

The problem in Greece is that austerity is causing the economy to shrink even further, making it virtually impossible for the government to pay off its debts, which now stand at 126.8 percent of GDP--much worse than 115.1 percent that the government anticipated in April.

Sooner or later, Greece will be forced to ask its creditors to accept less than full payment on its debt--a prospect that instilled fear into European financial markets in October and led to the panic over Ireland. When German politicians argued that private bondholders would ultimately have to take some losses on European government debt, the panic intensified. It was only then that the big European governments closed ranks and made Ireland an offer it couldn't refuse.

But the Irish bailout won't solve the underlying problems. No matter how deep the cuts, Ireland has little more chance of making good on its debts than does Greece. And still looming on the horizon are similar problems in Portugal--and far more serious ones in Spain and Italy.

In this context, a move by any country to partially default on its debts could trigger a financial crisis as banks are forced to write down the value of their loans. On the other hand, the failure to make bondholders absorb at least some losses will only mean more government funds flowing into the black holes of loss-ridden banks. As an editorial in the Financial Times put it, "If public money is again used just to buy time, the problem will soon return, more contagious than ever."

But just because austerity measures can't solve this crisis doesn't mean the politicians won't impose them anyway. As European and U.S. capitalists fumble for a long-term solution, they'll continue to increase the pressure on workers and push the costs of the crisis onto them.

In the U.S., austerity is already being carried out piecemeal at the state and local level--tens of thousands of teachers and other public-sector employees have lost their jobs due to budget cuts. These cutbacks were an unstated policy of the Obama administration, which failed to include sufficient aid to state governments in the stimulus package passed in early 2009.

Now, with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives, austerity will be front and center in U.S. politics for the foreseeable future. The heads of the bipartisan commission on deficit reduction have already published their hit list of programs to cut--coinciding with an ideological blitz in the media about how we've all been living beyond our means, and it's time for shared sacrifice.

The reality is that in the U.S., as in Ireland, there's always enough money to prop up the bankers. But when the needs of working people are at stake--needs that have been dramatically increased by the impact of the recession--we're told to make do with less.

This international squeeze on workers will continue until labor and social movements are strong enough to pose a challenge. The mass strikes in Greece and France in recent months have shown the potential to resist, and protests in Ireland are now gearing up, too. The crisis continues--and so must the struggle.

From: Socialist Worker.org

Defending Porirua!

Commentary: Lisa Stoneham, Unite Delegate, Porirua

As a Porirua local, I didn’t know much about the by elections that were coming up. When Omar mentioned the by election to me, at that stage I didn’t even think I was going to vote as at this time I did not know I couldn’t vote due to being on the maori electoral roll. I didn’t know anything about those running and I only thought it was Hekia Parata and Kris Faafoi anyway. All I saw around was billboards with their faces and party name.

I didn’t think anything else of the conversation with Omar or the by election.

Some time later Shanna said to me on facebook, watch the news tomorrow. She wouldn’t tell me why. I found out later on that night though. I can’t remember what my initial reaction was but I think I was a bit surprised in a good way.

As a member of Unite Union, my support for Matt McCarten from the beginning may have been biased but it was soon apparent to me and I believe to many others as well, this new runner to the by election wasn’t just running as a pretty face and campaigned for change. His billboards had his policies on them, the reason as to why people should vote for him. No other billboards had that.

It was only due to Matt’s campaign I became aware of how many and who was actually running in the Mana by election.

But only Matt's policies made a difference to working class people

Then during the campaigning, a public meeting was held outside my neighbours house. This is when the housing problem became apparent. Campaigners had counted many empty state houses while out door knocking. My parents live in my garage as Housing New Zealand has refused to help them.

This was when the house take over occurred with the original plan to stay in the house until election day although this was not meant to be due to a disgruntled local, rumor has it, it is the now unemployed, former deputy mayor of Porirua.

While this was the most out there thing done by campaigners so far, it got people talking.Some good and some bad but the Matt McCarten name was getting out there. And Matt was building a base of his own.

I was continuing to hear stories of what Matt's campaign had been doing, which included successfully getting 2 people into Housing New Zealand houses as they were on the waiting list with no apparent houses available. And Matt’s campaigners were pulling out protests all over the place, including outside Countdown for the GST Policy Matt had put forward.

I only got the opportunity to go door knocking once. I received no negative feedback from people. The biggest thing I came across was people not understanding how his policies could possibly work which was easily sorted.

In the last week of the campaigning I became sick so wasn’t able to help as much as I wanted too. But one particular day, campaigners were out in North City Plaza. Hekia Parata was having a meet and greet with ‘locals’, well John Key with Hekia Parata trailing behind him anyway as part of her campaign. When Matt’s campaigners confronted John Key and Hekia Parata about what they were going to do, John and Hekia avoided actual questions and quickly high tailed it out of North City Plaza. It was quite amusing to watch. It was the only time I actually saw Hekia campaigning. The only time I saw Kris Faafoi campaign was when he was standing by the roundabout holding a sign hoping for toots of support from the people driving by. I did not see anyone else.

So while Matt McCarten received 816 votes on the day, this is quite a good result for 3 weeks campaigning. But I believe if the Maori were able to vote, this number would have been a lot higher. There is a lot of support for Matt within the Maori community.

The Mana By-Election. An insider’s view

Commentary- Shanna Olsen Reader, Unite Delegate and Matt4Mana activist

A lot has been said on Matt McCartens Mana by-election campaign, but unfortunately mostly from people who had little to no input or in fact any actual experience of it at all.

I took annual leave from my Administrator job to spend three weeks volunteering in Porirua. I walked the streets, I knocked on doors, and I shook hands with the people. I made real connections with residents and they were kind enough to give me their time and tell me their stories. If anyone should be commenting on Matt’s campaign it should be the people who were there on the ground.

This is the real story of the Mana by-election.

Matt McCarten gave people a choice. A real choice. 800 people took that opportunity and voted for him on polling day. We didn’t need catchy slogans or a drive-by loudspeaker at 8 in the morning to get our votes. We ran that campaign on the bones of our asses out of a makeshift office in the Porirua mall and got 800 votes in 3 weeks. In 3 weeks we went from being unknowns to being recognised as affiliated with the candidate the locals affectionately referred to as the “minimum wage man.”

In 3 weeks I door knocked thousands of houses in Titahi Bay, Waitangirua, Cannons Creek, Pukerua Bay, and Elsdon. In those thousands of houses I had a grand total of 3 people who weren’t interested in what I had to say. 3 solitary people. Half of the houses we door knocked signed our petition for a $15 minimum wage, 3000 jobs for Mana and No GST.

We had people walk in off the street and volunteer. One man bicycled from Auckland to door knock the whole of Linden. One elderly gentleman leafleted every house in Whitby by himself. We had good solid policies. We didn’t need an established party or massive funding behind us. We were lucky to have a team of volunteers from all walks of life, but at the end of the day we were all there for the same thing. To give the people of Mana a choice.

We were never going to change the world in those three weeks. But we did change Mana. 800 people voted for Matt on polling day. Most of which had never heard of him before he stood as a candidate. 800 individuals took a risk and voted for Matt. No he didn’t win, but then again those of you who know Matt will know that was never the point, or the aim. In those three weeks the other candidates went from kissing babies to being forced to actually think, to strategise, and to debate politics the old fashioned way instead of just relying on their lovely smiles to do the work for them. 800 people- that's not something to sniff at. I challenge anyone to gather together a rag-tag band of dreamers, limited funding and get 800 votes in 3 weeks.

I must say that even though I attended most of the candidate debates I still cannot recall any actual policies Labour or National came up with. I hope now that Faafoi has won he might think of some. This would have been an easy ride for Faafoi if Matt hadn’t entered the race. I noticed an improvement in him as the campaign went on and I think he will be a better politician for it. I just hope that he knuckles down and makes some real and measureable improvements for the people in his electorate before the next election. You just never know who could come out of the wood work next time around.

We won’t forget about Mana and the people we met there. The foundations have been laid and the people are ready to stand up. When they do we will stand with them, and more people will follow. That is when the real wins will be made.

Whether commentators consider the campaign a success, a failure or simply an amusing experiment my personal opinion is that it was truthfully the best three weeks I have spent in a long time, and possibly the most worthwhile thing I have done to date. The simple fact that it got so many people talking means that we made a difference. And the very fact that you have spent time reading this only goes further to prove my point.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Solidarity with the Pike River Miners and their families

'The victims of industrialism are more numerous than the victims of war.' - Ruskin.

Socialist Aotearoa sends its love and solidarity to the families of the Pike River Miners tonight, as they await news about their loved ones. The Miners are the backbone of the New Zealand working class, and they deserve the best of health and safety. One single life is not worth the millions the companies make from the sweat of the miners brow-

Joe Carolan, on behalf of Socialist Aotearoa

A dirge for the miners, the brave Huntly miners,
O'erwhelmed in the drive, where they labour'd for bread;
No more shall we see them, no more shall we hear them;
In the pride of their manhood, all crushed down and dead.
Sleep on, O brave comrades; your life's work is ended—
The breadwinner's sailed to a far distant shore;
Unflinching you laboured, for home and for kindred;
And now all your sorrows in this world are o'er.
O, think of their kindred--their nearest and dearest—
Their wives and their offspring, lamenting, and then
Hark! hark to the wailing, the fierce, bitter wailing,
The weeping of women, the sobs of the men!
Mourn, mourn for the miners, entombed 'neath the timbers;
Hot tears for our comrades, all mangled and torn;
And a curse for the system--the mad, cruel system—
That gathers its strength from the slaughtered and shorn!
For ages the workers have toiled on--have toiled on,
While Do-Noughts grew wealthy, without work at all;
And thousands received for a lifetime of bondage
Our dead comrades' wages--the earth for a pall!
Work on, then, O millions, in darkness and sorrow;
Be earnest and dauntless--the time yet shall come
When the gold-hunt that lures you will end with the morrow,
And a new hope arise like the throb of a drum! –

Arthur Desmond, 10 Jan 1891
[The Huntly (near Auckland) mine disaster occurred on 22 Dec 1890.]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

on Saturday, A New Left Votes

Commentary- Joe Carolan

As the Battle of Mana draws to an end, a real victory has already been won. For the last month, the Serious Left in Aotearoa has united in struggle and put in the mahi, fighting on issues that concern working people and that embarass the party apparatchiks from Labour and National.

What the final tally will be for Matt McCarten's insurgent campaign, only Saturday can tell. But the New Left has fought hard for every vote it gets, whether high in the hills of Tawa or in the heart of Cannon's Creek. Even those undecided about voting for Matt have supported his radical programme for full employment, higher incomes and tax justice. As he said himself- "If the people of Mana voted for what they wanted- we'd win by a landslide."

Another real victory that has been won is one for democracy itself. Rather than explain why their party does not support radical change, Labour have been pushing the line that a vote for Matt splits the Left. And they are noticably nervous about this- they are drafting in hundreds of volunteers, activists and union organisers for the last few days, and their more uncouth supporters are beginning to lose their tempers. And there's a real reason why.

Amongst the staunch working class, there's a realisation that Phil Goff ain't gonna win the national election in 2011. Labour are too soft, and are bereft of any tangible policies that make a difference to the working class. Their candidate, Kris Faafoi, was imposed on the local organisation from Goff's office, and has barely been in the party for a year. Many workers see through the cynical tokenism from Labour HQ.

The days of the Left being a One Party State are over, whether in the unions or in the political field. We're going to need a REAL resistance movement when National win in 2011.
As Labour stays firmly in the political centre, it needs to learn one lesson-

We're not splitting the Left vote- we ARE the Left vote.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Matt for Mana TV on Housing

Bulldoze Cannons Creek say Porirua Police

“It’s lovely up here eh. All these neat rows of homes under those rolling green hills,” I said to my arresting officer as we drove up Warspite Avenue, Cannons Creek.

“It’d be nice if they bulldozed all the houses. No one wants to live here,” replied the women police sergeant as she turned her head to check out a couple of hoodied young men next to a takeaways.

I was shocked by what she said and then the radio crackled to life and the sergeant rapidly relayed to another unit the basic information about the known troublemaker she had seen hanging out outside the shops. The kid she’d been discussing soon ended up in the cells with us.

This is war- Porirua style. Within minutes of 3News airing a piece on our state housing occupation, four cop cars were outside and a dog handler was first on scene asking me where the burglary was.

There was no burglary just four young men getting arrested for protesting for better housing in a city where a quarter of children grow up in overcrowded homes while dozens of state houses lie empty. Where rheumatic fever rates are the highest in the developed world while vacant Housing Corp blocks that were meant to be built on years ago are still pushing up daisies.

We’d just squatted a house to highlight the plight of Carolyn, who lives with her partner in her daughters garage. The garage is cold, leaks and is unventilated. Carolyn has asthma that the gas heater and damp conditions exacerbates. Carolyn works hard cleaning homes for ACC claimants. Her partner works for a local light manufacturing company. He has been hard done by in a couple of jobs, took one trucking company all the way to the Employment Court for paying him below minimum wage. Carolyn’s daughter has been sacked under the 90 day no rights law. They are a typical working class family living in Porirua. Poor in wealth but rich in spirit. They are involved in the community, volunteer their time, active in local unions and kura kaupapa.

But we shouldn’t have to be here doing this. Twenty something year olds having to squat an abandoned house to draw attention to families down the road living in garages. Everyone needs a home and property developers who can make mills out of making another McMansion will never provide humane, accommodation at affordable prices for the working poor. How long will the state let people sleep rough, in cars or in garages? Too long. We need a political alternative. We need direct action. We need to unite and fight against a system that lets people rot and then hires an army of blue uniformed mercenaries who think that the country they occupy needs to be bulldozed.

My arresting officer wants to tell me about how tough her job is, about attending suicides and the human misery she encounters. Yet she sees just one side of the creek. For two weeks we’ve been doorknocking through this area and we’ve met hundreds if not thousands of lovely people. Hardworking New Zealanders and loyal union militants raising their families as best they can but outraged at the hidden fees of sending children to public schools. Old Pacifica men reading newspapers in the early evening as their grandchildren are busy in the kitchen. Burmese refugees enrolling to vote on the doorstep of their modest homes, but determined to never again be denied their right to a political opinion. 18 year olds who work at the local mall and are doing their best to move ahead in life by studying part time. Proud families that decorate the entranceway to their house with their children’s school certificates. Local tradespeople who want to work but can’t find a job when the employers find out they are over 50. The bouncer who has just come off nightshift but has been thinking about the local by-election. The older Scottish couple from Mungavin who’ve made this beautiful suburb their home, so far from Glasgow.

In the late afternoons as we tread another mile under our shoes in this campaign, we see the younger kids running around the yard, the older kids wandering home after a hard days work at high school, the men and women who arrive home exhausted from a day delivering the post or fixing the roads. For all these people the Creek is home. To the cops these people and their homes are just trouble, a permanent crime scene that needs to be destroyed. As the cop said, “No one who lives here does so because they want to”. Safer communities together? Not a chance. The views of the cop are a window to the real lack of control the Cannons Creek community have over the police.

Six hours later we were released on some bogus charges that will get thrown out or dropped pretty quickly. Yet after tomorrow, when days become weeks and months become years, the war on the poor in Cannons Creek will continue. The houses will rot, the people will decompose and the cops will patrol the ruins of a country that people in the 19th century thought would become a socialist paradise. As we head deeper into the 21st century it is clear that for the majority of New Zealanders the future will be the nightmare capitalism of poverty wages, substandard accommodation and the grim barking of police dogs in the night.

-- Omar Hamed, Socialist Aotearoa

Matt for Mana- The Rent is Too Damn High

3News story HERE

"The State will let working class people wait on housing lists for seven years. Occupy an empty house and they'll arrest you in seven minutes. " said Unite union's Matt McCarten tonight, after learning that four state housing activists were arrested in Cannon's Creek at an election action.

The volunteers had occupied the abandoned house to draw attention to the plight of people suffering from inadequate housing in Porirua. They were cleaning and repairing the house for a couple, Carolyn Harvey and her partner Ron , who currently live in a garage when police stormed into the house without warning and arrested them.

"We'll be rallying at a barbeque outside the house in Calliope Crescent this Saturday from 12 till 2pm- and we're asking everyone in the Mana electorate who has problems with Housing New Zealand to come to the barbeque so we can write down and process their complaints."

"State houses are collapsing. Tenants have to pay for repairs themselves. And the rent is too damn high. It's clear these bureacrats have failed and its time for action" said Mr McCarten.


Join Matt's facebook group HERE

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Monday, November 08, 2010

Housing is a right, not a privilege

At the end of the first week of Matt McCarten's campaign in the Mana by-election we come across a family living in a garage while there are three empty state houses just a block away.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Battle of Mana

Commentary: Joe Carolan

In the working class streets of Porirua, hundreds of workers and residents are already backing the demands raised by Matt McCarten’s campaign for tax justice, full employment and a living wage.

Dino, a member for MUNZ living in Calliope Crescent, has been on the picket lines in Napier in 2007 defending jobs and conditions. “There’s no excuse for unemployment in this country- there’s heaps of work that needs doing round here- look at the state of disrepair of some of the state houses. None of the major parties have any solutions for the blight of unemployment- that’s why Matt’s demand for 3000 jobs in Mana is electric. I’m definitely thinking of switching from Labour on this one”.

Jennie from Castor Crescent is a young Maori woman who has finished a course in childcare, but can’t find any work. “There’s a lot of young working mothers here stretched trying to manage jobs and family at the same time. If there were crèches and childcare here in the community, not only would it be a big help for these mums, but it would create hundreds of jobs for childcare workers like me. It’s impossible to survive on benefits- I’m voting for Matt.”

Grandfather Sonny invited campaigners into his home to sit down with his sons. “I’ve supported the unions all my life. But the rot started in Labour with that Roger Douglas. Lange and his mob brought in GST first- I’ve never forgotten that. It’s good to now see a union man like Matt saying we should get rid of it completely. That will help working people buy more food for their kids.”

Lucas from Waihora Crescent is sick of low pay in New Zealand. “I’m already voting for Matt, bro. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a great idea- people need enough to live on, otherwise everyone is going to end up moving to Australia. It’s great to see a staunch candidate sticking up for us at last.”

Caroline and her partner are currently living in a garage in Champion Street. They’re on the waiting list for a state house. Meanwhile, there are over 30 empty houses in Cannon’s Creek counted by door knockers. Without families living in these houses, they are broken into, the windows are smashed, the copper fittings in the plumbing are ripped out and the walls kicked in. Activists are going to house Caroline’s family in one house, and set up a community crèche in another, and local unemployed electricians and carpenters are going to repair the damage. The People’s House will create an example of what full employment serving the community in Mana could look like.

There’s a real battle on in Mana over the next two weeks. A big vote for Matt will be a message to the big parties that working class people will no longer accept low pay, unfair taxes, poverty and homelessness. Now’s the time for all activists, union members and socialists to come and help us.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010



Saturday 27 November · 08:00 - 23:30
Te Wananga Aotearoa, 15 Canning Crescent, Mangere.
Registration $20.
Hosted by Unite

8.30am: Registration, Tea/coffee

9.00am: Welcome/Intros

9.15am: “Confronting the economic crisis – what caused it and how it can be overcome”.

The worldwide economic crisis over the past few years has seen a massive growth of unemployment and cutbacks in basic entitlements for working people. This session will discuss how this crisis came about and how we can fight its effects.

Speakers: Jane Kelsey, professor of law at Auckland University and author of many books exposing the effects of neoliberal economic theory on NZ will focus on the international dimension of the crisis; Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union will focus on the impact of the crisis on NZ and how working people can resist.

11am: Activist Workshops

This will be an opportunity for a number of workshops to be held on topics suggested by activists across the country. These include the following possible subjects (some confirmed, some possible) – Casualisation of labour, workers resistance in Europe (Joe Carolan - Unite Campaigns Organiser); Maori economic elites; Tax justice campaign (Vaughan Gunson, Socialist Worker); Migrant workers; Workers resistance in Australia (Jody Betzian AMWU organizer and Socialist Alliance activist; Climate Justice & Workers Rights (Gary Cranston, Climate Camp); The Right to Strike (Jared Phillips, Unite Waikato Organiser); Campaigns against poverty and beneficiary bashing

12-1 Lunch

1pm: Poverty and inequality – can it be ended?

The growth of inequality and poverty in Aotearoa was the one unarguable effect of the neoliberal economic changes imposed over the last few decades. What happened here was mirrored around the globe. This reality barely changed under the last Labour led government and none of the major parties have a programme to seriously combat – let alone eliminate – the terrible social consequences of poverty and inequality. But can it be ended?

Speakers: John Minto (Spokesperson for Global Peace and Justice Auckland and Unite Union organizer); second speaker to be announced.

3pm: Activist Workshops

This will be an opportunity for a number of workshops to be held on topics suggested by activists across the country. These include the following subjects (some confirmed, some possible) – Casualisation of labour, workers resistance in Europe (Joe Carolan - Unite Campaigns Organiser); Maori economic elites; Tax justice campaign (Vaughan Gunson, Socialist Worker); Migrant workers; Workers resistance in Australia (Jody Betzian AMWU organizer and Socialist Alliance activist; Climate Justice & Workers Rights (Gary Cranston, Climate Camp); The Right to Strike (Jared Phillips, Unite Waikato Organiser); Campaigns against poverty and beneficiary bashing.

4pm – 6pm: “The Left and parliament – some lessons from the Alliance and Green Party experience”

Matt McCarten (Unite General secretary, former Alliance Party president), Sue Bradford (community activist and former Green Party MP)

7pm Drinks Dancing and Revolutionary Music!!!! @ Onehunga RSA

Monday, November 01, 2010

Under ATTAC- thoughts on the Tobin Tax

Commentary- Joe Carolan

Susan George has been a prominent campaigner against the debts of the Global South, calling for its cancellation in books such as A Fate Worse than Debt, The Debt Boomerang (1992) and The Lugano Report: Preserving Capitalism in the 21st Century. Her books are brilliant exposes of the true horrors of the effects of debt on the poorest countries, and have inspired many people to become involved in the Jubilee Campaign and in her own group, the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens (ATTAC), of which she is vice president. She sees no progressive role for many of the corrupt elites in the Global South who preside over the misery and hunger there. She especially condemns their role in implementing Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) on their populations, slashing health and education spending to pay the interest on World Bank and IMF loans-

“Wealthy and influential people in the debtor countries are not necessarily displeased with the way this crisis has been handled. Structural adjustment has forced down workers” wages, and laws – such as they are – concerning working conditions, health, safety and the environment can easily be flouted ... Having largely escaped debt fallout, their concern is to belong to the increasingly globalised elite to play on the same courts as their counterparts in New York, Paris or London.” [23]

George, a prominent thought leader in the movement, became a leading figure in ATTAC, which looked to a strategy of putting pressure on social democratic governments by creating civic alliances in civil society. This strategy was suggested by Pierre Bourdieu, when he looked for a European Social Movement that would recapture ‘the nation-state, or better yet the supranational state - a European state on the way toward a world state - capable of effectively controlling and taxing the profits earned in the financial markets and, above all, of counteracting the destructive impact that the latter have on the labour market’ [24]

ATTAC re imagined a new reformism opposed to the social liberal, Third Way orthodoxy of Blair and Schroder. Susan George was adamant that
“Neo-liberalism is not the natural human condition, it is not supernatural, it can be challenged and replaced because its own failures will require this. We have to be ready with replacement policies which restore power to communities and democratic States while working to institute democracy, the rule of law and fair distribution at the international level.”[25]

Nearly seven years before the Battle of Seattle, George predicted the kind of alliances that the Global Justice movement would throw up. She believed that these alliances could exert enough moral pressure on social democracy for their governments to change policies. She writes, in The Debt Boomerang, of: “Building bridges in the North between environmentalists, trade unionists …activists for immigrants’ rights, members of Third World solidarity groups or non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and that broadest category of all-taxpayers. We hope that each of these constituencies will see the need to work together for alternative policies and, simultaneously, the need to work effectively with their counterparts in the South.” [26]

ATTAC’s main demand is for (social democratic) governments to implement a
Tobin tax on capital transactions, in order to fund social programmes and strengthen the ability of national government to regulate economic life. First proposed by Nobel prize-winning economist James Tobin in the 1970s, his idea of a currency transactions tax (CTT), or Tobin tax is seen by many to be a concrete demand of the Global Justice movement. According to the Irish ATTAC website, over one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) changes hands every day on global foreign exchange markets. More than 80% of this trading is of a speculative nature, buying and selling money for profit’s sake. (This speculation was blamed for accentuating the economic crisis in East Asia and Russia, where millions lost their jobs.)

It has been estimated that a tax of 0.1%, collected by Central Banks or regulatory authorities, could raise between $50 and $300 billion a year (see www.attac.org). The US has already spent nearly $100 billion on the war in Iraq. It has also spent around $30 billion on "homeland security". Yet, according to the UNDP report, just $80 billion a year would provide universal access to basic social services, give everyone clean water and reduce poverty enough to eliminate malnutrition.

Even though many individual parliaments and parties have broadly supported the Tobin Tax, it has yet to be implemented internationally. In a climate where overseas aid from the rich countries is actually dropping in real terms, there is a danger that this reform becomes its substitute. The problem is that the structural causes of exploitation and poverty remain intact.

Working Class or Multitude as agent of change?

Commentary- Joe Carolan

In Marcos’s rallying call of “We are you”, the worker is not referred to as a striker or exploited, but as unemployed. Motivated by the Zapatistas, many of those attracted by the new autonomism within the Global Justice question the power of workers to fundamentally change society. Most dismiss trade unions as reformist, hierarchical organisations, equating their leadership who believe in Social Partnership between unions, employers and government with an increasingly exploited and dissatisfied rank and file membership. Many activists see socialist preoccupations with the ‘working class’ as Victorian and outdated.

In Italy, the ‘hot summer’ of 1969 deeply radicalised Italian society- by the 1970s it had several sizable revolutionary organisations to the left of the Stalinist CPI. These groups largely imploded when confronted by economic downturn and an inability to relate to the rise of the new movements against sexism, race and homophobia. As unemployment increased and many leading militants were sacked from their jobs,
the autonomia grew out of this milieu, finding a spokesperson in the young Antonio Negri. [54]

Negri, who once only saw the struggle in narrow ‘workerist’ terms (i.e. its only legitimate site was inside the factories) now flipped completely, and rejected western workers as a privileged labour aristocracy, one which benefited from imperialism. Instead, he celebrated the Multitude- all those who were oppressed outside the economic sphere. The unemployed, black people, women, the peasants of the Third world and the gay community were to be the new revolutionary force. The Italian autonomia were later to coalesce around Zapatista solidarity groups such as Ya Basta!, and the squatted ‘Social Centres’ found within many major cities.

This debate is now a central one within the Global Justice movement between most autonomists and socialists. Some of these concerns are raised by the authors of the recently published book Equality- from Theory to Practice, in the section ‘Class Politics and egalitarian change’.

The authors argue that “the social movement model of egalitarian change challenges the Marxist idea that progressive politics should be centred solely on class. But since this idea continues to have a strong influence on egalitarians, it is important to review the main factors that weaken social class as the primary force for political mobilisation.”[55] Briefly summarised, these are that-

(a) The working class itself has changed dramatically,
(b) Large groups of people have little connection to paid work,
(c) There are important divisions within classes,
(d) Many people have ceased to identify themselves as working class,
(e) Being working class is culturally depreciated,

It is true that globally, the working class has changed dramatically- it has gotten a lot bigger. When Marx was writing, the global working class was equivalent in numbers to the workforce of modern South Korea. Today, the vast majority of the world’s population (and poor) are urban workers, be they in London or Berlin, or in the sprawling conurbations of Sao Paola, Jakarta or Lagos. Although there are many millions of people unemployed, underemployed and homeless within these cities, the vast majority of them are exploited in badly paid jobs. In the Global South, activists such as Dita Sari in Indonesia have organised tens of thousands of people into unions, who fight against sweatshop conditions- she was imprisoned for many years by the Suharto regime that she eventually helped to topple by mass strike action.

Within the Global Justice movement, socialists are attempting to create an alliance with oppressed groups and the economic power of the unionised working class. Many of the working class are victims of oppression themselves- they are black, gay, from ethnic or religious minorities that are persecuted by the state. Often accused by some within academia of being solely concerned with class and thus being crude economic reductionists, socialists are active in struggles against homophobia, racism, sexism and bigotry, because they believe these forces are used by neo-liberal governments and capitalism in general to divide the movement. The Russian revolutionary Lenin famously argued that socialists should be ‘tribunes of the oppressed’, that gentile workers had a political imperative to fight against anti-Semitism in order to unite the workers movement.

Unionised workers in the Global South have often been the driving force in toppling dictatorships and neo liberal regimes through mass strikes. COSATU in South Africa organised gigantic “stayaways” against apartheid in the 80s and the neo- liberal polices of the New ANC government in recent times. Korean workers in the KCTU bravely organised massive actions throughout the 80s and early 90s under a military junta that was forced to introduce democratic reforms. In Brasil, workers in the trade union federation similarly led a movement against a military regime- the steelworker who helped unionise them is Lula, now the President of the country.

Although other groups within these societies were oppressed, it was the power of workers to shut down the economy of these regimes that forced them to concede or collapse. Other oppressed groups in these societies, such as the landless peasantry, the unemployed, the ‘precarious’ (those with unstable, part time flexi jobs), the student movement and the indigenous, realised that the economic power of workers to strike was a key weapon against the system that subjugated them. In many countries, they thus formed alliances with workers organisations- for example; the PT (Workers’ Party) in Brasil was historically the ‘party of the movements’.

In the developed world, there is a popular view that class has something to do with lifestyles, income or status. Working class, ‘middle class’ and ruling class people are supposed to have certain accents, different kinds of jobs and housing in separate geographical areas that define their class. Class is often thought of as a culture or an identity, and not a social construct. Nevertheless, subjective approaches that attempt to define class by what people consume, where they live or how they speak focus on how people behave, but not on what created class society in the first place. Judging people by these behavior patterns only focuses on surface appearances and does not explain the underlying social relationships that exist within capitalist society.
Many theorists have attempted to explain the phenomena of class, but Marx’s contribution to social theory was an examination of how modern class society was created, based on the economic processes of exploitation.

In modern times, there has been a debate around who constitutes the working class- traditionally; they have been thought to consist of workers in highly unionised manual industries such as mining, shipbuilding, construction etc. However, the expansion of the service industries in recent years has seen nurses, bank officials and teachers not only unionise but also take strike action to defend conditions in modern Ireland. These workers although “white collar”, still sell their labour for a wage and are considered by modern Marxists to be members of the working class. [56]

Marx defines the working class in his masterwork, Das Kapital, noting that
“This specific form in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of the direct producers determines the relationship of domination and servitude, as this grows directly out of production itself… On this is based the entire configuration of the economic community arising from the actual relations of production and hence also its specific political form.” [57]

Marxists in the movement today argue that the central dynamic of capitalism is based around the exploitation of the majority of people in society, who are compelled by economic necessity to work, by a small ultra-wealthy minority of corporations and capitalists. Wage labour and its resultant surplus value (the unpaid wealth created that the employer keeps as profit) is the base of this system. Those who work to earn a wage from this exploitative minority form the working class. Socialists argue that this gives workers the power to shut down the system through mass, general strikes, which can point the way to a democracy based on grassroots workers councils and a society built on human need.

Parecon, Planning and Programmes

Commentary- Joe Carolan

Within the Marxist tradition, there is much written about the need for a revolutionary transformation of society, but little vision of how an alternative, socialist society would function. Marx himself shied away from subscribing to any fut...ure blueprints for an ideal society- this would be for the people themselves to decide. This has been the central thread of the ‘Life after Capitalism’ debate within the movement, which looks at how both economics and democracy can be participative in a future socialist society.

Capitalist economics is based around a ruthless competition between firms and corporations, who seek to cut costs, maximise profits and exploit workers to dominate the market place. The ‘free market’ is supposedly the best way to distribute goods- according to former Irish Labour leader Pat Rabbitte; it is “one of the most powerful and successful means open to human society to organise its affairs”[58]. However, anger at the injustice of neo-liberal reforms has led a minority to seek out alternatives to the market itself- ‘Supply and Demand’ simplicities cannot justify a system that does not feed the starving if they have not enough money to buy food. Inspired by Marx’s principle “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”, these anti capitalists look instead to an alternative economics based not on ‘the market’, corporations and exploitation, but grassroots democratic control.

“There are various models of a democratically planned economy. Here resources are allocated on the basis of a democratic process that involves horizontal relations among networks of producers and consumers – a radically different form of economic co-ordination from either capitalism (where allocation is the outcome of competition) or a Stalinist command economy (where resources are allocated dictatorially)”. [59]

Michael Albert calls this participative economics or Parecon for short. Albert identifies how in a participative economy, workers and consumers councils would democratically decide how resources were allocated-
“Workers and consumers need a place to express and pursue their preferences. Historically these have been organisations where workers congregate. In workplaces we call them workers councils. Regarding consumption, we call them consumers’ councils. Councils form whenever people rise up to try to take control of their economic lives…it has occurred virtually every time in history, most recently in Argentina. Councils are organs of direct organisation by those working and consuming...” [60]

Albert sees these workers councils as a way of breaking down the artificial divide between formal political rights and liberties and how decisions are made in economic life, and the basis of a new democracy. Workers councils have formed under different names in many revolutionary situations in history- the Soviets in Russia in 1905 and 1917, the Cordones in Chile in 1972 and the Shoras of Iran in 1979. Growing out of strike committees and workplace democracy, they were seen all over Europe after World War One, from Munich to Ireland’s own Limerick Soviet of 1919.

“Councils become the seat of decision-making power and exist at many levels, including individual workers and consumers, subunits such as work groups and work teams, and supra units such as divisions and workplaces and whole industries, as well as neighbourhoods, counties, and whole states… People in councils are the economy’s decision-makers… They are taken at different levels, with fewer or more participants, and different procedures… decision-making input should be in proportion as one is affected by decisions.”

Albert argues that in a Parecon, remuneration will be on the basis of the amount of work done. Allocation of resources and wealth will not be on the basis of private property or power.
“We work. This entitles us to a share of the product of work. But this new vision says that we ought to receive for our labours an amount in tune with how hard we have worked, with how long we have worked, and with what sacrifices we have endured at our work. We shouldn’t get more income by virtue of being more productive due to having better tools, more skills, or greater inborn talent, much less by virtue of having more power or owning more property.”
Parecon is important within the movement because it articulates a complete alternative to the current economic system, but the debate as to how it is to be achieved again touches on the paradox of dual power. Albert argues both against the market and central planning as distributive methods in an egalitarian society. Here he represents the anarchist critique that any centrally planned economic alternative to capitalism will replicate the failed bureaucracies of the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe. He fears the rise of a ‘Co-ordinator class’ of the more educated or those with the more valued jobs, and proposes to prevent its emergence through the use of ‘balanced job complexes’, where everyone is allocated both mundane and creative work equally. [61]

In contrast, socialist writers such as Alex Callinicos defend the idea that we can plan how to use our resources, not just locally, but nationally and globally. In order for workers councils to be able to plan the economy democratically, they must first confront the capitalist system decisively. This will require both national and international co-ordination, a revolution, which will require local units to have a central plan. After such a change, certain problems will require nationwide co-ordination, such as railway lines, and the creation of an ecological, sustainable economy will be an international priority. Local community and workers councils can co-ordinate without a ‘Stalinist’ dictatorship forming, if they are based on the tenets of the Paris Commune of 1871, with every delegate elected by the grassroots, immediately recallable, and gaining no privileges but on the average industrial wage.

An Anti Capitalist Manifesto
In his book ‘An Anti Capitalist Manifesto”, Alex Callinicos briefly outlines a programme which takes the best from the reformist anti-capitalist camp of Bello, George et al and marries it with the demands of the ...grassroots movement in the West.
In what he calls “a transitional programme” (p132-133), he puts forward the following demands around which the movement can unite.

Briefly, summarised, these are-
(a) The immediate cancellation of Third World Debt
(b) The introduction of the Tobin Tax
(c) The Introduction of a Universal Basic Income for all citizens
(d) Reduction of the working week to 30 hours without loss of pay to fight unemployment and ‘flexploitation’.
(e) The defence of public services and renationalisation of privatised industries
(f) Progressive taxation to finance public services and redistribute wealth and income
(g) Abolition of immigration controls and extension of citizenship rights
(h) The defence of civil liberties and the abolition of laws such as the Public Order Act in Ireland and the Patriot Act in the US
(i) The dissolution of the military industrial complex of ‘armed globalisation’.

He also identifies four major principles or values of the modern anti capitalist movement, principles useful to liberal, reformist, autonomist and radical egalitarians alike. They are efficiency, sustainability, democracy and justice. The overproduction of capitalism results in huge crisis whilst millions starve. GNP is conventionally the measure of a nation’s economic well being, yet it cannot measure justice, democracy, sustainability or efficiency.

Callinicos argues that a democratically planned economy would be more efficient than the market because it would produce what people actually wanted- e.g. houses for the homeless. The word must be reclaimed by egalitarians so that a system that squanders billions producing weapons instead of hospitals or has food rot whilst people starve is defined as ‘inefficient’
Similarly, capitalism is not using natural resources in a sustainable way- unless we rapidly change our relationship with the environment, we will deplete many finite resources, and pollute the rest.

The prioritisation of economic growth often ignores costs to society’s environmental and social make up. Increased industrialisation and urbanisation may lead to the ill-planned “Urban Sprawl” effect that we have seen in Ireland, with high house prices finding their reflection in increasing homelessness. Rural depopulation may leave whole villages empty of their youth, and workers may have to spend more time commuting to work every day. People in Modern Ireland now complain of increased stress levels and “time poverty”. Growth can lead to intolerable traffic congestion and urban pollution if there is not proper planning in transport infrastructure, as can be witnessed daily on the streets of Dublin. GNP does not factor in depreciation to “environmental capital”- the “defensive expenditures” spent on cleaning up an oil spill is still recorded as growth. Those pioneering the economics of Sustainability point to the fact that growth always assumes that more output and consumption is better, creating what could be called “Really Gross National Product”.

The GNPs of Nazi Germany and the Stalinist USSR grew phenomenally each year in the 1930s, yet few modern economists would call for a return to such totalitarian tyrannies. Similarly, when examining the effects of modern neo liberal globalisation, we must also examine its record in the fields of justice, human rights and democracy. In many emerging East Asian economies, the widespread use of child labour by Western Multinationals has been exposed and questioned. Many of these economies, such as China, forbid workers to form or join independent trade unions, and there are few formal political rights for citizens. A “nation’s” economic growth without freedom for its labour force to organise or collectively bargain over wages masks the political exploitation of its population by its ruling elites: it also ignores justice and the development of people’s human rights- the position of women and racial minorities, the freedom to express one’s culture, the absence of war, torture or oppression.

This Chinese wall between economics and democracy must be broken by the global justice movement. Debates around ideas such as Parecon extend the idea of democracy outside of archaic 19th century formations such as national parliamentary chambers, posing the demand for participative democracy where we spend most of our lives, in the community and the workplace.