Monday, May 30, 2011

MANA, socialists and the International New Left.

Across the world, Labour parties have embraced the logic of capitalism, war and the market. Alternatively, the movement against the effects of the neoliberal crisis has seen the formation of several New Left parties in many countries- such as Die Linke in Germany, People before Profit in Ireland and the Left Bloc in Portugal.

Nicola Owen, Joe Carolan and Paul Brown look at some of these examples of how the fighting left have arrived in the national stage, and the lessons for socialists who have participated and built these new parties, as we join to build the MANA Movement here in Aotearoa.

More info- txt Joe at 029 44 55 702.

"An Opposition not content to come second place..."

Coalition for Social Justice marches against the Government's Budget.

Meredydd Barrar on the reasons for the upcoming Coalition for Social Justice's march against the Govt's budget proposals on Sat 28 May- HERE

The Battle of Barcelona- #spanishrevolution

27M BCN REVOLUTION from Paco Ruiz on Vimeo.

The real face of Spanish "Democracy"

Spanish Riot cops brutally attack

The Plaza Cataluña is retaken by the people

Saturday, May 21, 2011

No Drilling On the Coast- Apanui march against Petrobas

People take to the streets against deep sea drilling off the East Coast of Aotearoa.
Apanui are the Iwi who will be directly affected when there is a Gulf of Mexico style disaster.
Join the movement here.

From Tahrir to Madrid- Egyptian people support revolution in Spain

A beautiful video of solidarity from the Egyptian revolutionary people to the youth of Spain, defying their failed political class to bring the Arab Spring to Europe. Now being shown to all the camps occupying Spain's major city squares, as the movement spreads to cities in Italy and Portugal-

Peoples of Europe, Rise Up!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our chief weapon is surprise

Protesters still holding Spanish Square

Michael Wallace

Once again, for the fourth night running, thousands of people have gathered in the iconic Puerta del Sol square in central Madrid to protest against high unemployment, austerity cuts and political corruption.
The occupation of the Puerta follows rallies held on Sunday, May 15th, which involved tens of thousands of people, including students and workers, activists and the unemployed, in over 50 cities across the country. Demonstrators are protesting the political establishment’s bailing out of the banking elite, while imposing vicious austerity measures against the Spanish working class.
Echoing the demonstrations and rallies in Tahrir Square, focal point of the Egyptian revolution, protesters have brought mattresses and sleeping bags, while volunteers distributed food. Deriving inspiration from the Egyptian protest movement, who toppled the hated Mubarak dictatorship in February, Spanish protesters have also set up citizen’s committees to handle communications, food, cleaning, protest actions and legal matters.

After initially being dispersed on Monday, the protesters returned again on Tuesday (May 17) and stayed overnight, in spite of enormous police pressure and intimidation.
Despite these oppressive and provocative moves by the Spanish ruling class, the atmosphere in the Puerta del Sol remains peaceful, festive, but determined.
Once again, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have helped mobilise the demonstrators.
However, though social media helps grease the wheels of popular revolt, the causes are chiefly massive unemployment, economic meltdown, ruthless austerity, and growing anger at a political elite that panders to the will of bankers and speculators.

The Spanish jobless rate is the highest in the industrialised world, at 21.3% or roughly 5 million out of work. Many of those taking part in the protests are the unemployed youth. There are now 44.6% under the age of 25 without a job, almost one in every two young people across many regions of the country.
According to a report by Amnesty International, the levels of poverty are also shocking. More than 20% of the population- 9 million people- are below the poverty line. Nearly one third of all households say they now struggle to make ends meet.

On top of this, the programs of austerity rammed through by the govt have been particularly savage. In May 2010, a 15 billion package of cuts was forced through parliament, as demanded by the markets and the EU. These included pay cuts for public sector workers totalling 6 billion Euro, cuts in welfare and a pension freeze for 2011.
Another austerity budget in December announced a further 24% in cuts to public spending. To make matters worse, inflation has now risen to a three year high, heaping extra misery on an increasingly angry populace.

For the past few years, through constant attacks on workers and a drastic economic climate, most protests were organised by the major trade union leaderships. However, failure to halt the cuts and bank bailouts has highlighted their weakness, leading many to become angry and frustrated. As a result, the new protest movement behind the rallies, known collectively as “May 15th”, is essentially grass roots, with no visible leaders, trade union or political party involvement. With slogans such as “the guilty ones should pay for the crisis”, and chants like “they call this a democracy but its not”, the movement have struck a chord amongst a population seething with frustration and anger. Spearheading the movement are the Real Democracy Now platform.

The protests are occurring amidst local and regional election campaigns. This led to an attempt by the Madrid Electoral Board to push through a ban on the protests, to be reinforced by the riot squad. However, just as the revolutionaries in Egypt defied curfews imposed by the regime, so the Spanish demonstrators seemed to have ignored this ban. One hour after it was supposed to take effect, the protesters remained in the Square, and the police took no action, as of yet.
The ban has also been defied in the southern cities of Grenada and Seville. Protests have also been held simultaneously in Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza and Palma de Majorca.

The elections themselves will be contested within the extraordinary narrow confines of Spain’s rigid, virtual 2 party political system. Both the governing Socialist Party under PM Zapatero, and the Popular Party, a right wing remnant from the Franco era, are enthusiastic supporters of neo liberal capitalist ideology.
This ideology includes bailing out the Spanish and European banking elite by forcing ordinary Spanish working people to pay for private financial gambling debt.
Little wonder that the “May 15th” movement is demanding a voting boycott against the major political parties next Sunday.

Fear is now spreading through the European ruling class that the 4th largest economy in the eurozone may collapse under the weight of govt and banking debt. Spanish debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to reach 88% by 2013! Having initially set aside 9 billion euro to bail out the their banking sector, the Spanish Ministry of Economy has now approved up to 99 billion in potential bailout funds! However, the problem is that there are an estimated 165 billion euro in toxic loans in the banks. A bailout for Spain would be unthinkable for the EU as it is twice the size of the economies of Greece, Portugal and Ireland combined, and would almost certainly lead to the collapse of the neo liberal “Euro Project”.

Is the Arab Spring turning into a European Summer?

As with all great social revolutions this movement is grass roots, without leaders, and completely spontaneous.
The year 2011 is truly the year of popular revolution, spreading first from country to country, across the Arab world, and now from continent to continent, across the Straits of Gibraltar, and into Europe.
The global capitalist ruling elite are frightened- the tyranny of the market and its obedient supporters in the political establishments have pushed the global working classes beyond endurance and into outright revolt.
Workers, students, the unemployed, young or old, men and women, regardless of colour or religion, are rising up and fighting back.
From North Africa and the Middle East to Europe, global capitalism is now being met for the first time with global resistance.
The great battle of our time has begun.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Aotearoa/New Zealand: A new working-class, pro-Maori political voice

MANA- 1.
(noun) prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power, charisma.
May 11, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Mike Treen is national director of the Unite Union in Aotearoa/New Zealand and a member of the newly formed Mana Party. Socialist Aotearoa’s Joe Carolan interviewed him on the significance of the foundation of this new left-wing party.
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Joe Carolan: Mike, can you tell us a little about the formation and programme of the new Mana Party?
Mike Treen: The formation of the Mana Party is a major step forward for a genuine working-class political voice in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
The founding conference was held on April 29 with more than 500 people answering the call issued only a couple of weeks before by Hone Harawira, the elected MP for Te Tai Tokerau – a Maori electorate that covers the top third of the North Island, starting in the north and west of Auckland.
Hone Harawira had been elected as a representative of the Maori Party in 2005. At the Mana Party conference he announced he was resigning his seat in parliament and standing again in the resulting by-election to seek a new mandate as leader of a new movement in New Zealand politics.
Some extracts from a letter to a trade unionist just prior to the conference give some flavour to the sort of program the party will develop in the coming months.
The party and I will be pro-worker. I am fortunate having several trade unionists taking leadership roles up to assist the new party and who have offered to contribute to its policy.
• Mana will be anti neo-liberal, against monopoly capitalism and against privatisation of the people’s assets. Utilities such as water, power, roads etc. should be in the hands of the people rather than a guaranteed money making venture for corporations
• Our strategy on taxes will be targeted at wealth such as capital gains taxes, death duties, and asset taxes. We will want to abolish GST with sometime like a financial transaction tax (we’d like to call it the Hone Heke Tax). The rich need to pay their fair share.
• We should nationalise monopolies and duopolies.
• New Zealand needs a planned economy that makes job creation its main emphasis rather than leave it to the non-existent free market.
Have no doubt we will be a staunch party that puts people – Maori and non-Maori – before the needs of the already rich. --
What other specific pro-working-class policies will Mana campaign for?
In his speech to the conference, Harawira explained that the new party would “put an end to economic policies that drive people into poverty, and then penalise them for being poor.” He continued:
I want us to put an end to the billion dollar bailout of failed finance companies.
I want us to recall the $36 million being wasted on that yacht race in San Francisco and spend it instead on emergency heating in the poorer suburbs of Christchurch that government forgot.
I want us to put a halt to the sale of New Zealand’s assets because the immediate cash return will never compensate for the loss of economic opportunity once those assets are gone.
I want us to guarantee affordable food and shelter for all NZers.
I want us to take water, power and housing out of the hands of profit-driven corporations and put them back into the hands of the people.
I want every Kiwi to get a decent day’s wage for a decent day’s work.
I want us to overturn National [Party]’s 90-day Slave Bill.
I want us to support the rebuilding of a strong union base to give workers back the rights they’ve lost over the last 20 years.
I want us to oppose the current tax regime that penalises the poor and advantages the rich.
And I want us to launch the HONE HEKE TAX where every dollar spent is taxed at just 1%, which means poor people don’t pay much because they don’t have much to spend, and rich people pay more because they spend a lot more.
The HONE HEKE TAX will mean we can chop down the GST on essential services, immediately reducing the cost of food, electricity, petrol and housing, and enabling ordinary Kiwis to start rebuilding their lives.
But most importantly I want us to be a movement to rebuild the MANA of our people.
MANA tamariki, MANA wahine, MANA tangata, and the MANA of our kaumatua and kuia. The MANA of beneficiaries who are treated like a blight on society. The MANA of workers who have been reduced to near slavery. The MANA of our Pacific cousins who continue to be used as cheap labour and exported home every season, and the MANA of our people, worn down by decades of deceit and dishonest dealings by the Crown, and governments who would reduce us to being no more than another ethnic minority, in our own land.
And that is our greatest challenge – the restoration of MANA in a way that lifts every heart, and every soul, and challenges us to accept that only the best will do for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren …
E te iwi – I am grateful and I am humbled by the support that I have felt from all across the country, and I am grateful to all those who have offered their help to build a movement that can change this nation … --
What other forces and leaders are joining Hone in the new party?
On the stage with Hone to express their solidarity and support were some of the most well-known names from the left, union, Maori rights and social justice movements. They included Annette Sykes (Ngati Pikiao, lawyer and activist), Matt McCarten (general secretary of Unite Union), John Minto (leader of the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s and spokesperson for Global Peace and Justice Auckland), Sue Bradford (unemployed workers rights leader in the 1980s and 1990s and former Green Party MP), Syd Keepa (Maori vice-president of the Council of Trade Unions), Nandor Tanczos (former Green MP), Margaret Mutu (Ngāti Kahu’s chief negotiator, the chairperson of Te Rūnanga-a-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu and the professor of Māori Studies at Auckland University). Most groups that describe themselves as socialist, such as Socialist Aotearoa, the Workers Party, Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Organisation, have also generally greeted the emergence of this new party positively.
What are the intersections between the struggles of Maori and the working class in New Zealand?
The Mana Party emerged from the long struggle by Maori to protect their social, political and economic rights in this country. This includes their right to separate representation in parliament. This struggle began as a resistance to colonial rule and the expropriation of their land last century, which was accompanied by the imposition of second-class status and attempted destruction of their language and culture. The process was intertwined with the growth of a capitalist economy and the super-exploitation of Maori workers, who were denied equal pay and access to the minimal welfare services that existed. From the very first, Maori have also been part of working-class resistance to this exploitation. The first recorded strike was by Maori in the Bay of Islands because they wanted to be paid “for their labour in money as was the case in England, or else in gunpowder”, according to Bert Roth, labour historian.
Maori formed an alliance with the early Labour Party in the 1920s that kept the Maori seats in Labour’s hands almost uninterruptedly since that time. The struggle for equal rights for Maori has been intertwined with the trade union movement as well. Maori became overwhelmingly working-class people and formed the backbone of many union struggles. The union movement in turn supported important Maori struggles like that of Ngati Whatua in Auckland for the return of their land in the mid-1970s. A “green ban” on a development site by unions helped block the sale of land to private developers and win its eventual return to Ngati Whatua. The retreat of the labour movement and union struggles over the last two decades has seen a weakening of that bond. But Maori struggles have continued and it is not surprising that Maori are taking the lead in a broader working-class political break with the pro-capitalist policies that have seen so much damage done to working people.
Have there been other parties that have tried to represent this struggle before?
Following the destructive economic and social policies of the 1984-90 Labour government Maori and the broader left tried to establish an independent voice in parliament. The New Labour Party was founded and then the Alliance through a coalition of New Labour, the Greens and Mana Motuhake. Mana Motuhake leaders Sandra lee and Willie Jackson were elected to parliament as Alliance candidates. But Labour lost control of the Maori seats in the 1996 election to the NZ First Party, which had a Maori leader but conservative populist policies.
When NZ First went into coalition with the National Party and supported its anti-working-class policies Labour was able to regain control in the 1999 election. The Alliance Party was destroyed following the 1999 election when the party went into coalition government with Labour and then split over the sending of troops to Afghanistan. The majority of the Alliance MPs abandoned any pretence of principle to preserve their comfortable position in the government and the ministerial responsibilities, salaries and privileges that went with it.
Mana Motuhake’s two MPs were on opposite sides of the debate. Neither Alliance or Mana Motuhake were able to survive the debilitating split except as shadows of their former selves. The Alliance went from 10 seats with 8% of the vote in 1999 to none and only 1.3% in 2002. The former Alliance leader Jim Anderton retained his constituency seat and remained for a period as leader of the Progressive Party before finally being completely absorbed by the Labour Party last year.
One by-product of the Alliance implosion was the emergence of a militant new union organising drive by the Unite Union. Some of the leaders of the Alliance left, including the former Alliance Party president Matt McCarten, decided that one lesson that needed to be drawn from the Alliance debacle was that, for the left to be taken seriously, it needed to be able to prove in practice that it was relevant to the real needs and concerns of working people.
Do you think the Unite Union has helped to bring forces of the new left together?
Although I have a natural bias in this regard, I think it is a fact that Unite has demonstrated a unique ability to combine creative and effective organising of workers in the most difficult to organise industries, with a campaigning style that means it is able to play an important political role articulating working-class concerns.
One example of this was the very effective campaign to lift the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which combines industrial organising and action, public protests and a mass petition drive that got 200,000 signatures. Unite has grown to 8000 financial members and won collective agreements in the previously deunionised areas like fast food, call centres, hotels and security. In the process some of the best activists on the left – at least those who took working-class politics seriously – have been able to work together in ways that hadn’t been possible before in the factional soup that had been radical left politics. Unite leaders like Matt McCarten have also had an orientation towards forming a genuinely left working-class political movement when the time was right that was able to learn the lessons of the failed Alliance experience, including the need to combine parliamentary politics and the struggle on the streets.
What were the origins of the Maori Party, and what led to Hone’s split with it?
The 1999-2005 Labour-led government again betrayed Maori by dropping any pretence of honouring its promise to “close the gaps” in New Zealand society and legislating to overturn a legal decision that opened up the possibility that Maori could win recognition of their ancestral rights to the foreshore and seabed. This decision led to a massive mobilisation of Maori and subsequent split by a Maori government minister Tariana Turia to form the Maori Party in 2004. She won a subsequent by-election for her seat and then the Maori Party won four of the seven Maori seats in the 2005 general election and five of the seven in the 2008 election.
The Maori Party was seen as a unified voice for all Maori. Very soon it was faced with the reality of the growth of class differentiation within Maori over recent decades. The Maori Party was quickly faced with the choice of representing the majority of Maori, who remain severely disadvantaged in all areas of life, or the aspirations of an openly pro-capitalist layer who have take advantage of the doors that were forced open by earlier generations of struggle against discrimination.
When I first went to university in the early 1970s there were almost no Maori professionals, let alone outright capitalist owners. There has been a major increase in opportunities for young Maori to become doctors, lawyers, academics, accountants, real estate agents and the like. This went alongside a conscious attempt by both Labour Party and National Party governments to incorporate these layers into a new pro-capitalist elite within traditional Maori society.
Settlement of Treaty of Waitangi claims that involved some very modest compensation to Maori tribes for past dispossession was delivered in a way that imposed a corporate structure on Maori and encouraged the development of a privileged elite willing to ape the self-seeking upper class in the broader capitalist society. Urban Maori were also largely excluded from the process, with resources primarily funnelled to traditional rural tribal authorities rather than pan-Maori structures that had formed in some major cities.
While the 1980s and 1990s saw doors for some Maori being pushed open, most Maori were the victims of an economic and social depression as a result of the ruling-class offensive against workers’ rights and living standards. Official Maori unemployment hit more than 25% in the early 1990s. Whole working-class communities in the main centres, as well as many small towns, across the country were destroyed in this period. Poverty and unemployment became endemic and even the decade-long period of economic expansion starting in the mid-1990s failed to bring unemployment back much below 10% for Maori and is now back to more than 15%. The official unemployment rates for Maori were usually about two and a half times that of the whole community.
The corrosive political results of this process were reflected in the capture of the Maori Party leadership by the newly elected National Party government after the 2009 election. In this process there was an active involvement of a self-appointed “Iwi Leaders Group”, which came from the tribally controlled business arms that became the body the Maori Party consulted for “advice”. Official Maori Party policy was ditched in favour of largely cosmetic changes that posed no challenge to wealth and privilege. This process is described in a wonderful speech called “The Politics of the Brown Table” by Annette Sykes, who is one of the driving forces behind the new Mana Party (see
Annette Sykes is a Maori lawyer from the solid working-class mill town of Kawerau on the central North Island. She has been a leader in advocating for her community over the last few decades and is currently a defence lawyer for the activists charged with arms offences after frame-up terror raids in October 2007. She has never joined a political party before.
The split in the Maori Party came into the open when Hone tried to discuss the wisdom of forming a coalition with the National Party. A column in the Sunday Star Times in January questioned “having to put up with all the anti-worker, anti-beneficiary and anti-environment (and therefore anti-Maori) legislation that comes as a natural consequence of having a right-wing government” (see “Crunch time for Maori grumbles Hone Harawira”, at
This provoked a furious reaction from the Maori Party leadership, which moved to at first silence and when that failed to expel Hone from the Maori Party. The mass media and most liberal left bloggers dismissed beforehand any possibility of Hone being able to form new party that could unite the left. The launch of the Mana Party and the decision to force a by-election has also had a huge media impact. Again the mass media editorials and some liberal bloggers have been warning us that Hone’s uncompromising and militant approach will fail. Labour Party leader Phil Goff declared the Mana Party wouldn’t be welcome in the (unlikely) event he was to lead a government.
The growing political polarisation in New Zealand has also seen movement on the hard right?
Coincidentally former National Party leader Don Brash launched a takeover bid for the right-wing Act Party that succeeded the same weekend as the Mana Party founding. We had the extraordinary sight of someone who was not even a member of Act demanding and getting the leadership of the party. The former Act leader, Rodney Hide, was told he wasn’t even wanted as a candidate at the next election.
Brash had similarly been parachuted into the leadership of the National Party by group of big business backers prior to the 2005 election. He ran an election campaign appealing to racist sentiments and came within a few percentage votes of winning. He subsequently resigned as leader and from parliament after a book was published based on his leaked emails that exposed the hypocrisy, double dealing and outright lies told during the election.
Don Brash is again trying to using the race card and is campaigning against Maori having “more rights” than other New Zealanders, in favour of abolishing the separate Maori seats in parliament, ending legal recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi, eliminating any special funding targeting Maori inequality and for “one law for all”. Both new party leaders were on a special television debate watched by hundreds of thousands where Hone challenged Brash and his anti-working class and racist policies.
Can the Mana Party become a strong new left wing force in Aotearoa?
An online poll in the NZ Herald of 30,000 readers had 8% saying they would vote for the Mana Party. What was interesting about the poll was that the 8% stayed steady all day and there was no online campaign among Mana Party supporters to go and vote. If only half that level of support shows up in the national election the new movement will have five or six MPs.
The formation of the Mana Party is an exciting opportunity to change in the character of political life in this country. For the first time a political leader is talking about the reality of life for the big majority who are struggling to cope with being able to provide proper food, shelter and health care for their families. For the first time someone is talking about inequality being an issue that needs to be challenged. For the first time someone is talking about the working class and its role in transforming society. For the first time someone is talking about nationalising industries vital to peoples welfare and the need for the economy to be subject to an economic plan determined by the needs of the majority. For the first time in decades a serious left political movement is rising from the heartland of the working class.
The challenge is for those on the left who recognise the need for a radical movement to challenge and ultimately overthrow this system of oppression and exploitation is to recognise the new reality and step up to the plate without preconditions.

Monday, May 02, 2011

How the other 1% live The super-rich 1 percent

The wealth of the super-rich has grown astronomically for the last three decades. But that doesn't mean the rich are without their own troubles, writes Eric Ruder.

The winner take all economy (Eric Ruder | SW)

THROUGHOUT HISTORY, the persecution of minorities has haunted the "world's greatest democracy." But today, while many forms of discrimination have been put behind us in the U.S., fear and anxiety stalks one of America's last despised minorities--the top 1 percent.

The conditions of their torment are poorly understood by the rest of us, especially the 60 percent of workers who report that they scrape by paycheck to paycheck. As a consequence, the 1 percenters endure their suffering in private, further increasing their sense of social isolation and feelings of self-pity.

But thanks to the work of researchers at Boston College's Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, we have been afforded a peek into the psyche of this fragile group--Americans with fortunes worth at least $25 million.

"Sometimes I think that the only people in this country who worry more about money than the poor are the very wealthy," explains Robert Kenny, a psychologist who helped devise the survey. "They worry about losing it, they worry about how it's invested, they worry about the effect it's going to have. And as the zeroes increase, the dilemmas get bigger."

Those dilemmas are often painful--can we really afford that $3 million yacht? How is the housing crisis affecting the property value of our vacation home in Aspen, Colo.? And how does that compare to the mansion in Palm Springs or the villa in St. Tropez?

In fact, the survey reveals that almost all the respondents are preoccupied with the inadequacy of their vast fortunes. "Most of them still do not consider themselves financially secure," writes the Atlantic's Graeme Wood in "Secret Fears of the Super-Rich." "For that, they say, they would require on average one-quarter more wealth than they currently possess."

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WELCOME TO the delusional world of the super-rich--where too much is never enough, and enough is more wealth than any individual in the history of the world has ever possessed.

Roughly 115,000 households in the U.S. contend with the psychological strain of possessing a $25 million treasure chest. The challenges are obviously daunting, but few realize that the super-rich can't even enjoy the simple pleasures that the rest of us occasionally take comfort in. As Wood explains:

A vast body of psychological evidence shows that the pleasures of consumption wear off through time and depend heavily on one's frame of reference. Most of us, for instance, occasionally spoil ourselves with outbursts of deliberate and perhaps excessive consumption: a fancy spa treatment, dinner at an expensive restaurant, a shopping spree. In the case of the very wealthy, such forms of consumption can become so commonplace as to lose all psychological benefit: constant luxury is, in a sense, no luxury at all.

On the other hand, those who can't afford even occasional "excessive consumption" at a luxury spa or expensive restaurant--such as the people who work at such spas and restaurants--at least enjoy the psychological benefit of providing high quality services, even if many patrons are ungrateful due to "luxury fatigue syndrome."

For trust-fund babies, the hardships are even more excruciating, Wood reports:

These inheritors sometimes display the stereotypical arrogance of privilege--the fast cars and wanton lifestyles--but the more introspective among them contend with worries that they'll lack the motivation to accomplish anything in life or to escape the shadows of their parents. This self-doubt is magnified by the knowledge that they're unlikely to find sympathy from anyone other than their fellow inheritors.

The absurdity of studying the psychological pain of the most powerful and pampered people on the planet might be more amusing if the top 1 percent didn't genuinely believe their own personal stories of turmoil--and if the bulk of the political establishment didn't share the same outlook.

According to the mantra of political leaders in both parties, lower taxes on the super-rich are good for all of us. The assumption is that the rich create jobs for the rest of us, they bravely bear the risks of investing in these fragile economic times, and their oh-so-generous philanthropy helps the less privileged.

Of course, the truth is that the 1 percenters have trillions stashed away in offshore tax havens that do nothing to create jobs, that governments bailouts insulate the super-rich from the bearing the brunt of the Great Recession, and that statistics show working people contribute a larger portion of their incomes to charity.

The idea that the super-rich should pay more taxes infuriates the wealthy and their apologists. An April 18 editorial in the Wall Street Journal ridiculed the idea that taxing the rich would make a dent in the nation's troubled finances, asserting the "fiscal futility of raising rates on the top 2 percent, or even the top 5 percent or 10 percent, of taxpayers to close the deficit"--even if the tax rate were 100 percent.

The next day, Columbia University economics professor Jeffrey Sachs ripped the editorial apart:

The top 10 percent reported $3,856 billion in [adjusted gross income], equal to 46 percent of total reported income in the United States, almost 27 percent of GDP. On that, they paid $721 billion in personal federal income taxes, or an average of 18.7 percent of income. If the remaining 81 percent of income were paid in federal income taxes, the increment in tax revenues would be more than $3.1 trillion, or roughly 21 percent of GDP. The budget deficit would obviously be closed many times over.

The real point is obvious. The money received by the richest households is vast, and higher taxes on the rich will make a major contribution to closing the deficit.

Taxing the rich not only makes financial sense, it's also what the majority of people living in the "world's greatest democracy" want to do. Nearly three-quarters of Americans support raising taxes on those with incomes of more than $250,000 a year, according to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll from mid-April.

So what's the hold up? In the May 2011 issue of Vanity Fair, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz provides a simple and compelling explanation: The top 1 percent themselves:

Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent...

It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.

Nevertheless, politicians across the political spectrum perpetrate the myth that the rich pay a disproportionate share of taxes in the U.S.

According to tax expert David Cay Johnston, "It's true that the top 1 percent of wage earners paid 38 percent of the federal income taxes in 2008 (the most recent year for which data is available). But people forget that the income tax is less than half of federal taxes and only one-fifth of taxes at all levels of government." Once payroll taxes and other federal taxes are taken into account, the burden shifts disproportionately to workers and the poor.

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FOR THE last 30 years, income and wealth for the super-rich have grown astronomically, while living standards for the bottom 90 percent stagnated or declined. As Johnston explains:

Since 1980, when Reagan won the presidency promising prosperity through tax cuts, the average income of the vast majority--the bottom 90 percent of Americans--has increased a meager $303, or 1 percent. Put another way, for each dollar people in the vast majority made in 1980, in 2008, their income was up to $1.01.

Those at the top did better. The top 1 percent's average income more than doubled to $1.1 million...The really rich, the top one-tenth of 1 percent, each enjoyed almost $4 in 2008 for each dollar in 1980. The top 300,000 Americans now enjoy almost as much income as the bottom 150 million.

Large numbers of Americans have seen their home values and retirement funds take a nosedive in the last couple years because of the economic crisis. But members of the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans appear to be holding their own. In 2010, their combined net worth rose to an estimated $1.37 trillion, up 8 percent from 2009.

The number of billionaires and millionaires in the U.S. continues to grow--and that's feeding a global luxury industry dedicated to catering to the "needs" of the obscenely wealthy.

For example, whether you're a billionaire in San Francisco, Istanbul, the United Arab Emirates or Rome, you should be able to find one of a growing number of $25,000-a-night hotel rooms.

That may sound expensive, but remember what the experts tell us about the 1 percenters' diminishing capacity to enjoy the pleasures of consumption. And truthfully, $25,000 a night isn't even that much. A billionaire could stay in one of those hotel rooms every night for the next 100 years and still have money in the bank.

But now, let's imagine what we could do with this wealth to meet the pressing needs of humanity--here and around the world. We can even leave 10 percent of it to the Forbes 400, meaning they'll have to figure out how to get by with only $340 million each:

-- The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria needs a mere $13 billion to fully fund existing programs to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa.

-- In 2008, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that $30 billion would be needed to give 862 million hungry people around the world enough to eat. Since eating is important, let's dedicate $60 billion.

-- We can set aside another $100 billion for other global epidemics, emergencies and scourges. The first $14 billion could be used to rebuild Haiti in the wake of last year's devastating earthquake.

-- In the U.S., we could eliminate the need for painful budget cuts that all state politicians--from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to California Gov. Jerry Brown--are demanding by setting aside $142 billion to plug the combined budget gap for all 50 states.

-- Another $120 billion could finance a federal jobs initiative that would create 3 million jobs in education, health care and other community services. This would both address the double-digit unemployment crisis as well as provide badly needed services to kids in need of child care and education and the elderly in need of in-home health care.

-- About $120 billion would provide health care to the roughly 50 million Americans without health insurance; $36 billion would rebuild the nation's 33,000 crumbling schools; $138 billion would provide 1 million affordable housing units; $74 billion would provide four-year scholarships to 3 million college students; $5 billion would double spending on federal assistance for the poor and elderly who can't afford to pay for heat.

-- And with the remaining $422 billion, we could give a $6,000 bonus to every American worker making less than the median income--roughly 70 million people.

Now remember that these suggestions would redistribute 90 percent of the wealth of the richest 400 Americans. The wealth of the top 1 percent is 10 times greater than this, so multiply all these numbers by 10--or find dozens more productive ways to spend the money.

If you're tired after trying to find ways to spend that much money, perhaps you should check in to one of those $25,000-a-night hotel rooms to unwind.

MayDay 2011: Report from a high school alternative ideology club

An abridged report from a 16 year old socialist in an east Auckland high school

It is a difficult task, to get adolescents interested in their working rights. Although we continue to train the new generation of workers in their worth, to not simply accept it as normality when their working rights are ripped out from underneath them before they have even started working.

However having said this, the Alternative Ideology Club did not simply appear out of nothing. It is the product of the better part of three long years of attempting to establish a dissident club at a high school.

Originating from three founding members and our interest in forming a left organisation in our east Auckland high school, to assist the future working class and raise awareness about the absolutely criminal system known as capitalism. However we ran into problems when the school's deputy principal denied our right to organise it.

Undeterred we appealed on the grounds that why were muslims allowed a club in the school and socialists aren't. He relented and with the help of our Year 11 english teacher, who agreed to be our staff mediator, we held our first meeting in March. It was a great success as we recieved a lot of new members, a lot of attention and have even managed to get people thinking!
- George, SA Auckland

MayDay 2011: Get organised and fight for your rights!

Speech by Lisa Stoneham to Wellington May Day march 2011.

My name is Lisa Stoneham. I am 25, a mother of one, Unite Union delegate and a part time worker at McDonalds. While day to day life can be a bit of a struggle, and I have my ups and downs, I have learnt heaps, have met lots of awesome, supportive people whom I may not have met otherwise. All of because of some not so desirable experiences I have had over the past couple of years. These experiences have opened up my eyes to what is actually happening to the workers of this country.

2009 was the year that opened my eyes. This is the year I last worked fulltime. I got 2 fulltime jobs this year. The first one however, was planning to open a new store and so was taking on lots of new employees. I was so excited due to having a job and getting off the benefit. And all was great, the new store opened, I tried to be a good employee, stayed on longer if they were understaffed, I would work shifts on my day off, and despite the type of job it was I was actually happy. Regardless of it being the first job I had ever started on minimum wage. I thought things were going well until my hours started getting cut down. I am not sure if business had started to go down and the hype of the new store had died off or if I had done something wrong. After a couple of weeks of my hours not being what they should have been, I mentioned to the store manager I was not getting enough hours, and that I was struggling to pay my rent. The store manager never had anything to say and this went on for several weeks. I then spoke to the manager above her. All he told me was that the hours weren’t there and that I was only getting an average of 29 hours a week anyway. My hours still did not improve; I didn’t even get 29 hours a week. The end result of this was that I ended up homeless with my 2 year old daughter.

The only thing I really regret was not calling the union earlier. I had joined the union not long after I started, and it was only after I called the union organizer that my hours finally improved. When I joined the union, I didn’t really know too much about them or what they were actually there for. All I knew was that it is good to be a member.

But after the homelessness experience, which was the worst parenting moment I have had, I started my job hunt for another job. Much to my delight, it didn’t really take me too long; I found one, telemarketing for HRV Wellington. While I had never worked in a call centre of any kind before, I found trying something new exciting. The people there were awesome to work with, really supportive and encouraging but on my 11th day there; I was told I no longer had a job. They gave me my weeks notice, firing me. I asked them why, they said it was illegal for them to tell me and to apply in writing if I want to know. After talking to the Unite Union organizer, I applied in writing. I still have not heard as to why I lost my job.

I have had a few jobs in my time, none of which I have ever been fired from. The hardest thing about being fired this time was that I didn’t know why or what I had to do to improve to be a better worker. I know I am not the only one that has been through this. A good friend of mine has also been fired under the 90 day trial law. She was hired at a restaurant. She has had quite abit of restaurant/hospitality experience so knew a few things but still had a lot to learn. She thought she was doing really well. No one gave her any reason to think otherwise. She had been there for a couple of weeks when on one particular shift they were understaffed. It was her job to waitress all of the tables, there were approx 20 of them which held 5-6 people per table. She also had to help with the drinks as well. She did well to begin with but due to the workload which is lots for a highly experienced person let alone someone not so experienced, she started to fall behind and wasn’t able to keep up with everything that needed doing. The boss of the restaurant screamed at her, in front of the customers, apart from being unprofessional and belittling, it made her cry and then he told her to get out and not go back. Her position was then filled immediately by a good friend of the boss.

So while I do not object to trial periods for new employees. I strongly object to this one and I object to the legalization of unfair dismissal. This particular trial period does not give a real chance to new employees. How can it when people are being fired without reason? If this was giving people a chance, they would be getting told ways in which to improve to be better at their jobs.

This is just causing casualization of the workforce in a time when we need permanent, secure employment. How many people actually believe 20% of the workforce are crap employees? As for the people at the top, they may claim 100 people have been hired under this law that may not have been hired. However they won’t say how many have since been fired and fired without being provided with a reason.

As for giving employers confidence to hire someone new in this current economic climate, this is pretty much saying, sure hire someone but if you change your mind then fire them, its all good. Who cares about the workers and their families? The unions do. It is the unions business to put the worker first, while they do have there limitations, they do what they can and unlike businesses they are there to help people, not make as much profit as possible regardless of how many people get run into the ground during the process. Businesses either have the work and the money to hire someone or they don’t, it is actually that simple. And it isn’t as hard as they want you to believe to spot a bad worker.

Is there anyone who actually supports this law that would be happy to walk into work tomorrow and get fired without being provided a reason? No one I have asked has answered with a ‘yes’ so why should anyone else have to worry about it?

And since this law came in back in March 2009, unemployment hasn’t gone down. It has gone up, so this law isn’t working in the ways they want you to believe.

As for another new law that came into effect on April 1st this year, Unions needing an employers permission to enter a worksite. Basically if you need urgent help, you have to wait for your employer to give permission to your union organizer to enter the worksite. How many workers do you know of that has to ask an employer, that is not their own, if they can do the work they were employed to do? This is just ridiculous and pointless.

Freedom of association is an internationally recognized human right – when an employer denies a worker access to his or her union, the employer is taking a basic right out of the hands of the worker.

And while the law states that employers cannot reasonably withhold consent, not every employer will follow this and will unnecessarily waste a lot of people’s time. I just can’t see the reason behind this law to begin with.

So while I have had a few people tell me I should just keep quiet about my experiences and not speak up. I will not be quietened that easily, if I can educate one person from my experiences and hopefully somehow stop them from going through what I have been through then I am happy and speaking up has been worth it.

It is time for people to join together and get organized. While unions are extremely helpful, they can’t do everything by themselves. Only 20% of the worksites are unionized, think of the difference it would make if this number was higher. We would be fighting for better rights, not fighting to keep the ones that were won for us many years ago. Power to the people!

Lisa Stoneham, SA Wellington

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Emmanuel Goldstein is DEAD!!! Obama Declares Victory in the War against East Asia!!

Emmanuel Goldstein is DEAD!!!
Obama Declares Victory in the War against East Asia!!

"Urewera 18" to get fines? Time to drop the charges

"On the eve of the appeal to the Supreme Court on the admissibility of police evidence in the 'Urewera 18' case, Wikileaks have released a cable which says the New Zealand Police told the US Embassy in Wellington that they expected those accused would only get a fine rather than jail time should they be convicted," said Global Peace and Justice Auckland spokesperson Mike Treen.

"We can be sure that if the US Embassy received this information it was from either then Police minister Annette King or Police Commissioner Howard Broad. It is clear that the government and police have known for years that the whole case of 'Operation 8' is a beat up, and yet, for nearly four years the crown has thrown millions and millions of dollars into this prosecution," said Mike Treen

"It is absolutely ridiculous that the police are telling the US embassy that convictions will result in fines while clogging up the Auckland High Court for three months and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.

"The cops have misled the courts that this is a serious trial and that the laying of additional organised criminal gang charges against Tame Iti and 5 of the 18 co-accused make the case too confusing for a jury trial. At most this is a simple firearms trial that the police have hyped up in order to justify their brutal and terrifying raid on Ruatoki on October 15th 2007. New Zealanders should be asking why the cops are wasting millions of dollars prosecuting political activists and used the Terrorism Suppression Act to secure up to only $5000 fines.

"It is time for the cops to drop the charges and bring the ridiculous and shambolic 'Operation 8' to an end," concluded Mr. Treen.

Wikileak cable: HERE

Hone's speech to the launch of MANA


Speech to the launch of MANA

Hone Harawira, Te Reo Motuhake o Te Tai Tokerau

Saturday 30 April 2011

Let today be the day that we reject the politics of fear, because I know that if we are united, then there is nothing that we have to fear, and nothing that we can’t achieve

Let today be the day that we reject the politics of compromise, because we deserve better than the weak and accommodating representation in parliament that we walk away from today

And let today be the day that we set ourselves the challenge:

§ of setting clear goals

§ of acting with integrity and courage in all that we do

§ and most importantly, of coming back to the people regularly to seek your guidance for our actions, and your support for our plans

§ We will honour the sovereignty our tupuna signed up to in 1835 when they signed Te Whakaputanga and affirmed in Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840, and the rights of all New Zealanders that derive from the Treaty, including the right of Maori representation at all levels of government

§ We will do our best to keep Te Reo Maori in the hands of the people, and away from government control and government bureaucracy

§ I want us to put people and papatuanuku first

§ I want us to put an end to economic policies that drive people into poverty, and then penalise them for being poor

§ I want us to put an end to the billion dollar bailout of failed finance companies

§ I want us to recall the $36 million being wasted on that yacht race in San Francisco and spend it instead on emergency heating in the poorer suburbs of Christchurch that government forgot

§ I want us to put a halt to the sale of New Zealand’s assets because the immediate cash return will never compensate for the loss of economic opportunity once those assets are gone

§ I want us to guarantee affordable food and shelter for all NZers

§ I want us to take water, power and housing out of the hands of profit driven corporations and put them back into the hands of the people

§ I want every Kiwi to get a decent days wage for a decent days work

§ I want us to overturn National’s 90-day Slave Bill

§ And I want us to support the rebuilding of a strong union base to give workers back the rights they’ve lost over the last 20 years

§ And I want us to oppose the current tax regime that penalises the poor and advantages the rich

§ And I want us to launch the HONE HEKE TAX where every dollar spent is taxed at just 1%, which means poor people don’t pay much because they don’t have much to spend, and rich people pay more because they spend a lot more.

§ The HONE HEKE TAX will mean we can chop down the GST on essential services, immediately reducing the cost of food, electricity, petrol and housing, and enabling ordinary Kiwis to start rebuilding their lives


§ But most importantly I want us to be a movement to rebuild the MANA of our people

§ MANA tamariki, MANA wahine, MANA tangata, and the MANA of our kaumatua and kuia

§ the MANA of beneficiaries who are treated like a blight on society

§ the MANA of workers who have been reduced to near slavery

§ the MANA of our Pacific cousins who continue to be used as cheap labour and exported home every season, and

§ the MANA of our people, worn down by decades of deceit and dishonest dealings by the Crown, and governments who would reduce us to being no more than another ethnic minority, in our own land

§ And that is our greatest challenge – the restoration of MANA in a way that lifts every heart, and every soul, and challenges us to accept that only the best will do for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren …

§ E te iwi – I am grateful and I am humbled by the support that I have felt from all across the country, and I am grateful to all those who have offered their help to build a movement that can change this nation …


§ In my time in parliament, I have made it clear that it is the people of Tai Tokerau who determine my future in politics – not Tariana Turia, not Phil Goff, not John Key – but the people of Tai Tokerau

§ They have supported me in the good times

§ They have supported me in the bad times

§ They supported my leaving the Maori Party although they were gutted by the way I was forced to leave

§ They supported my travelling the country to gather support for a new movement

§ They have supported the call from across the country for a new direction

§ And last night, they supported the call for me to come back to the Tai Tokerau to seek a mandate for that new direction

§ I intend to honour that request

§ I understand that last night the Maori Party President told our chairman that they will not approach anyone else to stand against me in elections in 2011

§ Accordingly, I intend advising the Speaker on Tuesday that I will be seeking a mandate from the people of Tai Tokerau, and asking him to put in place the machinery for a BY-ELECTION in the north as soon as possible, to affirm that mandate, and so that I may return to parliament as the first in a long line of MPs for MANA, movement of the people

§ And from there, I want us to take up the challenge to change the world – step by step, and if necessary, electorate by electorate

§ These times come but rarely – this is our time

§ Happy are those who dream dreams, and are prepared to pay the price to make those dreams come true