Monday, January 30, 2012

Media circus misses the point about child poverty

At his most partisan, documentary maker Bryan Bruce congratulates Sweden on its treatment of children.

The recent media circus over whether NZ On Air should scold problem child TV3 for their so-called political bias was a smokescreen, which largely missed the point, and was over as quickly as it started.

Of course TV3 is politically biased, it is a privately owned television network, but in this case they showed uncommon objectivity. It's amazing the documentary Inside Child Poverty by Bryan Bruce on New Zealand's child poverty problem was aired at all. He must have been very persistent.

So, some emails were leaked, and suddenly journalists (for want of a better word) start debating whether we need legislation to ban programming that criticises the government at election time. Yes, you heard right. Having gone through the motions of seeking legal advice after the fact, TV3 has been absolved. As if anyone expected anything else.

So many things are wrong with this picture; first off, the documentary doesn't take sides – it criticises both National and Labour-lead governments, both of which have stood idly by and let the problem continue, obfuscating and making excuses. At his most partisan, documentary maker Bryan Bruce congratulates Sweden on its treatment of children as precious and vulnerable members of society that need nurturing and protecting. He then urges all of New Zealand's political parties to work together to solve the problem. Tut tut.

Secondly, if you can't show programming that criticises the government at election time, when can you show it? Thirdly, if you can't have meaningful debate and cross-examination of those in power at election time, what can you have instead? Staged photo ops? Pre-masticated government press releases posing as reportage? Mind-numbing gossip sessions about Phil Goff 's hair dye and John Key's rugby attendance? 'Inside Child Poverty' was about the only thing of any substance to get traction on the airwaves coming up to the election.

By overflowing with drivel, New Zealand's mass media allows itself to be seen as harmlessly pappy infotainment. The truth is more sinister – by padding out pre-election airtime with rugby, celebrity scandals, sugar-coated assessments of the economy in geekspeak, and a storm in an Epsom teacup, the vast majority of New Zealand's mainstream media completely failed to do its job. To name a few examples of gross misconduct, they avoided doing their homework to expose empty promises made, such as John Key's explicit promise before he became prime minister, that he would not raise GST, only to do just that in his first term in government. They failed to question the National Party's misrepresentation that the Labour government spent irresponsibly on public services leaving behind them a budget deficit which National had to clean up*; they dodged having to ask John Key how he justifies giving himself and his cronies a large tax break while doing nothing about the eminently preventable problem of children living in damp, cramped houses and going to school hungry.

Now, having at last unearthed the truth about how we are treating our weakest citizens, we have the next petty distraction: the pretend obsession with being 'fair and balanced', as if a guilt-free news broadcaster would need to constantly reiterate how 'fair', 'balanced' and 'neutral' they are (just look at Fox News). It's like a priest going around insisting that God exists: you wonder who he's trying to convince. 'Balance' would be showing how the children of the richest New Zealanders live compared to those in poverty.

Documentaries that look at the ills of society are acceptable as long as they don't dig too deep, don't draw any conclusions about the causes, and above all, don't suggest any solutions, the latter being a cardinal sin of journalism.

Perhaps this has been a cynical publicity stunt on the part of TV3, in cahoots with NZOA, to make out that it has lefty tendencies that need to be curbed. Or perhaps they are just so out of touch with the New Zealand public that they all need to be sacked. Chair of NZ On Air, Neil Walter, doesn't "believe the New Zealand public would expect or want to see their funding put into a politically-charged scenario like that... We are barred by legislation from seeking to influence editorial content... but in this case we felt that we had been dropped in it... just three days out from voting..."

Actually, it was four days out from the election, but we can't expect or want Neil Walter to get his facts straight. Here are some facts: 385,900 New Zealanders watched the documentary when it premiered last November, according to Neilsen TAM, and it was the most watched programme in its timeslot. Hmmm... clearly New Zealanders aren't interested in watching 'politically-charged' documentaries. Over 14,000 more people watched it online in the next two days.

-Sian R., SA

*Labour more or less balanced the budget. National sent the country further into debt to cover the tax cuts to the rich, which they are now trying to pay for by selling bits of our country out from under us.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Auckland to Oakland: the struggle continues...

In Auckland around 300 people marched against the eviction of the Occupy Auckland camp on Saturday pulling down fences surrounding Aotea Square while in Oakland, California thousands of militants fought running street battles with riot police sustaining over 400 arrests.

Socialist Aotearoa called the march on Saturday in solidarity with the nearly 30 arrested comrades. We also marched to draw attention to the continuing problem of homelessness in Auckland. For 104 days homeless people had an urban Ohu in Auckland but Len Brown destroyed that community. His centre-left council has forced them back under the bridges and into the parks. Len Brown is a Mayor for the rich. The police are the army of the 1%.

The muddled politics, infighting and hardship of sustaining a canvas Ohu in Auckland were every bit as draining as the Jerusalem experience must have been for James K. Baxter up the Whanganui river. Yet his words are like a premonition of the idealism driving so many of the young Occupy Wall Street militants around the world,
‘How can I live in a country where the towns are made like coffins / And the rich are eating the flesh of the poor / Without even knowing it?’
Baxter's call for Lenin to come to Auckland to smash the Pharaoh is timely. Lessons drawn by Lenin from the failed 1905 revolution in Tsarist Russia that the art of an uprising against capitalism is primarily about the ability of revolutionaries to turn a mass political strike into a revolution.

Occupy as a tactic could protest capitalism and highlight its inequalities but it could never overturn it. The overthrow of capitalism requires a socialist revolution. Socialist revolution requires the drawing in of millions of workers into anti-capitalist struggle. During normal times of capitalism revolution is off the cards but during acute social and economic crises when the ruling class cannot rule in the same way and the working class cannot live in the same way - revolution is the word on everyone's lips. For this to happen revolutionaries must work to develop the political understanding of millions of people. This happens as people become involved in struggles in their workplace and community against capitalism and the state. Through these struggles people come to understand that socialist revolution is not only possible but necessary in order to make a world for the 99%.

-Socialist Aotearoa

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Slavic Punk Rock Connection

“Everyone is driving eighty in a fifty zone, there is fucking rubbish in the street, fucking tagging, and that’s all because everything is slowly going to shit. People are pissed off, the young people don’t have jobs, they don’t know what they’re going to do in the future. They’re dropping out of school, they have no enthusiasm you know. So what do they do? They fucking trash shit, they’re tagging, they’re going wild. That is all indication that it’s not that great”.

Ziva Radlovacki, singer of four piece Auckland punk band Nemamo Ime is however, not referring to Croatia or Serbia, countries mending from the immense social and economic cost of the war two decades ago, and where the four members immigrated from in the early to mid 1990s, but to New Zealand in the present day.

“This is the thing, is that we actually came from that fucked up country because of the government and whatever the fuck happened then to here. And then, the same shit started coming. Really slowly, happening here….In the way that there is inflation, raising taxes, tax this, tax that, the people’s wages are staying the same while everything goes up, all the cost of living goes up. . You can’t really compare to what happened over there but this is a young country, so you know. That’s how it starts”.

It is the perfect night for drinking outside a bar in the city. Drummer and guitarist, brothers Dalibor and Denis Andzakovic who work in IT, with singer/chef-by-trade Ziva are having a few beers after a band practice which going on their enthusiasm, was as fast and energetic as their live set. Bass player Emil Mihajlov, a high school social studies teacher is having an early night. Dalibor is drinking an Americano (equal parts Campari, Soda, and sweet Vermouth) as he doesn’t “feel like getting shit faced”.

According to Dalibor, the proper version has gin instead if soda and is called a Negroni.
According to Denis, the Russian version has vodka and is called a Negrowski. The music of Nemamo Ime is a scathing, catchy sing along style (with the occasional finger melting guitar solo) reminiscent of old school street punk. But although their influences (mainly the hundreds of punk bands in Croatia, but also Sex Pistols, Clash, Dead Kennedys, Ramones, Stiff Little Fingers) are present, the style is entirely their own, as organic as how the band itself found the style that worked for them.

They met at the Dalmatian Club, a place for the community to meet each Sunday night and “put on some beats and learn the cultural dances”. Another guy “who was a bit of a waster” suggested Denis and Dalibor join him in playing some folk covers, It seemed like a good idea, but didn’t turn out so well.

“What we played and what the crowd wanted to hear were a miss-match” Dali explained, though he smiles at the memory of sound checking Cowboys from Hell in a church in Takapuna. They tried playing covers, everything from ACDC to ZZ Top, discovering that they just played everything faster, with no decision to do so or explanation why. “I don’t want to say it degenerated into punk…” Dalibor ventures. But he can’t finish the sentence.

-+The waster went on to non-musical endeavours, and the four left were soon writing their own songs, a process natural and easy enough to make the majority of bands sick with envy. Ziva arrives at a practice with lyrics, a bit of tinkering ensues, a riff is formed, Dalibor whacks a cow bell and the whole thing falls into place. Between the lyrics, beats and riffs, there is something rare that slots into place and makes everything work.

At no point did they decide to be a punk rock band, nor does anyone in the band have a clear understanding why they ended up writing punk songs.

"Several passing Anarchists who were out dumpster diving managed to rope Nemamo Ime into a gig at Thirsty Dog on Karangahape Road."

While the crowd at the Dalmatian Club may have been less than impressed, it was during one of these sets the band were heard by several passing Anarchists who were out dumpster diving, and who managed to rope Nemamo Ime into a gig at Thirsty Dog on Karangahape Road. “We were expecting tumbleweeds” says Dalibor. We thought nah, people won’t like it because we don’t sing in English. But by the second song people were bobbing up and down”.

“That night we actually met another Croatian scumbag” adds Denis. He was like Man! Didn’t expect to hear those songs in New Zealand!”

Ziva, from Serbia, was especially sceptical, as he doesn’t write songs in English. “I’ve tried and I have a couple of songs in English…when I need a rhyme…I put some English words in.”
Are his lyrics a warning? Angry? Taking the piss?

“At first I just write down everything as I feel it, so yeah its angry. But I also sometimes take the piss, but about the serious situation. I try to write about all the shit that annoys me, pretty much. Songs about politics, and all the shit, the economic situation in our old country, our former country. And there is a couple of songs about the government here”.

Songs such as ‘Johnny The Dice‘.

Ziva took the melody for the chorus is from an old Croatian kid’s TV show called The Dice, which translated goes “The Dice, the dice, through time and space”.

Nemamo Imes little number is translated to “Bullshit to bullshit, through time and space, and always the same old questions, and always the same old themes”.

In post-election New Zealand, with 250,000 children still in poverty, a lack of jobs, worker’s conditions under attack, wages stagnated and election promises still ringing hollow in our ears, the song’s message that nothing is changing despite the political rhetoric is all too relevant.

Another song, ‘Provincial Hell’ is about a stabbing that happened in Ziva’s home town. “It’s the same shit. Small town, people are bored, no jobs, everything is concentrated in the big cities, you know, fucking privatisation, everything is there, small towns dying out. I mean, same thing. Look at Auckland, its expanding, farms and small towns are getting smaller and smaller, people are bored, they’re drinking, taking drugs. You fight cos’ you’re bored, you fucken stab someone cos’ you’re pissed off instead of talking your way through it. It’s the same here”.

When Ziva arrived in New Zealand in 1996, he says he hardly heard of a murder.

“Everything was from overseas, rugby and cricket. And now…there is murders, babies dying, kid died, this one got stabbed, this one got beaten to death”.

The root cause of violence is something they all have an understanding of.

“If someone is unhappy, and they’re going to take it out in some way, the easiest way is to take it out on someone who is defenceless or the same as them. They’re not going to take it out on the government because they can’t do it…Easiest way is to get drunk and stab him” Ziva says, pointing at their friend Nick, to the amusement of everyone at the table. “And you release your frustration, but after it happens you get arrested, fucken jail for life, you sober up and by the time you realise what (has) happened its too late. More and more this is happening. That’s where I find the correlation between this shit that has happened over there and over here. That’s what I write about and what we play about”.

Ziva keeps in touch with friends back in in the old country, everybody he knows is trying somehow to get out. But they lack the resources to do so.

“When we went back a few years ago, most of the people we knew that were Dali’s age or slightly older had, you know, moved to the UK or Germany” says Denis. “The majority of the economy comes from tourism…there isn’t any industry yet. Getting a job in IT for example in Australia or UK or wherever, if you’ve got some certs you can do that. In Croatia, zero chance. Because there is nothing to do. It is still in a rebuilding stage”.

Denis likes to be optimistic, and hopes in a few years infrastructure will get built and people will be able to progress.

Croatia: “The majority of the economy comes from tourism…there isn’t any industry yet."

“Yeah but its still the same old shit” counters Ziva. “They started privatisation because you know, they wanted to start making money and companies can grow whatever. But it’s the same old rules they stick with like what happened under Communism, which wasn’t really Communism because all these politicians and managers and bosses, they were always pocketing money, and everyone was ‘equal’. Bullshit. They’re still doing it the same way, there is a lot of corruption, criminality. And I wouldn’t say there is a middle class. Well, maybe a little bit. But its starting to look like that here isn’t it?”

We talk a bit about the wharfies, and their battle in the Port of Auckland, and what it will mean if the Union is smashed and privatisation is brought in.

“They sell all the assets and everything, people lose jobs, can’t get jobs…I mean its still so small, we have jobs, we work. We drink beer, have fun whatever. But go to Australia” he smiles as though advising me too. “That’s another thing that reminds me of the shit back home. People trying to get out. Here, its Australia. There is better jobs, more money.”

One of the consequences of the Wharfies losing their battle would be the flood of highly skilled port workers going to Australia where the money is better, and the where they wouldn’t have to tolerate bullying bosses. We talk about how “being competitive” for Tony Gibson means having a ‘casual work force’.

“And casual worker doesn’t give a shit. That is why he is casual. He is going to come, pretend to work…probably fuck up and get hurt” says Ziva.

Just as strong as the serious subject matter of their songs, and the experiences that have shaped them, is the ethic of enjoyment that exudes from every aspect of Nemamo Ime. They present as four people who play the music they love with little regard to popular sentiment. Their’s is a refreshing honesty.

They happily talk of the sea of beer bottles in their practice space, a damp, mouldy basement that also serves as the studio for their next album, a follow up to their first EP, a release available for free download. and featuring the crowd pleasing ’Rakia’, a tribute to the popular Yugoslav drink . Similar to Germany’s schnapps (which they assure me is sub standard to the Croatian Rakia), it involves getting 60kg of your favourite fruit, dumping it in a barrel with some sugar, then distilling it. A semi-heated debate follows a suggestion that you can use a mix of fruit. Dalibor scoffs at this notion. “What? You’re going to make a fucken tutti-fruity Rakia?” While 60kg of apricots can be “a pain in the arse to find”, pears and plums are easy enough
“Slavic connections” Denis says proudly. “You go to an old family who are retired and their orchard has turned to shit, and you say “Hey! Mind if we come and tidy your orchard for you and take the fruit?” And rotting fruit, the just fallen onto the ground and started to rot is the best for making booze. Six weeks later, twenty litres of booze”.

In true DIY punk tradition, they record their music themselves on equipment acquired from sources sympathetic to the cause.

The correlation they identify between the results of the neo-liberal economic model New Zealand has followed in the last twenty seven and a half years, and the increasing social slide into violence is impossible to ignore. It is a chilling reminder of how important the stakes are, of what can happen when the working class feels the pinch of tough economic times and people in power find scapegoats.

As Denis puts it, “eventually some arsehole starts shooting guns”. He tells me a theory from Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek (who Denis describes as ’awesome, giant beard, bat-shit crazy‘) on his cure fore for extreme racism. Which is, odd as it sounds, is more racism. “When we had former Yugoslavia, everything was forced polite, because someone figured out that the only way these guys won’t be at each others throats is if they all have the same right to shut the fuck up. Before Yugoslavia and that sort of stuff, yes there were a lot of people that were pissed off at each other, but the majority would take the piss and there would always be horrible racist jokes. So they desensitized everything. Every single nation has its stereotypes (as any New Zealander on the end of a sheep shagging joke can relate too). Then Yugoslavia came along, and they said “oh no you have to be polite, and say I like your cultural dances, and you have great food”. Fuck off! I don’t care about your ethnic dances I want my dirty jokes!. It is a little bit silly, but it is a valid point. If everyone takes the piss out of everything else then the silly things can’t be taken seriously.”

An amusing way to counter what Freud called ‘the narcissism of minor difference’, where in an effort to separate themselves, people make the smallest, most insignificant of differences between them into huge ones.

Zizek: The cure for extreme racism is....more racism.

And the future? “The old pensioners will sit around, drink Rakia and talk shit and the subject of politics will often come up but it is just like a discussion they will have.”

Denis says that the “horrible nationalists” are the kids fifteen and younger, who weren’t even born when the war was on.

“It only takes a little bit to twist the young mind, you know. You twist it the wrong way and then shits going to get fucked up in fifty years, or forty years, or thirty years or however long it takes for someone to have enough power to squash you”.

But, he says it doesn’t have to be that way.

“The last time we were there we decided fuckit, we’re sick of the family and that sort of stuff, grabbed an acoustic guitar and a box of piss (a Croatian box of piss is 25 half litre bottles in a plastic container), and we parked up next to the Danube river and played some random songs and whatever. And we met some guys, they were wearing military uniform…ish. Basically, I was sixteen, seventeen at the time, these guys were…youngest one was twenty. And they were the fucken coolest cats ever. They were like ‘yeah man, fuck all that shit, this guys from Macedonia and hes’ like my brother and we go out boozing’ and that sort of stuff. And they were the coolest cats. They understood what happened and they didn’t care. Its all bullshit and its bad for ya”.

As the effects of the attacks on the working class continue, and attempts at dividing us along insignificant lines increase, I hope the importance of that last line is remembered. Just in case, here it is again.

Its all bullshit, and its’ bad for ya.

-Matt B., SA.


Neither Tehran nor Washington, bring all the regimes down.

Anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention to international relations recently will be aware that tensions between the US and Iran are increasing at an alarming rate. Those of us who wish to live in a safer and more humane world should be asking ourselves: “How can I help to prevent yet another bloody conflict in the Middle East?” Ironically the answer to this seemingly difficult question is surprisingly simple. However, in order for us to understand the solution, it is essential that we analyse the situation.

I think we would all agree that the US and Iran are part of human civilisation. So what are the situations of the humans in these countries? Let us look at the faces behind the flags.

Life is an uphill struggle against poverty, unemployment and low wages for the majority of people in Iran.

In March 2010 the Iranian regime’s Supreme Labour Council set the monthly minimum wage for workers at 300,000 tomans (NZ$350). That amount was not even enough for a single person’s basic needs, let alone those of a worker’s family. According to the Mehr News Agency; “Many women now work as clerks, operators and in service jobs and are even deprived of the minimum wage.” Even the most conservative estimates by the Iranian government put unemployment at around 12% and the number of people living below the poverty line at 30 million.

Life is an uphill struggle against poverty, unemployment and low wages for the majority of people in Iran. However there are some who live a different lifestyle. Let’s have a glimpse into the world of the Iran’s super rich. Last year Iranian financiers suspected of growing rich through links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were caught flaunting their wealth on millions of dollars worth of cars. Buyers in just three cities imported some 48 top-of-the-range sports cars between March and July 2011: Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. According to an investigation backed by the European Union. Many of the cars are owned by shareholders in banks that are heavily indebted to the government.

Scandals like this are commonplace under Ahmadinejad's government. Last September Mahmud Reza Khavari, CEO of the country's largest state bank, Bank Melli, resigned over allegations of embezzlement worth $2.6 billion. He was reported to have fled to Canada.

Perhaps surprisingly for some, society in the US is not so different. A recent Gallup poll revealed that nearly one in five American workers are worried they will not be able to feed themselves or their families. New census data indicates an official child poverty rate of 21.6 percent; the highest rate the government has recorded since it began tracking the data in 2001. Figures from the Department of Education, from the 08/09 school year, indicates that one million students are now homeless. Officially, 49 million people, more than 16 percent of the population, are living in poverty.

Meanwhile Forbes magazine released its annual tally of the 400 richest Americans, whose combined net worth has soared to $1.53 trillion, up 12 percent since last year. To even make the list, it was necessary to have a fortune of at least $1.05 billion, more than ten thousand times the median net worth of an American household.

In the US also life is a constant struggle for the majority of people whilst a small group of super rich enjoy unimaginable wealth. We have seen that there are some similarities between the two nations with regard to social inequality. Now let us look at the political tensions that have been building up.

The Iranian regime has repeatedly insisted that it has no plans to build a nuclear weapon. However, when Iran announced two weeks ago that its Fordo uranium enrichment plant was operational, the US responded with threats of military action.

Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Soltanieh, described the US reaction as “exaggerated and politically motivated.” According to Iran, the Fordo plant will enrich uranium to the 20 percent level required to produce medical isotopes. Soltanieh pointed out that the IAEA has installed cameras in the plant to monitor operations and carries out regular inspections to ensure enriched uranium is not diverted to military purposes.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has acknowledged that Iran was not building a nuclear bomb at present. However he stated that Iran was “developing a nuclear capability” and “that’s what concerns us.” He warned: “Our red line to Iran is: do not develop a nuclear weapon.”
The US and European Union have imposed embargos on Iranian oil exports that are ruining the country’s economy. Europe alone accounts for about 20 percent of Iran’s oil exports which are the country’s main source of income.

Japan has already taken steps to reduce its oil imports from Iran and is preparing for an embargo following a visit from US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba told the media that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (both enemies of Iran) had been approached to supply more oil as Japan wound back its imports from Iran. Japan and South Korea account for about 25 percent of Iran’s oil exports.

Iran’s oil exports have not been the sole focus the economic pressure from the US. President Obama recently signed into law a measure that would exclude corporations doing business with Iran’s central bank from the American financial system: resulting in a 20% drop in the value of the rial against the dollar. Furthermore Japan’s state-owned exploration company Impex has already bowed to US pressure to abandon its joint development of the Azadegan natural gas field.

The US has also attempted to pressure China into winding back their oil purchases from Iran. This however was unsuccessful as China has developed close economic relations with Iran and continues to purchase large quantities of Iranian oil, in part to avoid being dependent on close American allies such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. China has publicly opposed the imposition of further penalties on Iran via the UN Security Council and has so far refused to back Washington’s sanctions. China’s vice foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, declaring: “Regular economic and trade relations between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issue.” The US could punish Chinese corporations for trading with Iran; a move that would dramatically heighten economic tensions between the US and China.

In response to this ongoing blatant provocation from the US, Iran has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, carrying out a 10-day war game to prove its military ability. The strait at its narrowest is 54 kilometres wide. It is the only sea passage to the open ocean for large areas of the petroleum exporting Persian Gulf and is one of the world's most strategically important choke points.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta declared that the US would not tolerate such action. “That’s another red line for us, and we will respond to them,” he said. General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that the US “had invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that... We would take action and reopen the Straits.”

Eager to demonstrate Iran’s available allies Iranian President Ahmadinejad travelled to Latin America. He visited nations whose leadership shares a common hatred for the US including Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador. The president of Venezuela; Hugo Chavez defended Iran’s nuclear program and referred to their mutual enemies as “devils,” as he has in the past.

Threats from the US are being accompanied by a relentless campaign in both the US and international media to demonise Iran as a rogue state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Including completely erroneous allegations that Iran is building a missile base in Venezuela.

Meanwhile in Iran parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani has announced that several people have been arrested in connection with the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Roshan died in a car bomb explosion last Wednesday. Police say a motorcyclist attached a magnetic mine to the car Roshan was travelling in. Iranian officials have said that the United States and Israel were behind the assassination. Both have denied any involvement.

The Iranian regime has also signaled a harder line, by imposing a death sentence on Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a US citizen and former Marine convicted of spying. The US has denied that Hekmati was a spy. These allegations come amid a series of assassinations and a program of sabotage directed against Iran’s nuclear and military programs over the past two years, indicating that Israel is waging a covert war inside Iran, with US support.

So what’s really going on? Why is the US government behaving like this? In order to understand the motivation of the US we need to be aware that Iran has the 3rd largest crude oil reserves on the planet with 138 billion barrels. This is of fundamental importance for two reasons.

Over 50% of global energy needs are met by oil.

Firstly we live in a world run by oil. We use oil to make petrol, diesel, jet fuel, bunker fuel and kerosene. Oil powers our cars, trucks, planes, ships, homes, ports, factories and offices. We use it to make pesticides and fertilizers, plastics and waxes, tar, sulphuric acid, asphalt, petroleum coke, paraffin wax, synthetic rubbers, cosmetics, perfumes, industrial solvents and much much more. Oil makes everything and moves everything. Over 50% of global energy needs are met by oil. We even need oil to build renewable energy facilities. If we ran out of oil tomorrow, industrialised human civilisation would collapse and billions of people would die.

Secondly the US is the strongest imperial power of our day. The US has over one thousand military bases around the world. They are the largest producer and exporter of weapons. They have the world's biggest military budget comprising 36 percent of total world military spending and using up more than 50 percent of their own national budget. It is vital that the US controls as much crude oil as possible in order to remain the dominant economic and political force on the planet. It achieves this using its armed forces, heavy influence over other nations around the world and all the while it keeps its citizens in the dark as much as possible using a compliant corporate media. Since the end of World War Two the US has bombed China, Korea, Guatemala, Indonesia, Cuba, Belgian Congo, Dominican Republic, Peru, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Libya, Iran, Panama, Iraq, Kuwait, Somalia, Croatia, Bosnia, Sudan, Afganistan and Yugoslavia. (It may be interesting to note at this point that although currently presented, as “one of the most dangerous nations on earth” Iran has not attacked another country for over 200 years) The confrontation with Iran is part of a global imperialist strategy that goes far beyond concerns with Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. US imperialism is seeking to establish its unrivalled influence over the key energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

War with Iran would of course bring other benefits to the ruling elite in the US. For a start US corporations would be able to make sickening amounts of profits from the sale of weapons, ammunition and other equipment required for a large scale armed conflict. Unfortunately disaster capitalism is big business; when an imperialist nation such as the US destroys infrastructure in other countries they are able to make billions of dollars in profits by giving US corporations the contracts to rebuild. Not only this but they are able to open up Iran for business, taking control of the financial institutions and bringing in more US corporations to turn a profit from the demand for goods and services.

The US invaded Iraq with a military force made up of American working class people sent to kill and be killed.

The working class do not benefit from war. For them it brings only increased suffering. Take the Iraq war for example. Iraq has the 4th largest oil reserves on the planet with approximately 115 billion barrels. People were sold the same stories we are hearing now about the development of nuclear weapons, which of course later turned out to be a total lie. The US invaded with a military force made up of American working class people sent to kill and be killed. They massacred over a million men, women and children living in Iraq. Meanwhile companies like Halliburton (a corporation responsible for the construction and maintenance of military bases, oil field repairs, and various infrastructure rebuilding projects) collected $17.2 billion in Iraq war related revenue from 2003 to 2006 alone.

There is no solution to the seemingly inevitable armed conflict between Iran and the US that does not begin with an attack on the wealth and power of the corporate and financial oligarchy of both nations. The majority of citizens in both nations are victims to class society and free market capitalism. In order to ensure that the basic needs of all people in both countries are met we must expropriate the vast fortunes of the ruling elite. The financial institutions and corporations they control must be taken over and run democratically in the interests of social need and the benefit of all human life.

Iran had a revolution against the Shah (a brutal dictator) relatively recently in 1979, however, it was unsuccessful in that Khomeini (a prominent leader of the revolution) and the clergy leadership actually represented a counter-revolution against the genuine struggle of the working class. In the end they represented the interests of the old privileged classes and of global capitalism. This is portrayed in the single fact, that in spite of all the thunderous shouts of "death to America" they never did anything to hurt or even weaken the position of American imperialism. On the contrary they were later revealed to have borrowed money and bought arms from many western countries, including the US. The true leaders of the Iranian revolution were those worker leaders who lead the general strike. Without them, the Shah would not have been toppled and the history of the revolutionary movement would have been many times bloodier, probably ending with a massive defeat or at best a bloody civil war.

To prevent this derailing of the revolution by the petit bourgeoisie and in order for lasting radical change to become reality we need to organise the independent industrial and political mobilization of the working class around the world in mass struggle, aimed at the conquest of political power and the socialist transformation of economic life. Only then can we begin the transition away from fossil fuels, imperialist wars, unnecessary suffering and the destruction of our planet towards a truly sustainable and prosperous future for all.

-Shane M., SA

You can't kill a rebellion

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Invasion Day march in Canberra

Invasion day marchers in Canberra.
May, 2011

In July 2012, NT Intervention powers, such as compulsory 5-year leases and management powers over all assets and organisations within Aboriginal communities, will reach their sunset clause. Federal funding for smaller dispersed settlements known as Homelands, currently capped at $20 million, is also set to run out next year. The question, “What comes next?” has again thrown debate about the future of the NT Intervention into the national spotlight.

Tony Abbott visited Alice Springs in May to call for a “second Intervention”. Julia Gillard is set to visit the Territory in June.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, made Darwin her first stop on her recent Australian visit. The government had wanted to keep her away from the NT. Pillay’s NT visit was planned only after Dr Djiniyini Gondara, a senior Yolngu leader, lobbied her in Geneva to specifically pay attention on the Intervention.

Pillay condemned the Intervention for causing “enormous anger, pain and humiliation”. She said the policy was discriminatory and that she had heard first hand about the “imperialist attitude” of Intervention bureaucrats.

Similarly Pat Anderson, the author of the Little Children Are Sacred Report, which called for a serious response to the problem of child abuse in Aboriginal communities, has come out swinging. Anderson’s report was used as the pretext for Intervention. But in a keynote speech at a Sydney Aboriginal health conference she attacked the policy as “neither well intentioned nor well evidenced”. “The future of children in the NT”, she said, ”is not being protected by the Intervention. It is being further undermined”.

Under pressure, Labor’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has tried to distance herself from the “way the Intervention started” conceding it had caused “widespread anger and distrust”. But Macklin remains ruthlessly committed to the policy itself.

The government is currently trying to coerce communities into signing “voluntary” extensions of the 5-year leases imposed by the Intervention. But only 16 communities earmarked as growth towns have signed 40-year leases after being threatened that they will not get funding for new housing unless they sign. Some growth towns like Yuendumu are refusing to sign despite chronic overcrowding. The vast majority of communities will get no new investment—so why would they lease their land?

Bob Beadman, the NT government bureaucrat responsible for the growth towns policy told The Age that only three leases had been signed outside of the growth towns. “It seems inconceivable to me they will be able to wrap up negotiating long-term leases before the five-year leases lapse.”

Macklin has already declared that punitive control measures could be pushed beyond the 5-year sunset clause, although this will require legislation to extend the Intervention.

Attacking Aboriginal rights
The Intervention has choked Aboriginal communities, forcing people to move and assimilate into “mainstream Australia”.

Ideologically, the Intervention blames Aboriginal people and their culture for the social problems, while practically it is aimed at smashing the foundations of collective Aboriginal life. As Pat Anderson says, “it rejects self-determination as a ‘failed policy’. It does not approach our communities as having anything valuable to offer or indeed of having achieved anything in the past.”

Gary Johns, president of the assimilationist “Bennelong Society” sets out the Intervention’s ideological underpinnings in his book Aboriginal Self-Determination: the Whiteman’s Dream. It was launched by former Liberal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, and Intervention architect, Mal Brough.

Johns denies the Stolen Generations and blames extraordinary rates of Indigenous incarceration on “bad behaviour” by Aborigines. He says, “Land Rights, welfare and culture have locked Aborigines out of the good life”.

Johns’ book is a call for the disbanding of Aboriginal organisations set up through the struggles of the 1970s and 1980s and for government to put the final sword into remote communities. Aboriginal people must “move to where there is work and stay there”.

Bob Beadman was frank with The Age about the strategy of “population concentration” that lies behind current government policy.

“I know all the stories about improved health, improved social outcomes because people are on their own country, from which they derive autonomy… I’m sure I would be happier and healthier if I moved to a coastal area and did absolutely nothing and the government provided everything for me… but they won’t.”

Beadman and Johns are both racist and wrong. The Third World living conditions and social problems in remote Aboriginal communities are the result of ongoing refusal of governments to provide basic services.

The Intervention has cut the estimated 8000 waged jobs held through Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) to just 2400 which will be progressively cut back and abolished completely in July next year.

Only 2240 public sector positions have been created to replace the 8000 CDEP jobs. More than 60 per cent of them are part-time and many are on the lowest level of public sector pay—an effective pay cut for people previously on CDEP.
The CDEP cuts, the abolition of community councils and the seizure of their assets, has destroyed much of the productive activity of the communities—including land management programs, municipal and cultural works, small tourism and farming ventures.

Meanwhile, there has been a 30 per cent increase in Indigenous incarceration since the Intervention began and a 50 per cent increase in rates of suicide and self harm.
The Intervention, along with the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP), has spent upwards of $2.5 billion. This money could have supported Aboriginal communities but it has been wasted on bureaucrats and contractors.
The real people bludging off the public purse are the Government Business Managers, who live in compounds surrounded by cyclone fencing on salary packages approaching $200,000 per year.

There have been increases in funding for health care and new teachers, but as Pat Anderson argues, “The diminished sense of control and increased stress will lead to poorer health and social outcomes in the future”. In 2009-10 school attendance fell from 62.1 to 56.5 per cent and in 2008-09 a shocking four out of every 1000 Indigenous kids were hospitalised for malnutrition, the highest figure in the last decade.

The campaign against the NT Intervention will use the June 21 Darwin rally marking the Intervention’s fourth anniversary to launch a statement called “Rebuilding from the ground up: An alternative to the NT Intervention”.

The statement puts forward uncompromising demands for self-determination. It puts the blame for social problems in Aboriginal communities squarely back on the brutal history of dispossession and ongoing discrimination. All Aboriginal communities are viable—racism is not.

Initiated by the Intervention Rollback Action Group in Alice Springs and the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney, the statement is a synthesis of the demands from Prescribed Area People’s Alliance meetings and community leaders for the past four years.

More than 15 leaders of Aboriginal communities and the Aboriginal Legal Aid service in Darwin (NAAJA) have already endorsed the statement.

The demands of the 11 point plan include the repeal of all Intervention laws (including Income Management), the re-establishment of Aboriginal community councils, investment in all communities, an end to compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal land and the rescinding of all leases signed under the NTER.

A central demand is for “Jobs with Justice”, the creation of a new Aboriginal employment program that pays proper wages and allows community based organisations to set development priorities—a campaign gaining support from trade unions across the country.

“Rebuilding from the ground up” is written as a basis to galvanize grass-roots struggle—both in NT Aboriginal communities and cities and towns across Australia.
There must be no “second Intervention”. Self-determination must be put back on the agenda.

By Paddy Gibson - Solidarity Australia

For a full copy of the “Rebuilding from the Ground Up” statement and details for the anti-Intervention anniversary rallies see or

Mass arrests at Occupy Auckland

Mass arrests at Occupy Auckland today as the police moved in to squash the protest camp. The second raid in four days, over 60 police and dozens of security guards have arrested 20 protesters.

Many comrades are still in the cells as the state cracks down on the protest camp. They join the ranks of those arrested around the world from Wall Street to Barcelona and from Cairo to Santiago. Len Brown and the Auckland City Council show their true colours by smashing the protest of the 99%.

As Egypt celebrates one year of their revolution, the tents of protest in Auckland are carted away by the army of the 1%.

Occupy Auckland didn't have a permit to camp. Bouazizi didn't have a permit to sell fruit. Victory to the global revolution. You can't evict an idea. You can't kill a rebellion.

we needed inspiration, to be awakened
in our bodies, our lives made present
here we are
the world is not right, just or fair
the most have the least
the least have the most

-Socialist Aotearoa

Tahrir trembles again with the Egyptian revolution

Revolution 2.0: Sunset for the military dictatorship.

Millions return to Tahrir on the anniversary of the #Jan25 revolution against Mubarak.

In Alexandria the revolution continues.

A monument inscribed with the names of the martyrs.

The bridges of Cairo are lined with people.

Tahrir square at dusk.

Socialist Worker editor Judith Orr reports from Tahrir Square in Cairo on a day of protest and celebration, a year after the fall of Hosni Mubarak


Today has seen a massive mobilisation in Cairo. And the news from Suez and Alexandria and other Egyptian cities is of huge demonstrations there too.

This has been another historic day in a year of historic moments in Egypt.

Scaf wanted a day that would be about the achievements of the revolution, which they think they can take credit for.

They wanted everything to settle down and for people to accept that the revolution was over.

But that is not what happened today. If anything, people were reminded of all the hopes and dreams they had held when they set out to challenge Mubarak's dictatorship.

All day people repeated the phrase, "We need to complete the revolution." The concessions the military have already made, such as lifting the long hated emergency laws, are not enough.

Field Marshall Tantawi, the head of Scaf,has made it clear that the emergency laws will remain in place to prevent "acts of thuggery".

As university teacher Mohammed pointed out, "Scaf refers to strikes as 'thuggish'. We know they want to target workers who take action against their bosses."

Workers' struggles are picking up again. Today was a public holiday, so the next days and weeks will be critical to see if the workers' movement can drive the revolution forward.

Parliament has already become a focus for discontent. Activists predict that workers and the poor will increasingly organise protests there.

It's coming up to 1am in Cairo. There is still a roar of noise from Tahir Square as thousands remain there and in the surrounding streets. Many have bedded down in doorways and on scraps of grass on traffic islands. They don't want to go home.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring. But one thing is certain. Whatever the military or government say, the people have spoken once again. This revolution is not over.


There has been debate all day about what to do next. Some want protesters to "stay in Tahrir Square until Scaf goes". Meanwhile the Muslim Brotherhood and Salfist organisations are calling for people to "celebrate – and then go home".

Whether or not staying in square would work would depend on numbers and on what demands were put up, argues Manar, a revolutionary socialist.

She adds that the revolution is not solely about the square: "The revolution needs to be made everywhere, not just in Tahrir." The slogan used by The Socialist newspaper is: "The square and the factory are one hand".

A large group of protesters have set up an angry demonstration outside the state TV building at Maspero, just along the corniche from the entrance to Tahrir Square.

"The TV station is important for every dictaorship," says Khled Ali, a doctor in philosophy. "It's a way of controlling the people. Nothing has changed here since the first 25 January – it's the same people, the same words."

The army is protecting the TV building behind barbed wire. Troops stare impassively at the protesters. Traffic passing along the corniche toot their horns in support of the protest.

Veteran socialist Kamal Khalil is here. He told me that the military is the problem – they are part of Mubarak's regime.

"Scaf wants to make it difficult for workers to organise unions," he says. "They keep putting obstacles on our way. They want to make sit-ins illegal.

"But the Egyptian revolution can still be won if workers get organised and fight. We need political strikes where every worker stops and refuses to work until we achieve victory."


The temperature has fallen now that it's getting dark, but the day is far from over. People have laid out newspapers where they are to talk, rest and eat. Every bit of rubble can act as a stool. People weave around the impromptu meetings trying not to disturb them.

About 20 young people have sat down in the pavement opposite the Egyptian museum. "We're here because we are the people who started the revolution, the young people," says Youssef, a student, and his sister Rodino, who is at high school.

"It's been too slow. It feels like nothing has changed. This was a revolution for the poor, but so far the poor have not won. We need a completely different system. Better pay, better healthcare, better public transport. That's what today is about. That's what still needs to happen."


A dense march of football supporters, known as the ‘Ultras’, goes up Talaat Harb Street, one of the main streets leading into Tahrir Square.

Many of them had played heroic roles in the street battles against Mubarak’s forces.

Today they shout the slogan of one year ago—"Bread, freedom, justice".

Amina is watching from the side. "They are using the same slogan because we have not won yet. The army council is crushing us. We need a second revolution

"I don't like what is happening after the elections. I am a Muslim, I wear a headscarf, but I do not want an Islamic state. We have 8 million Christians in Egypt. What will happen to them?

“We need an Egypt for everyone. It's not just about political changes—We need social change. Better education, health care. That's why we are still on the streets.”


It is getting very difficult to move around the square because the numbers are so enormous.

Time and time again people say, "This is not a celebration". One young man, Ahmed, stands solid against the crowd surging around him. His face is painted in the colours of the Egyptian flag. He holds up a sign calling for justice for those who have been killed in last 12 months.

He said, "I'm here to remind people about those who died. They are the real heroes. They died because they believed in a better Egypt. That's not too much to ask is it?"

Just off the square the newly painted wall of the American University is getting a makeover. Teams of young graffiti artists are spraying anti-Scaf slogans while older demonstrators sit on the pavement edge beside them resting their legs.

The volunteers who are searching people as they arrive in Tahrir Square struggle to keep up.

Is there anyone in Cairo not out in the streets today?


Every avenue leading to Tahrir Square is filled with people chanting and marching.

Already there is debate about what will happen when the day is over.

The Salafists and some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are saying that people should celebrate then go home.

State television and the channel which supports Scaf say its a day of celebration and then everything should go back to normal—whatever normal means in Egypt under military rule.

If the numbers are big enough then maybe there will be a new sit in. But, say activists, "The revolution is not just the square it is in the factories and in the universities."

The struggle for the future of the revolution has to go on in every workplace, school and community.

As one headline in the Revolutionary Socialists’ (RS) paper says "the square and the factory one hand"

People buying copies of their paper and taking leaflets surround the RS stall. There are also leaflets to fill in if you want to join their organisation.


The sun is shining in Tahrir Square. People are starting to arrive—families with food and blankets, people in wheelchairs, children in buggies.

Scooters piled high with bread and water squeeze past to stock up the stalls in the square.

Everyone is searched and ID checked by volunteers as they enter. Several stages have been constructed overnight and some sound systems are already at full tilt, playing music and speeches.

Around the city at least 12 different demonstrations are assembling to march to the square.

Only one year ago Hosni Mubarak sat in power, fully expecting that he and then his son would continue to rule for decades to come.

Now he and his son are in prison and protesters delight in mocking his image. This day last year the people lost their fear and took to the streets and held them.

It took only 18 days to finish Mubarak. But on 25 January 2011 the Egyptian people began something that they still want to finish.

I speak to Mahmoud, a young man who has brought with him a blood soaked T-shirt from the battles on 28 January. “We have not come here to carnival and then depart,” he tells me.

“We want to complete our revolution. Mubarak is down but the system is not."

So they are coming back to Tahrir in their tens of thousands to show they still have the power to break the rest of the regime.

The following should be read alongside this article:

Egypt's Revolutionary Socialists: We want to expose the lies of the elites

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Remembering Bloody Sunday - 40 years on

Join the Connolly Club of Auckland as we look at the background events leading up to the Bloody Sunday massacre- the Orange State, the Civil Rights Movement, the autonomous zone of Free Derry, and the revolutionary wave that spread across the world in 1968 that led to a mass movement in the North of Ireland.

1pm till 5pm, Sunday 29 January @ Unite, 6a Western Springs Road, Kingsland - Discussion forum will be followed by a screening of the movie Bloody Sunday, starring James Nesbitt. Facebook event here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Everyday we fight the system

Right to protest | Right to camp

Occupy Auckland on day 101 - still camping, still protesting.

On day 101 they came in the morning. Dozens of police officers and private security guards. The identification numbers were the same on up to four of the officers. They cops were ready for a day of massive violence against the peaceful Occupy protesters.

Since the election the Occupy protesters have been vilified by the right-wing, unloved by much of the vacillating left yet still scores of young (and old) activists have spent night after night holding the ground in Aotea Square and now Queen Street, Victoria Park and Albert Park.

There are now two main types of Occupiers in Auckland City. The radical youth; many jobless, others studying, some workers whose minds were set on fire by the revolutions of 2011 and the Occupy Wall Street movement. They have consistently shown solidarity with those engaged in struggle, from the campaign against evictions in Glen Innes to attending last weeks mass meeting in support of the wharfies. They are the future of the left in this city and today if Len Brown was watching out his window he would have seen them pulling down the fences his goons were sent to erect.

The other type of Occupier like Roger are those who once described themselves as homeless. They are predominantly Maori, reflecting Auckland's shameful homeless statistic - 80% of homeless are Maori. Through Occupy they have begun self-organising for their own security, cooking and shelter based primarily on tikanga. People are even growing their own vegetables. They have created in Auckland what were known as Hoovervilles in America during the 1930s depression - a refuge of last resort for those thrown into the abyss of neo-liberalism.

Socialist Aotearoa activist Malcolm France and Occupier Lyn were today arrested for defending Occupy Auckland. Occupy stalwart Chris Glen was also nicked by police when he tried to take the protest to Len Brown in the council chambers, left, was dragged back by the cops and then was trespassed. Socialist Aotearoa mobilised in support of the Occupation today and many of our members physically helped stop the eviction. We unconditionally support the right of people to occupy and protest the inequalities of capitalism and we wholeheartedly support the right of the city's homeless people to build and maintain their own camps on public land. Right to protest. Right to camp. We're right to occupy.

John Minto has already rubbised Len Brown and the Auckland City Council's slurs against Occupy - "That's just bulls**t. That's just lies - rubbish. They'd just prefer not to have banners and placards in parks."

The eviction has backfired heavily in the media on police and council and the Occupation has been strengthened as a result. As Joe Carolan, Socialist Aotearoa activist told the media, "You can't close down an idea using the police. What this movement is about is not just camping, it's not just about occupying a space of land, this is actually questioning why there is such injustice and economic inequality in western society as a whole.''

Adbusters editor-in-chief Kalle Lasn spoke recently of Occupy's prospects; 'To me, the core impulse behind this movement is the feeling among young people all over the world that the future doesn’t compute, that their lives will be full of ecological, political and financial crises, and that they will never have a life like their parents did. And unless they stand up and fight for a different kind of a future, they’re not going to have a future.'

The sparks that fly as the police hammer cracks down on the council anvil have already burnt the police and reignited anti-capitalist resistance in central Auckland. Hope will turn to anger for those whose future does not compute. In 2012 the rebel alliance in Auckland's parks and around the world will need to think hard about how to advance their struggle against death-star capitalism.

Occupy Auckland is not over yet.

-Socialist Aotearoa

Shine a light on poverty

All proceeds going to Auckland Action Against Poverty's 2012 campaigns. Facebook event here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This is revolution in the making

99 days for the 99 percent: On this momentous day we will celebrate the 99th birthday of Occupy Auckland, Occupy New Zealand, Occupy Australia, and Occupy Together movements around the world. We march in solidarity with you all. Our causes should unite us, not divide us, they are many.

Children's crusade

Sixteen year old activist Jazmine Heka from Whangarei has begun a campaign against child poverty and has launched a petition to up the pressure on the Government to implement free healthcare and free school lunches for children as well as bring in regular checks on rental homes.

Inspired by the Inside Child Poverty documentary that screened just before the last election Jazmine has launched a movement, Children Against Poverty, because "Twenty-two per cent of kids in New Zealand live in poverty. I find it disgusting, it's not right. We're so rich in food, we have the resources to be able to care for our children. Every child deserves basic needs - food, a safe environment to live in, medical care."

You can help the campaign by downloading Children Against Poverty's petition and collecting signatures.

Video- Auckland Community support for Wharfies

120 activists pack Auckand Trades Hall to organise community solidarity with the Wharfies. Electric atmosphere on the Left, determination to fight and defeat the evils of privatization and casualisation. And as much as the bosses and right wing would love us to show the tactics and strategy discussed beforehand by the leadership of MUNZ (Gary Parsloe, Russell Mayne and Victor Billot), well, guess you'll see in the next few weeks ;)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mana - We Support the Wharfies

19/01/2011 - Media release - MANA Movement

“MANA supports wholeheartedly the rights of the wharfies who work for the Port of Auckland,” states MANA leader Hone Harawira.

Harawira says, “Workers across the country need to wake up and smell the coffee - if the wharfies loose this fight then the casualisation of working hours will become a permanent feature of employment in this country. Everybody who earns a low to middle income job will have to wait by their phones for their boss to call to see if they are working or not, not knowing how many hours they will work and be paid for each week.”

“As a country we should be doing our utmost to back our wharfies. Despite the efforts of National and the country's media to make this dispute about money, this is all about having reliable and stable employment. The workers want to know that they have a set number of hours per week. If it was about the money why would they only want to settle for a 2.5% pay rise when they are being offered 10%?"

"What I don't understand is why the workers are being held responsible for risks to the business. Tony Gibson will get his huge salary each week no matter what and the Council wants a 12% return on capital no matter what. It is the wharfies who are expected to pay the price each week if business is down. Under any other business regime, the owner is the one who takes the risk, not the workers!"

“As for politicians saying that we should not get involved, what a load of crap. This dispute became political when Rodney Hide set up the appointments of the Board of Directors for the port. Auckland Mayor Len Brown needs to step up to the mark and back the workers - after all the port is Auckland's asset. The owners of any business have a duty to make sure their managers treat their workers fairly."

“In 1951 there was a watershed strike involving wharfies. Today we are faced with another defining moment regarding employment rights in this country. Rest assured that if the wharfies lose then this right wing Government will see it as an endorsement to go ahead with the casualisation of hours and it will be another blow to the union movement, a movement that has for so long protected blue collar workers.”

New AntiCapitalist- Victory to the Wharfies!

the Jan 2012 edition of AntiCapitalist, focussing on the Wharfies fight on the Ports of Auckland, is available to read and print out HERE.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On the Waterfront

The wharfies of Aotearoa have a proud tradition of fighting for workers rights- from the heroic Jock Barnes and the Great Lockout of 1951, to the murder of Christine Clarke on picket duty on the last day of the 20th Century. Embibed with a solid working class democratic culture, they hold monthly stop work all out meetings, monthly delegate meetings, and elect and strongly contest all positions within their union. They have a thorough internationalism, and take action in solidarity with comrades across the five continents. Their record of digging deep in solidarity with other workers in struggle in New Zealand is unsurpassed- recently they gave $6,000 to the locked out workers in the meat plant at Marton. Over the years, they have fought to maintain and strengthen their conditions, so that they can earn a decent crust to feed their families.

Now they are facing the attacks of a CEO and a board who are largely the creation of Rodney Hide, and many of the directors who accuse the wharfies of being greedy are members of the 1%, who double dip and sit on various committees that pay them thousands of dollars per meeting.

The battle is about two main neo-liberal attacks- casualisation and privatisation.

Casualisation- the wharfies have fought hard to win rostered 8 and a half hour shifts, allowing them to plan their work-life balance with their families. At the turn of the century, hiring on wharfs the world over was nothing but a glorified slave auction- stevedore bosses would check a man's body and teeth before hiring for a day, or throw the remaining chits for a day's work in the air so desperate workers would scramble and fight each other tooth and nail for a backbreaking day of exploitation. Those who doubt the veracity of these images should watch Ken Loach's heartbreaking documentary, the Flickering Flame, about the betrayal of the Liverpool Dockers in the early 1990s.

Rodney's boys want the bad old days back, so that wharfies hang by the phone, waiting for a call for a shift that could vary between 2 and 12 hours in duration. These are the problems that many workers face in the fast food industry- and many of those workers are pushing for strike action in May for guaranteed hours.

Privatisation- the crisis at the Ports has been manufactured, and as the National Government plans to push through asset sales, it needs to create a pretext for stealing the wharfs from public ownership. Apparently, a profit of 8% per year is not enough for these insatiable exploiters. They would do well to cast their eye overseas, where many economies dream of such growth. If the bosses defeat the union and push through casualisation, then the knives of the government will not be far behind.

Which is why the idiocy of Auckland's supposed left wing mayor Len Brown is disgusting. He follows the proud tradition of his Labour party mates who took neither side when the Wharfies were locked out in 1951- except Len pretends to be on everybodys side. He says he's against privatisation, but in the middle of a struggle and a lockout, he chides workers for defending their pay and conditions, and talks about flexibility and the need to return greater profits.

If this is going to be indicative of David Shearer's new Labour party's approach to unions, then clearly a stauncher political ally, like the Mana Movement, is needed by workers in struggle.

2011 was a year of revolution and revolt in many other countries overseas, but in Aotearoa, where lions were led by donkeys, we saw many bad draws and defeats in our union movement, from the Hobbit debacle to the Marton lockout. The CTU and the union movement need to stop fucking around- when an employer locks out a group of workers, we need to mobilise en force, blockade entrances, and physically occupy workplaces. It's time to call a scab a scab- no point in good union workers starving to death slowly on a roadside when this kind of industrial scum knife their fellow workers in the back. A united workforce will beat any boss black and blue- its the class traitors in our midst we need to deal to in 2012.

So, learn the lessons of 2011. The Wharfies, the vanguard of our movement, lead the battle in 2012. Socialist Aotearoa will be standing with them on the waterfront, blockading and occupying if needs be. We call for social movements such as Mana and Occupy to join the struggle at the gates of the wharves, and ensure that no scab gets through and no work is done until the evils of casualisation and privatisation are defeated.

Moderate parties such as the Greens and Labour, who claim to oppose asset sales, should mobilise their branches and supporters to physically join the battle at the wharves, and come on down for some solidarity picket duty. A large United Front and public demonstration opposing casualisation and asset sales should be organised by summers end, so that the 70% or so of Kiwis who oppose privatisation can manifest in number akin to the anti-Mining struggle led so deftly by Greenpeace in 2010.

If the wharfies win, then the battle against privatisation is on. If they lose, then this government will continue to steam roller over the pathetic excuse that the mainstream left believes is opposition. Their battle is the battle of the 99% against the greedy 1%- abandon them at your peril.