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Showing posts from September, 2012

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement?

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is shaping up to make the NZ government's proposed asset sales programme look like a mosquito to its great white shark. Judging by his superficial press releases, Trade Minister Tim Groser thinks he can convince us that it won't hurt a bit, or at least not much, and that bleeding the country in this way will cure its economic ills. But convincing us isn't high on the agenda, apparently, judging by the almost complete absence of publicly available information on the negotiations. It's actually part of the agreement that the details of the negotiations will remain sealed until four years after it is finalised. The only reason we know anything about the TPP negotiations is through leaked documents the negotiators didn't want us to see, including Article 12 of the Agreement (dealing with Investment).

Groser, New Zealand's negotiator to the Agreement, insists that “excessive sovereignty” is a big problem for the New Zealnd ec…

Who was Rosa Luxemburg?

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You might be forgiven for thinking that a bushy beard was an essential requirement for all socialist thinkers in the 19th century. However an exception had to be made in the case of one socialisms greatest thinkers, Rosa Luxemburg.

Rosa Luxemburg was born in Zamość, Russia of Polish-Jewish parents in 1871. The city of Zamość was a significant Jewish centre, first established in 1580 by Sephardic Jews coming from Italy and Spain. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Jewish Enlightenment or Haskalah (השכלה‎) brought a flowering of Jewish intellectualism and integration with the secular world. This in turn lead to the creation of a number of Jewish political movements during the struggle for the Jewish Emancipation. It was this Jewish civil rights movement which lead thousands of Jews throughout Europe, including Rosa Luxemburg to become involved in the broader socialist and humanist movements that began with the Chartist Revolts and the publication of the Communist Manifesto.…

Drug Addiction is Not a Crime

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Our prisons are full of people suffering from the disease of addiction. An illness that if left untreated will likely kill them. Approximately 80% of crime in New Zealand occurs under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Yet, it is still very difficult to persuade courts to mandate offenders into rehabilitation programs and even harder for those in prison to access treatment for their addictions. Over 50% of those released from prison are back inside within five years and for those under the age of 20, more than 70% go back.

New Zealand has the second highest rate of imprisonment in the Western world. We spend obscene amounts of money on prisons, with very little success in turning our captives' lives around. Maybe we just like the idea of locking people up. Our blind support for the "War on Drugs" is not only expenisve and stupid, but it can only lead us to where the USA finds itself today: the world's highest levels of both drug abuse and prison incarceration in t…

Auckland students vote overwhelmingly to censure AUSA President over trip to Israel

Auckland University students voted overwhelmingly on September 12 at Student Forum to censure the President of AUSA for a trip to Israel paid for and hosted by the Israeli government.

Read More: SJP - You went to occupied Palestine | Anthony Lowenstein - Zionist lobby targets Aussie students

Shut it down

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations are coming to Auckland between 3 and 15 December this year.

The TPP is a free trade agreement being negotiated in secret between the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Mexico and Canada will join the negotiations in Auckland.

As the NGO TPPWatch describe the TPP, 'Trade is only a minor part of the agreement. That’s just a clever branding exercise. A TPPA would be an agreement that guarantees special rights to foreign investors. If these negotiations succeed they will create a mega-treaty across 9 countries that will put a straight jacket around what policies and laws our governments can adopt for the next century – think GM labelling, foreign investment laws, price of medicines, regulating dodgy finance firms, NZ content on TV …'

Actor Martin Henderson who starred in the film Battle in Seattle, supports the campaign against the TPP, 'Spending time away has made me un…

Understanding the Eurozone crisis

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'The whole problem in Europe, the whole reason why you are seeing these countries like Spain, like Greece and right through southern Europe in the sort of mess they are is that they have huge levels of government debt. So the answer to New Zealand is not coming up with a make work scheme funded off taxpayers' taxes. It comes from New Zealand having a competitive industry, flexible labour markets, investing in things that will make the economy grow faster...' - John Key, Q + A, 16/09/12

John Key when he explains the global economic outlook and the prospects for economic growth avoids the real issues. Three simple but wrong assumptions he makes about the economic crisis and possible recovery are explained here.

1. Why do southern European governments have such high levels of debt in the first place?

'After the introduction of the euro, banks and other investors flooded the “periphery” countries of the eurozone with cheap credit. They weren’t trying to improve workers’ liv…

Operation National Party - The 'usual hard core'?

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On the 21st of July some 300 students and teachers marched on the National Party's conference at SkyCity to protest National's cuts to postgraduate education, early childhood education and charter schools. Anyone watching the protest would have seen a lot of students, union flags from the various education unions and an unusual amount of children for a demonstration.

The last post looked at the most interesting aspect of police operational orders released under the Official Information Act concerning a recent student protest. Another set of orders, that concerning the protests around the National Party conference has also been released - Operation National Party Conference. 

Part of the summary for officers reads - 'Protest groups will be the usual hard core groups who have already made their feelings felt recently in Auckland city. However it can be expected that some members of the general public not aligned to any protest group could be well motivated to also lend thei…

Operation Flick: Who set the trap?

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The police operation orders for Operation Flick, the police operation to clear student protesters on 1 June from Symonds Street, have been released under the Official Information Act and contain a nasty surprise.

It was the University of Auckland itself which called the police on their own students. Not only this, the University security and the Auckland Council collaborated with the police operation which left 43 students arrested in a day of massive and unprovoked police violence against student demonstrators.

In a complaint to the Police, student group 'Blockade the Budget says police dragged students by the neck and throat, punched and trampled them and held students against the ground when they weren't resisting.'

Fifty five seconds into this video you can clearly see a police officer punch a seated protester. The kettling and arresting of students came after the police promised student leader Jai Bentley-Paine that the police were present to facilitate the demonstra…

MANA setting the agenda

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This week confirms that the MANA Movement continues to set the agenda on the left in politics. It is the intellectual and activist powerhouse that is driving forward pro-worker, pro-poor and pro-Maori politics in Aotearoa.

Firstly, Labour's leader David Shearer this week adopted the 'feed the kids' policy of MANA in the 2011 election to bring healthy meals into working class schools in communities that have been savaged as a result of decades of low wages, high unemployment and five years of economic recession. Labour's move comes the week after Hone Harawira lodged a private members bill to provide free lunches and breakfasts in decile 1 and 2 schools. Hone has neatly replied to the critics, "And as for people who believe that feeding children is a responsibility of the parents, why should our children suffer because some parents either don’t receive enough money to feed their kids or because a small minority make bad parenting choices?" Even the Herald is …

Broken cameras, unbroken struggles

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Three recent documentary films reviewed by Sian R.

 Palestine, Ireland, New Zealand - each country has a brutal and much-glossed-over history of oppression and dispossession. I went to three films in this year's film festival, and realised afterwards that they all dealt with the same theme – peoples' struggles against violent displacement – and were all quite uplifting and cathartic in their own way, despite some pretty tragic subject matter.

Five Broken Cameras is a patchwork story told by Ehad Burnat, an amateur cameraman and farmer in the small village of Bil'in in Palestine's West Bank. It spans the first five years of his youngest son's life, coinciding with the beginning of Bil'in's resistance to the construction of the Israeli separation barrier. It is shot through five different cameras, each of which in turn got trampled, smashed or shot at by Israeli soldiers. Israeli editor and co-director, Guy Davidi, has neatly woven the pieces together. Burnat …

Making America Safe from Democracy

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The Presidential elections now loom large in the thoughts not only of Americans, but of the world. The pageantry and splendour of the respective party conventions, with their cheering crowds and glittering venues give every appearance that American Democracy is alive and well. But as Chris Hedges has pointed out in “Death of the Liberal Class,” politics has been reduced to spectacle. People hold up professionally printed signs, or wear Styrofoam boater hats sporting cockades, oblivious to their Revolutionary symbolism. No authentic voices will be heard. Gone forever are the Minute Men and the blue-coated Citizen-Soldiers in breeches, with their tri-corner hats and muskets ready, gently reminding the people to be vigilant against Tyranny. All the scruffy activists and Occupiers are safely caged in their “Free Speech Zones”, guarded by an overwhelming militarised police presence. The streets are clean. All the homeless were bussed out of town days ago.

The candidates are no longe…

Jayson Gardiner - What is tino rangatiratanga?

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Mana Party and Socialist Aotearoa activist Jayson Gardiner discusses what is tino rangatiratanga.

Land wars to water wars

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Divide and rule was the main aim of the Government's planned 'consultation hui' with iwi on rivers connected to the hydro-power schemes of SOEs floated for privatisation.

This plan is now in ruins in the wake of Maori King Tuheitia call for a national hui at Turangawaewae marae on the banks of the Waikato River.

Taken on its own, the decision by the Maori King to call a national hui is a serious blow to the asset sales agenda. Together with the six month delay announced on Monday the two defeats critically undermine National's attempt to go around Maori resistance to asset sales by just talking to some iwi leaders.

Morgan Godfrey has explained some of the political ramifications, 'Will the Kingitanga pressure Waikato-Tainui negotiators to refuse a deal that excludes a national solution? The answer: yes.'

If Maoridom come united out of the hui on September 13 in a rejection of asset sales, National will have a choice. Give up on asset sales or crush all resistan…

Hone X

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We know we will die - West Papua under attack

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In the Indonesian occupied province of West Papua 22 freedom fighters with the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) were arrested yesterday.
The arrests come in a year of extreme repression directed by Indonesia at crushing the independence movement that has seen activists murdered by the Indonesian army and special forces burning tribal villages in the highlands.

Yet the underground fight for freedom continues. Chairman of the West Papuan National Committee, Victor Yeimo summed up the spirit of the resistance movement to an undercover Australian reporter recently,
We know that we will die, we will shot by them. It's not a new thing, it's not a new story, we have been killed by them - many of our elder have already been killed by Indonesia.But we will struggle for freedom because if not me, who? There's no way - we will struggle, we will fight or we will be lost from this country. We know it. Since 1969 over 100,000 people in West Papua have died as a result of Indonesian police…

Behind the suicide spike - unemployment, child poverty, racism

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Suicide statistics have been released for the year to 30 June 2012 and show a 40% surge in suicides of 15-19 year olds killing themselves. The tragic spike in youth suicides mirrors the rise in children living in poverty to 21%.

The unemployed make up 28% of the 547 suicides in the last year. It's no secret unemployment is linked with suicide, 'One Oxford university study shows that a 3 percent rise in unemployment is linked to a rise of 2.4 percent in suicides in people under the age of 64.'
A recent paper in the British Medical Journal concluded, 'More than 1,000 people in the UK may have killed themselves because of the impact on their lives of the economic recession.'

Maori are overrepresented in suicide and numbers are rising. Suicide among Maori rose from 101 to 142 from 2010/2011 to 2011/2012. A 2006 study that compared a group of Maori who had attempted suicide to a control group found, 'Higher numbers among the attempted-suicide group were not connect…

Revolution conference - Spring in our step

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The first days of Spring saw Socialist Aotearoa's Revolution conference held over the weekend at Auckland Trades Hall.

Debating the future of the left on Saturday afternoon, Matt McCarten from Unite union told the conference that Socialist Aotearoa is a small but serious part of the left, respected for its interventions in union disputes and political campaigns and 'Punched above its weight.' Labour MP Darien Fenton also spoke at the closing session, calling for unity on the left to fight the Government. And Joe Carolan from Socialist Aotearoa discussed the situation of the radical left internationally and the success of parties of the radical left such as Die Linke in Germany and Syriza in Greece and the need for a radical left alternative.

Over sixty activists attended through the weekend and important sessions were held on union struggles, the new fights against oppression, the Arab Spring and Marxism today.

A good crowd turned out on Friday night to hear speeches from…

The numbers behind John Key’s Brighter Future

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3 – the percent fall in New Zealand’s median household income between 2010 and 2011.

10 – number of New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2010.

21 – the percent of children growing up in poverty in New Zealand in 2011.

40 – the percent rise in youth suicide in the last year. Eighty 15-19 year olds have killed themselves, up from 56 the year before.

53,900 – the numbers of New Zealanders who have moved to Australia in the year to July. The figure is a record and the population equivalent of New Plymouth, the country’s 11th largest city.

162,000 – the number of unemployed people in New Zealand. Over 10,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in a quarter.

4,700,000,000 – the $ increase in the size of government debt in the last four years, from $8bn in 2008 to $55bn now.

Right to water and the right to electricity

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John Key was forced today to bow to the Waitangi Tribunal's ruling on water rights and delay the first privatisation for six months.

It is a win for the Maori Council, it is a win for the Aotearoa is Not for Sale movement and a win for the Keep Our Assets coalition. Annette Sykes, MANA Party President and leading lawyer in the claim for water rights describes it as a 'Titanic win for hapu water rights.'

As National Party blogger David Farrar acknowledges, 'This is a significant decision. While MRP will still be floated, the chance of having all five sales before the 2014 election is diminished.'

When Key seeks to sell off Mighty River Power in March 2013 he'll be forced to contend with a citizens' initiated referendum and no doubt the continuing Eurozone debt crisis. Already National has been forced to admit Solid Energy is unsaleable right now. Now the electricity companies sell off is bogged down. We can expect a sharpened debate within Maoridom now, bet…

The case for a socialist media

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I doubt many people will disagree when I say the NZ Herald, the television news and the corporate radio stations are not up to the task of providing us working people with enough news, analysis and information to change the world.

If you read or watch corporate media you’ll see the love life of Kim Kardashian and family given more coverage than recent massacres of Syrian civilians in Aleppo or Damascus. You’ll see the lies of big business and the National Party being regurgitated unchallenged. Remember the story about wharfies earning $92,000 a year? You’ll see space given to racists and bigots like Paul Holmes and until we organised to stop him Paul Henry, to slur Maori, women, immigrants and queer people. You’ll hear from embedded journalists about the wonderful aid work NZ soldiers are doing in Afghanistan while the country falls apart under the strain of occupation. We shouldn’t complain about media bias although it exists – but about media manipulation – of public opinion and th…