Tuesday, September 23, 2014

By our works, Earth shall succeed


Brother and sister comrades, the end is nigh! We have given our consent through inaction for the interests of capitalism to take what they please, to rape the earth we were born on, and pillage the land we live on. Over the past one hundred years of capitalist development, we have seen the degeneration of our planet at a rate previously unheard of. Domestic oil supplies have run dry or reached the decade-till-dry mark in many critical industrial areas of the world. Our oceans and their ability to sustain life both under, and out of the water have been considerably damaged or depleted, with the fisherman's catch being leaner and leaner each season. Our soil is becoming seriously depleted and the amount of arable land on earth is being shrunk – with a population set to explode within the next few decades. This presents a problem with regards to keeping the population of the earth fed and maintaining some semblance of social stability.

With this rock we inhabit being the only known place in the infinite stretches of space that can support life and ensure the continuation of our species, it is of paramount importance that we preserve what we have left for ourselves and attempt to reverse the damage already done. The corporate interests have proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are incapable of doing anything but the opposite of what we as a species needs. The green parliamentary parties of the world have led a defeat through paralysis, solely through their forced collaboration with the capitalist interests. They have negotiated themselves into a position where to allow positive environmental progress, they must collude with those interested only in the preservation of nature for profit, therefore diluting their own politics and messages in the process. 

The existing methods for slowing and reversing the degeneration of our climate have proven highly ineffective, and it can no longer be assumed that they will bring about any meaningful reversal, or slowing of climate change at all. For example we see the New Zealand green party has planned a policy that involves charging a state-owned bank with investment in eco-capitalist ventures. Russell Norman himself said in the electoral campaign just passed that he was “more committed to the free market” than our own prime minister! We cannot trust the elite to pursue an agenda that supports the environment, as it is not seen to be fiscally productive – in other words, we cannot trust those who are in charge to put the environment ahead of the economy, even if it spells the end of life as we know it.

The conservation of the environment relates to our future and our immediate national interest more than one may assume. What happens now will decide the future quality, availability and prices of food and fuel, as well as affecting the general quality of life and availability of employment. The schemes that are in place now are futile. For example we can clearly see that Carbon credits are a failed policy, the Kyoto protocols were a mere gesture and the climate change summit is a joke that we politely take an interest in. The lack of political will to address the issue properly, considering the incentive, is shocking and disgusting.

The bottom line: we are headed for economic, social and environmental catastrophe due to our inaction or ineffective action.

Thus, we find ourselves confronted by a conundrum. We have to ask ourselves, do attempts to influence the parliamentary parties through piecemeal marches up and down the main drag, or outside guarded conferences work? Or do we assume that the outcome will be the same (negligible)? We in Socialist Aotearoa endorse a regime of peoples supremacy, and believe that revolutionary changes to our governments means of operation are key to the success of the halting, and reversing of climate change and other green & social damages. 

Brother and sister comrades, we must organize ourselves before it is too late. The time of true crisis is rapidly approaching. The environmental path we tread is a path to destruction and death, unless we take a revolutionary detour and disrupt our course. Comrades, we do not need anyone else to organize our society for us, to represent us, or to rule us! We are perfectly capable of working together to act in our own interests, on our own initiatives. We are capable of protecting our own environment & communities, and living without government supervision. 

The days of tinkering with policy has long since past. The crises has thickened, the climate change countdown has accelerated and the need for decisive action is more urgent than ever. It is imperative to the survival of our species and culture, that we unite and revolt before this impending environmental death and social genocide we have allowed ourselves to entertain, manifests itself and ends humanity as we know it. 

Revolt, comrades! Prevent your children's untimely demise!

 SA









Thursday, September 11, 2014

Transgender politics

Representation in the bourgeois parliament can be important to any liberation struggle that is still in its infancy. Yet 15 years after the first transgender person was elected to the New Zealand parliament, our representation has not improved. The current parliament lacks any transgender representation and only two political parties have transgender candidates standing for election this year. Indeed for the past seven years we have relied on gay or feminist MP’s to advocate on our behalf. This is quite problematic as people who do not experience this unique struggle tend to be quite out of touch with the community and their experiences.

The transgender liberation struggle is a prime example of this, those who we rely upon for advocacy and representation are no longer able to do so effectively. The gay community has become heavily commercialised, as well as being dominated by rich gay men. Feminist groups meanwhile are becoming increasingly transphobic, with Radfem tendencies becoming increasingly dominant within Anarcha-Feminist groups. On one level this highlights the importance of transgender representation within parliament yet it also highlights the inadequacy of bourgeoisie “Democracy” to properly address our concerns regardless of who is in power.

When Whangarei lawyer Kelly Ellis first announced her candidacy for the Labour party I was excited. Initially it looked like the beginning of a new chapter for transgender liberation (paying lip service to liberation struggles being one of the few things that help distinguish the Labour party from National). When the Labour party announced the so called progressive list however, she was ranked so low that her only chance of getting into parliament would be winning the deeply conservative Whangarei electorate, an impossible task during the best of times.

Georgina Beyer has really been the only significant transgender representative in the New Zealand parliament, she was elected MP for Wairarapa for six years. However she later left parliament due to the confiscation of Māori land by the Clark government. Beyer is a Māori Trans woman who has put a lot of her political focus on Maori struggles. Today she is the MANA Movement candidate for Te Tai Tonga with a very small chance of winning that electorate.

Georgina Beyer’s selection for Te Tai Tonga brings some hope for Transgender people. MANA however is a small party that is only likely to send a few MP’s to parliament. On the slight chance that Georgina Beyer can break the Tirikatene family stranglehold on Te Tai Tonga, she will be returned to parliament.

With neither of the major party's running a Transgender candidate that is likely to be elected. We must therefore focus on how we can best use radical grass roots politics to further our struggle for liberation. The liberal approach of “using the appropriate channels” has failed to improve conditions for working class, Transgender people to any significant degree. And relying on cisgender people to advocate for us is simply not acceptable, we must fight for our rights like so many before us.

Comrade Eva.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Dirty Politics and Capital



Nicky Hager's latest political expose "Dirty Politics" has exposed attitudes towards power which could be called "entitled", as well as the toxic interpersonal relationships which drive the people at the centre of our political system. It is in some ways shocking, the lack of self censorship revealed by emails and messaging, shows shrill hatred towards not just towards particular individuals, but entire groups of our fellow humans. One cannot help but wonder if the attitude of Cameron Slater towards Cantabrians is shared by our parliamentary leadership, and indeed if this has lead to many of their current miseries.
But though the litanies of immoralities, jingoism, jobism etc . . looms large, there is a central premise within Nicky's book which must be noted. There is a general decline worldwide in our democracy, it appears weak compared to what it once was. Voter turnouts throughout developed countries are generally in decline, there is increasing alienation between voters and their representatives and a proliferation of minor parties, some, such as golden dawn are openly fascist. Nicky suggests a quote by Simon Lusk provides some illumination to this quandary.
“There are a few basic propositions with negative campaigning that are worth knowing about. It lowers turnout, favours right more than left as the right continues to turn out, and drives away the independents.’ In short, many people stop participating in politics. If politicians cannot be trusted, if politics looks like a petty or ugly game, and if no one seems to be talking about the things that matter, then what’s the point of bothering to participate? Just leave them to it. There are innovations in US Republican Party thinking on this point; election tactics do not have to be just about winning votes; they can be equally effective if groups of people in society just stop voting altogether. We should not assume that everyone thinks low voter turnout is a bad idea. Sitting in the midst of the negative politics was John Key…"
- Simon Lusk.
The ideas within this quote are problematic to say the least. The idea is that revulsion with the political elite will essentially tarnish all political opposition as well, that politics will become a stinking corpse that none would dare touch from fear of the disease. But corpses must be buried, and this system would ultimately create its own gravediggers. Even the most violent, bloody, dirty political regimes in history are eventually confronted with social forces which seek their destruction, this has been repeated a hundred times over. Undermining parliament in the long term threatens the very power these parties seek to win, it's contradictory to engage in such politics by choice.
Secondly the idea has a circular logic to it, dirty politics depresses voter turnout through alienation. This alienation then leads to lower turnout strengthening the practice of dirty politics. More dirty politics are practiced lowering voter turnout further, strengthening the practice of dirty politics. This forms a perfect circle without a history or future, nor does it offer any explanation for the rise of dirty politics or most importantly how to fight it?
To this end I would like to advance an alternate perspective on the context within which dirty politics must be understood. An international context with clear historic, economic and ideological origins.
"With this generalised involution has come a pervasive corruption of the political class… Commonplace in a Union that presents itself as a moral tutor to the world, the pollution of power by money and fraud follows from the leaching of substance or involvement in democracy. Elites freed from either real division above, or significant accountability below, can afford to enrich themselves without distraction or retribution. Exposure ceases to matter very much, as impunity becomes the rule. Like bankers, leading politicians do not go to prison… But corruption is not just a function of the decline of the political order. It is also, of course, a symptom of the economic regime that has taken hold of Europe since the 1980s. In a neoliberal universe, where markets are the gauge of value, money becomes, more straightforwardly than ever before, the measure of all things. If hospitals, schools and prisons can be privatised as enterprises for profit, why not political office too?"
- Perry Anderson.
Here Perry Anderson offers an alternative explanation for the spread of dirty politics, as Marx pointed out "the political follows the economic". Dirty politics do not represent a development separate from our system of economic development, it is a way of maintaining the ideological dominance of capitalism broadly and neo-liberalism specifically. We can see examples of this throughout the neo-liberal political-economy that now pervades. Examples include misinformation campaigns and defamation attacks by petrochemical companies against global warming advocates, Clothing corporations over the conditions of workers in the global south and defense of executive bonuses within the financial sector after the financial crisis they perpetrated, not one went to jail.
What Nicky Hager has revealed in his book is the connection between these corporations and our 'so-called' representatives. The sharing of tactics, resources and political objectives. But we do not need Nicky's book to provide examples of the mutual interests of the state and capital acting against the interests of the population. Casino deals, financial bailouts, deregulation and attacks on welfare are all examples of the complicity of the state, often under the direction of 'Commissions' lined with the cream of business.
To this end dirty politics does not represent a political strategy for retaining office but the spread of capitalist neo-liberal ideology within the political parties which alienated large sections of the party membership, allowing the growth of corporate interest and control to every party aspect including parliamentary strategy. Dirty politics then becomes about maintaining the corporate control of parties.
Fighting dirty politics then must not just be a political endeavour, it must transform the economic conditions which lead to the rise and maintenance of dirty politics. Fought not just with the vote but with the struggle for the minimum wage, secure hours and democratic control. Corporate economic power can only represent a temporary victory unless it consolidates its power to once again dominate political power. To fight this dependency and free ourselves from the stinking corpse of politics we must become 'gravediggers' not just of capitals influence over politics but of the economy as well.
Dave, SA

Monday, September 01, 2014

NATIONAL HURTS WOMEN TO HOLD ON TO POWER

Many people don’t vote for National because they don’t like their economic policies, which favour the rich and hurt the poor. But it’s also important to understand that National creates policies and a social environment that is bad for women.

Many of the policies that National has created over its last two terms in government worsen women’s position. For example, they cut the training allowance for solo mothers on the Domestic Purposes Benefit, even though their own social welfare minister, Paula Bennett, used this benefit herself when she was on welfare. This is known as ‘pulling the ladder up after yourself’. Over the last year, they’ve also created policies that mean that WINZ is constantly checking up on solo mothers and trying to force them into work, even if they’re already in jobs, as many are. These women are harassed by WINZ workers and forced to come into the office for long, tedious appointments that don’t help them to find jobs.

National has also created policy that means that innocent women can have their benefits cut if their partners commit benefit fraud. National is more prone to abusing women on social welfare in this way because, in order to trick poor people into voting for them, and against their own interests, they have to create a climate of fear, dividing sections of the poor up and turning them against each other. They try to make the working poor believe that the poor who are on social welfare are their enemies. To follow through on this, they have to create policies that punish the poor on social welfare, so it looks like they’re ‘protecting the interests’ of the working poor. Many of those who need social welfare are women, so they’re on the receiving end of these unjust policies.

Another way in which National hurts women is through the basic sexism of their outlook on society. For example, National has close ties with Cameron Slater, the blogger who accused a woman who was almost raped by a Malaysian diplomat of only complaining because she was a ‘feminist’. They also failed to investigate this case properly until they were forced to by media interest. National delisted domestic violence from the crimes that New Zealand keeps statistics on, and attacked Labour’s attempts to have an equal number of male and female MPs in parliament – an attack that made Labour water down its policy. 

Finally, National will always put the interests of the rich ahead of the interests of women whose rights need protecting. For example, they ignored the fact that one of their most generous donors had a record of domestic violence, and accorded him privileges he probably shouldn’t have received (Labour also received donations from this man). National supports employment policies like creating more casual workers, these workers have no guaranteed hours and almost no rights, as their hours can be slashed at will without a good reason being given. Casual workers are often women who are unable to work full time as they care for children or other family members. It suits National to have a big workforce of poorly paid workers with hardly any rights, as their rich friends will like this pool of cheap, flexible labour. Over the last few years, the women who make up the bulk of the workers in low paid jobs such as care work and cleaning have struggled for better pay and conditions, only for National to refuse to help them.

Women can stick together and fight against National and its policies. Oppressing women benefits the rich, because it creates a big pool of people who will work for low wages and don’t have the emotional strength or time to defend themselves. It’s important to think about how National creates an environment that benefits the rich not just by creating legislation that makes many people poorer and less powerful, but how they specifically try to fool people into voting for them by turning the working poor against those on welfare, and men against women.

Mary Ann.

Housing and Revolution.


Since the latest financial crisis the housing markets of many countries including Aotearoa (New Zealand) have not only rebounded to pre-crisis (2006) price levels, they have in many cases exceeded them. This situation is not unique to Aotearoa but is following the trend of many of the central capitalist nations, even Greece, still being racked by economic crisis, is seeing a resurgence in house prices. 

This is largely due to the dominance of finance capital which, during this period of continued depressed consumption and manufacturing, has instead looked to speculative means in order to ensure continued capitalist profit. This is aided by the quantitative easing policies of numerous central banks including the Federal Reserve and European Union. Trillions of dollars of low to no interest cash has flooded the market, effectively bidding up prices. If you are fortunate enough to be a recipient of this money and by fortunate I mean, a member of the ruling capitalist class or its representative, then its straight back to the pre-crisis business of reckless speculation as usual.
However, for the largest section of the worlds population, workers; who are forced to sell their labour for wages, as they don't own the means of production (factories, land, etc), wages have largely stagnated or increased below the rate of inflation. In the face of a rising speculative bubble and devaluing currency, this is severely harming the ability of the working class to rent or purchase housing, as well as raising the prices of those commodities which are land intensive to produce, primarily food and taxes such as rates.
Parliamentary politics in Aotearoa, which due to the working classes struggle for universal suffrage last century, relies upon the votes of the working class to form a government. The Government has feigned concern at the plight of their 'citizens', largely ignoring the underlying causes of the crisis. They attempt to lay speculative blame (as if it were fact) on a deluge of reasons, hoping to obfuscate the underlying contradictions, while securing election to parliament with all its privilege for themselves.
Dominant among these obfuscations has been; foreign investment, supply and demand, or blaming "red tape and bureaucracy". However as pointed out before, these reasons are simply symptomatic of the development of capital and the rise of financial capital, in particular its international character. As the National party embarrassingly pointed out, during the height of the last financial boom while Labour had been in office, it had sold more land to foreign investors, inline with the strength of finance capital at the time. Further proof of both major parties commitment to be the best "managers" of the system rather than to oppose it.
Does this mean that there is no hope to a resolution within the parliamentary system for the plight of the workers? The short answer is no, parliament cannot resolve the contradictions of the capitalist system, parliament was shaped by capital to manage society on behalf of the capitalist class. As Marx pointed out, once every few years those members of the oppressed class may gather to choose which members of the oppressing classes should oppress them. This is all the democracy capital will surrender, any more is resisted violently. Ultimately, all parliamentary parties must uphold capital, as without it parliamentary politics would become redundant, as without capital there can be no capitalist class. But this answer, though correct is reductionist, and does not include parliament into a strategy for challenging the rule of capital.
The long answer is that although parliamentary politics can sometimes resemble a pigsty, just like a pigsty, it has its uses. The very fact workers have won many concessions including; holiday pay, sick leave, breaks and socialised healthcare, shows that the working class can influence parliament, if only temporarily as many of these things are under attack by capital and parliament. Winning concessions from parliament are vital to demonstrate the real power that the working class wield. Further, as a basis for real material improvements to the conditions of our life. And finally to create the most favourable conditions for the seizure of power by a strong, organised, educated working class. In this context, with these objectives in mind we can as revolutionaries, provide limited support to parliamentary parties who propose the greatest advance of working class interests.
Workers and revolutionaries should therefore identify those parties whose policies, though a chasm remains, best align with the interests of the working class. Additionally to ensure that some substance exists within the rhetoric, a parliamentary party whose members bring a proven record of opposing the worst abuses of capital. And fights against the primary capitalist tools for the ideological division of workers; racism, sexism and nationalism. These are factors which must be of primary concern for the casting of working class votes, anything less is a vote for reaction, opportunism and division.
The party which best fits these criteria, especially since the collapse of the alliance and final gutting of labour by neoliberal ideologies, is Internet MANA.
Returning to the focus on housing, the MANA party in particular, proposes two items which will make the most difference to working class families, and will threaten the grip of financial capital on housing. The first is to abolish homeless, the second, to build 10,000 additional state homes a year while retaining rents at no more than 25% of income.
Abolishing homelessness is of course an aspirational goal, but it is also a real one and one that threatens the very relationship between supply and demand which is a sacred cow to capital. During capitalist production, although the capacity to produce sufficient commodities exists, inevitably the ability of society to pay for those commodities collapses, causing unemployment before the total need for them is satisfied. The material criminality of a system which forces people to go without when the means to satisfy their needs exists, cannot be overstated. In housing those who are left without are called homeless. Filling garages, portable cabins, tents and cars, an estimated 50,000+ in Auckland alone, their existence is a testament to the wretched price the market demands.
Million dollar mansions for those with the money, grinding misery for the rest. To ensure adequate housing for all regardless of means, is to challenge the vile failings of the market, to put human need before the ability to pay. But by removing the ability of the market to judge supply and demand by the ability to pay, a new question is posed. How then is a plan created to ensure adequate supply of housing? This can only be answered by a new form of social organisation, where housing is constructed according to planned social need. A plan constructed by the direct democratic involvement of those who consume the housing, created and funded by their labour, for their consumption.
However in answering the above question we have abstracted away the financier and developer, who have profited handsomely under the current arrangement. They would of course violently oppose such an arrangement, which effectively cuts out their existence as middlemen, standing between production and consumption. A series of attacks against any government would be harsh and likely threaten its economic continuity, investor strikes, capital flight and lockouts would be expected. Of course the MANA party leadership is likely to back down in the face of stiff opposition by capital. However, the confrontation creates the opportunity for workers who voted for reforms, if organised, to continue the dispute by non parliamentary means. To overcome these would require the direct mobilization of the working class to crush capitalist opposition, through seizing capital, breaking lockouts and seizing political power under their direct democratic control, pulverising any further capitalist maneuvering. Such an effort can be called nothing short of revolutionary, throwing all the existing social and economic relations into the air, daring the newly empowered working class to define them, wages, production, politics all would be redefined.
In the 1870's a major debate emerged in the German left regarding the shortage of housing for workers in major cities. 144 years later we still are having the same debate. In 1872 Fredrick Engels in his work, 'The Housing question' pointed out that the solution to the housing question lay not within reforms, but a revolutionary programme of the workers. The reason being that solving the housing question could not simultaneously solve the social question of capital and inequality. But only by overcoming the exploitative system of capitalism, which created the question in the first place could the answer be found. The only way to take a step towards solving the conditions our class endures, not just in housing, but in labour, unemployment and discrimination, is to take a step towards the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. To replace the growing capitalist oligarchies with the democratic rule of the workers. Voting MANA is a small but important step towards a greater goal.
All power to the working class!
All power to the imagination!
Dave, SA

MANA policy priorities are to:
  • Abolish homelessness.
  • Make it a duty of government to ensure every individual and family is housed in secure, safe, and affordable accommodation.
  • Develop a national housing strategy based on quality research which identifies true levels of homelessness and substandard living arrangements.
  • Ensure there is enough rental housing that is safe and affordable.
  • Stop the sale of state houses and eviction of tenants, and instead build 10,000 new state homes per year for rent (or rent-to-own) until the current crisis in rental availability for people and families on low incomes is addressed.  This will also create jobs and training opportunities.
  • Maintain income related rents at no more than 25% of income for state, local government, community and iwi social housing, and develop an income rent control system for use in the private sector.
  • Put state housing back under the management of HNZ rather than MSD.
  • Introduce a ‘warrant of fitness’ for all rental housing, to ensure no accommodation is let without basic standards being met, including sanitation, insulation, warmth, fire safety, and the removal of any toxic materials.
  • Reinstate tenure for families in state homes so they can’t simply be reviewed out of their homes by governments wanting to reduce state house numbers.
  • Assist low and middle income earners into home ownership
  • Develop a new low-interest, no deposit Māori Home Ownership Scheme (with low-cost mortgage insurance) for Māori first home buyers to increase the number of Māori owning their own homes.
  • Develop a new Kiwibank Home Ownership Scheme that would provide low-interest loans (with low-cost mortgage insurance) to low and middle income individuals and families with a demonstrated savings record.
  • Ensure low income families are better able to save for a home and service a mortgage by raising the minimum wage to a living level (set at 66% of the average wage).
  • Support the development of Indigenous housing models, as well as sweat equity, shared equity, eco housing, cooperative housing, and other innovative forms of home ownership.
  • Require all new housing developments of 10 homes or more to include a minimum of 50% of affordable homes.
  • Better regulate house prices by imposing a tough capital gains tax on property investors whose buying and selling activity helps push prices up.
  • Restrict foreign ownership of housing to ensure better availability and greater affordability for New Zealanders.
  • Increase government support for third sector housing providers
  • Increase government support for third sector housing providers – whānau, hapū and iwi, community, and church based organisations who work to provide quality social housing for rent (or rent-to-own) in local areas.
  • Properly fund supported accommodation
  • Provide adequate ongoing funding for emergency housing, women’s refuge and supported housing for those with particular health and social needs – in every district.  Increase funding and other support for tenants’ protection groups.
  • Support housing development on Māori land
  • Introduce a major papakainga housing programme, which works to overcome in sensitive, practical ways the many current barriers to building housing on Māori communally owned land.
  • Establish the right of Māori to remain in or return to their home rohe without penalty from the state.
  • Improve rural housing
  • Maintain and increase rural housing improvement programmes which enable whānau to bring their homes up to decent health and safety standards.
  • Increase government support for rural districts, including through greater assistance with public transport, sewerage, water, wastewater, waste, roading, and other infrastructure.
  • Support sustainable housing
  • Increase funding and support for environmentally sustainable and low cost, low tech building trades training programmes.