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Archive of Communist Workers Group of Aoteaora/New Zealand up to 2006

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MayDay! Workers of the World Unite!

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May 1 is International Workers’ Day! All around the world we are seeing those who are exploited and oppressed by capitalism and imperialism engaged in resistance struggles. In Aotearoa/New Zealand we need to rebuild a labour movement that can act in solidarity with this global resistance. We need to build unions that are democratic, independent, militant, and internationalist, as ‘schools for socialism’!

Workers commemorate past struggles and act in solidarity with present struggles. We remember the historic struggles of the Paris Commune of 1870, the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the heroic colonial revolutions such as the Chinese and Vietnamese. In NZ we celebrate the class battles of 1890, 1912-13 and 1951. These are the major milestones in the making of our class into that revolutionary force that has the power to overthrow capitalism and build socialism.

Workers resistance on the rise

Today the workers movement is weak and defensive. Years of defeat have pushed workers into retreat. But while capitalism can drive back workers struggles it cannot destroy the only class that creates its wealth. Around the world there are signs that workers are once again on the move. Imperialism is in deep crisis and can only survive that crisis by robbing workers and peasants of their resources, driving down their wages and making their lives miserable.

International resistance to imperialist rule is mounting. But the organisation of that resistance is still at a rudimentary level. Because of the weakness of the organised workers movement worldwide, resistance to oppression is taking forms that cut across working class solidarity and hold back the rise of international labour solidarity.

In Palestine and Iraq, the invaders have smashed working class organisations and are forcing workers into the arms of the bosses and Islamic clerics. Young workers are being driven to futile suicidal attacks against high-tech invading armies. Isolated and outgunned these ‘intifada’ can be smashed as in Palestine and Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda, the terrorist organisation funded by wealthy Saudis, is bombing and maiming Western workers to drive imperialism out of the Middle East, not to liberate Muslims but to make rich Arabs bosses even richer.

What we have to learn from all these struggles of oppressed peoples against imperialism is two things: first, the working class is the only class that can unite all the oppressed and defeat imperialism, and second, that the working class must be united internationally and led by a revolutionary party.

Why the working class?

The leadership of the national struggles against imperialism must come from the working class. Only the organised armed workers can turn resistance on the part of peasant and tribal fighters into a victorious defeat of imperialism. All other classes have an interest in doing deals with imperialism for a share of the wealth created by workers and peasants.

Workers, in opposing the system that exploits and oppresses them, have a class interest not only to defeat imperialism. They also have an interest to overthrow the national capitalist class and its hired politicians – including those who pose as friends of the workers like Arafat, Chavez or Lula. And workers have the means to do this as they can strike to close down the economy, arm themselves, win over sections of the military and take state power.

But even where workers are highly organised as they are in Bolivia, they have been cheated of power by class traitors in their own ranks. Armed peasants and miners led by militant trade unions have several times in the last decades been capable of taking power, only to be betrayed by leaders who do deals with imperialism to share the expropriated labour of workers and peasants.

To avoid repeating these defeats, we have to keep alive the lessons of the past as guides to action today. In Russia in 1917, the armed workers were led by a revolutionary party that defeated the treacherous sellout elements in their ranks and helped the struggle for national liberation to become a victorious socialist revolution. The difference between Russia in 1917, and the failed or incomplete revolutions in Germany 1919, Bolivia 1952, Cuba 1959, and Chile 1973, was the existence of a revolutionary party.

The second lesson is, that a victorious national liberation movements against imperialism cannot survive as independent workers’ state without the class solidarity of the workers in the imperialist countries, including their rich client states like New Zealand.

This is because these ‘Western’ workers are the only class that has the strength to shut down the imperialist economies and bring the war machine to a halt.

For example, it was the German workers who went on strike and the soldiers and sailors who mutinied in 1918 stopping the European imperialist powers from overwhelming and smashing the Russian Revolution at its birth. The workers in the imperialist countries are the only force with the power to stop their own bosses from invading, occupying and destroying other countries, by defeating the ‘main enemy’ at home.

The labour ‘aristocracy’

But there is a problem in building support for liberation struggles in the Western working class. Many workers are ‘bought off’ with high wages and back their bosses in imperialist wars. They are members of the labour ‘aristocracy’ whose wages are partly paid by the cheap labour of the ‘developing’ countries. Their unions are led by bureaucrats that manage labour relations within the law of the bosses’ state. They vote for reformist parties that claim to manage capitalism in the interests of ‘all classes’.

For example in the US, the main union organisation, the AFL-CIO, is proud of its ‘patriotism’ in supporting the ‘war on terror’, including the use of the Patriot Act to attack labor rights at home. Why? Because this war defends the interests of US workers whose jobs and wages depend on the strength of US imperialism. The AFL-CIO calls for votes for the Democratic Party, as the more union-friendly party of the US bosses, to deliver these jobs and wages.

This is why the vast majority of those millions of workers who opposed the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, did little more than demonstrate in the streets or pray for peace. They thought that war was the wrong policy. And their pacifism is catching. When Bush abolished the labour rights of public employees after 9-11, there was no strike in response. Even the West Coast Longshoremen, traditionally one of the most militant US unions, loudly proclaimed their unrivalled patriotism and backed off an industrial dispute last year when Bush threatened to lock them up under the Patriot Act.

NZ workers sign up for imperialism

In NZ the CTU official stand on the ‘war on terror’ was to endorse the UN resolutions. While the Auckland CTU leadership took a more principled stand against a UN invasion of Iraq, the union movement in NZ has not taken any industrial action against the SAS being sent to Afghanistan or the Engineers to Iraq. NZ workers too are dominated by a union bureaucracy that banks its career paths on ‘lesser evil’ Labour governments or an alternative future Alliance/Green coalition managing a ‘peaceful and just’ capitalism.

Why? Because in NZ the most privileged workers in unions affiliated to the Labour Party and the ‘left’ parties, benefit from NZ’s military alliance with Australian and US imperialism. For example the Maritime Union ‘cabotage’ campaign appeals to NZ bosses to join forces with Australian imperialist bosses to keep ‘foreign’ workers on lower wages off local ships. And the EPMU is begging the Aussie military to contract out maintenance on its frigates to the Whangarei shipyard that helped to build these ANZAC frigates to police the Pacific on behalf of US and Australian imperialism’s interests.

Pacifism means sucking up to bosses

Thus the most privileged layers of Western workers depend for their jobs and incomes on direct or indirect benefits from imperialist military expenditure. Or on wars for oil, gas, copper, diamonds, fish etc whose proceeds trickle down into their jobs and pay packets. These unions are bureaucratic, pacifist, dependent on the state and form racist national fronts with their bosses to protect their jobs from migrants or foreigners.

The most these workers will do against war is to argue that imperialism does not need to fight wars to defend their jobs and high wages, and that the UN should manage invasions like in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. This is why the official labour movement in the imperialist countries will never go beyond pacifist posturing and never take organised strike action to stop war. For example, even when train drivers went on strike against Britain’s role in the Iraq war, they acted as individuals and not as members of their union.

Build unions of the most oppressed!

But all is not lost. While the union bureaucrats in the imperialist countries serve the interests of the bosses and the labour aristocracies, they do not represent the vast layers of other workers who are highly exploited and oppressed.

These are the migrant workers and/or low paid service workers who are mainly women, ethnic minorities and youth. They are typically casualised workers, not unionised and on the worst pay and conditions. They do not benefit from imperialism and form an oppressed layer of cheap labour in the imperialist heartlands. They have the class interest to form strong links with other workers across borders in the oppressed world and take direct action against their own military machine.

It is to these workers that we must look to form new class struggle unions based on rank and file democracy. They can be organised independently of the state, reformist parties and the bosses. Like the Latino janitors unionised in Los Angeles, they can take militant strike action to fight for better wages and conditions in the heart of the imperialist machine. They can act in international solidarity with the anti-imperialist resistance around the world.
Organise the casualised worker!

In NZ, the large majority of workers in the casualised mainly private service sector are not unionised. They are predominantly young, female, migrant workers. They work for multinational hotels like Sheraton, fast food outlets like Burger King, petrol stations like Mobil, and supermarkets, multinational call centres and commercial cleaners.

They need to be unionised so they can join forces with the workers who are employed by these same global corporates in other countries to fight together to win rights and better pay and conditions.

They can also link up globally with unionised workers in oil companies like Shell, banks like Citigroup, and military contractors like Halliburton, and other war profiteers, to blockade these companies and demand that they get off ‘corporate welfare’ and free up billions for health, education and housing for the poor.

The can unite with unionised workers in the export industries such as fishing and forestry to oppose anti-worker practices and the destruction of fish and timber stocks. They can fight to keep the foreshore and seabed from being sold-off to the expanding multinational aquaculture corporations. They can demand the nationalisation of all these companies under workers’ control with no compensation to the bosses!

For Rank-and-file control of unions

To be effective these unions must be run by their rank and file members. They must struggle to be independent of any political bureaucracy, of the reformist parties who suck them into parliament and the bosses’ state, and able to unite with other unions in militant strike action.

With this organisational strength, these unions can be what Leon Trotsky called ‘schools for revolution’. They can take up the fight for the most immediate bread and butter demands, and when the bosses refuse to meet them, they can take the fight all the way to win workers’ control of industry and state power.

They can take action on wages which become stands on war. They can defend their jobs yet refuse to build or repair frigates. They can demand that the CTU takes strike action against NZ’s military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. When the CTU refuses they can replace it with their own rank and file leadership.

They can impose boycotts and bans on Israel. They can mount solidarity campaigns in defence of migrant workers, so-called illegal workers, refugees like the jailed Algerian Ahmed Zaoui. They can fight for the rights of foreign workers in NZ ships, and build support for the independent trades unions and women’s’ organisations of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

These unions must be democratic, independent, militant and internationalist! They can train and empower the working class fighters who will unite with workers globally and create a new political leadership that can bring an end to capitalism and build a world socialist society!

Workers have no country!
No to cabotage, frigates and theft of the foreshore!
Strike to stop imperialist war at home!
Support the resistance in Iraq and Palestine!
Support the workers and peasants revolution in Bolivia!
No to the treacherous leaders of the WSF – Lula, Chavez and Castro!
For a new World Party of Revolution!

From Class Struggle 55 April-May 2004

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Written by raved

January 6, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Bolivia: Making the Revolution

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February 2004 marks one year from the re-opening of the revolutionary struggle in Bolivia when workers’, peasants and youth began their uprising against the hated president ‘Goni’ Sanchez de Lozada. In October, peasants and workers blockaded La Paz forcing Goni into exile. He was replaced by Carlos Mesa who called for a truce. Mesa has failed to deliver on the COB demands and has used the time to stabilise his rule. On 22 January the COB met and called for a mobilisation in 20 days to prepare for a national general strike on 21 February to bring down Mesa and put in place a Popular Assembly. Here we argue that there is mass support to go beyond a Popular Assembly to a real Workers’ and Peasants’ State if a revolutionary leadership can be created. We support our sister group POB in this task!

COB ends truce with plans for general strike

In a meeting that lasted all day, delegate after delegate of 42 of the 65 COB (Bolivian Workers’ Centre) affiliates, including miners, transport workers, teachers, shop assistants and civic committees, called for the unity of all the popular forces in Bolivia to be mobilised to launch an indefinite general strike in 20 days to bring down the Mesa government.

Jamie Solares a miners leader of the COB said that Bolivia was a colony of the US and that Mesa was continuing the same policies as Goni on behalf of US imperialism. He said that it was an emergency situation, and that the time for theory was past and time for action had arrived to build a great popular assembly to take power.

He had invited the peasant leaders Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe to meet with the COB to build a united front against the government. Morales was visiting the Chapare region where more than 200 died in the war against the selling of the gas in October. Morales replied condemning the COB plan to attack parliament were he is a member. He said that the COB plan was to make a coup that would only invite the US to make its own military coup. But when some of his supporters present spoke in favour of participating in parliament and the referendum on selling the gas they were booed. Quispe, for his part, did not come to the COB meeting but immediately came under pressure from the militant peasants of the Altiplano and quickly endorsed the call to bring down Mesa.

Most speakers called for the COB to build grass roots support for strike action to replace the government with dual power organs, repeal the gas agreement with the multinationals, nationalise industry and provide free health, education and pensions. Delegates from the media said that it was necessary for the people to replace the leadership. They questioned Morales claim to defend democracy. What democracy? We can expect no solutions from parliament! The workers union leader Roberto de la Cruz of El Alto (the working class town above La Paz) who was not at the COB congress challenged Morales to say which side he was on, the peoples or imperialism.

The students also made the call to organise to fight for power, to prepare the general strike with blockades in February, to split the army and win the support of the military rank and file. In an separate meeting of youth organisations on the 25th January in El Alto many resolutions were passed in support of the COB call for a general strike, including re-nationalising the gas, exprorpriating the multinationals, the US out of Iraq and for a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

The miners cooperatives representatives warned that if the workers and peasants were not united they would face a military coup d’etat. Other workers warned the leadership of the COB that they would be thrown out unless they provided militant leadership. The pensioners delegate spoke of the need to finish with the capitalist system and replace it with a socialist system.

Speaking for the artists and writers a delegate put the position of POB (Poder Obrero – Workers Power) calling for the renationalisation of the mines and the gas and oil, but under workers control which the program of the COB does not raise. He said that the unfinished revolution in Bolivia could not rely on the support of the anti-neoliberal governments who had just met at Monterrey, or the WSF, because Bolivia was not facing neo-liberalism. The enemy was the capitalist system and the drive of imperialism and its lackey Mesa government to rob Bolivia of its gas. The answer was to create a popular assembly of the workers, peasants and rank and file military to prepare for an insurrection and not a Constituent Assembly which was an example of parliamentary cretinism.

The POB comrades speech was in part echoed by the regional bodies of the COB – the CODs or local workers’ confederations of Cochabamba, La Paz, Oruro, Santa Cruz, Potosi, Beni, Huyuni and Montero. The government of Mesa was rejected. The gas law was rejected and the demand raised for gas to be under national control. War was declared against all the imperialist multinationals. The COB had to begin educating the masses for the national mobilisation. The CODs would provide the leadership along with the COB national executive to unite the forces to bring down the government and put in place a government of the COB representing the workers, peasants and rank and file military.

The resolutions passed ended with the demand that all the sectors declare an emergency, and organise within 20 days for an indefinite general strike to demand a 3% salary rise for all government workers, and a new monthly minimum wage of $820 up from $55.

From General Strike to Workers Power

It is clear to the people that Mesa is continuing to act like Goni as the open US agent in Bolivia. His class interest is to do a deal on behalf of Bolivian capitalists with imperialism that allows some share of the gas to be retained in Bolivia and trickled down to pacify the poor. But imperialism will not allow enough gas wealth to be kept to feed the children of the poor. US imperialism can only survive by taking the maximum super-profits from the Bolivian gas. The Bolivian children will continue to beg on the streets in their thousands.

The rank and file of COB have rejected the truce with Mesa and are calling for a ‘workers’ and peasants’ government.’ But this means different things to different camps. On the right, the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) led by Evo Morales who represents the coca growers in the tropical east of Bolivia believes that it is possible to mobilise the people to force the Bolivian state to strike a deal with imperialism for a larger share in the gas wealth than Mesa can deliver. This will enable the coca growers to cultivate their land in peace and prosperity.

That is why Morales has used Chile’s demand to share in the proceeds of the gas being piped across its territory to activate Bolivian national resentment of the defeat in the war with Chile in the late 19th century. Morales does not agree to the strike action on February 21 because he believes he can be elected president in Mesa’s place and win these concessions from imperialism. For him a ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ government’ is a left social democratic government led by the peasant bureaucracy rather than the national bourgeoisie. He fears that to go any further and allow workers and peasants to really take power would bring down an imperialist military coup on his head.

In the centre are the current leaders of COB such as Jaime Solares, and Filipe Quispe who represents the impoverished Quechua indian peasants of the altiplano. They are being pushed left by the mass rank and file militancy of COB and the grass roots revolutionaries who dominate the regional CODs. Since 1946 the COB has had in its program demands that originate in the Pulcayo Theses based on Trotsky’s transitional program for a workers’ and peasants’ state. Against this revolutionary program, Solares adopts the position of the labour bureaucracy that wants a return to the Popular Assembly of the 1970s, in the form of a Constituent Assembly that will write a new bourgeois constitution. Essentially the labour bureaucracy is petty bourgeois, and sees itself as a ‘middle class’ able to guide the Bolivian people to national independence. Its model is a petty bourgeois government that represents the national unity utopia of the popular or patriotic front, like that of 1952 and 1971 in Bolivia. They hope and pray that imperialism will come to terms with a radical popular front government and not smash it as has always happened in Latin America. Like all petty bourgeois politicians unless they are kicked aside by the revolutionary workers and peasants they will be used by the bosses to strangle and kill the revolution.

The camp followers of the labour bureaucrats are the centrist former Trotskyists of POR-Lora whose class compromises always betray the workers at the crucial hour. POR-Lora provides a left cover for the labour bureaucracy sowing illusions in workers that ‘democratic’ imperialism can make concessions to progressive anti-neo-liberal governments based on the unions in Latin America. The centrists are more dangerous than the open reformists as they speak about socialist revolution but act for the counter-revolution. For them a COB-led Popular Assembly would be a ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ Government’.

But their ‘Popular Assembly’ was and will always be a popular front joining workers and peasants to the petty bourgeois parties defending private property. Workers may call for a Constituent Assembly to defend bourgeois democracy against fascism or military dictatorships. But when workers are on the offensive, the Constituent Assembly is a trap which prevents them advancing to seize state power. The POR-Lora allowed the COB to join a popular front government in 1952 during a revolutionary upsurge, the first major post-war betrayal by Trotskyists of a workers’ revolution. Today they disarm workers who are mobilising to take power, by covering up these past betrayals and by refusing to call for a Workers’ and Peasants’ government based on workers and peasants councils and militias.

Revolutionary Party

On the revolutionary left the POB (Poder Obrero Bolivia) demands a return to the Pulcayo Theses, for the formation at the base of the COB and CODs of workers’ and peasants’ councils, for the splitting of the rank and file military from the officers, and for the formation of workers, peasants and soldiers militias to take power and form a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. That is why the POB delegate at the COB meeting on the 22 January raised a number of transitional demands including the nationalisation of industry under workers control. This calls on workers to go beyond the COB demand for mere nationalisation of industry by the capitalist state. This is because even under a COB-led Constituent (Popular) Assembly the capitalist state can re-nationalise the oil and gas in the interests of imperialism to head off the revolution and prevent control over the profits from falling into the hands of workers. By raising the demand for workers control militant workers, peasants and youth are confronted with the necessity of going beyond capitalist nationalisation and of struggling to expropriate industry and land under workers and peasants control.

We see that an unlimited general strike beginning on February 21 can be the beginning of a victorious revolution. But for this to happen the rank and file workers have to take the Pulcayo theses and the POB program seriously. The program of the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie and the centrist betrayers to limit a ‘Workers and Peasants government’ to a Constituent (Popular) Assembly has to be defeated. The best militants have to join the revolutionary vanguard and carry its program into the base of all the workers, peasants and youth organisations. As the Solares leadership attempts to contain the strike short of these objectives it will have to be replaced by a revolutionary leadership.

The demand for workers’ control must mean that workers and youth occupy and manage industry, factories, gas and oil, health and education. It means that peasants must occupy the government departments that administer the land. It means that the rank and file of the military must mutiny against the officers and take control of the military apparatus. Such occupations will create a situation of ‘dual power’, in which the workers power can only be defended by armed workers and peasants smashing bourgeois state power. The seizure of power by the workers and peasants must be organised centrally as a Workers’s and Peasant’s Government based on workers’ and peasants’ councils and militias, and on the rank-and-file of the armed forces who come over to the revolution. A Workers’ and Peasants’ State in Bolivia will survive only if the workers of Latin America intervene to prevent the US from mobilising the state forces of its Latin American client states to smash the revolution.

For an indefinite general strike to bring down Mesa and to impose a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government!

Call on the coca growers of the tropical east of Bolivia around Cochabamba and Chapare break with Morale’s parliamentary cretinism and join the COB plan for a general strike!

Call on Bolivian workers and peasants to elect delegates to the Popular Assembly that are prepared to take power in the name of the workers and peasants organisations!

Build workers’ and peasants’ militias and for the rank and file of the military to take control of the state repressive apparatus!

Stop the chauvinist call for war with Chile over control of the gas pipeline!

Call on Chilean, Brazilian and Argentinean workers to blockade all gas stolen by the imperialists from Bolivia!

For a continental anti-imperialist workers bloc opposed to imperialism and to the anti-neoliberal WSF false international of Lula, Chavez and Castro!

For a new Bolshevik/Leninist International to lead the revolution in Latin America!

For a Socialist United States of Latin America!

 
From Class Struggle 54 Feb-March 04

Written by raved

December 27, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Aotearoa: New Employment Relations Reforms

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The ERA (Employment Relations Act) is a failure in the eyes of both union and bosses. It failed to rectify the damage done to unions by the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 which decimated the unions. But it was also an irritant to employers who saw it as a shift back towards union domination of the economy. The new reform Bill has revived these antagonisms on both sides. But is it really such a big deal? Class Struggle does its analysis of the Reform Bill and puts the case for workers taking the law into their own hands.

ERA weak

The Government is making some minor changes to the Employment Relations Act (ERA) to strengthen the role of unions. The ERA was designed to restore a balance to industrial relations after the ECA had almost destroyed the unions. Labour’s Blairite approach is to make the unions ‘partners’ with business so as to regulate the labour force and encourage increased labour productivity. But to do that unions have to first get coverage of workers. The ERA failed to give the unions sufficient strength to significantly increase their bargaining power with business. Bosses could refuse to agree to collective agreements and workers did not see the advantages of joining unions. After 3 years, union membership has recovered slightly from being around 18% of the workforce to about 20%. But today only 12% of workers in private industry are unionised compared with 50% in the public sector.

The CTU lobbied Government to improve conditions for unions. They wanted to make it harder for bosses to avoid participating in MECAS (multi-employer collective agreements), to promote collective bargaining, to make the good faith requirements stronger so bosses could not ignore them, to protect vulnerable workers when businesses are sold and to stop free-loading by non-members. The Government took these issues on board:

The Changes

  • Fines up to $10,000 if employers do not act in ‘good faith’
  • Vulnerable workers get more protections when businesses are sold
  • Employers could be fined if they pass union-negotiated wages and conditions to non-union workers
  • If MECAS (Multi employer agreements) are sought, employers must attend at least one meeting
  • A new system of non-binding 3rd party facilitation when parties can’t reach a settlement,
  • If the facilitation fails and a collective agreement can’t be reached, a settlement could be imposed by the Employment Relations Authority
  • Labour Dept inspectors investigate complaints over equal pay

Bosses’ offensive

The employers are objecting to the changes in the Bill. While Labour Minister Margaret Wilson says that stronger unions will actually contribute to economic growth in the whole country, bosses want weaker unions and more control over their worksites. They strongly opposed the ERA when it was first promoted in 2000 and Labour made concessions to them. Even Roger Kerr of the Business Round Table admits that the original ERA was “watered down” and “remained enterprise focused”. Despite Kerr’s plain talking, most capitalists running businesses and employing workers, still hate the ERA and don’t want a bar of the new Bill. They miss the freedom of the ECA to hire and fire at will. So they are running a scare campaign to frighten Labour into submission.

The bosses’ offensive against the Bill has been coordinated by the New Zealand Herald. The ‘business section’ of NZH has run a campaign against the Bill. It reported 3 surveys they conducted of small, medium and large businesses on their negative reactions to the Bill. The alarmist reactions are captured in the headlines in the series of anti-worker stories called ‘Working to Rules’. One headline said ‘More rights, less work’, another ‘Recipe for Ruin’ and another ‘Businesses must rise in Protest”.

For bosses, the most unpopular aspect of the reforms is strengthening the provisions for MECAS. They say that large groups of organised workers across several enterprises is a move back towards national awards and a restriction to right of each employer to hire and fire. They also object to the provisions which protect workers when businesses are sold or transferred. Neither do bosses like the restrictions on freeloading. They claim mediation is not working for them. They object to being forced into an Agreement by the Employment Relations Authority.

Prominent critic Simon Carlaw of Business New Zealand says the Bill is anti-enterprise and anti-growth. The penalty for breaching good faith is too draconian and signals a return to compulsory arbitration and loss of freedom for bosses. Transfer of provisions is yet another compliance cost. Stopping bosses advising workers not to join unions restricts their freedom of speech! Kerr ups the anti, claiming the new Bill aims to return to compulsory unionism, to compulsory arbitration and that multi employer contracts will create class warfare, which will be news to that rabid socialist Margaret Wilson.

Trade unions respond

Trade union leaders predicted businesses would complain and generate panic like they did over the original ERA. So how are unionists reacting to the hysteria? Although the Bill refers to the “inherent inequality of power” in the workplace the unions are treading softly on this argument. Instead, unionists are appealing to the ‘good business sense’ of the bosses. Bill Andersen, president of the National Distribution Union, in an article headlined “Only bad bosses need fear law change”, claimed that if a business was run on a sound investment plan, was informed by market research and had good labour relations, then the new law would be great for them. This echoes former union leader Ken Douglas who stated some years back that the bosses need unions to get the most productivity from workers! That’s presumably why on retirement from the union job Douglas offered his services to business.

Margaret Wilson defended her Bill by restating her philosophy that workers and bosses have interests in common – suggesting that good profits and improved working conditions go together. She appeals to bosses by arguing that the Bill will benefit business. She sees that improved working conditions for workers will be good for business and anyway, good employers are already practicing good faith in their dealings with their workers. She points out that the Bill brings NZ in line with the working conditions in most OECD countries. One lone CEO responding to a NZH survey thought the negative reactions to the Bill were alarmist, and said the worker protections matched those in OECD countries.

Carol Beaumont, CTU secretary, echoes Wilson’s arguments, claiming “good employers won’t worry”. According to CTU president Ross Wilson, the CTU position is that unions will work with businesses to manage the economy by helping plan and organise work, to increase productivity and develop economic strategies. The Douglas line lives!

Class Struggle perspective

Will these arguments change bosses minds? While Labour and the unions are taking a soft line stressing partnership and mutual benefits, business is facing an increasingly tough environment with a high dollar and uncertain world economy. The unions are weak, facing further damage in the year ahead unless we can rebuild them on the basis of a strong rank and file. On top of that National has revived its fortunes on the back of a racist anti-Maori campaign. But its new leader Don Brash has a rightwing neo-liberal economic package lined up to follow the racist campaign. We predict that the bosses’ offensive will force another backdown from Labour on the reforms in this Bill that are most helpful to workers.

We say that no labour law can protect workers, unless workers organize and defend these rights on the job. The weakness of the current ERA is that it gave unions more rights on paper – we called it a ‘charter for union bureaucrats’ when it was passed – but it could not strengthen t he rank and file base of the unions. On top of that the Bill has nasty anti-secondary strike provisions that have to be broken if any strike is going to succeed. It cannot stop employers from using scabs as the waterfront dispute in 2002 showed. We also object to union negotiators being able to sign off on deals without the members ratifying them. Workers are the union, not the union bureaucrats.

Despite its inherent failings we support rank and file union campaigns to get the Bill strengthened. So long as workers think that Labour is on their side we have to demand that they prove it. That way we show that Labour’s Blairite policies are really the old new right policies in drag. After the new right smashed the unions, the Blairites came along with a sedative. Today it’s the Labour Minister and her cronies in the union leadership that dose us with the ‘partnership’ class A drug. Let’s demand the things we know that neither Labour nor the union bureaucrats can deliver without pissing off the bosses. In doing so we prove to workers yet again that the only rights they can be sure of are the ones they fought to win and fight to defend!

For the right to strike! For secondary strikes! For national awards! For the closed shop! 


From Class Struggle 54 Feb-March 04

Written by raved

December 27, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Aotearoa: Socialise the Foreshore and Seabed!

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The public uproar over the Foreshore and Seabed raises fundamental questions about what workers’ need as opposed to bosses’ greed. We are for the socialisation of the F&S in the interests of Maori and the vast majority of New Zealanders who are workers. We are for the socialisation of all industry under workers control. A good example is forestry. We need to socialise not only the trees but the mills and all the assets of the forestry corporations. Here we explain why only socialisation of the F&S can meet the needs of Maori and of all workers, and why this socialist project should be applied to other key industries in a project to socialize Aotearoa!

Labour tries to claim that the F&S is not a Treaty issue yet many Maori see it as part of honouring the Treaty. The problem is that the Treaty cannot be honoured by capitalism. The Treaty was always a fraud used to legitimate the expropriation of Maori land and resources. It is still a fraud because international capitalism far from giving it back has to steal more land and resources to restore its profits. This drive by imperialism to solve its crisis at the expense of workers and peasants worldwide is what is behind both National and Labour’s ‘Maori policy’.

Brash and Bush

Brash claims Maori are privileged by special treatment when Maori and Pakeha are ‘one people’ by virtue of the signing of the Treaty. Of course this was never the reality during the history of expropriation and oppression in the 164 years that followed. But Brash says the settlements must stop because legitimate Maori grievances have been redressed and now Maori are becoming privileged This is a ‘Maori policy’ in the interests of the US imperialism that trampled on the native Amerindians, the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and many others, and now re-colonises the world, imprisoning ‘illegal combatants’ and killing ‘terrorists’ who stand up to it. Brash and Bush are blood brothers in the extinguishment of the rights of all peoples subject to US imperialism. Brash’s position is to return the F&S to the ‘status quo’ which means Crown property. This allows the Crown to sell rights to the exploitation of the F&S to all comers competing in the world market according to the ‘free market’ ideology of the neo-liberals.

Labour’s social-democratic Maori policy by contrast draws on the notions of ‘indigenous rights’ established in the 1970s to make citizenship universal. Social-democracy is premised on the view of the equal rights of citizens to be eligible to vote and form a majority and reform capitalism. It holds to the concept of partnership and the ‘honouring’ of the Treaty principles to include historically marginalised Maori. But this does not allow any real economic redress for the colonial past. The Treaty process is one of token settlements between a new Maori bourgeoisie taking responsibility for ‘iwi’ and the crown acting for capital in general which is prepared to pay to remove any legal claims on the Crown for past grievances. Instead of improving the class position of most Maori workers, it increases the gaps between pakeha and Maori and divides Maori so that a Maori bourgeoisie exploits Maori workers.

Labour’s ‘public domain’

Yet even this settlement is an intolerable interference in the market for neo-liberals. That is why they condemn Labour’s solution as an attack on the rights of all New Zealanders to get free access to the F&S in the hope of mobilising racist attitudes towards Maori against the Government’s settlement. This is a dispute between neo-liberals and social democrats on how best to manage capitalism. For Labour buying off the Maori corporate class who want to make commercial claims to the resources of the F&S is hardly going to bankrupt international capitalism. And the price may be worth it if it sidetracks the protests into interminable legal channels like the land protests of the 1980s. Labour’s proposal of ‘public domain’ is such a deal. It will probably give Maori iwi corporates customary title and some limited preference over commercial use. Any stronger title would be to give Maori capitalists a commercial advantage over others and represent a barrier to the free movement of capital investment so beloved of the US globalisers. So Labour’s solution is an attempt at compromise between on the one hand the legitimate claims of Maori to uninterrupted customary use of the F&S to keep them quiet, and on the other the claims of international capital to have access to exploiting the resources of the F&S to keep making big profits.

But Labour’s ‘public domain’ is just another name for Crown or nationalised property. Some on the left claim that nationalisating the F&S is better than risking the F&S falling in private hands. This is because they mistake state property for non-capitalist or post-capitalist property. Nationalization is state property, but the property of the capitalist state, which acts on behalf of all (collective) capitalists. Today this means the biggest MNCs and their World Bank and IMF bankers who dominate states policies in every country. It’s true that nationalisation would remove private property titles (so-called ‘fee simple’) to F&S. The F&S could not then be traded as shares and there would be no immediate transfer of ownership into private hands. But this would not prevent the state from making joint ventures with corporates for profit under ‘free trade’ rules such as GATS which allows the privatization of these profits. And as with all nationalised property there is no class barrier to its legal privatization except the working class. That is why workers have to go beyond capitalist nationalisation to demand socialisation under workers control of the F&S and all capitalist property.

From nationalization to socialisation

Socialisation means expropriating the property of capitalists, individual or collective, so that becomes the property of collective labour. This can only be achieved by means of workers’ occupations and control. These occupations result from workers uniting and organising in democratic committees or councils. In the case of the F&S this would enable Maori, overwhelmingly members of the working class, to impose a new customary right, the collective right to use the resources of the S&F for iwi and hapu, and in the process to open up the F&S to the use of all workers on the basis of their needs rather than that of capitalist profit. Socialisation means that the F&S would be effectively expropriated to become workers property and pose the question of expropriating other capitalist property. Why? Because while the socialisation of the F&S would serve some workers needs, other branches of industry are much more important to the survival and reproduction of the whole working class. Forestry is a good example.

When workers occupy strategic sites on the F&S and make it the property of collective labour they will see the need to occupy and expropriate other key branches of capitalist industry such as forestry and manufacturing. They will then have to defend this property against the capitalist state and its forces of law and order dedicated to protecting the bosses’ property. The only way to do this is to combine all workers committees or councils into a social base for a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government that can expropriate all capitalist property and defend socialised workers’ property. Aotearoa would then become a socialist republic as part of a socialist united states of the Pacific. 

From Class Struggle 54 February-March 04


Written by raved

December 27, 2009 at 9:49 pm