Communist Worker

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

Archive for the ‘Alliance’ Category

Poverty is the Crime

leave a comment »

The Governments Ministry of Social Development recently published its Report “New Zealand Living Standards 2004” revealed increased rates of poverty among solo parent families on benefits, especially Maori and Pacific Island families. A number of responses have all fixed upon poverty as the result of the wrong policy rather than the wrong social system. This is like reinventing the wheel and putting your finger in the spokes. Poverty and crime are endemic under capitalism because it requires a surplus population driven by starvation wages to keep wages down. Those who cannot live by wages alone steal the bread. Poverty does not cause crime. Poverty is the real crime. Here’s a communist view of capitalist crime.

The link between poverty and crime has been obvious for hundreds of years. When Engels wrote his famous book on “The Conditions of the Working Class in England” in 1845, he made it clear poverty was not caused by low wages, but by capitalists exploiting the labour-power of the workers.

Since then, however, the labour movement has been dominated by reformists who thought that poverty could be eliminated by taxing the bosses’ profits to boost wages. Uncle Joe Savage the first Labour PM in NZ called this “Christian Socialism”.

This is still the prevailing view. It means that workers are treated as voters who elect governments to raise taxes on employers and so eliminate poverty and crime. It is a view shared by Labourites, Stalinists and most of the union bureaucracy who are paid to make workers more productive for the bosses.

The NDU wages war on crime

“There is a direct link between a Ministry of Development standard of living report and a treasury report showing the increasing cost of crime, says the National Distribution Union. National Secretary Laila Harre says that reducing poverty through a decent standard of living for beneficiaries and low-paid workers is one of the most important forms of crime prevention. “Poverty and under-employment are root causes of crime,” says Ms Harre. “The higher the standard of living and the more people feel they have a stake in society, the less crime they commit. Companies, who marginalise workers through low wages, casualisation, or unequal treatment because of age, contribute to the problem and everyone pays.”

Her alternative is to make companies pay more and at the same time save the taxpayer the cost of jailing criminals. This sounds OK but really it is an appeal to the bosses couched in neo-liberal language of the benefits of tax cuts. Pay workers more and get a tax cut. “Rather than seeing the cost per prisoner increasing beyond $58,604 a year, we should be seeing a significant increase in the annual earnings of minimum wage workers up from $21,320 and $10,660 for beneficiaries.”

No doubt this would be a good thing if it could work. But after over 100 years of experience of capitalism the results are in: the gap between rich and poor is growing world wide. A hundred Sir Bob Geldofs surfing the ozone naming and shaming the corporations and the ‘West’ will not change that.

Geldof names and shames NZ

Geldof flew in recently for a concert and a gig for ‘Make Poverty History’. As we have said before, MPH is a fraud perpetrated on the poor by middle class do-gooders who think that recycling some of their record royalties or taking a tour through Africa like Brad Pitt can make history. But it doesn’t make history is just makes the news and profits for the advertisers.

The poverty gap exists not because of any lack of effort to redistribute incomes, but despite it. The evidence that reforms can reverse this fact is almost non-existent. Imperialism is a giant machine that sucks out the wealth of the impoverished semi-colonial world, leaving a bit for the local bosses to get fat on, and squeezing the living standards of the masses to the point of starvation. (See article on the Bolivian landless). The poor can only get an increased share in exceptional circumstances where imperialism does not own or control the wealth and dictate prices and terms. Hugo Chavez can pay for reforms because the imperialists are hooked on Venezuelan oil which they do not directly own or control.

One fact stands out though. Reforms do not come from celebrities’ guilt-tripping around trying to make us ‘own’ a poor or dying child. While a few children may be saved, the rest continue to die at a growing rate because the world’s resources are pocketed by the bosses as accumulated profits and this behaviour is mimicked by the grasping middle classes.

Reforms are won only by massive organised pressure from below that break out of the controls imposed on the working class. The bosses will open their pockets if they fear losing their wallets. But mostly they keep their pockets crammed and workers lose their lives.

The Alliance blames poverty on Labour

Alliance co-leader Len Richards in a recent press release stated:

“The Alliance Party says that a living standards report showing that 8% of New Zealanders are suffering severe hardship is a brutal reminder of the reality of life for the poor in New Zealand. The incidence of hardship in beneficiary families has increased by almost 50% between 2000 and 2004.The report shows a decline in the real income of beneficiary families with children had contributed to a rise to 8 per cent in the number of people experiencing severe hardship in 2004. That compared with 5 per cent in 2000.”

Richards goes on to blame the Labour Party as ‘scandalous’ for not living up to its ideals:

“…this is a result of the mean-minded social welfare policies of a Labour Government that targets help towards the ‘deserving’ working poor. He says that on the 90th birthday of the Labour Party, it is disturbing that the Labour Government is trying to play down the figures. What would the founders of the Labour Party say if they were alive today? They would not recognize these complacent careerists. It is a scandal that Labour leaves so many of them suffering on the margins of society.”

Richards recognises that both Labour and National follow policies that drive down benefits and wages for the profits of the rich:

“Those on benefits are left to suffer hardship as a goad to force them into some form of paid employment. These people are forced to accept paid work at any wage offered, which tends to keep down the wage rates of those in work. Labour and National are competing to see who can build the most jails for the next generation of young people who have already been written off by the “political puppets of the rich”.

But instead of drawing the conclusion that reformist policies have failed to get rid of poverty, the Alliance concludes that it is the Labour Party’s betrayal that is the problem.

The solution is to elect an Alliance government that will

“raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ensure genuine full employment with public works, raise benefit levels, embark on a massive upgrade of state housing stock, and ensure access to all in a free public health and education system. The first $10 000 of income would be taxfree, with a rise in income tax for the wealthy, and GST would be abolished, starting with food.”

It’s true that both Labour and National are running policies that force people to work or face poverty. But these are the conditions imposed by international capitalism on a weak, dependent semi-colonial economy like NZ’s. No government, including an Alliance government, can significantly change these conditions while continuing to rule on behalf of the bosses.

Only working class organisations such as those of beneficiaries, homeless, landless and unemployed linked up to the labor movement can do anything positive about the ‘conditions of the poor’. Maori land rights movements are one such development. Another self-help measure is the ‘clustering’ together of the poor to pool their incomes so that they can at least survive. However, this self-help measure is now being vigorously attacked by the rightwing as undermining economic self-reliance and the values of family life.

‘Clustering’: a self-help answer to poverty

Clustering came to light as a side issue of the Kahui killings (see article). There were eight adults and a larger number of children living on benefits in one house. Sharing the rent and expenses is a way of surviving economic hardship when families cannot survive on income tested benefits. But because of the confined space it creats problems of overcrowding and conflicts among those living there. Clearly this form of ‘clustering’ is a measure of desperation and not a solution to poverty.

But rather than seeing it as a survival mechanism, the political right has labelled clustering ‘dysfunctional’ because it does not conform to the traditional patriarchal family. The Maxim Institute says that this ‘dysfunction’ undermines self-reliance because it deters adults from having to go to work. It creates moral problems too as overcrowding does not allow ‘normal’ parental authority over children to develop. At worst it creates an environment where child abuse can lead to deaths.

As if to prove themselves more right than the right, new, new right Blairite, John Tamahere, and the ‘Nation’s Kaumatua’ Peter Sharples publicly intervene to force those in ‘dysfunctional’ families to become ‘normal’. This means a return to the wider whanau where self-annointed patriachal chiefs will dictate family life. Tamahere will take charge of the budgets and privatise welfare into Maori Trusts, while Sharples will take charge of the whanaus’ moral guidance.

But the answer is not to condemn clustering. It’s a rational collective response to terrible conditions to share resources and to meet needs. The extreme negative side of clustering is the jail where people live in a totally controlled institution. But there is a positive side. Clustering should be extended out of isolated state houses and broken down communities on the model of land rights movements, such as that of Parihaka which took in political and economic refugees from all over the country and created a model self-sufficient, cooperative community, labelled by the racist settlers as “communistic”. The history of these movements could become a positive model for building working class communes today.

What to do? Communes everywhere!

The NDU wants companies to pay better wages. But this will only happen if workers get organised to win their demands. Individuals workers cannot persuade bosses to pay them more to keep them out of jail. And striking as a militant labour movement is a sure way to go to jail. The bosses are always prepared to pay for this kind of ‘clustering’. Against the bosses’ clusters, workers need to recreate their own communities where they can solve their problems collectively. To get the resources to do this they must fight for workers control of the means of production.

The first step is to organise collectively on the job to defend jobs, wages and conditions. If workers gang up on the job to get what they need, this will prove that capitalists must cut jobs, wages and conditions to raise their profits, and that as an organised labour force they have a common class interest to fight for workers control of production and to overthrow capitalism.

Organisations that claim to represent workers like the NDU and the Alliance will only be able to embark on the road of collective struggle if they stop appealing to workers and bosses as individual taxpayers and voters, and start organising fighting, democratic unions grounded in working class communities that pool their resources so they can take control of their lives.

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006

Workers Charter: a New-New-Labour party?

leave a comment »

Workers Charter had its founding conference in October. CWG members went along to offer some advice. Here is a report of how we saw it.

We stand by our critique of the Workers Charter (printed in Class Struggle 62) and its parent movement the World Social Forum (critiqued in Class Struggle 59). We wish to continue to engage in critical support of the Workers Charter (WC). Communist Workers Group does not wish to build another parliamentary-type of workers party and will criticise unreservedly any movement the WC makes in that direction. We are keen to support the building of a revolutionary party, unfortunately the origins of the WC indicate that it will mislead workers.

Members of Communist Workers Group decided to test the un-democratic (Stalinist) methods of Workers Charter, which had said they were going to exclude us (and ACA) from the conference.  We considered it important to challenge the internet noise of SWO / Unity, on NZ activism, in reality. (The Socialist Workers Organisation has renamed itself “Unity”, it was previously the Communist Party of New Zealand – a Stalinist group). Unity members were the gatekeepers on the front desk and did interview us on how critical we were going to be, to which we wished to maintain our rights to speak critically, while giving a positive direction for the workers movement. This could have gone either way, however, the appearance of democracy was maintained.

The meeting rules were set out from the start, we had to leave if we thought the Charter was useless. This does not allow for overall discussion of the weaknesses of the Charter. Unfortunately the Charter may be worse than useless, it may suck working people into a dead end road, which does not challenge capitalism. It is urgent to pose the question of how to avoid this Charter becoming a bureaucratic parliamentary vehicle for the likes of Matt McCarten.

The speakers to introduce the Charter were a SWO leader followed by Matt McCarten. It wasn’t what was said but what wasn’t, that is notable: I failed to get a clear understanding of what the purpose of the Charter was from either speaker, and neither made distinct their own politics from that of the charter, or declared their own intentions. No history of the Charter, or connection with the World Social Forum was declared.

It was a milestone for the writer to be allowed into a Unity dominated meeting, and to speak. Our opportunity for contribution was time limited. The writer put about 5 amendments or additions within 2 minutes speaking time. This limited my ability to argue for the amendments and additions that were put to the charter itself.

Many others raised their criticisms and suggested improvement to the Charter –which created a squeeze on time, with numbers of amendments and additions put. Many of these were put to vote and successfully added, for the next rounds of discussion. And have improved this minimal program of rights. Some amendments were left as contentious issues for further discussion. I will leave much of the detail of the Charter and its ongoing discussion for Workers Charter to run with, and discus a couple of additions we put to the conference.

We asked for the addition of the word capitalism to describe current social system. This charter was so minimal in its approach that it did not even include the word capitalism or describe capitalists as the ruling class. While the WC is appealing to workers, the level of class consciousness in its program is minimal. To fight for workers rights is to take on the capitalist system, unless the charter is clear about that, then it is likely to end up like the current Labour Party, negotiating with and ruling on behalf of the capitalist class.

This sort of vagueness about class leads to a Labour Party outright attacking workers, to maintain profits for the capitalist. The NZ Labour Party clearly did that in 1984 – 1990 when it cut services to workers (health, social welfare, education) and sold socially owned assets or restructured them into capitalist ‘for profit’ SOEs (State Owned Enterprises). A very current example of this was discussed at the conference. Air New Zealand has just announced its attack on workers of the Engineering services by its proposed redundancies and closing of a whole branch of service. Air NZ is part owned by the state. We argued that the WC needed include nationalising assets (even the Alliance Party program already includes this in their program). To re-nationalise Air NZ fully could then be used in order to maintain those jobs. Pressure needs to be applied to the current Labour Government by picket line defence of the engineering facilities. If this Labour government allows Air NZ engineers to be sold down the road, that is another betrayal of workers interests. Communist Workers Group is for the expropriation without compensation of Air New Zealand, to be run under workers control. It would take a working class pickets and engineering workers occupation of the engineering facilities to achieve this.

Interestingly ‘Unity’ / Socialist Workers voted against an addition we put up of “for socialist revolution”. To us this indicates they continue a Stalinist tradition of running with minimal programs and mass parties, while hiding their “revolutionary” beliefs until the ‘critical’ moment. Even the pre-Blairite British Labour Party had a clause for “socialism” (also known as clause 4). So this WC is in great danger of becoming just another parliamentary party, sucking workers into sell-outs and a dead-end.

Communist Workers Group fully support building a party on a rank & file trade union basis. We were successful arguing for rank & file run, democratic fighting unions, to be included as part of the charter. Only a strong rank & file driven union can avoid being sold out by bureaucratic deals between misleading paid officials and the employer or government. Those sort of sell outs are rife, for example where union officials just argue about how many redundancies, and how much redundancy pay. Officials can give false hope of stopping redundancies, when they are up against the capitalist system.

Organising workers into picket lines and strike committees is the localised strength of the workers movement. The extent that Workers Charter members can build a fight back around existing struggles, can organise workers in on-the-ground fight backs, will be the real test. It is heartening to hear that WC members have supported pickets of striking workers. However it is also frightening that the WC steering committee (leadership) could have left out basic trade union rights from its Charter.

Communist Workers Group looks forward to working with any activist or group committed to the overthrow of capitalism. And we will criticise any movement that is vague about that!

Chavez’ ‘21st century socialism’ not good enough for Workers Charter

From a discussion on Aotearoa Indymedia
 
Unity Reader defended the SW’s ‘turn to social democracy’ and the expulsion of the CWG from the Alliance in 1989 and its exclusion from Workers Charter. A member of CWG replied:

“Someone called Unity Reader says that the SWO is justified in taking a turn to social democracy because socialist revolution is not on the agenda in NZ right now.

. . .There has never been a revolutionary situation in NZ in the nearly two centuries of its capitalist existence. And that is because the working class has never been independent of parliament or the bourgeoisie. The first step out of a non-revolutionary situation is to assert the class independence of workers from the bosses!

What Unity Reader fails to understand is that there is a difference between united fronts and revolutionary programs. In non-revolutionary times workers should join forces in united fronts that advance their interests as a class, but not by suspending their revolutionary program and making a ‘turn’ to social democracy – the bosses program! Revolutionaries are obliged to fight inside united fronts to prove that it is their program that will advance the interests of workers.

What Workers Charter is a reduction of the political program of the working class to a minimal program that does not even MENTION socialism. If this was just a loose network to organise in the unions and fight in united fronts, this would not be so bad. But WC presents itself as the embryo of a new mass workers party, on a social democratic program of the bosses

This takes us to Unity Reader’s ‘study’ of the history of the New Labour Party. The CWG entered the NLP because it its leaders claimed to be forming a new workers party. We were obliged as revolutionaries to fight for a revolutionary workers party, not meekly sit around while Anderton and McCarten betrayed the workers who had broken with Labour and took the NLP back into parliament as part of a middle class’ Alliance, which then propped up another Labour Government.

Workers Charter is headed down the same road, but this time it’s not a tragedy; it’s a farce. Its a farce because it has already been rejected by a large number of militants as too little, too late, based on manifestly dead-end reformist politics, and at a time when its own international allies, the militant workers of Latin America, Asia etc are moving rapidly towards socialist politics under a reborn ‘socialism of the 21st century’ championed by Chavez in the spirit of Che, Castro etc.

When the militant masses are moving in the direction of socialism, WC moves backward. This is not the ‘backwardness’ given by NZ’s particular place in the world, because in itself that’s deceptive and open to rapid changes, but the backward political perspective of those who have given up on socialist revolution in order to build another parliamentary party.

From Class Struggle 64 Nov 05/Jan 06 

Supersize my Pay, Supersize my Party

leave a comment »

Matt McCarten’ s Unite Workers Union has got off to a good start in building a union base for a new workers party. This project took a leap ahead with its Supersize my Pay campaign.

Unites campaign to recruit young casualised fast-food workers has met with some success. Recruiting, organising and introducing active campaigns like the Supersize My Pay campaign is a good start.

Attacking youth rates is way overdue. But the call for a minimum wage of $12 an hour is too small. Even the NZCTU leadership can endorse these demands. They do not reflect the real needs of workers for higher wages, and are a compromise with the labour bureaucracy of the CTU to embarrass the Labour led government.

This strategy betrays the left bureaucrat’s credo that a revived labour movement can push the Labour Party to the left. This is has been the politics of Matt McCarten since his early days as a union organiser and Labour Party insider. It remained his objective as a leader of the Alliance from 1980 to 2003. These demands are not strong enough to expose the clapped out labour bureaucrats or the Labour government who pay give lip service and stall for money, but to build a base in the unions for the new reformist workers party that will emerge from the Workers’ Charter before the next election.

The irony is that even though McCarten’s strategy is a rightward break from the Alliance the rump of the Alliance voted for the Workers Charter at its annual conference after an address from John Minto. Does this mean that the Alliance now has two programs, or that its vote was indicative of a cooperative attitude to WC or what? It seems that the rump of the Alliance now recognises that McCarten has stolen a march on them so there is a sheepish shuffle back to acknowledging the only viable Green Left kiwi franchise in town.

From Class Struggle 64 Nov 05/Jan 06

Written by raved

January 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm

600 Air New Zealand jobs under attack

with one comment

The Alliance came out with some radical ideas about worker occupations and workers control in response to the threat of job losses at Air NZ. CWG acknowledged these good ideas and took them further

In an article on Aotearoa Indymedia on 27 October titled “Creative destruction” by Air New Zealand’ Len Richards of the Alliance wrote:

“The announcement by Air New Zealand of the sacking of a highly skilled workforce is a massive disinvestment in New Zealand. If the government will not act, the workers can. They should take a leaf out of the Argentinean workers’ book and occupy the maintenance hangers to keep them going.

Six hundred workers are to be thrown onto the economic scrapheap by Air New Zealand. The company, which is 82 per cent government-owned, has decided to transfer the heavy maintenance of its aircraft off-shore to Europe and Asia. This is expected to save $100 million over the next five years (ie $20 million a year on average). This is a company that made $250 million profit this year and expects to make $100 million next year. The redundancy costs will be $13 million.

Air New Zealand claims it cannot find enough work for all its maintenance engineers. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Cullen, washed his hands of the announcement, saying that it is “company business”. This is the government welcomed by the Council of Trade Unions as having a “commitment to an investment approach to economic and social development”. The announcement by Air New Zealand of the sacking of a highly skilled workforce is a massive disinvestment in New Zealand. It is reminiscent of the closure of the railway workshops in the early 1990s which destroyed a similarly skilled workforce and dismantled another significant section of this country’s industrial infrastructure. The CTU must demand that the government intervenes to prevent this act of economic vandalism. . .

. . .The newly elected Labour-led coalition government should act urgently and “creatively”. It must step in to take direct control of Air New Zealand. These jobs can be saved if the government has the will to do so. If the government will not act, the workers can. They should take a leaf out of the Argentinean workers’ book and occupy the maintenance hangers to keep them going.

The loss of these engineering jobs is completely unnecessary. It is not about the engineering operation losing money. It is all about return on capital. It is about extracting more profit to ready Air New Zealand for another round of privatisation. The company chairman John Palmer is blatantly promoting a sell-down of the government’s shares. The government would do better to take-over the whole company. It could be run as a peoples’ co-operative under the control of the workers who, after all, know better than anyone how to operate the enterprise most efficiently.”

CWG replies:

“Good point about the management preparing Air NZ for re-privatisation. And the NZ economy as ‘third world’ being driven down the drain by profit. This shows a grasp of the seriousness of NZ’s decline in the world and the need for a strong socialist stand to lead the way forward. Air NZs predicament is classic and opens the way for the nationalising of assets and trading with other third world countries as the only way to combat monopoly capitalism.

The demand right now should be to take up the workers criticisms of failed management and put the company under workers control. Opening the books to the EPMU heads won’t prove anything other than cost cutting is necessary to return a profit. Profit in a state owned company should be rejected as the bottom line. The bottom line should be the public interest in a national asset build out of the labour of generations of kiwi workers.

So the demand should be to put the company under workers control and management to protect the accumulated wealth of workers as well the ‘public interest’. Why should the 600 workers under threat of sacking put up with a state owned corp run by private sector cost cutters who destroy the skill base of the working class while they strut around in Zambezi gear?

The rising costs of fuel and airports are inevitable while we are subjected to monopoly capital. Nationalisation under workers control (with no compensation especially after all those massive state subsidies!) is the answer. The airports should all be renationalised. The big oil company assets in NZ should be nationalised and oil sourced from Venezuela in a swap for food and agricultural technology.

While it’s necessary to demand that Cullen puts up a fight to keep these jobs, we know that he won’t even consider it unless put under huge pressure from workers. The 82% state shareholding is just a subsidy to the private sector. He won’t want to see the company profits fall and more subsidies being paid out when he wants to keep business on side.”

0n how to fight for occupations and workers’ control we added:

“It’s good that the Alliance has raised the example of the occupations in Argentina. Kirchner’s just been re-elected. He is a left Peronist with official union support not too dissimilar to Labour in NZ. But neither has any interest to take-over companies and run them as workers’ cooperatives. Cullen has said he will not subsidise Air NZ jobs. They HAVE to keep onside with global monopoly capital.

That’s why the solution has to be posed right from the start as a workers’ solution that workers’ can only do INDEPENDENTLY of the bosses’ state. So where to start at Air NZ?

The current Blairite partnership approach goes through the charade of the union officials doing their own audit for two months to see what cuts they can make the workers accept to keep some of their jobs. The EPMU logo is some for all, all for some. Meanwhile workers will be left out of the picture, worrying, or looking for other jobs.

This is the same blackmail that the US unions are using right now to force autoworkers to sacrifice their health insurance in the vain hope they can keep their jobs. As long as the union officials share the same view that companies must be profitable at all costs, the workers are the losers. see http://www.rankandfilers.blogspot.com/

The rank and file engineers need to organise now and take the dispute out of the hands of the EPMU officials. They need to reject the bottom line of profit, and the payment of a dividend to the state that goes straight into the consolidated fund to run the capitalist system. Anyway as an SOE Air NZ is doomed as a national carrier in this global environment and will be gobbled up by Qantas or Singapore sooner or later.

Instead the rank and file should put up a new bottom line – the workers’ need for safe, reliable air transport that can survive the oil shocks (get the oil from Venezuela!) and the race to the bottom of cutthroat (ours!) international airline competition. The engineers would have a say in whether it’s good for the peoples’ airline to buy carbon fibre planes at $170 million a pop.

That’s why Venezuela is a better map than Argentina of the socialist road. The factory occupations there are taking place as part of a society wide revolution where workers are pushing Chavez further and further towards outright expropriation. Oil, paper, gas, steel, and land is being nationalised and a huge fight is going on to turn co-management into real workers’ control. The result is that there is a better chance that when Chavez finally baulks, or if the US invades, the workers will be able to defend and complete their socialist revolution.

The great thing is that Venezuela is not a blueprint but an ongoing experiment, and it exists in the flesh and is not fated in advance to be either a pie in the sky reformist utopia, or a discredited Cuban style Stalinist regime. It is an open book where the workers are doing the reading and writing.

A page or two would go down well at Air NZ right now. A campaign to renationalise Air NZ under workers control could be generalised to extend to Telecom, Toll rail, CHH, BNZ . 

From Class Struggle 64 Nov 05/Jan 06

Written by raved

January 6, 2012 at 7:27 pm

National Front smears Trotskyists as ‘Red Fascists’

leave a comment »

This is the title of a pamphlet handed out by the National Front outside a recent Alliance Party conference in Wellington. The purpose of the Leaflet is to label the Alliance and all those of the broad left as a front for ‘Trotskyites’ and then to smear Trotskyites as ‘Red Fascists. Both are lies. This is a provocation by the neo-fascists against communists. The soft left are not Trotskyists. They will never defend the workers against fascism. Nor are Trotskyists fascists. One thing that the NF forgot to quote was Trotsky’s promise to real fascists to “acquaint their faces with the pavement”.

NF: finds Trots everywhere

Trots are accused of ‘entering’ the ‘respectable” Alliance. What’s the evidence? Matt McCarten goes every year to Sydney as guest speaker at events put on the ‘Trot’ Democratic Socialist Party. But the DSP is not Trot, so there goes that argument. The DSP see article on Venezuela are Castroites if theyre anything and Castro is no Trot.

Leading light in the Alliance, Len Richards and Mike Treen (ex-Alliance) are both undercover Trots. Richards was invited to CWG public meeting in early 2004 to talk about the Alliance. If he was at all influenced by the real Trot CWG he didn’t show it in rejecting the violent seizure of power. Mike Treen, was a member of the Communist League, who are ex-Trots, and now Castroites. No Trots here then.

The ‘comrades’ are cooking up something

Then there’s the open policy of the Socialist Workers to work with the Alliance, in the same way it has fused with the Scottish Socialist Party because workers have to be won from parliament. But the SWO are not Trots either, so their open entry is not going to lead to revolution. In fact the broad left only exist to stop revolution. (See article on Venezuela).

Maybe the NF should stop attributing its own bad faith to the left. After all fascism has had a bad press for half a century, and maybe workers need to be won to fascism by the NF dressing itself up as ‘respectable’ patriots opposed to ‘Red Fascism’.

Trotsky no ‘Red Fascist’

The NF then repeats lots of lies from Stalinist and Anarchist sources portraying Trotsky as a ‘Red Fascist’. Trotsky was actually the leader of the October Insurrection, the almost bloodless revolution that took power from the Tsar and his western imperialist cronies. He then led the Red Army in the Civil War to defeat the many armed invasions by Western and reactionary Russian forces.

In other words Trotsky led the Dictatorship of the Proletariat against the Dictatorship of the Capitalists and won. In the process he imposed the same discipline on the Red Army that the capitalists impose on workers who fight their wars. The difference was Trotsky was defending a workers’ state and not the rule of private property. Those who betrayed the revolution to the bosses’ forces were shot. But if you count up the deaths in the First World War and the Civil War it is the capitalists who are the mass killers, not Trotsky of the Bolshevik Party.

The Red Terror

That’s why the term the term ‘Red Terror’ is term used by the bosses to smear the Bolsheviks. The only people terrorised by the Russian Revolution were the bosses who lost their profits, and all their petty bourgeois hangers-on who lost their privileges. The class enemies of the working class were always given the opportunity to change sides and avoid punishment. The Red Army was staffed with Tsarist officers who came over the workers’ side. So were the sailors of Kronstadt given the chance to surrender; only when the workers cause was openly betrayed did those involved meet with death, and always after public trials.

Real Fascism

Far from ‘Red Fascism’, Trotsky represented the best elements of the Russian Revolution. His downfall at the hands of Stalin was the effect of the Russian Revolution being strangled by encirclement and isolation. Trotsky carried the flag of Communism in Germany in 1933 when the German Communist Party betrayed the world revolution by failing to stop Hitler.

That is the real reason the NF hates Trotskyists. They know like the Stalinists and the Anarchists, that only Trotsky was correct in confronting fascism in Germany and in Spain. Here the combined rotten politics of the Stalinists and the Anarchists sold out the workers and allowed Hitler and Franco to come to power. Trotsky’s and our policy towards the neo-fascists is to organise a workers’ unite front to smash them before they smash us!

From Class Struggle 60 March-April 2005

Written by raved

January 11, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Budgeting for profits again…

leave a comment »

The Sunday Star Times (April 25) ran a feature about a Waihi ‘middle-class’ family that couldn’t live on $55.000 who wrote an open letter to Helen Clark. It was an indictment of the Social Democratic kiwi dream of a ‘milk and honey’ classless paradise that has turned sour. Than along came Labour’s budget that gave $2 billion in income top-ups to working families earning up to $55,000 over the next 3 years. Predictably, this was condemned as buying votes by the right. But in fact Labour was doing what it always does in its budgets, budgeting for profits. We explain how.

The celebrated Waihi family may be described as ‘middle class’ but in reality they are workers. Father teaches while mother minds the four kids. They both provide profits for the bosses out of their labour. Dad educates kids who then (he hopes) go on to be good workers. Mum does the same at home without pay, subsidising the cost of producing these kids to be exploited by the bosses. Topping up their wages in the budget package for working families is another subsidy to bosses because without it, bosses would have to pay for the complete training of their workers out of their profits.

Tax cuts are code for wage cuts

But to explain how this works we first have to get rid of the bullshit about tax cuts.

National and ACT made a huge fuss about Labour taxing people and then giving some of it back to buy votes in the next election. Admittedly, Labour had cynically phased in the benefits so that to get them it had to be re-elected. But all this talk about tax cuts is just a smokescreen to hide the real motive of wage cuts.

We pay taxes out of our gross income. This assumes there is a distribution of income between wages and profits (and rents for those who own property) that is like a ‘law of nature’. Workers get wages, bosses get profits, and landowners get rents. We are not supposed to disturb this ‘law of nature’ or else something like the global meltdown in the ‘Day after Tomorrow’ will destroy the world market.

All of the debate over the budget accepts this ‘law of nature’. We don’t question the plot. Taxes are a sort of theft of an individuals income, unless there is a national interest in taxing people to pay for ‘public goods’ like state funded health, education and welfare. The debate then comes down to whether or not people should pay for these things. Plots become conspiracies about who is out to screw whom?

But what if this concern about taxes is really a smokescreen that hides the reality of how the economy works? Karl Marx once referred to this ‘law of nature’ as the ‘holy trinity’ – a sort of blind faith in each class –worker, boss and landlord – getting their ‘fair share’ of the national wealth. But as Marx proved neither the boss nor the landlord create any wealth at all. Their ‘share’ is deducted from the wealth created by workers. He took delight in showed that this was a fact in the settlement of Australia and New Zealand, where landlords and bosses who had money and land, but couldn’t get any workers, made no profits and had to work themselves or starve!

So what is all the fuss about the Budget?

Of course the Nats and ACTs worship the ‘holy trinity’ that entitles them to profits as the reward for their innovation and sacrifice. They argue that taxing these profits to pay workers raises wages and cuts ‘their’ profits. In the past they were happy to allow some of ‘their’ profits to be taxed to boost wages if it was cheaper then pay higher wages themselves. The whole postwar period saw state-provided health, education and welfare contributing to profits until those profits started to fall dramatically. Not because workers wages squeezed profits, but because bosses could not screw enough wealth out of the workers.

But now that the economy has been opened up to international competition, the bosses have to cut their wage costs. They want to pick and choose skilled workers, pay them a market wage and refuse to pay for the education and health of the pool of unemployed and service workers. They also want benefits to be cut to force people to work for lower wages. In the twenty years since the onset of Rogernomics in 1984, the income gap between bosses and the poorest workers has grown much larger.

But if we reject this blind faith in the ‘holy trinity’ we see that the NATACTS attack on welfare is another way of extracting more wealth from workers to increase their profits. Instead of workers clawing back some of the wealth they create in the form of benefits, the bosses want to keep it all, blaming those they exploit, or make jobless, for demanding that the state taxes ‘their’ profits! They have the cheek to try to get workers onside by calling them ‘taxpayers’ too and not exploited workers!!

If this is what the rightwing bosses say does this mean that Labour’s tiny token redistribution of income back to the poorest families on a drip feed system over the next 3-4 years means a cut in profits?

Labour’s smartass subsidies to bosses

The NATACTs opposition to taxing profits to boost workers incomes is typical of bosses who own banks or run hotels and who want wage cuts in order to maximise profits. Their blanket attack on welfare is that it reflects the narrow interests industry where high tech productivity gains are not at stake. Yet the major growth points in the NZ economy today are in high-tech, high productivity, value-added areas such as pastoral production, biotech, forestry etc. The only way that NZ bosses can compete internationally is if they can out-smart their competitors.

This is what is behind Labour’s promotion of the ‘knowledge society’. It is the recognition that high-tech growth in the economy is necessary before any ‘social dividend’ to the most needy can be made. The idea of a ‘knowledge society’ is a society in which the blind faith in the ‘holy trinity’ has become politically correct. It takes the form of the ‘social partnership’ between the godfather (the bosses), the son (workers) and the holy ghost (government –as landlord).

Labour’s ‘Blairites’ (after Tony Blair’s ‘third way’ politics that takes a middle course between neo-liberalism and socialism) want to ‘balance’ the raw market with social policies that ensures that people are ‘included’ in the benefits of market. This is the smart state that backs winners in the knowledge economy, tailors state subsidies to education to match skills to jobs, and tries not to leave anybody ‘deserving’ person out. Labour’s shift of industrial law, the foreshore legislation, and the budget, are designed to ensure social harmony rather than social conflict or exclusion.

The problem is that this Blairite strategy requires rapid growth in productivity to create new jobs and rising incomes to offset the pool of unemployed and the downward squeeze on wages. But in the global economy high-tech itself cannot save the global capitalist economy as it cannot generate enough wealth to make sufficient profits. Therefore there is no surplus profit to be taxed to spend on boosting the incomes of the poor. The ‘social partnership’ is doomed to economic and political bankruptcy.

Capitalism is not sustainable

The anti-globalisers like the Alliance or the Greens say this is because of the greed of the multinationals operating globally to suck profits out of the high performance sector inside nation states where they own the resources or control the market. According to ARENA, foreign investment in NZ owns half of productive wealth, and in some sectors like the Banks all of it. The effect is a squeeze on wages and social spending inside Aotearoa/NZ to suck the profits out. The anti-globalists answer is to cut the pipeline and keep the profits inside Aotearoa/NZ. But this is a pipedream.

As Marx would say: capitalism is global. The corporates are driven not by greed but by the survival of the fittest. The enrichment of global corporates at the expense of the mass of impoverished does not respect national borders. The Blairite Budget in NZ 2004 is a futile attempt to keep the faith in the ‘holy trinity’. But this ‘partnership’ is doomed. God the father must betray the son, and the holy ghost hasn’t got a shits show in hell of doing anything about it.

This means that to break out of the bosses globalisation we need a workers globalisation. Workers need to take control of their own welfare; socialise the ownership of the means of production so that the wealth they produce is retained for collective use; renationalise and expropriate the property of the corporates and put them under workers control; take control of the state and expel the ‘holy trinity’ into the dustbin of history; build unions of socialist republics in the Pacific, in the Middle East, in Asia, in Latin America, in Europe, in North America, in Africa. 

From Class Struggle 56 June-July 2004

 


Written by raved

January 6, 2010 at 8:46 pm

When Comrades become Cossacks: Betraying the 1913 General Strike

leave a comment »

This November is the 90th anniversary of the 1913 General Strike. As the most revolutionary event in NZ’s history we have a duty to commemorate the dedication and bravery of the workers involved, to remember those workers who died, and to continue to draw the lesson that the police and the state forces are the class enemies of workers. The Exhibition “Cossacks and Comrades” jointly sponsored by the Auckland University of Technology Institute of Public Policy and the NZ Police, along with a number of unions, to ‘commemorate’ the “1913 Waterfront Dispute” is a falsification of history that seeks to relegate class struggle to the museum and promote the bosses’ agenda of ‘class peace’. For unions to co-sponsor and fund such an event is an act of class betrayal.

On Monday the 24th of November rank and file members of UNITE union and their supporters picketed the Comrades and Cossacks conference and exhibition at Auckland University of Technology. The 20 or so picketers objected to the way union bosses and the police were co-sponsoring this ‘commemoration’ of the 1913 General Strike, an event which saw state violence against workers on a scale never equaled in the rest of New Zealand history.

Comrades and Cossacks had as its centrepiece the release of new police research on the 1913 strike. In a press release promoting the event, academic Cath Casey, police ‘strategic analyst’ Cathie Collinson and police spokeswoman Catherine Gardner described the research as a contribution to “The international review of police of models of reservism”. An article in Auckland’s Central Leader paper quoted Cathie Collinson “This is a crucial piece of research because we need to know what works for different policing styles.” The Central Leader stated that Casey and Collinson are visiting various police forces and research institutes around the world to “further their understanding of policing methods”.

The General Strike of 1913 has much to teach the student of policing. Anxious about the growing appeal of the 12,000-strong and openly revolutionary ‘Red’ Federation of Labour, the Massey government of the day mobilised all the forces at its disposal to defeat the wharfies and miners who spearheaded the strike. As the police patrolled with long batons and the army set up machine gun posts in the large cities, thousands of farmers were turned into ‘special’ police, and put to work attacking workers and working the waterfront.

Comrades and Cossacks comes at a time when ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation is giving the New Zealand state sweeping new repressive powers, and the New Zealand police are aggressively persecuting opponents of New Zealand’s part in the US’s War of Terror. The lockup of Ahmed Zaoui and the persecution of anti-war activists like Bruce Hubbard (see article), Jarrod Phillips and Paul Hopkinson gives the talk of Collinson and Casey a chilling ring.

Comrades and Cossacks has caused a furore amongst unionists and left activists around the country. In an attempt to defuse complaints, exhibition supporter and Alliance leader Mike Treen e- mailed Global Peace and Justice Auckland (GPJA) members to tell them that ‘Comrades and Cossacks’ was not sponsored by the police. In fact, as an angry GPJA member pointed out in a reply to Treen, the police logo was plastered all over the promotional material for the exhibition.

UNITE leader and Alliance member Matt McCarten e-mailed GPJA members to tell them that UNITE’s rank and file members were ‘ignorant’, and were only planning to picket the exhibition because they wanted to ‘suppress working class history’.

On the day a number of the unionists who had been scheduled to appear at the exhibition did not turn up. Others walked out in solidarity with the picketers. About a dozen uniformed police attended the exhibition, and there was a police presence outside to stop the picketers gaining access. Matt McCarten emerged from the exhibition dressed in a business suit and flanked by two well-built cops, and proceeded to abuse the picketers, shouting ‘you’re not real workers – go away!’. After being confronted by angry picketers McCarten retreated behind the boys in blue, with whom he joked and chatted before disappearing back into the exhibition.

In the aftermath of this furore, UNITE members around the country are holding the Unite leadership to account at a number of AGMs. The Alliance also faces an embarrassing internal debate now that key members of the Alliance ‘left’ like former Trotskyists Mike Treen and Len Richards who would like to see the Alliance become a ‘Socialist Alliance’ have been associated with the Exhibition.

The involvement of Alliance leaders in Comrades and Cossacks is no surprise. After all, from 1999 to 2002 the party helped to run a capitalist state, as the junior partner in a Labour-led government. Alliance MPs voted for the anti-strike provisions of the Employment Relations Act, for the denial of summer dole to students, and for the participation of New Zealand troops in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. The Alliance’s social democratic ideology made its leaders believe they could reconcile the interests of bosses and workers by taming the capitalist state. When the interests of workers and bosses inevitably collided, they chose the interests of the bosses, and used the state against workers.

The Anderton-instigated split and the electoral disaster of 2002 have made some Alliance members reconsider their ideas, but the leaders of the party have continued on the old path. Ex-MPs and their staffers have moved from government into the bureaucracy of the trade union movement and have merely promoted a slightly more activist-orientated, ‘left’ version of the same old social democracy. These bureaucrats played a leading role in Auckland’s anti-war movement, helping to ensure that the movement stuck to lobbying the Labour government to act against the war rather than mobilising workers and their supporters to take direct action against US government and military facilities in New Zealand.

Recent support for the racist cabotage campaign (see article) and for the ANZAC-led occupation of the Solomons shows that Alliance party policy is still based in a misplaced faith in the common interests of New Zealand workers and New Zealand capitalists. Comrades and Cossacks only symbolises the bankruptcy of the party’s social democratic politics. Alliance members should learn from history, dump social democracy for revolutionary socialism, and get rid of Beehive retreads like McCarten and Treen.

We need a real Socialist Alliance that pushes workers’ direct action in New Zealand and links up with and learns from with the revolutionary movements shaking South America. Socialist groups already in existence can show Alliance members the way forward by forming a nationwide United Front to campaign on burning issues and show the revolutionary alternative to the discredited ideology of social democracy. It’s time to rediscover the militant labour heritage of 1913, and the revolutionary Marxist heritage of 1917.

From Class Struggle 53 November 03/January 04

Written by raved

December 14, 2009 at 11:10 pm