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

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UN/Zionist secret war against the ‘dirt eaters’

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When US Senator Hiram W. Johnson said in 1917 ‘the first casualty when war comes is the truth’, he was speaking about Capitalist Imperialist war; though he didn’t know it at the time. Lies, deceit, distortions, omissions and fabrications are permanent fixtures in the capitalist arsenal in its relentless pursuit of ‘Permanent War.’ The military slaughter by the Israelis in Gaza and the Lebanon are the latest episodes in a long series provocations over many decades built on these premises.

The murder of Pro-US and Rightwing Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri in February 2005 by Israeli agents was designed as part of Plan A to implicate Syria. For a long period leading up to the killing, the US openly sabre rattled against Syria accusing it of harbouring and supporting terrorists. The US bogged down in Iraq, could not however create enough justification to invade Syria; so decided together with Israel to plot an outrage that would draw massive international condemnation. This would be the pretext.

The swift and immediate charge by progressive political forces and the Arab media that the US and Israel were solely responsible for the Hariri murder together with the failure of UN investigators and monitors to find any evidence of Syrian involvement, forced the US/Israeli’s to go to contingency Plan B. Lebanon would be the point of entry, Hezbollah and its association with Iran would be the excuse and 2 abducted Israeli soldiers would be the phoney pretext. The Zionist Jerusalem Post reported many months ago that plans were being prepared to deal with Syria.
As part of the bigger US battle plan, pro-Palestine Iran has been falsely accused of building nuclear weapons to be used against occupied Palestine (Israel.) This totally stupid notion defies logic, but not for the US. The failure to explain how an Iranian (or any other Islamic nation for that matter) nuclear attack against occupied Palestine (Israel) can be achieved without killing Palestinians and pro-Iranian Hezbollah in south Lebanon, has exposed the absurdities of US Imperialist illogic. [Sadly in debates on the subject of Iranian nuclear intentions, no discussion has been made on this point.]

Cowardly neo-liberal govt’s including NZs, accept the lies and distortions without question and have willingly imposed them on their own populations. Corporate mainstream embedded media have been the main instrument responsible for spreading fear, lies and insecurity to the point that mass compliancy and docile acceptance, is the objective outcome. In the US where the corporate govt. has declared war on the minds of the American people, that outcome can only be halted by a working class prepared to stand and fight like their cousins south of the border.

The ‘Karine A’ Hoax

On January 4 2002, the Israeli govt. announced with great fanfare and drama, the interception and seizure of the 4000 tonne freighter the ‘Karine A’ in the Red Sea by its elite naval commandoes. The vessel according to the Israelis was carrying 50 tonnes weapons destined for the PA (Palestinian Authority.) It was also said that Iran and Hezbollah were co-conspirators in the ‘smuggling’ operation; a charge that the PA has always denied.

What was never explained was how a large freighter loaded with weapons under the watchful eyes of the most sophisticated military forces on the planet was expected to pass from somewhere in Iran through to the Suez Canal and dock at Alexandria Egypt unhindered.

The elaborate story concocted by Israel/US that the weapons were to be off loaded and smuggled into Gaza presumably past the US sponsored MFO (Multi-Force Observers) in the Sinai, presumed correctly that most of the world’s media and govt’s would swallow hook line and sinker this idiotic fairytale. For the Israelis, selling the perception of the ‘Karine A’ was all that mattered; never mind the details.

Foreign officials and international media were invited to the Eilat dock to inspect the cargo on display. Non-experts in modern weaponry, they were never sure of what they were looking at, but blindly accepted all that the Zionists were telling them.

To the initiated however, closer inspection revealed that the weapons and munitions on display were in fact part of the huge arsenal of captured weapons that Israel has managed to accumulate in the modern era between the October war of 1973 and the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. This largely Soviet era equipment has been an extremely important part of the ZAHAL (Israeli Army) armoury. [Israeli special forces during covert operations use only Soviet weaponry instead of their own, because not only are they rugged and reliable, they are also ‘untraceable.’]


Of special interest from the supposed ‘Karine A’ haul were the inclusion of AT-3 Malyutka (NATO name: SAGGER) anti-tank handcase portable missiles. The presence of these missiles alone represented a blatant stupid oversight on the part of the Israelis to make their story stick. They might as well have included submarines.

Even in its updated version, cumbersome, specialised and medium ranged for open ground; the archaic SAGGERs are highly unsuitable for the ‘hit and run’ lightly armed Palestinian order of battle which is principally about fighting in built up areas.

[TV One and TV3 news in early December 2005 carried a ‘fake’ FoxNews video report about a supposed plot to assassinate the presiding judge at the trial of Saddam Hussein. According to the story, a Sunni group calling itself the ‘1920 Revolution Brigade’, was planning to fire a rocket from Baqubah (a Baathist stronghold) to Baghdad, a distance of approx. 60 kms. Big problem! Rocket depicted was a SAGGER AT-3 wire guided anti-tank missile with a max range of 3 kms. TVNZ and TV3 have never acknowledged that the story was ‘faked.’]

The Tongan Connection to Sept 11 2001

In 1966, the anti-communist rulers of Tonga joined the US sponsored Taiwanese based WACL (World Anti Communist League, now calling itself the World League for Freedom and Democracy.) Its representative on that body who went on to become regional chairman of the WACL was none other than the former speaker of the Tongan parliament, Noble Fusit’a who is closely linked to the Tongan royal family. His chairmanship was at a time when the WACL membership included death squad’s leaders Roberto D’Aubuisson from El Salvador, Guatemala’s Mario Sandoval Alarcon and many more from Latin America. The rest of the membership reads like a rogues gallery of rightwing nutter’s that has included white supremacists and neo-Nazi.

Sensing that Mainland China’s ‘communism’ was only window dressing and not the grave threat that US had led them to believe, Tonga joined the rest of the pack to beat a pathway to China to set up business. A satellite deal between the Chinese and Princess Pilolevu Tuita (60% owner of Tongasat) was to be the catalyst. In addition to this, closer military co-operation between the 2 countries was initiated. In 1998, Tonga broke ties with Taiwan and formally recognised mainland China.

Retribution against Tonga by the US and the WACL ruled out killing its rulers in the same way that the anti-nuclear leaders of Palau, President Haruo Remeliik and Vice-President Lazarus Salii were murdered by the CIA in the mid-1980’s. [Cover stories were created by the US to hide its involvement in these murders.] Instead they hatched a plan that was going to cost the Palestinians in the occupied territories the ultimate betrayal and the Tongan people, the after effects.

The dragnet that followed in the wake of the US instigated Sept. 11 2001 attacks, would ensnare Tonga in such a way that it would be punished by becoming a part of the US military apparatus in Iraq. To achieve this, US planning to scuttle the peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority by claiming that the PA and Al Queda were linked. As a fictitious creation of the US ‘War of Terror’, Al Queda was meant to have a fleet of ships plying the world’s oceans moving armaments and operatives between nations.

In 2000, a phoney shipping company called Axion Services Ltd was set up by the CIA in Piraeus, Greece. Its representative calling himself Peli Papadopoulos arrived in Nuku’alofa Tonga with a deal to register ships under a Tongan flag. The company set up would be called Tonga International Registry of Ships based in Athens. Signed and sealed, they were in business and the strange tale of the Tongan registered freighter the ‘Karine A’ begins.

The repercussions for Tonga’s rulers, was the embarrassment of being association with Al Queda and terrorism. As a result, Tonga despatched Marines to Iraq as part of the US 1st Marines Expeditionary Forces based in Anbar as penance to say to the US, “We’re sorry and deserve to be punished.” The exercise however proved to be very short lived. Six months after the first arrival of Tongan troops to Iraq, they were pulled out in Dec. 2004 due to pressure at home from workers fed up with the inept actions of their rulers. For Tongan workers struggling to get rid of the anti-democratic despotic nobility who refer to them and commoners as ‘Kainanga ‘o e fonua’ (Dirt Eaters); internationalising that struggle is the only way ensure its success.

As the ‘Coalition of the willing’ crumbles, men and women from the US controlled Pacific territories such as American Samoa, Palau and the Mariana’s, are being press-ganged into being participants in one of mankind’s worst crimes against humanity and the planet. The increasing presence of US Christian fundamentalism in the Pacific has only added to the blindness (lies) that previous Christian efforts have imposed. Sons and daughters are being sacrificed on a secular alter to fulfil a mad religious fairytale built on centuries of lies, lies and more lies.

What is certain is that the US imperialist madness can be stopped. The unity of all ‘Dirt Eaters’ is the only thing standing in the way.

Whakakotahi Nga Kaimahi O Te Ao!

(Workers of the World Unite!)
Te Taua Karuwhero Kahui

From Class Struggle 68 August-September 2006

Written by raved

January 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm

9-11: NZ ‘Locks on’ to US imperialism

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9-11 five years ago was the excuse the US needed to launch the ‘war on terror’. This was a front for its imperialist oil wars to re-conquer the world. It opened up a new period of competition between the rival imperialist powers. 9-11 then, proved that we are still living in the epoch of imperialism. Here we explain how NZ’s role as a semi-colony supporting US imperialism’s War on Terror in order to get a ‘piece of the action’ is shaping the class struggle in this country.

Lenin famously defined imperialism as the rule of finance capital, that is industrial and banking capital concentrated into the form of large investment banks. This is still the case today.

The capitalist world is now being driven by the competition between US and Euro imperialism. Japan and Britain are minor imperialist powers that are allied with the US to get some of the rich pickings. Italy, Spain and Australia are small, weak imperialisms queing up for the leftovers. Russia and China are emerging powers that want to be imperialist but remain semi-colonies of the existing imperialists, especially the US and EU.

The US used 9-11 and the War on Terror to rally its allies around its leading role in recolonising ‘failed states’ to grab the oil and other vital resources at the expense of its main rivals. So while it forced the EU to use NATO to take over the occupation of Afghanistan, it is US big oil that will benefit from the oil grab in the region. In Iraq, the ‘coalition of the willing’ occupation grabbed control of the oil and cancelled Saddam’s deals with EU big oil.

Lebanon: a new front in the oil wars

In this issue of Class Struggle we highlight the latest front in the WOT, Lebanon. Bush and Olmert attacked Lebanon for one reason – to weaken the resistance of the Arab and Iranian nations to the WOT. Both Bush and Olmert claimed that Hizbollah was controlled by the Syrian and Iranian Shia-led regimes. So Israel’s attack on Hezbollah was meant to escalate the WOT to defeat the Iraqi resistance and open the road for an attack on Iran. All three forces had to be defeated for the WOT to reach its objective –US dominance of the oil in the region.

NZ workers must oppose this new front in the WOT. We have to stop the Labour Government from backing Bush and sending troops as part of the US ‘peacekeeping’ force in the South of Lebanon. We argue that NZ’s involvement would mean that the Labour-led government would be joining in Bush’s imperialist invasion. Worse, because NZ is not an imperialist country, and has a reputation for acting only with the authority of the UN, it would be giving credibility to the UN fig leaf being used in Lebanon to cover up the naked ambitions of US imperialism’s/Zionism’s War for Oil.

But to win workers to this position it is necessary to explain why the Labour Government has played the role of UN cover in the WOT since 9-11. A recent debate inside GPJA in Auckland showed how. CWG argued it was necessary to take a stand against NZ troops as ‘peacekeepers’ because this was creating illusions that the UN was a democratic, peaceful alternative to naked US agression.

First, it is necessary to point to the role of the UN as a front for US imperialism. In the FLT statement on Lebanon we reprint in this issue, we expose the hypocrisy of the role the UN has played in smashing resistance to imperialism, especially in Bosnia and Kosovo.

In these places the ‘blue helmets’ collaborated in ethnic cleansing by disarming the resistance and allowing the killers free reign. It will be no different in the south of Lebanon. Bush has gone to the UN to create a buffer zone in the south to disarm Hizbollah and protect its key ally Israel.

The ‘smart state’ produces ‘smart bombs’

A second argument is that in NZ, Labour’s support for the UN in the WOT is the price it pays to get NZ business funded by imperialist finance capital and to do deals with the US for some of the crumbs of recolonisation.

What could contradict Labour’s ‘peacekeeping’ front more than the fact that its prize winning poster child high tech corporate, Rakon, supplies quartz GPS guidance systems for the US and Israel’s ‘smart bombs’. Rakon, part funded by the NZ states Super fund delivers ‘peace’ to the Middle East in ‘pieces’ (body parts).

This is proof that the Labour Government’s strategy of smart state subsidies for high tech and high potential corporate starts must be profitable for imperialism! It guarantees these profits by carrying the losses as in the case ofAir NZ. Or it provides massive subsidies.

In the case of CHH there is a massive state subsidised forest sold off to US pension funds to refinance Hart’s Australasian asset stripping. In the case of Feltex, the ANZ (one of the four Australian owned big banks) has pulled the plug because it wasn’t profitable enough. It will be viable only if finance capital (ANZ or some other bank, or state subsidies) can restructure the company by sackings and speedups to make it superprofitable under smart management. In the case of Fonterra, massive state subsidies of infrastructure, plus farmer cooperative ownership, ensures that surplus value is milked in marketing deals with finance capital that controls its joint venture partners like Nestle. In sum, the state acts as the agent of finance capital in the NZ semi-colony to attract foreign nvestment in high value-added super profits for imperialist monopoly capitalism.

Labour’s strategy is not driven by its concern for ‘peace’ or full-employment, or a devotion to workers since it supports the US-Zionist killers in the south of Lebanon. It is driven by the obligation to deliver super-profits to imperialist monopolies. It is a one of two strategies available to states in semi-colonial countries that lack finance capital. The first is to abandon any controls over the economy and allow the country to be re-colonised as a south Pacific tax haven for rich expatriates – the Barbados of the South Pacific. The second is to try to use the state to fill the void of finance capital and to subsidise new starts in the hope that more of the value added is retained in the country – the PPP (public-private partnership) paradise.

“Hollowing out NZ”: Barbados of the South or PPP Paradise

At a recent high profile seminar National and Labour spokesmen put forward their ‘solutions’ to the problems of NZ semicolonial capitalism – an outflow of surplus value and the migration of labour to the nearest imperialist country. This is given the fashionable term ‘hollowing out’ –mean ‘gutting’ of value.

On the one hand National’s John Key blamed the flight of capital and labour to Australia on high taxes. He says that NZ is losing about $3-4 billion in net capital outflow every year. So what is new? His solution is to cut taxes and turn NZ into a sort of tax haven like Barbados, or closer to home, Vanuatu or Nauru. These countries have few if any trade or investment controls and are wide open to imperialist monopolies to avoid taxes 100 times greater than the notorious Cook Island’s ‘wine box’ tax scam.

In other words, NZ would be a sort of retreat for wealthy US capitalists, celebrities or rock singers who would, like Julian Robertson, create luxury resorts to attract more wealthy expatriates. The capital inflow would fund an army of serfs and servants to keep the rich happy in their ‘rest and recreation’ from the WOT.

But while the Nats want NZ to be a safe haven for rich WOT and climate-warming refugees, Labour are smart social capitalists. They want the state to play the substitute role for weak NZ capital to seed corporates in their infancy to the point where they are attractive to imperialist finance capital. In the process Labour hopes that more of the value added inside NZ stays here.

That’s why it is subsidising a US internet firm to stay here. That’s why it’s planning for the SOEs to extend their operations offshore and into new areas of production. Its model is the PPP -the Public Private Partnership -that wants the SOEs ( state owned corporatiions) to spin-off new firms in partnership with the private sector, like the University spin-offs in biotechnology and health technology. As John Key points out however, this is just dripfeed privatisation.

The PPP is the sole surviving material basis of Labour’s long term economic nationalism. In the days of the post-war boom Labour stood for industrial capitalism protected from finance capital (UK banks) by tariffs and exchange controls. Today its protectionism is in smart subsidies to seed winners to retain more value for NZ capitalism. It plans to fund small scale to medium size firms and lauch the ‘knowledge society’. Here is the narrow economic base from which it defends NZ being relegated to No 7 state of Australia, just as Aussie laborites are opposed to being downsized to US state no 51.

But what about the workers?

But what about the workers? ‘Hollowing out’ is more like ‘gutting’ the economy. More and more of the value workers’ create is ‘gutted’ and exported. For workers the two main ‘models’ of development being debated by the bosses both mean a future of increased exploitation and a growing gap between a highly skilled minority and a wage slave majority. In reality both options co-exist.

So while Rakon sells itself as a trendy, progressive multicultural corporate (its newletter is called ‘Lock On’ – i.e. to the white racist imperialist crusade against ‘Islamic fascism’) it has only few hundred high tech jobs. There is no way that Labour’s smart growth strategy can produce more than a few thousand ‘knowledge’ jobs producing super-profits for imperialism.

Nor can the few Kiwi ‘peacekeeper’ mercenaries used by the US do do its ontract killing in the WOT in the Middle East and Asia create more than a few hundred jobs. The article in this issue on the US Zionist secret war shows how tiny nations like Tonga (and Fiji) are forced to prostitute their people to the WOT for a fistful of dollars.

The hightech sector of the economy is grounded on a low-tech wage slave service sector. The current dispute between NDU workers and Woolworths show that. NZ is a low-wage semi-colony and the imperialist monopolies that invest here are not interested in anything but super-profits. They pay low wages and charge high prices. As Australasian monopoly corporates, Woolworths and Toll Holdings (which has swallowed up Patricks who tried to smash the MUA in 1998) are forced to attack the unions in Australiasia to cut their costs and compete with their bigger US and EU rivals who are investing in othe mucn poorer semi-colonies like China and Mexico.

Whether they use collectives or individual contracts depends on which is best legal route to super-exploitation. They regard Australia and NZ as one market, if not one country. They take no responsibility for workers familes hit by their super-exploitation and oppression. The cuts in social sevices and the social problems of crime and family violence that flow from capitalism are dealt with by using Murdoch-type media machines to foment right wing anti-social reactionaries who blame workers for these problems and call for more police, tasers, vigilantism, anti-terror clampdowns etc.

Labourite economic nationalism defeatist

In the face of this imperialist attack on workers in NZ, the CTU response is to work within Labour’s ideology of economic nationalism (that is workers putting their faith in NZ capitalists to do good deals) and the legal straightjacket of the ERA. This is defeatist. It is not that Woolworths is ‘Australian’ or has a tough CEO in NZ that explains its attack on its workers –Graeme Hart is just as ‘ruthless’ as Woolworths. Its behaviour is explained by its character as an imperialist monopoly driven to make super-profits from slave-wage labour in NZ. We have seen the the material basis of NZ nationalism today is the supply of state subsidised labour and technology to imperialism; that means super-exploitation for workers in both hightech and slave labour sectors with all the negative social consequences.

Nor is the CTU strategy of confining disputes within the ERA able to defeat these attacks. The ERA flows from Labour’s economic nationalism. It assumes that both NZ capitalists and workers can unite as ‘kiwis’ in the ‘national interest’ and arrive at some class compromise.

But when the boss locks you out for asking for a collective for 500 workers and uses scabs in clear defiance of the law, it’s clear that the industrial law cannot offer any protection from imperialist monopolies. The ERA may provide a minimal protection but as soon as workers organise independently the ERA will be used to stop workers defend their jobs, rights or their survival against monopoly capitalism.

Nor can any reform of the industrial law provide that protection. ‘Workers Charter’ and the ‘Workers Party’ are both calling for the legal ‘right to strike’. But no bosses will agree to any right to limit their profits. They will concede some profits only when forced to by militant, mass labour organisation; such ‘rights must be won by industrial action not by votes in parliament.

The rank and file of the unions in dispute have to break from the capitalist state and mobilise generalise and extend their strike action to all sites of production to close down their industry and open the way for workers control of industry. The same strategy of generalising strike action into a general strike to bring down the government that is being advocated by the revolutionary left in Australia against Howard’s Work Choices has to be adopted in NZ against imperialist monopolies and their state protector, the Labour Government.

All around the world, the struggle to stay alive in the wage slave labour sector shows there is no future for workers under either ‘model’ –smart social or crude market-capitalism. Independent workers movements coming into existence to fight for their survival are forced to take on capitalist ownership and control of the economy, a movement which some are calling ‘21st century socialism’.

Whose 21st century socialism?

In other semi-colonies where the process of imperialist ‘gutting’ has gone much further than NZ, workers have had to stand up and fightback or starve. Facing growing underemployment, poverty and destitution, and the social destruction that follows from that, workers have taken back workplaces, jobs and some control over their lives.

In Latin America mass social movements in Bolivia, Equador, Argentina and Venezuela have brought about big changes. The focus of these struggles is the nationalisation of resources, the occupation of workplaces and the fight for workers’ control of production. Along with these come demands for the nationalisation of industry, land and the banks. These are the same demands that NZ workers have to raise in their struggles against imperialist attacks on their jobs, rights and living standards.

The demand for nationalisation of industry under workers control should be raised in every dispute. Workers labour power built the assets that have been stripped in this country. Workers labour power makes the superprofits of the multinationals. Workers labour power pays the taxes that subsidises the smart economy. These assets should be taken back without compensation. Only in this way will workers come to control the means of production and defeat the destructive, superexploitative rule of imperialist finance capital.

However, as the article on Cuba in this issue shows, workers insurgency in Latin America is being held back by the fake leaders of the labour movement, who like the Labour government in NZ sow illusions in nation states doing deals between national capitalism and ‘democratic’ (today European!) imperialism. As we have seen, ‘imperialist democracy’ is an oxymoron: its democracy for the rich and death for the poor.

These misleaders are using the national state apparatuses to contain the insurgent labour movement. More alarming, this dog collar is being applied with the approval of Chavez and Castro and the forces organised around the World Social Forum. Neither of these ‘socialists’ have had bad words to say about Kirchner and Lula, who are open class collaborationists doing the dirty work for the capitalists. By giving these client regimes of imperialism a ‘progressive’ label, such‘socialists’ are once more turning socialism into a dirty word.

So we have to make sure that ‘21st socialism’ is not merely the recycled ‘market socialism’ of the Russian and Chinese bureaucrats looking for a way to become a new bureaucracy . We have to break from the capitalist state and the WSF left bureaucracy! For independent rank and file struggles! For horizonal coordination of workers struggles locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to smash capitalism globally! For a world party of socialism!

From Class Struggle 68 August/September 2006

Defeat Mapp’s ‘Slave Labour’ Bill

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Union Campaign

Mapp’s Bill is designed to remove workers rights in the first three months in any new job. It will open the gate to a more generalised attack on the unions and workers rights .Hone Harawira was right, it is a ‘slave labour’ Bill.The unions are geared up to get the Bill defeated in parliament. But defeating Mapp’s Bill in parliament is no guarantee that bigger and more severe attacks will not follow. Only an independent, democratic, and militant labour movement can put a stop to capital’s drive to make lobour pay for its crisis-ridden, rotten system.

Mapp’s Bill, AKA Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill

“This Bill will introduce a 90-day probation period for new employees in the Employment Relations Act 2000. New Zealand is one of only two OECD countries that does not have a probation period for new employees. The most common length of probation period in the OECD is three months.”

The National Party’s industrial relations shadow minister Wayne Mapp’s Bill passed its first reading on March 15. The combined support of National, ACT, United Future, New Zealand First and three members of the Maori Party saw the bill sent to select committee for further consideration.

Unlike the other three Maori Party MPs, Hone Harawira voted against the Bill. He called it a ‘slave labour’ Bill. Peter Sharples, Maori MP for Tamaki Makaurau, said he voted for the Bill to go to the Select Committee to hear the arguments for and against. He has since come out against the Bill. But there is no sign that Turia or Flavell have changed their minds. Turia is on record as saying that young Maori need this Bill to get into the job market.

Labour, the Greens, and the Progressives opposed the bill. Labour is opposed because it would tip the balance of power in the Employment Relations Act back in favour of the bosses. The ERA’s sponsor, then Labour Minister Margaret Wilson, is a longtime advocate of industrial ‘peace’ where both workers and employers are equal and the state acts as referee.

Sue Bradford Green Party spokesperson called it “mean-spirited, anti-worker legislation [which] has no place in a modern and innovative economy, what Dr Mapp and some other political parties supporting this bill fail to recognise is that it is already possible to have probation periods for new employees under the existing ERA (Employment Relations Act). Where a probationary period has been negotiated, it can be taken into account when looking at whether a dismissal is justified or not.”

Sue Bradford is being a bit naïve. Of course the employers are well aware of the current provisions for a probationary period. They want to get rid of it because it imposes certain restraints on them in hiring and firing. According to the CTU, “Currently case law requires an employer to do just three things for a probationary employee: tell the employee about their concerns, hear the employee’s point of view, and consider it in a fair manner.”

To give the bosses the right to hire and fire Mapp’s Bill proposes:

“The purpose of a probation period for new employees is to enable employers to take a chance with new employees, without facing the risk of expensive and protracted personal grievance procedures. It will enable people who have not had previous work experience to find their first job and make it easier for people re-entering the workforce. That will enable greater growth and productivity in the New Zealand economy.”

According to Don Brash, a 90 day no rights period will help people who are, “too young, too old or too brown” to get a job.

Brash’s statement is seen by the CTU as an admission that employers currently discriminate against these categories of workers. Of course! Youth and age by themselves are no indicator of employability. Nor is ‘being brown’ as the drop off in Maori unemployment from 19% in 1999 to around 9% today proves. But Maori unemployed are still around 20% of the unemployed yet only 10% of the workforce. And the Maori youth rate while down from 32% in 1999 is still over 20% (there are no recent official figure for Maori Youth Unemployment!). The explanation suggested by the Labour Department is that Maori tend work mainly in the more unskilled jobs in the export sector or more insecure service jobs.

Mapp’s Bill is in fact a ‘trojan horse’ to open the gate to further attacks on workers’ rights.

Tariana Turia may think that foregoing hard won rights is a worthwhile price to pay for young Maori to ‘prove themselves’. But this is a return to the 19th century frontier style industrial relations that dumps on the proud history of Maori workers struggles that fought racism to get jobs and took a leading role in the development of militant trades unions.

But more than that, it’s not just about exploiting unskilled and untrained workers. It forces all workers taking on a new job to work with no rights for three months.

Being able to take the boss to a civil court under the Human Rights Act! –on legal aid (Ha Ha!) or the ERA to get wages owed is hardly a right.

Stripped of all the bullshit, Mapp’s Bill is designed let the bosses hire relatively untrained and unskilled workers from the pool of reserve workers to do shit work when it’s available and then fire them when they like. They want more builders’ labourers, cleaners and delivery boys and girls, so along comes Mapp. Harawira is right, this is a ‘slave labour’ Bill.

As for the employers moaning about the cost of legal action to fire someone, the CTU say’s there is no evidence of many personal grievances being taken by employees in the first 90 days. But the CTU is being a bit precious here as it is not that bosses are unwilling to risk taking on “young, old and brown” workers in the first place, but that they want work them without rights and union coverage to extract the maximum profit.

The CTU also thinks that the Bill will make recruiting and keeping workers more difficult because it puts the first 3 months outside the ERA and its provisions for free mediation and dispute settlement. It says that the Bill would allow employers to shirk their duties to their workers. But it misses the point here, doing their ‘duty’ is not the bosses intention. They are not all converts to the ‘knowledge economy’ that empowers the CTU to act as labour pimps. They want the outright freedom to hire and fire. And they want a passive, compliant workforce that prepares workers to reject union membership and accept tough agreements after the 3 month period.

The reason that the CTU expects bosses to do their ‘duty’ is that CTU’s conception of the boss/worker relationship is a partnership that requires employers to do their job in encouraging and training workers, while workers do their job in increasing their productivity. This cosy collaboration allows the CTU union officials to act as the grease monkeys who keep the working class engine running. So while the CTU’s campaign against Mapp’s Bill makes some obvious good points, it is designed to try to bully, shame and cajole employers into taking on their role as responsible partners in this cosy setup. But class collaboration was never a good basis for the defence of workers rights, as the many millions of workers lives sacrificed over the centuries to keep the capitalist system going testify.

A militant campaign to smash the Mapp sack!

A serious defence of workers rights means using the ERA as a defence for as long as it is necessary to build up the industrial strength to do away with the legal framework and assert workers control over the economy. The fact that some bosses want to abolish the ERA starting with its limited protection of workers in what they call the ‘probationary’ period, means we need to defend it.

Therefore everyone needs to get behind the CTU campaign and lobby MPs to defeat the Bill. But when we lobby we should not beg. We should demand that these MPs vote against the Bill or be thrown out of parliament at the next election!

Most important, we cannot put any faith in parliament or in the CTU’s ability to protect workers. Parliament is the mouthpiece of the ruling class and its agents, the political parties of all colors, and the union bureaucracy, representing the interests of all those who have a stake in protecting and defending capitalism. It may be that Mapp’s Bill will not win a majority, but that is no reason for complacency. Mapp’s Bill is a trojan horse designed to open the gate to the destruction of the unions and the removal of all workers rights.

The ERA does not allow workers to go on strike to defeat this Bill. It limits the right to strike to periods of negotiating agreements and health and safety matters. This proves that the ERA is a ‘leg-iron’, like all labour law, that sets limits on workers struggles. Therefore, we have to start right now to rebuild the unions on the basis of a democratic and militant rank and file control of production. Only an organised working class can defeat all future attacks on our class, and go on to overthrow the rotten capitalist system and replace it with a planned, socialist society.

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006

Class Justice for the Kahui Family

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The public outrage surrounding the deaths of the Kahui twins reveals a high level of racism toward poor Maori families in this country. Prominent Maori leaders joined the chorus to victimize the family. A member of the CWG who is also part of the larger Kahui whanau speaks of class justice as the only real justice for the Kahui twins.

Kahui Bashing

The 2006 launch of Matariki (Maori New Year) on Mangere Mountain had a significance that went beyond the dawn of a new year. Organised by South Auckland police and Maori leaders, it marked yet another point at which Maori and the poor had been hoodwinked into taking responsibility for social problems totally the result of political and economic dysfunction.

The crowd of 800 or so were gathered to commemorate the deaths of 115 NZers to die in domestic violence over the previous 10 years. It took on a special poignancy in relation to the most recent family tragedy; the deaths of baby twins Chris and Cru Kahui.

A woman’s voice rang out “They’re just rubbish…they should all be tossed in jail.” To which the crowd reacted with loud applause. That reaction would set the theme for the solemn events of that miserable winter morning. The rule of the lynch mob was very much in evidence, but so was the thought of political opportunism. The trial by media and presumption of guilt has been but a foretaste of things to come.

The families and individuals who are part of the rootless army of excess cheap labour, unable to cope, too poor and demoralised, are forced to gather in clusters under one roof to share the ever increasing cost of living. Hope is drenched in a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and slot machines. At every stage along the way, the wheels of profit suck the very dignity out of these people. This is life for the Kahui whanau.

PM Helen Clark’s announcement that a special working task force be set up to investigate housing where overcrowding by beneficiaries is a problem, will in short amount to a witch-hunt. Without addressing the real problem of poverty and poor housing, that task force is more likely to recommend more sweeping powers for the police. In a climate of increasing draconian State intervention (War on Terror) and ‘get tough on crime’, the scene is set for a police state modelled on that of United States imperialism.

Maori Party cops

When Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples was asked to intervene by one of his personal staff (also a Kahui), it was in accordance with the kaupapa of whanaungatanga (supporting family) as well as his duty as MP for Tamaki. For the state and traditionalists, the mana of that leadership together with that of tribal elders was being put to the test.

The inevitable failure of that intervention can be put down to the new mode of Maori leaders being no more than bureaucratic bargaining agents for the State.

Sharples’ description of the Kahui whanau as ‘dysfunctional’ and showing disrespect towards himself and the elders, reveals how out of touch and blind to the real causes he and that leadership are. Stripped of any real power, their limited politics of class compromise has forced many individuals and communities to seek alternative directions.

For the more marginalised such as the Kahui whanau, that direction could potentially have a more brutal outcome. As gang affiliates, they know the retributional nature of gang justice, particularly in regards to crimes against children. Their silence has meant a determination to settle justice on their own terms with honour and without interference from the State. Unlike State law where the aggrieved are no more than passive bystanders; it is the aggrieved who will decide the fate of the guilty.

To paint the Kahui whanau as honourable would force the State to give recognition to a set of values outside of its control. Political and media silence on the issue is driven by the fear of opening up a Pandora’s Box that would threaten to undermine bourgeois power and authority.

The recent case of two Headhunters tried for chopping off the finger of a fellow gang member for breaking gang rules, reminds us that parallel justice (or injustice) systems do exist outside of the State in Aotearoa.

Working Class Justice

Workers could independently put the ‘system’ on trial and set up courts to try the real criminals responsible for inflicting the chaotic ‘dysfunction’ that is capitalism. Its reactionary barbarism and gang behaviour expropriated from the past would be consigned to history.

None of the concerns focused on the issue of guilt, have addressed where the real guilt lies. Justice determined outside of workers control is always going to be in the interests of individuals who do not have the mandate of the majority who constitute the working class.

The present reality for workers is far from what is being described. But independence as a working class free of State control is a goal that must be achieved in order to affect the process leading to revolutionary change.

By doing so, real and lasting justice will come to babies Chris and Cru Kahui together with their distant cousin Steven Wallace all working class descendants from Ngaruahine Iwi of South Taranaki.

Te Taua Karuwhero Kahui 

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006 

Written by raved

January 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Union Busting : Real leadership for Postal Workers

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NZ Posties in the Postal Workers Federation are engaged in industrial action to force NZ Post to negotiate a new collective with better pay and conditions. NZ Post is resisting a new Collective Agreement claiming the old one has expired and that PWF posties have to negotiate individual agreements or join a new union! 90% of PWF Posties have voted to take industrial action. This arrogant union busting attitude of the bosses is made easier by the fact that the EPMU also covers posties. The EPMU does not have a good record in negotiating alongside other unions. We look at the pitfalls of having the workforce split into two unions and ways of dealing with this.

Negotiate together

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) head, Ross Wilson has shepherded the Postal Workers Federation and EPMU into joint negotiations with NZ Post. What are the dangers for union members in this situation?

Settlement of a deal for both unions would be voted on separately, but what happens if one union votes to accept a deal and the other union votes to reject it?

Recent history gives us an example: The EPMU recently got into this situation with the Aviation & Marine Engineers Association, over the deal they proposed with Air NZ. In October 2005, Air New Zealand announced plans to cut 600 jobs from heavy maintenance engineering. The EPMU effectively set up a deal to ‘save 300 jobs’ but to sell out conditions (rostered shifts) of Christchurch based engineers. In effect, the EPMU wanted a smaller union to take a loss in order to save jobs. The Christchurch Engineers rejected the deal (and saved their conditions) but were subject to abuse and ridicule by the EMPU for rejecting the conditions, and making the whole deal fall over. That was considerable pressure on the smaller union to agree to the deal.

That’s why the smaller union must be organised on the shop floor and ready to support its claims with action. Negotiations are only as successful as the organization of workers is strong.

Organise action separately

The EPMU is likely to lead workers into negotiations and offer little other than a legal path. The EPMU delegates’ forums are few and far between. There is little opportunity for delegates to raise issues from the shop floor. The EMPU organisers are expected by their management to run the meetings according to their agenda, so these meetings become top-down rather than democratic.

The Postal Workers Federation can be a real leadership representing the rank and file members, and that would show up the bureaucratic methods of the EPMU officials. PWF delegates can raise issues from the shop floor in more democratic union meetings. The communication back to members about what is being done is important to demonstrate effective union leadership. However organising in the workplace is most important.

Actions such as not signing off “round profiles” shows real leadership over the conditions that matter on the ground. Members and delegates need to be discussing how to implement work-to-rule.

What we can do to prepare to take direct action to support claims?

Communication among union members is essential in order to take united action. Swapping phone numbers and using email and internet are ways to stay in touch. Setting up a telephone tree is a way to call meetings, and letting members know essential information quickly. How else can members be prepared to take action if a union member is victimized by and employer? (eg. suspended or dismissed). Only the solidarity of union members in support of delegates can protect other workers against victimization.

Taking the lead on the shop-floor would force the EPMU members to question their officials and to also put pressure on for real action to support their claims. The potential for united action remains.

Having two unions in the workplace means that ordinary workers are questioning the union leaderships. An effective union leadership will carry the interests of members into all of it’s actions. We would hope that the best leadership would gain the most members and recruit the membership of the other union, which could then fade into deserved irrelevance. At this time the Postal Workers Federation is showing the best leadership by far.

Rank and File Control of the Union!
Put union dues into fighting funds (i.e. strike wages)
For democratic fighting unions!

A Class Struggle Leaflet

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006

Aotearoa: Spilt coming in Maori Party?

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At the rank and file level within the Maori Party, there has been disquiet and concern expressed at some of the actions of its co-leader Tariana Turia. In March, she accepted an invitation to the ACT Party’s annual conference in Wellington. The only dissent among the 4 Maori Party MP’s against her going to the conference came from Tai Tokerau member, Hone Harawira. This was consistent with his rejection of support for a parliamentary review of the 90-Day probation period bill for workers introduced by National’s Wayne Mapp. On that occasion yet again, Harawira went against the decision of his other 3 colleagues to support the parliamentary right wing. Does this signal an impending split in the Maori Party?
The Maori Party’s rightward shift away from its natural political ally the Labour Party, is a reactionary move in response to Labour’s anger at losing a significant part of its past support base. For a Party consisting of disillusioned castaways from the political mainstream, it’s only a matter of time before there is a clash between its pragmatic leadership and the more principled working class rank and file. The kaupapa (basic platform) that the Party and its constitution rests on, is being exposed as a weak excuse to accommodate political rivals.

The question being considered by members in many of the local branches is; are these early signs of an inevitable future split within the Maori Party centred on a breakaway led by Hone Harawira? From his earliest days in Nga Tamatoa, He Taua, Patu Squad, Kawariki and so on, Harawira has demonstrated an independent sense of leadership that has been at odds with many of his Maori political contemporaries. More importantly, he has an urban background that has not been entirely tainted by the backward politics of rural isolation.

His reluctant decision to enter Parliament shows a suspicion for an institution he regards as representing only one side of the Treaty deal. His passion is still the establishment of an independent Maori Parliament. In his time as an MP, Harawira has clearly identified with the grassroots rank and file by holding regular dialogue and consultation that has kept him away from much of the superficial parliamentary activity except crucial voting.

As his Party’s spokesperson for employment, discussions with workers and union leaders in the North have clearly put him on a path that focuses on the practical issues facing an area with the highest number of unemployed in the country. Central to that dialogue, has been his regular contact with workers at JNL Tri-Board in Kaitaia where he lives. In 1997, JNL workers were involved in one of the most significant strike actions that challenged both the ECA and the companies draconian work proposals for a new contract.

Maori Party support for striking meat workers at Ngaraunga Gorge in February this year bore more the hallmarks of Harawira’s genuine concern for people as workers rather than constituents. Regular contact with workers has forced him to face up to the limitations of the nationalist rhetoric of his youth. He increasingly has come to recognise that internationalising indigenous struggles as workers’ struggles, has more to offer in terms of strength and unity than the empty promises of misleaders governed by bourgeois nationalist class interest.

Politically, it is too early to see if he has matured to the point that he is able to make a clean break from the more limiting aspects of his past. His entry into a Parliamentary institution that he openly describes as cynical and representative of the ‘Settlers’, falls short of what could be described as the higher level of serious politics, that is ‘revolutionary’. To that end, he must engage with struggles where consciously, the break with ‘Indigenousness’ has had to be made by indigenous people. Without sacrificing their unique regional identities, they have come to realise that their battles cannot be fought alone.

In Latin America, struggles are being waged and led by native peoples who are at the head of the most politically advanced workers in the world. Their organisations are built on the ‘rank and file.’ For example in Bolivia landless indigenous peasants have united with workers to fight for the nationalization of gas against Evo Morales whose ‘Indigenous’ government is trying to do a deal with the oil companies. These struggles are in a frontline face-off against the most murderous anti-indigenous/anti-worker force ever assembled; ‘The Imperialist capitalist USA.’

In Aotearoa, the Maori fight for independence has tended to identify with a romanticised version of the past replicated in modern times by reactionaries such as George Speight in Fiji. By supporting Speight, some Maori nationalists such as Tame Iti, put themselves in opposition to Fijian workers because their ‘Indigenous’ perspective disorientated them from recognising the greater class struggle.

When Hone Harawira entered Parliament in 2005, he was in many ways going to be a cat loose among the pigeons even in his own Party. His belief in the power of the Maori Party branches to formulate policy has put him at odds with the non-parliamentary Party hierarchy. To stretch his workload even more, he has become the proxy-member for Tainui, a seat narrowly lost by left-leaning Maori Party co-candidate and Mana Maori (temporarily in recess) leader Angelline Greensill, daughter of legendary activist Eva Rickard. As a reluctant candidate herself, Greensill was perhaps going to be Harawira’s most valuable ally.

In many ways, Greensill and Mana Maori, reflect a cautionary cynicism that is aimed at the Maori Party as much as Parliament; a view not too dissimilar to that of Hone Harawira. At a meeting in Pukekohe, South Auckland before Christmas 2005, Harawira was challenged by a local worker as to the Maori Party’s industrial policy, to which he replied, “That matter is in your hands as rank and file members.” That challenge probably more than any at this stage, is going to be a sign of his future trajectory in the Maori Party.

Te Taua Karuwhero 

From Class Struggle 66 April/May 2006

Aotearoa: Workers Unite for What?

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Matt McCarten’s Unite Workers’ union sacrifices rank and file democracy for deals with bosses and parliamentary careers. McCarten is trying to enlist ‘his’ union as part of the World Social Forum reformist left bloc that tries to make deals between workers and ‘democratic’ bosses as the road to parliamentary socialism.

“My Union”

Unite Workers Association won a good wage increase from Restaurant Brands but how did it do it? By strike action! So far so good. Matt McCarten presented the victory as a “new historic deal” for young fast food workers. But then we hear that instead of taking the proposed deal back to a vote of the members he signed the deal behind the backs of the members. What was the rush? It may have got overwhelmingly support from the membership anyway. So why not take it back to the members?

We know that some fast food workers were upset by the fact that Unite was calling on workers to go on strike by text messaging them. One worker we spoke to who was also a job delegate was called into work to fill in for workers who walked off the job without any discussion or a vote on strike action. She was called a scab by those who walked off.

Were the Restaurant Brands deal and the charge of scab hurled at this young woman isolated cases of things going wrong? Or were they symptomatic of the McCarten political machine? We think the latter. This looks like McCarten using these young workers as media fodder to pressure politicians to back Sue Bradford’s Bill to eliminate discriminatory youth rates, at the cost of their own democratic right to discuss matters and vote on them. In other words the rank and file members of McCarten’s Unite branch are being used by him to back his own campaign to form a new reformist party on the left.

Why doesn’t this surprise us?

Well we’ve seen it coming for years. Back in 02 when the Alliance lost out in Parliament we predicted that McCarten would regroup and try to find a union base for his politics. It took him about 3 years to insert himself into Unite by forming his own branch in Auckland, Unite Workers Association, and start recruiting members, but deliberately excluding beneficiaries and the unemployed.

All the while we kept up a running commentary on McCarten’s methods. First, he exposed workers to unnecessary risk of sacking by his flamboyant, high profile advocacy. Second, he started poaching workers from other unions. Third, he structured UWA so that he controlled the union from the top down. Fourth, he associated the union with the police in the ‘Comrades and Cossacks’ commemoration. Fifth he ran, and continues to run, a scurrilous campaign against Waitemata Unite! a branch of the union based on beneficiaries who have been openly critical of his bureaucratic methods and his exclusion of beneficiaries over several years.

But in spite of these problems, CWG backed the initiative of recruiting non-unionised workers especially young fast food workers. For us this is elementary united front politics. But we always said to Unite organisers that the members had to be in charge. We pushed to make Unite a genuinely rank and file based union. Those inside Unite who were in agreement with this principle assured us that they too were fighting for this objective. It seems however, with the Restaurant Brands deal, that our fears have been justified, and their hopes have been defeated.

Radical Youth ‘walkout’

Radical Youth originated the campaign against youth rates taken up by later by Unite which then steered it behind Bradford’s Bill. The ‘walkout’ organised by Radical Youth in March could not be contained by McCarten’s Unite. Both the Alliance and McCarten praised the walkout but then tried to steer the youth’s actions behind parliamentary reforms to make capitalism a ‘fair’, ‘democratic’, ‘socialist’ society.

But there is no future in such activism. It is no more than media fodder to support parliamentary reforms. Similar street activism was the routine tactic of the Peoples Centre in Auckland when Sue Bradford ran it in the late 1980’s and 1990s without much success. It was also the preferred method of the university students against user pay fees in the 1990s. They made their point, but the protest fizzled because it was always designed to put pressure on parliament.

We don’t think that radical youth were prepared to be used as rent boys and girls on McCarten’s parliamentary roadshow. We see the walkout as part a wider movement of young workers globally that is taking on capitalism itself? This is a movement that goes beyond immediate reforms towards revolution? In this they are not alone.

Young people in France, migrant workers in the US, and oppressed Iraqis, all know there is no way that capitalism can afford ‘democracy’ and a living wage for them. Sure fast food outlets may pay more in NZ, but they are going to screw workers in other ways and in other countries to make their profits. Capitalism today is about taking these rights and conditions away from the weakest. And even the best organised workers in the world, the US autoworkers, are facing crippling job losses and pension and health ‘takebacks’.

So the more pressure radical youth puts on companies here, the more they will find that they are still exploited so that its not just low wages but the wage system that is the problem. Just like the youth in France right now i.e. facing wage slavery. The French youth won a small victory against the CPE, but it will take an unlimited general strike to stop the ruling class from bringing in the measures it wants in some other form.

French Lessons

In France the recent student rebellion proved that students, youth and workers can unite to fight not only bad laws but can mobilise to bring down a government. They were aiming for a general strike to defeat the law. But the union bosses are as usual playing a treacherous role. The Communists and Socialists think that a ‘social Europe’ can be won through parliaments to do everything they can to stop a real all –out general strike from happening.

But not only the open reformists. The leading so-called ‘Trotskyist Party’ the LCR joined with the CP and SP and the Greens to sign a statement begging Chirac to throw out the new law and sit down to talk with the ‘left’ about a ‘consensus’ i.e. ‘compromise’. In other words the so-called ‘far left’ took the struggle off the street back into parliament to do a deal behind the backs of the young workers.

The LCR in France has close relations with the SWP and the Socialist Workers in NZ. The LCR talked about a general strike but did not put this demand on the union officials to force them to call one. This is the same politics of the Workers’ Charter and McCarten’s Unite in New Zealand. They try to contain the spontaneous struggles of the youth, students and workers by making backroom deals with the bosses and with governments. Their reformist perspective is to build a popular front in which the ‘left’ can pressure the right. Fat chance! Right across the world, the parties of the ‘new type’ are no more than the broad left leg of the popular front alliance with the ‘democratic’ capitalists, sowing illusions in young, militant workers that they can deliver parliamentary socialism from above, and disarming them in the face of imperialist attacks.

Where to from here?

Fight for rank and file democracy! Challenge the leadership? Make McCarten accountable! Insist that all issues are debated at all up meetings. Insist that delegates are elected by the rank and file and are accountable and recallable. Stand up for your rights!

Unite for workers power, not bureaucratic power! Build fighting, democratic unions, not parliamentary careers!

Reject the McCartenite, Workers Charter local kiwi branch of the World Social Forum bloc that draws young workers under the influence of the bourgeois and restorationist leadership of Chavez, Castro, Morales and Lula that is containing and strangling the revolutionary masses in Latin America!

From Class Struggle 66 April/May 2006

Louise Nicholas: Support Rape Victims

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The Louise Nicholas case of rape against a senior serving police officer and two former police officers failed to get a conviction. Outraged by the result, supporters of Louise Nicholas claimed that two of those acquitted were already serving a jail sentence for rape, a fact that was suppressed under NZ’s penal law. Should such information be made known at trials or are their other ways of defending rape victims from failures in the bourgeois justice system?

No More Rape Victims on Trial!

The Louise Nicholas case had disturbed many New Zealanders even before it ended with a not guilty verdict. The team of lawyers representing the three senior police officers accused of rape had effectively put Nicholas in the dock by making a series of attacks on her honesty and integrity. The jury’s verdict was the final insult, because it seemed to brand Nicholas as a liar and legitimise the behaviour of the defence team.

To those who knew some of the information about two of the accused which had been kept out the case, the jury’s verdict was even more frustrating. Within hours of the end of the trial the suppressed information had appeared on the internet and on leaflets distributed by protesters. Anyone who has been privy to this information will find it very difficult to believe that Louise Nicholas got a fair deal in court.

In the aftermath of the trial many people are wondering what steps can be taken to prevent a repeat of the injustice that Louise Nicholas has suffered. Some feminists have suggested that the law should be changed so that relevant previous criminal convictions of the accused can be considered by a judge and jury rather than suppressed. It is hard to see, though, how such a measure can be squared with a commitment to a fair trial and to the reform of sexual offenders. It is worth noting that the call for the consideration of previous criminal convictions is being echoed by some organisations on the far right of New Zealand politics, including the Act Party.

Other observers pin their hopes on the reform of the police to eliminate the sort of abuses that Louise Nicholas suffered. Some on the left welcomed the appointment of Annette King as Minister of Police, hoping that the presence of a female at the top would help to get rid of some of the sexism of the force. Others call for the recruitment of more female officers. Such suggestions are naive, because they rest on the belief that sexism exists in the force because of the presence of a few ‘bad apples’, or at worst a macho ‘cowboy culture’.

A similar analysis of police racism has seen successive governments recruiting thousands of Polynesians to the force, and organising workshops on ‘cultural sensitivity’. Yet the police force remains a profoundly racist institution which is disliked and distrusted by many Polynesians. The racism of the police has come to be symbolised by the slaying of Stephen Wallace in Waitara in 2000, yet the policeman who shot Wallace repeatedly in the back was Maori. The truth is that, whatever the views of their individual members, the police are institutionally racist and institutionally sexist. The police defend capitalism, which is a system which creates the oppression of women and ethnic minorities in a thousand ways every day. Efforts to reform the force by injecting a ‘feminist’ culture into it will fail. The police can only be transformed when society itself is radically transformed.

But society is not going to be transformed overnight, and many people are looking to take action now to help prevent a repeat of the injustice Louise Nicholas has suffered. If tinkering with the legal system and trying to reform the police are not options, what can they do? One thing that we can all do is work to strengthen the independent organisations that assist victims of sexual violence. In New Zealand, these organisations help thousands of women every year, yet they are chronically under funded and struggle to survive. 

 Sexual Abuse HELP

In Auckland, the Sexual Abuse HELP organisation does a heroic job on a very tight budget. HELP operates a twenty-four hour hotline for victims of sexual violence, provides doctors for these women, provides advisers to coach them through the stressful process of confronting the police, laying a complaint and going to court, and also provides long-term counselling to help victims transcend their suffering.

Anyone who followed the Louise Nicholas case can see how the services which HELP provides could have benefited Louise in the aftermath of the assaults she suffered. If Louise had been able to make a complaint to the police promptly and undergo a prompt examination by a sympathetic doctor, then it would have been much harder for her attackers to smear her by contesting the truthfulness of her memories, and by alleging she enjoyed the sex she had with them. Medical evidence would have shown that the sex was forcible, violent, and painful.

But without an organisation like HELP to turn to, it is not surprising that the eighteen year-old Louise Nicholas felt unable to report the abuse she suffered to the police or a doctor. The huge numbers of women who turn to organisations like HELP today are proof that many sexual violence victims still find police stations and doctor’s examining rooms intimidating places. In Auckland, HELP last year received 8,000 contacts through its hotline, and guided hundreds of women through the courts and into counselling programmes.

Yet HELP and similar organisations still struggle for funding, and often exist on the edge of insolvency. Their inability to service the whole country and their inadequate advertising budgets mean that many sexual violence victims still do not know that organisations exist to help them. These women suffer the isolation of the eighteen year-old Louise Nicholas, and frequently succumb to depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. Government under funding of HELP and similar organisations is directly responsible, then, for unreported rapes and the unnecessary suffering of many women.

While the government lavishes money on the police, new prisons, and troops to fight George Bush’s war in Afghanistan, HELP is forced to appeal to private donors, because its four main public funders – Children Youth and Family, ACC, the Ministry of Development and the Auckland Health Board – invariably fail to provide it enough to operate on. Other organisations that assist victims of sexual violence complain of similar insecurities.

Two years ago HELP initiated a protest campaign to draw attention to the fact that it was on the edge of bankruptcy. After doctors and other caregivers told a large public meeting they were prepared to go on strike, the government stepped in with a one-off injection of cash. But such last minute payments are not enough: HELP and similar organisations should be assured adequate funding from a single government source, so that they can do their jobs free from constant worries about insolvency.

Everyone who is outraged by the injustice that has been done to Louise Nicholas should demand that the government respond to this injustice by massively increasingly funding for organisations that assist and represent the victims of sexual violence. Trade unions have an especially important role to play. Many of employees of HELP and similar organisations are members of trade unions, and the Service and Food Workers Union helped organise the 2004 public meeting to defend HELP. After the murder of Stephen Wallace in 2000 the National Distribution Union took up the Wallace family’s campaign for a public inquiry into the actions of the police and the broader question of police racism. Today, trade unionists should support the protests against the sexism and injustice Louise Nicholas has suffered, and also demand better funding for those who help victims of sexual violence.

From Class Struggle 66 April/May 2006

Aotearoa: ‘Clean Start’ campaign

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CWG members were at the Methodist City Mission Hall, for the Auckland launch of the Clean Start – Fair Deal for Cleaners campaign, which is being waged in New Zealand by the Service and Food Workers Union and in Australia by the SFWU’s sister union, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union.

About one hundred and twenty people – union organisers, delegates, rank and file members, journalists, and the usual unctuous politicians – listened to New Zealand Idol winner Rosita Vai give a rousing start to proceedings by filling the hall with her twenty-four track voice.

Vai’s would be a hard voice for anyone to follow, and the nasal whine of SFWU National Secretary John Ryall never stood a chance. Vocal performance aside, Ryall did make some sound points about the necessity and justice of the cleaners’ campaign, citing research which shows that cleaners in New Zealand work three times as much floor space in a shift as their Texan counterparts. Given that Texas is not a part of the world renowned for strong trade unions, Ryall’s data spoke volumes about the situation of cleaners in New Zealand. Sue, an SFWU delegate from Auckland Airport, made the same point using personal experience rather than statistics, noting that she’d been working at the airport for seven years, for a ‘really really really mean’ boss who had recently offered her a thirty-five cent pay increase. ‘That’s a box of matches’, Sue observed. In her seven years at the airport, she had helped increase union membership from 35 to 140, as more and more workers saw the necessity of uniting to demand more than a box of matches.

The SFWU is demanding a minimum pay rate of $12 an hour for all cleaners, the establishment of a proper health and safety regime in the buildings cleaners service, and the end of the sub-contracting of cleaning services to fly-by-night outfits who make impossible demands on workers. It is not clear, though, how these aims are to be achieved. John Ryall spoke of ‘waking the companies that own the buildings in Auckland as well as Australian cities’ up to their ‘social responsibilities’, and getting them ‘to sit down at the table with the union’. The task, it seemed, was the conversion of bosses from a profit-driven immorality to a community-minded generosity. MP Mark Gosche mounted the podium to make a similarly evangelical appeal to ‘all those big businessmen who want to shake hands with Polynesian superstars like Rosita and Tana Umaga to also respect the parents of these people, the low-paid workers’. But big business and its advertising agents use celebrities like Umaga and Vai as cynically as they uses cleaners: both are exploited, it’s simply that – until they retire or record an album that flops – the celebrities are more valuable commodities than the cleaners.

Gosche’s fellow Labour MP Darien Fenton followed him to the podium, and delivered a breathtakingly banal speech. Fenton recalled her many years in leadership positions in the SFWU, and the effort and financial expense that went into the Labour election campaign that dragged her into parliament last year. ‘I haven’t forgotten you and where I came from, I always keep my desk clean, and I always talk to the parliament cleaners’ Fenton announced proudly. Whether such shining examples of working class militancy represent an adequate return for the tens of thousands the union spent getting Fenton to parliament is open to question.

Green MP Keith Locke made a speech which managed the not-difficult task of upstaging both Gosche and Fenton. Locke noted that the Green Party demands an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $12 an hour, and called on the SFWU to support Green MP Sue Bradford’s bill to abolish youth rates. Neither Gosche nor Fenton had managed to mention either the minimum wage or youth rates, preferring to bask in the feeble glow of Labour’s 1999 Employment Relations Act, and stoke up fears of National MP Wayne Mapp’s doomed 90 Day Probation Bill. The failure of these two members of Labour’s ‘left’ faction to so much as mention a progressive piece of legislation like Bradford’s Bill should be a warning to all SFWU members. If it is to be successful, the Clean Start campaign will have to rely on rank and file action, not the ex-leaders the union has packed off to Wellington.

The internationalism of linking up the NZ and Australian unions is an important move, since the cleaners would be working for many of the same firms (such as Spotless) now that NZ is virtually a branch of Australian capitalism. According to one of the SFWU organisers, the US service worker union, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) is also involved. This is one of the biggest unions in the states with 35,000 cleaners (janitors) as members.

This was the union that made a big splash in the early 1990s unionising mainly Latino women workers in the big cities in the US – the Justice for Janitors campaign. Ken Loach made a good film on the Los Angeles campaign, “Bread and Roses”. The film was notable for depicting an almost unrecognisable LA from the usual glitzy Hollywood image. Some of the tactics used by the workers such as invading the private parties of super-rich lawyers whose offices they cleaned (inspiring viewing) could be used to advantage here. Imagine occupying the Koru and Kangaroo Lounges.

We hope the SFWU is planning a big rank and file contingent for May Day. It would be most fitting for NZ service workers, many of them migrant workers, to join in solidarity with the many US (around 12 million ‘illegals’) migrants who will be on the streets for a nationwide stopwork May 1 to tell Bush where he can stick his plan to make’ illegals’ criminals.

The mass movement of migrant workers in the US is the biggest thing to hit the US working class for years. I hope that some of the inspiration rubs off on kiwi and Aussie workers! It could be just what is needed to kick start a much needed rank and file control of the unions in these countries.

From Class Struggle 66 April/May 2006

Workers Charter: a New-New-Labour party?

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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