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

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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
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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 

Supersize my Pay, Supersize my Party

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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

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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

Chavez, Venezuela, oil and workers control

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 Nationalize Big Oil, Trade with Venezuela!

Even before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast of the US the oil companies had put their prices up. Oil rose to over US$70 a barrel. It is a finite, non-renewable source of energy. Intense competition for oil is behind the invasion of Iraq and the instability in central Asia. It underlies the tension between Venezuela and the US. So the crisis over peak oil is symptomatic of capitalism in deep shits. Capitalism cannot solve this crisis without massive destruction. It is necessary to work out a strategy for the socialization of oil and other privately owned resources so that a global socialist planned economy can arise to rescue humanity and the planet from total destruction.

The Oil Crisis is Capitalism’s Crisis

Oil is a key input into industry and necessary for the survival of capitalism. No substitute is capable of stepping into the role oil plays without a huge jump in the cost of production. Therefore the imperialist countries driven by Big Oil will pursue increasingly aggressive policies to get control of this diminishing supply. We face a future of rapid decent into wars and destruction of whole populations such as Iraq (and on a smaller scale working class New Orleans) unless we challenge the ownership and control of capitalism.

The future alternative to capitalism is socialism. But it is unlikely to come in one sudden rush. We need to look for ways to make the transition to socialism by first regulating and controlling the market, and then moving progressively toward the nationalization and socialization of the major resources, industries and banks under the ownership and control of workers’ governments.

In Latin America we can see a level of resistance to capitalist globalization and its destruction that points the way towards this alternative socialist future. In Argentina in 2001 the population rebelled against neo-liberal austerity and threw out the government forcing a default on the national debt. In Bolivia the masses are in a state of almost permanent revolt against oil companies exploiting the gas resources. In Brazil the government of Lula is in crisis because it has not met its promises to its worker supporters. In Chile there has been mass resistance to the FTA with the US.

Venezuela creates an opportunity

Most significant, in Venezuela there is a left populist government able to use its oil wealth to force through some changes to the global oil market. Chavez has introduced cheap oil for the Caribbean and other Latin American countries, and done a bilateral deal with China. He has also made some of the oil companies change their contracts and enter joint ventures on terms more favorable to Venezuela.

While these are important steps in the attempt to find alternatives to the dominance of the oil majors, they are as yet small steps. The states concerned are not directly challenging the fundamental interests of the oil companies –their ability to set the prices and profits of the oil industry even though they may not technically own the oil fields. That is, Venezuela’s oil may be nationalized but it is not yet socialized in the hands of the masses of workers and peasants of that country.

Nationalization is not Socialization

Nationalized property remains the property of the capitalist state and the capitalist class as a whole. That’s why nationalization often acts to subsidize private profits against workers interests. This can be seen from the fact that Chavez continues to supply oil to the US which can use it for its military machine in Iraq. Chavez has also recently offered oil to make up the loss of production resulting from a strike by Ecuadorian state oil workers, drawing a rebuke from Venezuelan state oil workers. And in order to guarantee production Chavez backs no-strike legislation against state workers in Argentina and at home. Similarly, Iraq’s oil remains nationalized, but that does not stop the oil majors from raking off massive profits through controlling the production and marketing of Iraqi oil, and of running the oil fields under military occupation.

The goal in Venezuela (and Bolivia, Brazil, Iraq etc) must be to support the nationalization of oil and an increase in the share of oil wealth being retained for distribution to meet the peoples’ needs, as a platform for the fight for the socialization of oil under the control of the workers and peasants’ organisations and revolutionary governments. This cannot happen in one country alone. An alternative common market made up of all countries exploited and oppressed by imperialism has to be built so that there is an economic base for the construction of a world socialist movement to carry the struggle to its completion. This means in each country we need to work out a series of steps to further this international strategy.

Solving New Zealand’s oil crisis

New Zealand’s oil crisis results from a lack of its own oil and dependence on Big Oil. We need to start first by removing petrol taxes and shifting the tax burden onto business which gains most from subsidized roading. Then we need to nationalize the oil industry under workers’ control and import oil from Venezuela in exchange for agricultural commodities and technology. We can repeat this with other countries breaking free from the dictates of the global market. For example, gas under the control of Bolivian workers and peasants could be shipped to NZ in exchange for agricultural expertise to convert coca to some other economic crop. To do this we (and of course our trading partners) would have to repudiate all Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and WTO agreements that limit the actions of the sovereign national state to ‘expropriate’ foreign investments, as well as the punitive financial regimes of the IMF and World Bank.

Instead of signing an FTA with the ‘Blairite’ Lagos government in Chile which gives multinational capital freedom to trade and invest with few national constraints, NZ could target its expertise to develop agriculture in exchange for industrial goods like copper. Or in Brazil provide technical advice to develop agriculture resulting from land reform. To make this possible aggressive multinationals such as Fonterra which (with its partner Nestle) plans to dominate the Latin American dairy industry, would become a joint venture between its farmer owners and the NZ state to cooperate in the development of this industry in partnership with the peasant owners in similar cooperative/state ventures.

No capitalist party in NZ would be willing to take these steps so it is necessary to build a socialist movement in NZ that can join in the international struggle to make sure that expropriations are put under workers control and socialized as the basis of a planned global socialist economy and society. But as a first step along this road we must raise the demand now for the nationalization of the oil industry and for barter trade with Venezuela!

NATIONALISE THE OIL INDUSTRY!

TRADE OIL FOR FOOD WITH VENEZUELA!

SMASH THE FTAs, WTO, IMF AND WORLD BANK!

FOR A UNITED SOCIALIST STATES OF THE PACIFIC!

 
 

15th World Youth and Student Festival August 2005
Chavez on the ‘peaceful road to socialism’?

The mounting US attack on Venezuela by Condoleezza Rice, Rums field etc and Pat Robertson’s death threat against Chavez etc – raises the red bogey of Chavez conspiring with Castro to make a socialist revolution in Bolivia that can spread to the rest of Latin America. Many of the 15,000 who attended the recent World Youth and Student Festival in Caracas think it is true.

While Chávez was in Argentina, [see article below] the “16th World Festival of Youth and Students” was opened in Venezuela. It was organized by the World Social Forum. One of the guest ‘stars’ was Evo Morales of Bolivia. This was no coincidence. In this festival Evo Morales was held up as the next president of Bolivia. At the same time the ‘power ring’ [i.e. the economic, political and military containment of the Bolivian revolution] was strengthened.

Thus the WSF used its Youth and Student Festival to organize its continental politics of strangling the Bolivian revolution. At the same time, it instructed its ‘left wing’ –the liquidators of Trotskyism – to hold another ‘encounter’ in La Paz on 12-14 August, so that it could collaborate with the Lula labor bureaucracy of the CUT of Brazil, and Solares (Castroite leader of the COB –union central – in Bolivia) etc, to add its weight to the containment of the Bolivian revolution.

In the La Paz meeting, held in secret and behind the backs of the masses of the revolutionary workers vanguard of El Alto, (working class city adjoining La Paz) this collection of treacherous fake Trotskyists and bureaucrats resolved to put up a reformist workers party under the name of the “political Instrument of the Workers” to participate in the elections of December.

They buried the resolutions of the 8 June of the COR (regional COB) El Alto; aborted the reconvening of the national congress of delegates of the Originary Popular Assembly (Indigenous and Popular Assembly) and tried to isolate and confuse the vanguard that fights for workers and peasants soviets and centralised militias. In effect, this ‘encounter’ backed Morales’ truce with President Rodriguez and the bourgeois regime.

While some of their delegates went to the encounter in Bolivia, at the Festival in Venezuela were the currents of Alan Woods, the MST of Argentina and other groups of the UIT-CI, among others. There, not surprisingly, they put themselves under the authority of Chávez and Fidel Castro, the Castroite bureaucracy, and the imposter Celia Hart Santamaria of the supposed ‘Trotskyist wing’ of the Cuban Communist Party. Just as Stalinism in the ‘80s organized the ‘Coffee Brigades’ to support the policy of the Castroism and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, today the renegades of Trotskyism take the lead in organizing support for Chávez.

Celia Hart, on May 1st 2005, in its article called ‘A ghost crosses America’, called for the “unity of revolutionaries”, to found a “continental communist organization” combining “sectarian” groups and “socialist or ant capitalist organizations” into an “organization of organizations”. In other words, she called on the left including the liquidators of Trotskyism, to unite under the control of the Cuban Communist Party, as the “left wing” of the World Social Forum.

The WSF needs a class collaborationist ‘left wing’ to play the leading role in containing the masses because the original promoters of the WSF are today increasingly discredited. They are implicated directly in pro-imperialist governments and bourgeois regimes attacking the masses, like Lula in Brazil, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, Lagos in Chile; or open supporters of these regimes like the CTA (state workers union) and Castroism which backs Kirchner in Argentina; or getting ready to play this role in government, like Evo Morales in Bolivia. Moreover, the WSF has already lost its “poster boy”, Colonel Gutiérrez, at hands of the masses in Ecuador. [see article on Ecuador]

In the case of Chávez, they need him so they can maintain the bourgeois state behind the painting of the ‘Bolivarian revolution’. And in the case of the Castroite bureaucracy, they need the ‘left wing’ to hide their betrayals of the Latin American revolution and its policy of capitalist restoration in Cuba.

So today, in the Festival of Youth in Venezuela, the task of coordinating and centralising the ‘left’ road block stopping the revolution is being carried out by the traitors to Trotskyism. Celia Hart Santamaría could not come to the Festival, so her role was filled by her lieutenant and official guest, Alan Woods of the ‘Trotskyist’ International Marxist Tendency. Next to him appeared Ricardo Alarcón, president of the National Assembly of Cuba; Shafik Handal of the FMLN of El Salvador and Daniel Ortega of the FSLN of Nicaragua – the main leaders, after Fidel Castro, of the Central American revolution in the ‘ 80s -, as well as Evo Morales, Felipe Quispe and other ‘personalities’ of the Bolivian ‘left wing’.

The Argentinean MST-UIT newspaper Socialist Alternative N° 409, in an article signed by its Youth, recognises cynically that the Festival “does not take in any sense a class perspective”, and yet endorses its purpose. It then states that “the most important aspect of the festival is the political space that is going to unfold. With the arrival of Lula’s government [for which their current in Brazil called for a vote while in a popular front with bourgeois parties! Editor] and the acceleration of the experience of the Latin American masses with the centre-left governments, has created the most important reformist space in recent last years: the Forum of Porto Alegre. In this way it opens a space so that the revolutionary organizations can engage in a dialogue with sections of the masses no longer bound to the centre-left parties, and allows us to influence and advance their politics.”

On this basis, they support, under the suggestive subtitle “To advance without sectarianism”, participation in the Festival for “achieving much more unity among all those that fight against imperialism and who think that the capitalist model is exhausted completely. Knowing that the task of confronting this system will not happen unless led by Trotskyists, it is more important that ever to arrive at clear agreements on as many points as possible, among organizations, groups and personalities on various aspects of world politics.”

They finish by saying that they will take this proposal from the Festival in Venezuela to the international level: “to create an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist international coordination, that can arrive at points of agreement and to make united political campaigns in support of the workers and popular sectors in struggle”. Likewise, Alan Woods dedicated himself to the concrete task of creating that “continental organization” with Celia Hart.

Thus, the delegations, the Venezuelan CMR, the Communist Party of Venezuela, Felipe Quispe of Bolivia, the M-28 and Fogata of Venezuela, the Front of University Students and the front of Colombian Secondary Students, the MRTA of Peru, the “Continental Current Bolivariana” CCB) etc., all agree with the politics of Celia Hart Santamaría. And not by chance: as Allan Woods of the IMT, the UIT-CI and its section MST of Argentina are all part of this third batch of Menshevism and as the betrayers of Trotskyism form the ‘left wing’ of the World Social Forum, a true counter-revolutionary international. 

 
Abridged from Workers Democracy 19 August 2005


Chavez visited Argentina to sign off on a deal to build two new oil tankers. Here’s a commentary on Chavez attitude towards the Santiago River shipbuilders.
CHÁVEZ VISITS THE SANTIAGO RIVER SHIPYARDS (ARS)

On 11 of August, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, visited Argentina to sign the agreement for the construction of two oil tankers at the River Santiago Shipyard (ARS), giving a boost to the government campaign of Kirchner and Solá (State Governor) for the creation of a thousand new jobs. In a speech to the workers Chávez called on them to support the government of Kirchner which he praised saying “They have changed things in this country since this man arrived at the Pink House (Presidential Palace)”.

Like a demagogue he also praised the ARS as a “shipyard with dignity” because “imperialism did not own it” because the workers had “resisted the neo-liberal aggression”. But that sweet talk did not last long, because immediately afterwards he told the workers that they must “finish the ships quickly” so they could get more work.

It seems that Chávez did not come to the ARS because he is a good employer sharing the interests of the Argentine workers. He came because he could get cheap manual labor where the wages are constantly reduced by inflation. For Chávez it is excellent business building the ships in the ARS because the wages are on average $1100 (US$380) instead of $2000 to $3000 dollars a month in Spanish shipyards.

And like all bosses, Chavez wants to shorten the time of production to the maximum, because he knows that the faster the ships are built, the faster he will be able to export Venezuela’s oil. The chavista bourgeoisie wants sell more oil to Bush and US imperialism at $70 dollars a barrel, even though this allows the US to keep its military machine operating in Iraq and the Middle East.

And to guarantee that the workers will work harder and not go on strike, the Provincial governor Sola has passed a law to limit the right of strike. This is nothing new. It copies the law proposed by Chavez that workers in state companies, such as the PdVSA, [state oil] who go on strike can be sent to jail for years.

No strike laws are to prevent any problem or delay in the expansion of the oil industry. For those workers who protest: jail! Chávez wants to enslave manual labor in the ARS, and he imposes tough conditions of work so that workers do not have the right to complain, let alone ask for better conditions!

Chávez and Solá get their way in the ARS through the efforts of the collaboration of the union bureaucracy of Ate-cta. The same bureaucrats who have isolated the striking health workers at Garrahan [see article below] organised the meeting with Chavez at ARS so that nobody dared to ‘boo’ Chavez during his speech.

In order to police the meeting the bureaucrats brought some “pro-government piqueteros” of the FTV-CTA and Barrios de Pie who threatened physical violence against ARS workers. They make sure that the workers accept the bosses’ terms so they can be better exploited.

Shamefully, the internal commission of the ARS (combined unions) to which the PTS, PCR and the MST [centrist Trotskyist groups) belong, kept quite during the visit of Chavez and Sola, and the actions of the ATE-CTA bureaucracy. Although it is not a member of the internal commission of the ARS, the PO limited its criticisms to demanding that the 1000 jobs to be created be under the control of the organizations of unemployed people.

None of these currents, who call themselves revolutionaries called on the ARS workers to challenge Chávez’ deception, or alerted them to the plans of Sola and Kirchner to make them work like Chinese laborers. Or point out that if they strike for better wages they will be jailed or beaten up by the thugs of the FTV and Barrios de Pie – as they have done in Tucumán and Rosario – with the excuse that the ships being built for Chavez and his “Bolivarian revolution” cannot be delayed.

We know that the workers of the ARS want to work. We understand their joy and enthusiasm to know that the construction of the Venezuelan ships will guarantee work for them for some years. But we warn them that Chavez is a bourgeois employer who with Solá prepares the workers for super exploitation. In order to oppose this it is necessary to unite with the thousands of unemployed workers of the Berisso and Cove region (30% unemployed) and tell the employer’s association of Chávez, Kirchner and Sola:

“If you want these ships faster, there is no problem. It is necessary to employ more workers to produce, to distribute the working hours between all the workers available, reducing the working day and with a basic wage of $1,800 a month!”

The solution is to unite with the workers of the Garrahan (Hospital workers on strike) who are in a struggle for a basic wage of $1,800 for all state employees. It is necessary to call on the TIES and the CTA to launch a national strike until our demands are met.

But in all this there is still a big problem. The oil tankers that are being built for Venezuela, may be used to transport the oil used to fuel the US military machine that massacres the Iraqi workers who are our class brothers and sisters. We cannot allow it!

The workers of the ARS have the duty to call on the Venezuelan workers to fight to prevent any oil being shipped for use in imperialist wars. And simultaneously to call them to fight together to stop the oil monopolies like Repsol or Texaco (which Chávez granted the oil rights to the Orinoco river basin) from plundering the hydrocarbons of our Bolivian class brothers and sisters!

Workers Democracy Argentina No 9 July 2005.

Asserting their independence of Chavez, here is a report of a message of solidarity of Venezuelan oil workers to Ecuadorian oil workers!
“We Are With You: Jósé Bodas, leader of Fedepetrol, the oil workers’ union of Venezuela, expresses solidarity with Ecuadorian strikers:

By Nelson Gámez, Thursday, 25/08/05 06:29pm

The national leader of Fedepetrol, José Bodas, from Puerto La Cruz, sent a declaration to the communications media of that city, in which [the Venezuelan oil workers] express solidarity with the Ecuadorian oil workers who have been carrying out a just struggle for two weeks in defense of their rights and of the communities of the Amazonian jungle area.

The communiqué says:

“Just as the Ecuadorian oil workers supported us three years ago in order to defeat the bosses’ sabotage of PDVSA, we are reciprocating that gesture of solidarity, by telling the workers and communities of the Ecuadorian Amazonian jungle that we support them unconditionally, that we reject the savage repression by the government of Alfredo Palacios, and we lament the fact that President Chavez has decided to send petroleum to that country, since with that action, in fact, the just strike movement of the workers and the inhabitants is being broken.

“We are pained to learn that the high-level commission of the Ecuadorian government, which will sign the accords with the Venezuelan government, is composed of people committed to the interests of the multinational [corporations], and that from their positions and functions for three years now they have not moved a finger to help us from Ecuador to overcome the offensive of the imperialists and coup-plotters against Venezuelan sovereignty, attacked by Fedecamaras, by the parties of the oligarchy, and by imperialism.

“We certainly do not expect that the representatives of the multinationals will take any action expressing solidarity with the peoples and workers of the world.

Their actions will always be determined by profits, so we are not surprised by the declarations by the US government, nor those of the European governments, which have saluted the deal by President Chavez to avoid the Ecuadorian oil crisis.

With that same fervor with which they defend their interests, they maintain their criminal silence in the face of deranged declarations of “reverend” terrorists, who call for the assassination of President Chavez through the US communications media.

“We wish to inform the public, that for our part, as workers, revolutionaries and socialists, we will never support the enemies of the workers, and we will never take any action that contributes to the defeat of the struggle of the workers anywhere on the planet.

Our place is in solidarity with our class brothers in Ecuador, who are fighting for better conditions in their lives and for resources to meet the urgent needs of communities that live in conditions of extreme poverty in the Amazonian jungle.”

The communiqué ends:

“[we appeal] to all the Venezuelan workers, to the UNT, to the organizations of peasants, indigenous peoples, students, and the popular masses, to make known our solidarity with the Ecuadorian oil workers. Their struggle is our struggle, just as the struggle of the Bolivian workers and people in defense of their hydrocarbons is our struggle.”

http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=65078

 
From Class Struggle 63 Sept/Oct 2005

Written by raved

January 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

Reply to IBT: Why spoil your ballot when you aint got no bullet?

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The International Bolshevik Tendency criticised CWG’s call for critical support for the NZ Labour Party http://www.geocities.com/communistworker/ scroll down to ‘Vote Labour Now to Smash Capitalism Later’. The IBT article is on its website http://www.bolshevik.org/ scroll down to ‘Spoil your Ballot’
 
Labour gone awol

First, the IBT says that workers no longer have illusions in Labour as a party that represents their class interests. It is therefore no longer a bourgeois-workers party. Its program hasn’t changed but it ha lost its historic roots in the labour movement. This is the result of a rightward move of the Labour Government since 1984 and the defeats suffered by workers over that period. The Labour Party no longer embodies a class contradiction between its bourgeois program and an organised labour base.

Is it true that class contradiction no longer exists? Has there been a qualitative change in the Labour Party? The moderate unions formed the Labour Party in 1916 as a reformist alternative to the Red Fed and IWW program of expropriation. While it’s program talked about the ‘socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange etc’ this was no more than the nationalisation of some key industries like coal, transport like rail, telecom and a central bank plus some income redistribution. The ‘welfare state’ made huge subsidies to private capital reducing their risk and boosting their profits in the period of the formation of the New Zealand capitalist economy.

Thus the historic class compromise of 1930s Keynesian policies of state intervention from the 1930s onwards partially suppressed the contradiction between the bosses program and Labour’s working class supporters for another generation. Where necessary Labour could back up these reforms with emergency legislation to break strikes and lock up dissidents. Despite periodic outbreaks of dissent, economic insulation created relatively full employment and a generous welfare state to keep workers loyal to Labour right up to 1984.

In 1984 the Fourth Labour government abandoned this compromise as the bosses demanded deregulation and restructuring to open the economy to the global market. This ‘revolution’ was necessary to overcome the barriers to profitability resulting from a limited domestic market. Cutting costs to become competitive on the world market meant cutting jobs and wages. While National continued these attacks in the 1990s it fell short in its attempts to complete the new right agenda and fully open the country to free trade and foreign capital investment.

Since 1999 Labour has reforged a new Blairite class compromise to suppress the basic contradiction once again. Labour uses state intervention to steer away from a ‘quarry’ economy where MNCs rip out unprocessed commodities for the global market in favour of increased productivity in a ‘knowledge’ economy. The state picks ‘winners’ by subsidising high tech industries to ‘add value’ to exports. Of course this extra productivity is due to the rising rate of exploitation of skilled workers, as well as the deteriorating wages and labour conditions of casualised workers.

Under Labour profits and CEO incomes have continued to rise rapidly. Skilled workers in the EPMU, the PSA and education unions, and the SFWU, have been able to claw back a small part of the extra surplus value they produce. Low paid or casualised workers, and long term unemployed, have their falling incomes partially made up by income transfers and Working for Families. While this Blairite compromise continues to suppress the class contradiction, critical support for Labour is necessary to put it in power in order to activate the class contradiction.

The question of the popular front

The second IBT criticism is that critical support for Labour under MMP is not permissible because Labour (assuming it were a bourgeois workers party) must enter a popular front with bourgeois parties like the Greens or NZ First. The reason we call these parties bourgeois parties like National, is that they were not formed out of the labour movement and have no claim to represent the interests of workers. Even the Greens who try to squeeze out of monopoly capital policies that favour small business is still a bourgeois party because the tendency of small business is to become big business at the expense of workers.

The IBT correctly opposes popular fronts because bourgeois workers parties can shift the blame for failing to implement a workers’ program onto their bourgeois partners and thus still suppress the class contradiction.

Since we do say that Labour is still a bourgeois-workers party, should we refuse it critical support because it may have to form a popular front? No, we call on it to govern without bourgeois partners. Obviously Labour would need bourgeois or petty-bourgeois partners if it failed to get a majority of seats itself. That’s why we called for the maximum working class vote for Labour, and at the same time oppose workers votes for any of the minor bourgeois parties.

We did not do what the left political ‘commentator’ Matt McCarten did, which was to assume that Labour could not get a majority itself and call for votes for minor bourgeois parties like the Greens, Maori Party and NZ First to provide Labour with coalition partners. (He even called for a vote for the National Candidate in Eden to stop ACT from winning seats and increasing National’s ability to form a government).

In the event that Labour does form a government with bourgeois partners we make this fact a fundamental criticism of the Labour Party to expose the class collaboration of the popular front and condemn its betrayal of the class interests of workers. In other words, we do not run in terror from the prospect of a popular front but try to block it in advance, and failing that, to oppose it in practice to explode the suppressed class contradiction.

Why does the IBT make these criticisms?

The IBT criticizes the Anti-Capitalist Alliance failure to offer transitional demands or means of moving from the most basic democratic or immediate demands to the seizure of power and a socialist republic. Yet the IBT then falls foul of the logic of its own critique when it is applied to critical support for Labour. Rather than follow Lenin’s method from the 1920s – that of communist workers entering a united front with reformist workers – the IBT fixates on superficial ‘facts’ that workers do not ‘see’ Labour as their party, because Labour’s attacks on workers have exposed it as an open bourgeois party.

Yes, the world situation is very different today from 1920. In 1920 a revolutionary situation existed in Europe. The majority of workers had not joined the communist party and despite being much further left than today, still had illusions in the Labour Party. Lenin argued that it was necessary for the mass communist party to vote the Labour party into government to expose it in practice and split reformist workers away from its bourgeois leadership and program. The tactic of critical support was a special form of united front in which the revolutionary movement would demand that the Labour bureaucracy and the Labour Party leadership implement a revolutionary workers program. When it failed to do so, its program and leadership would be exposed and detached from its working class body of support like a “rope supports a hanged man” so that these workers would then join the Communist Party.

Critical support and democratic counter-revolution

Today no such revolutionary situation exists, and there is no revolutionary party to put pressure on Labour parties to explode the suppressed contradiction. Since 1989, global capitalism has entered a period of democratic counter-revolution. This means that its attacks on workers are typically made under the cover of bourgeois democracy. In the former degenerated workers states workers voted for capitalist restoration. Capitalism has used right-wing social democratic parties to solve its crisis at the expense of their working class base. The large majority of workers who retain any trade union consciousness still vote for social democracy to defend their fundamental gains because they are caught up in a defensive reliance on bourgeois democracy. As yet there is revolutionary situation to put pressure on social democracy, and explode the class contradiction.

However, if the world economy enters a new period of depression and the isolated revolutionary upsurges today are generalised into new revolutionary period, we can expect pressure from below to split the Labour Party. Rather than write off Labour as already bourgeois it is necessary to prepare for its revival as a barrier to rising workers’ expectations. To both activate and to take advantage of a coming revolutionary upturn it is necessary for communists to maintain the united front tactic with social democracy to split its working class base from its bosses program.

The failure to understand this, and to argue that Labour Parties have become open bourgeois parties in the last two decades is an ultra left response to the democratic counter-revolution. It rejects social democracy as necessarily counter-revolutionary when in fact it still plays the critical role of suppressing the class contradiction. It is this contradiction that will be activated first by the renewal of revolutionary movements and to ignore it is to abstain from revolutionary politics. It is a sectarian fear of becoming tainted by the almost universal opportunism, that today paints democratic imperialism as a progressive force. Instead of contesting opportunism and bourgeois democracy inside the gigantic malls where workers consume. the sectarians preach to passing workers from their boutique shop front about the picture of the revolutionary party in the window.

As we argue in our original article, workers will not break from social democracy until a revolutionary upsurge and a revolutionary program exposes the open treachery of the social democratic program and leadership, and the formation of independent working class dual power organs are in place capable of taking and holding onto power.

From Class Struggle 63 Sept/Oct 2005