Communist Worker

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

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CHINA RETURNS TO CAPITALISM

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We follow up our report last issue of the NZ/Hong Kong trade and investment deal with a statement of our position on capitalist restoration in China. We recognise that when the 14th Party Congress voted to introduce ‘market socialism’ in 1992 this put the revival of the market and the profit motive on th3e agenda. However the intention to restore capitalism is not the same as doing so. In fact it has taken another ten years to overcome the plan and re-introduce the law of value as the determining influence on the economy. Today we can say that joining the WTO has completed the process of restoration to the point where the market now dominates the plan. The class nature of the Chinese state is now capitalist.

When in 1991 the Soviet Union succumbed to 75 years of bourgeois encirclement and bureaucratic mismanagement, the attempt by the Yananev ‘hardline’ coup plotters to kidnap Gorbachev gave Boris Yeltsin the pretext he needed to seize power and fast-forward the ‘shock treatment’ restoration process. Both Yeltsin and Yananev were restorationists, but Yananev and Co wanted to avoid the breakup of the SU and keep the Communist Party in power overseeing a ‘slow track’ transition to capitalism so their clique could become the new bourgeoisie.

The defeat of their botched plot allowed Yeltsin to eliminate his rivals, begin the breakup of the SU and ban the CP. Within a year Yeltsin had implemented World Bank plans to demolish the workers’ plan, privatise key sectors of the economy and to open up Russia to foreign investment and trade. Between the seizure of power and the restoration of capitalism less than a year had elapsed.

In China that same year, 1992, the 14th Party Congress took the decisive turn towards ‘market socialism’. In China there was no major section of the bureaucracy pushing for a fast track restoration. The plan would be phased out over the next decade as the economy was progressively freed up to capital investment.

By taking the ‘slow track’ to restoration the ruling party hoped that it could convert itself into the new national bourgeoisie without a Soviet-type social upheaval. But while the intention to restore capitalism clearly indicated that the bureaucracy was committed to restoring capitalism, it was insufficient to constitute a transformation in the class character of the state. The bureaucracy could not ‘will’ the market into existence overnight. It took another ten years before the bureaucracy could replace the plan with the market.

The point where a new class comes to power is easier to determine when a decisive revolutionary overturn occurs as in October 1917 in Russia, 1945 in Eastern Europe, or 1949 in China. Each of these overturns saw a new class take power by force of arms. In each case the armed workers or the Red Army took state power. If the bourgeoisie was allowed to continue production for profit this was to accumulate capital for use in the transition to a socialist state.

In each case, the new workers state operated a form of ‘state capitalism’. But as Lenin explained, this was ‘capitalism’ dominated by a ‘workers state’. That is, the market was subordinated to the plan. Only when the bourgeoisie refused to cooperate or began to threaten counter-revolution, was ‘capitalist’ property eliminated. However, in Yugoslavia, as the capitalist world allowed a form of private ownership to persist indefinitely, elements of capitalist production for profit remained part of the workers’ state.

Just as a workers’ revolution can coexist with some ‘capitalist’ social relations such as the New Economic Policy in the SU in the 1920s, the route back to capitalist restoration will usually begin with ‘market reforms’ as the bureaucracy attempts to stimulate the planned economy and defend their privileges.

. What is fundamental is the essence of property relations as either production for profit or production for use. The class nature of the state is determined by the social relations it reproduces. Therefore the change in class rule is given by the state’s actual reproduction of social relations of production for profit or for use.

In a DWS the turnover from a degenerate workers’ state into a restored capitalist state involves the transformation of the bureaucracy from a parasitic caste into a new class. As a caste the bureaucracy has usurped workers power and rules the state in order to preserve workers property as long as it can derive privileges from it.

But once the plan ceases to generate privileges the bureaucracy is forced to convert itself into a bourgeoisie. But if cannot do this by wishful thinking. It does not become a new bourgeoisie until it has destroyed the dominance of the plan and substituted the law of value. Thus the conversion of the bureaucracy into a bourgeois class comes only when it has been successful in restoring the dominance of the market.

In China, therefore, the change in the class nature of the state could only occur at the point where the state successfully introduced the law of value to re-value planned production in terms of market value. It took the Chinese bureaucracy a decade from 1992 to act on its intention to overturn planned production for use and restore capitalist production for profit.

. The decisive point of the turnover is the penetration of the law of value to the extent that ‘value’ is no longer determined by ‘use-value’ but by international ‘exchange-value’. In our view this became the reality when China joined the WTO agreeing to abide by its rules of free trade and investment.

For a Socialist Revolution in China!
Defend China against Imperialism!

Class Struggle No 40 August-September 2001

Written by raved

August 28, 2007 at 8:57 pm

ALL OUT TO STOP CARTER HOLT!

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Carter Holt Harvey is now NZ’s No 2 company after the sale of Fletcher Energy, behind only Telecom. It is owned by International Paper one of the world’s biggest and most technologically advanced producers of pulp and paper. CHH has aggressively restructured its NZ operations over the last three years, cutting costs and streamlining operations. This has led to an improvement in its profits at the expense of jobs and working conditions. But it is now faced with a slowdown in the world economy and all time low prices for logs and a world slump in paper pulp prices. CHH has already shown itself willing to attack its workforce and now it has no option but to continue these attacks to stay competitive. Workers on guard!

Best practice or worst practice?

CHH was one of the first to take advantage of the ECA to defeat its powerful timber union after a 13-week strike in 1992. Most of those workers who remained at Kinleith joined the EPMU which has a philosophy of working in ‘partnership’ with employers. To stay competitive CH’s CEO Chris Liddell is a fan of new business methods based on ‘best practice’. The EPMU tries to keep pace with these best practices which in the last analysis mean increasing worker exploitation as workers deliver more ‘value for money’.

This means the company adopts the most advanced methods in production, transport and supply, speeding up production and cutting costs. This is the knowledge economy in your face. According to Liddell the most successful global companies have fewer and fewer workers. The top ten US companies are today five times as big but employ fewer workers. Best practice for profits is worst practice for work conditions and job security.

Take “flexibility”. CHH has spent half a billion on new fibreboard plants in Australia and a veneer plant in Whangarei. But it closed down Mataura with 155 job losses and one shift at Kinleith with the loss 23 jobs. It upgraded its Kinleith plant during the day forcing the two remaining shifts to work nights from 4 pm and 12 pm.

After two accidents caused by fatigue, 60 workers occupied the plant and refused to work at night for 10 days before Christmas last year. When it had no work it closed the plant for a week. So “Flexibility” for CHH means workers losing their jobs and working under worse, dangerous conditions, or having week-long split shifts. This is preparation for the ultimate in ‘flexibility’ –the casualisation of work were the boss is free to dictate the terms and conditions of work.

CHH “picking winners”

Another principle favoured by CEO Liddell is “picking winners”. CH has invested in eCargo a NZ company that matches the freight needs of companies with transport companies on an Internet site to drive down costs. CHH has invested in an Aussie E-commerce company called Cyberlynx which streamlines “supply chain operations’. In plain language this is an internet “just in time” delivery system reducing both delays and stockpiling of goods and services.

CHH recently introduced what it calls the i2b programme where it held a competition among workers for new ideas to make more money for the company. One winner was chosen because he was seen selling Xmas trees on the street. CHH management did hand out prizes to the 750 workers laid off for a compulsory weeks holiday on January 26 for doing much more creative things to pay their bills.

Most daring, CHH has spun off a Human Relations company called ‘Mariner7″ to sell all its ideas on how to exploit workers more efficiently to other companies. One of these ideas is to create company unions to smash what remaining influence existing unions have in defending jobs and conditions. And where workers fight back it means using scab labour and company unions to enforce ‘best practice’ i.e. worst practice.

Mainland Stevedoring

Carter Holt Harvey saved its best move to contract an ‘independent’ union, Mainland Stevedoring, to load logs by using computers to pack more logs into the holds. This was a ‘best practice’ that directly challenged the WWU and threatened to casualise wharf labour practices even more than they already were. Even though this was a threat every bit as serious as in 1951, the WWU leadership has chosen to steer industrial action back into parliament. The best that the Labour-Alliance Government could offer was ‘mediation’, that old golden cow that the ‘class neutral’ state could try and negotiate a deal between CHH and WWU.

But that would have been a ‘bad practice’ for CHH since it would give in to union ‘monopoly’ and stand over tactics. The CTU President Ross Wilson chimed in saying that “we remain committed to the mediation process”. He complained that peaceful pickets had been undermined by “police over-reaction and the use of confrontational tactics”. Meanwhile while the CTU and the WWU appeal to the police, the government and the company to ‘be fair’, CHH gets its logs loaded on the cheap and workers lose their jobs.

CHH picking on losers?

So far CHH has been able to win what it wants by picking off sections of the workforce under separate union coverage. The occupation over night shift was a good move and succeeded in winning back a day shift. This should be the lesson – more industrial action at the point of production, to stop CHH where it hurts.

WWU has marshalled hundreds of supporters on their picket line, but no concerted union support has meant that cops and scabs got through every time. Worse, small groups and individuals were isolated and bashed by the cops. The defeat of these pickets was only because they were not mass pickets.

The MUA struggle in Australia in 1998 showed that mass pickets have the potential to win much wider support and prevent both police and scabs from access. Similarly, despite their limits, the Kinleith occupation and the WWU pickets have put pressure on the national CTU leadership to organise its own campaign against CHH to try to settle the disputes. We welcome this initiative but expect that left to the CTU leadership it will do no more than tie workers to the ERA legal framework of the so-called ‘partnership’ between labour and capital.

Mediation and ‘partnership’

The problem with mediation as practiced by the CTU and in particular the EPMU, is that it believes, like the Labour Government, that industrial disputes can be settled by good faith and compromise. But even the NZ Herald does not believe this. In an editorial on 27 January 2001 it said “…mediation is of little use, and may well be detrimental, when fundamental principles are in conflict.”

Of course the NZ Herald thinks that the principle at stake here is the right of CH to employ whatever union they like. The Herald’s owner Tony O’Reilly, like CHH, won’t compromise this principle. This is why all the negotiations between the CTU, CHH and government have failed already.

The ERA does not allow workers to stop scabs working unless agreements are being negotiated. And this Labour-Alliance Government is not going to amend the ERA to ban scab unions. That would be regarded by the bosses like Stephen Tindall of the Warehouse as an open attack on their class. After the rough ride it got on taking office, Labour will do anything to avoid upsetting the bosses again.

This means that to defend the principle of union labour against scab labour, workers have to break the law just like the Kinleith occupation and WWU picketers have done over the last weeks. But the key is to do it as a mass of thousands of workers so that workers organised might can win and become the basis of their labour right.

A Winning Workers’ Campaign

A successful campaign needs to mobilise all CHH workers to stop production. Just as CHH has deliberately streamlined its business internationally to minimise disruptions in the supply, production and marketing of logs and pulp, CHH workers need to organise internationally to interrupt this process at the most vital points.

  1. Stop work at the plants. Occupations are the best method since workers occupying the workplace makes it more difficult for bosses to run the plant. Kinleith workers have shown that they can take such action and win. On a larger scale which stops production completely, the boss has to make concessions. Workers in Australian and North American plants should be encouraged to take solidarity actions.
  2. Stop the flow of raw materials and finished products. CHH has attempted to reduce this risk by using non-contracted casualised carriers. But the organised drivers under the NDU would be able to stop the flow of logs and paper pulp. French truckies have shown that they can blockade the nation’s transport system and force Government’s to make concessions. International bans by dockers in Korea and the US played a big part in the MUA struggle.
  3. Mass pickets to prevent the use of scab labour. The WWU pickets have failed only because they were not supported by thousands of workers like the MUA pickets in Australia. It’s true that the MUA pickets were undermined by scab workers, but the mass pickets were not generalised because they were not under rank and file control. Any union policy that downplays pickets as publicity stunts designed to embarrass bosses or governments needs to be replaced by a policy of REAL, MASS, pickets.
  4. International union bans on CHH products. Because CH is a multinational, and has diversified into e-commerce operations such as eCargo, Cyberlynx and Mariner7, an important part of international solidarity with striking CHH workers is a ban on all CHH products and services. As well as providing solidarity this would have an important educational benefit as these goods and services are used to speed up production in order to increase the exploitation of workers.

To mount such a campaign, the rank and file members of the unions involved in dispute with CHH, including EPMU, NDU and WWU, must call an ‘all up’ meeting of the combined unions to plan a campaign and to elect delegates to a strike committee to organise and lead that campaign.

The issue of ‘breaking the law’

Picketers ‘breaking the law’ has been the constant refrain from the radical right like ACT. But from a workers’ perspective any law that is used to limit their freedom to organise to defend their basic rights and conditions has to be broken. The bosses rely upon workers observing the law to get what they want. They use labour law to impose ‘mediation’ only when they know that this is on their terms. When it’s not they do not hesitate to break the law! There is only one law and that is the bosses’ law.

Strike action to be effective is illegal under the ERA. But rather than isolating and exposing a few militants to the force of the law, mass action has the potential to build workers’ power in the workplace and challenge the law. For example the MUA pickets in 1998 were technically illegal, but because they were massive, workers forced the company and the Government onto the defensive.

The SWO call for a union ban on CHH products is tactically wrong. It is a tactic that should only be used to ban the handling of products already subject to strike action. By itself it interrupts the circulation of goods but it does not stop the production process. If a union ban is called in isolation of CHH workers taking strike action, at best it would be ineffective, but at worst it would isolate unions indirectly linked to the dispute and not backed up by mass strike action, exposing them to the forces of the state.

Rebuild the Unions!

We are opposed to moves by the CTU to limit the development of industrial action to the rule of law represented by the ERA. We are opposed to promoting illusions that present the interests of workers and employers as ‘harmonious’, or in ‘partnership’. This is a partnership where one partner is getting screwed, that is the workers who create the wealth including the boss’s profits.

We are for the rebuilding of the union movement from its present low ebb where less than 20% of workers are members and even fewer are covered by collective agreements. We are for workers reclaiming the right to strike by taking action independent of the state. The right to strike is the might to strike and it can only be won by strong, organised unions.

  1. Build Fighting, Democratic unions based on the rank and file membership.
  2. For the election of delegates by the rank and file, who are accountable to the rank and file and subject to immediate recall if they vote or act contrary to their mandate.
  3. For all-up meetings of the rank and file to decide strategy and tactics.
  4. For strike committees elected by the rank and file.
  5. For international solidarity among unions, and the election of international strike committees in disputes against multinational companies.

For an immediate all-up meeting of members of CHH unions to plan a campaign against CHH and to elect a strike committee of the combined unions to lead the campaign

CTU meeting to plan campaign against CHH

A combined meeting of the CTU and the unions associated with CHH was held in at Ngongotaha on 14 March. The unions represented included the Waterfront Workers, Engineers, NDU and Seafarers. The purpose of the meeting was to strategise a union approach to CHH moves against unions. Also present were some of the CHH site delegates from around the B.O.P/ Waikato region.

Because this correspondent was not a direct participant in the meeting and delegates were sworn to secrecy, the outcome of the meeting has yet to be verified. The promise of a short statement from the meeting did not eventuate.

Outside the conference venue was what could be loosely described as a united front action consisting mainly of SWO members and supporters. Also present were 3 members of the CWG. Both groups acting independently distributed leaflets and literature on the issue of CHH and the unions.

Of interest was the response of those participating in the meeting towards the leaflets. Because the tactics being advocated by the SWO called for union bans on CHH products, this was not taken favourably by the CHH workers who were present. They believed that bans would affect their jobs and livelihoods. It would have been better for the CHH workers themselves to decide on a course of action rather than have one imposed from the outside. “Bunch of students” was one of the comments passed on by one of the delegates during the lunch break, the only time when any indication of the mood of the meeting was made.

Also mentioned was the cool atmosphere between the NDU wood sector delegates and the engineers. Their cooperation was made possible only because both unions now came under the umbrella of the CTU for the common purpose of dealing with CHH.

As we predicted in our leaflet, a hint was let drop of a tripartite meeting to be held between the Government, CTU and CHH. CHH was not pleased with the CTU getting involved, but seems to have agreed that a meeting with Government was better than the spectre of militant union action.

On a positive note, the CWG leaflet “All Out to Stop Carter Holt” was welcomed. It reflected a rank and file perspective putting the initiative on the CHH workers themselves with a bit of prodding from a certain left-wing quarter. Arising out of this leaflet a CWG member was nominated for national vice president of the NDU wood sector by B.O.P/Waikato rank-and-file delegates at Kawerau on 25 March.

This at least gives recognition to the realistic program being promoted by the CWG although it is early days yet. The complete understanding of this program by the wood sector workers and others can only help to strengthen the level of consciousness among workers to take on the likes of CHH.

From Class Struggles No 38 April-May 2001

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 10:15 pm

NEVER A WHITE FLAG: JOCK BARNES MEMOIRS

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The passing of Jock Barnes earlier this year marks another milestone in the march of the working class in NZ-Aotearoa. Barnes was the undisputed leader of the most militant labour struggle in the post-war period, the famous waterfront lockout of 1951. It was this lockout that succeeded in dividing and smashing the militant leading echelons of the labour movement setting it back for another generation. Barnes tells his story in his Memoirs: Never a White Flag.

Barnes role as a militant unionist in the ‘51 Lockout was exemplary. He fought to the bitter end, rallying his troops against insuperable odds. Many have condemned him for taking the unions into a fight that they couldn’t win. That is rubbish. Unions can never win decisive battles against the bosses state with its police force and army. But they can advance the cause of the working class and defend rights and freedoms that make it more difficult for the bosses to impose their will on workers. More than that they can prepare the ground for more decisive victories of the working class. Not to have fought would have been to hand a victory to the bosses.

The reality was that Barnes did not pick the fight or the battle ground. The second world war was already a major defeat for workers who were subject to wartime repression and the defeats of revolutions in Europe and IndoChina at the hands of the Soviet Union and the imperialists. But the victory of US and British imperialism over Germany and Japan depended on the support of the Soviet Union, and the price the West paid was the expansion of the SU into Eastern Europe, and the Chinese and IndoChinese revolutions. Workers in the West including NZ rallied to win back some lost ground out of the post-war boom. It was time for the Western imperialists to show who really was boss.

At Fulton in 1948 Churchill pronounced that a cold war against communism had begun. Foster Dulles took this message to the Western allies, and a newly elected National government decided to provoke a battle with the labour movement to defeat the ‘enemy within’ as well as the foreign enemy – communism. The bosses enlisted the support of the rightwing of the labour movement under Patrick Walsh and in 1950, Walsh forced the wharfies and its allies to walk out and to form the Trade Union Congress.

A series of bitter skirmishes with the shipping companies followed. In rejecting a pitiful wage increase handed down by the Arbitration Court the union voted unanimously for an overtime ban. The bosses replied with dismissals and suspensions and the ‘lockout’ had begun. The union was then deregistered by the Court. The best accounts of the lockout are Dick Scott’s book “151 days” which came out shortly after the dispute, and Jock Barnes own book which came out in 1998. In the 151 days of the lockout, the bosses not only brought in the army to run the wharfs, they used the emergency regulations to prevent the unions from organising, publicising or meeting. Many workers (and come wives) were physically bashed up by the police and locked up.

Despite these efforts by the state and the government (the Labour Opposition infamously declared itself to be “neither for nor against” the union), mass support grew, other unions backed the wharfies and for a period the possibility of bringing down the National government was on. Barnes had this as his objective revealing his limited syndicalist perspective. He genuinely seems to have thought that had the Labour party not been stuffed with “timeservers” and “renegades” a change of government was possible. This was Barnes fatal flaw. For all his militancy, it went nowhere if it was aimed at changing a bourgeois government. When Labour refused to back the wharfies, defeat for Barnes was inevitable.

Could things have been different? Those who say that Barnes should have compromised to save the union, clearly see the union as no more than troops rallying behind a future Labour government. This would have been a sellout of workers interests. Barnes could not have done differently because the union movement was the creation of backward, semi-rural capitalist colony. What Barnes did was to take up the challenge to stand up and fight to spur the labour movement to attempt to outgrow this backward environment. It was not his fault that the wharfies and their allies could not jump over these objective conditions. For that to have been possible a strong communist leadership was necessary.

At the time the so-called ‘communists’ in NZ were Stalinist ratbags. They had zigged and zagged with Stalin into the popular front before and during the war. There were not real revolutionaries. That in itself was the result of the divisions in the labour movement caused by economic protection and insulation. After the defeats of the Red Federation in 1913 and the onset of the jingoistic Great War, many workers no longer believed in the need for independent working class politics. Instead they looked to Labour Governments and state welfare as a guarantee of their class interests. They were easily bought off by the post war boom, full employment and the promise of prosperity. The best we had was Barnes and the militant syndicalist tradition. And that’s the outlook that determined the goals and methods of the struggle.

The death of Jock Barnes and publication of his Memoirs remind us once again of one of the most important labour struggles in New Zealand’s history. The lessons of this struggle have to be learned afresh in the period ahead so that this time workers in NZ do not limit themselves to militant syndicalism but build a strong revolutionary party and go all the way to socialism.

From Class Struggle No 34 August-September 2000

Written by raved

August 27, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Australian Wharfies – What are the Lessons? [July 1998]

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The fight of 1400 Aussie Wharfies locked out by Patrick’s Stevedores has led to some losses and some gains for the labour movement. What are the lessons?

Round one: Dubai debacle

The port of Dubai was planned to be used for the training and development of a scab workforce. The scab workforce was to be recruited and to be trained through ‘Fynwest company’. The plan was to recruit through advertisements in military magazines, and train serving and former army officers as scab labour on the waterfront.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) found out about this plan in December 1997, and stopped it through threat of international boycott. The International Transport Federation (ITF) threatened to boycott the port of Dubai as a whole, and the port backed off allowing scabs to be trained.

The chief executive of Patrick stevedores, Mr Chris Corrigan admitted in February he masterminded the Dubai affair. Ian MacLachlan, the Defence Minister disclaims any knowledge of serving military personnel being employed by a private company. Prime Minister Howard has disclaimed all responsibility,.. or knowledge of the whole affair. Minister for Workplace Relations, Mr Reith, said that he had no knowledge of the Dubai training scheme. He has also said his staff had no knowledge of the plan.

The ABC revealed that Mr Harris, has bought the Fynwest company and was offering it and its documents for sale. “The documentation I have clearly indicates the government official was aware of all the activities of Fynwest, Container Management Services and Patrick stevedoring from before June last year,” he said.

In a sworn affidavit Mike Wells of Fynwest, claims a Government adviser (Dr Stephen Webster) rang him about the exercise last July. Dr Stephen Webster, was last year a consultant on waterfront reform, and is now an adviser to Workplace Relations Minister, Peter Reith. Mike Wells says Dr Stephen Webster, told him he was doing a “special job” for the Prime Minister. Passports for the scab-recruits were arranged by the Prime Ministers Office.

Round two: PCS Stevedoring.

When the Dubai plan was blown open the government, with the National Farmers Federation (NFF) tried to hire a few experienced waterfront workers, to train the scab workers they wanted.

The National Farmers Federation gained access to the ports through the PCS Stevedoring leasing Webb Dock from Patrick. This move was timed to be simultaneous with the night time operation which raided the ports and installed private security and locked out/ made redundant, the 1400 Patrick waterside workers. This allowed them to start training scab labour for the waterfront. Those workers, although poorly trained, have had direct experience as scab labour. Behind the picket lines they have loaded and unloaded the ships that docked. This scab labour from the National Farmers Federation company, PCS Stevedoring is still waiting in the wings.

Round three: Corporate stripping

A restructuring last september(1997) shifted almost $300 million worth of assets into other legal entities within the Patrick group, leaving the ‘labour’ companies with a mountain of debt and no assets.

The syndicate of seven banks led by Citibank is owed more than $130 million by Patrick Stevedores. The money was secured against hard assets they owned. Events such as this ‘restructure’ normally would have banking syndicates threatening legal action and moving to protect their security. But they were strangely quiet.

The MUA’s John Coombs accused the banks of being involved in a “conspiracy” with Patrick and the Government to break the MUA. Public funds were critical to making the companies viable, as the corporate restructure left them with no funds to pay for redundancies.

Patrick restructured and became simply a ‘labour-hire’ company. It was placed in the hands of ‘specialist’ administrators. These administrators mission is to ‘keep alive’ a company which has been stripped of all it’s assets -it’s capital base. This mission is ridiculous and sets them up to attack the permanent workforce, to make redundancies and slash wages and conditions.

Round four: the show legal side

Patrick has sworn to break the MUA. Its boss, Corrigan has promised to bankrupt the MUA through court actions. For the MUA to compete on an equal footing with Patrick, it would have to restructure itself in order to sidestep the legal challenges. To protect the actions of it’s officials and members they would have to be put out of reach of the law in another organisation.

MUA lawyers have alleged conspiracy between Patrick, the farmers and the Government to break the union. “The union will be pursuing massive damages as a consequence of this conspiracy.”

When the MUA was locked out, and responded immediately with pickets, Patrick and the courts tried to smother the union with injunctions against picketing. However mass workers pickets defied the injunctions. Mass pickets out numbered police by heaps, and the cops had to back down.

After the threat of a nation-wide general strike, judges began to decide in favour of the MUA.

Unless we let it, a court order can’t decide the struggle. The solidarity of teachers, construction workers, miners, nurses and other workers shows that unity in the class struggle is more powerful than law.

Round five: Mass Pickets

Workers defied the Workplace Relations Act, built union solidarity, and mobilised families and communities for support. United working-class-led solidarity and action as displayed in the last three months has faced down vicious attacks from the company thugs, and the state’s cops. There is no denying that united workers who were prepared to fight back successfully defended picket lines.

700 farmers resigned in protest of the actions of the NFF and gave their dues to the MUA defence fund. Farmers have joined the union pickets, bringing them food and donations.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the “biggest May Day” in years in Sydney and towns throughout Australia. Workers and their organisations rallied to support the wharfies.

In Newcastle the Maritime Union (MUA) says Patrick’s is responsible for the delay in unloading the Bay Bonanza, in Newcastle. Patrick has sub-contracted P&O to handle the ship, and shut its workers out. Patrick employees are picketing to defend their jobs. P&O workers have refused to cross the picket line.

Patrick management has blacklisted three workers in Townsville. The local MUA members have refused to unload a ship carrying 500 cars.

Round six: International solidarity.

Scab loaded ships have been met by union & community protests, all around the world. Several ships have been delayed in New Guinea. The CGM Gauguin has been diverted from Bombay.

We hear that the scab loaded ship, the ‘Columbus Canada’, continues to anchor off Long Beach, Los Angeles. It attempted to berth on Saturday and was met by a 1500 strong community picket. The picket at the Matson terminal in Los Angeles continues while the Columbus Canada is anchored off shore. Community and union activists have also been alerted at other ports on the West Coast of the U.S.A., to mobilise community protests if any scabs ships attempt to dock and unload.

Propaganda war.

Howard’s government has consistently taken up and tired to spread the propaganda, that Australian workers have been lazy, inefficient, and ripping off the ‘system’ (rorting). They have tried to spread these myths through any means possible. They have kept up a steady production of ‘expert reports’ on the ‘in’-efficiency of the Australian waterfront.

However waterfront productivity is higher than claimed by the Government. An international report prepared for potential port investors says that Australia container rates are slow compared with other countries because ships unload less cargo at each dock, stopping at several ports, instead of just one. If we take into consideration the type of port, Australian productivity levels are relatively high. Singapore or Hong Kong unload all of the cargo of a ship at the one port. They can shift 25-30 containers per hour. In comparison, Australian ports only unload part of a ship at each port, on average 16 to 20 containers moved per hour.

In Australia, the ports are owned by private capitalists. As a consequence, the development of ports in Australia has not been planned. The standards of maintenance are low, with more delays caused through mechanical faults. Private capitalists are interested in profits, which does not always mean investing their capital in the latest technology. During this very public propaganda war, the Howard government wanted a scab workforce, and they have proven that they are willing to do anything to get scab workers.

A struggle against the ruling class

The response of the Australian ruling class to the deepening world capitalist crisis has been an offensive against the organised workers of Australia.

The loss of the Australian Labor Party and the installation of this Howard coalition government has brought open attacks on the working class. While the Australian Labor party did not protect the interests of workers against the international capitalist class, the Howard government campaigned, and promised outright attacks upon workers organisations, and on the working class in general.

Prime Minister John Howard’s right-wing government began its offensive by giving capitalists legal ammunition. They introduced a ‘Workplace Relations Act’(1996), which strips workers of powers to unite to strike, and gives the state new powers to bankrupt unions through court penalties. This act is parallel to the Employment Contracts Act(ECA) here in NZ. It prohibits union solidarity under threat of multimillion-dollar fines. An International Labour Organisation (ILO) judicial committee has previously criticised the Australian Governments Workplace Relations Act. (Similarly these toothless UN “labour” bureaucrats have also criticised the ECA.)

Australia’s government had planned and continues a ruling-class offensive against organised workers. Mr Howard has said “I don’t have any regrets about anything the Government has done”, in relation to his attacks on the MUA. Separately, the “Workplace Relations Minister”, Reith moved to step up pressure on the MUA accusing the union of making an agreement which was in breach of the WRA. Mr Reith has also referred the shipping accord between the MUA and the New Zealand Seafarers Union to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for investigation.

The Australian Labor party supported the strike and “waterfront reform” meaning they want to attack the wharfies by peaceful means through bureaucratic co-operation.

In Australia the capitalist ruling class have been actively using the laws, the police and the courts to attack the MUA workers and to legalise their attacks on the working class. The Labor party’s normal methods of making bureaucratic alliances with capitalism, has resulted in labour leaders selling out workers. All of this is further proof that the state is fundamentally a capitalist state.

The Howard coalition will try again, and due to the isolation of unions, the balance of force is on the side of the ruling class.

Trade union leadership

The MUA and Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) leadership has pursued a legal strategy which has depended on court victory. This strategy follows their idea that Patrick’s boss Corrigan, is a bad capitalist.

The MUA officials were boasting that they will co-operate boosting productivity on the waterfront (an improvement of 247% according to their leaflet) and how that they have co-operated in reducing the level of the workforce. They concede that about 500 will have to be laid off and appeared to be willing to co-operate. This shows the officials are willing to co-operate with “good” capitalists.

The Union officials also boast of their co-operation with police and are totally oblivious to any attack by the state. Australian workers have not faced the full force of the state upon them. They have not had the experience of military attacks, which would develop the need for workers defence squads, and the arming of the working class (see the article on the Bolivian General strike).

Union officials have prepared some solidarity, but because of the Workplace Relations Act which outlaws secondary boycotts the ACTU has not done this actively and openly. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has supported the community pickets, and not crossed them. The AWU told a picket line rally that the overwhelming majority of their members support a general strike.

While the MUA leadership act narrowly firstly in preservation of their own union organisation and jobs and secondly on behalf of their own membership. They neglect the fact that this is first and foremost a class struggle. The pickets have been spirited, however the MUA has not tried to break scab workers and has discouraged workers and activists who do. The MUA has held the mass pickets off the docks, which could have been re occupied by the working class.

The ACTU has held back calls for a general strike, but was forced into a one day general strike in Sydney. The actions of union officials show how they hold back and limit the working class struggle. They are the labour lieutenants, partners with capitalism.

Nobody won! But it’s not over yet!

The bosses wanted, and got a scab workforce trained. They are continuing to force redundancies and concessions from the MUA. They have the backing of their own laws, the WRA. They have successfully mobilised the ruling class against the MUA, by blaming the disruptions to other capitalists on the picket line action of the MUA.

The Union kept it’s jobs. The members, well they “returned to work”, but for most of them Patrick is still able to ‘restructure’ their jobs out of existence.

The working class mobilised in defence of the MUA workers. The working class communities proved to itself that we can build mass pickets, and we can overwhelmingly out-number the cops at short notice. The gains of strength in (behind the scenes) workers organisation are the most important gains for workers. But they will evaporate unless the big lessons are learned by the ‘left’.

Revolutionary leadership.

“MUA here to stay” “The workers united will never be defeated”

The role of the left has basically been to support the MUA. The Socialist Alternative are closely identified with the union bureaucracy. International Socialist Organisation(ISO) has at least been prepared to attack the leadership court strategy. But all they argue is that effective picketing can win. Which is all their New Zealand branch, the Socialist Workers Organisation (SWO) can do.

The chanting going on is not analysis of the MUA struggle. Unless you think that the struggle can be won without a break from the union bureaucracy and within the framework of defence of national capitalism ‘Australia First’. Those workers who have a privileged position to defend, may believe so.

Working class spontaneity cannot provide the solution, a revolutionary vanguard is necessary.

The tactics that are needed are working class international rank-and-file solidarity that is expressed in mass illegal pickets. Workers in Australia have entered this road, but have been held back by the leadership and the nationalist fiction of the “good” (Australian) capitalist who will give them a “fair go”.

To be effective unionists in the US and NZ for example, must use the mass illegal pickets to bring the production and distribution of scab labour to a dead halt. The revolutionary left must expose the reformist union leadership by encouraging workers to take the next step. Union officials will be shown up when they refuse to act on the rank-and-file demands. This will raise the question of class rule, but without a serious revolutionary leadership, such struggles will be contained by the bureaucracy and won by the bosses.

Form rank-and-file strike committees!

International Mass Pickets against Scab ships!

For indefinite strike action!

Prepare for a General Strike!

Build a new Leninist-Trotskyist Party!

From Class Struggle No 22 June-July 1998

Written by raved

August 26, 2007 at 10:26 pm