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

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9-11: NZ ‘Locks on’ to US imperialism

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

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

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

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

Lebanon: a new front in the oil wars

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘smart state’ produces ‘smart bombs’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what about the workers?

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

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

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

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

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

Labourite economic nationalism defeatist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whose 21st century socialism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Class Struggle 68 August/September 2006

War on Terrorism: The Lessons of Beslan

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The horrific slaughter of over 300 innocent children, men and women in the recent events in the Russian town of Beslan should make us think hard about the causes of terrorism today. Events such as Beslan are being used to step up military repression against nationalist movements, hiding the fact that the real terrorists are imperialist countries and Russia who have used state terror for centuries to repress and super-exploit colonial and semi-colonial countries. We say the Russian ruling class is the real terrorist in Beslan.

Who’s the Real Terrorist?

At Beslan the media as usual almost completely ignored the underlying issues and went straight for the jugular of the hostage takers. In doing do they missed the biggest terrorist –Putin and his Russian mafia hell bent on restoring a Great Russian imperialism.

Even before the siege was over Bush and co were busy trying to draw an al-Qaeda link. This was to be expected as was the total lack of journalistic integrity which followed this outrageous statement which was completely unsubstantiated. We were crying out for a journalist to have the courage to ask “Is this information based on the same intelligence that there were weapons on mass destruction in Iraq?”

Let us be clear that there is no justification for the targeting of civilian Russian children and using them as pawns in a power game. But as soon as we say this we have to say their deaths are the result of a much more systematic and destructive state terrorism of the big powers. The actions of the hostage takers in Beslan show that the leaders of oppressed nations, exploiting the anger and hatred of the freedom fighters against their oppressors, are prepared to use any methods to try to do deals with the big powers to broker the valuable resources of their countries.

While the Chechen warlord Bassiev has apparently claimed responsibility for this terrorist act there are still doubts that Chechnya was involved. Putin is quite capable of staging a fake attack to justify a further assault on Chechnya, and a stepping up of counter-terrorist actions and anti-terrorist legislation. But if it was a Chechen attack how can we explain it?

Nothing happens in a vacuum.

The events in Beslan are a result of the Russian policies and atrocities carried out in Chechnya not just in recent times but over the last couple of centuries. Russia has in two recent wars invaded and decimated Chechnya as it tries to prevent its secession and the grabbing of its resources by Russia’s EU and US rivals. In this situation we are on the side of Chechen self-determination and in the same trench as the Chechen freedom fighters against Russian oppression.

While we unconditionally side with Chechnya against Russia we criticise the barbaric and self-defeating methods used by the Chechen nationalist leaders against Russian oppression such as the acts of terrorism we saw in Beslan. They are prepared to sacrifice the heroic youth and women as pawns in their desire to force the Russians do a deal and allow these nationalist bosses to get rich from acting as the agents of Russian, EU and US corporations.

Commenting on the Spiked Online site, Brendan O’Neill says: “taking hostage an entire school on the first day of term, surrounding teachers, parents and kids with land mines and high explosives, makes little sense as a nationalist strike against a military aggressor or as a tactic for weakening Russian rule in the Caucasus. Instead, like the Moscow theatre siege of 2002, the school siege looked more like a murderous stunt, an al-Qaeda-esque assault, designed to provoke fear and outrage rather than to realise any discernible political aim.”

The commentator goes on to add that the speed with which authorities tried to point the finger of blame at International Terrorism is alarming.

“For obvious reasons, Russia is keen to situate Beslan within the international ‘war on terror’, effectively claiming that the siege was the work of al-Qaeda. Putin’s al-Qaeda talk is clearly opportunist; his aim is to distract from his repressive policies in Chechnya since a second war was launched there in 1999 (the first war having taken place under Boris Yeltsin from 1994 to 1996).”

What appears to the Spiked commentator to be a senseless and self-destructive act of terror at Beslan is in reality a consequence of the military weakness of these nationalist movements, and the fact that oppression of the US, EU and Russia has created a generation of freedom fighters around the world prepared to sacrifice their lives. As one Algerian freedom fighter said many years ago, “you give us your airplanes and we will give you our homemade bombs”.

Root Causes

What are the root causes of what happened in Beslan? Brendan O’Neill has a go at answering this.
“The missing link in the debates about terrorism, about the shift from the more politically-oriented violence of the past to the blindly ruthless attacks of today, is the West’s foreign interventions of the 1990s. It is by examining these that we can start to make sense of today’s seemingly senseless terror. Such interventions, particularly in the Balkans, did much to create the conditions for the rise of the new stateless groups that are so different from old-style nationalist movements.”

And further,
“Western officials wring their hands over the atrocity in Beslan, carried out by a terror group that seems irrational and, as Aldwyn Wight says, without restraint. Yet such terror networks are the product of the West’s undermining of its own postwar international framework during the humanitarian era. The old national liberation and nationalist movements reflected a world organised around the principles of sovereign equality and state authority; today’s terror networks hold a mirror to the West’s self-destructive assault on state sovereignty and the integrity of borders in the post-Cold War world. Where the old world order, for all its vast faults, gave rise to movements that sought to create their own states, the new world order has encouraged the emergence of distinctly stateless groups, not tied to any specific community or political goal.”

What this commentator fails to realise is that this apparent “murderous stunt” has been forced on nationalist movements not by a breakdown in ‘humanism’ or even recent invasions, but by centuries of Western imperialist and Great Russian terror. Individual or group terror such as that at Beslan has to be seen as the effect of this long history of imperialist class and national terror. Moreover the death toll at Beslan was not the result of the methods used by the ‘insurgents’ but the direct result of the attack by the special forces which stormed the school. 45,000 children killed in Chechnya in the last 20 years, now several hundred killed at Beslan and both at the hands of the Russian military.

O’Neill also comments on the now much known fact that the west was once keen to support movements such as the Mujhadeen in their activities in Afghanistan but now cannot contain what these movements have morphed into.

An article in a recent Guardian Weekly also seeks to shed light on what took place: “Today’s hostage-taking, though, from Iraq to Ossetia, is more savage, born of the spread of asymmetrical warfare that pits small, weak and irregular forces against powerful military machines. No insurgent lives long if he fights such overwhelming force directly. His tactical success has always been in surprise and in picking his target. If insurgent bullets cannot penetrate military armour, it makes little sense to shoot in that direction. Soft targets – the unprotected, the innocent, the uninvolved – become targets because they are available. If the hostage-takers in Beslan knew they were likely to die, they also knew they would die with the world’s attention upon them. Had they died in a regular fire fight with Russian forces, we would neither have known nor cared.”
This commentator doesn’t seem to realise that ‘asymmetrical warfare’ is not the origin of ‘savage’ methods of warfare. Imperialism has long used ‘Gurkhas’, i.e. the native troops of the countries they occupy, to do their fighting for them. There is nothing more ‘savage’ than to use these ‘loyal’ troops to fight imperialism’s wars. It was the British who pioneered search and destroy methods against ‘soft’ targets in their colonies 200 years before the modern guerrilla insurgents‘re-invented’ them. It was the British who took the poison gas technology from the battlefields of France to Iraq in the 1920s before Saddam was born.

And of course who can be surprised that we know virtually nothing of what is actually going on in Chechnya. Media coverage is almost non-existent, or managed by tame or embedded agencies that push the official line of the oppressor state. There are acts of inhumanity being carried out by the Russians in Chechnya all the time. We just don’t hear about them. It is out of sheer desperation (the same sort of desperation that makes a 14 year old Palestinian by strap explosives to himself) that such acts as the Beslan hostage taking occur. Again, this is not to condone the action, rather to gain some sort of understanding. For it is only through understanding that we can find an answer.

“Peace and Security”

The Guardian tries to draw out the links that exist in Putin’s war in Chechnya with other similar ‘adventures’, but in doing so it remains trapped in its liberal view that these were ‘failures’ because they did not realise their objectives of ‘peace and security’:
“As the drama of Beslan was entering its final hours, George Bush was bidding for re-election on the promise of security to the American people, a security premised on the willingness to use overwhelming military force. It was the same promise that Putin gave to the Russians and Ariel Sharon to the people of Israel. All three have used violence freely in pursuit of electoral reward: Sharon’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount that triggered the second intifada, Putin’s reckless adventurism in re-launching the Chechen war in 1999, and the Bush invasion of Iraq. None has produced the peace or security that was their justification; all have widened the circle of killing far beyond the formal engagement of armed men on both sides. Now the most likely victims are the poor and the helpless, as collateral damage, bombing casualties or hostages.”

Where both the Guardian Weekly and Spiked Online fall far short in their analysis is their inability (or perhaps unwillingness in the case of the ex-Trotskyists of Spiked Online) to recognise that events in Beslan cannot be separated from the ever-increasing demands of international capitalism to control and subjugate anything they see as threatening their global domination. Their liberalism does not allow them to see that these events are the necessary result of resistance to an escalating, recolonising, military drive by the imperialist powers to re-conquer and re-divide the world to grab the scarce, valuable resources they need to survive and expand.

Marxists tell the truth

The duty of Marxists is to tell the truth. We need to call for workers to recognise the real enemy and to also recognise that so-called senseless acts of violence cannot end worker’s oppression. They merely give ammunition to the Capitalists and their boot lickers in the media.

There is an international campaign of terror and it is waged every day by the capitalists and their agents such as Bush and Putin. It is the oppression and misery this campaign causes which gives rise to Nationalist struggles. These struggles in turn say much about the weakness of the left and its inability to mobilise workers in a struggle to overthrow capitalism. In this vacuum, nationalist leaders of all colours have risen to lead the struggles of the masses in the hope they can use them to negotiate profitable terms with imperialism. Rather they have been re-routed to the only game in town which in many cases is a nationalist struggle.

To transform these national struggles from dead ends that will lead to the defeat of the masses, into the struggle for socialism, Marxists have a duty to unconditionally support them against their oppressors. But while we side with these national struggles against imperialism or national oppression, we give no support to the nationalist leaders. Rather we try to mobilise the masses to arm themselves, and to break free of their nationalist leaders and from imperialism by fighting for socialism. In doing this we can show that socialism alone can liberate workers and peasants from the trap of imperialism and reactionary national capitalism.

Defend Chechnya!
For the right of Chechnyan self-determination!
Down with Great Russian Chauvinism!

For Workers and Peasants states in the former Soviet Union!

From Class Struggle 58 October-November 2004

Written by raved

January 8, 2010 at 2:15 pm

MUNZ and Clark: Poking Fun or Kissing Butt?

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Waterfront Re-union

The last issue of Class Struggle featured an article drawing attention to the Maritime Union of New Zealand’s use of George Bush and Helen Clark on a poster promoting its cabotage campaign. Cabotage is a system that would see the restriction of shipping services between New Zealand ports to New Zealand-operated and crewed ships. The Maritime Union and New Zealand shipping bosses want the government to intervene to get rid of the foreign-owned ships and foreign workers currently operating in New Zealand waters. Under cabotage non-New Zealand workers will only be allowed to take up jobs in New Zealand coastal waters if no New Zealand seafarers are available for those jobs. In practice, this would mean that the vast majority of foreign seafarers currently employed working ships in New Zealand waters would lose their jobs to New Zealand workers.

MUNZ PR man Victor Billot reacted angrily to the article, using the indymedia news service to accuse us of being humourless old commies who couldn’t see that MUNZ was actually ‘poking fun’ at Helen Clark and George Bush. Billot defended Cabotage and condemned us for criticising the leadership ‘of one of New Zealand’s few militant workers’ organisations’.

Presumably Victor would argue that September’s issue of Port News, the magazine of the Auckland branch of MUNZ, is also an attempt to ‘poke fun’ at Helen Clark. Well, we’re sorry Vic, but once again we don’t get the joke! September’s Port News features a glossy cover shot of a beaming Helen standing with executives of MUNZ and a couple of rank and file members. Labour Ministers Judith Tizard and John ‘scrap the dole!’ Tamihere feature in a smaller cover photo. In his editorial, MUNZ’s Auckland secretary Terry Ryan explains that the photos were taken at the ‘annual Waterfront reunion held at the Point Chevalier RSA on the 15th of June’. Ryan’s words are worth quoting at length:

“The enormous workload and time constraints involved in a country’s governance are all-consuming, with every person or organisation wanting an ear or a piece of one’s time. Therefore it was genuinely appreciated, and meaningful, to have the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, take time out of her busy schedule to spend a few hours with old friends at the annual Waterfront reunion.”

We’re sure that Terry’s right about the ‘enormous workload’ involved in being Helen Clark. In September alone Helen was busy coordinating New Zealand assistance to two different US wars, organising Jobs Jolt attacks on beneficiaries at home, confiscating the foreshore and seabed from Maori, swinging open the doors of New Zealand to GE, and begging George Bush for a free trade deal in Bangkok. That’s some schedule.

Helen must be rushed off her feet staying George Bush’s ‘very, very, very good friend’, but should MUNZ be quite so sympathetic? Should Terry be giving his ‘old friend’ a pit stop by pouring her a beer at the Pt Chev RSA, or should MUNZ be working to give Helen some real work to do, by taking on a Labour Party policy programme that is more at odds with workers’ interests with every passing day? We reckon that MUNZ and other unions should be taking the fight to Labour over its attacks on beneficiaries, its failure to scrap the anti-worker provisions in the Employment Relations Act, its contributions to the US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the creeping police state that ‘anti-terrorist’ legislation and aggressive policing of dissent is creating. Getting workers off the street and off the job over issues like those is more work than pouring the PM a beer, but it’s more worthwhile too.

Dissenting Voices

But what would we know? We’re just a bunch of commie troublemakers right? A look inside September’s Port News suggests we might not be alone in our dim view of the policies of MUNZ’s cover girl. Terry Ryan’s ode to the Blairite Witch sounds particularly flat next to the verses of a reader opposed to the war Clark is helping Bush fight in Iraq. ‘Down the street flies a missile/And after the commercial breaks,/We’ll have a shot/Of the Patriot,/And the number of hits it takes’ writes Gloria Stanford, in a blackly ironic take on the US conquest of Iraq. You can bet that Helen Clark won’t be whispering Stanford’s ditty in Bush’s ear at the next APEC summit. As far as Clark is concerned, Bush’s conquest has been sanctified by a UN Security Council vote and the sixty New Zealand army engineers stationed near Basra.

Phil Mansor, Secretary of MUNZ’s local 21, provides another dissenting voice with an article about the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Mansor puts his case powerfully, asking readers to imagine their neighbours ‘moving into your backyard, knocking down half your house’ and then ‘building a wall around the two rooms left so you can’t move’. After attacking the hypocrisy of Bush’s ‘Road Map’, Mansor concludes by calling a spade a spade and denouncing the Israeli occupation as terrorism.

You won’t find Helen Clark using language like that – after all, New Zealand under her leadership has actually continued to give military support to the Israeli government, by maintaining New Zealand’s role in the Multinational Force and Observers, a US-funded army which patrols the Sinai Peninsula and helps Sharon seal the southern border of the Gaza Strip. Recently Sharon sent a force deep into Gaza on a bloody search for tunnels which the Palestinians have dug to the Sinai Peninsula. It is the MFO which hunts for these tunnels on the Sinai Peninsula, and which was the ‘silent partner’ in Sharon’s raid.

Labour’s support for imperialism in Palestine and in Iraq reflects its domestic agenda. MUNZ’s pro-Cabotage poster has George Bush telling Clark how wonderful Cabotage is, and Clark promising to copy the US example and bring the system to New Zealand.

There’s an all too familiar logic to that one. George Bush’s government has put many demands on Helen Clark – the prosecution of Bruce Hubbard, repressive ‘anti-terrorist’ legislation modeled on the US’s Patriot Act, support for GE – and the commander-in-chief has tended to get what he wants. And what Bush wants is most definitely not what New Zealand workers want.

Honourable history

Victor Billot actually has half a point when he calls MUNZ ‘one of New Zealand’s few militant workers’ organisations’. Both the organisations that merged to form MUNZ have an honourable history of bypassing the politicians and taking direct action against war and imperialism.

In the 1930s the Waterside Workers Union outraged bosses and embarrassed the Labour Party by refusing to handle scrap iron being sent to Japan to make tanks to kill Chinese. In the 1940s the wharfies campaigned against conscription and the US’s influence over New Zealand foreign policy. In the 70s and the 80s the wharfies and the Seafarers Union both went on strike against US nuke ship visits, closing ports and stopping ferries.

Its history like that which makes current MUNZ policies so disappointing. The union of Jock Barnes and Toby Hill can do better than photo ops with Helen Clark and Cabotage. The words of protest from Gloria Stanford and Phil Mansor show that there is still anti-imperialist fight in MUNZ. We know the people we’d rather see on the cover of Port News!

From Class Struggle 53 November 03/January 04

Written by raved

December 14, 2009 at 11:24 pm


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“We may be, as Chris Trotter said on the recent Assignment programme, the most RED Green Party in the world, but we value the individual as much as society. We are communitarian, internationalist and libertarian all at the same time!”, said Rod Donald, Green Party MP, in his Co-Leader’s address to the Green Party Annual General Meeting on the 1st of June 2002. In fact, Donald’s words said more about a certain political commentator’s lack of left-wing credentials than they did about the inherent contradictions that are a feature of social democratic politics. Like Labour and the Alliance, the Greens are no revolutionaries – they do not want to overthrow capitalism and free workers from the bonds of wage slavery. Unlike Labour and the Alliance, though, the Greens make no claim to represent workers. In this article we look at the class roots of the Greens and show that for workers they are part of the problem not the solution.

[From Class Struggle 46 August/September 2002]

Greens are anti-worker

Green policy is anti-worker and pro-business, despite the fact that it substitutes the small business for the large company or corporation. The Green Charter on social responsibility calls for “just distribution of social and natural resources”, but calling an economy green, non-big business or communal doesn’t hide the fact that resources are going to be utilised according to market demand, not human need. Competition always lurks beneath the co-operative façade the Greens like to give themselves. The Green social vision of eco-Nirvana is the ideology of the petty bourgeois that rejects the reality of its historic class position between capitalists and workers and tries to create policy of classless social harmony.

The Greens’ “Thinking Beyond Tomorrow” economic policy is saturated with trendy phrases like ‘eco nation’, but all it offers is a ‘middle class’ ideology generated in a vacuum away from the forces that touch the daily lives of the vast majority of workers who are urbanised and under the clutches of bosses no different from the petit-bourgeois small business persons of the sort of economy the Greens favour. Talk of “employer-employee partnerships”, just about sums up the Greens industrial relations policy in three words. Like the Employment Contracts Act of old, the Greens’ industrial relations policy makes no mention of unions or workers’ organisations. For the Greens we are all members of a ‘community’, not a class, and ‘Partnership’ is the magic word for work relations. A worrying sign, considering that their demand for “doing more with less for longer” sounds like the antidote to a progressive workers demand for a shorter working week.

As part of their policy, the Greens want to encourage small businesses to show ‘social responsibility’ by providing unpaid and voluntary work to the ‘community’. They don’t seem to think about the workers who would remain tied to their employers outside of normal working time so that the boss could earn good social PR and a healthy eco-tax rebate at the same time. The Universal Basic Income, which was adopted by the Values Party before it evolved into the Greens, has not become official Green policy simply because the low level of productivity expected from an eco-economy is unable to sustain its viability. It is for this reason alone that the Greens with their euphemistic terms push the importance of unpaid work.

Green Economic nationalism

Green capitalism is also ‘New Zealand First’ capitalism. The Greens call on the state to protect NZ business from overseas business. Not that the Greens are opposed to exports – they want a ‘clean green’ niche ‘brand’ capitalism in NZ which can get its products into the global marketplace. Clean and green is best for people, as well as profits, because it means capitalism puts on its human, GE-free face, showing an economy that is sustainable and people-oriented. But does it really?

“Re-nationalisation” of public assets sold to private companies fails to get a satisfactory mention from the Greens. All they would renationalise are components of the rail network, and they would do this principally for environmental freight /cost reasons. With the demand for fast door to door transfer of goods, which is favourable to road transport, it is difficult to see the cost benefits to consumers if handling from road to rail to road is undertaken without a fully socialised, renationalised economy.

The Greens like to condemn the 1989 bargain $660million sell off of Air NZ, but they have never called for the re-nationalisation of the airline, only for the keeping of an equity stake majority share. When Brierley investments 30% share holding in Air NZ came up for sale in 2001, the response by the Greens was to push the government to buy out those shares to stop them going overseas, instead of taking over the remaining shares and thus nationalising the airline for the benefit of all New Zealanders. Later in 2001, after years of private mismanagement brought the airline close to collapse, the Labour government rescued the airline resulting in an equity stake of 80% ownership. Pleasing to the Greens, but not the same as 100% nationalisation. It’s not good enough to take the economic nationalist line that New Zealanders should own Air NZ if that relationship is not spelled out clearly. Private NZ ownership is no different to overseas ownership with profits going to the few and not those who produce the wealth.

In the electricity market the Greens have shown a similar attitude toward privatisation. In 1999, Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons criticised the National government’s decision to introduce regulations to prevent electricity companies speculating on inflated values, the purchase and selling of lines to one another. She justified her stand on the grounds that the consumer would suffer price increases because lines companies would need to re-coup their expected losses before regulations were enforced. That was scare-mongering at the least, and a sell out to the deregulated market where price rises have become the norm anyway. No criticism was made by the Greens of the sell off and fragmentation of the taxpayer owned electricity network. The Greens do not support a return to nationalised electricity – they see competition as being the best regulator of pricing.

The Greens’ only input into any form of electricity market regulation is their demand that the market be made to be more transparent by the introduction of variable charges on lines and by the ending of the practice of including lines and retail charges on the same bill. Though not a socialist demand, re-nationalising of the power network would bring more transparency and accountability than anything being demanded by the Greens. Pricing would be directly a function of the ability to supply [production] and distribute and not retail.

Renationalisation of course goes against the Green philosophy of fragmented and localised services, which it regards as essential to re-empowering communities. Communities are valued over the wider society, which is perceived as being centralised and impersonal. The “communitarian” and kowtowing to individualism that Rod Donald speaks of is clear, and clearly opposed to the natural justice that would see public assets built by workers run by workers.

Opposition to ‘free trade’ has the same petty bourgeois class roots as other Green policies. The obsession with protecting the local market to the exclusion of others weakens any pretence of being internationalist by denying efficiencies that could be achieved by other producers in other countries. Rod Donald’s condemnation of the Singapore/NZ Free Trade Agreement is based on the belief that Indonesian workers should stay in their villages rather than work in ‘free trade’ zones. Donald ignores that the history of class struggle is one of workers forced out of rural poverty into jobs where they fight to get better wages and conditions. Local protection also hits the NZ worker, who is forced to spend beyond what is necessary to preserve the profits of local bosses.

The inference is quite clear. Green internationalism only exists in paying lip service to international agencies coming to the rescue of ‘exploited’ Third World workers. It refuses to back the workers’ solidarity uniting workers of all countries that expresses true internationalism. Socialist economics requires centralised planning totally under workers control and ownership on all levels between local and international. Green co-op economics goes nowhere near that basic demand. Indeed it strives to maintain a state of exchange differential between communities so that profit still remains a basis by which commodities are converted to capital.

Greens cannot defend ‘nature’

If the Green objective is to present capitalism with a human face by turning the “class” issue into an ecological one, by which humanity is seen as a subordinate component of nature, similar to its subjugation by a ruling class, then it raises an interesting question about the boundaries of human intellectual potential and creativity. Whilst we are mere specks of dust in the cosmos and understanding our place in it is important, it should not be used as an argument to justify the need to defend capitalism in order to express our relationship to nature. Labour, the measure of value, is after all part of nature. But capitalism has gone well beyond its use-by date and is busy destroying nature. The Greens’ apology for capitalism hides the reality that capitalism has already prepared the conditions for socialism where ‘value’ is created directly from nature and does not have to be turned into capital. The task for us as workers, is to selflessly share that value out to all in all of its manifestations. This is the basic socialist demand.

The issue of GE more than any other has shown how closely the Greens’ environmentalism is tied to their pro-capitalist economic agenda. In opposing GE, the Greens focus almost exclusively on the threat it poses to the organics industry, without ever noticing the fact that “organic” means expensive and out of reach for ordinary workers and the poor. Like luxury yachts, organics is the domain of the elite who can afford it, a high value commodity targeted at a particular niche market.

The Greens may have no confidence in commercial exploitation of GE, but they rely on the capitalist state (with a Green party in government of course) to regulate GE. There is no understanding that only under workers’ control (initially scientists and technicians who are knowledge workers) does GE become subordinated to the needs of society and not profits. It should be up to workers not green capitalists to decide whether GE is safe.

Greens Personality lineup

When the Values Party was launched in 1972, it became the worlds first Green Party, and was composed of people who cut their political teeth during the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations of the 60’s. Unfortunately, anti-imperialism did not manifest itself in Values Party policy – the Values Party never thought of itself as a workers’ party and never opposed capitalism. Tony Kunowsky, who led Values between 1975-1979, even went on to become a financial high flyer in the New Zealand corporate scene.

Many prominent members of today’s Green Party are wealthy, with many like Jeneatte Fitzsimmons having holdings in large properties. Bankers and entrepreneurs seem more common than trade unionists. Figures such as Keith Locke and Sue Bradford, who are a part of the Green front-line, bring with them experiences and views that are common to many on the NZ left, but come from backgrounds more associated with union bureaucracy and semi-reformist rather than revolutionary politics.

Locke’s long association with the Socialist Action League (a forerunner of today’s Communist League) is loudly omitted from his Green Party official profile, as if to make himself more acceptable to his new comrades. His initiatives in Parliament against repressive anti-terrorism legislation (see our article War, Terror and Democratic Rights) have endeared him to many who perceive the Greens as being more representative of the left than the corpse-like Alliance.

Locke’s credibility rates high among many who know his long years of involvement in anti-war and human rights issues. Unfortunately, Locke’s support for the United Nations and phony international courts as an instrument for global peace and justice too often puts him on the wrong side of the class divide. In the last decade the UN has been the world’s deadliest killing machine, taking millions of lives with its sanctions on Iraq and its bombing of small nations like Yugoslavia. Locke knows full well that the UN is a mere tool of the US and other imperialist powers, so his capitulation to Green acceptance of the UN as a benevolent force destroys his credibility among true anti-imperialists.

SWP Opportunism

The left should be concerned that progressive workers who have become for good reasons disillusioned with Labour and the Alliance might turn to the Greens, when the Greens offer no positive alternative.

The opportunistic call by the Socialist Workers Organisation for a vote for the Greens during the recent snap elections is indicative of the marked deterioration of supposedly left elements in NZ. How can a party that stands for workers’ power support a party that neither has nor wants a working class base? As unpalatable as it was, critical support for Labour during the elections only was necessary because many workers still felt that Labour best represented their interests. Such illusions will be smashed only by putting Labour into power and proving that Labour is against their interests. Throwing a vote away to the Greens merely fragmented any potential Labour support by reducing its ability to carry out its full neo-liberal agenda unimpeded and thus expose itself.

The important question to be asked is, does the Green agenda support the re-empowerment of workers without the spectre of bosses hanging over them? The short and unequivocal answer is, no! The challenge for the Left is not to allow itself to be sucked in by Green rhetoric about a “co-operative”. Such a future is actively opposed to “workers collective solidarity.”

Written by raved

June 27, 2008 at 11:17 pm