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

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Poverty is the Crime

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

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

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

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

The NDU wages war on crime

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

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

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

Geldof names and shames NZ

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

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

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

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

The Alliance blames poverty on Labour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The solution is to elect an Alliance government that will

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

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

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

‘Clustering’: a self-help answer to poverty

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

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

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

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

What to do? Communes everywhere!

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

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

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

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006

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Defeat Mapp’s ‘Slave Labour’ Bill

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Union Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A militant campaign to smash the Mapp sack!

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

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

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

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

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006

Class Justice for the Kahui Family

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

Kahui Bashing

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

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

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

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

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

Maori Party cops

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working Class Justice

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

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

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

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

Te Taua Karuwhero Kahui 

From Class Struggle 67 June/July 2006 

Written by raved

January 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Aotearoa: Spilt coming in Maori Party?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Te Taua Karuwhero 



From Class Struggle 66 April/May 2006



Workers Vote Labour Back Let’s take the next step!

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The 2005 general election has polarised voters and split parliament into two finely-balanced blocs. It is likely that if Labour’s majority survives the counting of special votes Helen Clark will try to form a minority coalition government with the Greens supported by the Maori Party on supply and confidence. It is unlikely that United Future or New Zealand First will support Labour formally with the Greens in government. On the other hand, the massive party vote for Labour in the Maori seats will cause a split in the Maori Party if Turia tries to reject Labour and make a deal with National. In this article we analyse the election and offer a socialist approach to the new political situation it has created.

Workers Reject Brash

Some commentators have mistakenly called the election ‘a swing to the right’. In fact, National managed to increase its vote at the expense of the minor right-wing parties, not at the expense of Labour. Overall, the election shows what every vote since 1993 has shown – that a majority of New Zealanders want a centre-left government that keeps some independence from the United States and intervenes in the economy to redistribute income.

Don Brash ran an aggressively right-wing campaign, calling for cuts to social spending, big tax breaks for the rich, and closer ties with the United States. Senior National leaders like John Key and Lockwood Smith enjoy very close ties to the ruling class of the United States, and a National victory would have meant the further Americanization of the economy, the swift resumption of nuclear ship visits, and more New Zealand contributions to George Bush’s War of Terror. But despite a lavish and cynical advertising campaign from National and a biased media, workers rejected Brash’s agenda.

The election also shows that Labour is still a ‘bourgeois workers party’ – a party with its roots in the working class despite its capitalist program. Labour was unable to rely on the support that the Business Round Table and American billionaires gave to National. Instead, it had to use the trade unions to do much of its campaigning work. Trade union delegates and organisers spent thousands of hours criss—crossing the working class suburbs of the major centres, knocking on doors and distributing propaganda for Labour. Unions used their access to big worksites to hold mass election meetings with their members. The Council of Trade Unions ran an advertising campaign for Labour, and a number of unions made large donations to the party.

But the weakness of the union movement and Labour’s failure to restore confidence in public services like health and education meant that Don Brash was able temporarily to tempt a section of the working class away from Labour with the promise of tax cuts, and with populist attacks on Maori, gays and ‘political correctness’. Keen to shore up its support amongst its core voters, Labour moved slightly to the left during the election campaign, promising a write-off of interest for student loans and aggressively attacking Brash’s support for the invasion of Iraq and support for the privatisation of health and education.

On election night, National’s big early lead was turned around as the votes of the ‘big battalions’ of the working class in the major centres swung in behind Labour. Labour’s support was particularly strong in the working class heartland of South Auckland, where the party took over 50% in many electorates and an incredible 71.6% of the vote in Mangere. A map of election results published in the Sunday Star-Times brought out the polarisation, showing a sea of National blue surrounding patches of Labour red covering the working class electorates in the big cities.

Greens fail to woo workers

The Green Party’s 5% share of the vote represents a failure. The party had gone into the election hoping to expand its base of support by filling the vacuum left by the Alliance’s implosion in 2002, and by Labour’s drift to the right in government. The Greens tried to add a slice of the working class to their traditional voting base of the radical petty bourgeoisie, liberal professionals, and students.

In an attempt to appeal to trade unionists, the Greens developed a new industrial relations policy which was well to the left of what Labour offered workers on the campaign trail. They touted other progressive policies for workers, like the abolition of youth rates and the raising of the minimum wage to $12 an hour. Partly as a result of these policies, a number of unions endorsed the Greens as the ‘second-best option’ for voters who could not support Labour.

The Greens attempted to appeal to the overwhelmingly working class Maori vote by forming a close relationship with the Maori Party and echoing the Maori Party line on issues like the seabed and foreshore. Near the end of the campaign they even received the ‘second-best option’ endorsement of Tariana Turia. But the Greens’ attempt to expand their base looks to have been a failure. Their vote dropped from its 2002 level, and they performed poorly in both the Maori electorates and in working class strongholds like South Auckland.

The Greens’ failure is a blow to its ‘left’ faction, which is represented in parliament by left social democrats Keith Locke and Sue Bradford. Locke and Bradford are ex-Marxists who still look toward the working class as the bedrock of left-wing politics. Both have worked hard to identify the Greens with workers’ issues. By contrast, the right-wing faction led by Rod Donald finds its natural base in small business and the liberal middle class, sections of the population not usually attracted to policies like the extension of the right to strike and the lifting of the minimum wage. (A third Green faction, comprising members with a more ‘fundamentalist’ attitude to key environmental issues like genetic engineering, can be identified with Donald’s co-leader, Jeneatte Fitzsimmons.)

Donald and his supporters are likely to push for more and more compromises on ‘touchy’ issues like genetic engineering, the War of Terror, and industrial relations, in an effort to get the Greens into the secure coalition with Labour which they think is necessary for political survival.

Maori Party Stumbles Rightwards

In the aftermath of the great seabed and foreshore hikoi and the by-election victory of Tariana Turia last year, many commentators predicted that the Maori Party would win all seven Maori seats. In the event, it has had to be content with four victories. The disappointment caused by the failure to achieve a clean sweep must be compounded by the low list vote the Maori Party achieved. Labour won more party votes than the Maori Party, even in the electorates that it lost to its new rival. Turia herself noted that the party was born out of a movement of 45,000 people, but a 2% party vote represents just over 40,000 voters.

The Maori Party’s underachievement can be put down partly to the strategy that it has pursued since its formation. Despite its origins in the hikoi, the party has consistently counterposed vote-seeking to protest, insisting that the ‘hikoi to the ballot box’ is the key to advancing Maori interests.

Partly because of Tariana Turia’s bitter experiences in government, and partly because of the advice of Matt McCarten, the party has tried to avoid declaring its support for the election of a Labour government, insisting that it is open to political alliances with any party. Even ‘radical’ candidates like Hone Harawira have insisted that the Maori Party is ‘neither left nor right’.

The refusal to rule out some sort of arrangement with the parties of the right was compounded by Turia’s disgraceful votes in parliament against Civil Unions and Paid Parental Leave, and the vague, almost evasive quality of much of the party’s ‘policy’, so that many potential voters got the impression that the Maori Party was not interested in the traditional causes of the left. Harawira and co may think that categories like ‘left’ and ‘right’ are out of date, but most Maori voters do not agree with them.

Labour was able to seize on the Maori Party’s equivocal attitude to National to run a very effective scare campaign in the Maori electorates. Again and again, Labour warned Maori voters that Maori Party MPs could let National into power, and thus bring on the destruction of Maori seats and cuts to funding for institutions like kohanga reo and iwi-administered health clinics. Under pressure, Turia was forced late in the campaign to hose down speculation about a coalition with National, but she continued to refuse to promise to support a Labour government on confidence and supply, even if Labour won more votes than National. Instead, Turia endorsed the Greens, a party with little following in the Maori seats, as the ‘next-best option’ to the Maori Party.

The Maori Party’s blunders mean it will have to be content with the re-election of Turia and the scalps of the mediocre Dover Samuels, the obscure Mita Ririnui, and the discredited John Tamihere. Parekura Horomia’s prized East Coast seat has escaped the new party, despite the fact that Horomia was the frontman for Labour’s hated seabed and foreshore policy. The ‘neither left nor right’ strategy has also badly affected the building of the Maori Party, robbing the organisation of support from the trade unions and the Pakeha left, disorientating grassroots party activists, and allowing all manner of right-wingers and opportunists to campaign in the party’s name.

The finely balanced result of the election is likely to tempt the Maori Party to try to continue its ‘neither left nor right’ strategy by attempting to play the two main party blocs off against one another, in an attempt to score some minor policy wins on narrowly ‘Maori’ issues. Besides provoking a revolt from the rank and file, such an approach will only increase the uneasiness which the trade union movement, the Pakeha left, and the many Maori who still vote Labour feel towards the new party.

Lost to the left of Labour

Based on programs well to the left of Labour’s, the election campaigns of the Alliance Party and the Anti Capitalist Alliance attracted only tiny numbers of voters. The Anti Capitalists’ most successful candidate attracted only 95 votes, while the Alliance scored only 0.07% of party list votes.

A third grouping to the left of Labour, Matt McCarten’s ‘Workers Charter movement’ sat on the election sidelines, but announced its intention of becoming ‘a mass party sooner rather than later’.

Both the Anti Capitalist Alliance and McCarten claim that Labour is no longer a party with a working class base, but the election result proves otherwise. Workers were not interested in throwing away their votes when faced by the threat of the return of nuclear ships and 90s-style scorched earth neo-liberal economic policies.

The Next Step for Socialists

The unity the working class against showed Brash proves the correctness of our call for a critical vote for Labour. Critical support was necessary to keep out Brash and keep Labour in power, so that workers can learn from experience that Labour cannot serve their interests, and that a new, extra-parliamentary force capable of taking state power for the working class is necessary.

In the context of a likely Labour-led government and a weak union movement, what are the best tactics to advance the cause of workers?

We need to get the unions and working class voters that support the Labour Party to challenge the party’s policies. Labour is only in power because of the campaigning of trade unionists and the votes of workers, yet it pays more attention to the voices of business and of the US government than it does to the needs of the working class. For instance, Labour has already told its trade union supporters that its third term will not see any major change to New Zealand’s restrictive, anti-strike industrial relations legislation. The party is much more interesting in courting business and in pursuing a free trade deal with the US.

The Action Program we published a month ago is the sort of program we need to fight for in the unions to put pressure on Labour. However, the likely presence of minor parties with no base in the unions in and around a Labour-led government complicates this tactic. Labour can try to use deals with these parties as alibis to hold back on worker-friendly policies.

We have to fight to make Labour act for workers and to reject any alibi that says Labour can’t act on behalf of workers because of its agreements with minor parties. Labour has to be held responsible for its betrayals, not its partners. There is plenty of common ground with the Greens and with the Maori Party that we can use to put pressure on Labour.

While the Greens don’t have an official base in organised labour, they are now getting regular endorsements from the unions. Let’s make them deliver to the unions rather than to small business! Like all petty bourgeois parties they should back labour if they think it is stronger than the right. If they won’t then their ability to con workers is that much less. The Maori Party has a working class base, so we should force the party to listen to that base. If it doesn’t it will split along class lines sooner or later.

All of the demands below (and any others that become obvious) should be concretised and advanced in the union movement to pressure Labour and appeal to the best supporters of the Maori Party and the Greens.

A WORKERS’ ACTION PROGRAMME
 

  • Jobs for all on a living wage – for 35 hour week and a 24 hour free child care!

If the pressure comes on, none of the parties of the centre-left will want to be the one that says no to full employment and 24 hour child care.·

  • Tax the Rich; Tax Capital Gains!

After surviving a campaign between the greedies and the needies, which of the parties of the centre-left will want to appear as soft on the rich? A capital gains tax on all speculative gains should be common ground for all of these parties. If Labour pulls back for fear of upsetting foreign investors, or the Maori Party or the Greens want tax breaks for small business, we need to fight for tax breaks for collective ownership, and capital gains for private windfalls from speculation in land, shares etc.

  • No ‘free’ trade deal with the United States!

Much of the momentum behind bad pieces of Labour legislation has come from a desire to ‘prepare’ the New Zealand economy for a ‘free’ trade deal with the US. Barriers to US investment like Maori control over resources like the seabed and foreshore or restrictions on foreign ownership of Kiwi land have to be cleared away by a Labour government desperate for a deal with Bush. Green and Maori Party leaders must not be allowed to backslide on their opposition to the Americanization of the New Zealand economy. Labour supporters who hate Brash and Bush must realise that Labour leaders share much of National’s attachment to Americanization.

  • Open the borders to worker migrants!

All the centre-left parties claim they want skilled worker migrants. The Maori Party’s worker base will be sympathetic if their jobs are not threatened by migration. Full employment based on reduced hours would reduce job competition. Nationalisation of key sectors of the economy under workers control would extend naturally to workers control over worker immigration.

  • Re-nationalise Rail, Telecom etc. with no compensation and under workers’ control!

We should raise these demands now. These assets have become cash cows for the rich. They should be taken back without compensation under workers control. We need to extend this demand urgently to nationalisation (socialisation) in several other areas.

1) major export players like Fonterra and Carter Holt Harvey need to be nationalised. Investing the Cullen find in forests is a step in the right direction. But Carter Holt Harvey should not be compensated. Both of these core primary industries have been hugely subsidised by generations of past labour, workers and working farmers. Fonterra’s producer ownership needs to be protected by public ownership like the old Dairy Board.

2) vital energy resources such as the oil refinery at Marsden Point must be nationalised. Especially in the light of the price gauging of the oil companies. We should call for bilateral trade in oil and agriculture with Venezuela!

3) the Kiwibank should be a state bank, not a State Owned Enterprise, so that the combination of state subsidy of Kiwibank and regulation of the big Australian banks can remove their stranglehold over the economy.

  • Troops out of Afghanistan!

This is a concrete example of the general demand that Kiwi troops not be used in any US, NATO or UN sponsored war. The Greens and the Maori Party could be pressured by their rank and file into standing up to Labour over Afghanistan, exposing Anderton and Labour as only slightly less blatant supporters of US imperialism than Brash.

  • For a Workers·’ Government!

For all of the above demands to be implemented, the development of independent working class power and ultimately workers’ councils and defence committees able to launch a workers’ government would be necessary. In other words a workers’ government only becomes a reality when it takes power from the bourgeoisie, but along the way the class organs necessary to support this government have to be built. The occupied factories, collective farms, and neighbourhood assemblies that have appeared in recent years in South American countries like Venezuela and Argentina provide rough models for a workers’ government. See also:http://www.redrave.blogspot.com

From Class Struggle 63 Sept/Oct 2005

Alliance search for workers ends in split

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Break the unions from the state

Matt McCarten’s move to the Maori Party is the last act in the sorry decline of the Alliance Party. Here we argue that the remaining ‘left’ of the Alliance needs to draw the obvious conclusion from more than a decade trying to influence the Labour Party in office, turn away from the electoral road and rebuild itself as a new workers party with a revolutionary socialist program.

New Labour, ‘old’ labour recycled

When the New Labour Party was formed in 1989 it held out the promise of uniting the left against the anti-worker policies of the Fourth Labour Government. But workers failed to follow it and Jim Anderton and Matt McCarten turned the NLP into their own voting machine to piss on Labour from outside the tent. They forgot that they were also pissing on Labour’s worker supporters who came back to Labour in large numbers in 1993 to almost secure a Labour victory.

Anderton and McCarten antagonised these workers big time when they refused to support Mike Moore’s push to form a minority government in 1993. Instead of drawing the obvious conclusion to go back into the Labour Party it was as if Anderton saw himself as the messiah and that only he could save Labour.

Had Anderton backed Moore to form a minority government there was a fighting chance that it could have won the numbers and put a stop to National’s anti-worker agenda in 1993.This would have given the left the chance of exposing Labour in office. The militants in the NLP could have pissed on Labour from the inside. We could have rallied the unions to repeal the ECA and restore the benefit cuts. That could have led to a fight for renationalisation of the privatized state assets under workers’ control. But the leadership of Anderton and McCarten was never going to submit to the Labour Party bureacracy except on their terms.

Anderton shacks up with middle class

Failing to act on this lesson the NLP and Mana Motuhake rank and file got dragged after Anderton looking for any political partners that could give him more seats. They took on board the Greens, a middle class outfit, the remnants of the old Social Credit movement in the Democrats, and populist Gilbert Myles personal vehicle, the Liberals, to form the Alliance. They buried whatever small worker support there was for the NLP along with Maori support for its sister party, Mana Motuhake, in this populist pot of stew.

Breaking up Labour’s constituency left the field open to that other populist Winston Peters to campaign for the Maori vote. Leading up to the 1996 election Peter’s conned Maori into deserting Labour on the promise that he would never go into government with National. He then exercised the ‘balance of power’ under the new MMP system to put National back into office. This was the first time a party abused Maori voters to split them away from their Labour base since Ratana made its historic alliance with Labour in the 1930s. Maori learned the hard way as Peters and the Tau Henare rat pack grandstanded at the expense of their jobs and welfare.

Having helped the Nationals use the 1990s to attack workers, the Alliance actually made it into government in 1999 and formed a coalition with the Labour Party. But by this time the Labour Party was not only locked into the neo-liberal reforms of the 1980s but most of the 1990s economic reforms as well. Cullen swore by a balanced budget and an independent Reserve Bank. Rogernomics plus Ruthonomics added up to one hell of a ‘social deficit’.

So Labour, as a capitalist government elected to manage kiwi capitalism, had to deliver growth in profits before it could try to make up the ‘social deficit’ to its supporters. This forced it into a Blairite position where it made huge concessions to business in order to pursue its modest social agenda. The Alliance for the most part had to tag along.

When Labour went too far and supported the US invasion of Afghanistan, most of the Alliance split from Anderton. Without his seat, and failing to hit the 5% threshold in the 1992 election, the Alliance was out of parliament and questioning its future.

Radical stocktaking shows bankruptcy

Surely the time was overdue for a radical stocktaking. Sticking with Anderton had drawn a blank. Worse, the balance sheet of those 13 years was almost totally negative. Anderton’s split in 1989 was too little and too late. When the NLP failed to win significant sections of union support in 1990 it should have seen the light and moved back into the Labour Party. Whatever the Alliance won for workers in government with Labour from 1999 it 2002 it lost a lot more by default in the previous decade.

The NLP stalwarts believed in the mission to replace Labour from the outside. They did not understand that the Labour Party will not be removed as a roadblock to the workers movement except as a result of an internal class struggle.

In NZ the history of the labour movement for nearly 100 years has been tied to the life of the Labour Party. It was formed in 1916 after the experience of bloody defeats in strikes to take the fight for socialism into parliament. It was the main vehicle for the rising prosperity of NZ workers after the war. Its shift to the right was dictated by the weakness of the NZ economy and the weakness of organised labour. Yet for most workers it’s still the only game in town.

This means that the working class will not develop any real independence until it stages a fight to the death to revive and split the Labour Party from inside the Labourite unions. And it can only do this by first rebuilding the unions under rank and file control. Trying to push Labour left from the outside without a base in the unions is a futile exercise that further weakens the labour movement and sets back the day of reckoning for Labour.

But instead of learning this lesson, what was left of the Alliance followed Anderton’s main bother boy McCarten into his scheme for building a personal army of workers to get him elected in Auckland Central. This was a sort of caricature of Anderton’s electorate machine in Riccarton.

Tragedy becomes comedy Central

McCarten took over the shell of UNITE! a tiny, almost stillborn union, founded by Alliance unionists including Robert Reid back in the mid 90s. UNITE! was set up to be a union of lowpaid workers, unemployed and beneficiaries. McCarten rebranded it as lowercase Unite without the emphatic (!), formed an ‘workers’ branch in Auckland and did his best to keep unemployed and beneficiaries out. McCarten and his left handyman, Mike Treen, ex-Socialist Action activist, set about recruiting show dancers, fast food workers and English language teachers.

The intention to build a union of the low paid (even without the unemployed and beneficiaries) is good and necessary. (See UNITE! report in this issue). To his credit, McCarten instinctively saw the need to unionise the thousands of casualised service workers left alone by the established unions. But he didn’t want to the burden of organising the unemployed and beneficiaries. He picked the eyes out of sites that could get him the numbers and financial backing to build his electoral machine.

Instead of creating a democratic union that could be a model for rebuilding the rest of the unions, McCarten created separate branches for each worksite where only he as the ‘secretary’ of all these ‘unions’ could control them. Not until this method of union building came into conflict with other Alliance members working in unions whose members were being poached, did McCarten come under fire. And even then it wasn’t McCarten’s strategy but his poaching that raised the ire of other Alliance unionists. But by then McCarten was already preparing to take the Alliance and his ‘Unite’ into the Maori Party.

When Anderton supported the Labour Government in sending troops to Afghanistan, the stand taken by other Alliance MPs and the party against this was principled. The problem, however, was that the Alliance had no union base to mobilise against the war. McCarten’s new union was not built on a political program but his personal patronage. Unite lite was no base to oppose the war.

Unite lite and Alliance left back cops

In fact Unite lite couldnt even oppose the cops. McCarten proved this when he crossed the picket line formed by UNITE! members of the UNITE! West Auckland, against his partner, Alliance member Kathy Caseys exhibition ‘Comrades and Cossacks’ that was co-sponsored by the NZ Police and publically opened by high-ranked police officers. As he crossed this picket line opposing NZ working class history being funded by policewho had played a key role in smashing the 1913 general strike, McCarten challeged the picketers to attend one of his recruitment rallies!

While McCarten got some internal criticism from other Alliance members for his fraternatisation with the cops, other Alliance ‘lefts’ also crossed the picket line relegating class struggle to academic ‘history’. Then McCarten was re-elected leader shortly afterwards. At the same time the Alliance left was regrouping around a new Manifesto in which the Alliance was identified as a ‘socialist party’ based on ‘working people’. Yet nowhere in this Manifesto was there any serious orientation to the unions as the base of any ‘socialist’ party. Class struggle had been relegated to the history of ‘Comrades and Cossacks’ and Parliament remained the holy grail.

But the Alliance was still outside the Labour Party and with no prospect of getting a base in the wider labour movement. McCarten’s search for an ‘army’ of workers to get him elected in Auckland Central was more like pissing in the wind. The demise of the Alliance looked certain when the political shit hit the Foreshore and Seabed fan.

Along Comes Tariana

At first the Alliance backed Labour’s decision to block the Appeal Court’s decision and turn the F&S into ‘public domain’. But the Hikoi changed that when McCarten and Treen found a few thousand potential voters marching to Wellington. Never mind that the Hikoi was against putting the F&S into ‘public domain’ the Alliance turned on its toes and next thing we know is McCarten is offering to run Turia’s election campaign in Te Tai Hauauru. The Alliance Council came out in support of the new Maori Party without any idea what its program would be.

With Turia’s overwhelming by-election victory the Maori Party seems set to challenge Labour for all the Maori seats. The scene is also set for a deal between the Alliance and the MP to campaign against Labour. But while the Anderton split with Labour damaged the Labour movement by pissing into Labour’s tent, the Maori Party looks like splitting the labour movement and pissing into its own tend somewhere in ‘middle ground’ of parliament. The Maori Party has made it clear that it is organised on an ethnic basis and will canvass support for ‘Maori’ interests from both Labour and National.

Matt backs Turia, left splits?

By backing this move by the MP and taking his workersinto this party McCarten is creating a potentially more damaging split with the labour movement than Anderton did 15 years ago. While Anderton’s Alliance spent a decade in the wilderness failing to renew the fight inside the Labour Party, McCarten’s propospal for a Maori Party/Alliance shackup looks like taking Maori workers out of an already weakened labour movement into tribal politics where they will be abused as electoral fodder for a bunch of iwi bureaucrats, politicos and capitalists.

This is dragging the best working class fighters, who can revive the labour movement and lead the fight against imperialism and kiwi crony capitalism, into the arms of their class enemies – Bush and Brash. The corporate ‘warriors’ in the Maori Party who have benefited from the Treaty settlement process will try to use the ‘balance of power’ to pressure the bosses to get a larger share of the profits of kiwi capitalism distributed into their pockets.

But they will be even less successful than they were under the Treaty settlements that funded the birth of small-scale Maori capitalism over the last 20 years. The imperialist ruling class and its kiwi cronies will use MMP to buy off the Maori bosses at the expense of the vast majority of Maori who are members of the casualised working class.

What to do?

Those few hundred members of the Alliance who are serious about building a ‘socialist party’ based upon working people,who are for ‘democratic socialism’ in practice, must turn their backs on their attempts to rebuild the Labour Party from the outside.

The debates taking place inside the Alliance are still dominated by electoral strategy and tactics to recruit members (See Jill Ovens ‘Strange saga of the Alliance’ Red &Green No 3, 2004 p.75). Liquidating into the Maori Party or the Greens abandons the real fight inside the labour movement to build united democratic unions. But building an independent party of the left without a base in the unions also avoids the basic issue. The way to remove the Labour roadblock is to fight for a new workers party by smashing the labour bureaucracy’s hold over workers in the the unions.

Leon Trotsky writing just before he was killed in 1940 on: “Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay” says that because the unions have become “semi-state institutions” it is necessary to “struggle to turn the trade unions into the organs of the broad exploited masses and not the organs of the labor aristocracy…The primary slogan for this struggle is: complete and unconditional independence of the trade unions in relation to the capitalist state.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1940/1940-tu.htm

Workers will remain trapped inside Labour until they begin to rebuild their unions under rank and file control and break from the bureaucracy and the state. Those Alliance members who are serious about socialism should dedicate themselves to the task of workers democracy and repudiate McCarten’s sell-out into a Maori Party splitting the labour movement and diverting workers into ‘cargo cult’ deals with Brash or Clark and away from united working class struggle.

Communist Workers Group has made clear its stand on the necessity and urgency of mobilising a united working class to fight the sell-out of the F&S against the dead end of the parliamentary road. Equally we have insisted that such mobilisations will not happen unless all socialists put their practice where their rhetoric is and fight to rebuild the labour movement to break from the labour bureaucracy of the ‘big three’ unions and the Blairite ideology of the Labour Government.

Finally, none of this will happen if NZ workers remain trapped in patriotic alliances with any bourgeois party trying to negotiate deals with Australian, US or other imperialist interests to defend our jobs and freedoms. We have to build internationalist unions capable of defending the jobs and freedoms of workers everywhere. CWG pledges to play its part in all united fronts where socialists unite to “strike together, but march separately.”

Unite to Occupy the Foreshore and Seabed!

Build Fighting, Democratic Unions!

Solidarity campaign for Iraqi workers!

Endorse the Abdul Raheem Appeal! 

From Class Struggle 57 August-September 2004


Maori Party Debate: Anti-Communist means Anti-Maori

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Jesse Butler made a number of replies to the CWG’s Open Letter to the Green Left Weekly (see next post) in response to Butler’s article after it was posted on the indymedia news service. Here we reprint one of Butler’s replies and our response to him.

To the CWG,

Once again we are bombarded with the outdated rhetoric of the communist party, now focusing on Tariana’s reasonable comment to work with anyone, including National, to obtain equality and justice in Aotearoa.

Where is the alternative system of the communist party? I hear a lot of bullshit from the sidelines yet very little in the way of an alternative game plan.

You’re not still waiting for your ‘revolution’ are you? Do you mean to say that the vast majority of the masses would rise up against the system that supplies them security, income and a future to your unarticulated communist system?

Surely, you are not suggesting another failed communist experiment experienced in Russia, China and North Korea to happen here in Aotearoa?

Communist dictators make Donald Brash look like a lollipop. And you want the New Zealand public to take you seriously?

No, I’m afraid your ramblings are blinded by ideology and obviously flawed in the political reality of this country.

My advice to you is to wake up and get off the sidelines, and have a real go at the opposition like we are. Basically put up or shut up.

We need all hands on deck against the neo-liberal onslaught, and sometimes that involves getting inside next to them so we can beat them at their own game.

Jesse Butler

The CWG replies:

Jesse’s response to our criticisms of his article shows very clearly that Green Left Weekly and Socialist Worker were wrong to print his accounts of the hikoi and the formation of the Maori Party. Jesse’s anti-communism would make Joe McCarthy and Ben Couch proud!

Anti-commie, anti-Maori

It’s sad to see some supporters of the Maori Party engaging in a red baiting that belongs to the days the Cold War, because it was Maori who were regularly asked to go abroad and die in the US’s wars against ‘communist tyranny’ in Korea, Malaya, and Vietnam. Thirty-two of the thirty-five Kiwi troops who died in Vietnam were Maori – what did they die for? Hasn’t Jesse learnt anything?

And Vietnam and Korea weren’t the first wars that New Zealand fought against ‘the communist menace’. The Waikato and Taranaki wars were crusades against communism, fought for the interests of settler capitalists who were infuriated by the Maori refusal to sell collectively-owned land.

Te Whiti and his followers at Parihaka was targeted by the warmongers not because they wore feathers in their hair but because they praised ‘the miracle of collective labour’ and refused to sell their collectively-owned land.

The gardens of the Maori kingdom in the Waikato were destroyed not because the people who worked them were using collective land ownership and labour to feed the fortress city of Auckland, where would-be land grabbers railed against ‘the socialistic natives’.

The CWG remembers the communism of Te Whiti, as well as the communism of Marx and the communism of the occupied factories movement in today’s Argentina. We want to see the foreshore and the whole of Aotearoa run collectively.

That’s why we reject the Maori Party.

Different party, same mistakes

The Maori Party’s strategy is to capture the balance of parliamentary seats, and try to get good deals for Maori, and especially for iwi commercial interests, by using the balance of power in negotiations with the major parties. This strategy cannot succeed for two reasons.

In the first place, the ability of the major parties to influence the economy in favour of Maori business is limited, because the New Zealand economy is mostly owned offshore, by US and US-Aussie companies.

The domination of the Kiwi economy by US and other imperialisms means that iwi businesses have little chance of succeeding, or even surviving.

They do not have the capital to compete with the multinationals, and as little fish will inevitably be swallowed up by the big fish. But even if Maori capitalism were a viable venture, the Maori Party would not benefit many Maori, because very few Maori are capitalists.

The vast majority of Maori are workers or the dependents of workers. All Kiwi workers have an interest in better pay and conditions, and better social services like health and education.

These interests clash with those of capitalists, because capitalists make their profits from the wages of workers. It’s no coincidence that employers’ groups have been at the forefront of campaigns against pro-worker arguments and policies like the minimum wage, the right to strike, paid parental leave, and increased funding for public health.

Brown bosses are no more pro-worker than white bosses, and the mini-capitalists of the iwicorps are now fighting class wars of their own. Look at Ngati Whatua bosses wanting to sell off housing their own people won back in the Bastion Pt struggle. Look at the struggles against Robert Mahuta and more recently Tuku Morgan by Tainui Maori sick of corporate cowboy behaviour.

The Maori Party’s strategy has been repeatedly tried and repeatedly found wanting over the past few years.

The tight five of NZ First and then Mauri Pacific tried to advance Maori interests in coalition with National, and ended up supporting the privatisation of Auckland Airport and rimu logging on the West Coast. In return they got fat salaries and some nice undies. Nice for them, but not so good for their supporters, who booted them out in 1999.

Mana Motuhake entered government in 1999, but Willie Jackson and Sandra Lee were as unable to win concessions as the tight five before them. They couldn’t even stop Labour junking its weak-as-water Closing the Gaps scheme after National kicked up a proto-Brashian fuss. In return for his non-existent policy wins Jackson ended up having to back the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, on the grounds that ‘The SAS boys are Maori and they want to go’.

Tariana played a key role in the Pakaitore occupation in 1995, but got sucked into the Labour Party by the promise of winning those elusive policy concessions. We all know how she got on there.

The hikoi could have turned into an alternative to parliamentarism – there were militant elements on it that rejected the failure of repeated attempts to work ‘within the system’. Why get blisters walking from Te Hapua to Wellington, if you can influence policy from the comfort of the cabinet room?

Back to the future!

For these advocates of extra-parliamentary protest action, the hikoi looked back to the great days of the 1970s and early 80s, when Maori and their supporters waged a series of struggles which shook the Kiwi ruling class to its core.

The Great Land March of 1975, the epic occupation of Bastion Point, the struggle to reclaim the Raglan Golf Course, and the hikoi to Waitangi in 1984 were all examples of Maori direct action against ‘the system’.

Before it got tied up in the red tape of the ‘Treaty process’, the Maori direct action movement managed to win a whole series of victories.

Make no mistake: Bastion Pt was won back by direct action, not parliament. The Maori land at Raglan is no longer a golf course because of direct action, not some cabinet seat.

Language nests exist today because Maori kicked up a stink in the streets in the 70s and early 80s, not because of Tau Henare or Tariana.

The partial victory Tariana helped win at Pakaitore in the mid-90s stands in stark contrast to the same woman’s utter failure to influence Labour policy as a cabinet minister.

And the hikoi struck far more terror into the hearts of the establishment than the electoral triumphs of Tau, Willie and the rest of them combined. ‘Wellington under siege!’ the Herald screamed.

There was a palpable sense of relief when Tariana turned the final day of the hikoi into an electoral rally, and went on TV with Gerry Brownlee to announce her openness to a coalition deal with National.

Tariana played the same role in Wellington as Dame Whina played after the Land March. Dame Whina told the militant young Maori who set up an occupation of parliament grounds to pack up and go home and work inside the system, and the militants were right to refuse, and to lay the ground for the occupations that were to come!

Today Tariana is telling us to forget about the old hikoi, that the ‘next hikoi will be the ballot box’. We should refuse her call too, and organise occupations of threatened sections of foreshore up and down the country.

While Tariana sets out her election stall and promises the same things as Tau and Willie promised, the theft of the foreshore proceeds, the American mansions go up on wahi tapu, and the ‘free’ trade deal gets closer and closer. Labour and the bosses aren’t stopping, so why should we?

Browns and reds unite!

We can make sure occupations and other direct actions are successful by building on the tradition of Maori-communist struggle which Jesse mocks.

We have already mentioned the armed struggle to defend the collectively-owned and worked Waikato from capitalists in the 1860s, and the passive resistance to privatisation which Te Whiti is famous for, but Maori struggle against capitalism didn’t stop in the nineteenth century.

There is a long history of collaboration between revolutionary socialists and Maori, a tradition which includes the solidarity the Tainui Maori showed to the Red Federation of Labour during the revolutionary General Strike of 1913, through the socialist and trade unionist presence in the occupations of the 70s, to the anti-Springbok protests of 1981, right up to the present day actions of communist Maori activists like Justin Taua.

Communists have always understood that only the muscle of organised workers can win crucial struggles like the Maori struggle for land rights. Unlike Tau or Tariana, communists recognise the common interests of Maori and Pakeha workers, and the importance of getting them together on the picket line.

Since we’ve mentioned it already we’ll use the example of Bastion Pt to illustrate the point we’re making in more detail.

By the 1930s almost the only piece of land the ‘friendly’ tribe of Ngati Whatua possessed was a small strip of coast near Bastion Pt.

Auckland city authorities wanted to strip Ngati Whatua of this piece of land and the village that stood on it, but they reckoned without the alliance which Ngati Whatua’s Tainui ally Princess Te Puea had made with the Pakeha-dominated trade union movement and with the Communist Party.

Tainui solidarity with the workers’ movement went back to 1913, when iwi leaders urged Maori not to undermine the General Strike by signing on to do the jobs of strikers.

Communist Party unionists returned the favour by championing the grievances of Waikato Tainui, who since returning from exile in the Rohe Potae in 1883 had struggled relentlessly to regain their confiscated lands.

When word went out that the government was about to move on the Maori village near Bastion Point in 1937communists in Auckland’s trade unions swung into action.

Ron Mason, who was organising with the General Labourers Union, put out an urgent call to the city’s builders, and four hundred of them descended on the threatened settlement.

With the help of Ngati Whatua and Tainui, the builders worked non-stop to fortify the village, laying tall palisades in a concrete foundation. Workers prepared to defend the village, and the government backed down.

It was not until sixteen years later, in 1953, that the government was finally able to burn the village of Orakei to the ground.

It is no coincidence that this act of ethnic cleansing took place after the defeat of the radical workers movement in the Great Waterfront Lockout of 1951. Without the support of organised labour Ngati Whatua were weakened. The fortunes of the workers’ movement and Maori have always been linked.

When the struggle for Bastion Pt and surrounding land revived in the 70s, trade unionists and a new generation of communists were amongst the vanguard.

Unionists took the issue into their organisations, raising thousands of dollars in aid and bringing in work teams to help the occupiers build a new village on Bastion Point. Communist organisations turned their dinky printing presses to the task of publicising the cause.

When Muldoon sent in the armed forces to crush the occupation at Bastion Point, trade unionists and communists stood on the picket line, and thousands of workers walked off the job around Auckland in a spontaneous protest strike.

Carpenters and truckies who had been called out to a mysterious ‘big job’ refused to work, when they found that they were being asked to help demolish the Bastion Point settlement.

Solidarity continued into the 80s, when Ngati Whatua were finally able to recover their land. The degeneration into corporatism of the leadership of Ngati Whatua doesn’t wipe out the victory of Bastion Point, but it does show once again that without a strong workers’ movement the Maori flaxroots are weak.

Occupy for sure!

Today we need to revive the spirit of Bastion Point by building on the support for the hikoi shown by unions like the National Distribution Union, the Service and Food Workers Union, Aste, and the Manufacturing and Construction Union.

Neither Pakeha nor Maori unionists will ever back a party that makes overtures to National, but many of them will back occupations of a foreshore which all ordinary New Zealanders value and worry about losing.

By occupying the foreshore and inviting ordinary Pakeha to join them, Maori can take the wind out of the sails of the right-wingers who say that the hikoi was about Maori privatisation, while at the same time thwarting the iwicorp opportunists who think that Maori sovereignty means Maori capitalism.

Sea farming and tourism ventures can be controlled by workers, not by brown or white capitalists.

And if the foreshore and its industries can be socialised, then why not the whole economy? A movement to socialise the whole of Aotearoa can take inspiration from the occupied factories of Argentina and the collective farms being established in Venezuela, as well as the indigenous communism of Rangiaowhia and Te Whiti.

This is the argument that the CWG made on the hikoi and has been making at Maori Party hui.

The argument from which this reply is taken can be read in full here:



From Class Struggle 57 August-September 2004