Prison reform on the path to prison abolition

corrections[Activist Olive McRae submitted this article to Socialist Review, and we were happy to print it in our latest issue. Nationals announcement last week of more plans for working prisons gives the article an added relevance and urgency. You can subscribe to Socialist Review here.]

“Those of us that identify as prison abolitionists as opposed to prison reformers, make the point that often reforms create situations where mass incarceration becomes even more entrenched and so therefore we have to think about what in the long run will produce decarceration, fewer people behind bars, and hopefully eventually in the future the possibility of imagining a landscape without prisons, where other means are used to address issues of harm. Where social problems such as illiteracy and poverty do not lead vast numbers of people along a trajectory that leads to prison.

In 1971  when the Attica rebellion took place, it was a really important moment in the history of mass incarceration, the history of the prison in this country. The prisoners who were the spokespeople for the uprising indicated that they were struggling for a world without prison. During the 1970s the notion of prison abolition became very important, in fact public intellectuals, judges, journalists, took it very seriously and began to think about alternatives.

However in the 1980s, with the dismantling of social services, structural adjustments and the rise of global capitalism, we began to see prison emerging as a major institution to address the problems that were produced by industrialization, lack of jobs, less funding in education, lack of education, the closure of systems designed to assist people who had mental and emotional problems, and now of course the prison system is also a psychiatric facility.

The question is, how does one address the needs of prisoners by instituting reforms that are not going to create a stronger prison system.” - Angela Davis (Val’s Show, 2014).

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Are the Greens a Left Alternative?

Love NZBrian S. Roper takes an in-depth look at the policies and politics of the Greens.

 

Introduction

As indicated by the major polls, support for the Green Party ranged from around 11% to 13% throughout 2014. The Green Party received 11% of the vote and 14 MPs at the 2011 general election, compared to Labour’s 27.5% and 34 seats. Yet despite having 20 fewer MPs than Labour and only six more than NZ First (6.6% of the vote and 8 seats), it has been much more effective as an opposition party within parliament than Labour. Indeed, on virtually every major issue during the Key Government’s second term, including asset sales, mining in national parks, the corruption and ‘crony capitalism’ of the Key Government, and the GCSB legislation, it has done a better job than Labour of criticizing the Government and, more importantly, has done a lot more than Labour to mobilize its members on the streets.

 

Whereas Labour is almost entirely an electoralist party, the Green Party attempts to combine a focus on winning elections with encouraging its members to get involved in flax roots activism. Many Green Party members are experienced and respected activists who have established a laudable track record of working in a non-sectarian and co-operative manner in progressive struggles and campaigns with others on the left, including the International Socialist Organisation (ISO).

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Women, Politics and Class: a Socialist Analysis for Aotearoa

Women workers: in the vanguard of Aotearoa's working class

Women workers: in the vanguard of Aotearoa’s working class

Women face a contradiction. While equal pay for women and men working for the government became the law in 1960, it wasn’t until the Equal Pay Act passed in 1972 that equal pay between the sexes across the board became legal. The Domestic Purposes Benefit, providing state support to single parents, was introduced in 1973.

Yet, four decades later, women are still paid less than men. Women’s hourly earnings are on average 12 to 15% less than men. The weekly gender pay gap is much greater because women are more likely to be in casual and part time work. Women’s average weekly pay is $879 and men’s is $1059 – a gender pay gap of 17%. The annual gender earnings gap is much wider, and this gap is widening according to Statistics NZ calculations. The recession and the earthquakes in Christchurch have all hurt women significantly more.

The Human Rights Commission wrote in their report New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation last year that “New Zealand is making, slow, incremental but unspectacular progress for women in many areas”. What they mean by unspectacular is that 22 government departments have gender pay gaps bigger than the average pay gap in the labour market; 9 government departments have more than 20% gender pay gap; women are still less than 30% of judges, less than 25% of senior academic staff; and less than 20% of top legal partnerships.

I can think of a few other adjectives than “unspectualar” to describe these damning statistics. [Read more...]

Hezbollah and the Syrian Revolution

SyriaImageHezbollah fought on the front lines against Israeli aggression against Lebanon in 2006, winning respect from Sunni and Shia in Lebanon and all opponents of Zionism. But Hezbollah fighters have now turned their fire on the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad’s regime in Syria, raising the risk of the Arab Spring becoming a sectarian war in Syria and Lebanon. Sam Campbell reports from Lebanon. [Read more...]

Bill’s Budget is a Castle Made of Sand

NZH0554598044On Radio Live last night, Duncan Garner was chortling with satisfaction at Bill English’s stewardship. His business guests were even more delighted. Andrew Patterson praised Bill English’s wisdom and prudence that had finally undone all the damage of the Clark Labour Government. In a pretty disgusting metaphor, Garner said Cameron Bagrie, the ANZ chief economist, soiled his trousers in delight when he read Bill’s Budget.

The Budget’s key features include measures to reduce house prices, ACC levy cuts, privatisation of Meridian Energy, support for businesses and for research and development, more money for Christchurch’s reconstruction, and, of course, a surplus – by 2015. [Read more...]

Marx and the Lassalleans

Lassalle2The following was presented as a talk at Marxism 2013 in Melbourne

Who today has even heard of Ferdinand Lassalle? Who cares about Marx’s battles with his followers? Lassalle’s writings are out of print, and his collections sit gathering dust in the stacks and back-rooms of libraries. Picking over these old quarrels seems, at first, like conforming to the clichéd image of the troublesome but scholastic and irrelevant Marxist, fighting not just last century’s battles but also throwing in one from the century before that for good measure.

There is, to be sure, a great distance between Lassalle’s world and our own. He was active in a time when Europe was still dominated by powerful monarchies, when the capitalist class and the old feudal and aristocratic order still battled for power over much of the continent. His was an era of absolutism, and a time when the peasantry were still a major social force. Modern Germany did not yet exist. [Read more...]

Oppose attacks on the disability benefit

Members of Disabled People Against Cuts protest in Britain

Members of Disabled People Against Cuts protest in Britain

This year the National government will be implementing changes to the disability benefit based on a similar system being used in the UK.

The welfare reforms in 2008 in the UK brought in a work capability assessment. A healthcare company is contracted to do these assessments. This company is currently Atos and its performance in this regard has been heavily criticised by disabled people’s organisations, as well as individuals, MPs, the Commons Select Committee for Work and Pensions, and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. [Read more...]

The Labour leadership battle

Shearer

From the outset of last year’s leadership contest Shearer was the choice of the capitalist class to take over from Phil Goff. There was a reason for that; Shearer was distinctly the right-wing candidate who signalled his willingness to jettison left-wing policies that Labour had adopted for the General Election. Shearer was the puppet of the mass-media. Shearer supporters wax indignant at the claim there is a left-right split in the leadership struggle, but what else are we to make of Shearer’s speeches attacking sickness beneficiaries and the support he’s received – and is receiving – from the right of the parliamentary party?

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Review: We Will Work With You!

This is a wonderful exhibition, and is bound to fascinate every left-wing person interested in art and design, or just curious to see some of the history of the many social and political struggles from the past decades in Wellington.

Some of the work and originality that the work building activist campaigns demands – in designing leaflets, getting out posters, thinking up slogans and songs – gives us just a little glimpse of the enormous wasted  creativity of working people, creativity too often smothered or ignored in jobs where people are just ‘human resources’ towards profits.

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What’s wrong with lesser evilism

Those who advocate a vote for the “lesser evil” hope to defeat the “greater evil” of the right wing–but they enable the Democrats to shift further right themselves.

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DOES BARACK Obama deserve your vote? That’s the question people on the left should be asking as Election Day approaches.

When you consider Obama’s record after four years in office–a multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street, the continuing “war on terror,” more civil liberties shredded, the Employee Free Choice Act abandoned, deportations on the rise, a deepening assault on public schools–the answer has to be no. The list of broken promises and betrayed hopes goes on and on, outweighing anything that could be described as progress.

[Read more...]

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