Who’s to blame for the Greek tragedy?

11214058_10153448063423637_1745574257028690087_nby Ben Hillier

Unpayable debts, a catastrophic economic depression and teetering on the brink total collapse. How did Greece get into this position?

The most popular answer is that public spending has been too high, and the government sector bloated. It sounds plausible when the entire story revolves around debt. After all, everyone knows that debt is the result of spending more than you earn. Yet it isn’t so straightforward.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development noted in 2011: “Greece has one of the lowest rates of public employment among OECD countries, with general government employing just 7.9 percent of the total labour force in 2008 … Across the OECD area, the share of government employment [averages] 15 percent.” [Read more…]

Dairy Millionaires and the “Monster that hit Vanuatu”

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By Andrew Tait

Dairy has been the fastest growing sector of the NZ economy in the last 20 years, making millions for a handful of farmers but also methane – a climate change gas. Vanuatu has just been smashed by Cyclone Pam. These things are connected.

Vanuatu president Baldwin Lonsdale has described Cyclone Pam as “the monster that has hit Vanuatu”, and has said the worsening cyclone seasons that hit the island nation are directly related to climate change. “We see the level of sea rise … The cyclone seasons, the warm, the rain, all this is affected ,” he said. “This year we have more than in any year … Yes, climate change is contributing to this.”

[Read more…]

What’s wrong with capitalism?

Whats wrong with capitalismJosh O’Sullivan gave this talk to the Tamaki Makaurau branch of the ISO in March.

Capitalism is a uniquely dynamic system, the basis for its dynamism is the complete revolution of production – how we make the world we live in. As time has marched on, our lives have changed dramatically, the creation of all our modern conveniences have improved the quality of life the world over. Over the last few centuries, the spread of capitalism has generated a phenomenal leap in human progress, leading to both previously unimaginable increases in material living standards and the unprecedented cultivation of all kinds of human potential. We have gone from barely making inroads into vast tracks of wilderness, whereas now there is no place on earth that is untouched by human activity.

Capitalism’s intrinsic dynamism, however, produces serious insecurity along with these benefits, and as such its advance has always met resistance. Much of the political and institutional history of capitalist societies, in fact, have been the record of attempts to ease or cushion that insecurity of the market, and in some cases outright overthrowing it. In a system beholden to the whims of the market, in the lens of profit and loss, we cannot plan for the future or even foresee the consequences of our own actions. [Read more…]

Vale Dick Morrison

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We were saddened to learn of the death earlier this month of Dick Morrison, a veteran of the socialist movement in Aotearoa and a pioneering leader in the Gay Liberation movement.

Morrison was part of the generation radicalized by the movement against the Vietnam War, the struggle for black liberation in South Africa and the burgeoning trade union and Maori land rights movement in this country. Revolution was in the air, and many young radicals and thinkers – including Dick Morrison and also his sister, Meryl Morrison – were getting drawn to Marxist ideas.

[Read more…]

Socialism makes sense

by Ben Hillier

socialism

It’s sensible, anyone can understand it.
It’s easy.
You’re not an exploiter, so you can grasp it.
It’s a good thing for you,
find out more about it.
The stupid call it stupid and the squalid call it squalid.

It’s against squalor and against stupidity.
The exploiters call it a crime but we know:
It is the end of crime
It is not madness, but the end of madness.
It is not the riddle but the solution
It is the simplest thing so hard to achieve.

– Bertolt Brecht, “In praise of communism”

German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht was spot on. [Read more…]

Sexual Assault and the Police

nz policeLast week’s decision by the New Zealand police not to press charges against the so-called “Roast Busters” confirmed for many that the police are incapable of taking rape or sexual violence seriously.

For survivors, the close to one-yearlong investigation Operation Clover was a slap in the face. The whole thing seemed faulty even before the investigation began. Despite videos of young men boasting online for having what amounted to non-consensual sex  – rape –  police initially said that their hands were tied because no one was “brave enough” to come forward to lay a formal complaint. It was revealed days later that someone had laid a formal complaint with the police … two years previously.

Compare this inaction to the police’s proactive stance when it comes to author Nicky Hager. After the publication of Dirty Politics in August revealing the sordid relationship between the National party, rightwing blogger Cameron Slater, lobby groups, and big business, police were knocking on Hager’s door with a search warrant by October. [Read more…]

A Victory in the Long March for Equal Pay

kristine-smallAnother legal victory has been chalked up for equal pay and it is a big one. On 28 October the Court of Appeal delivered its judgement on the appeal by Terranova Homes against the Employment Court’s decision in favour of Kristine Bartlett’s case for equal pay. Two courts now have ruled that Terranova Homes, and by implication many other employers, are breaching the 1972 Equal Pay Act. The point of contention is whether a predominantly female workforce should be paid the same rates as a comparable predominantly male workforce working with the same levels of skills, effort, and responsibility. Terranova pay their women workers the same as their handful of men workers. This does not help the women as the men are paid a pittance as well. [Read more…]

Solidarity with Mexican Students

Acapulco protests

Photograph: Eduardo Verdugo/AP

Dear students and families of the Ayotzinapa Normal School:

It is with deep sorrow that we learnt of the terrible events of September 26 this year, when three students of your school were assassinated, and 43 were kidnapped by the municipal police of Iguala and Cucula, and handed over to a criminal group.

Those comrades, your sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends, are now martyrs of a cause we share with you from the distance of the other side of the ocean.

They were building a fairer future, they were fighting for social justice and they were progressing on it, they were achieving it step by step. That is why the authority was afraid of them, and sent the police to repress them, because they were making a difference. But the power of the richn and their corruption will never stop the voices of justice. Especially if it’s carried by those who dare to dream and the youth who fight for freedom, like the dear and beautiful disappeared students.

From here, thousands of kilometres away, we send you all of our solidarity and we assure you are not alone. Your loss is also our loss, and our hearts are also sad for those 46 students, who will be for ever in our memories as the seeds of freedom.

We demand justice for these events. We demand that the responsible be processed under the justice and sentenced as they deserve to be – be they mayors and policeman, legal authorities and criminal groups.
And to you, we beg you not to surrender. Your fight is our fight, and is just and true.

ALIVE THEY TOOK THEM, ALIVE WE WANT THEM BACK!

International Socialist Organisation.

Students, Workers and the Class Struggle

auckland university student protestThe history of capitalism is the history of revolt. Throughout the 19th, 20th and now the 21st centuries the capitalist system has been wracked by crises during which the normal functioning of the system is halted, leaving millions of ordinary people with no option other than to rise up. Workers of course, are a wellspring of resistance to the capitalist system and will be central actors in its overthrow. But revolt against the system comes at the same time from innumerous directions. The struggles of students and youth are one such source of revolt, one that has in many times and places made an important contribution the wider struggle against the whole capitalist system.

It’s evident today of course, that students are not innately radical. But radicalism seldom begins all at once. More usually it begins to coalesce around more immediate interests. Hundreds joined protests at Auckland University in 1965 to demand government action on university building programs, bursaries and student residences. Students at Otago began by challenging draconian university regulations that prohibited mixed flatting in 1967. Actions on welfare issues continued to be a theme throughout the high points of student radicalism during the late 60s and 70s, as students campaigned against ‘slumlords’ and defended academic freedom from the incursions of the SIS. [Read more…]

Growing Inequality – and a sign of resistance

From left: Tamasailau, Nicole, Vaiopa’a, Maua, Faaasu, Jacoba and Moanille. Photo / Jason Oxenham (from the NZ Herald)

The latest Stats NZ Household Income report has revealed that inequality in New Zealand continues to grow. The New Zealand Herald was very careful to split out a number of stories to get the best possible spin, but in combination the picture is stark.

The first story was about household income. The median household income (the middle of the distribution, rather than the average) is up $25 on the previous year, a 4.3% rise and the largest in 7 years! Hoorah! Key’s rockstar economy at work! However, this is in contrast to the average income, which increased by 6.2 percent, indicating that the bulk of the growth was in the take home wealth of the already better off. [Read more…]

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