Capitalism is a system based explicitly on the exploitation of the many by the few. Throughout its few short centuries of existence, it has extended massive inequality to every corner of the globe. The supposed “free market” has pushed that process to the extreme, especially between the exploited countries of the global “south” and the global “north”. The extreme poverty of the people living in countries which produce luxury goods such as tea, coffee and cocoa is both inescapable and well understood by western consumers. Consequently, there have been a number of schemes set up with the supposed goal of reducing the suffering of exploited peoples, principal among them is Fair Trade.
By Dougal McNeill
Kristine Bartlett is a hero. Her case put the question of equal pay back at the centre of politics. Bartlett has been employed for twenty years doing socially vital work as a carer for the elderly, and yet she was paid an insulting $14.46 an hour. This, Bartlett and the SFWU argued, breached the Equal Pay Act (1972) — her pay was less than men would get for work of the same level of skill. She won. The court ruled for the first time that the Act applied to comparisons between predominantly women’s jobs and men’s. This win makes clear the point that true equal pay must involve pay equity. Because low-paid women are concentrated in female-dominated industries such as cleaning and care, it’s not enough to look at pay differences within single industries.
by Tim Leadbeater
This year New Zealand and Australia commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign. One hundred years ago thousands of Allied troops invaded what was then the Ottoman Empire on April 25th 1915. The ensuing eight month battle was a grim and bloody affair fought within a tiny section of the Mediterranean coastline. Casualties were heavy on both sides, with the number of Turkish and Arab deaths being by far the highest. It was the first major battle the newly christened ‘Anzac’ soldiers had been involved in, and the large number of deaths had a profound impact upon the people of New Zealand and Australia. The following years of battle took an even heavier toll, but this first shock assumed a sort of mythic status, and now the date of April 25th is the focus of WW1 commemoration in New Zealand and Australia.
By Shomi Yoon
“What we need is an outright ban on foreigners owning land or houses in New Zealand.”
“This 3rd great [Chinese] colonisation could finally be a bridge building event between Pakeha and Maori.”
You’d be forgiven if you thought these quotes are from a National Front website. Building a bridge for a coming race war? Foreigners out? New Zealand for the New Zealanders? This has the same tone and paranoia of the Yellow Peril rhetoric that comes out of the racist Right.
These quotes are actually from veteran activist John Minto and union-funded blogger Martyn Bradbury. Far from attacking Labour’s race-baiting of Chinese foreigners based on shonky statistics, they’re both in agreement with this anti-Chinese, anti-foreigner rhetoric.
The miseries of the Great Depression hit Māori workers particularly hard. Mass unemployment, poverty, slave-labour like conditions in relief works, poor housing and slumlords profiteering from renting out hovels – this was the fate of many hundreds of thousands of workers across the country. Māori workers, still concentrated in rural areas and in some of the most isolated and deprived parts of the country, suffered particularly intensely. And, in addition to their economic hardship, they had to face open discrimination and racism from the state and its agencies.
Unemployed workers fought back, and the early 1930s saw pitched riots in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. Crowds smashed windows and fought with police in Queen Street and up Cuba Street. Labour’s first victory came in these years, followed by its second, more emphatic win on the back of social reforms. How the Communist Party of New Zealand responded in its paper, the Weekly Worker, to the racism Māori faced offers a fascinating insight into how organised militant workers can take up the question of oppression. A few articles from the paper in 1934 and 1935 give a snapshot of the Party’s organising.
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…]
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.”
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…]
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.
by Ben Hillier
It’s sensible, anyone can understand it.
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…]