A round-up of interesting links and articles from January.
The Nasty Nats
John Minto profiles Paula Bennett, the politician who wanted all beneficiaries to be subject to invasive blood tests.
A picture from summer: John Key is a member of the ruling elite, and nobody should forget this image: two multi-millionaires, forcing austerity policies on the masses, playing golf on a private island paradise.
Details of an ex-cop and upcoming Nat MP, and his bevy of police-state Members Bills. No right to silence, locking up parents to scare their kids into behaving. Charming.
A University of Auckland study of health issues for transgender students shows the problems transgender youth face, and underlines the importance of activism.
It was the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark US abortion rights case, recently: this Socialist Worker article profiles how women’s rights are under threat there.
Education is an issue that has to be taken seriously, especially in an election year. National have threatened schools with closure, teachers with performance pay, and students with exams galore in order to bring in the kind of capitalist ‘market’ that has failed children in the United States. In that vein, National announced a new education policy for the election centred around ‘Change Principals’, and expert teachers. This has met with mixed analyses and reactions. The PPTA’s initial response was cautiously positive, claiming that positions dedicated to developing teachers professionally, and committing the resources to do so was a good thing. Others point to international evidence on these so-called ‘Parachuting Principles’ and point out that they don’t work. The policy assumes that the problem in education is teachers. As John Minto points out in a MANA press release, the problem is not teachers or teaching. It is poverty. The $350 million that National wants to spend on ‘executive teachers’ is money they refuse to spend on feeding children in poverty, or reducing class sizes, or preventing their parents from earning a decent wage.
What about charter schools? The PPTA document their exorbitant funding here.
A major strike by Korean rail workers was missed by most New Zealand media over the Christmas break – Red Flag looks at what is at stake.
Jeff Sparrow dissects Australia’s role as the ‘steroid-soaked bully’ of the Pacific, while Senthorun Raj considers intersecting LGBTI and refugee rights in the face of Abbott’s disdain for both. Kelly Briggs reminded us on Invasion Day of the fears Aboriginal women still face that their children will be stolen by the state.
Progressive electoral victories in Okinawa throw a spanner in US plans for military base redevelopment – Gavan McCormack writes on the ‘struggle for democracy in Japan’ here. Two other pieces on Japan: Amy Goodman writes on the lessons from Japan’s nuclear disaster, while her Democracy Now! show looks at the country’s rightward drift under Abe.
David Finkel hopes Ariel Sharon rots in peace – read his anti-obituary in the US socialist magazine Solidarity.
The Internet Party
Kim Dotcom (A multi-millionaire tycoon whose first political act in Aotearoa was to give a massive donation to the rabidly right-wing John Banks) announced this month that he was planning to create an ‘Internet Party’. Other than some general posturing that it would ‘engage non-voters’, nothing of substance, policies or otherwise have been announced. Yet Martyn Bradbury, once a supporter of Mana, has treated this as a massive blow to the National Party. He argues that it has a chance of success because young rich people will like it. Similar sentiments are being espoused by Chris Trotter. Quoting from his own book, he compares Kim Dotcom to Michael Savage, arguing that his ‘rock star’ popularity will be translated into political success. The idea seems to be the people who don’t vote do so simply out of boredom, and that we (and the Left in general) should praise any force that makes politics ‘exciting’. Also interesting is Keith Locke’s perspective, claiming that the value of the Internet party is in ‘legitimizing Green Party Policies’, and expands that analysis to MANA and the Maori parties.
The whole party may have been a non-starter, but the discussion offers useful points for reflection. The truth is that ‘razzmatazz’ might get the cynical pundit peanut gallery excited, but the ‘non-voters’ don’t abstain out of boredom, but because of decades of neoliberal policies that don’t appear to offer any real alternative. Gordon Campbell’s perspective is sobering.
History and Theory
A re-launched International Socialist Review comes with articles on Black feminism and intersectionality, prospects for the Left in Greece, explaining gender violence in the neoliberal era.
Lance Selfa and Stuart Easterling consider the Zapatista uprising twenty years on.
At Monthly Review John Newsinger documents Britain’s noxious history of imperial warfare.
The November-December issue of New Left Review contains a polemical – and convincing – demolition of Guy Standing’s notion of the “precariat” , and a very interesting article on welfare in the 21st century.