Land is the Price: colonialism then…and now

Nothing to “celebrate” in Tuia 250 – Cook is a symbol of ongoing colonial violence

By Josh O’Sullivan

Throughout history capitalists has searched the world for profitable exploitation. To create a paradise for capital, lands were sought, claimed and the people that lived there forced off their communal property. Those commoners then became the pool of labour that the industrial revolution was built on. From the enclosing of the commons in Britain to the colonisation projects the world over, this pattern was repeated. The robbery of land, and the subsequent creation of wage labour, is found throughout histories of colonisation.

The means by which this accumulation is first gathered has its roots in slavery, alienation, pauperism and genocide. As Marx stated “Capitalism comes into the world dripping from head to foot, from every pore with blood and dirt.”

Plotting an empire

The economic crisis and wars in Europe during the 1830’s drove the push for colonial expansion. There was not only the unemployed labour but also unemployed capital which could not be invested at a profit in Britain. This situation was driving down the rate of profit of capital already invested. Not only did the Empire need a place to send its “unwashed”, unemployed masses, it also needed new markets to sell in, new profitable investment opportunities and, most importantly, to accumulate natural capital.

Edward Wakefield was one of the most ardent British politicians to argue for capitalist expansion and accumulation in the colonies, particularly in Aotearoa. Wakefield deplored the fact that in the American colonies men acquired land easily, supported themselves by their own labour. This made it difficult to accumulate capital for there was little unemployed labour to put to work. He attributed this ability of some working men to acquire land and develop self-sufficiency as a direct cause of the American Revolution.

Wakefield was fixated on how to replicate British class society where, instead of each man having his own plot of land, some would have to work for others and accumulate wealth for their employers and not for themselves. Previously slavery had been used to generate a reserve supply of labour. For later colonies slavery was no longer an option as it had been abolished in 1833.

The convict method in Australia was the next evolution of the colonial endeavour. Vagrancy laws were introduced in Britain to round up the poor and dispossessed who were suffering from the effects of the economic crisis. Prison ships, “hulks”, were used at first then the poor were shipped to Australia. Because of their convict status, Australian workers were unable to accumulate capital themselves but made their employers rich. Convicts from Britain, however, were not enough. After clearing the numerous Aboriginal lands in Australia through genocidal policies, the new colony found itself with thousands of acres and too little “free” labour to do the work. [Read more…]

Defeat the Bill! The struggle against the Employment Contracts Bill, 1991

Stop Contracts Billby Dougal McNeill

 

‘We’ll need to go on strike, an ongoing strike.’  That’s how Jane Otuafi, a delegate in the Engineers’ Union, responded in March 1991 to the recently elected National government’s plan for an Employment Contracts Act. [1] ‘A general strike is the only answer,’ job delegate Sa Leutele of the Northern Distribution Union agreed. ‘I’ve had several meetings to explain to the boys that the only way we can fight is to stick together. Otherwise nobody will survive after the Bill.’ [2]

Leutele’s words were prophetic. The Employment Contracts Act, once it passed, had a devastating effect on workers’ rights and living standards in New Zealand. It dealt a body blow to the trade union movement, one from which we’ve never recovered. Union membership almost halved between 1991 and 1995, with union density going from 41.5% to 21.7%, and has staggered in the private sector ever since. Workers’ organisation and confidence – expressed in working days ‘lost’ to strike activity – has been hit harder, with historic low levels of industrial struggle through the 1990s and 2000s. ‘The ECA,’ as Brian Roper puts it, ‘effectively deunionised and casualised large sectors of the workforce.’ [3] The viciously unequal New Zealand we live in now is shaped by the legacy of the ECA: 10% of the population owning 52% of the wealth; casualization and low pay the norm across the service industries; homeless families living in cars a ‘new reality’; and racialized poverty resulting in a Māori unemployment rate twice the national average. [4] The union movement, a basic line of defence for working people, held this back. It’s no wonder, then, that National set out to destroy the unions as effective fighting tools. [Read more…]

After the Elections: Political Perspectives in Japan

No Nukes

In-depth post-election perspectives from Japanese socialist Tsutomu Teramoto. Teramoto is a member of the Japan Revolutionary Communist League. 

As expected, the general election of December 14, 2014 gave an absolute majority of the seats again to the ruling coalition of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komei Party. LDP got 291 seats and Komei Party got 35 seats out of the total of 475 seats. The biggest opposition, Democratic Party (DP) got only 73 seats. [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…]

If you didn’t vote you can still complain

Vote Sept 20The day after National’s resounding electoral victory, social media was awash with people blaming nonvoters for National’s victory. News feeds expressing sentiments like, “What’s wrong with you people?” came quick and fast.

Martyn Bradbury from the Daily Blog epitomizes this,

“I was wrong, horribly, horribly, horribly wrong. I honestly believed that the resources, the media attention, the vile toxic politics exposed by Dirty Politics and the mass surveillance lies would have seen NZers turn against Key.  I thought 250 000 children in poverty, the lack of economic strategy beyond rebuilding from an earthquake and crony capitalism would sink Key.

It didn’t, people rallied around him and gave John Key his largest victory ever. I am speechless. I thought New Zealanders would react angrily at seeing the real Key, they didn’t.”

As if people voting needed Bradbury’s tick of approval! [Read more…]

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).

[Read more…]

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).

[Read more…]

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…]