Making sense of politics in 2016


Key ‘framed his face to all occasions’. Will English be able to do the same?

Andrew Tait gave this presentation to the International Socialist Organisation Hui-a-tau in Auckland last month.


2016, in New Zealand, has not been marked by major struggles or economic disasters or booms. The Key crew, masters anyway of administering sleeping gas, have managed to avoid major scandals or divisions. On the contrary, one of the worst of a bad lot, Judith Collins, has been rehabilitated after the Oravida scandal and retaken her place on the front bench. Bill English and Paula Bennett inherit a remarkably stable and strong government.


Although overshadowed by National, the reformist left have made some interesting moves – promising first to work together to replace National (a position the Greens have long avoided taking before an election) and then cementing that with a double-pronged attack on immigration tailor-made to dovetail with New Zealand First, the likely third party in any post-Key government.

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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…]

Lessons to learn from bitter defeat

AL-john-kerry-2109eThis was a defeat, and a big one. We have to start with this unpleasant reality. National, on the current results, could govern alone if they chose; at 48% their share of the vote has actually increased compared to the last election. This is an extraordinary situation. Over one million people voted for National. The Herald calls Key “triumphant”. The Dominion Post label him the “poll slayer.” The rich and powerful will be delighted with this result – National is the preferred party of the capitalist class, and it is in a strong position.

We must begin with a lucid registration of defeat. Over the last six years we have argued sometimes that Key’s support is ‘brittle’ or ‘hollow.’ These results show this to be wishful thinking rather than analysis – with each election National has maintained or increased its support. To win in 2008 it is true that National needed to position themselves ‘left’, working to shed the toxic legacy they kept from the 1990s. Tens of thousands of workers remember the Employment Contracts Act, Ruthenasia, the Mother of All Budgets. So Key brought National towards the centre, keeping popular Labour policies. What he has done from there is to redefine the ‘centre’ ground – National, over the last six years, has normalised its own position in society more generally. They have worked hard at promoting a socially liberal, ‘diverse’ image of themselves. And it is no lie: this isn’t a party of whisky-soaked old homophobes and racists. There are more right-wing Maori MPs than ever before; Key voted for equal marriage rights; the coalition with the Maori Party sought to draw more social layers in to this new ‘common sense.’
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Condemn Anti-Semitic Attacks on John Key


We condemn the anti-Semitic defacing of National Party billboards reported over the last days. Racism serves to divide the working class, and to distract us from the real divisions in society. As socialists we are opposed to all forms of racism, regardless of who happens to be the target of racist slurs. All left-wing people should condemn these racist acts unequivocally.

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Rebuilding Our Unions

Union Rally

Dougal McNeill gave this talk as an introduction to one of the sessions at the ISO’s recent national conference / hui-a-tau, held in Auckland in December.

This talk is of necessity arranged in a bitsy, fragmentary, tentative way. That’s because this is the kind of year we’ve had – there has been no single event or struggle defining union struggle. And our own position, in a very modest way, is changing. We’re bigger now, more experienced, and able to try some new things. Some old ways of working aren’t going to suit us so well anymore.


I want to do four things: (1) outline the general state of union struggle; (2) look at what we’re calling ‘the political sphere’ and the unions; (3) think about how we talk about this, to ourselves and to our audience, and (4) end with some comments on what we need to be doing. [Read more…]

The Labour leadership battle


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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The Tragedy at Pike River: an Indictment of Capitalism

It’s just sickening to read reports of the royal commission’s findings on the Pike River disaster. 29 men lost their lives – and have left behind grieving families and friends – in what was an entirely preventable, and predictable, tragedy. The lawyer for some of the families involved calls it an “unrelenting picture of failure at virtually every level”: warning after warning about the build-up of methane gas was ignored, workers’ concerns were ignored, dangerous techniques kept up. All for Pike River Coal’s drive for profit.

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Aotearoa: the State of the Class Struggle

During the whole of 2011 there were a mere 12 work stoppages and they involved barely 2,000 workers and only 4,850 person-days lost (to exploitation); so says the Department of Labour. Even worse, only 9 of the 12 stoppages were actual stoppages. The other 3 were what the DOL calls ‘partial strikes’, which are not strikes at all but actions short of a strike, such as go-slows and overtime bans.

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Beating back the bosses

It’s the middle of winter and four years into a National government but spring is in the air. When Key was re-elected we were worried. He won the election on the back of a record low vote (around 50% of people on the Maori roll didn’t vote) but he claimed an endorsement for another three years.

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They’re right to strike

Labour’s spokesperson for labour issues, Darien Fenton, has called the Ports of Auckland dispute “some of the worst industrial action we’ve seen in New Zealand for a decade”. That pretty much sums up the difference between those who want to manage the capitalist system, whether Labour or National, and the interests of the working class.

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