Auckland students for a new university

32498259_297052274165676_8858720946828083200_nBy Gowan Ditchburn

 

The proposed closure of the specialist libraries at the University of Auckland has become an important and much discussed matter. High school students are informing their teachers about how the University of Auckland isn’t putting enough money towards its libraries, something it appears the university’s Vice Chancellor, Stuart McCutchen hasn’t grasped yet. Students, staff and those outside the university have come together. Already there has been a large rally that saw around a thousand students and staff march to the Clock tower to present a consultation document. There has been a speak-in and conversations at some of the libraries with representatives from institutions such as the New Zealand Institute of Architects affirming the importance of these specialist collections not just to students but entire professions in New Zealand. These proposed closures therefore have a relevance beyond the boundaries of the university campus and the academic study of today’s students.

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Health workers make their voices heard

 

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Wellington rally. Photo credit: Rachel Bellam

Thousands rallied across the country last weekend to show their support for health workers in their campaign for better pay and conditions. There were gatherings of several hundred in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, and rallies in cities all across the country. From Greymouth to Gisborne people came out to stand in solidarity with nurses and other health workers.

 

 

The determination, focus and strength of the rallies was an inspiration. Health workers have been facing in their daily working life the effects of years of underfunding in the system, and it is taking a toll on their physical and mental health. Just this week RNZ’s Checkpoint reported that nurses in Christchurch are assaulted at least twice a week. Reports this year of the rot and potentially dangerous mould in Middlemore Hospital are a symbol for the decay and neglect nurses are fighting against. They have huge public support.

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The rise of the Red Fed

MW cartoonBy Martin Gregory

 

The defeat of the 1890 Maritime Strike, a general strike of transport-related unions, smashed up the first wave of union militancy in these islands. Union membership was knocked back from 63 000 to just 8 000, and the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894 was passed.

 

The arbitration system ended strikes completely. It applied to unions that registered under the Act, and most did, despite the loss of independence to be able to take legal industrial action or even determine their own rules. The unions, which were mostly local craft unions, accepted, even welcomed, the Arbitration Court handing down awards because they were too weak to take the employers on.

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Health workers need more: ‘independent’ panel no way forward

Health Workers

NZNO members protest in Wellington. Image credit: Unions Wellington

During last year’s election campaign Labour seemed to be the party that offered pay equity and a boost to health spending. Nurses, health care assistants and midwives, working in unbearable conditions under National’s cutbacks, took Labour at its word. In November the ordinary member of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation voted down a collective agreement, recommended to them by their negotiating team, which gave just 2 percent pay rises. In March the membership voted down another deal that gave 2 percent increases. Then in early April health workers showed an unmistakable spirit to fight for the radical uplift to public health services that they and the public need. As health workers rallied outside hospitals the general public enthusiastically tooted its support for the cause.

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Nurses fight for their rights

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Image credit: NZNO Facebook page

Sarah Anderson works as a nurse. She submitted this to the New Zealand Herald a fortnight ago, before nurses voted down the DHBs’ latest inadequate offer. The ISO is happy to publish this guest post, and stands in full solidarity with the nurses and their demands.

Negotiations between the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and District Health Boards over the Multi Employer Collective Agreement have stirred many nurses to speak up and reveal the bare, unmasked truth of the nursing profession. 

An outcry is being made over low wages, staffing shortages, discrimination and bullying in the workplace. Nurses have remained silent for too long and are now beginning to find their strength. 

Stories of burnout and frustration mark a Facebook page created by two unnamed nurses who took time to give nurses a space to share. The public page, titled ‘New Zealand, please hear our voice’ now has over 38,000 followers. Echoes of verbal and sometimes physical abuse seeps pervasively into many posts. Other nurses fantasise of a world where they might even be able to take a meal break. Many relate tales of patients who suffered unnecessarily due to unsafe staffing levels. There are also heart-warming moments found here, that credit those who give their all because they see hope and thankfulness in the eyes of those they care for.  [Read more…]

The Vietnamese Trotskyists against colonialism and Stalinism

imagesby Daniel Simpson Beck

Starting with only a handful of members, the Vietnamese Trotskyists in the 1930s and 1940s were able to build large organisations capable of having great impact within the Vietnamese working class. They did so despite much larger Stalinist forces. Their rise and fall offers us lessons for building socialist organisations today.

The beginning

The small group who started the movement were young Vietnamese students who had come across Trotskyism while studying in France. Prominent among these students was Ta thu Thau who had been part of the nationalist movement against colonial rule before leaving for France in 1927. As his political views moved further to the left he abandoned his nationalist leanings and, at the age of 23, entered the Trotskyist Left Opposition. In Paris in 1929, he helped organise the Indochinese Left Opposition.

The Vietnamese revolutionaries saw their group as a left faction within the official Communist movement. By this period the Communist International was under the control of Josef Stalin, whose leadership had contributed to the failure of the 1925-27 Chinese revolution. The Stalinist Comintern ordered the Chinese Communists to subordinate themselves to the capitalist nationalist party, the Guomindang, because, it was argued, China was not ready for socialism and that only nationalist revolution should be attempted. This decision meant that the Communists could not lead the mass revolt of workers and peasants in China. The nationalists reacted to the revolution by crushing the working class and murdering many of the Communists.* The failures of Stalinism in China had pushed the young Vietnamese revolutionaries toward Trotskyism.

Despite the failure of the Chinese revolution, the Stalinists continued the line that workers and peasants in colonial countries should have their interests subordinate to the nationalist bosses. Ta thu Thau, repudiated this approach, arguing in 1930: “Only revolution based on the organisation of the proletariat and peasant masses is capable of liberating the colonies.”

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Trump and the Alt Right

5-times-donald-trump-has-engaged-with-alt-right-racists-on-twitterBy Andrew Tait

 

Why should we be concerned about yet another rightwing American president or pay attention to the ravings of disgruntled keyboard warriors? Trump is an orange ball of arrogance and the alt-right thrives on outrage. But they are worth watching because both are products of a crisis in neoliberal ideology.

The mainstream media in New Zealand, following liberal (ie Democratic Party) opinion in the USA, portrays Trump as a buffoon. The White House is supposedly in chaos under the Clown Prince, and we can only pray that the “adults in the room”, the unelected higher echelons of the American state, will check his excesses. Another view, from the left, points out continuities with Obama’s rule, when deportation of migrant workers and drone strikes both reached unprecedented heights. Not much can be learned from either point of view when studying Trump.

 

Similarly with the alt-right; mass shootings and white-supremacist marches are good clickbait but not taken seriously. These views are mistaken. Trump and the alt-right are not the same-old, same-old, but there are continuities with the past.

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Lessons from West Virginia

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By Eric Blanc

The Great West Virginia Wildcat is the single most important labour victory in the US since at least the early 1970s. Though the 1997 UPS strike and the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike also captured the country’s attention, there’s something different about West Virginia. This strike was statewide, it was illegal, it went wildcat, and it seems to be spreading.

West Virginia’s upsurge shares many similarities with the rank-and-file militancy of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But there are some critical differences. Whereas labour struggles four decades ago came in the wake of a postwar economic boom and the inspiring successes of the Civil Rights Movement, this labour upheaval erupted in a period of virtually uninterrupted working-class defeats and economic austerity. The Supreme Court’s impending decision to throw the whole public sector back into the open-shop era gives West Virginia’s strike an added degree of momentousness.

It’s too early to tell whether West Virginia will spark the revival of a fighting labour movement nationwide. Much depends on whether workers here can keep winning over the coming months — and whether a looming public education strike wave materializes in Oklahoma, New Jersey, Arizona, Kentucky, and beyond.

Understanding the reasons workers won this strike will be crucial for activists engaged in these upcoming battles — and for all those interested in reviving the US labour movement. At the same time, it’s important to identify the challenges that lie ahead for the struggle in West Virginia.

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A response to Erin Polaczuk

by Romany Tasker-Poland and Shomi Yoon

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Union hard / Wahine Toa: strong unions are built by women ready to fight, like the heroes of the Meatworkers lockouts at Talley 

We write as socialists and as women who are proud trade union members, active in building our unions and the wider movement. Recent comments by Erin Polaczuk, national secretary of the the Public Services Association, in the Listener distort our trade union history and close off our future. Polaczuk claims the union movement is “smarter now” than it was in the 1970s, that the “feminisation of the union movement has changed things”. “We are not guys coming in and having a punch-up,” she claims. Strikes are a “last resort” in this “mature era”.

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The housing crisis hits – again

student accommodation

Student accommodation: expensive, and hard to come by

by Shomi Yoon

As the academic year starts for tens of thousands of university students, the frenzy of looking for accommodation begins again.

This time however, it’s worse than any year before. There is a shortage of rentals. Trade Me reported a drop in availability of 70% in December 2017. Landlords are milking this woeful supply situation by increasing rent. In the past few months, rents have gone up in Wellington by an average of around $30 per week. And there’s predictions that rent will rise further once the academic year starts.

It’s hard for everyone. Spare a thought for solo mothers looking for places with their children, and Māori and Pasifika students facing landlords’ racism and discrimination as they search for flats.

Since January 2018, Finance Minister Grant Robertson has had a flood of complaints from students complaining about their landlord who have gobbled up the $50 increase of the accommodation supplement with a hike in rent.

The median rent is $460 per week nationally, with Auckland copping the worst of it with a median of $530. [Read more…]