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


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


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…]

Cannabis reform frustrated


Chloe Swarbrick and the Greens proposed positive cannabis reforms worth supporting. New Zealand First and some Labour MPs have blocked this.

by Martin Gregory

Parliament’s so-called “progressive” majority fails to support Swarbrick’s medicinal cannabis reform


Within two days Parliament has considered two Bills on medicinal cannabis. The net result falls far below the reform of cannabis prohibition that the public wants and had a right to expect.


An extremely timid Government Bill passed its First Reading with all-party support. All it does is allow legal dispensation for only the terminally-ill to use regulated, commercially-produced cannabis products.


The second, a Private Member’s Bill piloted by Chloe Swarbrick, went beyond the Government’s as it would allow the use of cannabis in medically-certified cases of chronic pain. The patient, or their nominee, would have dispensation to grow cannabis, which would alleviate the problem of the prohibitive cost of commercially-produced medicinal cannabis products. This was too much. Parliament voted the First Reading of Swarbrick’s Bill down by 73 to 47.

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Employment law changes show the limits of reformism


Employers have “nothing to fear” from Labour’s proposals, Iain Lees Galloway assures them. That should be a worry for the rest of us.

by Martin Gregory


On 25 January the Labour-led government announced in outline its proposed changes to employment law. We will have to wait for the wording of a draft Bill in February to see the details and any devils lurking there.


If the reader detects a level of distrust on my part this will be in large measure due to the failure of the government to propose the removal the 90-day trial period, “fire at will”, law in respect of small employers of less than 20 workers. This is a slap in the face of workers becoming employed in small businesses. Small businesses employ 29 percent of the workforce and they are usually un-unionised and unscrupulous employers. Labour’s policy for the general election was to repeal the 90-day law completely because “90 day trial periods have stripped workers of their rights while failing to support job creation or employment as promised.” The government now proposes only partial abolition of the 90-day law because “This balances the insecurity of 90 day trials to workers against keeping barriers to hiring low for small businesses.”

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Trump, fire and fury

ct-donald-trump-korean-peninsula-dmz-20171101.jpgby Andy Raba


The arrival of Donald Trump into the Whitehouse has escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula. In recent months, Trump has goaded the North Korean regime on an almost daily basis. In August, he threatened to unleash “fire, fury and frankly power” if the North does not halt their nuclear weapons programme. In September, at the U.N, he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” and to make “Kim Jong-Un disappear.” After the latest round of UN sanctions forced Koreans to queue for gas, Trump tweeted, “Too bad!” And finally, on September 19th, he launched a massive show of force by sending 14 fighter jets and bombers on a live-fire drill near the border. Trump’s ongoing suite of provocations are part of his bid to appear effective in dealing with America’s overseas headaches. He has signalled that he is finished with Obama’s “strategic patience” policy. The new approach will be one of “maximum pressure and engagement.”


Trump’s lurid, off-hand militarism is an awful addition to the Korean crisis. The constant stream of threats creates a climate of fear that inflames the conflict and terrorizes ordinary Koreans. The degree of tension that already exists on the peninsula means that Trump’s aggressive behaviour could easily spark a larger confrontation. Yet, whilst it is important to register the distinct threat that Trump poses, his behaviour is by no means unprecedented. In fact, Trump’s racist sabre-rattling draws on a long history of US pressure and provocation against the North. For the past nine years, the Obama-Clinton administration has held the embattled state in a stranglehold of economic sanctions accompanied by threats of military annihilation. Throughout his presidency, Obama routinely threatened Kim Jong-Un with total destruction. In 2016, he warned that “the US could, obviously, destroy North Korea with its arsenals.” And from 2012 onwards, Obama massively expanded the “Foal Eagle War Games,” which take place each year in neighbouring South Korea. In 2013, in a move to provoke and intimidate the North, Obama deployed nuclear-bomb capable B-2 and B-52 bombers, F-22 fighter jets, a nuclear-powered attack submarine and four guided missile carrier destroyers. These deployments were on top of exercises and simulated invasions of the North which involved 10,000 US soldiers and more than 200,000 South Korean troops. Judged as rhetoricians, Trump and Obama are certainly poles apart. Judged as defenders of US interests abroad, they share much the same perspective.

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David McNally: from global slump to Trump

eight_col_David_McNallyLong-time Canada-based activist and socialist David McNally is in New Zealand for both an academic conference and a socialist meeting at the University of Otago. Guy McCallum reports on McNally’s first New Zealand public talk:


The Global Financial Crisis in 2008, one of many crises under capitalism, has led to austerity for the working class, economic stagnation for the middle but, through no mystery, ever increasing wealth for a greedy few. Though recovery has been recorded in several countries, this has occurred along class lines as wages stagnate, public services are cut but the stream of wealth to the top few has increased rapidly. While developed countries make up the bulk of this recovery, some developing countries are slipping backward while others are rallying under the umbrella of Russia and China. Growing political instability across the globe is connected to the conditions of austerity, enforced by a powerful elite who wield massive influence in political systems everywhere.


David McNally, speaking at the 2017 New Zealand Political Studies Association – 50th Anniversary Conference held at University of Otago in Dunedin, places the origins of Donald Trump and the era he represents in the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Saliently, McNally began his lecture by referring to Karl Marx’s 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, citing from its preface that conditions of austerity “created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part.” Neoliberalism’s prejudice against the working class and it’s empty platitudes to anti-oppression movements “shaped the range of possibilities” making Trump’s election a major possibility.

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We Support the RMTU


A steady stream of unionists and supporters visited the picket line on Thursday

by Romany Tasker-Poland

The Wellington picket for the RMTU’s 24-hour strike on Thursday drew a steady stream of support. Alongside RMTU members, some of whom were at the picket from 6am to 6pm, unionists from the Tramways union, the PSA, E Tu, NZNO, PPTA, TEU and other unions turned up to tautoko the strike.

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Wellington rail strike – end contracting out!

Chris Morley Tramways

Chris Morley from the Tramways Union speaks in solidarity with striking RMTU members yesterday. (Image credit: Sam Huggard, CTU)

By Martin Gregory


Privatisation, in the form of contracting out, lies behind the Wellington rail dispute between Rail and Maritime Transport Union members and their employers Transdev Wellington and its maintenance subcontractor Hyundai Rotem. Greater Wellington Regional Council contracted Transdev to operate the region’s passenger services from July 2016 for 15 years. Previously the service was run by Trans Metro, the regional arm of state-owned KiwiRail. The railway workers went over to Transdev and Hyundai Rotem on the conditions of their existing collective agreement. Lo and behold, at the first opportunity Transdev and Hyundai Rotem are attempting to cut conditions. The main attack is a pay cut. Transdev want to cut penalty rates: double-time down to time-and-a-half, and time-and-a-half down to time-and-a-quarter.

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