United NZEI and PPTA Action Can Win

downloadJames Crichton, chief of the Employment Relations Authority, says our claim is unrealistic. What rubbish! Our teachers’ claim of 16 percent over two years is fully justified to make a teaching career an attractive option. Crichton knows nothing of the reality of being a teacher in an under-funded system – always under stress, never having enough time, working long hours.

 

The offer of 3 percent for 3 years does not even guarantee a real pay rise if CPI keeps on rising. The latest annual rate of inflation is 1.9 percent, having risen from 1.1 percent in March and 1.5 percent in June. At this rate, by the end of the year CPI could easily be well over 2 percent. Who is to say what could happen over 3 years?

 

School education needs a transformational funding boost. Labour says it will take time. We can’t wait years. Children and teachers deserve better right now.

[Read more…]

Paris, 1968: 50 years since the barricades

Paris-May-1968By Jules Courtine

 

May 1968 is the date of the largest general strike in French history. Over the course of this month, 11 million workers joined a protest which was explicitly anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and revolutionary. As a result of the strike national production came to a grinding halt, conservative president Charles de Gaulle fled the country and a snap election had to be called in order to restore the status quo. Although it did not achieve its revolutionary objectives, May 68 shows how powerful workers and students can be when they join forces against capitalism.

[Read more…]

The strike revival

Strike statistics are useful for assessing the state of workers’ militancy. Fortunately section 98 of the Employment Relations Act requires information to be submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) after every strike or lockout. This source provides statistics up to and including 2017. For this year, so far, we must rely on media reports. In the last issue of Socialist Review we cited several strikes and gave our assessment that we are witnessing a revival in class struggle. We now provide more in-depth information.

 

Table 1 shows the decline in industrial action since 2005, in which year there were 60 work stoppages involving 17,752 workers. From 2013 to 2017 the New Zealand working class hit rock bottom. In 2016 there were two strikes and one partial strike involving a total of just 430 workers. A partial strike is defined by law as any industrial action short of an actual strike. 2017 was hardly better with 6 full strikes by a total of a mere 421 employees.

[Read more…]

New Perspectives for Rebuilding Union Power

frontcover-f_medium-2fb8dd7e1e725035417e691ea490dc17On New Terrain: How Capital is Reshaping the Battleground of Class War

By Kim Moody (Haymarket Books, Chicago 2017)

 

Reviewed by Dougal McNeill

 

Is there a revival of working-class confidence happening in Aotearoa? The PPTA and NZEI are going into bargaining with big pay claims (e.g. 16 percent over two years for primary teachers) and health workers went on strike for the first time in decades. The NZEI went on strike in winter, and will have rolling strikes in term four. So far this year there has been action by bus drivers, at Event Cinemas, Wendys, Auckland trains, Lyttleton port, Burger King, Blue Star Group printers and Silver Fern Farms. Wellington bus drivers begin an indefinite strike in late October. Their brothers and sisters in Auckland will follow.

 

This revival takes place, however, in a context of ongoing crisis for our movement. Membership has fallen massively. In 1985 almost half of the workforce was in unions but, by the 2010s, less than 9% of those in the private sector are members. We lost some 320,000 members through the 1990s, as the Employment Contracts Act made it difficult to organise and easier for bosses to attack. Workers’ confidence to fight has slipped. There were 381,710 days ‘lost’ to strikes in 1988; by 2014 that number had slumped to just 1,448. The benefits of union membership are concentrated in the public sector, and union members are older than the working population generally.

 

What explains this decline? Many commentators argue that the nature of work has changed over the last thirty years, making union power less relevant. We have seen the rise of a “precariat”, Guy Standing claims, drifting in insecure jobs with little to gain from unionism. Others look for new ways of building – the ‘organising model’ – that use community support and savvy media campaigning to work around our workplace weaknesses. Helen Kelly pioneered imaginative campaigning like this, and the Living Wage movement has won victories with similar approaches. There’s much here to support, but it still avoids, rather than confronts, the key question: without union power, the power of the strike, what future will our movement have?

[Read more…]

Reform and Reaction in Australia: The Story of the Whitlam Labor Government

dc7a3d156a6915b0de5757f7f582cfc4

Whitlam addresses protesting supporters in Canberra following the dismissal

By Cory Anderson

 

The Australian government of 1972-75 stands out as one of the most successful reforming governments in history, comparable perhaps to the first Labour government here in Aotearoa or Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ in the United States. Led by Gough Whitlam, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) introduced significant reforms, including free tertiary education, increased pensions and healthcare funding, brought troops home from Vietnam and ended the racist ‘White Australia’ policy. Part-way through its second term however, it was thrown out by the Governor-General and the Liberal Party in what can only be called a legal coup.

 

Immediately after entering office, the Whitlam government set about business. They ended the draft after just 30 minutes in government, intervened to support equal pay for women, dropped sales tax on contraceptives, banned sports teams from apartheid South Africa and took steps to support Aboriginal land rights and culture.

 

But in spite of heading perhaps the most progressive Labor government in Australia’s history, Gough Whitlam came not from the left but the right-wing of the ALP. He cut his teeth campaigning for “modernisation” of the party and a reduction in the influence of unions. He wanted a more respectable, middle-class party with a media friendly image: more suits and less socialism. Under his leadership the party tacked to the right on Vietnam and he intervened to remove the left-wing leadership of the ALP’s Victorian branch.

[Read more…]

Wellington: back the bus drivers!

1534919728230

National and Simon Bridges started the bus mess – but Chris Laidlaw and the GWRC need to fix it. They cannot wash their hands of the union’s just demands.

Hundreds of Wellington region bus drivers in the Tramways Union have voted for an ongoing strike from 23 October. Three bus companies that operate in the region may be affected: NZ Bus, Tranzit and Uzabus. Since the regional council awarded a large chunk of routes to Tranzit, drivers have lost their jobs or work under far worse terms and conditions. Tranzit has refused to negotiate a collective agreement with the Union.

 

Wellington’s bus services have been in chaos for months since new schedules were implemented. Greater Wellington Regional Council is responsible for bus services, parcelled out to five companies, and the suburban rail network. There is no ticketing integration overall, or even between all bus companies.

 

The reason for this mess is the contracting-out system. Wellington’s electric trolley bus network was scrapped last year in favour of polluting diesel buses purely to facilitate competition. Contracts were awarded to the companies that bid the lowest, and they seek to make their profit at the expense of drivers’ conditions and passenger services. On every count the use of the free market to run publicly-funded services has proven to be a failure.

 

It is not only Wellington where bus drivers have come to the end of their tethers. Throughout the year bus drivers in Auckland and the Waikato have taken strike action against intolerable conditions.

[Read more…]

Rebel Lives: Clara Zetkin

220px-C_Zetkin_1By Martin Gregory

 

A federal election in Germany was held on 31 July 1932 in the depths of the Great Depression and a political crisis. The Nazis obtained the largest share of the vote and 230 seats in the 608-seat Reichstag. On 30 August the oldest member had the honour of opening the session of the newly-elected parliament. The 75 years old Clara Zetkin, the re-elected Communist member for Stuttgart, was whisked from her Moscow sickbed to Berlin. The frail “grandmother of German communism” was carried on a chair into the Reichstag by a back way while the Nazis staged a demonstration at the front. Zetkin addressed the Reichstag brilliantly. She attacked capitalism and proposed a strategy to fight the immediate danger of fascism:

 

The task of the hour is to establish the united front of all working people in order to repel Fascism, in order thereby to preserve the power and strength of the organisations of the enslaved and exploited, and even to save their very lives. All restrictive and divisive, trade-union, religious and ideological outlooks have to take a back seat before this urgent historical necessity. All of those who are threatened, who are suffering, who crave emancipation: all must join the united front against fascism and its representatives in the Government.

  [Read more…]

Fraser High students aren’t losers – solidarity is a life skill

Protest2.jpg.hashed.0f1c92b6.desktop.story.inlineBy Andrew Tait

Are students who wag school “already statistics of the worst kind”? That’s what one Hamilton principal told her school. Many students didn’t agree, so they organised a walkout the following week. Unlike so-called left commentators like Chris Trotter and right-wing scum bags like Mike Hosking (he called the kids entitled little snots), we think the solidarity the students showed is a life skill that will stand them in better stead than sucking up to authority.

What was wrong with what Fraser High principal Virginia Crawford said? Many see it as “tough love” telling truanting students unpalatable truths about life in the real world. Trotter says she has the right and duty “to speak plainly and forthrightly about the awful statistics to which so many of the students attending Fraser High School are likely to contribute in the months and years ahead of them”.

[Read more…]

Fascism: then and now

image

Mass mobilization of workers, socialists, communists and Jewish workers groups beat back fascists in London in the 1930s

Josh O’Sullivan gave this talk to the Auckland branch of the International Socialists in September.

 

This talk is both a reflection and a call to arms. Political movements around the world are growing and although people are clamouring more and more for an alternative to capitalism, so to are people looking to the most backward elements of society to prevent any challenge to the status quo – to even thrust society backwards to darker times.

The political and institutional framework that has regulated and stabilized capitalism since the end of World War Two is facing concerted challenges that threaten to tear it apart. In much of Eastern Europe, far right parties have swept into government and gained a heavy foothold in Western European countries. Russia, under the authoritarian rule of Vladimir Putin, has begun to reassert itself as a reactionary force on the world stage. Then there is the dramatic rise of China,wWith now possibly lifetime President Xi Jinping. Most dramatically, the U.S., still the world’s most powerful state, is headed by a president who openly champions fascists and ultranationalists and is attempting to tear apart the liberal play book.

This is the context in which we find ourselves in, capitalist society in a continuing recession with no answers, resulting in a deepening polarisation between the left and right, with radicalisation on both sides. Socialist organisations, anti-capitalist movement and trade unions have swelled with the realisation that capitalism can offer no answers to our plight. But at the same time fascist organisations and sympathisers are growing, developing international links, supported by the racist rhetoric by those in power and emboldened by the growing support they have received.

In the wake of the emboldening of the far right globally, far right speakers have now made it to Aotearoa. This makes it all the more important to learn from the lessons of history and the links between the far right, fascism and its relation to capitalism.

[Read more…]

An Act of Cultural Resistance

downloadThe Last Earth: A Palestinian Story by Ramzy Baroud (Pluto Press, London 2018)

Reviewed by Andrew Raba

Ramzy Baroud’s The Last Earth is a collection of eight narratives told by ordinary Palestinians who have, in their own way, struggled against the violence inflicted upon their country by Israel over the past one hundred years. The book bears witness to the immense bravery of Palestinians and to the scale of violence that has taken lives, torn families apart and displaced entire populations across the world. Baroud’s book comes at a time of sharpening tensions within Palestine. In March, Donald Trump issued a provocative signal of the United States’ commitment to Israel by opening an embassy in Jerusalem. At the same time, New Zealand pop star Lorde decided not to play in Israel marking a significant victory for the BDS movement. Most significantly, the past months have seen mass marches of Palestinians demanding the right of return on the seventieth anniversary of the 1948 Nakba.

The Last Earth contributes to the struggle today by foregrounding the humanity of the Palestinian people. The book contains stories that range from present-day Gaza, to the impact of the Balfour Declaration of 1922, from the refugee crisis of 2012, to the lives of Palestinian families living in Melbourne, Australia as part of the international diaspora. By drawing on the stories of individuals Baroud cuts against the reductive presentation of Palestinians as either militants, victims or grim statistics on a lop-sided score board. Moreover, by collating these stories into a single volume Baroud is able to draw out the common experiences that determine a shared Palestinian history. Above all, each account is marked by a deep sense of displacement. The forced exile of Palestinians from their homeland creates, in Edward Said’s words, “a rift or a barricade, ‘between the self and its true home’, restraining the person from residing in a place of comfort.” In each story we find a version of this unease and longing for home. It is this longing that fuels their struggle for a free Palestine. Yet, it is also this longing that runs through Palestinian lives as an open wound. [Read more…]