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

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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!

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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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Wellington says no to racism and fascism

Rally 1By Andy Raba

 

At lunchtime today, hundreds of people gathered outside parliament to say no to racism. The event, organised by the Migrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, was a protest against the annual gathering of National Front fascists and a commemoration of the New Zealand land wars. It drew in scores of individuals as well as campaigners from a wide range of activist and political parties. The day began with a karakia from Mike Ross followed by speeches from Teanau Tuiono of the Polynesian Panthers, Golriz Ghahraman from the Green Party, Arama Rata, the Māori spokesperson for MARRC, and Karam Shaar, a Syrian refugee and student. The speeches emphasised the need for solidarity across all oppressed groups and the need for us to recognise that it is in fact the racists in suits, in the halls of power, that are more dangerous than these thugs of the National Front. Dr Rata emphasised the disgraceful anti-immigrant campaigns of the Labour Party and New Zealand First. Throughout the day, the Solidarity Brass Band provided an amazing soundtrack that ranged from Nga Iwi E, Bella Ciao to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

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Labour must deliver

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Ardern’s rhetoric around child poverty and inequality inspired thousands – now Labour must deliver.

Labour has committed to working for what its Coalition Agreement with New Zealand First calls a ‘transformational government, committed to resolving the greatest long-term challenges for the country’. Listed amongst those long-term challenges are getting ‘decent jobs paying higher wages’ and reducing ‘poverty and inequality’. Jacinda Ardern campaigned on a message of hope and change.

It’s clear we cannot take more of the same. Nine years of National meant nine years of underfunding in health and education, regressive reforms promoting inequality, increases in poverty, homelessness, unemployment and wasted human potential. The young, locked out of the housing market and admonished that the days of secure employment are gone forever, voted clearly for change, backing Labour and the Greens. This deal speaks to that hope for change.

Labour has announced plans better than the International Socialists dared hope possible. There are real reforms set up here, and proposals which, if implemented, will bring real benefits to the lives of working people. But we – trade unionists, students, workers – need to make sure that reforms beneficial to our side are carried through. All sorts of pressures will come to bear on Ardern and her new government: from conservatives in Labour’s own ranks, from New Zealand First (leaning left for now economically but wedded to a conservative world-view and institutional base), from the ruling class and their mouth pieces in the mainstream media. Commentators and columnists are already seeking to undermine the government’s mandate. So our slogan should be: “Labour must deliver!”

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Election 2017: Unsecured Futures

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This election is not over. Fully 15% of votes remain uncounted; the shape of Parliament is undecided; coalition talks are underway. No single party has the ‘moral authority’, whatever that may mean, to govern. So these perspective remarks are necessarily provisional, speculative, open to correction and criticism. They offer a first attempt to make sense of the election from the perspective of the working class and the long struggle for socialism.

 

A ‘moral victory’ for National, the Sunday Star Times called it. What hogwash! 46% of the 79% of enrolled voters who cast votes – almost certain to be a smaller percentage once specials are counted – is no ringing endorsement. The combined Labour/Green left vote is up, the most significant revival of the forces of the parliamentary left since 2008. National’s support partners are scattered. Coalition talks go on. There is precious little cheer here for the ruling class. The Labour/Green vote has gone from 36% in 2014 to at least 41.7%, with the figure certain to rise come the end of counting. This is no clear victory for the right.

 

The International Socialists campaigned through the last few months under the slogan: ‘Kick National Out! Build a Socialist Alternative’.  How does that project fare today? Three years ago we opened our post-election analysis calling for a ‘lucid registration of defeat’. Nothing so clear comes from the 2017 election. National seems, from one view, in a towering position: they took the largest share of the vote; they are positioned to continue into an almost-unprecedented fourth term; their Antipodean application of ‘project fear’ has pulled them into victory. But this is a victory shot through with contradictions, tensions, gaps. Their coalition and supporting parties are all destroyed from their association with National; the party was forced to campaign against much of its own record; its future now is in the hands of Winston Peters, a man capable of nursing grudges and carrying out canny bargaining. If the prospect of a fourth National term is frustrating, these results give few causes for the ruling class to cheer.

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Equal Pay: a breakthrough…and a struggle to come

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Kristine Bartlett – a hero

In April 2017 the National government announced a massive pay rise for workers in the aged-care sector: two billion dollars over five years; 55,000 staff receiving a pay rise between 15 and 49 per cent; many will move from the minimum wage to a rate between $19 and $27 an hour. Socialists and trade unions rejoice that these workers, the majority of whom are women, are paid a better wage for the work they do. These are the workers whose skills and efforts are used to improve the mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of people in their last years.

 

The government did not do this because it was the right thing to do. They were backed into a corner through the courageous struggle of aged-care worker Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union (now E tū). In 2012 Kristine Bartlett stood up for her rights and took Terranova Homes to the Employment Court on the grounds that they were in breach of the Equal Pay Act of 1972. Specifically, her case rested on section 3 (1) [b]. This section states that workers in female-dominated industries should be paid at the same rate “that would be paid to male employees with the same, or substantially similar, skills, responsibility, and service performing the work under the same, or substantially similar, conditions and with the same, or substantially similar, degrees of effort.” Bartlett argued that workers in the female-dominated aged-care sector were paid a depressed rate compared to workers doing similar work in male-dominated industries. This differentiation, Kristine Bartlett claimed, was illegal.

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With the surge to Labour, or not?

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Hundreds of students attended a rally for Jacinda Ardern at Otago University last week.

Kick National Out! Build a socialist alternative! These are the slogans the ISO is campaigning around in this election. But what should they mean as we see this wave of enthusiasm for Labour? Martin Gregory offers his view:

 

In this election campaign the Labour Party is reaping a tidal wave of enthusiasm from the working class, including the student youth. All opinion polls, meeting reports and general observation point in this direction. Support for Labour is motivating advance voting at near double the rate of 2014. Let’s remind ourselves: opinion polls taken at the end of July had Labour on only 23-24 percent. September’s polls have Labour at 38-45 per cent. If the “youth quake” materialises who knows how many votes Labour will gain by the close of play on 23 September? I would not rule out Labour’s percentage being in the upper 40s.

 

Labour’s campaign is unlocking the dissatisfaction in society that was previously being held in check by demoralisation. The party’s reform programme is stimulating the public’s mood for change. We are witnessing a swing to the left by working people en masse, and in that I rejoice. Sure, Labour’s is not a socialist programme, nor even radical by historical standards, but the Labour campaign is raising the expectations of the working class for better things in a manner not seen since 1999. The class vote for Labour is a step in the right direction.

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National’s Appalling Record

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National ruling for the fewer, not the many: we few, we happy few, we band of warring brothers. 

By Martin Gregory

 

The National Party is the party of business, employers and the wealthy; namely the capitalist class. If National are booted out in September, from their perspective they will at least be able to look back with satisfaction that since coming to power in 2008 they have tipped the balance even more in favour of the parasitic class and made life meaner for the rest of us.

 

It will take a book to tell the full story of nine years of National’s crimes against the working class and oppressed. Only a selection can be given in this account, which unavoidably leaves out much and fails to convey the full spread of National’s dark deeds.

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Election 2017: Why vote, and why vote left?

2014GRE-PRI-BIL004The ISO is campaigning in this election around the slogan: “Kick National Out! Build a Socialist Alternative!” Our general position is given in this paper here. In this contribution, ISO member Brian Roper gives his view of how this slogan should be applied, arguing for a party vote Green. 

 

This article addresses some important questions: Is it worth voting in Election 2017? Is it worth voting left? If you are voting left, then should you party vote Labour or Green?

Of course, I’m sure that if you are reading this article then you will have been doing your own thinking about the election, drawing upon your own experiences, knowledge and analysis. Those of us on the left have lots of value to learn from each other. No individual, party or organisation has all of the answers.

In writing this article I’ve drawn upon insights gleaned from conversations with people from across the political spectrum, but especially others on the left. This is a socialist contribution to a conversation I think the left should be having about voting in Election 2017. In a nutshell, I will be arguing that if you think we need to kick National out, then you should vote and vote left. If voting left, then you should party vote Green combined with a tactical electorate vote for either the Greens or the Labour candidate. But vote left without holding any illusions that a Labour-Green coalition government will eliminate major problems such as unemployment, inequality, poverty, and rising carbon emissions.

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