Sunday, December 08, 2013
Our position of giving critical support for the Labour Party is to vote for it to put it in government to prove to workers that no Labour-led Government however left-wing will be able to legislate to meet the demands and needs of workers. Social Democracy sows illusions in a peaceful, egalitarian, environmentally friendly capitalism. There is no such animal. Capitalism is brutal, barbaric and destructive especially in the epoch of imperialism. Already we see that Cunliffe’s promises of reforms are hedged around with financial constraints imposed not by ‘neo-liberalism’, but by capitalism itself. Will Labour challenge NZs status as an economic semi-colony of the US and China in its position on the TPPA, Oil and Coal and asset sales, GCSB and TICS, SkyCity casino capitalism, and ‘disaster capitalism’ in Christchurch. Will Labour recognise the role that the working class plays in creating the nation’s wealth and stand up and fight for the unions and workers by implementing full employment, a living wage, welfare rights, pensions etc? Right now the Labour Party represents Capital’s profits expropriated from Labour. What is needed is a revolutionary socialist party that will socialise capitalist property under the ownership and control of the working class and create a planned socialist society.
TPPA and the coming US/CHINA war
To implement a sustainable economic policy, NZ would have to regain its economic sovereignty over the ownership and control of its resources. The TPPA is the most dangerous threat to such a national strategy. The TPPA is a tool of recolonisation by US to keep China out of the Pacific. Extending the power of crisis-ridden US imperialism into whole Pacific to recolonise Pacific and to simultaneously block Chinas bid for a regional TPA, and also gain more access to China’s internal market. That’s why it’s the US state taking over every other Pacific state as a means of taking over the Chinese state. It’s a showdown of the two giants of capitalism as the US declines and China rises. .
The US is in decline as its economic power wanes and its dollar ceases to be the only world currency. This is because a currency propped up by oil is being challenged by the Yuan which is based on China’s expanding productive capacity. The US wants to grab onto China to halt its decline. It has done so with one hand – the offshoring of manufacturing to Asia. But to grab with two hands it has to break into China’s economic sovereignty, especially the dominance of its SOEs.
Its strategy is to restrict China’s growth while at the same time sharing in it. By blocking China from the TPPA it puts China at a disadvantage. Yet the US corporations in those states that already have TPAs with China can piggyback into China on equal terms. Both US and Japan are big producers inside China within the free trade zones, but they want to extend into the state sector, especially in privatising the SOEs.
The Labour Party’s position so far is to take credit for the TPPA! It is acting as a US lackey in a US imperialist drive against its No 1 trading partner, China! Its position is that it will not agree to an agreement that is secret. Its position should be that it will reserve the right to unilaterally leave a TPPA that is signed in secret. Otherwise the Labour Party is signing away what is left of NZs national sovereignty and signing up the NZ working class to a war between the US and China in the near future!
Carbon, Assets and Climate Collapse
Oil drilling and coal mining is a litmus test of Labour’s economic and climate change policy. Will it go with the NACT line of the global capitalist economy wherever it pushes profits in NZ, or will it opt for a state-managed sustainable economic growth such as that of the Greens? Labour is torn internally between short-term jobs driven growth and longer-term sustainable growth. It is trying to suppress this conflict in its position on oil drilling by opposing it until it is proven safe. But just as like its position opposing mining on conservation land, this evades the larger issue of climate change. There is no way that burning carbon can protect jobs now let alone in the future. The NACTs rip, shit and bust quarry mentality destroys jobs as well as the environment. On the other hand the Greens reforms don’t have the social support to win. The issue of global warming is now one of human survival where capitalism as a system is destroying our future. Labour needs to rally its working class base to take control of the issue and make stopping climate collapse the heart of its economic development program.
A real Labour Party would recognise that climate collapse is a crisis many times more life threatening than the depression of the 1930s. What it needs is an emergency program to meet this crisis. First and foremost, the ownership and control of energy production should be socialised under workers control with no compensation to the owners of privatised state assets. These assets should then be developed into 100% renewables (hydro, solar, wind, biomass etc). Energy efficiency and conservation should be the criteria for all industrial and agricultural production. State producer boards should plan and regulate the major industries on the basis of sustainability as well as health and safety. Problems with key industries such as a ‘dirty dairying’ would be regulated and state subsidies would become the basis of state shareholdings or cooperatives. The imperative of sustainability would bring a slow socialisation of the economy with the workers and independent producers along with the state sharing in the true costs and benefits of production.
GCSB and TICS
These laws are major challenges to NZ’s economic sovereignty which means increasing dominance by imperialist US and China. Yet Labour has always bought into spying on behalf of its imperialist masters. From the SIS ‘reds under the bed’ on behalf of the UK and US to the GCSB and the ‘war against terror’ justifying the US global rule of terror. State spying serves only the rule of capital. Specifically the great powers use spying to advance their economic and political interests over their rivals. Loewenstein in Guardian updates NSAs latest global spy network of which NZ is a ‘US team player’. So the Labour Party’s demand that NZs spy role be subject to an inquiry does not challenge the assumption that secret state spying is necessary. If a true Labour Party is to represent the interests of Labour against Capital here is what its policy should be.
First, a true Labour Party would challenge the view that the interests of Labour and Capital can be reconciled - crony capitalism is not an aberration but the norm. It would reject an official inquiry and set up an independent workers inquiry into spying. Second, it would abolish all state spying on its citizens, close down its installations, refuse to participate in spy networks with other states, and instead set up a public Tribunal where any accusations of spying could be heard. The decisions of the Inquiry and the Tribunal would be made by delegates elected to represent the views of workers, women, youth, indigenous, social and environmental groups that comprise the broad labour movement.
SkyCity and Casino Capitalism
Symptomatic of how decadent the NZ capitalist class is, is Skycity. The NACTs are so cynical that they will pay out of workers taxes for Skycity to build its ‘entertainment’ precinct in Auckland to fleece tourists and workers all, on the promise of ‘more jobs’. On the basis of this cost-benefit analysis, all the costs fall on the workers and all the benefits go to the parasites.
Yet the Labour Party does not challenge Casino Capitalism at its heart, the global financial capitalist class that parasitically lives off the working class driving down their wages to increase their profits and then cynically exploiting their poverty by encouraging them to gamble. After all this is a metaphor for the way global capitalism in crisis works: stagnation of real growth combined with massive speculative booms parasitic on growth. Labour needs to declare its intention to revoke NACTs corrupt deal with SkyCity and ultimately to revoke its casino licence.
If Labour is serious about going back to its working class roots then its role in ChCh is a test of that. Labour voted for the sacking of ECAN which ripped off water rights to boost dairying. profits. Etc etc. Has Labour had a change of heart? Cunliffe announced Labour’s decision to set up KiwiAssure attached to Kiwibank. Will this meet the need for a state insurer of disasters? Not if KiwiAssure is just another insurance Co like Kiwibank is just another bank. KiwiAssure needs to be a comprehensive no fault insurer of disasters and funded on the model of ACC Otherwise Labour is filling a gap rather than coming to grips with the larger question of the NACTs ‘disaster capitalism’ model in Christchurch. Where is the workers’ alternative based on a return to democracy and a comprehensive plan for the rebuild? Unless Labour steps up with major proposals it will have abdicated any leadership of its historic constituency in Christchurch.
Pensions pensioned off?
ACTs neoliberal pension policy was adopted by Labour just before the 2011 election! The retirement age should come down to 60 not go up to 67.The generational argument is a red herring (making Labour’s red rather fishy) Society is more productive every year, yet the proportion of the increase that goes to labour decreases. The result is that capital creams it while workers are expected to work longer for lower wages and low pension (if they survive). The Labour Party should take a stand on principles not affordability (neo-liberal bullshit about balancing the budget while taxes on capital decrease). Labour produces the wealth. The working lifespan should decrease as productivity rises. Taxes on the rising share of capital should increase. The state can easily fund a living pension for a longer retirement from age 60. The irony is that a Labour Government led by Cunliffe who has spoken of renouncing neo-liberalism, has adopted the ACT policy of increasing the age of retirement so that workers work more productively and longer for a diminishing share of the wealth they produce.
From Welfare to Workfare
The Cunliffe Govt appeals to the memory of the Labour Party of Mickey Savage of the 1930s. That government was under such pressure from unemployed and destitute farmers that it responded with a social security package as a right of citizenship. It recognised that it was the capitalist economy and not individual workers that was to be blamed for unemployment and poverty. While David Shearer was briefly leader he displayed this prejudice with his reference to the ‘beneficiary on the roof’. Labour has remained silent on the NACTs slashing of welfare since failing to restore Ruthless Richardson’s benefit cuts of 1991 all the way to Paula Bennett’s abusive workfare reforms today. The Blairite Labour party has retreated to the neo-liberal view of social security as a responsibility that has to be earned. Will a Cunliffe-led Labour Party break with this neo-liberal workfare history?
A true Labour Party would return to the social welfare as a right of Savage’s day and abolish all workfare measures introduced since the 1970s. First, it would implement full employment and job creation by public works. Free health, education and housing would be paid for by a 100% capital gains tax on all property and assets. It would create a UBI based on a living wage and administered by the unions as a right whether one is working or not. Even outright capitalists like Gareth Morgan argue that a living UBI is more profitable for bosses than growing inequality and poverty. These measures would help to recognise the working class as the creators of wealth and shift the blame for NZs economic recolonisation by the US and China off the ‘’underclass’ and back onto the decadent, parasitic and rapacious capitalist class that is destroying Aotearoa.
Revolutionary Labour Party
Is the Labour Party capable of standing up for Labour against Capital? It is the very nature of the party that it has the main contradiction between Capital and Labour running through it. Capital is devoted to exploiting workers for profits, while Labour is devoted to securing a share of the value it produces as a living wage. But such is the crisis of capitalism today all attempts at reconciling these objectives will fail. Profits must drive down living standards and destroy jobs and lives. Labour to live must challenge Capital’s right to rule by socialising all the essential resources that are necessary for life and for the survival of the species. The Labour Party will split sooner or later into those who defend Capital, and those who are defend Labour.
|Sir Mansel Aylward|
On 30th Sept the NZ Herald quoted Welfare Minister Paula Bennett as reporting that on average 3500 benefits are cancelled weekly, 2000 being due to 'other reasons than the recipient finding employment). Most of these are presumably results of the harsh new sanctions regime against those failing to comply with job-seeking requirements. Amongst these will be sickness and invalid beneficiaries who have been declared fit to work by WINZ’s designated doctors. Enquiries made under the Official Information Act have revealed that designated doctors are being indoctrinated at WINZ training seminars in the ‘health benefits of work’ and in the doctrine that benefit dependency is an addiction
In its crusade to reduce benefit numbers by 40,000 the government has found a powerful ally in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) and its Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM), which is currently conducting a campaign to convince doctors of the health benefits of work. So well does this fit with the government’s plans that WINZ quotes the AFOEM's Position Statement on the application form for the work capacity medical certificate in a blatant attempt to educate doctors signing it. The WINZ form erroneously attributes the quotation to the AFOEM's Consensus Statement, misleadingly implying that the signatories have all examined the evidence for the hypothesis advanced and agree that it is "compelling." (Thanks to George Bush Jr and Tony Blair we have learned that when government agencies start to talk of "compelling" evidence, it is time to start doubting).
The other words, the government is cynically intervening in the education of doctors to promote a theoretical model of dubious validity, not out of any concern for the health of the population but because it happens to correlate so well with neo-liberal policy goals of workfare to drive down wages and restore profits.
The medical theory it is promoting is the so-called bio-psycho-social model of illness (BPSM), which has some grounds for criticising traditional medicine for ignoring social and environmental factors in the causation of illness. But while it has indeed become part of regular medical practice to mobilise multi-disciplinary teams comprising psychologists and social workers in the treatment of illness BPSM has failed to achieve recognition as a comprehensive theory of medical causation.
Moreover, the BPSM restricts its definition of social to the immediate social situation of the patient without inquiring into the mediated power-based relations of the class-based wider society. As expounded by some of its champions, it claims that if a person is treated as if they were ill they are likely to become so, which is not much of an advance on Christian Science and Norman Vincent Peale.
Prominent among the advocates of the health benefits of work is Sir Mansell Aylward, formerly Chief Medical Adviser, Medical Director and Chief Scientist at the UK Department of Work and Pensions, and now HOD in an academic chair sponsored by Unum, the world's largest disability insurer. The AFOEM has acknowledged his leadership and he has had the ear of Welfare minister Paula Bennett. Not only has Unum been thoroughly discredited for the scale on which it has attempted to evade payouts, it has demonstrated an interest in taking over the UK welfare system.
It was Sir Mansell who devised the Personal Capability assessment (PCA) to which British claimants are subjected, the administration of which is contacted out to a private sector firm ATOS. The United Kingdom is further down the path of work-focused welfare reform than is New Zealand, and the results it has achieved- little published in New Zealand, are truly alarming
‘The Express’ Jan 17th 2013 reported: Former Labour minister Michael Meacher accused the firm (ATOS) of “ruthlessly” pressurising the sick and disabled into work. Opening a Commons debate, he said 1,300 people had died after being placed in the “work-related activity group”, for those currently too ill to be in a job but expected to take steps towards an eventual return to employment. Some 2,200 died before the assessment process was completed and 7,100 died after being placed in the group for those entitled to unconditional support as they are too ill or disabled to work.
No wonder the disability support group opposing the UK's benefit reforms has adopted as its symbolic title "Black Triangle" after the stigma worn under duress by disabled citizens in the Third Reich.
To return to AFOEM’s position statement: this document does not shrink from making recommendations to the government, but recommendations that poverty be abolished are not amongst them, despite the link between ill-health and poverty clearly shown in the evidence it marshals, which demonstrates beyond doubt that the children of welfare beneficiaries are more than averagely prone to illness.
This is something the Child Poverty Action Group, the Children’s Commissioner, and a wide variety of community health practitioners have been pointing out for years. Is the fact that the government has been able to ignore this for so long due to the influence of the RACP and those who in turn influence it? Do the learned physicians of the AFOEM really believe that it is lack of work that is making the children sick? Should we anticipate a return to Victorian era child labour laws? The Position Statement includes further evidence that it is poverty, not unemployment that creates ill-health by acknowledging the existence of an unemployed stratum of capitalist parasites which is nevertheless able to remain in good health.
We say the pressure to force the poor into work is to drive down wages and create cheap jobs so that the whole working class is forced to pay for the bosses’ crisis. No way! For the working class to live parasitic capitalism must die!
“Rape Culture” and PatriarchyThe ‘Roast Busters’ scandal created a national protest about teenage boys bragging about getting underage girls drunk and having sex – in fact rape. Many agreed that there was a culture of rape that made this sort of behaviour OK. Moreover the police share rape culture hiding behind excuses for failing to act on written complaints for three years. Many said this culture was part of the patriarchy – a system of male gender domination of the female gender. This is only half the story however. It reduces rape to a symptom of male power over women that can be changed by social reforms.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t explain why patriarchal power and a rape culture exist today. Humans lived in relative gender equality for tens of thousands of years before men imposed their dominance on women. Engels called this the “overthrow of Mother Right”. The matriarchy where public wealth was allocated through the female line for the benefit of the whole society became the patriarchy where men now controlled the accumulation of private wealth.
Patriarchy was the first class society to come into existence. Women fought their oppression and were met by male violence and a culture that justified oppression. The real ‘herstory’ is the resistance of women to the changing forms of patriarchy over the ages. It has persisted through slave and feudal class societies where women were oppressed in ruling and ruled-class families. Today it serves capitalism which exploits unpaid domestic labour to produce each generation if wage-labourers.
Since the patriarchy originated in the overthrow of gender equality it can itself be overthrown and gender equality restored. But to do that women and men have to join forces in the working class to overthrow capitalism.
We learned all this from the Marxist women who participated in the Russian Revolution and the German Revolution from 1917-1923. Women took active roles in the revolutionary parties fighting male prejudice to be treated as equals. Because they were socially oppressed under capitalism they won the right to form independent caucuses and present motions in their name. Moreover they played key roles in leading these socialist revolutions.
In Russia in 1917 it was striking women textile workers demanding bread that sparked off the February revolution which led months later to the October Revolution. In Germany, Rosa Luxemburg was the main leader of the German revolution before her cruel murder in 1919. She was betrayed and killed because she would have played a decisive role in making the German revolution a success.
We urgently need new generations of Bolshevik women. Can the Pussy Riot women jailed by Putin as ‘hooligans’ give us some pointers? It is significant that they brand Putin as an ex KGB dictator and draw inspiration from the ‘Trotskyist resisters’ who stood up to Stalin in the 1930s. Rather than making friends with pseudo Marxists like Slavoj Zizek, they should look to the life and work of Rosa Luxemburg, the many Bolshevik women, and those who fought as ‘Trotskyists’ against Stalinism, then join the struggle for a new revolutionary Marxist Party today.
Dirty DairyingDirty dairying arises from the large scale expansion of dairying by corporates who are hungrily exhausting land, destroying environment and producing dirty products to extract as much monopoly rent as possible. Rent is the value that labour-power produces on the land arising from the inputs of soil, climate, location etc. Monopoly rent arises from the limited supply of land that is fertile, in a temperate climate and has good access to markets. The expansion of dairying in Aotearoa makes use of all of these factors to meet a growing demand for milk in the emerging economies of Asia.
The business takeover of Dairying is not a new gentry or new feudalism as some argue. It’s capitalist farming. NZ farming since British settlement has always been part of the global capitalist economy. Large scale farming employed agricultural workers, while small scale family farming was a source of profits for the banks, stock agents, meat works and shipping companies. During depressions indebted farmers walked off the land and governments made the less valuable land available. Wealthy farmers bought up the best land and got wealthier. The amalgamation of farms in the recent decades continues the trend towards the concentration of large scale or corporate ownership of capitalist agriculture.
Rod Oram writes about how this concentration of assets is highly debt-laden as amalgamations, new technology and economies of scale require big outlays usually financed by bank loans. Oram shows how this is leading to the growing involvement of foreign investors. The word ‘foreign’ here is misleading as most of NZ big business is always been owned by banks and firms that operate globally. Agriculture is no exception.
Fonterra, NZ’s biggest dairy corporation now operates globally, and it’s only a matter of time before it will offer shares that are not under the control of the cooperative producers making it a target for takeover or merger by some other big food monopoly. The concentration of ownership in large scale international British, US, Japanese, Australian and Chinese monopolies on the one hand, and the increasingly internationalised working class on the other, proves Marx prediction that as capital becomes global, so does the working class.
This is the international class structure that underlies the increasing inequality globally. It is certainly inherently unstable as it requires one class to exploit the other and pretend it’s doing it in the common interest. Workers first response is local and national. For example, as the social costs of Fonterra’s dirty dairying become clear, when contamination, dumping of excess milk, poisoning of catchments etc become better known, there will be working class demands to re-nationalise dairying, with cooperative ownership under working class management and control.
Capitalism will not collapse but be revolutionised by the vast millions who already constitute its global productive apparatus. Those multi-millions are also part of capitalism. It is their power over the productive apparatus that will render the political power of the tiny parasitic class impotent. The only question is whether this revolution will happen before global warming kicks off enough feedback loops to make as all equally extinct.
Comrades and CossacksPutting up a memorial to Cossacks who broke the strike of the Auckland wharfies and helped set up a scab union in 1913 is a provocation to today’s workers and the Labour Party which evolved out of the Federation of Labour formed in 1909.
That FOL (known as the ‘Red Fed’ because of its socialist principles) broke from the Arbitration Court because it refused to increase wages in 1908. The Miners Federation became the FOL and other unions like the wharfies, flaxworkers and shearers joined. Acting as free unions registered under the 1878 Trade Union Act. There was no prohibition on strikes and these workers gained better wages and conditions than under the Arbitration Court.
Also formed in 1909 was the Reform Party led by Bill Massey a small farmer. Small farmers newly settled on land broken up by the Liberal Government in the 1890s and assisted by state loans became a new force for private property opposed to the more progressive wing of the Liberals who favoured state leaseholds over freehold. The prize of capital gain was the main route for the landless out of the working class.
From 1910 the freeholders and business class behind Massey organised to force the FOL back into the Arbitration Court. It became the Government in 1912 and the first major fight was at the Waihi gold mines in 1912. The Waihi Miners Union joined the FOL in 1911 and won better wages and conditions. The mine owners used the Arbitration law to form a scab union imposing a wage cut on the FOL miners locked out until they agreed.
For six months the miners held out supported by the FOL and overseas unions. Police, scabs and armed thugs attacked the locked out workers. George Evans was killed. 68 of the miners including all of their leaders were jailed for attempting to keep the scab union out of the mine.
This dispute was a dress rehearsal for the 1913 strike which again began as a lockout this time of the Wellington Watersiders by British shipowners who refused to employ men not in an arbitration union. Now the bosses were emboldened to smash the whole Red Fed and the newly formed Social Democratic party and force all workers into the Arbitration Court. Strikes in support of the locked out Watersiders spread around the country and were faced by police, armed scabs, the Cossacks, and even the army and navy (the latter with permission of the British crown).
According to WB Sutch in Poverty and Progress in NZ p. 165:
“Young farmers, ‘Massey’s Cossacks’, rode into the main ports as ‘specials’ to intimidate the strikers and the public, to form arbitration unions and take the place of watersiders and seamen…When police and specials took over the Auckland waterfront so that scab labour could work the ships, many other unions (including craft unions) struck in protest. There was almost a general strike in Auckland. Strike leaders were put in jail (there were 169 convictions); at the ports the Employers’ Federation formed new arbitration unions, often based on the young farmers were there partly for this purpose; the ports were worked by these people and other scabs; and the Supreme Court decided that arbitration unions could not contribute strike funds to another union. The arbitration unions formed by the employers were registered, and the watersiders told that if they wanted to work again on the wharves they must join these unions. By 20 December 1913 the strike was over, and Massey was able to give Waikato farmers medals for strike breaking.”
In case anybody thinks that that episode can never be repeated it most certainly was in the 1951 lockout, and will inevitably again when organised labour stands up for its rights against the class that owns the means of production and controls the state to enforce its class rule.
Pike River Disaster is us allThe NACTs are so far refusing to be shamed into making state corporate and ministries pay court ordered compensation to the Pike River families. After Key’s crocodile tears at the public rally following the disaster, he now claims there is no legal or moral reason to compensate the families. What do you expect? The NACTs crony capitalist regime is speeding up its rip, shit and bust style of plundering Aotearoa’s natural resources. This means privatising land, water, minerals into the hands of crony capitalists, destroying nature and furthering the carbon burning climate collapse of the failing capitalist system.
The Royal Commission, numerous testaments of miners, crusading journalism like Rebecca Macfie’s book, and committed working class histories like Paul Maunder’s book, put the case beyond reasonable doubt: capitalism rapes nature and chews up and spits out workers and their families in the process so it can make its profits out of their blood and guts.
What we have said consistently about this disaster is that it is typical of capitalism in its terminal decline and no faith in the bosses’ state or in any of the capitalist parties, NACTs, Labour or Greens will change that. Labour and the unions are part of this retreat into rip, shit and bust. The old miners union has been replaced by the EPMU who are committed to working within the confines of capitalist laws.
We need to fight like the Red Fed of the early 1900s before the labour movement was co-opted into parliament. The Red Fed was notorious as a federation of labour that put the interests of workers before the bosses’ law. They broke from the IC&A Act – labour’s ‘leg iron’ in the words of Harry Holland – and fought the bosses attempt to break their federation by violent attacks and force them back into the Arbitration Court. This year, 2013 is the 100 anniversary of the 1913 General Strike that signified the defeat of the Red Fed.
A Red Fed today would be in a very different situation than 100 years ago. As Maunder points out, the capitalist world division of labour has changed. While the NZ economy is still based on extraction and export of raw materials, workers interests do not lie in defending their jobs by the further plunder and destruction of nature. A Red Fed would face climate catastrophe not by fighting for ‘fair shares’ in the destruction of the planet, but by fighting for a new sustainable socialist system in which the working class plans production for our need and not the profits of the 1%. So while the families should get their compensation in this life, the workers need to go on the offensive. The alternative to ongoing destruction of nature and deaths of workers is to rebuild their unions and fight for a Workers’ Government that would socialise the strategic industries without compensation to private owners, and plan production under workers control for a socialist economy.