Sunday, June 19, 2011



Our unions' leaderships are not prepared to fight and win in the current economic crisis. They lack an analysis of the nature of the crisis and are therefore incapable of mapping a road forward. They have buried themselves so far inside the corporate Democratic Party that they can.t see they are feeding the hand that bites us! They believe their own mythology that corporate capitalism can be run in a “moral” manner, and that rational pressure exerted in the traditional manner can resolve the crisis in the interest of the working class. Not only are they mistaken at every step in the road, but their strategy and tactics are leading the working class to defeat and preventing the independent political action needed for the working class to defend and advance our own historic interests. After serving as a tool of class peace for so many decades, these leaders do not know how to respond to the objective fact that the bosses have declared class war on us, and this is a fight to the death!


Labor leaders bemoan the decline of the “middle class,” but the real crime is that they went along with academic sociology and the TV culture which for decades has told workers they are not a “working class,” defined by their social/economic relationship to the means of production, but rather a “middle class” defined by income level and the culture of consumerism. In the face of the economic decline of the American empire and the realignment of economic power toward a rising China, the “middle class” expectations of the American labor movement are no longer affordable in a “profit first” driven economy. Our expectations have burst the limits of capitalism! This objective fact leaves the labor tops with nothing to offer workers today!

The international economic crisis has not been resolved. Billions were thrown at banks and none of it trickled down to jobs. Rather the big banks, speculators and corporate elite used it for personal bonuses, to continue speculative trading and to “rationalize” their companies, increasing capital expenditure and cutting employees to assure returns for stockholders. As American workers. wage packages (wages, COLAS, pensions and healthcare) are slashed in an “employer's market” here at home, across the world in China workers. wages are rising under the pressure of a working class which holds, on average, 435 strikes a day. Businesses, The Economist tells us, are seeking to set a price point in their purchase of labor power (the commodity that workers sell) on the international market, before they can bring jobs back to the USA. But even the most optimistic economists predict that lowering American wages would not bring back enough industrial manufacturing, or even service jobs, to put the 12-20% unemployed back to work, much less to preserve the much vaunted “middle class” lifestyle. The result is a marginalized youth, black and Latino population with no prospects for inclusion in the productive economy, and a prison industrial complex housing two million prisoners who are disproportionately people of color, and overwhelmingly come from the poorest layers of the working class.

As the crisis heads into what is termed a “double dip” recession, imperialism has its tentacles spread thin. Three wars, responsible for countless tens of thousands of civilian deaths, are being run by the Democrats, while covert actions and drone strikes cross more borders than Wikileaks can keep up with. The workers of North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and China are attacking their governments and taking massive strike and protest actions. With the collapse in the bailouts of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and the potential downgrading of the USA's bond rating by Moodys, it is clear the big bosses of the world economy see no way out except imposing massive austerity measures, which they expect the trade union leaders, the Social Democrats, the Labor Parties, and, in the USA, the Democratic Party to administer. And the class traitors at the head of our unions are following right along – witness SEIU Local 1000's endorsement of Governor Brown's regressive tax plans in California.

The bosses. current strategy translates into attacks on all workers. The halving of UAW auto workers. pay has set a new lower wage standard for American industrial and manufacturing work. The increase in class sizes and tuition for students, the cuts in public services, the gutting of public health and other essential governmental services and the scapegoating of the public worker have become standard measures across the nation. The attack on the last and largest bastion of the American labor movement, the public employee sector, is an all-out class war launched by big capitalists with the intention of imposing a historic defeat on the American working class.

In order for market forces (remember the free hand of the market) to drive American workers' compensation down to the price point where capital can rationally invest here again, the market demands gutting of defined benefit pension plans, driving down public sector wages, cutting the social wage (government benefits), and shifting the burden of the crisis further onto the backs of the poor, workers, and the oppressed. The market requires the destruction of the unions and any organizations that organize the working class, the poor, and the oppressed. Today.s union leaderships are not prepared for this onslaught. In fact, these class collaborators act in diametric opposition to the interests of the working class; they are doing everything they can to stop us from organizing independently of the bosses. political parties, from launching solidarity actions, and from striking at all – let along building for the widespread, indefinite general strikes that will ultimately be needed to confront the bosses. attacks.


In the period of the expansion of the US Empire during and after WWII, the labor tops made peace with the American ruling class. Under the threat of rising working class rank and file militancy in the 1930s (the rise of the CIO; general strikes in Minneapolis and San Francisco), Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act – much lauded as a victory for workers, as it guarantees the right to organize, but the actual purpose of which was to corral the working class into reliance on a state structure rather than our own self activity. The NLRA was followed quickly by anti-labor laws such as the Taft-Hartley Act, which constrains labor by making it illegal to offer solidarity to other workers in the form of strike action. Today we see the result: the MUNI rank and file rejected a sell out contract, only to have the “impartial” arbitrator impose it over their objection. If workers in the Bay Area can be stripped of the right to collective bargaining without a fight, it exposes the role of the sell-out labor leaders, which is to constrain the working class during the imposition of austerity. We need to shut down the entire Bay Area transportation grid to defend our MUNI drivers, but solidarity strikes are against the Taft-Hartley law and the craven leadership uses that law to keep the rank and file in line.

As long as the preeminent position of US imperialism brought home super-profits after WWII, infrastructure, education, technology and industry (particularly the military-industrial complex) created a high demand for labor. Rising wages increasingly came with labor peace, enabling the labor bureaucracy to transform itself into a self-perpetuating dues collection agency that acted in its own interests, abandoning class conflict for the “rational” road of arbitration, lawsuits, legislation, and buying politicians.

This worked well for about 25 years, but the laws of capitalist economics precluded the fantasies of the labor bureaucracy from enduring. As the economy changed and wages started to stagnate in the early 1970s, the illusion began to evaporate. There never was a “middle class”; we had been workers all along, and we could pay for the new consumerist culture of a “middle class American dream” only by sending the women of the household to work, by taking second jobs, and by incurring debt in the form of student loans, credit cards, and second mortgages against our houses. Now all these stopgaps are running out, and the explosion of the speculative stock market and inflated housing bubble economy is gutting the standard of living of the American working class. Wages have been flat or declining for decades; we work more hours than before; we have less vacation; we are less secure, and all the money has floated to the top 0.01% while we are scrounging to hold on to a declining paycheck. The labor bureaucracy was not prepared for this! They still cling to their failed strategy of class collaboration with the Democrats, reliance on the courts, and lobbying legislators to “tax the rich.”

This strategy is not just a mistake. Rather, the union tops are doing their job, as defined for them by the bosses. legal system. They will do everything possible to keep workers from taking strike action, and from mounting solidarity actions with workers with workers in other unions, counties, districts, states or nations. The labor bosses see the upsurge in rank-and-file militancy as a threat, which they can only contain by corraling it into electoral politics. Thus, the popular sentiment for a general strike in Wisconsin was diffused into a recall campaign, which prevents immediate militant action, and steers workers into placing faith and hope in the Democrats rather than in our own self-organized mass actions. Thus, the AFL-CIO forbids any mention of opposition to foreign wars as they prepare to rally the troops for the 2012 electoral cycle.


The current crop of union leaders is not going to prepare for a general strike. Instead, they spend most of our dues dollars selling concessionary contracts to the members, while giving the rest to lobbyists and lawyers, leaving our strike funds dry and our membership unorganized, frustrated, and demoralized. For the working class to avoid the historic defeat the Koch brothers have planned for us, we must first take back control of our unions! New militant rank and file leaders not afraid to confront Taft-Hartley through strike action must rise in the ranks to replace the functionaries and careerists who sap our dues while shedding crocodile tears about their inability to mobilize the membership and bring home the bacon.

Effective strike action and general strikes cannot be organized unless we first either take over our unions, or else build new unions and other workers. organizations with a new leadership. Our current union misleaders' attitude is that they are only responsible to act in the interest of the dues-paying membership – not the future members, not the unorganized workers, not the unemployed, and certainly not the workers of the world, oppressed, exploited and brutalized as we are by Wall Street and the military industrial war machine. But our class can only survive and win if we take up the old Knights of Labor slogan: An Injury to One Is an Injury to All! Solidarity is our only power, and the ability to strike in the historic interest of the class is our strongest weapon. When the leaders of today's unions spurn these tools of the international working class, they act as the agents of the ruling class in our organizations, and must be driven out and replaced. That means we need rank-and-file class struggle caucuses to promote a new militant leadership, to fight for working class independence, and to build a fighting workers/labor party that unites the entire working class and all our allies nationally and internationally to strike as one against the rule of the exploiters and build a movement for workers' power and workers' ownership of the means of production.

The drive to build for a general strike must be pursued in conjunction with the democratization of the unions and/or the formation of new workers' organizations. As the current leaders continue to mislead the masses, workers' frustration will rise, and the opportunity to form class struggle rank-and-file caucuses that can challenge for power will grow. To win, these caucuses must advance strategy, tactics, and demands that unite the entire working class, and forge independence, and must prepare for and take united strike actions.

Demands such as no concessions, no take aways, and pay me my COLA are of immediate concern. Demands such as jobs for all and 30 hours work for 40 hours pay can unite labor with the unemployed and those on furloughs and reduced hours. Demands for universal health care, not handouts to the insurance companies, will unite the organized with the underinsured. Demands to nationalize the banks and major industries under workers' control to provide immediate access to capital for job creation offer solution to the crisis of market control. Demands to end imperialist interventions abroad can unite our organizations with the workers across the planet who struggle against the same corporate criminals who are crushing us!

These demands cannot be won by the current leaders, but can be when we take back and rebuild rank and file workers democracy. The fight to defend the working class from the bosses’ class war requires that labor must clean its own house! Drive out the functionaries, imperialists, corporatists, and class collaborators! Then we can remake our unions into a militant organizing force in the fight for the historic interest of the working class!

“[T]he sections of the Fourth International should always strive not only to renew the top leadership of the trade unions, boldly and resolutely in critical moments advancing new militant leaders in place of routine functionaries and careerists, but also to create in all possible instances independent militant organizations corresponding more closely to the tasks of mass struggle against bourgeois society; and, if necessary, not flinching even in the face of a direct break with the conservative apparatus of the trade unions. If it be criminal to turn one.s back on mass organizations for the sake of fostering sectarian factions, it is no less so passively to tolerate subordination of the revolutionary mass movement to the control of openly reactionary or disguised conservative ('progressive') bureaucratic cliques. Trade unions are not ends in themselves; they are but means along the road to proletarian revolution.” Leon Trotsky, The Transitional Program (1938)

Humanist Workers for Revolutionary Socialism
June 17, 2011 Labor Donated

Monday, June 13, 2011






Oscar Grant's racist murderer, Johannes Mehserle, is to be released on Monday June 13. As could have been predicted, the racist legal system protected the killer cop from any semblance of "justice". Last November, Judge Robert Perry of L.A. Superior Court sentenced the former BART cop to two years in jail for "involuntary manslaughter", after he shot Oscar execution style, as the young father lay handcuffed face down on a BART platform New Year's Eve 2009. A racist murder was reduced to a mere mistake.

Seeking a whiter venue, the trial was moved out of Oakland. And while the demographics of Los Angeles is 25% Caucasian, 75% of the jury in Mehserle's trial was white. No potential black jurors who had any encounters with police were allowed to serve - while white jurors who had friends in the police department were selected. The jury found that Mehserle should serve additional time for using a gun in the crime (14 years for gun enhancement), but Judge Perry rejected the jury's finding. He gave Mehserle a slap on the wrist with a two-year jail sentence. In the “land of the free”, a black youth charged with a similar crime would be sentenced to jail for life - if not death row. But with "credit for time served", Mehserle will be set free after serving a mere 11 months of a two year sentence.

Even as we head into the 21st century, the United States - with its "progressive" liberal enclaves like the S.F. Bay Area - deepens its global reputation as one of the world's most racist nations. In Oakland we do not forget the unarmed youth Jerrold Hall who was killed by BART cops 18 years ago. The world will never forget the images of Rodney King bludgeoned to within inches of his life by a gang of racist L.A. cops. It will never forget the images of stripped and hooded prisoners tortured with phosphoric acid at Abu Ghraib. And now despite the cell phone videos of the killing of Oscar Grant on the internet, his state-backed racist executioner will walk the streets a free man on June 13. The verdict is in, the bosses courts protect the bosses thugs. FOR JUSTICE THE WORKING CLASS AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES CAN ONLY RELY ON OURSELEVES!

Last October, the longshore workers of the ILWU shut down all the ports of in the Bay Area in opposition to the racist verdict in the Meserle trial. While the demands of that one day action: "Justice for Oscar Grant / Maximum Sentence for Johannes Mehserle" were not achieved, they created the kind of united front action, linking the struggle of oppressed communities, youth and labor that makes the ruling class tremble. When labor/black and brown communities come together and take strike action against the oppression of the state the ruling class control is challenged. That is why today the bosses are coming after the ILWU 10 for their subsequent April 10th political strike. Violent police brutality and racist cop murder will continue to be a feature of everyday life in the U.S., just as U.S. imperialist military interventions abroad will continue until we link our youth and community organizations, our marches, and rebellions to organized labor and launch class war against the exploiting class-the top 0.01% that own it all and control our labor power. Only organized labor actions can challenge the capitalist system, their racist courts and cops. In 1934, the dock workers of San Francisco responded to cop murder of a longshore worker by organizing the San Francisco General Strike, shutting down the entire city and most of the Bay Area. Likewise today, to achieve Justice for Oscar Grant we must demand:

  • Organized strike actions against the racist verdict and against the release of Oscar Grant's murderer!
  • Set up Multi-Racial workers’ tribunals drawn from the Trade Unions, the African-Americans and Latino communities to try all cases of police brutality!
  • Build workers’ self defense guards to protect our black/brown/LGBT and labor communities against the police!
  • Break with the Democrats and Republicans and build a fighting workers/Labor Party organizing with the unemployed, the black and brown communities and youth!
  • Build a revolutionary workers’ international party based on the 1938 Transitional Program of the 4th International to lead the working class to power! 
Humanist Workers for Revolutionary Socialism  

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Quake City Resists Disaster Capitalism

[Photo: Disaster Capitalist A Team, Prime Minister John Key (left), Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker]

Christchurch continues to be the test bed of Disaster Capitalism in NZ proving the point that crises allow capital to profit at the expense of workers. Or course crises can be manufactured too as the sacking of ECAN shows. Dispensing with the inconvenience and risks of the democratic process is justified by declaring a state of emergency, especially a ‘national emergency’. This has enabled the NACT regime to pass under urgency the Enabling Act to dispense with any democratic constraints in rebuilding Christchurch. Massey’s Cossacks are riding again, but atop growing herds of dairy cows this time. There are fewer of them because these are corporate farmers more often these days, some of them in the NACT cabinet or very close to it.

The Enabling Act is a warning to the rest of NZ of what the NACT regime will impose if re-elected. The NACT cabinet is made up of bosses who own large chunks of NZ assets. They are running the country like NZ Inc with the cabinet at the board of directors. Christchurch residents are incensed at the role of Fletcher Building who will profit hugely after being appointed by Cabinet to lead the rebuild. This is nothing new. Fletchers was founded around 1940 on the back of a massive state contract to build army huts and state houses. James Fletcher was seconded to become the Minister of Construction. Today the close relations between the NACT cabinet and big business like Fletchers vindicates Karl Marx view that: "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie".

As we pointed out in ‘Disaster Capitalism Downunder’ the NZ ruling class is seizing on the Christchurch earthquake to create business opportunities while at the same time making workers pay for their economic crisis. Over 80,000 adults and their families (from fall in eftpos cards used) have been shunted around NZ to add to the floating reserve army of labour of over 270,000 unemployed, putting downward pressure on wages, and reinforcing NZ’s comparative advantage as a low-wage country which says Bill English is one way to catch up to Australia. On top of that workers all over NZ have put their hands in their pockets to support fundraising, attending concerts, supporting families’ relocation out of Christchurch etc., contributing $73 million to the Earthquake Appeal by May 17.

Compared with the contribution of workers, Govt is paying the bare minimum. Govt is raising $8.5 billion in bonds for Christchurch but more than half of that goes to repaying loans from EQC, backing AMI and other costs so it’s actual contribution to is around $4 Billion, yet it makes out that the cost of rebuilding has added greatly to the deficit justifying massive cuts in Kiwisaver, Working For Families, flog off 49% of state assets, and cuts in social spending.

This is their sob story to shift more of the cost of the crisis onto workers, in particular Christchurch workers. So the emergency payments going to unemployed have been stopped for most workers. The CTU says that support has been cut from 47,000 to around 4,000 workers. The Govt claims that the situation is back to normal. But it’s clear from the fact that Westpac staff in Christchurch say they are “being forced to push loans and insurance policies on financially struggling customers in the wake of the devastating February earthquake” that the situation is far from normal . The CTU and its Labour Party backers wants a Worker Assistance Package for Canterbury, including ongoing income support, job creation schemes, and skills training. So far, as we would expect, there has been only a small commitment to skills training to fill the shortfall of labour for rebuilding.

The CERA’s emergency powers allow the property rights of individuals and small businesses to be ridden over. Angry small business owners locked out of their businesses while they were being looted by cowboy demolition firms protested.

Brownlee the CERA boss basically tells them to go to hell. Brownlie openly mocks even some larger business owners, as ‘obstructing redevelopment’ in the TV coverage.

Others were not allowed to retrieve their personal property. The case of David Theobold shows what happens to people trying to enter property to retrieve personal property. He entered his house as it was being demolished to retrieve a valuable computer hard-drive only after repeatedly failing to get permission. He was locked up for 2 weeks, given a mental health assessment and treated like shit.

He is not the first, nor will he be the last. So while these basic democratic rights and financial support of workers are abused and withdrawn, the NACT regime glosses over its disaster capitalism routine with photo-op events such as the visits of royalty and celebrities like Prince Willie and Rachel Hunter.

What lessons can we learn from the way Disaster Capitalism is being applied in Christchurch? With so many lives in limbo and workers dis-empowered, the least we can do is learn from their experience - instructional for everyone’s future as that is. While disguising the heightened rate of profit-gouging that business-as-usual could otherwise not deliver, Disaster Capitalism works most visibly at the maintenance of myth. While caring and charity wear thin with fading headlines, gratitude is manipulated into political compliance to amorphous and obscure plans. Some prominent myths maintained by Disaster Capitalism are:

1. ‘Science understands what is happening and is here to help you’: in fact underfunding and service cuts have long-since eroded the effectiveness of commercially-driven science research. Science didn’t intervene to stop the collapse of buildings weakened by the September earthquake and save the 182 lives lost in the February quake. Its primary role here has become after-the-event pacification of the populace because panic and necessary evacuations would dent business profits - especially tourism and hospitality. Public good science is being misused for the purpose of business continuity.

2. ‘The public is involved in the reconstruction’: all kinds of elaborate ruses are in use for convincing workers that this is the case - information talks, news and advertising media, websites and workshop ‘engagement’ etc.(‘consultation’ has been scrapped as ‘too one-way’) - when the actual outcome is the removal of causes and mechanism for complaints. CERA has carte blanche. After all, elected regional representation was disabled by the NACT regime for the very same reason. City council and community board representatives have been neutralised too. Appointment of ‘community leaders’ onto ‘representative panels’ is sham democracy. Workers are being tricked into ‘ownership’ of harmful governance decisions. Exhaustion and bad roads have drastically cut back civic life, which is still prevented from accessing the city centre.

3. ‘A level playing field exists for business to get back on its feet’: small businesses like retailers are struggling to reopen in the wake of martial law, and their trade will go to big retail chains and malls - benefiting big finance capital only and the monopoly capitalist state. Disaster Capitalism can best be understood as accelerated monopoly capitalism.

4. ‘Urgency means we are better off without sound planning’: the Resource Management Act and every form of regulatory safeguard have been sidelined by CERA authority over local government, yet it was the building code - or what’s left of it - that can claim first honour in saving lives. Parks and reserves are being ‘temporarily’ utilised for profit-making housing etc services, and the city is being reshaped unilaterally by CERA. Port Lyttelton, for example, has been given free rein to rapidly expand export facilities by harbour in-fill.

5. ‘You will be rehoused, paid for by insurance’: everyone affected by the earthquakes faces large extra costs and no chance of full reimbursement. Workers’ housing equity is disappearing into the state banking system - again, monopoly capitalism at work.

6. ‘Your jobs, income and benefits are secure’: yeah, right. There are frequent aftershocks, the most recent a 5.5 and there will be more with no safety and security in sight for Christchurch workers.

The list of methods and myths by which Disaster Capitalism raises the economic rate of exploitation for monopoly capitalism - across all of working society and the environment - is still larger than this. The reaction of Christchurch workers has been to wake up and smell the bullshit and promote their own efforts at rebuilding the city. Working people need to organise quickly to protect and extend their own interests through political struggle. We support the workers of Christchurch and the efforts of the unions to organise them in this struggle as should all kiwi workers.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Beneficiaries Labelled 'Mentally Ill'

National Seeks Mandate for Welfare Cuts

National plans to make the Welfare Working Group’s notorious recommendations key election policy. The ethnic-cleansing style recommendations include forcing the sick and disabled into work, long term contraception injections, compulsory vaccinations, making single mothers with a second child go back to work when the baby is 14 weeks old and cutting benefits for child truancy, failing to get child 'health checks' or refusing treatments.

A ministerial group (including Beneficiary Bashing Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett, and Not Achieved Education Minister Anne Tolley) will make the final decision, and legislation is expected around September this year. WINZ looks set to be replaced by Employment and Support New Zealand (ESNZ) in July 2012, with all benefits being replaced by a single Job Seeker Allowance.

Benefits cut and no jobs

Benefits are at half their pre- 1991 levels in real terms compared to the minimum wage. A quarter of New Zealand children (and rising) live in poverty. Child abuse levels are through the roof. The Red Cross distributes food to hungry children in our schools. Food prices are soaring and 271,000 are officially jobless. Aotearoa’s registered unemployed rate continues at 6.6%, up 0.5% over the year, and that’s excluding Canterbury. Anecdotally, staff at a North Shore WINZ office have reported a rise in applicants from around 40-50 a week to 800 a week since the recession began. Youth not in paid work (20-24 yr olds) is staggeringly high at 35% while only 12.5% are registered as unemployed.

Despite this alarming poverty and unavailability of jobs, the National Government continues to pursue an “unrelenting work focus” (Ministry of Social Development catch phrase) and plans to drastically slash the remaining benefits and to “reduce considerably those on sickness and invalids benefits”. Thousands have already been taken off the invalids benefits losing $50 per week. The Rebstock Razor gang wants to reduce spending by nearly a third from around $4.7b to $3.4b per year by 2011 (dishonestly represented as $47b and $34b which is the amount for the entire ten years.) It aims to cut 100,000 people off the welfare rolls in the next decade above those who will get jobs with the projected economic recovery. Overall, it hopes reduce those on a benefit from 360,000 to 100,000 by 2021. It also plans to increase the proportion of beneficiaries having to seek work from 37% to77%; with possible work for the dole.

Commentator Gordon Campbell puts it this way: “If the American models for these reforms are anything to go by, those 100,000 people will not simply vanish – they will turn up on our street corners, living out of cardboard boxes.” At the same time the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development earns around $ 540,000 per year (2009 figures). “Now how many 'ordinary' wage and salary earners could live off that?” (Radical, beneficiary activist, in Indymedia discussion)

Not Having a Job is now Seen as a Mental Illness

In order to slash the numbers on the welfare rolls, a key target of the Welfare Working Group (Razor Gang) is the half of the 145,000 sickness/invalids beneficiaries which it says have “unmet mental health needs” which prevent them from working. The ministry admits that it could take “several years” to turn these 72,000 'mentally ill' people into a source of profits. “But we can't wait a year to start ... so we are getting on with training people. Those people will be essential."

Professor Des Gorman, a member of the Rebstock Razor Gang, and chairman of Health Workforce NZ proposes that the Government trains more mental health nurses, and more general practitioners to take “ a special interest” in mental health and addiction. He calls for ACC style 'rehabilitation' to be available, which no doubt roughly translates as “work will set you free” (arbeit macht frei”).

While it is a good idea for those making decisions about the lives of 'mentally ill' beneficiaries to actually learn something about the subject (as at present none of the Regional Health Advisors or designated doctors working for WINZ have a clue) ; the new courses will undoubtedly be a vehicle for the government’s “unrelenting work” focus. It’s likely to become increasingly difficult for anyone (especially a trainee) to question this semi- fascistic approach whose real intent is hidden behind caring language. Here’s an example of the Welfare Working Group’s misuse of language. And here’s the NZ Herald editorial , ‘Work helps ill beneficiaries get better’, replicating the MSD stories as if they were true, and their solutions as if they were commonsense: “Psychological disorders, led by stress and depression, accounted for the entire increase in sickness benefits and a third of the increase in invalids benefits from 1996 to 2002.”

The trainees could well become 'essential', working for low wages, employed by private contractors or NGO’s, learning how to diagnose “mental health needs” in every second sickness beneficiary and prescribing work cures and benefit cuts for most of them. Perhaps underpaid trainees might even run programmes at boot camps for the sick, mentally ill and disabled, similar to those for law breakers and unemployed already being criticised by John Key’s Science Advisor.

And where is this 'Mental Health'’ money coming from? The short answer is-beneficiaries and the sick will pay for it with cuts to benefits and services! Unlike in Australia, where A$2.2 billion extra per year for five years has been provided to 'help' the mentally ill into work , nothing extra has been provided in National’s Budget. So the money has to come out of existing funds for Social Development and Health, despite talk about $1.3b having been “ring fenced” for the project.

The view of unemployment as a ‘mental illness’ is a form of victim blaming. Rather than admitting the truth that the capitalist system needs unemployment to keep wages down and profits up, this view blames the individual for their predicament and suffering. It promotes the delusion that therapies and drugs for the individual can solve the problem of unemployment. The only thing that can solve unemployment is to end the system that creates it!

Co-option of Health Professionals

Robert Steenhuisen, co-chairman of the National Committee for Addiction Treatment spoke out in support of these proposals. With a background in compulsory addiction treatment for offenders, he said that group sessions would probably work best for beneficiaries who often had multiple problems besides addictions. The possibility that some people don’t like working in groups is not mentioned. He went on to say “"People have to reach a certain level of awareness that this is how their life is and that no one is going to make it better for them except themselves".

In this arrogant prescription, there’s no mention of the social causes of people’s suffering that are largely beyond their control-unemployment rates, poverty, social isolation, racism, sexism, beneficiary bashing, harassment, state and family violence to name a few. Instead we need to learn that it’s all our fault!

Robert Steenhuisan does say one good thing though: “Working with people in groups helped them realise they were not the only ones with difficulties.” The possibility is always there for people forced together on some ESNZ programme to actually unite together to fight for their rights.

The New Zealand College of Nurses uncritically reprints an outline of the 'Work Focused Support' approach of Dr David Bratt, Principal Health Advisor of WINZ, (described by Radical as a “simple GP’ in Wellington) on their website. They describe it as “a more integrated approach to combining matters of health and disability with aspects of social wellbeing which fits well with a nursing approach”. Perhaps this support has something to do with the fact that the majority of the Regional Health Advisors employed by WINZ were intended to be nurses.

Extraordinary Powers of  Health Professionals

WINZ Regional Health Advisors (some of whom are nurses, but at least one is unqualified) and designated doctors have extraordinary powers as no case officer untrained in health would dare to reject their 'advice'. Radical, a beneficiary campaigner, points out in a discussion in Indymedia , that all the RHA’s and designated doctors have an “absolute work focus.” The designated doctors (who don’t know the client and see them for only a few minutes) are often given far more credence by the case officer than the beneficiary’s own doctor. Radical says:

“I have seen bizarre and absurd 'second opinions' that were totally contrary to the opinions the normal GPs’ or other health practitioners’ (that) clients see...The onus is being put onto the ill person to 'prove' that she/he is really as ill as doctor's medical certificates state. Indirectly the Ministry also treats medical practitioners that are not working with them as 'designated doctor' as possibly not being competent enough to make the assessments they make." The only option WINZ provides for a beneficiary who is not happy with the decision of a designated doctor is to take the matter to a 'Medical Appeal Board.' The decision of this board is final.

As Radical points out, WINZ’s “unrelenting work focus” compromises medical ethics. The ethics of any health professional surely require the health interests of the patient to be put first, rather than the employer’s interests to have them on the labour market. Indeed the horrendous treatment that many people with health and disability issues have faced by WINZ has in fact CAUSED enormous mental health problems for some people. One commentator put it this way on facebook: “They have their own doctors lined up-stacked with arseholes-just like ACC....I wanted to throw up.”

Compulsory Treatment 

Re-casting sickness or invalids beneficiaries as mentally ill, addicts, or akin to criminals provides an excuse for completely stripping them of their human rights-not that they had too many to start with!-and exercising total control over them. Many beneficiaries have spoken of the 'soft fascist', 'police state' or 'nazi'-like way they are being treated. The current proposals for compulsory treatment of beneficiaries are reminiscent of the Soviet post Stalinist era when political dissidents were forced to take neuroleptics, mind numbing psychiatric medication; or of the identical forced drugging of social dissidents (eg poets, blacks, lesbians and gays) in the USA who were unfortunate enough to be diagnosed as being mentally ill (See Mad in America by Robert Whitaker, especially pages 211-219). One person reported on facebook: “Compulsory treatment has already started. People are being forced to take medication or lose the benefit as it is seen as not making an effort to get better... even if the medication makes them worse, and there are no other options.”

What needs to be done?

Many beneficiaries are finding that their lives are being increasingly controlled by WINZ designated doctors, regional health advisors, or case officers who are ignorant of , unsympathetic towards, or plain hostile to their real needs;- such as an adequate income, genuine connection to others, and some autonomy over their own lives. Adding a layer of mental health trainees and intensifying pressure to look for work, is adding insult to injury.

Under this increasing pressure, beneficiaries are fighting back spontaneously and are starting to get organised. In one case "a woman (at DSW) who was obviously stressed and desperate for some assistance was stone walled at the counter. She picked up her baby, 18month old and popped her on the counter and walked away... Suddenly, there was this huge commotion and the tone from the dept changed.” (reported on facebook).

Individually, beneficiaries resist WINZ decisions by making appeals, sometimes with the help of advocacy groups, and one beneficiary is challenging the legal basis of entire WINZ policies. Some beneficiaries are joining the new Te Mana movement to try to defeat National’s policies.

What is needed is a combined fight back of beneficiaries and paid workers, with community organisations, anti-poverty groups, advocacy groups and unions working together. Unions need to include beneficiaries in their ranks. The Unite union was set up to do this, but so far has not done so, apart from the Waitemata Branch which is successfully organising at a grass roots level.

The protests in North Africa and Europe have shown that unemployed can indeed fight back, and even lead revolutionary movements. This is giving inspiration and hope to beneficiaries here in Aotearoa. We need to drive National out, fight in our communities and workplaces, and end capitalism. Expropriate the expropriators! In its place we need a socialist society where people work together to meet real human needs, where women and children are at the centre and not the periphery, and where vulnerable members are treated with caring and respect.

Cuba for Sale

Cuba is going through a process of capitalist restoration. The 6th Cuban Communist Party Congress held in April 2011 resolved to make major changes for the Cuban economy to overcome its stagnation. They represent a wholesale embrace of the capitalist market. No longer limited to the ‘external sector’ where foreign corporates have made joint ventures with state corporates for years, but for the whole economy. Cubans are now being encouraged to adopt market practices such as buying state property as private property and employing wage workers. Thus the capitalist market will replace state allocation of resources as the main mechanism of the economy. Marxists analyse this as a shift from state planning to the law of value, and hence a shift from a Workers State, albeit deformed from its birth in 1959, to a Capitalist State.

The Cuban bureaucracy has ruled in place of workers, and thus deformed the character of the workers state since the revolution. It has played a counter-revolutionary role in the class struggle since it became dependent on the Soviet Union in the early 1960s. Cuba modelled itself on that Stalinist Degenerated Workers State and its theory of ‘socialism in one country’ cutting itself off from the workers in the rest of Latin America and Africa where it consistently backed the national bourgeois leaderships against popular anti-imperialist struggles. To cite one glaring example, Castro visited Chile to back Allende’s parliamentary road to socialism against the independent armed struggle of the organized workers. The 1973 Pinochet coup was the result.
Despite its loyalty to the Soviet Union the parasite bureaucrats of the Cuban CP learned the lesson from its collapse that workers’ property could no longer allow it to extract its privileges from workers labor. But to avoid the fate of the USSR which opened itself up to capitalism by means of rapid ‘shock treatment’, Cuba looked towards China’s gradual restoration of capitalism. It began to open a sector of the economy to foreign private investment and found that the new market relations with imperialism were much more lucrative for the bureaucracy than trying to defend the planned economy. So it now seeks to complete the process and turn itself into a new bourgeois class. The 6th Cuban CP Congress in April marks a decisive break from the revolution and the sealing of the capitalist counter-revolution as a world historic defeat of the international working class.

Following China’s ‘capitalist road’

The Cuban bureaucracy, desperate to become a new bourgeoisie has ‘sold’ capitalist restoration using the same language as that used by the Chinese CP to cover its restoration of capitalism - 'market socialism'. China underwent a deformed workers revolution in 1949 where the bourgeoisie were overthrown and expropriated, but where the bureaucracy usurped the working class to rule ‘Communist China’ as a privileged caste living off workers labor. But the planned economy underwent long term stagnation due to its isolation from the world economy and its failure to develop the forces of production.

A faction of the bureaucracy ‘the capitalist roaders’ took power and opened up the economy to the capitalist market. Resistance to restoration was decisively suppressed at Tiananmen in 1989. In 1992 at the 14th Chinese CP Congress and at the political committee meeting that immediately followed the Chinese bureaucracy formally took the decision to restore capitalism and the law of value to organize the economy in place of the state plan. The CCP ‘sold’ this fateful decision as ‘market socialism’ to disguise the end of the Deformed Workers State and the emergence of a new capitalist state.

Since that time China has reintroduced capitalism in the whole of the economy. It encouraged imperialist powers to play a central role in revolutionizing production in the export sectors, rapidly accumulated capital in the state sector and adopted new technology. Today China is an emerging imperialist economy now recognized not only as an economic rival to the US and EU imperialist powers, but also a political rival that has become a model for many semi-colonial countries to break away from the domination of US and EU powers. This is clearly the case in Cuba where the Castoite CP since the demise of the Soviet Union has looked to China as the ‘socialist’ alternative to US imperialism, and thus a successful model for Cuba to follow along its own ‘capitalist road’.

Chavista Popular Front

Cuba’s ‘capitalist road’ converges with the much vaunted Chavista '21st century socialism'. This is the key to the defeat of Latin American workers which is necessary to allow Cuba to complete its historic counter-revolution. Chavez’ Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela (and which leads the ALBA countries including Bolivia and Ecuador) has trapped Latin American workers behind a popular front with China. Chavez famously talks of walking hand in hand with China towards ‘21st century socialism’. It is the counter-revolutionary role of the Chavista popular front in Latin America that allows Cuba to complete a historic counter-revolution by the Chinese method of many defeats and repressions of workers over the decades and then to complete that historic defeat. It follows that if the Cuban counter-revolution is to be defeated before it is altogether victorious, it is necessary to smash the Bolivarian popular front. We cannot stress this enough. Chavez and Castro are part of an 'anti-imperialist' bloc with China and semi-colonial semi-fascists like Gaddafi and Assad to stop the new wave of workers’ uprisings against the global crisis-uprising which can play the critical role of breaking up the popular fronts and the fake 'market socialism' that ultimately serves imperialism.

So will the Cuban bureaucracy succeed in completing the restoration process before the world revolution destroys the Stalinist/fake Trotskyist barrier to socialist revolution in Latin America and brings a political revolution to Cuba? It depends on whether the Arab revolution deepens and spreads into the rest of Africa, into Europe, Asia and Latin America, where the strangle hold of the Stalinist/Menshevik popular front which ties the workers to imperialism is destroyed, and the international revolution advances to victory. Of course this means first and foremost a program for Political Revolution even at this late stage in Cuba.

Political Revolution, Social Revolution, Permanent Revolution

Reality is complex and Marxists know that simplifying it unnecessarily results in tragic outcomes for the toiling masses. We are not 'objectivists.' We do not believe the 1938 Transitional Program of Political Revolution against the usurpers of the workers' political power, the Stalinist parasite bureaucracy, will suffice in the Cuban case to produce a healthy workers state on the developmental path to socialism and communism. Methodologically speaking the 'Transitional Program' prepared us to analyse whatever situation would come the workers' way. But this is not at all to say that it gave us an exhaustive catalogue of historical possibilities, as some sectarians would have us believe.

As the capitalist restoration has been underway for some time and has now, with the firing of a half million workers, it has gathered speed and force, increasingly the transitional demands of the program for socialist revolution are objectively called for. As the Castroite bureaucracy goes about transforming itself into a Chinese-model 'red' bourgeoisie, the Cuban working class must see in itself its own best hope for reversing this historic defeat by overthrowing the usurpers of the workers' political power and 'expropriating the expropriators' of the social wealth, of the labor of the revolutionary generations. Today combined tasks of the political revolution (against the bureaucracy) and social revolution (to defend social property, seize capitalist property, and put it under workers’ control) are on the agenda. To accomplish these tasks moreover, they need more than hope; they need a vanguard internationalist workers party of their own making, a new International, a World Party of Socialism, based on the 1938 Transitional Program, one which never subordinates their well being or future to alien class interests.

The Cuban working class remains the best hope in reversing this historic defeat by overthrowing the Castroist bureaucracy which is on the point of transforming itself into a copy of the Chinese ‘red’ bourgeoisie. Armed with a revolutionary workers' internationalist program, the Cuban workers need to mobilize and rally behind them the Latin American masses currently fenced in behind the Chavista Popular Front. Here we have a program for socialist revolution that must break from the popular front, exposing its leaders as bourgeois Bonapartists who, while posing left in the anti-imperialist fight, are actually the agents of imperialism. No better weapon to explode the Chavista popular front is the exposure of its complicity in defending the dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East. Why does Chavez defend Gaddafi and Assad the two most murderous dictatorships posing as ‘socialist’? Because Chavez recognises in their bloody suppression of the masses, precisely what steps he will have to take to repress the masses when it becomes clear to them that he too is the agent of the imperialist bourgeoisie!

The role of revolutionaries today then is to awaken the youth vanguard who are leading the revolution in North Africa and the Middle East, with our program for Permanent Revolution, and to fight for the unity of this vanguard with the workers organized in the base of the unions, to fight for socialist revolution, defeating by armed struggle not only the dictatorships imposed by imperialism, and the facade of ‘democratic’ imperialism represented by social democracy in the imperialist countries, but also and most critically, the death trap of the Chavista popular front that ties the hands of the vanguard of the revolution behind Bonapartists whose role is to prepare for the full on fascist reaction when it becomes clear to imperialism that it faces a revolutionary challenge to its class rule. 

  • Defend the right to a job! No Layoffs! 
  • Defend Socialized Medicine! 
  • Defend and expand socialized agriculture! 
  • For workers control of the economic plan! 
  • Stop the capitalist restorationists! 
  • Drive out the Castroite fake communists! 
  • No to 21st c. 'market socialism'! 
  • Down with Canadian, Chinese and Spanish imperialist exploitation! 
  • Defeat the stranglehold of US imperialism.   
Humanist Workers for Revolutionary Socialism and Communist Workers Group
June 1, 2011.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Te Mana Party

The Mana Party is the brainchild of the reformist left that sees the time is ripe to challenge Labour and mobilise against the New Right. Leading players include leader Hone Harawira, Chairman Matt McCarten, Maori lawyer Annette Sykes, pakeha radical Sue Bradford and pakeha activist John Minto. They are all democratic socialists or reformists who see social change being won through trade union and parliamentary struggle. They see that there is a rising tide of opposition to the NACTs but no Labour Party fightback. There is a danger that young workers, especially Maori youth who face terrible unemployment, family breakdown, alienation and self-destruction, will bear the brunt of the rabid extreme rightwing agenda that another NACT government will unleash on the working class.

The Mana party is the ideal vehicle to rally workers both Maori and non-Maori against these anti-worker attacks. Harawira’s mana with Maori workers survives despite his taking his grassroots activism into parliament. Harawira organised the 2004 Foreshore & Seabed (F&S) Hikoi. It was a great move but instead of staying on the streets it headed for parliament. It got co-opted by Turia who resigned from Labour and used her by-election victory to launch the Maori Party (MP) and join forces with National to defeat Labour's F&S Act. At the time we argued that instead of going to parliament Harawira should have taken his fight into occupations of the F&S that could be supported by Maori and non-Maori workers thus advancing the unity and strength of the labour movement. After nearly 3 years of sitting in the anti-worker/ anti-Maori NACT/MP govt Harawira finally reached breaking point and resigned. His break with the MP and forming Te Mana to force a Te Tai Tokerau by-election, created the opportunity for leftwing reformists to act.

Harawira has a history of activism as a Maori nationalist. This led him into the Maori party where Maori nationalism was the uniting force. But Te Mana has appeal to non-Maori youth and other activists too. Has Harawira realised that Maoridom is divided along class lines that he must represent Maori workers against the MP representation of iwi capitalism? Perhaps he now agrees that only a united working class can advance the interests of Maori workers. This realisation would sit well with that of Matt McCarten, the Maori President of Unite union, and Mike Treen, the pakeha National Secretary of Unite. Unite under their leadership has recruited around 8000 young lowpaid workers in the last 5 years many of them young Maori and Pasifika as well as recent immigrants.

Te Mana is the ideal vehicle to project Unite’s politics into parliament. McCarten is a tried and true politician who took the Alliance into a decade of parliamentary dead end deals but still has huge mana with political activists. Mike Treen, a long-time supporter of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, argues that Te Mana is a progressive step towards the overthrow of NZ capitalism. He offers a more hard left alternative to the dominant parliamentary focus of Mana seeing socialist revolution as the ultimate goal of its program. Treen therefore offers to young activists turning left the scenario that paints Mana as a radical breakthrough in NZ politics.

Te Mana has already got several strong political demands including the (re) nationalising of power, water and housing; an end to asset sales; and end to the 90 Day Fire at Will Act; and a Hone Heke tax (sometimes called financial transactions tax) that would replace GST. On the face of it these are anti-neoliberal demands. They are more against the new right’s market politics than against the capitalist system itself. They are similar to 'anti-capitalist' demands that try to make the market serve socialism. Many of today's left reformists look to China’s brand of ‘market socialism’ as an alternative to capitalism. For example the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez are seen as building ‘market socialism’ influenced by China, though Chavez calls it ‘21st century socialism’ and the Castro brothers see it as defending Cuba's 20th century 'socialism'. 

The problem is that this perspective is unreal as China’s ‘market socialism’ has nothing to do with socialism. The re-introduction of the market to China led to the restoration of capitalism. China is now a state capitalist and imperialist country. In Cuba the re-introduction of the market is at the point of restoring capitalism. Only a major upsurge of Latin American workers can stop this and the defeat of the Cuban revolution. The common theme of 'market socialists' is that it can be introduced from 'above' by a  bureaucratic or bourgeois leadership rather than an independent working class from 'below'. So long as Mana Party is led by left reformists, its focus will be on returning activists like Harawira, Bradford and Minto as MPs to pressure Labour and the Greens to the left, rather than a working class movement that challenges capitalism from below. 

What is progressive about Te Mana is that its program will appeal to many angry workers, especially youth like those we see rising up in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. They will see it as a forum and movement that can defend the working class against the right wing attacks of National and Act parties. But they will find that so long as Te Mana limits itself to putting pressure on parliament that it cannot win any major gains, or be able to defend what gains have been won in the past by strikes and protests. All those historic victories were forced on parliament by struggles outside parliament. To get a living wage and benefit and to create jobs for all Te Mana will have to build a party that is capable of taking the fight to the capitalist class directly by rebuilding the unions as fighting, democratic organs capable of strikes, occupations, and defence committees, and ultimately capable of creating a workers government and planned socialist economy.

We will participate in Te Mana Party so long as we are free to promote our revolutionary program and argue for the following proposals within the democratic norms of the Constitution.
  • Propose that the Te Mana Party Constitution states its purpose is anti-capitalist and pro-socialist and that its objective is a society in which production is cooperative and for need and not profit.
  • Propose that the Te Mana Party develops as a democratic, activist party whose main base is in the Maori and non-Maori working class. Members of Parliament act as the representatives of the Party and not its executive.
  • Propose that internal democracy is based on an annual Congress where decisions including elections of leaders are based on votes delegated proportionately to representatives of recognised constituent groups such as Maori, migrants, youth, women, unions, etc.

Class struggle in NZ Health services

The NZ state under capitalist pressures (tendency for fall rate of profit and periodic crises) tries various restructuring of healthcare to shift health costs onto working people; thus reducing the proportion that the state pays. This serves the capitalist class by reducing their taxes and propping up their otherwise falling profits (which the working class produced anyway). NZ capitalism has cut health care costs in 2 main ways – cutting wages, and cutting funded services.

In mental health services ‘trusts’ were created for the purpose of providing services to ‘clients’ who were no longer provided for by public services. This occurred at the same time as institutions - hospitals were closed. Community care has always been on a tension with community dumping (neglect) and the state driving down wage bills by contracting services into private has been the underlying dynamic to this. Fortunately for the state this occurred at the same time as rising education and skill levels (% passes in education have steadily increased). So this change may have been able to be done without a noticeable loss in quality of care. However, occasional media exposure of extreme cases of rest home neglect shakes confidence in these services.

In the starting positions care giving roles “health aide” or “community support worker”, the wages are near the state’s minimum wage level; competitiveness for jobs, and lack of union organisation maintains this situation. The capitalist state runs with an unemployed “reserve army of labour”, and the Employment Contracts Act and scattered / smallness of sites allowed employers to keep unions out of many new trusts.

The access to fully funded free services has been made more difficult. Health services were not funded to meet the needs of the population and so waiting lists became a typical experience of trying to access public funded services. Increasingly emergency departments turn away patients – sending them to private 24hr GP clinics instead. A new definition of an emergency is a barrier to free health care. Currently the District Health Board covering Queenstown is proposing a deal with local doctors (GP) whereby “emergency” patients will have to see a primary health practitioner (Dr / Nurse, etc) before being passed onto the emergency service. A private health service is allowed to charge a fee to the patient, so the state’s proportion of health services decreases.

The policy of primary healthcare, was Labour government policy from 2000 – 2009. “Primary” is the frontline doctor the “General Practitioner” (GP) who most people first see for a (non emergency) health need. Government had tried to shift services from fully funded public hospital based services to GP and non-government organisation (NGO) providers. This cut costs for the state since generally NGO’s were paying frontline workers less than the equivalent public services had.

While the Labour government shifted some money (funding) to GPs they also tied GPs to contracts for their enrolled ‘patient’ population. Contracts forced GPs to provide after-hours “medical” services. GPs were grouped into larger organisations “PHOs = Primary Healthcare Organisations”. This centralised and concentrated their resources into larger organisations. PHO’s had brought forward proposals to take over some functions from the Public Health system, for example, district nursing. Maori health was also organised into Maori PHO’s and so a layer of Maori managers has been created while frontline workers remained low paid. Many Maori organisations were able to super-exploit their workforce – extolling workers into longer hours and more, while re-defining cultural values to ‘do it for the whanau’.

The working class approach to healthcare is that this is a basic human necessity and fair access for all is essential. The capitalist class has no interest in providing this. Organised workers were able to force a Labour government into providing public health services in 1935. This has steadily been undermined by the capitalist class complaining about their falling profits and the costs of providing healthcare and using the state to dismantle the welfare state. Capitalists push user pays reforms through their governments.

The fact of private healthcare still existing in NZ, points back to a failure of the first Labour government to bring all Health services under public funding. Doctors or GPs were never fully in the public system, specialists always wanted to charge their own rates. GPs in the poorer areas of the country raise less money in fees from their enrolled patients, instead relying on government for the most part of their funding. Whereas GPs in the richer areas can charge higher fees and so rely less on government funding to provide service and take profits. The danger with this de-facto introduction of “user pays” health care is the access to services is unfair and quality of service uneven (eg. more GPs per person in Remuera than in Manurewa). Primary healthcare has always been mainly user-pays because of privatisation of service providers. It is an individualistic model of healthcare where the user is forced to pay.

Under crisis capitalism, the government is rewriting the rules for entry into health services and so keeps more services out of public health sending patients out to their GPs – to pay. Each winter the District Health Boards have urged people to stay away from Hospitals’ emergency departments as they struggle with staffing shortages and winter illnesses.

It is clear that capitalism will not consistently provide usable and accessible health services. Health workers (Doctors, nurses and the rest) cannot defend public health alone. We need to unite with the working class to fight effectively for full public health services. The capitalist system must be buried before it buries us. The principle for organising the new economy is, from each according to their ability to each according to their need: Socialism.