Friday, June 29, 2012

Aotearoa Sold Out | For a Socialist Pacific

The resistance to selling NZ assets reflects the growing public awareness that NZ has almost no assets left to sell, and that the profits from those assets are our biggest export. The leaking of the secret TPPA shows that the NZ ruling class is selling off total control over the NZ economy. Signing up to military relations with the US tells us that NZ is truly a neo-colony of the US. Now that the latest round of state asset privatisations is underway it’s obvious that NZ is fast running out of productive assets to be bought up by international capital. As if to prove that the cupboard is bare, John Key’s scheme to turn NZ into a Finance Hub aka tax haven for finance capital exploits NZs ‘timezone’ and contributes no added value to any asset anywhere in the world. Time for de-colonisation of Aotearoa!

Recolonisation of Kiwiland?

There is a foundation myth that New Zealand ceased being a colony of Britain and forged its independent identity at Gallipoli. Britain sacrificed NZ lives on the altar of empire, so NZ cut the apron strings. Nothing could be further than the truth. NZ began as an economic colony of Britain and its political sovereignty was always controlled by the Bank of England. Even the Fabian myth promoted by the Labour Party that it broke from Britain to abolish free trade an impose import and capital controls in the late 1930s was disproven by the British control of NZ banking and manufacturing up to the 1970s and the onset of the global structural crisis of falling profits.

The global crisis forced big structural changes to restore profits. This included Britain’s entry to the EEC and the end of NZs protected export market. NZ in turn was forced to diversify its markets. But it also diversified its colonial rulers. Australia, Japan and the US joined Britain as new masters of Aotearoa. The strongest relationship was with Australia, a junior imperialist country with its strength based in minerals. NZ became a subordinated as a virtual state of Australia. NZ banks, manufacturing and retail became dominated by Australian corporations. To a lesser extent, Japan, the US and since 2000, China, have become new owners of NZ assets many of them state assets sold off by both Labour and National governments in the 1980s and 1990s.

This seems to some to be a re-colonisation of NZ due to the onset of ‘neo-liberalism’ since it amounts to a end to NZs political sovereignty. It’s actually the logical continuation of Aotearoa’s long history as a dependent semi-colony or neo-colony. Neo-liberalism was the global capitalist response to crisis in the 1980s that forced semi-colonies like NZ to open up and deregulate their economies. Similarly, the latest round of assets sales taking place because of renewed onset of global crisis proves that NZ’s place in the capitalist world division of labour has always been that of a ‘rip, shit, and bust’ economy. The difference is that today NZ is being openly sucked dry of the remainder of its productive assets and is rapidly heading down the road of other semi-colonies that have had their assets ripped-off, their workers shat on, and are now heading for a big bust.

NACT’s asset sales  

Two things stand out about the asset sales. The NACTs are flouting massive opposition to these partial sales. The fact that they are partial, retaining majority state ownership (instead of wholesale flogging off as in the 80s and 90s) proves that public resistance is building. The NACTs have tried to spin the sales as paying off debt but failed to hide the fact that the debt was the result of tax cuts to the ‘rich’. It then changed tack and said it would put the money into new infrastructure. Finally, it dressed up the sales saying they would pay for health and education spending.A big majority still oppose the sales.

Second, the private owners of the state assets will demand price rises to return a profit. This after 20 years of massive price rises to private consumers compared with stable prices for business. This will prove that asset sales are another austerity measure to make working class consumers pay for the crisis of global capitalism.The fact that this will add to the risk of the defeat of the NACTs at the next election proves that international finance capital is dictating these asset sales and that the NACT government has no choice in selling state assets in the interests of global capitalism. Not only that, the privatisation of NZ's assets are being driven by the growing inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and its emerging global rival, China, in the Pacific.

TPPA: The War for the Pacific

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is the most misleading and misnamed free trade deal ever conceived. For one thing, it is not 'Trans' since it excludes the elephant in the Pacific, China. Second, there can be no 'Partnership' when the US is imposing its hegemony on the Pacific as an economic and political weapon against China. Third, the economic rape by the US of its ‘partners’ is not won by an 'Agreement'. In any case there is no agreement between the peoples of the signatory nations since the 'Agreement' is being made in secrete.

The leaking of some of the terms of the secret agreement show that the US is imposing draconian limits to the sovereignty of its colonies and neo-colonies in the Asia/Pacific region to prevent national governments from giving preference to national corporations, or to put any controls over the free flow of profits and capital. These terms will be enforced to special courts outside the nations concerned. National sovereignty is openly sold out. To prove it Mexico is joining the TPPA like a rape victim suffering PTSD. Mexico since it signed the NAFA 1994 has been sued many times by corporations for daring to pass laws that limit the profits of US corporations.

What we see here is the US moving rapidly to legally bind its client states in the Pacific into the sphere of interest of US imperialism, targeted specifically at the growing influence of China. Once this US economic zone of influence is in place, it will be enforced by a beefed up US military presence including several naval fleets, new forces in Darwin and in the many bases that encircle China.

This explains why the NACT regime, representing the NZ comprador capitalists, is aping the US in every sphere of economy, politics, media and culture. It explains why NZ forces are now openly ‘cooperating’ with the FBI and US nuclear powered and armed forces in contravention to its long held nuclear-free policy. And if reinforces the reality that the politics of any tiny, dependent, Pacific nation is being determined by the growing rivalry of the two Pacific giants, the US and China.

A Socialist Pacific

Aotearoa/NZ is a US semi-colony and is about to lose what little it has of its national independence. There is no possibility of stopping NZ being locked into the US imperialist Pacific zone of influence under the NACT regime. A Labour/Green government will find itself unwilling and unable to break out of this Pacific lockdown. There will be no national sovereignty remaining that any government can exercise to assert NZs national independence. NZ will be at the total mercy of US imperialism just as Greece is at the mercy of the EU today. There is only one way of breaking out of NZ’s semi-colonial dependence and that is completing the national revolution by struggling to take that revolution towards a socialist republic and a socialist Pacific.

This will become clear as workers in all the Pacific countries face mounting economic austerity, political disenfranchisement and military domination. While fighting against imperialist control (e.g. TPPA and military alliances) of the Pacific, it is important to realise that this applies to both the US and China. Rather than the workers of Aotearoa and other Pacific nationals being drawn into wars between the US and China they will discover that they can only be free when they are part of a Socialist Federation of the Pacific.

This will allow Aotearoa and Australia as well as the smaller Pacific Island states to unite as one economy which is coordinated across the whole Pacific, but at the same time keep as much autonomy as is wanted to exercise political and cultural independence. For example Maori would have the right to assert their autonomy over ownership and control of traditional land and resources.

Joining Aotearoa with Australia and the rest of the Pacific states on these terms recognises the common interests of workers in all these countries to plan production to meet all our needs with the least necessary labour.

Rather than be part of a TPPA that extracts value from the dependent nations for the benefit of a tiny class of exploiters offshore or at home, that forces worker migration to wealthier countries to be exploited by the bosses, and drags us into inter-imperialist wars, workers would decide how these resources are to be used and the income distributed.

Those who say we are giving up on our national identity for some ‘socialist’ pie in the sky need to reflect on what defending that ‘identity’ is worth. Are they willing to die to defend their ‘national identity’ in some new Gallipoli fought in other peoples’ lands to allow one imperialist state to rule over others?

The working class has no country. Modern nations are inventions of capitalism to form a jurisdiction to protect their private property and profits. But nations long ago became barriers to capital accumulation so today bosses are internationalists. NZs ruling class are agents for international capital. They have no loyalty to NZ except as the bits of it they own as their share of the booty.

But as the biggest bits are already owned by Australia, US, UK, Japan and China, to expropriate them we need to ally with the working class in all of those countries. We can build defensive fights in NZ but we can’t win them without international working class support.

For example, if we want to expropriate the Australian banks we will have to be in an alliance with Australian workers. It has nothing to do with the attitude of the bosses towards workers or the industrial law etc, it’s about the size, combativity and genuine internationalism of the working class.

That’s why we need an international party of workers not only in the Pacific but the globe. When Greek, Icelandic, South American, South African and Pacific, Chinese and US workers unite their forces, and overthrow their ruling classes, no imperialist power on earth can stop the overthrow of capitalism and the creation of a global socialist economy that is under the control of workers democracy to produce to meet our needs in harmony with nature.

For an Independent Socialist Aotearoa!

For a Socialist United States of the Pacific!

For a World Party of Socialist Revolution!

From Class Struggle No 100, May-June, 2012

NACTs Zero Sum Budget

Auckland Mayday March against welfare cuts May 1, 2012

NACTs 2012 budget keeps the country heading down the Rip, Shit and Bust road to destruction. The capitalists who rule Aotearoa want to rip out all our resources, shit on the lives of working people, and drive the country bust. Who has the best program to counter the NACTs bosses’ zero sum crisis budge? Labour and Green reformists, Mana radicals or Marxist revolutionaries? Let’s see the bosses’ budget for what it really is, an exercise in spin to cover up making workers pay for the capitalist crisis. Labour and the Greens have got no answers except Keynesian pipedreams and austerity ‘lite’. Mana is staking out a left Social Democratic position with income transfers to the poor. But the cause of the crisis is capitalist exploitation and there can be no effective rolling back of capitalist austerity except as a by-product of the building of a mass workers movement for socialist revolution.

NACT’s zero-sum budget

NACTs spin budget is zero-sum. It presents its austerity measures as ‘fiscal responsibility’ in balancing the budget by 2014 in the middle of a global crisis. Having run up a deficit of NZ$11 billion by bailing out the private sector it has transferred the cost of paying this deficit onto the taxpayer. In reality it is the working class that pays all taxes because the working class produces the wealth. So the real purpose of the zero-sum budget is to cut wages to boost profits. It boosts profits by forcing austerity on workers. Austerity is the bosses’ solution to their crisis as it cuts wages and social spending as a drain on bosses’ profits. It tries to make workers pay for the crisis by cutting capital’s costs at all costs. It restores profits by cutting taxes to rich, while increasing taxes to low paid workers like paper boys and girls; cutting social spending such as education from ECE to tertiary, ACC, welfare benefits, health and housing. This budget adds a new list of cuts in the NACTs austerity regime. A new round of austerity will hit when assets are privatised and power charges, education fees, health, ACC etc rise, and attacks on union rights and beneficiaries weakens unions and drives down wages.

Labour’s ‘Budget’

Of course capitalists argue that they are entitled to their profits, and to influence policy to restore them. They justify this as necessary for growth in the economy and the creation of rising incomes and living standards. Labour (social democratic) reformists agree with the capitalists that profits are earned rather than expropriated by capitalists. Capitalism is not inherently exploitative but there are some bad bosses (today the villains are usually Bankers) who ruthlessly exploit workers. They think that the cause of the crisis in not any inherent flaw in the economic system, but the wrong policies that create inequality and falling incomes for the poor. Labour accuses the NACTs as deliberately pushing austerity policies to enrich the already rich and worsening the gap between rich and poor.

The typical response of Social Democracy around the world is to replace austerity with ‘growth’. Keynesian solutions to the crisis are pushed. Keynes was a bourgeois economist who recognised that when profits fall the capitalists stop investing causing a slump. Keynes’ solution was to take over from the capitalists and use the state to borrow and spend on creating jobs and boosting incomes so that rising demand would trigger capitalists reinvesting in production. Roosevelt’s administration in the US and Labour Governments in NZ both applied Keynesian economics overcoming the worst effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s. In NZ the reformist left is pushing these solutions. Problem is inequality which can be fixed by state intervention.

The budget then, rather than cutting back on expenditure, should borrow to boost working class incomes to stimulate demand and hence capital investment in supply to meet the rising demand. This should be part of a wider policy of state regulation, ownership and economic planning to eliminate the profiteering of the capitalists. . See the big debates over austerity vs. growth on Michael Roberts Blog.

Green's ‘Budget’

The Green leader Russel Norman says that the Greens would “share austerity more fairly”.
They would tax the rich and capital gains, and redirect expenditure away from unproductive motorways, subsides to polluters etc and into a R&D and education for a smart green economy. This is a form of Green Keynesianism spending to boost clean, green, consumption.

The Greens are also against selling state assets having shown that they contribute more in ongoing dividends than in a one off sale. But like the Labour Party they will not commit to buying these assets back. While some think that the Greens are now the real opposition without Labour swinging right under David Shearer, and would keep a future Labour government honest, there are those who think that the Greens could work with Labour under David Cunliffe’s leadership because he stands for ‘Real Labour’.

But however they may rant on that we need throw out the NACTs and replace it with a smart, green Keynesian politics, the reality is that capitalist crisis cannot be solved by ‘growth’. Crisis requires austerity which means depression. This means destroying the value of surplus capital and of workers’ wages until the capitalists are assured that the capital invested in production can once more return good profits.

Mana’s ‘class war’ Budget

Mana is the only radical party in Aotearoa because it is driven by Tinorangatiratanga, or Maori self-determination, and by the socialist left. Radicals know that the state cannot oversee a fair distribution of income, since it is controlled by the capitalist elite that exploits labour by underpaying the true value of the wage. This is usually referred to as unequal exchange as labour is not paid its equal value in the market.

Thus the parliamentary budget is only fiddling with wealth already stolen from the producers. So further fiscal fiddling by the left cannot equalise the burden of austerity. The solution is for the majority working class to realise its potential power and get the true market value of labour. Some radicals want to take over the existing capitalist state to enforce this balance of power by similar means as the reformists. Others think the working class can take power in society and render the state superfluous. On balance Mana is a left reformist party willing to work inside parliament. Matt McCarten’s column in the NZ Herald, “Derisory Budget wages war on the poor”, sums up the Mana left Social Democratic politics.

Mana wants to get elected to represent Maori, and all other workers, and as its leader Hone Harawira said in his budget speech, “Tax the rich and free the poor”!

Workers’ revolutionary ‘Budget’

Marxists take a very different approach to the budget.  The capitalist economy is based on the production of value by the working class and the extraction of surplus value by the capitalist class. The state serves the capitalist class by defending the right of capitalists to the exploitation of labour as private property. That is, the state oversees the exploitation of the working class on behalf of capitalists’ profits. The income and expenditure of the state is therefore the consequence of the production of value and its distribution via incomes and via state incomes policy among the different ‘revenue’ classes to reproduce those classes.

The Marxist explanation of capitalist crisis is that is it caused by falling profits due to the inability of the capitalists to extract enough surplus value. This is the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall. Bosses whose profits are falling stop investment, growth stagnates, and to restore the rate of profit the mass of capital has to be devalued as well as the value of wages until such time as the amount of surplus extracted represents a profit over total capital invested. The devaluation of the wages to restore profits is the essence of ‘austerity’.

The state plays a key role in creating the conditions for the return to profitability. It introduce social and economic policies to increase the rate of exploitation (increasing the share of profits) by making workers work harder for less pay. Here we see a whole box of NACT austerity policies to attack living standards, workers rights, union rights, and attacks on beneficiaries and the sick and injured to drive them to work – workfare – and so on to make workers produce more value and cut the share of value going to wages.

But that increased share of value does not go towards restoring profits if it is taxed to pay for state expenditure that does not produce bigger profits i.e. is a net drain on profits. So to restore profits the NACTs on behalf of the capitalist class want cut back on state spending by massive cuts in jobs and the social wage (the part of the wage made up state transfers – benefits, pensions, Kiwisaver, health, education WFF etc)

The budget ‘deficit’ therefore is an excess of state spending over state income that is a net drain on profits. The ‘balancing’ of the budget means reducing the state functions to only those that cannot be done more cheaply by the market. So we see the wholesale privatisation of state production, distribution and exchange (energy, airlines, banks etc) and services (health, housing, education, prisons etc). The capitalists kill two birds with one stone. First, state spending reduces the net drain on profits, and second, privatised state activities become directly profitable as the accumulation of capital (stocks, shares, interest etc).

Our conclusion is that ‘austerity’ is not merely a policy option like ‘growth’. The NACTs austerity policies are necessary for the capitalists’ survival, and they will not give up power or wealth without a fight. Thus liberal reforms are useless. Power has to be taken. It cannot be taken by peaceful means on the streets or other institutions. Radical reforms will come up against insuperable state power unless they take the form of a working class insurrection. Power has to be seized and the capitalist state power replaced by workers state power. For working class and the planet to survive the capitalist system must die. 

From Class Struggle No 100 May-June 2012

Class Struggle in Aotearoa/NZ

Auckland Portworkers (Wharfies) mass rally March 10, 2012
The capitalist system is not working: profits are falling for the capitalist class. Their solution is to make the working class pay for their crisis. They are on the attack, across the world, the working class is under attack. In NZ National-Act support the bosses who are attacking unions and forcing down wages and conditions. National-Act is a government of the bosses. De-unionisation deregulates the labour market and lowers labour costs. They leave NZ a cheap labour country. This is a direct result of competitive pressure on primary industries in the global downturn. We look at the emergence of open class struggle in two key export industries in Aotearoa – Port workers, and Meat workers. There is no parliamentary solution to this all out attack on workers. We need a mass revolutionary party to fight for a Workers Government and a socialist planned economy!

Port workers struggles

he fight between shipowners, port owners and wharfies (portworkers) in Aotearoa is about driving down shipping costs to restore profits to the monopoly shipping lines. It is little surprise then that Ports of Auckland backed by the new right NACT regime came out in 2011 hell-bent on smashing the Maritime Union of NZ (MUNZ) the union covering wharfies, to drive down wages by contracting out jobs.

The board members of the ports of Auckland were picked as part of the restructure of Auckland in the invention of a Supercity. Where the elected Auckland Regional Council had run the port and used profits to subsidise public transport developments, the new board was hand-picked by Rodney Hide on behalf of global finance capitalism. The port was set up as Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL), prepared for privatisation. It is ready for the next right-wing dominated council to privatise.

Already the Ports of Auckland have contracted out work. They set up Conlinxx as a 70% POAL owned contractor that drives shuttles moves containers between ports and the “Wiri inland port”. The other (30%) player in this is NZL, a Tauranga based capitalist logistics contractor. This is a part privatisation at the port. Other private contractors getting in behind the gates are Spotless and Labour hire companies.

National-Act attacks on the working class continue to create unemployment and at the same time they harass the unemployed into accepting any job at low wages. Marx described the unemployed as a reserve-army of labour: A part of the working class that is ready for work. Unless the union movement starts to protect the unemployed – the capitalist class will continue to use the unemployed as scabs in fights with organised unions.

As a direct result of the POAL dispute the NACT regime is writing new labour laws which support the bosses walking away from negotiations and screwing the working class and dumping unions completely. The new legislation will allow bosses to lockout workers and replace them legally to smash the unions.

The Labour Party plays it “safe”: Neither for nor against the wharfies. Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Opposition leader David Shearer don’t want to takes sides in a class war. They play the roles the capitalist class allows them – and are proven to be ineffective for workers needs in this fight.

While the current situation has reached a stalemate and no further contracting out is happening, workers have lost wages during the recent strikes and lockouts, and are now subject to total video surveillance on the job. Unless the union learns the lessons of its failure to mobilise the wider working class support to shut down the port, it is only a matter of time before the next round of attacks under the new labour law ‘reforms’ take place.

Break the labour law!  

Those labour supporters and union leaders who continue to think these attacks are just “rogue’ employers and possible to control those “bad faith” employers with “good laws” are foolish. Capitalist crisis is the underlying cause of these attacks on the working class as the capitalist class tries to restore their profits at the expense of the working class. Parliament will not tame capitalism. Only the working class taking control of ALL the workplaces internationally can end this crisis ridden system and build an economy planned to meet the needs.

The existing union leadership continues to follow the legal road when the capitalist state has them legally cornered. To break the law would jeopardise their role as the agents of capital in the unions. Under capitalist law unions are tamed: Real pickets (that shutdown the workplace) or “illegal” strikes risk financial penalties on unions and their officials. That is the way the capitalist state has neutered the official unions. We have to look back to unions who refused to operate under the bosses laws, for an example of unions who refused to be tied down by the capitalist laws: the Red Feds. Workers need unions since they give us the opportunity to organise collectively, but we also need maximum independence from the capitalist class.

There are two areas of rank and file struggle when unions have been tamed. We fight within the unions, to raise demands for the needs of workers to be met – and run into the limits of unions working within the system. So that we can be as organised as possible, and so every worker learns that unions are limited by capitalism within capitalism. We fight outside the union –as a party we aim to organise the wider working class. For example the occupy movement in California demonstrated how it could unite with rank and file unionists to shut down West Coast ports even for a few hours.

Further, the dispute at Longview proved that non-unionised workers in Occupy could join forces with the ILWU rank and file shut down the port to force the employers to negotiate a truce (agreement) with the union. In the process the union officials are exposed as doing deals to keep the lid on a union revolt that also organises non-union workers. Thus we can build a new labour movement uniting organised and un-organised workers by fighting for democratic, fighting unions that break from the bureaucracy and the bourgeois labour laws.

Meat workers struggles

The fight between Meat company bosses and Meat workers is also about casualising labour to drive down wage costs and the price of meat shipped offshore during a global capitalist crisis. NZs competitive advantage in producing meat for export depends on driving down labour costs further than its competitors.

The recent round of attacks on meat workers was started by the CMP (Canterbury Meat Packers part of the ANZCO group) who used a 65 day lockout at its plant in Rangitikei to force a 20% pay cut. ANZCO Foods Ltd, is jointly owned by the directors and managers, Itoham Food Inc and Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd. “Sir” Graeme Harrison is the Chairman of the Board and was awarded Wellington businessman of the year.

On 17th November 2011 another 50 NZMWU members from branches across the country converged on the plant as well as members of many other unions, joining the locked out workers in a 200-strong mass picket. Rather than let the scabs confront the reinforced picket the bosses closed the plant down for the day. This was a real picket because it shut down the plant. However the working class needs to be ready to do this for more than one day i.e. indefinitely, until the bosses concede to the needs of the working class.

Talleys – Affco tried the same as ANZCO, locking out the members of the Meat Workers Union at its plants while continuing to run on a scab workforce. Some families were split between those still working and those on picket lines! As we wrote in an earlier issue a picket that cannot stop family members from crossing it is not a picket! The only way for workers to shut down the meat works is for real pickets that stop the scabs.

Because of the weakness of the token pickets it was the Iwi leaders who came to the rescue. Iwi politics became the negotiators after Tainui workers put pressure on iwi leaders to help with negotiations. Contrary to the official union line, it was not working class solidarity but tribal ties to Iwi capitalism that threatened the Talley family to resolve the dispute.

Class not ‘family’ solidarity

The two meat workers disputes highlight what is progressive and reactionary in the NZ working class. At Fielding working class solidarity shut down the plant for a day showing that the way forward is the mass picket that defies the labour law. At the Talley plants families were split and the appeal to the Tainui leaders to pressure the Talley family was the result of working class weakness. Pressure by Iwi capitalists on Meat bosses has more to do with the backroom deals between bosses than trade union struggle. It poses the question put to Class Struggle by one Tainui worker after the settlement; why do we need unions?

Under the impact of the global crisis, NZ is reverting back to the extractive colony of the late 19th century when its role in the world economy was to provide raw materials for the mother countries. This trend will be reinforced by the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement that will re-colonise NZ. The only resistance that will succeed against global capitalism will be a mass movement of workers and poor farmers united across the whole Pacific to prevent the exploitation of raw materials and land in what is a rip, shit, bust process of recolonisation. Today this struggle cannot be won by indigenous struggles such as that of Maori nationalism. Maori are now divided along class lines with Iwi bosses voting for privatisation of assets, while the vast majority of Maori are at the bottom of the working class. We need to unite along class lines nationally and internationally across the whole Pacific to take back and take control of the resources we need to survive.

· We need to prepare for Strikes, Occupations and Workers Control!

· Mass pickets to defend the jobs, and protect union workers! Mass pickets to shut down workplaces!

· Occupy against the 1%, workers control!

· For Occupations and Nationalisations without compensation under workers control!

· For a General Strike to defeat the NACTs and for a mass Workers Party based on the rank and file of the unions!

· For a Workers’ Government and planned socialist economy!

· For a Socialist Aotearoa in a Socialist Asia/Pacific!

From Class Struggle No 100 May-June 2012