Monday, 30 April 2007


Date: 27 April 2007
Auckland 6am: Tonga's Number One political troublemaker is heading to the Kingdom in a bid to bring an end to the state of emergency laws that have been in place since the November Riots.

Ailani Taione is the arch enemy of the state but says he wants to help locals free themselves from the autocratic rule of military and Government.

Taione headed a Government blacklist that was leaked to media and locals after the riots.

The Aucklander was behind a series of demonstrations at the King's Epsom Residence last year and on one occassion ran his burning car through the gates of Atalaga.

Taione told Pacific Radio News this morning that he's heading to Tonga the first week of May, regardless of what welcome he gets from authorities. (listen)

Taione says he'll be working with the pro-democracy movement and that he'll be taking with him a petition to try and overturn the Government's state of emergency laws. (listen)

See also-

Movie: The Nu Face of Rebellion (Tonga 2006)

Following the pro-democracy riots in Tonga in 2006, troops from New Zealand and Australia were sent to quell the rebellion and restore Monarchical order. This documentary was filmed in the week after the troops arrived detailing the riots, the pro-democracy movement, the abuse of people by Tongan forces and the operations of the New Zealand and Australian army. The movie stands very much at odds with the mainstream media account of the events.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

A wake-up call for the unions

Comment from a unionist After years of partnership with its workforce Fisher & Paykel have used some of the profits gleaned from this same workforce to sack them and replace them with even cheaper workers. The sharemarket cheered the move, pushing F&P's share price up 8 cents, or 2.3 per cent, to $3.60. EPMU Secretary Andrew Little said, "This has got to be a wake-up call for the Government that more needs to be done to foster high-wage, high-value manufacturing in this country," Blah, blah, blah. I saw a report on the job losses by F&P that was hidden away in a side bar of the EPMU newsweek that had a groveling quote from the union that it wasn't F&P's fault. That you couldn't blame them. Unfortunately I tried to get back to this site. But couldn't find it again. Everybody even union leaders are blaming the high dollar - and not the rapacious nature of capitalist companies like F&P, who they are in partnership with. But what does this really mean? What really causes it, and what does it represent? I feel that the high dollar is related to relative wage rates with our competing economies. Obviously our free market, anti-regulation bosses couldn't expose themselves as hypocrites by demanding the government cut wages nationally. But they are forcefully demanding a cut in government spending, which is a cut in the social wage. The employers are demanding that this cut in government spending be tied to a tax cut to business. TV3 news footage showed worried looking cabinet members leaving a meeting. The soundtrack reported that the government is reluctant to cut spending but, Cullen is considering the tax cut part of business demands. Obviously if taxes are cut for business, the government will have to cut spending, or alternatively increase the tax burden on the rest of us. Also, I have not seen or been able to find out anywhere how much profit F&P is currently making, I doubt it is a loss. But what ever it is, there seems to be an unspoken agreement in the media not to mention this.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Munya on National Radio New Zealand

Munya interview on Radio NZ

Here above is Munya on Radio NZ, speaking for the resistance in Zimbabwe to both Mugabe's dictatorship and the neo-liberal offensive.

Brother Gwisai made a deep impression on the comrades in Aotearoa, and we dedicate this Bob Marley song to him and all the comrades eating the tear gas in the new Chimeranga!  

Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny,  
And in this judgement there is no partiality.  
So arm in arms, with arms, we'll fight this little struggle,  
'Cause that's the only way we can overcome our little trouble.  
Brother, you're right, you're right,  
You're right, you're right, you're so right!
We gon' fight (we gon' fight), we'll have to fight (we gon' fight),  
We gonna fight (we gon' fight), fight for our rights!  
Natty Dread it in-a (Zimbabwe); Set it up in (Zimbabwe);
Mash it up-a in-a Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);  
Africans a-liberate (Zimbabwe), yeah.  
No more internal power struggle;  
We come together to overcome the little trouble.  
Soon we'll find out who is the real revolutionary,  
'Cause I don't want my people to be contrary.  
And, brother, you're right, you're right,  
You're right, you're right, you're so right!  
We'll 'ave to fight (we gon' fight), we gonna fight (we gon' fight)
We'll 'ave to fight (we gon' fight), fighting for our rights!  
Mash it up in-a (Zimbabwe);  
Natty trash it in-a (Zimbabwe);  
Africans a-liberate Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);  
I'n'I a-liberate Zimbabwe.  
(Brother, you're right,) you're right,  
You're right, you're right, you're so right!  
We gon' fight (we gon' fight), we'll 'ave to fight (we gon' fight),  
We gonna fight (we gon' fight), fighting for our rights!  
To divide and rule could only tear us apart;  
In everyman chest, mm - there beats a heart.  
So soon we'll find out who is the real revolutionaries;
And I don't want my people to be tricked by mercenaries.  
Brother, you're right, you're right,  
You're right, you're right, you're so right!  
We'll 'ave to fight (we gon' fight), we gonna fight (we gon' fight),  
We'll 'ave to fight (we gon' fight), fighting for our rights!
Natty trash it in-a Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);  
Mash it up in-a Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);  
Set it up in-a Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);  
Africans a-liberate Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);  
Africans a-liberate Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);  
Natty dub it in-a Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe).  
Set it up in-a Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);  
Africans a-liberate Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);  
Every man got a right to decide his own destiny.


Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Lest we Forget- No More Wars

ANZAC Day (among other things) celebrates the Australian/NZ invasion of Turkey

4 May 2005

Dave Riley

With the increasingly strident nationalism that greets ANZAC Day each year, it is easy to forget what the ANZAC tradition celebates. In almost nine months of entrenched fighting on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, Australian and New Zealand casualties reached 8587 killed in action and 19,367 wounded in the line of duty. Those Turks were defending their homeland from invasion.

Where so many died invading we now call “sacred ground”.

When the British Empire (which included the ANZACs) and French forces finally withdrew from the Gallipoli peninsula, they had suffered 44,000 deaths. At least 85,000 Turkish soldiers died during the campaign.

That was in 1915. The same year, ANZAC forces suffered massive losses of 28,000 killed or wounded during the first seven weeks of the Battle of the Somme. So it comes as no surprise that during the following year Australians rejected conscription at a federal referendum — with troops in the front line trenches strongly voting “No” . Another referendum the following year rejected conscription by an even larger margin.

So I am a proud Aussie, not because this country has a penchant to celebrate the slaughter of those who we sent to invade or defeat, or the deaths of those this country sent to do such deeds. I am a proud Aussie because, in the face of such slaughter, a massive campaign was organised in this country against strengthening that war through conscription — and it won!

You have to see past the jingoistic bullshit on Anzac Day. You can’t afford to forget, that’s true, all those who died. But for whom did they die? Not for me.

If conscription had prevailed many more would have died. That’s really what’s worth celebrating.

Lest we forget.

From Joe Hendren's blog

Today is the 30th anniversary of an action taken by four Wellingtonians on Anzac Day 1967, where they attempted to lay a wreath "To the dead and dying on both sides in Vietnam. Why must their blood pay the price of our mistakes?"

They were prevented from placing the wreath at the Cenotaph like other citizens. Despite one Returned Services Association (RSA) representative indicating they could lay it later (which they did), on doing so university lecturer Christopher Wainwright and student Christopher Butler were arrested by the police for disorderly behaviour and resisting the police. A judge later quashed the later charge, but upheld the other charge because they had presented "a point of view, however sincerely held, which they knew would be annoying to some and offensive to many". So much for free speech.

In 1970 the Christchurch Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) made a wreath from the poster of the My Lai massacre with the words "To the victims of Fascism in Vietnam". The Mayor of Christchurch at the time, Ron Guthrey, tore the wreath from the memorial and threw it away. It was put back later, only to be removed by the police. A Hamilton veteran of the Korean war turned his medals into Guthrey as a protest against the betrayal of the values for which he had fought.

A later Mayor of Christchurch, Neville Pickering, refused to attend the 1972 service as he believed the attempts the RSA to control the service, such as placing a cordon between the memorial and the crowd and vetting all inscriptions meant the ceremony was no longer a citizens service. The PYM attempted to place their wreath for the third successive year, only to have it thrown down, stamped on and utterly destroyed by the mob.

Mayor Pickering said "I can fully understand the sensitivity of former servicemen who watched their comrades being killed. But the older generation should show greater restraint and tolerance".

- Material sourced from Elsie Locke's excellent book 'Peace People'

posted by Joe Hendren

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

LCR clear winners on hard left in French Presidental elections

Voix % Exprimés
M. Olivier BESANCENOT 1 498 835 4,08
Mme Marie-George BUFFET 707 327 1,93
M. Gérard SCHIVARDI 123 711 0,34
M. François BAYROU 6 820 914 18,57
M. José BOVÉ 483 076 1,32
Mme Dominique VOYNET 576 758 1,57
M. Philippe de VILLIERS 818 704 2,23
Mme Ségolène ROYAL 9 501 295 25,87
M. Frédéric NIHOUS 420 775 1,15
M. Jean-Marie LE PEN 3 835 029 10,44
Mme Arlette LAGUILLER 488 119 1,33
M. Nicolas SARKOZY 11 450 302 31,18

Besancenot won 1.5 million votes (4.11%), up from 1.2 million in 2002.

Arlette Laguiller, of Lutte Ouvrière, slipped back from 5.7% to just 1.3%, just under half a million votes.
The election was most notable for the relative failure of far-right candidate Jean-Marie le Pen, who surprisingly came second in the 2002 contest. He fell from nearly 17% last time out to just 10.4%.
Undoubtedly, an important blow to the far-left's score was dealt by the desire on the part of most French workers that the Parti Socialiste (social democrat) candidate should get into the second round, and thus avoid a repeat of 2002, when they were faced with a choice between conservative Jacques Chirac and le Pen. That crisis was widely blamed on the splitting of the left vote among numerous candidates. This time, the PS candidate Ségolène Royal (25.8%) did indeed qualify for the second round, where she will face right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy (31.4%).
The collective score of the groups to the left of the PS - if we also factor in the semi-Stalinist PCF (Communist Party), the "Lambertiste" (anti-EU and pseudo-Trotskyist) Gerard Schivardi and anti-globalisation peasant leader José Bové - was about 9%, down from 14% in 2002.
Given the circumstance of a resurgent Parti Socialiste and continuing disunity of Trotskyist forces, the LCR's performance was impressive. Not only did it win more votes than ever - the first occasion on which it had won more votes than Lutte Ouvrière - it ran a strong, visible campaign, its meetings with Besancenot apparently twice as large as in 2002.

Coverage of the elections has been dominated by the two leading candidates – right wing UMP candidate Nicholas Sarkozy and Socialist Party contester Ségolène Royal.

Sarkozy made a name for himself during the 2005 riots in French suburbs when, as interior minister, he launched a disgusting attack on the rioters, calling them “scum”.

He was also responsible for sending riot police into the Sorbonne and other universities to break up last year’s student occupations against the CPE employment law.

Sarkozy has continued this right wing agenda through the election campaign.

Last week he denounced “uncontrolled immigration” into France and argued that young people who commit suicide and paedophiles are genetically programmed to such behaviour.

Tellingly, the Financial Times reported this week that Gordon Brown had “clicked” with Sarkozy when they met in London earlier this year.

Ségolène Royal has pitched her campaign as a break with the old forms of elections – presenting herself as a new type of modern candidate appealing directly to the people.

In reality, Royal is committed to neoliberal policies. Last year she expressed her support for Tony Blair. She has zigzagged throughout the campaign, being forced to talk left at times and at others following Sarkozy’s agenda.


The real backdrop to the elections are the struggles that have shaken the political terrain in France over the last few years.

In May 2005, a referendum saw a majority vote against the EU constitution. The “no” committees united opposition to neoliberalism. Many members and supporters of the Socialist Party voted no, in opposition to their own party leadership.

In autumn 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris spread to many other cities. Hundreds of young people were involved, angry at years of poverty, police repression, racism and unemployment.

In March 2006 protests and strikes defeated the government’s proposed CPE employment law that would have reduced rights for young workers.

These struggles, along with fears that fascist candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen could repeat his performance of 2002 and reach the second round of the election, have led significant numbers to register to vote for the first time.

Outside the bankruptcy of Sarkozy and Royal there is a different campaign taking place.

The presidential campaign by Olivier Besancenot, the candidate for the LCR (Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire) is expressing the spirit of the resistance of the past few years.

Under the slogan “our lives are worth more than their profits”, Besancenot is drawing in new forces from across France.

Besancenot is a postal worker. He was the youngest ever French presidential candidate when he stood, aged 28, in the 2002 elections winning 1.3 million votes – 4.25 percent.

He is currently touring France speaking at large, young and enthusiastic public rallies, as well as meeting groups of workers in dispute and other campaigners.

Recent campaign meetings include 1,500 in Bordeaux, 500 in Valence – where the meeting was also addressed by workers from the Reynolds pen factory who are fighting redundancy – and 800 in Clermont-Ferrand in central France.

Besancenot also spoke in Corsica for the first time last week, addressing a meeting of 100 in the town of Calvi and 450 in Ajaccio.

It is clear that Besancenot’s campaign is capturing the mood of opposition to neoliberalism and the anger at racism and insecurity felt by many.

In the polls he has been at least two percentage points clear of other left candidates such as Marie-George Buffet of the Communist Party, Lutte Ouvriere’s candidate Arlette Laguiller and anti-globalisation activist José Bové, who is standing as an independent left candidate.

His lead over the Communist Party is significant as it was once the strongest party in France and has long dominated the left.

Statement from Olivier Besancenot

Nearly 1.5 million voters rallied around my candidacy. That's 280,000 more than in 2002.
Despite the pressure to cast a "useful vote" - which during recent weeks has proven to be Segolene Royal's sole programme - more than 4.5% of voters have voted for me. This is real encouragement for the struggles ahead. Thanks to those who have voted for me. Together, we have succeeded in this campaign, apart from our tally of votes, by offering an answer to social problems. For the right to employment, increasing purchasing power and, furthermore, the right to housing - the minimum wage up to 1500 euros a month, a 300 euro pay rise in all salaries [monthly], requisitioning all empty homes, prohibiting redundancies and mounting a struggle against discrimination - so many questions still existent in society and the world of work; so many mobilisations to come to make our voice heard.
Nicolas Sarkozy is ahead, and has qualified to face Segolene Royal in the second round. The right has for five years led a policy of systematic destruction of the social rights we have won, and Sarkozy now wants to inflict MEDEF [French CBI] shock-therapy to French society. That is to say, more inequality, more injustice and fewer rights. Le Pen has been kicked out of the race, which is great news. But Sarkozy has led an extremely reactionary campaign. Running on the terrain of the Front National [Le Pen's party], this man and his programme pose an immediate danger.
No candidate has ownership of the votes [he's won], and everyone is, evidently, free to make their choice on 6th May [the second round]. But for 5 years the LCR has fought the policies of Chirac and his prime ministers in the street and at the ballot box. It's in that vein that I call on you to demonstrate on May 1st in every town in France for the important social policy changes that I have fought for in this campaign, and against the anti-social project of Sarkozy. Against this confident right wing, the second round necessarily has the character of an anti-Sarkozy referendum for all of those who want to resist his politics. On the 6th of May we will be with those who want to stop Sarkozy becoming president. That doesn't mean supporting Segolene Royal, but voting against Nicolas Sarkozy.
Faced with this hard right, the Parti Socialiste and its candidate are not up to the task. Throughout this campaign I have fought for redistribution of wealth. That is not the plan of the PS, which puts itself on the same political territory as the right in accepting neo-liberalism and seeking profits for big business. Even on questions like nationalism and patriotism, the PS has sought to rival the right. That's why the LCR does not support Segolene Royal.
I call upon those who have sympathised with our propositions to work together so we can together creat a force able to fight for them in mobilisation. Whoever is president after the May 6th vote, we must continue to fight neo-liberal policies, and the LCR will continue to work for the greatest unity in the coming struggles. That, whether or not Sarkozy unfortunately wins on May 6th; but equally if Royal is elected, she must face opposition from the left and not only on the right.
We need a new anti-capitalist force. To help, as we have in the last five years, struggle and resistance, in supporting the new political generation which grew up in the mobilisation against the CPE, in the suburbs and in the workplace. The LCR calls on you [to help us] together construct this force, able to fight capitalism and offer the hope that another world is possible.

Statement from Arlette Laguiller

Firstly, I must thank all those who have voted for and supported me for their conscience and their confidence in me. As had been obvious, it is Sarkozy and Royal who will compete in the second round. The fear of seeing Bayrou or Le Pan beating Royal was never seriously entertained, except to aggressively push from the first round the idea of a "useful vote" [for Royal].
As regards the past, I do not regret - far from it, I am proud of it - having been the only candidate to refuse in 2002 to call for a vote for one right-winger over another, and having refused to vote for Chirac; Chirac the ally of Sarkozy. Doing that to defeat Le Pen, who had hardly won many votes in the first round and got through to the second because Jospin [PS], thanks to his politics, had lost two and a half million of his supporters.
Chirac was largely elected with right-wing votes alone. Le Pen had no chance at all of being elected but, now, Sarkozy has plenty of chance to do so. Today Le Pen is still here, and moreover is so via the ideas of Sarkozy, which give Le Pen's a run for his money.
In this year's second round, there is no worthy candidate for the workers. After all, Sarkozy - of course - and Ségolène Royal, no more than him, would not raise their little finger to reslove the biggest problems facing the working class, which means unemployment, continual attacks on quality of life, and the serious crisis in housing. However, I hope with all my heart that Sarkozy is beaten, since his arrogance deserves nothing else, and his programme means nothing but goodies for the bosses, in particular the biggest businesses.
The measures he has proposed are the continuation of the policies of these last five years - the worst government we've had for a long time - that is to say, ramping up the pressure on the poor to give more and more to those who get rich at the expense of the rest of the population.
So I will be voting for Royal, and I call on all voters to do the same. But if I do this, it is simply in solidarity with all those among the masses who say they want "anyone but Sarkozy". I share their desire to defeat Sarkozy, but I however will say to them that Ségolène Royal will not improve the lot of the working class any more than Sarkozy.
Royal is just as much in the camp of capital, in the camp of the exploiters, financiers and those who lay off workers, as Sarkozy - they are good and loyal servants to them. One or the other will do nothing but serve the big bourgeoisie, as they have both done in all the governments they have ever served in. It is their common situation in the camp of the big bosses which makes it impossible that either will resolve the problems of the great mass of the population - as I said before, that means mass unemployment, a serious crisis in housing and a continual reduction of purchasing power.
The results of the first round - if you add up the left-wing and right-wing totals - would lead us to believe that Royal has only a small chance of winning in the second. But it is she who took on such risks! She chose a nothing campaign, looking towards the bosses just as much as towards the masses. Gifts drawn-up for the former, nothing but vague slogans for the latter. A campaign unable to raise enthusiasm among those not seeing social progress, a campaign which relies entirely on the anti-Sarkozy effect but which doesn't want to piss off the bosses.
But despair cannot be enough to raise hope.
So even if I unreservedly call for a vote for Ségolène Royal, I have no illusions in what her, the former ministers and the leaders of the Parti Socialiste will do if they get to power. I stand in absolute solidarity with all those who want to vote for Royal. But I will say to them that they will be quickly, and totally, disappointed, just as they were five years ago with Jospin's government. Ségolène Royal, if she is elected, will not be worse than Sarkozy, but neither will she be better! She may perhaps not take all the measures in favour of the élite that the right is doing at the moment - but under her rule, and even before the five year term is up, we will be seriously disillusioned, as we were with the last Socialist government.
We must impose our main demands upon her with sufficiently strong and united social movements, exactly as we should to Sarkozy. I have said all this in my campaign, but many voters thought that they had to use their vote in the first round for a cause they believed to be "useful". I say that they are fooling themselves. Their first round vote was not worthwhile. In the second round, I hope, it might serve some good to defeat Sarkozy, but it will not get rid of the pro-boss-class policies which either Sarkozy or Royal will apply.
It is however, for the sake of solidarity with the wishes of the - doubtless - majority of the camp of the working class, that which has always been and remains my camp, that I choose to vote for, and call for a vote for, Ségolène Royal.
But I am convinced that all workers must, whoever is elected, as quickly as possible get back onto the terrain of struggle.

Smacking “debate” shows up lack of organic leadership of the working class

Socialist Worker, Whangarei

Sue Bradford’s Crimes Amendment (Substituted Section 59) Bill will give children the same protection against violence that the law already gives to adults and animals. It removes the defence of “reasonable force” for anyone brought before the courts for inflicting violence against a child.

Why then is there overwhelming opposition to what’s become known as the “anti-smacking bill”? In some polls it’s been over 70%.

Certainly a culture of smacking has been passed down from generation to generation in this country. So while smacking is less widespread than it was ten or twenty years ago, many parents still use smacking to discipline their children (though there will be a big range in the level of frequency and intensity). Many people figure it’s OK to do so and resent the implication that what they’re doing is child abuse. That’s one reason for opposition to Bradford’s bill.

Significant also is that the “revolt” against the “anti-smacking bill” has got a lot of its impetus from the middle classes in the media. These people are “up in arms” because they feel they’re “targeted” by the legislation as well – laws that affect the working class poor don’t matter so much. This has allowed space for right wing groups, including the religious right, to voice their opposition to the bill.

And despite being Sue Bradford’s bill, Labour’s support for it has given the right the opportunity to attack the government’s perceived political correctness – it’s another example of Helen Clark and her parliamentary colleagues “interfering in people’s lives”. Working class people alienated from the political process can be receptive to such arguments. They’re just so sick of superior sounding politicians.

The bill needs to be defended from attacks by the right and any progressive politics has to be in favour of protecting children from violence, but we can’t ignore the opposition to this bill amongst the working class. One of the things this “opposition” shows is that working class identification with the Labour government is fast eroding. Clark and the rest of them don’t have enough respect amongst the working class to lead on issues like this.

The Green Party fares little better. Like Labour, their focus on electoral politics means they too don’t have an organic connection with ordinary grassroots people. Their ability to lead and educate the working class is therefore marginal. They don’t have the kind of respect and authority that can only come from years of connection between a party and the masses.

Sue Bradford has been courageous in proposing the bill and for facing up to all the attacks in the media – and the debate surrounding the bill will probably result in some parents thinking about other ways to discipline their children – but the Green Party’s distance from the working class remains.

The other reality is that changing the law won’t stop violence against children, particularly in the extreme form that horrifies people. Violence against children is a symptom of powerless and alienation, of people living in extreme poverty and under incredible stress. It’s a problem of society that’s been created by two decades of neo-liberal policies.

A recent government report titled Wealth Disparities in New Zealand based on Statistics NZ figures shows that 95% of New Zealand’s net wealth is owned by half the population. The other half is left with the crumbs – a mere 5% of the country’s wealth. Many of the “wealth deprived” will be on benefits, just battling to stay afloat on unliveable incomes. Bringing up children in that situation is difficult in the extreme. A good proportion will be working parents, doing long hours for crap pay in factories, fastfood, retail or elderly care. The problem here is simply time.

Bringing up children takes huge amounts of time and energy, plus a “clear head”. Disciplining children effectively can’t be done without a lot of focused attention on the child. If anything good can be said of reality TV, then I’d have to single out Supernanny. As a parent of small children, I’ve learnt a few tricks about how to discipline a child successfully. And from my own experience, I’m constantly amazed at how you can reason with children from a very young age, they can be taught the difference between right and wrong. But it takes time, time that many working class parents simply don’t have. Smacking becomes an easier option, to the detriment of both child and parent.

Chronic low wages is creating extreme stress for families, its forcing ordinary people into a situations where they can’t be the parent or caregiver they’d like to be. The government’s much hyped Working For Families package has put some extra money in the hands of working class parents, but it’s being eaten up by rising costs, particularly for housing.

Recent modest increases in the minimum wage has lifted the bar slightly at the bottom level, but many workers outside unions – which in the private sector is the huge majority – have had their wages stagnate for decades. The relative poverty of these workers has been increasing. It used to be that one income might be enough for a family, that’s no longer possible for the majority of working class people today.

Of course any attempt by workers in unions to lift their wages – like the Progressive supermarket workers last year – is met with fierce resistance by the entire capitalist class. The harsh industrial laws kept in place by Labour places a huge barrier in the way of workers trying to win real gains (like wage increases that do more than keep pace with inflation). Labour, because its main focus is to keep business profits up, is overseeing the conditions in society which give rise to domestic violence, in all its forms.

The National Party is claiming that their extensive private polling is revealing a swing away from Labour – they’re citing the anti-smacking bill as one of the main reasons. Without an alternative, alienated and angry working class people can be manipulated by the forces of the right. That danger remains ever present.

The “smacking debate” once again points to the need for a mass workers’ party with organic and lasting connections to the working class. There’s no overnight solution, just lots of sustained hard work, with many up and downs. Socialist Worker is at the forefront of positive initiatives focused outwards to ordinary people. With RAM, Workers Charter, Solidarity Union and VAST we hope to be laying the foundations for a broad left alternative to the Labour Party to emerge.

One of the things we can fight for is free early childcare for everyone who wants it. Labour’s miserly increase in early childcare funding has made its election promise of 20 free hours of childcare for 3 and 4 year olds unworkable. They could use some of the $10 billion dollars of budget surplus the government’s got in its coffers, instead most of that is being tagged for tax cuts for companies and the rich. It’s a matter of priorities, and the working class know where Labour’s lie. If the Green Party continues with its strategic alliance with Labour then they’ll be increasingly tarred with the same brush.

Not hitting your children is “good sense”, and the working class has plenty of “good sense” if given leadership by people they respect and who stand with the working class on all issues.

Friday, 20 April 2007

War against Iran edges closer

War against Iran edges closer
Peace movement to hit the streets

Two US aircraft carrier battle groups are now in the Gulf, US troops are building on the Iraq border with Iran, and a recent military exercise involving 15 warships and 100 warplanes took place right on Iran’s doorstep. Diplomatic threats are intensifying and the UN is being pushed to pass sanctions against Iran – it’s just like the build up to the Iraq invasion. A full scale expansion of the US’s Middle East war is increasingly likely.

Our urgent task here in New Zealand is to help mobilise an outpouring of anger and protest against any attack on Iran. The peace movement must hit the streets in big numbers. We need to reach out to everyone who’s against war, who hates Bush, is horrified by nuclear weapons, and bring them into a broad anti-war movement.

Auckland response to attack on Iran

1) On the day the bombs fall, gather outside the US Consulate, 23 Customs St, from 5pm.

2) Hold pickets at the US Consulate every evening until the first Saturday following an attack.

3) On the first Saturday following an attack, gather at Aotea Square at 12 noon, where democratic decisions can be taken about what further actions to take.

We can help deliver a defeat to imperialism

The struggle against the war is at decisive stage. The US could be heading for globally significant defeat, particularly if troop dissatisfaction grows to levels where it’s impossible for the US to continue the war. This is what happened at the end of the Vietnam War – the soldiers simply refused to fight anymore. Large peace demonstrations globally calling on the troops to mutiny could tip the balance.

In Britain the STOP THE WAR coalition is gearing up for immediate protests. George Galloway, Respect MP, is calling for “civil disobedience in every community, walkouts in every school, protests and strikes in every workplace. If George Bush bombs Iran, we should bring this country to a standstill.”

Labour has blood on it hands

Socialist Worker, Whangarei

“The US is the world’s only superpower so the relationship is important.”
- Helen Clark, NZ Herald, 26 March 2007.

A week before travelling to Washington to meet the president, prime minister Helen Clark announced that the deployment of NZ troops in Afghanistan to support the US-British occupation would be extended until September 2008, and that a NZ navy frigate will be sent to the Arabian Gulf next year to help patrol the sea lanes with US warships.

And when it comes to Iran the Labour government is under pressure to fall in line with the US, Britain and Australia in condemning Iran’s uranium enrichment programme. Asked at a 27 February press conference if she believed Iran was developing nuclear weapons, Clark replied: “We don’t know. Who does? The problem is their lack of transparency.”

In this part of the world the NZ military has been working closely with their Australian counterparts in dampening down any “hot-spots’ in the Pacific. Australia is the US’s main ally in the region. Washington has been so pleased with NZ’s commitment to serving US interests that they’ve waived their own ban on military exercises with NZ three times in the last 18 months. Under Labour military ties between the two countries are being strengthened.

The political ties are also being drawn closer. Helen Clark’s “behind the scenes” commitment to the US’s global war has seen her rewarded with a visit to the White House, greeted warmly by secretary of state Condolezza Rice and George W Bush himself.

After her meeting with Bush, Clark said: “I think there is quite an acute appreciation in Washington DC of the things New Zealand does which are very much in tune with US values, the role we play in the Pacific, the way we've dealt with counter-terrorism issues, the strong support on counter-proliferation. I think it’s a time when friends are valued in Washington (NZ Herald, 22 March 2007).”

Clark knows how much Bush is despised in New Zealand – probably most Labour Party members hate him as well. So it’s politically risky to be seen having friendly chats with a figure many people associate with death and destruction.

But in the minds of Labour’s leaders it’s more risky not to, because this government is keenly aware that it needs to keep their capitalist partners on side. And what NZ’s big capitalists dream of is a free trade deal with the US. So Labour has to suck up to the Bush administration, otherwise the capitalist class might pull the plug on the government and pull the middle classes with them.

Labour’s warm relations with the murderers in the White House contrasts with the stance by Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, who keeps referring to Bush as the devil.

The people in Venezuela are fighting a different war, against poverty and powerlessness. Revenues from the nationalised oil industry are being pumped into extensive social programmes for the poor. Thousands of community councils are springing up all over Venezuela where people are taking democratic control of their own destinies. Chavez calls it “Socialism in the 21st century”.

To be against war means to be against capitalism. Chavez knows this, and in different way Labour’s leaders know it. They’re going to continue backing both evils – capitalism and war. But it’s not an easy sell, which means there are opportunities for us.

We should be vocal against any “blood for trade” deals with Washington. And as socialists we can be highlighting the inspiring example of Venezuela’s revolution that’s combining anti-imperialism with anti-capitalism.

If the US does attack Iran, images of Helen Clark shaking Bush’s hand will still be in people’s minds. And then there’s the prospect of Rice or another senior member of the Washington administration visiting New Zealand – while the bombs are raining down on Iran?

Labour is vulnerable. An inclusive and broad anti-war movement could do real damage to Labour and open the door to forces on the left. That’s got to be the aim.

No “blood for trade” deals!
Socialism not war in the 21st century!
Chavez not Clark!

NZ Super Fund invested in nuclear bombs

The Green Party released an important report called ‘Betting the Bank on the Bomb’ in February. Written by Greens co-leader Russell Norman, the report shows that the government’s New Zealand Super Fund is investing tax money in nuclear weapons manufacture.

The investment choices of the Norway Pension Fund are compared with those of the NZ Super Fund. 12 companies that the NZ Super Fund invests in are blacklisted by Norway for ethical reasons. These reasons include:
  • nuclear weapons manufacture.
  • cluster bomb manufacture.
  • environmental destruction.
  • labour rights and human rights violations.

Among the 12 companies the Labour government invests in are Northrop Grumman Corp ($9 million) and European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company ($6.9 million), both involved in nuclear weapons production, and $15.8 million in Lockheed Martin Corp, which manufactures cluster bombs.

This is the same government that boasts about its commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. But if there’s a buck to be made nevermind, it’s the ethics of capitalism that Labour is committed to.

US war increases nuclear risk

The excuse being used by the US and its allies to go to war this time is Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, which is being claimed (without evidence) will be used to make nuclear weapons. The Iranian government says it’s to be used by nuclear facilities to generate electricity.

Hans Blix (former Chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq) in his forward to a new report released by the Oxford Research Group argues the case against any attack on Iran. He says: “In the case of Iraq, the armed action launched aimed to eliminate weapons of mass destruction – that did not exist. It led to tragedy and regional turmoil. In the case of Iran armed action would be aimed at intentions – that may or may not exist. However, the same result – tragedy and regional turmoil – would inevitably follow. Further, as argued in this study, armed attacks on Iran would very likely lead to the result they were meant to avoid – the building of nuclear weapons within few years.”

It’s Washington’s global war that’s kickstarting the nuclear arms race. The logic for the rulers of countries like Iran is now to acquire nuclear weapons, because then maybe the US would think twice about invading. The blame for the world becoming a more dangerous place (terrorism, wars and the nuclear threat) lies squarely with the US and its allies. This truth needs to be spread far and wide.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Community leaders abhor magazine's 'negative stereotyping' of Muslims

RAM info line 19.4.07:
The following item was issued as a media release on 19 April 2007. You can help to organise against the danger of Islamophobic racism in New Zealand by forwarding it to your family and friends. Thank you.

The March 2007 edition of "Investigate" magazine carried a lengthy article by Ian Wishart which claimed that the New Zealand Muslim community is being infected by "Islamic extremism".

"Mr Wishart's 18-page rant is New Zealand's first full-on example of Islamophobic gutter journalism," said Grant Morgan, organiser of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement.

"The most basic fact is that nobody in the New Zealand Muslim community has ever been charged with any act of 'terrorism', let alone convicted. That puts the lie to his propaganda of fear, suspicion and hate."

"As the organiser of RAM, I was requested by a meeting of senior Muslim leaders in Auckland to pen a letter-in-reply to Mr Wishart's article," said Grant Morgan. "My letter has been co-signed by over 130 community leaders, the vast majority of them non-Muslim, who are equally disgusted at the article's contents."

These community leaders include:

  • The mayor of Waitakere City.
  • Five regional and city councillors.
  • Many religious leaders from Christian, Muslim and other faiths.
  • Top academics and lawyers.
  • Senior trade union officials.
  • Representatives of Maori and ethnic groups.
  • Other leaders in the community.

"While more signatures are arriving all the time, I have today emailed our letter to Mr Wishart's magazine," said Grant Morgan.

"Will Mr Wishart have the integrity to publish it in full, along with the complete list of co-signatories, without appending the sort of conspiracy fantasies that he regularly attaches to critical letters under the guise of 'editorial comment'? That will be a test of his professed belief in freedom of speech."

For your information, the letter and its full list of co-signatories is printed below.

Please send your feedback to:

Organiser of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement
021 2544 515

Joint letter to editor of Investigate magazine

Negative stereotyping is
not investigative journalism

Negative stereotyping of New Zealand Muslims. That was the real content of the 18-page article "Helen Hoodwinked by Preachers of Hate" written by Ian Wishart in the March 2007 edition of his Investigate magazine.

Wishart, who describes himself as a "social conservative", had previously labelled people in the peace movement as "extremists" and thereby tried to discredit the global majority who are opposed to George Bush's imperial crusade for oil and power.

A similar method was used in Wishart's article about our Muslim community. His article used the word "extremist" 34 times, "terror"/"terrorist"/"terrorism" 52 times, "suicide attacks/bombings" 13 times, "hate" 7 times, "al Qa'ida" 25 times, "Osama bin Laden" 10 times and "Wahhabism" (supposedly an "extreme" form of Islam) 20 times.

Alongside these negative labels he inserted the names of New Zealand Muslim groups and individuals, like the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ (33 times), FIANZ president Javed Khan (21 times) and Al Manar (17 times).

Wishart is resorting to the trick of negative transference, where an express or implied association with "bad" people, groups and happenings is used to discredit a viewpoint, in this case Islam.

Here is the most basic fact: Nobody in the New Zealand Muslim community has ever been charged with any act of "terrorism", let alone convicted.

Yet this most basic fact isn't what Wishart wants to hear. Instead, his subtext is that all Muslims adhere to the same ideas, and from this absurd generalisation he attempts to link peaceful Muslims to violent extremists.

Let's use Wishart's absurd generalisation in another context. Because of the "ethnic cleansing" conducted by a faction of Serb Christians in the Bosnian conflict a few years ago, we must condemn as "terrorists" all Christians, including Wishart himself. But that, of course, would be crazy.

In the latest report by the NZ Security Intelligence Service, "local jihadis" are no longer considered a visible threat inside New Zealand. (See intelligence expert Paul G. Buchanan's informative article "A Change of Focus at the SIS" at

At the very time that New Zealand's internal security agency finally comes to the realisation that chasing New Zealand Muslim "terrorists" is really silly, because they don't exist, Wishart starts a witch-hunt for this non-existent "threat".

You have to ask "Why?" And that brings us back to Wishart's "social conservative" ideology. His article poses 305 references to "Islam" and "Muslims" against 145 references to "New Zealand", "Western", "Christians" and "non-Muslims".

Wishart's subtext is clear: Muslims represent a danger to the values and beliefs of "mainstream New Zealand", to borrow Don Brash's ill-fated phrase. Therefore, instead of conducting a dialogue with New Zealand Muslims, the government should be ordering the security agencies to put local Muslims under severe state control and scrutiny.

This message of community division, which seems designed to pit non-Muslims against Muslims, and also to divide the ranks of Muslims and make them fearful, would of course suit a "social conservative" agenda.

Wishart's negative stereotyping is not investigative journalism, but rather a message of suspicion, fear and hate. It's a message that echoes the Islamophobic racism fuelled by George Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq and the US state's other armed attacks on peoples who stand in the way of American domination of our planet.

The positive alternative is for people across all New Zealand communities, including our Muslim sisters and brothers, to unite for peace, not war. This is a message of hope. On a global scale, it offers humanity a way out of imperial warfare and social injustice.

SIGNED (personal capacity):

  • GRANT MORGAN, organiser of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement (Auckland)
  • ROBYN HUGHES, RAM councillor on Auckland Regional Council (Manukau City electorate)
  • BOB HARVEY, mayor of Waitakere City
  • Bishop RICHARD RANDERSON, dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell (Auckland)
  • SU'A WILLIAM SIO, Manukau City councillor ­ Otara Ward
  • PENNY HULSE, councillor on Waitakere City Council
  • Dr. JOHN HINCHCLIFF, Auckland City councillor and former vice-chancellor & president of Auckland University of Technology
  • CHRISTINE ROSE, Rodney District representative on Auckland Regional Council
  • Dr. DAVID WILLIAMS, professor of law (Ranui)
  • Reverend ANTHONY DANCER, social justice commissioner for the Anglican Church (Wellington)
  • BARRY WILSON, president of Auckland Council for Civil Liberties
  • JAVED KHAN, president of Federated Islamic Associations of New Zealand (Auckland)
  • SUE BRADFORD, Green MP (Auckland)
  • DAVID WONG, NZ Order of Merit, founding president of North Shore/Rodney Ethnic Council (Auckland)
  • PAUL G. BUCHANAN, international security analyst (Auckland)
  • Dr. JAMES LIU, deputy director of Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research (Wellington)
  • BILL COOKE, vice-president of NZ Association of Rationalists & Humanists and senior lecturer at School of Visual Arts, Manukau Institute of Technology
  • RAYMOND BRADLEY, emeritus professor of philosophy (Warkworth)
  • ROBERT WHITE, director of Centre for Peace Studies at University of Auckland
  • DAVID TUTTY, Auckland Catholic Justice & Peace Office
  • MATT McCARTEN, national secretary of Unite Workers Union (Auckland)
  • GUL ZAMAN, president of Auckland Indo-Fijian Association
  • HEATHER MACKAY, deputy chair of Pakuranga Community Board
  • ROGER FOWLER, QSM, manager of Mangere East Community Learning Centre (Auckland)
  • MERE KEPA, transcultural educationalist (Auckland)
  • MUSTAFA FAROUK, vice-president of Federated Islamic Associations of New Zealand (Hamilton)
  • JOHN MINTO, spokesperson for Global Peace & Justice Auckland
  • CAMPBELL DUIGNAN, southern regional secretary of Service & Food Workers Union/Nga Ringa Tota (Dunedin)
  • HAIDER LONE, executive member of NZ Muslim Association (Auckland)
  • SHAUN DAVISON, regional chair of Post Primary Teachers Association (Whangarei)
  • Reverend MUA STRICKSON-PUA, chaplain, community worker & Pasifika development tutor (Auckland)
  • OMAR FAHMY, president of New Zealand Sri Lanka Foundation (Auckland)
  • ANDREW CAMPBELL, campaigns director of Finsec, the finance workers union (Wellington)
  • MARGO BAARS, co-ordinator of Human Rights Foundation Aotearoa (Auckland)
  • JIM MILLER, professor of Applied Language Studies & Linguistics at University of Auckland
  • NASREEN HANNIF, national representative of Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand (Auckland)
  • Reverend GILLIAN WATKIN, Methodist presbyter at Mt Eden (Auckland)
  • JUDITH McMORLAND, secretary of Action for Children & Youth in Aotearoa (Auckland)
  • ISRAR SHEIKH, general secretary of New Zealand Muslim Youth & Sports Association (Auckland)
  • Reverend BRUCE KEELY, co-president of Council of Christians & Muslims (Auckland)
  • JILL OVENS, northern regional secretary of Service & Food Workers Union/Nga Ringa Tota (Auckland)
  • MARION HANCOCK, director of The Peace Foundation (Auckland)
  • Venerable AMALA WRIGHTSON, spiritual director of Auckland Zen Centre and member of Auckland Interfaith Council
  • MOHAMED MOSES, secretary of Mt Roskill Islamic Trust (Auckland)
  • GIAMPIETRO FREN, representative of Italian community in Hamilton
  • JOAN BROCK, secretary of Council of Christians & Muslims (Auckland)
  • MAAN ALZAHER, organiser of Working Together Group (Auckland)
  • Sister CLARE O'CONNOR, Cenacle sister (Wellington)
  • HANNAH SPIERER, environmental affairs officer for Auckland University Students Association
  • JOE CAROLAN, secretary of Solidarity Union (Auckland)
  • MAURICE WARD, professor at Faculty of Human & Environmental Studies, Kanto Gakuin University (Yokohama, Japan)
  • ABDUL ELAH ARWANI, chair of South Pacific Mosque (Auckland)
  • Reverend STUART VOGEL, Presbyterian minister and Council of Christians & Muslims (Auckland)
  • SYD KEEPA, convenor of Council of Trade Unions Runanga Te Roopu Kaimahi Maori and apiha Maori for National Distribution Union (Auckland)
  • OLIVER WOODS, organiser of The Decembrists, a tertiary student social justice coalition (Auckland)
  • Reverend DENISE KELSALL, St Matthew-in-the-City (Auckland)
  • FIONA LOVATT-DAVIS, co-host of Kia Ora Show, Radio Watea (Auckland)
  • ANNE MOODY, Anglican priest, member of Third Order Society of St Francis (Auckland)
  • JULIA ESPINOZA, organiser for ClimAction, Auckland's climate change coalition
  • ANILA KETAN, president of Auckland Muslim Girls Association
  • LEIGH COOKSON, director of Arena and co-convenor of GATT Watchdog (Christchurch)
  • MIKE WILLIAMS, trade unionist (Wellington)
  • BERNIE HORNFECK, president of Rotorua People's Advocacy Centre
  • CLIVE ASPIN, PhD, senior research fellow at University of Auckland
  • Reverend DON BORRIE (Porirua)
  • LEN PARKER, co-chair of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement (Auckland)
  • ROSEMARY ARNOUX, senior lecturer in French at University of Auckland
  • BAKER POSTELNIK, environmental activist (Kaiwaka)
  • ISMAIL WAJA, editor of Al Mujaddid Media (Auckland)
  • LUKE COXON, organiser for National Distribution Union (Auckland)
  • GERARD BURNS, Catholic priest at St Anne's parish, Newtown (Wellington)
  • PAUL BRUCE, lead meteorologist at MetService NZ & co-ordinator of Latin American Solidarity Committee Aotearoa (Wellington)
  • NUREDIN HASSAN, team manager of Muslim Students Association at Auckland University of Technology
  • Dr. LISA GUENTHER. senior lecturer in philosophy, University of Auckland
  • KYLE WEBSTER, West Coast representative on board of directors of NZ Nurses Organisation (Greymouth)
  • JIBRIL MUSSA, president of NZ Nejashi Trust (Auckland)
  • VAUGHAN GUNSON, artist and socialist (Whangarei)
  • CAMERON BROADHURST, Zen Society of Auckland
  • JANFRIE WAKIM, Palestine Human Rights Campaign (Auckland)
  • DAPHNE LAWLESS, editor of UNITY journal (Auckland)
  • Dr. MALCOLM BROWN, lecturer in sociology at University of Auckland
  • SHAWN TAN, organiser for Finsec, the finance sector workers union (Auckland)
  • TAHAE TAIT, Te Arawa iwi & spokesperson for Tait whanau in Rotorua
  • JO McVEAGH, environmental activist (Auckland)
  • SIMON OOSTERMAN, publicity officer for National Distribution Union (Auckland)
  • MOHAMMAD THOMPSON, chair of Voice of Islam TV (Auckland)
  • PAT O'DEA, executive member of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement (Auckland)
  • DEAN PARKER, NZ Writers Guild (Auckland)
  • Dr. HILARY CHUNG, lecturer at University of Auckland
  • JIM HUNT, Council of Christians & Muslims (Auckland)
  • MIKE TREEN, national director of Unite Workers Union (Auckland)
  • AHMAD ESAU, teacher and founder of Aotearoa Islamic Impressions, an Islamic art group (Auckland)
  • DONNA GARDINER, Maori mother and grandmother (Auckland)
  • MALCOLM FRANCE, organiser for ClimAction, Auckland's climate change coalition
  • OMAR HAMED, organiser of Students for Justice in Palestine (Auckland)
  • JIM HOLDOM, social justice advocate (Hamilton)
  • VALERIE JABIR, NZ Council of Christians & Muslims (Auckland)
  • DION MARTIN, organiser for National Distribution Union (Palmerston North)
  • MOHAMED HASSAN, senior writer of e-newsletter NZDawa (Auckland)
  • PAUL MAUNDER, NZ Writers Guild (Blackball)
  • NIK JANIUREK, technical manager of Maidment Theatre (Auckland)
  • TAYYABA KHAN, peace activist and former president of Auckland Muslim Girls Association, winner of the Sonja Davies Peace Award in 2005
  • TOM BUCKLEY, organiser for Unite Workers Union (Auckland)
  • MERYL ZOHRAB, Anglican priest and plunket nurse (Auckland)
  • TRACEY McINTOSH, senior lecturer in sociology at University of Auckland
  • EVA NAYLOR, peace & environmental activist (Wellington)
  • QUENTIN FINDLAY, education co-ordinator of Lincoln University Students Association (Canterbury)
  • MEREDYDD BARRAR, spokesperson for Citizens Against Privatisation (Waitakere City)
  • CATHERINE BINDON, ex-organiser for National Distribution Union (Wellington)
  • DON POLLY, retired journalist (Paekakariki)
  • MOHAMED & FARHANA NALAR, Working Together Group (Auckland)
  • VALERIE MORSE, Peace Action Wellington
  • FELICITY PERRY, lecturer at Victoria University (Wellington)
  • ANJUM RAHMAN, Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand (Hamilton)
  • GRAEME YOUNG, ex-organiser of National Distribution Union (Christchurch)
  • CHRIS SULLIVAN, Catholic (Auckland)
  • LYN DOHERTY, Maori mother and grandmother (Auckland)
  • RICHARD KELLER, peace activist (Wellington)
  • HEATHER LYALL, social worker (Auckland)
  • ILIYAS DAUD, pharmacist and sports administrator at Ponsonby Soccer Club (Auckland)
  • DON ARCHER, delegate for Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union (Christchurch)
  • MADENEYAH GAMILDIEN, commodity trader (Auckland)
  • FRANCO MANAI, senior lecturer in Italian at University of Auckland
  • BILL ROSENBERG, researcher for Campaign Against Foreign Control in Aotearoa (Christchurch)
  • GRANT BROOKES, delegate for NZ Nurses Organisation (Wellington)
  • NIBRAS KARDAMAN, marketing co-ordinator (Auckland)
  • SALLY McARA, PhD candidate and author (Auckland)
  • GARRICK MARTIN, mental health nurse (Wellington)
  • VICTOR BILLOT, national president of Alliance Party (Dunedin)
  • EMILY BAILEY, environmental & community worker (Wellington)
  • OMAR KHAMOUN, Wellington Palestine Group
  • GLYNNIS PARAHA, daughter, grand-daughter, sister, niece, aunt, grand-aunt & friend (Auckland)
  • AFIFA CHIDA, Bachelor of Design student (Auckland)
  • WARREN BREWER, secretary of Socialist Party of Aotearoa (Auckland)
  • TIM HOWARD, community worker (Whangarei)
  • JOHN POLKINGHORNE, undergraduate student in economics & chemistry (Auckland)

Monday, 16 April 2007

Zimbabwean Comrade to speak in NZ- but we need your help to get him here!

Zimbabwean Comrade to speak in NZ- but we need your help to get him here!

The CTU has been posting the LaborStart emergency bulletins from Zimbabwe recently- the trade union movement there has been leading the resistance against Mugabe's brutal dictatorship and vicious neo liberal policies. There was a General Strike last week amidst huge government oppression and a violent crackdown on the activist left.

One of the leading comrades in the struggle, Mun Gwisai, former MP for Highfield in Harare, is able to come and speak here in Auckland on Monday 23rd April. I have already approached John Minto of the Global Peace and Justice Auckland coalition about hosting a public meeting at Trades Hall, and helping meet some the costs of a return ticket to Sydney, which they have agreed to do.

BUt Mun Gwisai will also speak about the strong trade union movement battlling for its very survival in Zim, and is most keen to have the broadlest left meeting possible on Monday night. Would this be a meeting that you would like to help support financially, in the spirit of 81 and international solidarity? We are looking for concerned individuals to give a donation between 50 and a 100 dollars.

Media interest will be huge once we start promoting the meeting, and it would send a strong message back to Mugabe that the movement for democracy there has strong allies in the workers and anti racist movement of NZ.

Let me know if you can help with a pledge. Contact Joe at 021 1861450 or email Please circulate this article to all supporters of the fight for freedom in Africa!

Saturday, 14 April 2007

A Million Iraqis unite in demo- demand US out

Iraqis unite in Najaf demonstration to demand US out

by Simon Assaf

Up to a million Iraqis took to the streets of Najaf on Monday to demand an end to the US occupation of their country on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

Demonstrators came in convoys of cars and buses draped with Iraqi flags. They travelled from across the country, including from Latifiyah and Mahmudiya, areas that have witnessed sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Meanwhile thousands of Iraqi flags flew from houses and shops in the capital in defiance of a 24 hour curfew imposed by US troops.

The Najaf march was called by rebel Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr whose Mehdi Army has launched two insurrections against the occupation since 2003.

On the eve of the demonstration his followers battled US troops and their Iraqi allies for control of Diwaniya, a key Shia town 80 miles south of Baghdad.


Demonstrators in Najaf burned and trampled on US and British flags to chants of, “Yes to Iraq, yes to sovereignty, no to occupation.”

A statement from Sadr, read out to the crowds, said, “So far 48 months of anxiety, oppression and occupational tyranny have passed, four years which have only brought us more death, destruction and humiliation.

“Every day tens are martyred, tens are crippled and every day we see and hear US interference in every aspect of our lives, which means that we are not sovereign, not independent and therefore not free.

“This is what Iraq has harvested from the US invasion.”

Sadr is said to have taken refuge in Iran after George Bush launched his “surge” of 30,000 extra troops.

The US military describe the cleric as the “greatest threat to stability in Iraq.” US troops have been setting up bases in the poor Shia slums in Baghdad in a bid to drive out his supporters.

The size of the demonstration shows that the rebel cleric still has a mass popular following despite claims by the US that his organisation is splintering and he has become weak.

Sadr has faced divisions among his followers, who he describes as a “popular army” and not a militia.

The Mehdi army grew in the Shia slums of Baghdad and cities across the south and reflects the competing pressures on Iraq’s Shia majority – cooperation with the occupation or resistance.

Some factions of the Mehdi Army have joined in the sectarian killing of Sunni Muslims – often in response to car bombings in Shia areas – while others have been attempting to hold together unity with the Sunnis.

On Sunday Sadr issued another call to his followers not to attack other Iraqis but to turn all their efforts to driving out the occupation.

“God has ordered you to be patient in front of your enemy, and unify your efforts against them – not against the sons of Iraq,” he said.

The struggle for unity among Iraq’s resistance organisations was symbolised by the presence of Sunni Muslim delegations on the march, with a Sunni cleric marching at the front of the demonstration.

On the eve of the protest Sheikh Harith al-Dari, the head of the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, blamed the occupation for being behind the “discord” in the country.

He said Iraq has become “a vast prison, a graveyard that is devouring hundreds of thousands”, and that the US wants “to silence any voice of ­opposition and to put an end to the Iraqi people’s resistance to the occupation”.

On Friday of last week one of the most influential national resistance organisations in the Sunni heartlands issued a statement criticising Sunni groups that were fomenting sectarian and ethnic conflict and tarnishing the name of the resistance movement.

National unity

Many Iraqis have began to wear golden pendants in the shape of Iraq as a statement of national unity. The demonstrators in Najaf waved Iraqi flags, rather than the yellow and black flags associated with the Shia branch of Islam.

The protest on Monday was the biggest in Iraq since the massive unity demonstrations in the early days of the occupation.

Iraqi soldiers in uniform joined the crowd. Sadr appealed to them not to “walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your arch enemy.

“My brothers in the Mehdi Army, and my brothers in the security services – enough fighting and rivalry, because that is only a success for our, and your, enemy.”

“Infighting between brothers is not right, nor is it right to follow the dirty American sedition, or to defend the occupier.”

Sadr warned that the “enemy wants to draw you into a war to end the Shia, or rather Islam” and he urged the army and police to remain independent of US forces.

Salah al-Obaydi, a senior official in Sadr’s organisation, described the rally as a “call for liberation.”

“We’re hoping that by next year’s anniversary, we will be an independent and liberated Iraq with full sovereignty.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Freedom to Strike Bulletin #1 - April 2007

We need more rights to strike, says union leader
by Grant Brookes

“We need the right to take strike action over outsourcing.”

That’s the view of Jill Ovens, the Service & Food Workers Union (SFWU) leader (left) who’s heading a campaign to stop pay cuts at Air NZ. The national airline announced plans last October plans to slash 1,600 airport jobs and contract out baggage handling and check-in operations to a multinational corporation. Then they told the ground staff they had to accept cuts in pay and conditions in order to keep the jobs “in-house”.

Sadly, the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), which represents some of the workers, made a deal which accepts the cuts. “This was completely unacceptable to our members,” says Jill. SFWU members were facing an average pay drop of $7,000 each. “The company was holding a gun to our head at a time when we couldn’t legally strike.” Despite recommending the cuts package, EPMU Industry Organiser for Aviation Strachan Crang agrees. “Because Air NZ made this announcement during the term of the collective agreement, there’s been no real way for members to fight back”, he says. “They can’t take legal industrial action.”

Under Labour’s Employment Relations Act (ERA), it’s illegal to strike during the term of a collective employment agreement. It’s also illegal to strike if your boss ignores what’s written in the employment agreement they signed. It’s illegal to strike over unfair dismissals, plant closures, against government policies that hurt ordinary people, against wars or environmental destruction, or in support of other workers under attack.

In fact it’s illegal to strike about anything other than your own pay and conditions – even then, only after 40 days into negotiations. But employers like Air NZ are allowed to lay off workers, contract out or pressure governments at any time. Is that fair? It wasn’t always this way. Up until 1987, no strikes were illegal under our industrial laws. Work stoppages over lay-offs, unfair treatment or political issues like nuclear ship visits were normal. National’s Employment Contracts Act (ECA) in 1991 banned all these actions. Labour repealed the ECA nine years later. But they copied all but one of National’s antistrike laws into their ERA.

Jill says that Air NZ have learned that the way to cut pay and conditions in the middle of the term is to threaten to contract out. It’s a lesson that other employers will learn, too. “Employers will use these tactics”, says Jill, “and then employment agreements are unenforceable”. While EPMU members have lost out, SFWU members have held onto their pay and conditions for now. But no worker should be threatened and bullied like the people at Air NZ have been. The company could only try it because they knew it was against the law for the ground staff to fight back with industrial action. This has got to change. It’s time to reclaim our freedom to strike!

Solidarity that won 2006 supermarket lockout

When the warehouse workers from Countdown, Foodtown and Woolworths defied a monthlong lockout last September, it was a major boost to the whole union movement. 600 distribution workers showed that union power can stand up to a huge multinational corporation like supermarket owner Progressive Enterprises. They won because of an outpouring of support from ordinary New Zealanders. Thousands took their shopping elsewhere for the duration and $250,000 was donated to the National Distribution Union’s lockout fund. But key to the victory was “guerilla” solidarity action by other workers – and threats of more from union leaders. This could’ve been judged illegal. Under Labour’s Employment Relations Act, any reduction in normal work by a group of employees counts as a “strike”, and solidarity strikes are against the law. So the refusal by one group of workers to dispatch sugar for the first two weeks of the lockout could have been an illegal strike. So could the actions of waterfront workers who “lost” a dozen containers bound for the supermarkets. When Council of Trade Unions president Ross Wilson called on unionists not to handle goods in place of the locked out workers, he could possibly have landed up in court. Standing together to stop workers being bullied by a rich and powerful corporation should not be a crime. The law against solidarity strikes needs to be repealed.

Did you know...?

* There’s a $40,000 fine for “illegal” strikes? And that’s “per offence” (eg, each time you say “no” when told to go back to work). The maximum fine has been increased from $10,000 in National’s hated Employment Contracts Act. s You could lose you house, or go to jail? If you don’t pay the fine for striking, the courts can seize all your assets. You can also be jailed for up to three months.

* Your union could be bankrupted for supporting strikes? Their assets can be seized, too.

* No-one’s ever been prosecuted. Workers only strike when they’re strongly convinced about the justice of their action – especially if it’s over something outside their collective agreement. If they’re convinced, the the public can probably be convinced, too. Bosses and governments have been too nervous to prosecute dozens of “illegal” strikes for fear of inflaming the situation. s The Party that passed these laws is called ‘worker-friendly’? It’s an outrage that laws from out of the Dark Ages like these were passed by the Labour Party.

Fishy smell

When the National Party expresses support for Labour’s industrial relations law, you know something’s fishy.

The party still threatens to chip away at the few rights we have. “But the days of the Employment Contracts Act are past”, says their IR spokesperson, Kate Wilkinson. “National does not intend to repeal the current Employment Relations Act”. Party leader John Key explains why. “The Employment Relations Act is 85 percent a rewrite of the Employment Contracts Act anyway”, he says. Workers deserve better from Labour than repackaged National policies.

Right to strike ‘no. 1 battle cry’
by Graeme Young, National Distribution Union organiser (abridged)

The lockout of Progressive workers last year raised a number of important issues. Money contributions, attendance at picket lines and moving resolutions on the job – including the boycott of stores – were all positive outcomes. But the one issue that ultimately prolonged the lockout was the repressive law stopping strike action in support of the locked out workers.

The current law says that ANY action outside normal duties is considered strike action. That meant that other workers caught up in the dispute were being forced to do the work locked out workers would have done. The union movement in New Zealand needs the right to strike to be its number one battle cry. The only time it is legal under the Employment Relations Act to take any sort of action is just before and following the expiry of the collective agreement. This effectively restricts the ability of workers to improve conditions on the job outside of negotiations.

Bosses are only too well aware of this and seek to maximise this restriction by negotiating 3 and 2 year agreements. My belief is that the union movement has no choice if it is to grow. It must embrace a struggle culture. At the top of its demands needs to be the right to strike at any time. To progress that demand will require more so-called “illegal” action. This is how unions have defeated bad laws in the past, and this is how unions will become more relevant to workers in the future. These are my own views and not necessarily those of the NDU.

You said it!

“Restricting the right to strike is an attack on a fundamental human right – the right of people to defend or improve their working conditions.” - Call-centre worker, Auckland

“If you’re not free to withdraw your labour, then you’re a slave.” - Bus driver, Wellington

“Without the right to strike, a worker facing the boss is stepping into the ring with both hands tied behind their back. The bosses are free to get together and work as a team – why don’t we have the same right?” - Office worker, Auckland

We got a national collective and good pay rise in 2005, thanks to support from other unions. We should be able to return the favour and take action to support people – like hospital cleaners – who now want the same.” Nurse, Wellington

What do you think? Email All responses treated anonymously.

This bulletin is issued by Socialist Worker. We want the anti-strike laws in Labour’s Employment Relations Act repealed. We’re campaigning for the Council of Trade Unions to call a national conference, open to all unionists, to launch a repeal campaign. Interested? Email or call/txt 021-053 2973.

to Workers Charter paper
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Saturday, 7 April 2007

Venezuela: The Times They Are A-Changin'

Venezuela is changing. Fast. No other word captures the speed and magnitude of change as well as that weighty word -- revolution. This is indeed the word used by many of the Venezuelans I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing during ten days in March. Venezuela is undergoing a 'Bolivarian' revolution. But what does 'Bolivarianism' entail?
Read the rest of this article from American activist Gabriel Ash here.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Beyond Rail Electrification- Free Transport for all

About ten activists from Climaction went to the Auckland Green Party meeting on Rail Electification on Monday 2nd Apirl. Our leaflet for Free and Frequent Public transport went down a storm, with many of the audience complimenting us on our work so far. There were about 400 people there, two thirds were older, with quite a lot of core Auckland City Green supporters. But a big meeting by any standards.

The first speaker was Cameron Pitches from the Campaign for Better Transport. He spoke about the success that campaign had in opening the Onehunga rail line, after an excellent video presentation comparing Perth's electric rail system to Auckland's transoprt chaos. Good, witty speaker, to the point, and received a huge round of applause.

Joel Cayford, Mike Lee and Jeanette Fitzsimmons also spoke. Their speeches were slighlty longer in duration!!! Mike Lee made a point about how radical ideas are first ignored, then ridiculed, then violently opposed, before they are then accepted as common sense. Hold that thought...

After the speeches, there came the time for questions. Daph Lawless was first off the block, eloquently explaining Climaction's support for rail electrification and more rail lines nationally, but saying that this needed to be complimented by frequent busses on the roads too, and that ALL public transport should be nationalised and fare free. Before she was rudely clipped off, she put the question to the panel. How many of them would support free and frequent public transport, and the renationalisation of public transport in Auckland. This got the cat amongst the pigeons straight off.

Mike Lee, Chairman of Auckland Regional Council, brought out the heavy artillery. Ignoring Climaction's existence, he made a veiled attack on the Residents Action Movement. Ridiculing demands for free public transport by saying that it would have to be funded by HUGE RATES INCREASES, which he would presumably (violently?) oppose.

Roger Fowler for RAM corrected some Mike Lee's distortions later on, and put the question again to Jeanette Fitzsimmons, who was the first signatory of the Free and Frequent Public Transport petition when it was launched at the Al Gore call out. Jeanette was more concillatory than Mike Lee, saying that although she supported free public transport in principle, she thought that we needed to work on the frequency and reliabilty first.

One of the major problems that went un answered was just how many people will benifit from the exisiting rail lines in Auckland. It is obvious that they serve only a very limited corridor at present. The shooting down of both Climaction and RAM's proposals on free and frequent busses means that large areas of Auckland would not be served in any sustainable way.

Mike Lee looks set to fight the proposal, by saying that it can only be funded by HUGE RATES increases. As such, part of Climaction's arguments must now move onto the big question- WHERE WILL THE MONEY COME FROM?

It should come from taxes on the multinationals and big business, as well as
the transfer of Central government funding from the Motorway lobby, as anindication of a serious commitment to make New Zealand Carbon Neutral in reality rather than rhetoric. (Central government funding was available for the Stadium when the political will was there.) Climaction definetly does not support rates increases for the ordinary working people of Auckland.

As the meeting broke up, we got Climaction leaflets into the hands of everyone we had missed coming in earlier. We had a good, solid intervention in the debate along with RAM, and did our profile good. We were seen to be a little more radical than what the Greens were proposing, whcih is no bad thing. A lot of people came up to the stall to thank us for the work we were doing, and we got some good new contacts.