Saturday, 31 May 2008
Thursday, 29 May 2008
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Tariana Turia, Co-leader Media Release 26 May 2008 Michael Cullen’s review of assistance for beneficiaries is just tinkering with the design of the poverty trap, it is not a strategy to eliminate poverty, says Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party. “It’s another sign that the government responds to polls, but not to people in distress,” says Mrs Turia. “The situation of people on the lowest incomes, including benefits, is getting worse very quickly. The government was too slow to respond with the budget. Now it¹s talking about a band-aid solution, to stop the bad PR it’s getting.” “The kind of help that Dr Cullen is offering beneficiaries will simply keep people alive in the poverty trap it won't get them out of it.” “What’s needed is a comprehensive strategy, driven by a belief that poverty is unacceptable in the midst of plenty, and it must be eliminated,” said Mrs Turia. “If they don't believe it, then change won’t happen.” “The high price of dairy products means the poor have to go without, while industrial farmers become millionaires. Our food prices are following a global trend. People overseas are starving.” “Our people will starve too, unless we tackle the systemic causes of poverty,” she said. “Poverty is not created by the poor.” The Maori Party says:
- Provide a universal benefit for parents raising children. If families are already well off, recoup the benefit from tax on higher incomes. (Universal benefits reach the neediest families most effectively.)
- Set a baseline for poverty at 60% of the average wage, and a deadline of 2020 to eliminate child poverty.
- Exempt the first $25,000 of income from tax.
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
- Remove GST from food. (The government says this would make the tax system too complex, but that argument hasn't stopped them granting all sorts of exemptions from the Emissions Trading Scheme.)
- Investigate other sources of revenue capital gains tax, bank transaction tax.
“It is deeply ingrained in New Zealanders to care about te pani me te rawakore, the poor and vulnerable. But the government is listening to lobbyists for the wealthy elite. A bit more emergency assistance for beneficiaries will not get to the root of the problem.
There has to be a significant change of attitude towards redistribution of wealth through the economic system, and asking what kind of society we want,” said Mrs Turia.
- MARXIST FORUM: The Global Food Crisis - Fact or Fiction?
- Ticker Tape Ain’t Spaghetti
- FOOD CRISIS: "The greatest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model"
- FOOD CRISIS (Part Two): Capitalism, Agribusiness, and the Food Sovereignty Alternative
- Solutions to the food crisis: immediate demands and longer term goals
Monday, 26 May 2008
Sunday, 25 May 2008
Saturday, 24 May 2008
by Stephen Foley
from The Independent
23 May, 2008
In France, fishermen are blockading oil refineries. In Britain, lorry drivers are planning a day of action. In the US, the car maker Ford is to cut production of gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles and airlines are jacking up ticket prices. Global concerns about fuel prices are reaching fever pitch and the world's leading energy monitor has issued a disturbing downward revision of the oil industry's ability to keep pace with soaring demand.
Yesterday's warning from the International Energy Agency sent the price of a barrel of oil to a new record for the 13th day in a row. The latest high – $135 for a barrel of light sweet crude – was reached in New York barely five months after the price hit $100. Experts in London and on Wall Street predict that prices will rise to $200, regardless of the protests of consumers and the complaints of politicians. It is simple economics, they say: supply and demand. The former is short, the latter growing. Consumers are feeling the pinch in almost every area of their daily lives. The pain is felt most obviously at the pumps. In Britain, the price of petrol has risen to an average of 114p for a litre of unleaded – £5.15 per gallon. In the US, where drivers pay much lower prices, gasoline is more than $4 (£2) a gallon. Beyond that, energy bills are rising for households across the globe, hitting the poorest the hardest. British Gas, the nation's biggest gas and electricity supplier, is mulling further price rises, on top of the 15 per cent average increase it introduced in January.
Airlines which once limited fare increases to temporary "fuel surcharges" are now raising ticket prices and – as American Airlines did this week – starting to charge for checked baggage. Meanwhile, manufacturers are putting up the price of goods to compensate for higher energy bills at their factorues, ending many years of price deflation that began when firms started transferring production overseas.
"The high-priced energy environment is being driven by the fact that demand has outstripped supply," President George Bush's Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman, told the US Congress yesterday. "We have sopped up all the available spare oil production capacity in the system .... and there is no silver bullet that will immediately solve our energy challenges or drastically reduce costs at the gas pump."
The world uses about 87 million barrels of oil a day, about a quarter of it in the US. Saudi Arabia is the only country thought to have the capacity to pump oil faster. Meanwhile, China is in the throes of an industrial revolution that demands ever greater supplies of crude, yet global production has stagnated for two years. The Saudi government rejected a recent appeal from Mr Bush to increase production, saying there were no oil shortages at present. Economists worry, though, that shortages are around the corner, as mature oilfields wind down.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) said yesterday that it might have overestimated the capacity of oil-producing nations to open new fields to keep up with growing demand over the next decade. Global production, which the IEA previously reckoned could reach 116 million barrels a day by 2030, might not even make 100 million.
Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist, said the oil industry had entered "a new energy world order" where it was harder to keep supply and demand in equilibrium. "When the price went up as a result of the Iranian revolution, demand went down," he added. "But what has happened in the last few years has not been in line with economic theory. The price of oil went up sharply between 2004 and 2006 and demand actually increased. That may seem bizarre but it is the result of new buyers coming in, such as China and the Middle Eastern economies where fuel is subsidised by government and rises are not reflected on the consumer side."
Some politicians in the US rail against nationalised oil companies in the developing world for failing to invest in new production that might alleviate stresses in the market. And at every turn, Mr Bush and members of his administration insist that environmentalists should yield to the public hunger for oil and Congress should authorise drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
However, the investment bank Goldman Sachs said this month that the oil price could rise as high as $200 over the next year and would remain consistently above $100 until there was a significant fall in US demand. There are small signs of that happening. Yesterday, Ford said it was cutting vehicle production by more than it announced earlier this year. It will make the deepest cuts in its SUV and pick-up truck businesses because US customers are increasingly switching to lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Alan Mulally, the chief executive, said pick-up sales now accounted for 9 per cent of the market compared with 11 per cent a few weeks ago.
Friday, 23 May 2008
Thursday, 22 May 2008
by Ken Olende
from British Socialist Worker
20 May 2008
A series of brutal attacks on migrant workers in South Africa in the last two weeks has left dozens dead and forced thousands to flee.
At least 22 people had been killed as Socialist Worker went to press. The mobs carrying out the assaults accuse migrants of taking jobs from local people and causing crime.
Activists in Johannesburg have called a solidarity march to build unity between South African workers and migrants.
The Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) issued a statement against the attacks. “Some 40 percent of all South African citizens are unemployed and this has been the case for many years,” it read.
“This is not the result of immigrants from other countries coming to South Africa but rather, the result of the anti-poor, profit-seeking policies of the government and the behaviour of the capitalist class.”
It also pointed out that “the South African government’s approach to the crisis in Zimbabwe has further contributed to the mass migration of Zimbabweans to South Africa”.
The majority of the migrants have arrived from neighbouring Zimbabwe since the collapse of its economy.
The APF is urgently building this Saturday’s solidarity march against the attacks. Claire Ceruti, editor of the Socialism from Below publication, spoke to Socialist Worker: “Migrant workers are sheltering in police stations, which is ironic since police arrested 1,500 of them in a raid at the end of January.
“The whole police operation suggested that migrants were to blame. It acted as a prologue to the current problems.”
People have been taken by surprise at the level of violence, she adds. “I live in Yeoville, which is normally a vibrant suburb, but is now silent. No kids are out playing, no one is walking on the street. People are just too scared to show their faces.
“But one small example shows the potential for solidarity. In inner city Johannesburg several residential buildings have been organising against evictions by the city government.
“The majority of people in one of the buildings are from Zimbabwe and came under attack over the weekend. But the advice centre that coordinates the anti-eviction campaign mobilised the other blocks, which are almost all South African. The attackers were driven off.
“This issue can still go both ways. The next days will be crucial in ensuring the success of the solidarity march and giving people who oppose the attacks the confidence to come out on to the streets.”
See LINKS for more information on this important struggle.
by Health Unionist
When Labour’s third-ranked cabinet minister starts talking about the possibility of defeat in the upcoming election, you know they're in real trouble. In my union, there’s a whole lot of thinking going on already about life under the Goff scenario – with National potentially in power by year’s end.
People are talking about the need to mobilise members to fight this time, unlike in 1991 when many unions retreated before the blitzkreig of an incoming National government. Which makes yesterday's media release from the Council of Trade Unions, below, all the more disturbing.
Even as workers turn their backs on Labour in disgust, CTU secretary Carol Beaumont has announced she’s standing as a Labour Party candidate.
Beaumont is the latest and highest profile union leader to nail her colours to Labour’s mast. She joins the president of the country’s largest union, the Engineering Printing & Manufacturing Union, who’s standing for Labour in the safe National seat of Clutha-Southland. Behind the scenes, CTU president (and former member of Labour’s National Policy Council) Helen Kelly is sure to be working for Labour, too. As is CTU vice-president Richard Wagstaff from the pro-Labour PSA public sector union.
This does not augur well for a fighting union movement. Time and again, loyalty to Labour among top union leaders blunts the movement’s fighting edge and ends up strengthening National’s agenda. It happened in 1991, when they refused to organise a mass campaign in defiance of National’s anti-union laws, and it’s happening today.
In 2005 the CTU waged a strong, united campaign against National’s tax cuts, managing to shift the focus onto higher wages and collective bargaining. But now that Labour is promising tax cuts, the unions are hesitant. There is no strong counter-argument to National’s agenda.
In the past, the CTU has opposed free trade. But when it’s Labour signing a flagship free trade deal with China, which will cost jobs and drive down wages here while strengthening the oppressive regime in Beijing, the CTU mumbles its endorsement.
In industrial battles, too, from Air NZ to the junior doctors dispute, allegiance to Labour among the upper echelons leads unions to pull their punches and breeds disunity. Come 2009, a defeated Labour Party under a new leader would be likely to pull the whole show even further to the right.
To those many trade unionists who are now seeing the need for a vigorous, fighting movement to confront a future National government, we say this: The trouble with backing the "lesser evil" is that win or lose, you still end up with an evil.
It’s time to cut ties with Labour. Join the broad left movement which is standing in the election and is committed to mass grassroots resistance. Join RAM.
CTU secretary to stand in election
CTU MEDIA RELEASE
21 May 2008
The Council of Trade Unions governing body met today and were formally advised of secretary Carol Beaumont’s selection as the Labour candidate for Maungakiekie in Auckland at this year’s election.
“Carol has been a hardworking advocate for working people all her life, and she will make an excellent contribution for workers in Parliament, although the CTU will miss her wide range of skills,” CTU vice president Richard Wagstaff said tonight.
“Carol will run a strong campaign and we are confident she will win her seat, and we wish her well as an MP representing working people in Parliament.”
Carol was elected secretary of the CTU in 2003 after 20 years involvement in unions both in New Zealand and Australia, as delegate, executive member, organiser and union secretary, Richard Wagstaff said.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
- Share information about the ongoing revolution in Venezuela and counter biased reporting by the corporate media.
- Mobilise public opinion against attempts by the USA state to destabilise and destroy the popular elected government of Hugo Chavez.
- Connect with communities in Venezuela and around the world supporting Venezuela's alternative.
To get involved in VAMOS email:
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Design for the dust jacket of a 1923 Russian publication.
'Ten Days That Shook the World' can be read online at http://www.marxists.org/archive/reed/1919/10days/10days/
Monday, 19 May 2008
Rio Tinto is a transnational corporate energy giant that virtually monopolises the global aluminium industry - and it gets super cheap electricity in this country. The aluminium smelter at Bluff takes an incredible 15% of NZ's total electricity production.
As Chris makes clear, Rio Tinto's opposition to the mildest and inadequate measures to address greenhouse gas emissions is a chilling example of corporate power ranged against the interests of humanity and the environment. The corporation is indeed a psychopath.
Chris quotes Murray Horton from CAFCA (Campaign Against Foreign Control in Aotearoa), who says: "Go ahead and close the smelter and bugger off." Something that, Chris admits, this Labour government is not going to let happen. Not because thousands of workers might lose their jobs, but because Labour's partnership with international and local capital is locked in tight.
Labour couldn't govern without the support of powerful corporate interests, who are only too ready to let Labour know what the price of that support is. Rio Tinto's threat is just a more open and direct example of what goes on all the time.
And with no real support base in the working class the 21st century Labour Party cannot lead any opposition to these powerful forces. That's of course if Clark, Cullen and Co actually wanted to do - which of course they don't.
What the debacle of Labour's emission trading scheme shows is that fighting to save the environment is also a fight against corporate power. And that requires a mass grassroots political movement, it requires leadership from political organisations which have earned the respect and trust of ordinary people. Something which the Labour Party has long since lost.
In these times of mass cynicism towards politicians (which the Greens have clumsily tried to reflect in their "some things are bigger than politics" slogan) we can perhaps understandably forget that it's possible to achieve a positive and powerful dynamic between political leaders and the people. Think of the leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States. Or Maori leaders of the tino rangatiratanga struggle in this country. And look at the example of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, or Evo Morales in Bolivia.
And that leadership does not have to be embodied in just one or a few people, but in political organisations that have the mass support of working class people. A political leadership totally committed to people and environment could then call Rio Tinto's bluff and act to push for the nationalisation of the companies' ownings. It's possible.
In Venezuela recently the Chavez government, which enjoys massive support from grassroots Venezuelan's, acted to nationalise the Argentinian owned SIDOR steelworks in Guayana (See Venezuela: Steel nationalisation marks 'new revolution within revolution') This follows other nationalisations of telecommunications and electricity companies, and Venezuela's dominant oil industry. These nationalisations, which confront neo-liberalism in the backyard of the United States, have been possible because a position of power has been achieved by a mass movement.
The challenge for leftists in Aotearoa is to seriously move towards creating the kind of dynamic that exists today in Venezuela between a respected leadership and grassroots people. If achieved then everything becomes possible.
A mass broad left party, such as RAM is on the road to becoming in New Zealand, will help the left to go beyond rhetoric, to leading struggles with every chance of achieving their goal.
We know what needs to happen - the alternative of the status quo perpetuating itself is just too depressing - but it's working our side into a position where it can happen. That's the ambitious goal that RAM can and should be aiming for.
The more people who join RAM today the more chance there is of making things happen tomorrow.
Time to call Rio Tinto's bluff
by CHRIS TROTTER
The Dominion Post
Friday, 16 May 2008
Once again the masks have slipped. Once again we have caught a glimpse of the true faces of our masters. Once again, New Zealand's acute vulnerability to the power of vast transnational corporations has been brutally revealed.
As an exercise in raw economic coercion, Rio Tinto's submission to the parliamentary select committee scrutinising our Government's proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) was chilling.
Ranged before the elected representatives of the New Zealand people were the appointed representatives of one of the world's largest and most profitable corporations.
Including its joint ventures, Rio Tinto employs 73,000 people in 61 countries. It is the global leader in smelting aluminium, with annual revenues of US$49 billion (NZ$65 billion), a sum roughly equivalent to 30 per cent of New Zealand's entire gross domestic product.
As living proof that neither race nor gender counts for very much in this new age of equal- opportunity capitalism, Rio Tinto's Asia/Pacific president is a woman of Chinese descent, Ms Xiaoling Liu. It was from her that the select committee received the bad news.
In its current form, she explained, the ETS posed a threat to the economic competitiveness of the Bluff aluminium smelter's production. Rio Tinto could not, therefore, guarantee the smelter's long-term future if the Government's scheme (in its current form) was permitted to proceed.
And that was that.
Her judgment, as cold and bleak as a Southland winter, was left to slowly defrost on the committee-room table. And now, while Invercargill shivers, and its voluble mayor, Tim Shadbolt, shakes his fist, our government must determine its response.
Thirty years ago, faced with such a flagrant challenge to its sovereignty, a Labour government might have countered Rio Tinto's presentation by threatening to nationalise its New Zealand operation. Today, quite apart from exposing the nation to all manner of WTO penalties, such a threat would be laughed out of court.
Rio Tinto, "whose business is finding, mining and processing the Earth's mineral resources", not only dominates the world's aluminium smelting industry, but also controls the lion's share of the planet's bauxite deposits. Without bauxite, of course, an aluminium smelter is useless.
So, should the Government call her and Rio Tinto's bluff?
By forcing Rio Tinto's departure, and the shutting down of the Tiwai Pt smelter, Labour would be free to divert 15 per cent of New Zealand's total electrical energy production (the amount consumed by the smelter) to other uses.
The period in which new generation facilities need to be commissioned could be dramatically extended, and electricity price rises smoothed considerably, by such a massive energy windfall.
Unfortunately, calling Rio Tinto's bluff would also entail ripping the heart (and, according to Mayor Shadbolt, the soul) out of Southland's economy. By local estimates, at least 3000 jobs many of them extremely well- paid would be lost, with devastating social and economic consequences for the entire Southland region.
While the fourth Labour government was only too willing to consign thousands of workers to the human scrap-heap in the name of economic rationalisation, I'm not so sure that this Government is ready to follow suit, at least, not in an election year.
Murray Horton, from the Campaign Against Foreign Control in Aotearoa, thinks they should: "Go ahead and close the smelter and bugger off", he thunders. "See if we care, the country will be much better off without you.
The smelter is the single biggest user of electricity, consuming one-sixth of the total. It pays a top-secret, super-cheap price that is not available to any other user and all it does is export electricity from New Zealand in the form of alumina, while being subsidised by all other electricity users."
Way back at the beginning of this latest period of globalisation, Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric, notoriously remarked: "Ideally you'd have every plant you own on a barge." The theory was, big business could hold unions and governments to ransom by threatening to go offshore if the cost of labour, or environmental regulation, became too expensive.
What Mr Welch and his ilk failed to foresee was that a time would come when the greenhouse gas emissions from every plant they owned represented so great a threat to the planet that the location of their barges no longer really mattered.
I'd invite Rio Tinto to do their worst but I suspect they already are.
Saturday, 17 May 2008
May 14 2008
Friends of the Earth exposes the lies of the oil giants' attack on European emission reduction plans
Oil companies have the potential to achieve more than 10 per cent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 without using agrofuels, reveals a report launched today by Friends of the Earth Europe.
Released on the day Shell and BP announced combined quarterly profits of 14.4 billion US dollars, 'Extracting the truth: Oil industry efforts to undermine the Fuel Quality Directive' uses industry's own data to show how oil companies are falsely claiming that the target proposed by the European Commission in revisions to the Fuel Quality Directive is unachievable.
It shows that at least 10 per cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could be realised through reduced gas flaring, improved energy efficiency and fuel switching at refineries, and without the need for agrofuels which can have negative environmental and socials impacts and have not been proven to reduce emissions overall.
Darek Urbaniak, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:
“The oil industry is saying that it lacks the financial and technological resources to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions, but according to our research it has the potential to meet, and even exceed, the 10 per cent CO2 reduction target of the Directive. And this is without resorting to harmful agrofuels.
“The false statements being made by oil companies are blatant attempts to undermine the legislation. Instead of taking responsibility for its contribution to climate change, the oil industry is trying to wriggle out of its obligations.”
Friends of the Earth Europe’s report calculates that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of between 10.5 per cent and 15.5 per cent are possible through measures including less flaring and venting, energy efficiency improvements and fuel switching in refineries.
The report comes at a time of record profits for oil companies and increasing attempts to portray themselves as environmentally responsible. In 2007, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, TOTAL, BP and ENI together earned together over 125 billion US dollars.
Paul de Clerck, corporates campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:
“Despite their sky-high profits oil companies are not willing to bear the costs of reducing emissions. It seems that since these investments are not profitable, companies will not make them unless they are forced by a regulatory body. The EU has to oblige companies to take the necessary steps. The report shows that it is possible and they have more than enough money to pay for it.”
The analysis released today puts oil industry attempts to obstruct the Fuel Quality Directive in the context of increased “greenwashing.” Behind the scenes oil companies are lobbying against environmental legislation whilst in public they use advertising to suggest that they are reducing emissions. In 2007 Shell was found guilty of misleading advertising for an advert in which it claimed it used waste CO2 to grow flowers.
Darek Urbaniak said:
“Oil companies are not serious about their environmental performance. While they brand themselves as environmentally responsible, their CO2 emissions continue to rise. In reality the emissions of almost all of them are rapidly increasing and they are all investing heavily in energy-dirty tar sands, while their investments in renewable energy remain negligible or decrease.”
Friday, 16 May 2008
Thursday, 15 May 2008
- share information about the ongoing revolution in Venezuela and counterbiased media reporting.
- mobilise public opinion against attempts by the US state to destabiliseand destroy the popularly elected government of Hugo Chavez.
- connect with communities in Venezuela and around the world supporting Venezuela's hopeful alternative.
To join our mailing list, or for more information, please send an email to VAMOSwellington@randomstatic.net
Wednesday, 14 May 2008
ZCTU Secretary General Wellington Chibhebhe
Press release, 13 May 2008
The International Socialist Organization (Zimbabwe) condems the arrest and detention of Zimbabwe congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President Lovemore Matombo and Secretary General Wellington Chibhebhe on the 8th of May 2008. They are being held for stirring people to rise against the government and for allegedly reporting falsehoods on innocent people being killed by ZANU PF supporters across the country.
The arrest of these 2 workers leaders is unlawful as it is one amongst a hodgepodge of other dirty tactics that Zanu PF is blatantly using to intimidate workers and the ordinary people as we wait for the announcement of date for presidential run-off.
Matombo and Chibhebhe did not incite anyone into violence but rather it is Zanu PF, which has unleashed violence and torture on the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe and some leaders. Since March 29 50 people have so far been killed, more than 4 000 people displaced and some have had their homes burnt to ashes.
On the other hand, the economic situation has steeply deteriorated, hitting alarming levels. The situation promises to be much worse in the near future as the regime has adopted a full fledged neo-liberal economic line.
Mugabe who all along had fervently resisted pressure from the neo-liberal hardliners within ZANU PF to open up the market and remove all restrictions on foreign exchange rates has finally succumbed to pressure and has allowed Gono to do what ever he sees as fit to repair the already patched economy. This has impacted negatively on the livelihoods of the ordinary people as already we have seen prices of commodities skyrocketing beyond what ordinary people who are earning less that $5 billion yet they need $50 billion to survive.
As a gesture to its commitment to paying their odious debts, and against of all this suffering Zimbabwe has paid back US $700 million to the African Development Bank.
As workers and ordinary people we say no to this payment of foreign debits. Instead the money should be used towards health, education and meeting of other basic necessities of ordinary people.
ZCTU leaders should be released now and we call for mass actions to demand:
- The release of detained MDC parliamentarians.
- An end to further politically motivated violence.
- A minimum wage non-taxable that is linked to inflation.
Contact Mike Sambo, National Coordinator, ISO Zimbabwe firstname.lastname@example.org