Mugabe cracks down on opposition by Ken Olende 24 June 2008 The situation in Zimbabwe continued to deteriorate as Socialist Worker went to press. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai had sought refuge in the Dutch embassy, while the government crackdown on opposition supporters continued. This followed the opposition’s withdrawal from the presidential run-off election, due to take place on Friday of this week, in the face of intimidation from Robert Mugabe’s governing Zanu-PF party. More than 80 MDC activists have been killed during the campaign. There have been arbitrary arrests of civic leaders.
Saturday, 28 June 2008
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
This animation has been made to coincide with the launch of 350, an international grouping of activists, climate scientists, environmental organisations and prominent people. James Hansen, a respected climate change scientist is one of the spokespeople. Ads for 350 have been placed in some of the world's major newspapers. 350 is the level of carbon dioxide in the air measured in parts per million (ppm) that's safe for human civilization. Currently the world is at 385ppm and rising. 350 is calling for global action for a global future. Visit the website http://350.org/ There's a growing recognition that we need to build an international movement to bring about the urgent and drastic solutions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. That movement has to bring together mass mobilising organisations in individual countries like unions, churches, student organisations, environment groups, and grassroots political parties prepared to stand up against vested corporate interests. 350 could be a break through initiative that brings the international movement to another level. We should be looking very closely at 350 and considering how we can bring together mass mobilising organisations in New Zealand around some common initiatives linked to the global movement and consciousness. What do UNITYblog readers think of 350?
James Hansen, a leading climate change scientist, has been calling for urgent and radical actions to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Here's a recent article from The Guardian about Hansen’s call for the oil companies to be put on the trial for spreading false information on climate change, the same way the big tobacco companies used to. Go to Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist See also:
Below are some commonly asked questions about removing GST from food for distribution in union and other social justice networks. Please feel free to copy and paste into an email to send to your own contacts. Or make up a quick leaflet to give to workmates and friends. Copies of RAM's "GST-off-food" petition is avaible from RAM's website.
Will sellers just lift their prices if GST is removed?
While sellers have a degree of flexibility in regard to managing their profit margins, they are not a law unto themselves. Customers ultimately dictate the course of a business, and New Zealand has a very competitive retail environment. If GST-off-food became a reality, Kiwis would not tolerate retailers or their suppliers not removing the 12.5% tax on their food items. There would be a mass exodus to sellers who didn't hike their prices, forcing the others to retreat. And remember, removing GST from food provides a PERMANENT benefit. Prices will always be cheaper by the amount of the GST than it would otherwise be if this 12.5% tax remained. In fact, as food prices rose over time in line with general inflationary trends, the amount of the benefit of removing GST would grow in value.
What about the loss in tax revenue?
The income tax cuts promised by Labour and National (which benefit the wealthy more than the rest) are significantly greater in terms of lost revenue than would be the removal of GST from food. And there is greatly increased GST revenue being generated as a result of record fuel prices and the rise in the cost of other goods and services. These rises will tend to offset the removal of GST from food. Anyway, New Zealand needs to move away from the GST flat tax, since it is so unfair to low-to-modest income Kiwis. The poorest person in the land pays exactly the same amount of GST on a litre of milk as the richest person. GST is the product of Rogernomics and the whole Business Roundtable agenda. We need to return to progressive tax systems where the rich pay a fairer share, possibly including a financial transactions tax which would capture greedy speculators in the tax net which they now escape under GST.
Should tax reform be part of a union's strategy?
Each union is working hard to improve the living conditions of its own members by campaigning for better collective agreements. And by campaigning for upwards adjustments to the politically legislated minimum wage, the union movement as a whole is trying to improve the well-being of every worker in the land. This combination of industrial and political campaigning has always been a feature of the NZ union movement, and long may it continue. The GST-off-food petition fits right into this union strategy. It is a political campaign supported by some unions and many union members that aims to improve the lives of low-to-modest income families struggling to pay the bills. Many are now simply unable to afford good food no matter how well they budget. This is a social justice issue. As one Maori woman worker said when signing the GST-off-food petition in Mangere: "Taxing food is like taxing the air we breathe." By supporting the GST-off-food petition, your union will earn the gratitude of all Kiwi battlers, which will pay off in terms of cross-solidarity in the future.
Why you will always find what you are looking for, or what the SIS and Police reports tell us
by October 15th Solidarity
Anyone who has worked in an academic research institute will be familiar with the annual problem of securing funding for the next year. On the one hand, the university finance committee, government department or whoever else is providing the money must get the impression that last year's funding was a good investment, while at the same time they must be convinced to continue. The annual report then usually indicates that the department is on the verge of a major discovery or has at least made huge progress, but to get really conclusive results, another year's worth of work, preferably with more staff and resources is required.
Sunday, 22 June 2008
CTU MEDIA RELEASE 22 June 2008 Work rights getting better for casuals "The rights at work for casual workers are about to get better, and no party should stand it the way of this much needed law change," Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said today. The government today announced plans to beef up Employment Relations Act protections for temporary and casual workers, and run an awareness campaign to make sure casuals were aware of their rights. http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/stronger+protections+casual+and+temp+workers "There have been significant real improvements for workers in this country over the last 8 years but many of the new improvements have been denied to large numbers of workers because of the misuse by employers of casual employment relationships. That makes these changes extremely significant and important," Helen Kelly said. "There is an army of casual employees, often low paid workers, many of whom are totally insecure about their terms of employment, their hours of work, their entitlements to sick leave and holidays and their employment status in relation to any workplace problems." "The insecurity of their employment makes it difficult for them to assert their rights, and also effects many other aspects of their lives in areas like housing stability, access to loans and superannuation savings." "Of course there are instances of genuine casuals where the arrangements are necessary in normal business operations. However there are many workers who are classified as casuals when in fact they are expected to turn up to work on a regular basis and really are no different from a permanent workers." "The changes announced today will be a real help for casual and temporary workers to get the rights at work that the rest of the workforce have won. The CTU has been involved in this process and are pleased with the outcomes, and we acknowledge NZ First Deputy Leader Peter Brown’s strong advocacy for casual workers." "We expect all political parties that believe in fairness at work to support this move, or tell casual and temporary workers why they should go without their rights at work," Helen Kelly said.
Friday, 20 June 2008
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Around 200 New Zealand troops are part of the occupying force in Afghanistan. Labour government minister Phil Goff says there's a "strong likelihood" that the troops will stay until at least 2010.
The government's justification is that they're "helping to rebuild the country". The article below on the involvement of Canada's armed forces makes it clear that this is no "peace mission", but a naked imperialist enterprise to control a strategic area of the world - in the eyes the US and its allies. And at the same time support the corporate plunder of Afghanistan's mineral resources. While billions of dollars stand to be made by overseas companies the Afghanistan people continue to live in desperate poverty.
Labour's support for America's global war must end. Bring NZ troops back from Afghanistan.
Canadian workers demand immediate end to war in Afghanistan
by Michael Skinner
from LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal
On 29 May 2009, the delegates at the national convention of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), representing more than 3 million workers from every region of Canada and Quebec, voted overwhelmingly to demand that the government of Canada immediately end its participation in the illegal war in Afghanistan.
Photo from the official White House website
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Monday, 16 June 2008
Lecture by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho at the conference, TRADITIONAL SEEDS OUR NATIONAL TREASURE AND HERITAGE, 17 May 2008, Warsaw, Poland.
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho is the co-founder of The Institute of Science In Society The Brave New World of GM Science In 1994, I met some of the most remarkable leaders in the Third World: Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher (Institute of Sustainable Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), Martin Khor (Third World Network, Penang, Malaysia), and Vandana Shiva (Navdanya, New Delhi, India), who persuaded me to look into genetically modified organisms (GMOs), especially GM crops, which they rightly saw as a special threat to small family farmers. The biotech industry was promising miracle GM crops that would boost yield to feed the world, improve nutrition, and clean up and protect the environment. Monsanto's Flavr Savr tomato, the first GM crop, had just been commercialised, though it turned out to be a complete flop, and was withdrawn several years later.
For a long time the stability of the two-party system (plus a few MMP add-ons) has been based in large part on the belief by a large section of the grassroots that they can work their way into their own home, which will then rise in value. This belief, which has been under siege for quite a while, may now start to collapse altogether for most people, including many in the middle class as well as the working class.
When that happens, it's not just an economic crisis we're talking about. We're also talking an entrenched political crisis and an associated crisis in traditional hegemonic belief systems, such as "the market knows best" and "the market means democracy".
This opens up space for a broad left party to connect with grassroots people and provide leadership that helps build mass-based resistance to the market's efforts to place the burdens of crisis on the shoulders of ordimary people, and to collectively project a human-centred alternative to an out-of-control market.
Sunday, 15 June 2008
British commentators are advising of a 5 year slump and 50% loss in value in the UK housing market. I believe the effects will be far worse in NZ, on the periphery of the global market.
See the Herald on Sunday (15 June) article The boom has turned to bust
Also see Peter de Waal’s UNITYblog article The 2008 banking crisis: Why the housing bubble? Why the crash?
Saturday, 14 June 2008
So it’s happening already. Rising food prices in this country are “making people more prone to sickness”. That’s what food specialists say in a recent Dominion Post article Families' health hit as food costs soar.
The Wellington managing director of Foodstuffs (Pak’N’Save, New World and 4 Square supermarkets) rattles off the usual suspects behind the price rises. Poor harvests, high fuel costs, higher demand from Asia, biofuels. You have to dig a little deeper to get the full picture, which corporate managing directors can’t, and won’t tell you. Poor harvests are linked to climate change, which rolls on unabated thanks to corporate opposition to measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Oil prices are rising for the same reason. High oil prices, in turn, make it profitable for corporate agribusinesses to grow crops for biofuels instead of food. “Higher demand” from Asia is actually driven by the growth of a small, wealthy middle class, mainly in China, which has a taste for meat. Grain is now being diverted to animal feed, to produce meat for this lucrative new market. The corporate elite behind the food crisis, which is now growing here in New Zealand as the Dominion Post reports, have no answers. Neither do all the mainstream political parties which serve them. It’s an absolute disgrace that National, ACT, Labour and the Greens all reject such a simple, immediate step as scrapping GST on food. Ultimately, there is no global food shortage. There’s only a shortage of politicians willing to stand up to the corporate agenda. RAM (Residents Action Movement) has the answers that the corporate elite and all the mainstream politicians lack. RAM is building a grassroots movement that puts people and the environment before the almighty dollar – starting by scrapping GST tax on all our food.
from Global Research
May 2, 2008
The price of crude oil today is not made according to any traditional relation of supply to demand. It’s controlled by an elaborate financial market system as well as by the four major Anglo-American oil companies. As much as 60% of today’s crude oil price is pure speculation driven by large trader banks and hedge funds. It has nothing to do with the convenient myths of Peak Oil. It has to do with control of oil and its price. How?
Friday, 13 June 2008
Thursday, 12 June 2008
NZ’s terms of trade, as reported in the NZ Herald, is the best for 34 years. The terms of trade, which measures export values versus imports, rose 4.1% over the last 3 months, and in the year previous to that 11.3%. The growth is mainly due to soaring prices for dairy products exported overseas, and increasing costs of imports due to rising oil prices.
As the NZ Herald put it “the increased purchasing power of the export dollar makes New Zealand a richer country”. Fundamentally NZ is a wealthy country. In 2007 national income rose 5.1%. There's been sustained economic growth since 2000. The wealth, however, has not been shared around. The rich have been gorging themselves while the relative wealth of middle to low income earners has stagnated or fallen. There are real signs that the economy is heading for problems, as a result of the global economic crisis and the bursting of NZ’s housing market bubble. The wealthy elites now want workers and other grassroots people to tighten their belts and be "realistic" about what the country can afford. This would be injustice heaped on injustice. There should be no poverty in NZ today, and we should be rushing to fund public solutions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions. Finding the $400 million a year needed to make tertiary education free should be no problem at all. That's why the demands being put forward by RAM are simply common sense:
- Remove GST tax from all our food.
- Mobilise for climate security, like public transport funded by road budget.
- 2% interest state loan for a first home.
- Lift minimum wage to $15 per hour & legalise workers’ stolen rights.
- Free tertiary education & student living allowance to stop the ‘brain drain’.
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
by Alex Callinicos from British Socialist Worker 10 June 2008 Imagine, in a galaxy far, far away, an empire in decline. A disastrous military adventure and the rise of new powers have exposed its weakness. To cap it all, the emperor himself is generally despised as a provincial clod. But now his successor has to be chosen. What better way to rehabilitate the empire in the eyes of others than to select as emperor an eloquent, dynamic, relatively young man – a man who, while being utterly safe, not only belongs to the group of imperial subjects who are victims of its greatest historical injustice, but whose father comes from a foreign country and who himself spent some of his childhood in another?
Monday, 9 June 2008
by Walden Bello
Saturday, 7 June 2008
Thursday, 5 June 2008
by Ondine Green
The Greens had their chance to put some real excitement into the election campaign at their annual conference at Queen's Birthday weekend. And they muffed it.
Rumour had it leading up to the conference that the Greens were going to call for price controls on milk for domestic consumption. While this would not have had nearly as much of an impact on working people's skyrocketing food bills as – say – RAM's proposal to remove GST from food, it would have been at least a small step. Plus, it would have fired a warning shot across the bows of big agribusiness, easily New Zealand's number 1 producer of greenhouse emissions.
And what did Green leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons finally announce in her speech? That she was going to (get this) ask Fonterra nicely to bring milk prices down.
This is exactly why the Green Party has reached the limits of its claim to be any sort of radical alternative to the two-party duopoly. Even a tiny and easily achievable goal has to be trashed if it gives the appearance of bucking the almighty free market in any way. The Rubicon was crossed on this issue when they endorsed Labour's plan for “emissions trading” - also known as bribing big business not to wreck the planet quite so quickly.
Of course, the Greens are behind the eight-ball in this campaign anyway. They've traded off most of their distinctiveness and radical image (let alone any radical policies) to become “acceptable coalition partners for Labour”. Those with long memories might remember what happened when the Alliance did that ten years ago. Why exactly should struggling families vote for the Greens if it's just Labour policies with extra political correctness?
And this has happened with the Green's so-called “social justice” wing (represented by such high fliers as co-leader Russel Norman and MP Sue Bradford) in ascendancy. If the “blue-green” wing (represented by people like ex-MP Mike Ward, who did his best to stop Russel Norman taking over Nandor Tanczos's seat in Parliament) had their way, it would be even worse, and we might be seeing the Greens emulate their German cousins and hooking up with the right.
The Green leadership have been inside the bubble of Parliament for twelve years now – long enough to “go native” and forget that there's a real world of real working people with real hardships out there. Only that can explain why Jeanette Fitzsimmon's speech went out of its way to tick off who they seem to think are their real enemies – Parliamentary journalists like Guyon Espiner. Certainly those people don't particularly like the Greens, but then the Parliamentary media are in the entertainment business above all and the Greens aren't nearly as “fun” for them as Winston Peters. Which is, of course, why his political career keeps rising from the dead.
The Green's weak campaign gimmick - “Some things are bigger than politics” - shows all the signs that they've decided to play for the attention of media moguls and political journalists, not ordinary people. It's all icing and no cake. Only a party which puts concrete, achievable proposals for making ordinary people's lives better – no matter what the spin doctors and boardroom boys thinks – has any hope of motivating working people to the polls this October, and stopping a nasty Nat victory.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Gambling with the Futures from US Socialist Worker.
DiLeo writes: "Futures are [...] traded by individual investors and financial institutions, based on a gamble as to whether the price of the goods will rise or fall. Today, traders of exchange-traded funds, hedge funds and other speculators far outstrip the actual buyers and sellers of commodities. As a result, these speculators have generated a big demand for futures contracts, therefore helping send the prices of underlying commodities upward." Mike Whitney in a recent article titled
The Great Oil Swindle: How much did the Fed really know? also argues that it's unregulated futures trading that's sending the price of oil (and food) upwards. And that a lot of this investment is coming from US banks who've been bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars by the US Federal Reserve after the collapse of the housing and sub-prime mortgage markets. These big banks, argues Whitney, are trying to speculate their way out of the financial crisis through investing in oil and food futures. Not only are these banks the recipients of corporate welfare of truly historic proportions, but what they're doing with that money is inflicting pain and suffering on the majority of the world's population. Whitney claims the rising cost of oil "is a hoax cooked up by the investment banks and hedge funds who are trying to dig their way out of the trillion dollar mortgage-backed securities (MBS) mess that they created by turning garbage loans into securities." He quotes another financial analyst who calculates that at least 60% of the current price of oil comes from futures speculation by hedge funds, banks and financial groups, who are using unregulated futures exchanges to avoid public scrutiny. While perhaps overly dismissive of the current and future impact of Peak Oil, Whitney's analysis is compelling. The bigger picture is that trillions of dollars circulate the globe daily looking to be invested in shares, property, currency, commodities, and phony markets created to gamble on price or interest rate fluctuations, which points to the fact that the real economy - the one where goods or services are produced and purchased for actual use - is not delivering the profitable returns the capitalists want. This underlying economic crisis could not be avoided forever, and is now impacting on the global economy in a big way. What's important for us to realise is that this economic crisis is rapidly intensifying a global political struggle, where the naked self-preservation of the rich elites comes up against the rising anger of grassroots people. Like any war - which is what this indeed will be - it will be decided by superior organisation, strategy and will. Our side needs to build the political structures within individual countries and internationally to mobilise the world's grassroots majority in this historic struggle.
UNITYblog directs readers to articles presented on the right-hand sidebar under the heading 'Building a broad left party' as a contribution to how we can organise.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
ClimAction, free buses, and building a climate change movement - Rotorua activists talk to UNITYblog
by Stuart Munckton
from LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal
27 May, 2008
The two Venezuelanalysis.com articles below, by Kiraz Janicke (a member of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau and Venezuelanalysis.com journalist), give a feel for the increasingly intense struggle that is taking place within the Chavista camp.
"Venezuela gets ready to choose candidates for regional elections" http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3487
"Controversy erupts over nominations for PSUV candidacies in Venezuela"
In fact, as articles from the GLW Caracas bureau among a fair few others have pointed out in recent times, the key struggles in Venezuela are occurring within the Chavista camp — and the outcome of this struggle will play a major role in determining the fate of the Venezuelan revolution.