Wednesday, 27 May 2009

New UNITY journal: 'The Great Implosion: Global crisis and the left'

It's been a bit of a gap between UNITY Journals, but it's at least worth the wait, because the contents of this one will make it a must read for activists in Aotearoa. To arrange postage of a copy email The cost is $6.50 (including postage).  

The Great Implosion: Global crisis and the left  

Crisis, danger and opportunity Daphne lawless, editor of UNITY 10 

Financial implosion and stagnation JOHN BELLAMY FOSTER and FRED MAGDOFF 40 

Will the global economy recover? Alex Callinicos, Socialist Workers Party (Britain) 42 

Trade unions and New Zealand’s economic crisis GRANT BROOKES, Socialist Worker (New Zealand) 59 

The housing crisis revisted PETER DE WAAL, Socialist Worker (New Zealand) 67 

Responding to the crisis VAUGHAN GUNSON, Socialist Worker (New Zealand) 78  

The rocks of opposing class interests Don Franks, Workers Party of New Zealand 84 

Venezuela: New measures to confront crisis JIM McILROY and CORAL WYNTER, Green Left Weekly (Australia) 87 

France: The anti-capitalist hope PIERRE-FRANÇOIS GROND, New Anti-Capitalist Party (France) 89 

Fighting the financial crisis Die Linke (The Left party), Germany 91 

New left openings in Britain ROBERT GRIFFITHS, Morning Star (Britain) 94  

The People’s Charter for Change 97  

Challenges facing Québec solidaire RICHARD FIDLER, Socialist Voice (Canada) 103  

Defend jobs, not profits! Socialist Alliance (Australia) 107  

Fighting the bloggers on their own turf DAPHNE LAWLESS 112 

A handbook for the downturn GRAHAM MATTHEWS, Green Left Weekly (Australia) 115  

Feedback: Letters from Ondine Green, Bronwen Beechey and an Auckland union activist

Sunday, 24 May 2009

UNITYblog EDITORIAL: Debate on broad left strategy continues within IST

The global debate about how Marxists should organise politically in the current epoch is continuing. The debate centres on the question of whether Marxists opt to maintain a narrow Marxist organisation or join together unreservedly with other leftists in broad left political formations. This crucial debate is intersecting with the question of how the left responds to the global economic crisis. Without a viable political force which mobilises masses of people the result of the crisis will be devastating for ordinary people. Socialist Worker-New Zealand supports the broad left strategy, which has been articulated in the articles and statements. See History calls for a broad left party and Organising to build a global broad left movement. Our ideas have been raised within the International Socialist Tendency (IST), to which we are affiliated. In the interests of furthering this important debate we are posting on UNITYblog an exchange of ideas between Alex Callinicos, leading British Socialist Worker Party member, and European activists Panos Garganas and François Sabado. In International Socialist Journal (ISJ) issue 121, (Winter 2008) Garganas and Sabado responded to Callinicos's original article Where is the Radical Left Going? (Issue 120, Autumn 2008). See: In turn, Callinicos replies in ISJ issue 122: Revolutionary paths: a reply to Panos Garganas and François Sabado In his reply Callinicos appears to make concessions to the idea of building broad left parties where Marxists do not organise as a "party within a party" and block vote. Something which the British SWP did with disastrous consequences in Respect. The shift in position is noted by current Respect activist Liam MacUaid in his blog post A shift of position (8 April 2009). Socialist Worker-New Zealand (SW-NZ) is very interested in this unfolding debate, reflecting as it does the crucial question of how Marxists work cooperatively in broad left political formations. As an organisation SW-NZ is continuing to work alongside other leftists in RAM - Residents Action Movement. We want to see a mass-based broad left political alternative built in New Zealand that can win the respect of masses of people. A task which today is only in its infancy. At the same SW-NZ maintains its own organisational structures, organises Marxist Forums for political discussion, and produces independent Marxist publications, UNITYblog and UNITY Journal. We retain our ability to represent Marxist ideas through these forums and publications at the same time as we are committed as individual members to the political outreach work of RAM. Please forward any new contributions (short or long) on the broad left debate or responses to any of the above articles to UNITYblog editor

The Myth of the Efficient Car

Without divine intervention – which seems to be the basis for most energy reduction schemes – there is simply no way to maintain both the atmosphere and personal transportation. The personal automobile must be abandoned, and quickly. Read more at

Marta Harnecker: Ideas for the struggle #1 ― Insurrections or revolutions? The role of the political instrument

Marta Harnecker (left)
by Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal 1. The recent popular uprisings at the turn of the 21st century that have rocked numerous countries such as Argentina and Bolivia ― and, more generally, the history of the multiple social explosions that have occurred in Latin America and the rest of the world ― have undoubtedly demonstrated that the initiative of the masses, in and of itself, is not enough to defeat ruling regimes. 2. Impoverished urban and country masses, lacking a well-defined plan, have risen up, seized highways, towns and neighbourhoods, ransacked stores and stormed parliaments, but despite achieving the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of people, neither the size nor their combativeness have been enough to develop from popular insurrection into revolution. They have overthrown presidents, but they haven’t been able to conquer power and initiate a process of deep social transformations. 3. On the other hand, the history of triumphant revolutions clearly demonstrates what can be achieved when there is a political instrument capable of raising an alternative national program that unifies the struggles of diverse social actors behind a common goal; that helps to cohere them and elaborate a path forward for these actors based on an analysis of the existent balance of forces. Only in this manner can actions be carried out at the right place and right time, always seeking out the weakest link in the enemy’s chain. 4. This political instrument is like a piston that compresses steam at the decisive moment and ― without wasting any energy ― converts it into a powerful force. 5. In order for political action to be effective, so that protests, resistance and struggles are really able to change things, to convert insurrections into revolutions, a political instrument capable of overcoming the dispersion and fragmentation of the exploited and the oppressed is required, one that can create spaces to bring together those who, in spite of their differences, have a common enemy; that is able to strengthen existing struggles and promote others by orientating their actions according to a thorough analysis of the political situation; that can act as an instrument for cohering the many expressions of resistance and struggle. 6. We are aware that there are a number of apprehensions towards such ideas. There are many who are not even willing to discuss them. Such positions are adopted because they associate this idea with the anti-democratic, authoritarian, bureaucratic and manipulating political practices that have characterised many left parties. 7. I believe it is fundamental that we overcome this subjective barrier and understand that when we refer to a political instrument, we are not thinking of just any political instrument, we are dealing with political instrument adjusted to the new times, an instrument that we must built together. 8. However, in order to create or remodel this new political instrument, the left has to change its political culture and its vision of politics. This cannot be reduced to institutional political disputes for control over parliament or local governments; to approving laws or winning elections. In this conception of politics, the popular sectors and their struggles are completely ignored. Neither can politics be limited to the art of what is possible. 9. For the left, politics must be the art of making possible the impossible. And we are not talking about a voluntarist declaration. We are talking about understanding politics as the art of constructing a social and political force capable of changing the balance of force in favour of the popular movement, so as to make possible in the future that which today appears impossible. 10. We have to think of politics as the art of constructing forces. We have to overcome the old and deeply-rooted mistake of trying to build a political force without building a social force. 11. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of revolutionary phase-mongering among our militants; too much radicalism in their statements. I am convinced that the only way to radicalise a given situation is through the construction of forces. Those whose words are filled with demands for radicalisation must answer the following question: What are you doing to construct the political and social force necessary to push the process forward? 12. But this construction of forces cannot occur spontaneously, only popular uprisings happen spontaneously. It needs a protagonist. 13. And I envisage this political instrument as an organisation capable of raising a national project that can unify and act as a compass for all those sectors that oppose neoliberalism. As a space that directs itself towards the rest of society, that respects the autonomy of the social movements instead of manipulating them, and whose militants and leaders are true popular pedagogues, capable of stimulating the knowledge that exists within the people ― derived from their cultural traditions, as well as acquired in their daily struggles for survival ― through the fusion of this knowledge with the most all-encompassing knowledge that the political organisation can offer. An orientating and cohering instrument at the service of the social movements. Marta Harnecker is originally from Chile where she participated in the revolutionary process of 1970-1973. She has written extensively on the Cuba Revolution, and on the nature of socialist democracy. She now lives in Caracas and is a participant in the Venezuelan revolution.

“Communitarian socialism will refound Bolivia”

David Choquehuanca, Bolivia's foreign minsiter
from LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal Interview with Bolivia’s foreign minister David Choquehuanca by Patricia Bravo and Cris González, translated from the original article in the March 20, 2009, edition of Punto Final (Chile) by David Montoute.Bolivia’s new “Political Constitution of the State”, approved by referendum on January 25, 2009, by 61.4% of the vote and announced on February 7, is clearly of transcendental importance for the refoundation of Bolivia. The recognition of individual and collective rights, popular participation, the principle of equality and the end of all types of exclusion and discrimination are all present in the new constitutional text. It establishes the creation of “a Unified Social State of Law whose character would be Plurinational Communitarian, free, independent, sovereign, democratic, intercultural, with decentralised autonomous departments, regions, municipalities and indigenous circumscriptions”.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Nepal: The people resist elite coup

by Stuart Munckton 10 May 2009 from Green Left Weekly “This is not just a Maoist movement”, said Green Left Weekly’s correspondent in Kathmandu, Ben Peterson. “This is threatening to become a new people’s movement, like the one that swept away the monarchy.” Peterson was commenting on the large number of daily demonstrations across the country to demand respect for the people’s will. They have come in the aftermath of the May 3 resignation of Prime Minister Prachanda and other members of the government belonging to the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M).

Background On Nepal's Revolution

by Walter Smolarek
12 May 2009
Fiery speeches about revolution and socialism ring across factories, fields, and the slums. A new, radically left-wing government takes power and attempts to fundamentally change the country. Opposing them in this nation of thirty million are the landowners and capitalists, while imperial powers play a hand in a secessionist movement. This isn't Venezuela; in fact it's thousands of miles from Latin America. A revolution has rocked the former Hindu kingdom of Nepal, and it now faces one of its greatest challenges as the army blatantly disregards the constitution and massive demonstrations are held daily. While the situation in Nepal may have just now caught the attention of the wider progressive community, it's important to go back and understand the roots of the movement against both autocracy and capitalism, twin agents of exploitation.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Maritime Union backs locked out flight attendants

Maritime Union of New Zealand media release 7 May 2009 The Maritime Union is backing locked out flight attendants employed by Air New Zealand subsidiary Zeal 320. Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Trevor Hanson says waterfront workers and seafarers supported protests by locked out workers in Auckland and Wellington today. "The Maritime Union will give full and active support to our fellow transport workers and their union the EPMU in this dispute." He says the tactics of Air New Zealand management are "textbook anti-worker, anti-union stuff." "They have been using lock outs, threats, strike breakers, holding companies - all to reduce the wages and conditions of their workers." Mr Hanson says that Air New Zealand management will find that their actions will only damage the company. "Workers are no longer prepared to accept this type of activity with fat cat executives ripping off the workers who generate the profit." He says there is a new and combative mood amongst workers who were standing up for their rights. Mr Hanson says as a majority public-owned company, Air New Zealand had an obligation to act in the public interest, rather than as "pirate capitalists." 240 flight attendants employed by Air New Zealand subsidiary Zeal 320 Ltd have been locked out for four days. The workers do the same work as flight attendants employed by Air New Zealand, but are employed on inferior wages and conditions. See also The growing rash of lockouts must be nipped in the bud

British socialists supporting 'No2EU - Yes Democracy'

Previous posts on UNITYblog highlighted the new electoral coalition in Britain No2EU - Yes to Democracy, which is contesting the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. Significantly, leading members of the coalition are unionists from the Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), Britain's biggest transport union. See The question for NZ unionists: stick with Labour or start building a political alternative? and New left alliance for EU elections Whether to support 'No2EU - Yes Democracy' is being debated by the radical left in Britain. A good statement has been produced by Socialist Resistance, a group involved with the Respect party led by George Galloway. See Supporting ‘no2eu-yes to democracy’ on June 4th

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

UNITYblog EDITORIAL: Wages cuts will lead to higher unemployment

In Gordon Campbell's latest article The risks of cutting wages during this recession (5 May) he quotes Paul Krugman writing in the New York Times: Suppose that workers at the XYZ Corporation accept a pay cut. That lets XYZ management cut prices, making its products more competitive. Sales rise, and more workers can keep their jobs. So you might think that wage cuts raise employment — which they do at the level of the individual employer. But if everyone takes a pay cut, nobody gains a competitive advantage. So there’s no benefit to the economy from lower wages. Meanwhile, the fall in wages can worsen the economy’s problems on other fronts. And again: In particular, falling wages, and hence falling incomes, worsen the problem of excessive debt: your monthly mortgage payments don’t go down with your paycheck. America came into this crisis with household debt as a percentage of income at its highest level since the 1930s. Families are trying to work that debt down by saving more than they have in a decade — but as wages fall, they’re chasing a moving target. And the rising burden of debt will put downward pressure on consumer spending, keeping the economy depressed. The end result more unemployment, not less. What works for one employer, when pursued by all will only lead to the deepening of the recession and worse pain for working class people in the form of mass job losses. Individual employers will act as their logic dictates, which means it will be up to workers and the union movement to collectively fight to maintain and increase wages. As well as pushing for government social spending directed towards modest income people, and intervention in the banking system to reduce the burden of mortgage repayments. What's needed to fight the recession is a redistribution of wealth from the profiting class to workers. The only solution, therefore, for workers is struggle. How successful we can be will depend on the level of nationwide coordination. This is the role of the union movement and the broad left. See also:

Support democracy in Nepal! Support the Nepalese people!

Democratic Socialist Perspective statement 5 May 2009 All supporters of democracy and social justice have reason to be concerned by the recent events in the republic of Nepal. The military high command, backed by right-wing parties tied to the country’s elite, has openly defied the authority of the elected civilian government, led by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M). In response, the government sought to remove army chief of staff General Katawal, via legal and constitutional means. Katawal refused to accept his removal and the government’s decision was illegally overturned by President Ram Baran Yadav from the conservative Nepalese Congress party, whose position under the interim constitution is largely ceremonial. With their coalition partners in government refusing to support the UCPN-M, Nepal’s prime minister and UCPN-M leader Prachanda announced on May 3 that the Maoists had no choice but to resign and leave government. The removal of the Maoists from government is nothing less than a coup. It reveals the real situation in Nepal — that despite its democratic mandate for change, the Maoist-led government is being prevented by the old elite from implementing such change. The Maoists are working to mobilise their large base of support among the poor majority for street demonstrations against this coup. The peace accords signed by various parties in 2006, on the back of a mass pro-democracy uprising, ended a decade-long armed struggle between the monarch’s army and the Maoist-led People’s Liberation Army. The accords allowed for the April 2008 constituent assembly elections in which — against expectations — the Maoists won the most seats, receiving over 1 million votes more than their nearest competitor. Seeking the widest possible consensus, the Maoists established a broad coalition government. However, the UCPN-M’s proposals for a peaceful and democratic pro-poor transformation of Nepal that were endorsed at the ballot box have been frustrated by opposition within the parliament, the state and even the coalition government. It is taken for granted all around the world that if the military is above the elected government and can act as it wishes, there is no democracy. The Nepalese Army is infamous for its human rights abuses, including murder, torture and rape. It has also been responsible for coups against civilian governments, and the top ranks of the army recently admitted to planning a fresh coup against the current elected government! The Maoists have simply been attempting to implement the peace accords, under which the PLA fighters could be integrated into the army to create a new, unified military. The army chiefs have refused to do this and instead recruited thousands of new, non-Maoist fighters, in violation of the accords. The right-wing elite know that if the peace agreements are implemented, the army may stop being a weapon they can use to prevent social progress. In recent years, the Nepalese people, among the world’s poorest, have achieved giant strides forward. A centuries-old feudal monarchy has been overturned and a republic declared. The Nepalese people have voted for a transformation of their nation to one based on equality and pro-people development that ends poverty. There is nothing more terrifying to the ruling classes globally than the sight of a people winning power. The right-wing forces in Nepal are counting on the support of foreign powers, especially the United States and India. Nepal’s poor majority need our solidarity. All those who believe in the principles of democracy and social justice, who believe that people should not be condemned to backbreaking poverty simply because the powerful have carved the world up among themselves, need to support the people of Nepal and insist that: * the Nepalese people must be allowed to determine their future, foreign intervention must end; * the peace accords must be upheld; and * democracy must be respected and the people’s will implemented. The DSP is a Marxist tendency in the Australia’s Socialist Alliance See also Former elite resists the 'New Nepal'

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Mike Davis: Capitalism and the flu

by Mike Davis  
from Socialist Worker (US)
27 April 2009

Mike Davis, whose 2006 book The Monster at Our Door warned of the threat of a global bird flu pandemic, explains how globalised agribusiness set the stage for a frightening outbreak of the swine flu in Mexico.

The spring break hordes returned from Cancun this year with an invisible but sinister souvenir. The Mexican swine flu, a genetic chimera probably conceived in the fecal mire of an industrial pigsty, suddenly threatens to give the whole world a fever.

Initial outbreaks across North America reveal an infection rate already travelling at higher velocity than the last official pandemic strain, the 1968 Hong Kong flu.  

Continue at  

See also Swine flu and a sick social system: Why the poor die and the rich sniffle

It's not for people and workers to pay for the crisis

Joint statement from the Anticapitalist European Left conference, Strasbourg, 3 April 2009 The next European elections will be held during the worst crisis capitalism has known since 1929. Economic, social, financial, banking, food, climatic, it is a global, general crisis. Once again, the ruling classes want to make workers and peoples pay for the crisis. Governments have given hundreds of billions to banks but at the same time millions of layoffs fall on employees. Unemployment is going through the roof. The purchasing power of wages is falling. The destruction of public services continues. It's not for people and workers to pay for the crisis, the capitalists should pay! This policy of European Union institutions has been rejected by the "No" votes in France, the Netherlands and Ireland. We reject the plans of EU governments that save banks and not people. We put forward an emergency social and democratic plan: * No layoffs! A stable and secure job with decent pay for all! * For an increase of wages and incomes in every country for workers, unemployed and pensioners! * Harmonisation of social rights in Europe upwards: minimum wages, reduction of work time without wage cuts, pensions and social security! * European cooperation in promoting social protection for the unemployed and the poor, and for common policies for the sustainability of public pensions! * For the defence and extension of public services, across Europe! * For a public health system guaranteeing equal access to medical care for all! * For the defense of public education: withdrawal of the Bologna reforms! * No to the payment of the deficits of failed Banks, and for the creation of unified public banking and financial system under public and popular control! For the closure of all offshores! European countries must give the example starting to close the offshores located in their own territories which are responsible for 2/3 of the world offshores business! * For the cancellation of the third world debt! * For the defence of the undocumented and for equal rights for all residents in Europe, whether "national" or from a foreign country! * For the legalisation of all undocumented immigrants! * For equal rights between men and women! * For women's rights, the right to free and safe contraception and abortion! * For LGBT rights and equal rights for heterosexual and homosexual couples! * For the repeal of antiterrorist and laws and exceptional procedures! * For an ecological Europe, to fight effectively against climate change, we need a public service of energy production and distribution under the supervision of employees and consumers and we need to develop transport and housing public services! * No to war! Disbanding of NATO and all European militaristic bodies! Withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan! Israeli army's withdrawal from the West Bank! End to the blockade of Gaza! Recognition of all national rights of the Palestinian people! In these circumstances, and taking into account the particularities of each country, we are committed to building convergences in opposition against employers’ and governments’ attacks and at the same time to creating the conditions for a political alternative and an anti-capitalist pole based on the popular mobilizations, one which would stand for a Europe of social rights, and refuses any support of or participation in social liberal governments with social democratic parties or the center left. Indeed, what is needed is to break with capitalism and its logic. In this sense, the anticapitalist European left put these aims in the perspective of the struggle for 21st century socialism, and commits itself to restarting the debate on questions of a new distribution of wealth, of property and of democracy. On this basis, and in the framework of the choices of each organisation, the undersigned will intervene during the next weeks in the electoral campaign for the European Parliament. The signatory organisations: Belgium : Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, Parti socialiste de lutte France : Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste Germany : internationale sozialistische linke, Revolutionär Sozialisticher Great Britain :: Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party Greece : Antarsia (Anticapitalist Coalition) and organisations DEA, KEDA, KOE, Kokkino, Roza, Xekinima from Syriza (Radical Left Coalition) Italy : Sinistra critica Poland : Polska Partia Pracy Portugal : Bloco de Esquerda Scotland : Scottish Socialist Party Spanish State : Izquierda Anticapitalista Sweden : Socialistiska Partiet Switzerland : Gauche Anticapitaliste, Mouvement pour le Socialisme, SolidaritéS The Interventionistische Linke of Germany and the POR of Spanish State didn’t take part in the meeting and sent a solidarity message.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Zimbabwe Leads the World!

by Auckland union activist 2 May 2009 Zimbabwe is truly a world leader. Mugabe's government, which followed the IMF and World Bank's neo liberal plans for their economy to the letter, showed us all where these policies will get you. The austerity medicine prescribed for Zimbabwe by the World Bank, included oppressive and harsh debt repayment, funded by massive privatisation of virtually every public service and national asset. The mantra was "free enterprise knows best". Now the whole world is learning the harsh lesson that the people of Zimbabwe know only too well. As one commentator once said: "free enterprise means free foxes in a free chicken run". It seems that most government's, including president Obama's and our own, instead of getting their shotgun like any sensible farmer would do, is instead feeding the fox more chickens in the hope that this will make him satisfied. See What comes after a trillion? [23 April 2009] a NZ Sunday Star article on the failed Zimbabwe economy.

Political Lies and Media Disinformation regarding the Swine Flu Pandemic

by Michel Chossudovsky from Global Research 1 May 2009 The World Health Organization (WHO) raised its pandemic alert level to Phase 5 on a 6 point scale. The WHO's Phase 5 alert means "there is sustained human-to-human spread in at least two countries and that global outbreak of the disease is imminent... It also signals an increased effort to produce a vaccine... Human cases have been confirmed in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Britain, Israel, New Zealand and Spain." (emphasis added) Continue at