Wednesday, 29 July 2009

GST-off-food petition goes to select committee today

Media release RAM-Residents Action Movement 29 July 2009 A petition calling on the government to remove GST tax from all our food will be discussed by Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee today. It will be introduced by Maori Party MP and committee member Rahui Katene. The high profile petition, initiated by RAM – Residents Action Movement last year, was presented to Maori Party MPs Rahui Katene and Hone Harawira at the culmination of the Peoples Procession to Parliament in October. It carried the signatures of over 25,000 people. “News headlines were reporting ‘pain at the checkout’ as families struggled with rocketing grocery bills”, said RAM chair Grant Brookes. “Opinion polls showed more than three quarters of people agreed with the petition. Yet the Maori Party was the only party in Parliament to support it. “Petition gatherers spoke with tens of thousands of grassroots Kiwis. We got a strong sense of their views on the government. “Ordinary people feel that they don’t count in the eyes of the corporate politicians in Wellington. They don’t see much difference between Labour and National. Both main parties only look out for the rich. “The select committee has an opportunity to disprove this perception by endorsing the petition in its report back to Parliament”, he commented. In the nine months since the petition was presented, the need to remove GST from food has grown even more urgent. Researchers from Otago University’s Human Nutrition department do an annual survey of the cost of a weekly supermarket shop that meets nutritional requirements. Earlier this month, they reported that this year’s cost increase was at least twice that of previous years and warned of “long term health impacts” for New Zealand’s population. Although the Budget deferred tax cuts planned for 2010 and 2011, Finance Minister Bill English has said there could be room for further tax cuts in the “medium term”. “Rather than reducing the top tax rate to 30 percent to benefit high income earners, as he has suggested”, added Grant, “New Zealand should move away from GST, an unfair ‘flat tax’ which falls disproportionately on the poor who can least afford it, starting with GST on food.” The Finance and Expenditure Select Committee has requested RAM to supply answers to a number of questions, to provide additional background information. To read RAM’s backgrounder click here.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Keep SAS out of Afghanistan

SAS combat troops “look set to return to Afghanistan” according to an NZPA article, that reports on Prime Minister John Key’s response to a request for more troops for the war from the US. The PM says he is “somewhat sympathetic” to the request.
 The mistaken belief that the people from Afghanistan had something to do with the September 11 attacks, or that the aim of the war was to capture Osama Bin Laden, has meant the war in Afghanistan has always had more support in this country, and more importantly in the US, than the war in Iraq. The previous Labour Government was able to exploit this, using troop commitments in Afghanistan to cosy up to the US. National will no doubt continue this policy. 
As the NZPA the article reminds us, there are already “About 140 army, navy and air force personnel are involved in New Zealand’s provincial reconstruction team (PRT) operating in Bamiyan province. The team has been there since 2003 and is committed until September 2010 so far.” And as Peace Movement Aotearoa (who forwarded the the NZPA report) points out:
SAS troops previously deployed to Afghanistan have been integrated with other Special Forces in the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force under US military command. Along with US Special Forces, “six foreign nations including New Zealand and Australia, also assigned some of their best ‘hunters and killers’ to the group” which is headquartered near Bagram air base. Clearly not deployments that could be regarded as peacekeeping by any stretch of the imagination ...

It will be even easier for National to continue New Zealand’s involvement, now that Obama is working to promote Afghanistan as the “good war” in contrast to the mess in Iraq. But the truth is the occupation of Afghanistan has no more justification and is no more successful than the occupation of Iraq. In both cases the US and it’s allies, including NZ, are slaughtering tens of thousands of innocent people, while strengthening the “extremeists” they claim to be trying to stop. As Malalai Joya, a women’s rights actavist elected to the Afghan parliament in 2005, recently stated:
Almost eight years after the Taliban regime was toppled, our hopes for a truly democratic and independent Afghanistan have been betrayed by the continued domination of fundamentalists and by a brutal occupation that ultimately serves only American strategic interests in the region.
It is long past time for New Zealand to end it’s support for the war crime that is the occupation of Afghanistan by withdrawing all troops. As Joya argued in another recent interview, with Australia’s Green Left Weekly (GLW):
“But what’s going on today is like civil war. People are squashed today between two enemies: an internal and an external enemy ... “That’s why its better if the foreign troops leave as soon as possible. People are saying: we don’t expect anything good from you, just stop your wrongdoing. “Bombs falling from the sky are killing our people. On the ground, the Northern Alliance and Taliban are killing our people. From both sides our people are the victims — especially women and children.” She cited a May 4 US air-strike in her native Farah province. “The mainstream media wants to throw dust in the eyes of the world. Over 150 people were killed. I spoke to a young woman who lost 20 members of her own family. “This was a massacre. I was banned from giving a press conference. But the US government and media said only 20 were killed. “Our people hate warlords, don’t support Karzai and his puppet government of war criminals and drug lords who now want to negotiate with the Taliban. Our people hate the Taliban. “If the troops withdraw, then it is easier fight with one enemy. Now we are fighting with two enemies: occupation forces and these criminals.

A village elder from Granai, Afghanistan, points to the grave where his sister and her children are buried. Over 150 people were killed when the village was bombed by the US Air Force on May 4. Photo by Guy Smallman.

For more details about the massacre on the May 4 bombing of Granai village in Farah province, see the interview with Photojournalist Guy Smallman “the only Western reporter to visit the village” in Britain’s Socialist Worker newspaper. For an overview of what’s happening in Afghanistan today, take a look at ‘The Afghan war — unjust and unwinnable’ in the latest Green Left Weekly. Also of interest Reactions to US President Barak Obama’s recent speech “to the Muslim World”, from Noam Chomsky and Robert Fisk.

Monday, 27 July 2009

$15 an Hour Campaign for a Living Wage

UNITE Union delegates at the $15 an Hour Campaign for a Living Wage launch during the Mt Abert by-election, 11 June.

by Vaughan Gunson The global economic crisis is starting to impact on NZ workers. People are losing their jobs in different sectors right across the country. And word is that in some poor communities in South Auckland unemployment is already becoming a scourge. Workers in many small workplaces are being forced by their bosses to accept paycuts of up to 10%. Where workers have been made redundant those left are being bullied to work longer hours and shoulder greater workloads. All this is happening as fear grows that the economy is going to get worse. Masses of New Zealanders are terrified of losing their jobs and being unable to support themselves and their families. How will they pay the rent or meet their mortgage payments to banks? Many families are under such immense financial stress that one income earner losing their job will see them go under. In these conditions unions have an extremely vital role to play. Because only a sense of solidarity between masses of workers can overcome fear and lack of confidence. If unions in NZ don't rise and meet the challenge that the global economic meltdown poses, then workers and the union movement will go down. Unions can not afford, right now, to be on the backfoot. That's why the UNITE union's "$15 an Hour Campaign for a Living Wage" is important. In today's environment you need something big and exciting that will rally people, encourage them to overcome individual fear and uncertainty. The centre piece of UNITE's campaign is a Citizen's Initiated Referendum (CIR) petition, launched on 9 May. The word from activists who have gone out there with the petition is that it's extremely popular with a cross-section of grassroots people, unionised and un-unionised. 450,000 workers in this country are currently paid less than $15 an hour. That's a big chunk of people who are earning poverty wages, or know of friends and family earning poverty wages. Building this campaign inside and outside unions into mass movement, which is what will be required to get the over 300,000 signatures needed to force a referendum, has the potential to build confidence in the workers' movement and to bring the left together in common activity. Because the immediate goal of a referendum is possible it's cutting through some of the helplessness that many people will be feeling in face of massive global economic forces. The scale of the present economic crisis, unprecedented in the history of capitalism, means that there's space for other campaigns that include practical demands to protect our people, and which at the same time takes it to the corporate elite politically and ideologically. Capitalism is suffering a serious crisis of de-legitimacy that the left can take advantage of. To read more about the campaign go to UNITE website and get active with the campaign resources below: Download copies of the petition Download UNITE's campaign leaflet Sign up to the campaign newsletter Join the $15 an Hour Campaign Facebook group

Honduras: Grassroots struggle against the coup

Good articles on the political situation in Honduras posted on LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal: Defying regime, Zelaya attempts return; Interview with President Manuel 'Mel' Zelaya

Friday, 24 July 2009

UK wind turbine workers occupy for people & planet

A workers’ occupation to save jobs and the UK’s only wind turbine factory is uniting trade unionists and eco-activists. The actions of the Vestas workers are challenging two major myths of market capitalism: that there is nothing workers can do in the face of recession, redundancy and economic crisis, and that the free market can solve the climate crisis. The surge in solidarity from around the world shows where the solution to these crises lie: international solidarity and unity between the workers’ rights and environmental movements. UNITYblog urges readers to spread news of the occupation far and wide and to send messages of solidarity to: Vestas workers occupy: 'A fight for jobs and the planet' from Socialist Worker UK Workers at Vestas, the UK’s only wind turbine manufacturer, occupied their factory in Newport, Isle of Wight on Monday evening against plans to close it. Dave is one of the ­occupying workers. He spoke to Socialist Worker on Tuesday. We’ve occupied our factory to save our jobs -- and to save the planet. Six hundred people work here. That many jobs going will have a devastating effect. But there’s even more to it than that. We need renewable energy if we’re going to stop global warming. When the government says it wants green energy and green jobs, it’s criminal that it’s closing Vestas. I’ve worked here for a year and a half but some people have worked here for eight or nine years. We had a meeting on Monday where we talked about what to do. We decided we were going to go for it. People thought, “It’s now or never”. We went in as two teams, from both sides of the factory. All of the doors were locked – apart from the front door! We’ve taken over the offices. This is the control base of Vestas on the Isle of Wight and across the south. There are 30 of us in here. The managers are threatening not to give us any redundancy money at all. They say the payroll is in here and they can’t get to it. But we’re not going to be intimidated. We can see everyone demonstrating outside. There are about 100 to 150 out there now, which is great. We’ve had messages of support from workers at Visteon and Prisme. Workers from the factory opposite and other factories around here have come over too. Support messages are coming in from all over the world. We’re really grateful for them all. And if you can get to the Isle of Wight, that’d be even better.’ Profits come first for bosses Vestas proudly states that, “With a 20 percent market share, and 38,000 wind turbines installed, Vestas is the world’s leading supplier of wind power solutions.” This is not out of concern for the environment. As Vestas chief executive Ditlev Engel said after he took over, “The business had been run by people who were idealists rather than dollar-based.” In 2008 Vestas’s global profits increased by 51 percent to £575 million. And the first three months of this year saw a 70 percent increase in profits to £50 million. The company accounts reveal that last year the 13 directors and executives shared £9.45 million in wages and bonuses. Links

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Towards the integration of the Dollar and the Euro?

by Michel Chossudovsky from Global Research 20 July 2009 With a view to restoring financial stability, World leaders have called upon the Group of 20 countries (G-20) to instigate a new global currency based on the IMF's Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). The media has presented the global currency initiative as a consensus building process, in which BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) would participate in the revamping of the international monetary system.

Honduras: Obama's Achilles Heel or Wounded Knee?

by Julie Webb-Pullman from 22 July 2009 President Obama has come under considerable criticism for his administration’s equivocal response to the Honduras coup, leading many to question not only the role of the United States in the entire affair, but also Obama’s authority. His defenders cite in his favour his abandonment of the ‘cowboy diplomacy’ of previous administrations, by leaving it to other actors, such as the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Costa Rican President Arias, to sort out the mess. But is this more indicative of a purported new direction in U.S. foreign policy, or of his administration’s capture by the right and his own increasing powerlessness?

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Education for all: Stop night class cuts

Schools and their communities are rallying to defend community education classes from Government funding cuts. In a clear sign of who they expect to pay the price of the recession, National has cut funding to night classes, by $13 million, while giving private schools a $30 million handout. As one post on the Stop Night Class Cuts Facebook page put it, it’s like “a reverse Robin Hood philosophy i.e. take from the poor to give to the rich!” It’s not as if National MPs are unaware of the value of these classes. An entry on the PPTA blog The Pigeonhole reveals that Finance minister Bill English “now brutally taking an axe to the night classes that, four years ago, he claimed gave a life-line to his own mother.” The post goes on to describe how in 2006 English criticised the then Labour government, claiming they were “destroying” night classes with “ridiculous bureaucracy”:
School night classes have been a cornerstone of community education for decades, providing opportunities for learning and companionship for thousands of people. The system has been cheap and flexible. The demise of night classes is bad for schools, for communities and for thousands of people who use them to learn something new.
The cuts have provoked a massive outcry from schools, community education groups and many of the hundreds of thousands of people who have enjoyed and benefited from night classes over the years. CLASS (Community Learning Association through Schools) have produced 125,000 postcards to be sent to National MPs and set up a campaign website. Many schools have included details of the cuts and the campaigns in the newsletters listing courses for the upcoming terms three and four (which may well be the last). The Labour Party has taken up the issue, with some Labour MPs organising public meetings. The Government says it won’t change its mind. In what is becoming a pattern for National ministers, Education Minister Anne Tolley wants us to believe her only concern is for the poor and underprivileged, while those who want to save community education are a misinformed, unreasonable elite, determined to pursue their personal interests at the expense of unskilled youth. I’m faced with demand to fund extra places for young people wanting skills training. Is it reasonable to deny them funding in favour of personal interest and hobby courses? Further reading The June edition of PPTA News gives an summery of the cuts ‘Will the sun go down on evening classes?’ The Herald article ‘Lights out at night school’ is a comprehensive report. Campaign links CLASS (Community Learning Association through Schools) have a campaign website: And a Fadebook group. To view this log in to Facebook and search for “Stop Night Class Cuts”. Stop nightclass cuts public meetings Glenfield, Auckland’s North Shore Stop nightclass cuts. Organised by community education co-ordinator Liz Godfrey. Join learners and tutors to discuss the proposed funding cuts - guest speaker, Darien Fenton MP. If you care about the future of lifelong learning in NZ please come and show your support. Email: Date: Monday, July 20 Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm Location: Kaipatiki Theatre, Glenfield College Ohariu, Wellington & Lower Hutt ‘Don't let a part of your community disappear overnight’ says meeting organizer, Labour MP Charles Chauvel. Email: Date: Thursday, July 30 Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm Location: Newlands Community Centre, Batchelor Road Papanui, Christchurch Organised by Papanui High principal Denis Pyatt, on behalf of Christchurch schools. Date: Monday July 27 Time: 7:30pm Location: Papanui High School Hall

Monday, 13 July 2009

Strong climate change target too expensive says Smith

National looks set to follow Australia’s “weak” greenhouse gas emission targets, as part of an emissions trading scheme that will let polluters to pass the costs on to consumers. Arguing against the strong “40% by 2020” target advocated by scientists and environmental groups, Environment Minister Nick Smith demand that groups like Greenpeace be “honest” about how much a 40% reduction with cost. “How much more are New Zealanders prepared to pay for petrol, electricity and other services?” he asked. The minister’s words echo those of the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, a lobby group for the big polluting and power using corporation, which has campaigned since 1996 to prevent action on climate change. Perhaps he read their latest press release, which also attacked the 40% reduction goal saying, “Advocates for high emission reduction targets in a short period of time should be clear about how much this will cost New Zealanders.” One member of the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, Fonterra, hasn’t been worried about the price rises that have put its milk and cheese out of reach of many New Zealanders, so why the sudden concern about how much we pay for power and petrol? Harmonising with Australia’s weak target? Smith didn’t say what the Government’s preferred target was, but he did give a clue, repeatedly stressing that New Zealand’s target shouldn’t be stronger than other countries. “The costs to the economy are biggest if we are out of step,” he argued. If emissions are reduced our emissions “too much” NZ will “export jobs”. National has already made an agreement with the Australian government to “explore harmonising the design of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.” So it’s likely that National will be looking to match Australia’s targets, which climate scientists describe as “weak”. While scientists say that a 40% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020 is the minimum needed to have any hope of escaping the catastrophic climate change associated with global temperatures rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, Australia’s has set a maximum target of 14%, but only if an international agreement is reached. Without an agreement their target will be just 4%. Polluters profit from “cap & trade” Even worse, like other carbon trading schemes, Australia’s CPRS will start by handing out billions of dollars in free permits to the worst polluters. This is just one of the many problems with the “cap and trade” pollution market model that is being adopted around the world. As Australian socialist magazine Solidarity argues:
The CPRS also negates any emissions reductions made outside the scheme. In setting a cap it also sets a floor. Individual actions, like putting solar panels on your house, will actually free up permits, enabling business to emit more. For example, if an individual installs a solar hot water system to reduce their climate impact, the use of electricity will fall as a result and the electricity company will have fewer emissions and need less permits. They will sell on their leftover permits, allowing other companies to buy them and emit more pollution.
[Note that the Australian government, and media talks about 15% or 25% reductions on 2000 levels. The figure of 4% and 14% reduction on 1990 levels is provided by the NZ Government’s leaflet handed out at the “consultation” meeting.] US leftist Steve Lendman argues that Obama’s American Clean Energy and Security Act will “let corporate polluters reap huge windfall profits by charging consumers more for energy and fuel as well as create a new bubble through carbon trading derivatives speculation. It does nothing to address environmental issues”. Emissions trading has been a controversal issue within the claimate movement in Aotearoa. After much internal debate the Green Party helped Labour pass the first Emissions Trading Act a year ago (National is now tinkering with this). Now, like the Greens, most environmental organisations seem to accept that, like it or not, emissions trading is the only option. As the articles above show, there is a growing international opposition to idea that these pollution markets will do anything to reduce pollution. Winning over the liberal voter Smith’s presentation, and the entire “consultation” road show is part of a wider effort by National to build a base among liberal minded voters, who would traditionally look to Labour. On the surface it went well for the Government. Most of the audience members would have been surprised and impressed by Smith’s apparent concern about climate change and his commitment to reducing emissions. The simple fact that he was there in person giving his presentation, letting people throughout the country have their say, addressing their questions and even hanging around afterwards for one on one conversation made a positive impression. The first part of Smith’s presentation too was surprisingly good. He started by pointing out that “Industrial societies were born out of burning fossil fuel.” He admitted that “negligible progress” had been made in reducing emissions, and “the problem has gotten worse” since the Kyoto Agreement in 1997. Addressing the question of why a small country like New Zealand should take action to reduce emissions, Smith made two points. Firstly, New Zealand’s per capita emissions “quite high”. Secondly, everyone has to play their part. Here Smith drew on one of the favorite comparisons used by the climate movement, that of World War Two. New Zealand’s involvement in the war may not have made much difference in the fight against Nazism, but he argued, then as now “we have a duty”. [The comparison made with WW2 is usually made with the way the economies of combatant countries were rapidly transformed to meet war time needs. For example car factories in the US closed then reopened a few months later producing tanks. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that Smith has picked up on this.] Smith borrowed all the right phrases from the climate movement. Even talking about “technology transfer” to help poor nations develop without using fossil fuels. Rallying point Engaging with the climate movement is a risky strategy for the Government. The public meetings have provided a rallying point for those demanding strong action on climate change. Most of the hundreds of people who have attended throughout the country were there to demand 40% by 2020. In Christchurch a young climate activist called for a standing vote on what target the crowd supported. Three out of four (at least) of the roughly 200 people were still sanding at 40% and remained standing when, in answer to Smith, they were asked if they were prepared to pay the price. In Dunedin members of the 350 Aotearoa were “stoked” with the big turn out of 250 concerned citizens, but “not so stoked”:
- with the fact that Nick Smith’s presentation (and thus Government climate change policy) is being based on fossil science (IPCC AR4), and a bit of probing after the event revealed that Minister Smith believes most reports since then to be ‘on the radical side of the spectrum’. Hmmm. - that Minister Smith believes a 40% by 2020 target is not a “scientific target” but a “political” one - that both Ministers seemed to be on autopilot, and Minister Smith’s concluding remarks were disconnected to the point that we wondered if he’d been listening! - that Minister Smith placed the onus on the public to identify the sectors from which emissions should be reduced … in a tone that suggested the task was impossible...
No matter how impressed people might have been by Smith’s speech, all the good will in the world can’t hide the fact that the Government wants a a weak emissions target that will protect the profits of the big polluters.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Interested in joining an Aotearoa Ecosocialist Network?

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate which prevents runaway global warming, and all its catastrophic consequences, will require a total societal shift.

The way we produce things, the way we live, has to change on a massive scale, within individual countries and globally. The transition to an ecologically sustainable society can’t happen without a parallel transformation of our political and social relations.

A group of activists are looking to establish an ecosocialist network in Aotearoa. If you would like to get involved, email David, colyer(at)

NZ socialists have signed The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration, which is calling for the necessary holistic transformation of society needed to combat climate change. You can read the declaration and sign up to it at

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Marxism Alive 2009 conference video, Part 3

This third and final post of video footage from Socialist Worker's Marxism Alive 2009 conference, held on June 27, features Green MP Catherine Delahunty and Labour MP Darien Fenton speaking in the third conference session: Transitioning to a human centred economy in Aotearoa
Green MP Catherine Delahunty
Labour MP Darien Fenton

Monday, 6 July 2009

People power gets bold CO2 reduction target from Scottish parliament

The Scottish parliament has just passed the world’s most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets: 42% cuts to CO2 emissions (on 1990 levels) by 2020. All parties in the Scottish parliament, across the left to right spectrum, voted in favour of the targets, which came the day after Washington announced that a 40% by 2020 target was “not on the cards”. NZ’s National-led government is considering an effectual target of 50% by 2050, in line with targets being proposed by the leaders of the US, Britain and other developed countries. Who want to avoid loading any costs on to big business. The reason for the bold target agreed by every party in the Scottish parliament? A broad-based campaign coalition representing 60 organisations and two million people: Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, which is itself part of the UK-wide coalition. Which just shows you what people power can achieve. The next step will be pressuring those same politicians in the Scottish Parliament to commit to real solutions to achieve the target. People power will be needed again. See Scottish parliament agrees tougher 42% target to cut emissions

Preemptive strike against public-sector unions

The government has made a preemptive strike against public-sector unions, ahead of major pay negotiations next year, when nurses’ and teachers’ collective agreements expire. The argument, from Finance Minister Bill English is that “In the current climate, most New Zealanders are receiving little or nothing extra”. “[T]he days of going to ministers and getting large increases at the expense of the taxpayer without any productivity gains are over,” he said. English’s comments were supported by the Christchurch Press in it’s July 4 Editorial:
In this climate of austerity, English’s warning to nurses and teachers about their next wage rounds in 2010 was entirely appropriate, even if the message might sound a bit rich coming from a finance minister who himself was awarded a 4.5 per cent wage rise last year. Following his comments, English was accused of being insulting to nurses, but given the economic climate this is nonsensical... it would actually be insulting to those battling to survive with no wage rise or even no job if workers with safe berths in the health or education sectors were to put their hands up for the same level of pay increase they have recently enjoyed.
Is this the first signs of an attempt to stir up resentment against public sector workers? In some ways it would be fairly easy to paint doctors, nurses, teachers and civil servants as some sort of elite. The are generally well educated, their pay may be low by international standards, but it’s high compared to others in this low wage economy, and they’re less likely to get laid off. But the thing that sets them apart the most from most other workers, is that they’re highly unionised. And thanks to some well organised campaigns that mobilised rank and file union members, they have been able to take advantage of the tight labour market in recent years and win some significant pay rises. Those campaigns, particularly the nurses, sought and won significant public support, tapping into a mood in favor of higher pay and better public services. National must be worried about a repeat performance next year. So an obvious approach for the government to take is to try and drive a wedge between nurses, teachers and other workers, by depicting them as a privileged elite, out of touch with the realities faced by recession hit public-sector workers and the unemployed. One way to combat this is for public sector unions to back the struggles of the few private sector workers (and the many low-paid workers in the public sector) who are in unions. A good place to start would be Unite Union’s campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Get along to the government's "consultation" meetings on climate change

The government is holding a series of meetings around the country over the next few weeks for the purpose of "consulting" New Zealanders about its greenhouse gas emissions target, which will be taken to the UN meeting on Climate Change at Copenhagen in December. The government's target is 50% reduction (on 1990 levels) by 2050, a target that if universally adopted worldwide would be too late to prevent catastrophic climate change. The lack of any real consultation on this target is steamrolling over the democratic rights of Kiwis deeply worried at the prospect of runaway global warming. The Aotearoa 350 group (part of an international movement) proposes much faster action. They're advocating a target of 40% reduction (on 1990 levels) by 2020. They've produced an excellent video clip (see below). The government would like its consultation meetings to go by without much attention. So that it can be free to present its weak target (an excuse for inaction) at Copenhagen. 350 and other climate activists are planning to be at the public meetings to protest the government's inaction. The more the better. People will be given the chance to speak at the meetings. Public meeting times and venues: Wellington, Oceania Room, Te Papa Mon 6 July, 7.30pm-9pm Auckland, Princess Ballroom B and C, Hotel Hyatt Regency Tues 7 July, 7.30pm-9pm Christchurch, Convention Centre, Hall C Wed 8 July, 7.30pm-9pm Dunedin, Clifford Skeggs Gallery, Dunedin Civic Centre Thurs 9 July, 7.30pm-9pm Queenstown, Icon Room, Heritage Hotel Fri 10 July, 7.30pm-9pm Hamilton, Waikato Room, SkyCity Mon 13 July, 7.30pm-9pm New Plymouth, Conference Room, Plymouth International Tues 14 July, 7.30pm-9pm Napier, Ocean Suite, East Pier, Hardinge Road Wed 15 July, 7.30pm-9pm Nelson, Waimea Room, Rutherford Hotel, Trafalgar Sqr Fri 17 July, 7.30pm-9pm See also New climate change group: 350 New Zealand

MELTDOWN! A Socialist View of the Capitalist Crisis

A recent publication produced by Resistance Books in Australia on the global economic crisis is available to download as a PDF document. Go to Meltdown! A Socialist view of the Capitalist Crisis contains articles by Tony Iltis, Lee Sustar, John Bellamy Foster, Phil Hearse, Adam Hanieh, Dave Holmes. The articles in this collection provide a socialist take on the ‘free market’ meltdown. They show that what has happened stems from the deepest wellsprings of the capitalist system.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Marxism Alive 2009 conference video, Part 2

Several dozen activists attended Socialist Worker's Marxism Alive conference on June 27. It was broadest gathering of the Left in Auckland in recent memory. Over the course of the day-long educational forum, the panel speakers and participants contributed to a penetrating analysis of trends and charted moves to unify the Left. Here is the second in a series of video highlights from key conference debates.
Conference participants discuss Broad Left unity

Don Archer, Socialist Worker
David, Socialist Worker
Grant Brookes, Socialist Worker

Friday, 3 July 2009

Victory for foreshore and seabed Hikoi

A government report, from a panel established as the result of the Maori Party's support deal with National, will lead to the scrapping of Labour's foreshore and seabed legislation. This is a victory for all of us who marched in the Hikoi in 2004. It's also an apparant vindication of the Maori Party's controversial decision to support the National-led government. According to the NZ Herald:
The report says Labour's law must go, but talks are needed over the new system. Maori tribes may be given legal title to parts of the foreshore and seabed separately or jointly with the Crown if the Government adopts the suggestions of its ministerial review panel. The panel's report, issued yesterday, describes the Foreshore and Seabed Act as severely discriminatory to Maori and "the single biggest land nationalisation statute enacted in New Zealand history".. "As we see it, once the respective rights have been resolved in any particular area of the foreshore and seabed, the beneficial and perhaps the legal title for the area would be held by the entitled hapu or iwi, or the Crown, or both jointly ... " The panel, chaired by former High Court judge Eddie Durie, said new policy should start with the assumption that hapu and iwi held customary title over the foreshore and seabed. It was an "open question" whether customary interests should be treated as exclusive ownership, complete with rights to income from commercial activities such as mining, and such a question could be addressed only through negotiations between the Government, the public and affected iwi.
Hackles will be raised by talk of “exclusive ownership, complete with rights to income from commercial activities such as mining”. For some it will confirm suspicions that all those Maori want to do is make money. Such fears need to be kept in context. A key aim of Labour's seabed and foreshore law was to ensure the Crown's ownership of the seabed and foreshore was undisputed, so that it could profit from selling off the rights to these resources to fish farming and mining interests. It's neither surprising or outrageous that some Maori feel they should be entitled to a share of the proceeds. Maori, like the population in general, is divided between the rich and rest. The creation of a Maori middle class with jobs as consultants and bureaucrats and an elite of “corporate warriors” who managed the million-dollar assets of iwi corporations was a deliberate part of the Treaty Settlements in the 80s and 90s. Meanwhile the economic reforms and recessions of that time hit working class Maori hardest of all, adding to the legacy of colonialism and ongoing racism. Maori (again like everyone else) will also be divided over whether to preserve or pillage these resources, or whether the coast and sea should be seen as something more than just an economic resource. On this last question, capitalism's demand for resource-depleting economic growth clearly conflicts with Maori traditions of sustainable interaction with the natural world. These traditions are potential source of strength for all ecological activists.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Oil Intensity of Food

by Lester Brown from Grist 25 June 2009 Although attention commonly focuses on energy use on the farm, agriculture accounts for only one fifth of the energy used in the U.S. food system, The modern food system that evolved when oil was cheap will not survive as it is now structured.

The roots of Iran's revolt

by Lee Sustar from Socialist Worker (US) 1 July 2009 With repression silencing most street protests for the moment as hardliners tighten their grip, is a democratic transformation--or revolutionary change--possible in Iran? Answering that question requires looking at Iranian history, politics and society beyond the disputed June 12 election, in which the government made the outrageous claim that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received more than 62 percent of the vote--24.5 million, compared to 11 million votes for his leading opponent, Mir Hussein Mousavi, who was gaining growing support in the weeks before the vote. In the aftermath of the election, what began as a factional dispute between two wings of the Iranian ruling class sparked mass demonstrations in the capital city of Tehran that, according to the city's mayor, involved some 3 million people. Continue at See also Iranian workers in action for democratic rights

Climate justice movement to converge on UN climate talks

from Without Your Walls The following statement was produced at the Climate Justice Action (CJA) meeting in Copenhagen 19-21 June. CJA is calling on all peoples around the planet to mobilize and take action against the root causes of climate change and the key agents responsible, both in Copenhagen and around the world.

Change the system, not the climate! Climate justice movement to converge on UN climate talks The UN climate talks will not solve the climate crisis. We are no closer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions than we were when international negotiations began fifteen years ago: emissions are rising faster than ever, while carbon trading allows climate criminals to pollute and profit. At present, the talks are essentially legitimising a new colonialism that carves up of the world’s remaining resources. Faced with the profound crisis of our civilisation, and the destructive impacts of the climate crisis on already marginalised communities, all we get is a political circus playing to the interests of corporations. In response to this madness, a global movement for climate justice has emerged to reclaim power over our future. As part of this, the international network Climate Justice Action is mobilising for mass actions across the world during the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009. No more false solutions We cannot trust the market with our future, nor put our faith in unsafe, unproven and unsustainable technologies. Contrary to those who put their faith in “green capitalism”, we know that it is impossible to have infinite growth on a finite planet. Instead of trying to fix a destructive system, we should be:

  • leaving fossil fuels in the ground
  • reasserting peoples’ and community control over resources and production
  • relocalising food production
  • massively reducing overconsumption, particularly in the North
  • recognising the ecological and climate debt owed to the peoples of the South and making reparations
  • respecting indigenous and forest peoples’ rights

Real solutions to the climate crisis are being built by women and men, in both the South and the North, who fight every day to defend their environment and living conditions. We need to globalise these solutions and work for a just transition towards a zero-carbon future. Agreed at the Climate Justice Action meeting Copenhagen, 21 June 2009.

See Oxfam's recent dire report on the impact of Climate Change on the world's poorest

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Marxism Alive 2009 conference video, Part 1

Several dozen activists attended Socialist Worker's Marxism Alive conference on June 27. It was broadest gathering of the Left in Auckland in recent memory. Over the course of the day-long educational forum, the panel speakers and participants contributed to a penetrating analysis of trends and charted moves to unify the Left. A series of video highlights from key debates will be posted on UNITYblogNZ over the coming days.
Is National the new natural party of government? Will Labour return to social democracy?
Daphna Whitmore, Workers Party
Sarita Divis, Alliance Party
Grant Brookes, Socialist Worker