Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Christmas Peace Labyrinth shines light on Bethlehem

By David

Christmas today blends ancient Mediterranean and north European pagan traditions of solstice celebration and gift giving, religious celebration of the birth of the messiah / Son of God, often tense and drunken get-togethers with family and friends, and an expensive orgy of consumerism.

While signs outside many Churches urge us to remember Jesus and “the real meaning of Christmas” (as if their was only one), a group of Baptists in Christchurch have taken a different approach, for the last several years they've constructed a Christmas Peace Labyrinth.

The themes taken up in the maze's many rooms include waste of money on guns, while people go hungry, and destruction of the environment, including the unsustainable growth of dairying in Canterbury.

The one that really caught my attention highlighted dispossession of the Palestinian people, by focussing on the situation in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem (legendary birthplace of Jesus), now cut off by the Israeli-built apartheid wall.

This roon in the Labyrinth featured a nativity schene where the three wise men were cut off from visiting baby Jesus by a giant wall, and a TV playing videos, including the following:

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Speculation in food prices is the real crime

Tax Justice media release
17 December 2010

“Stealing food is nowhere near as bad as what banks and speculators are getting away with,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator.

“A recent article in my local Whangarei paper referred to people stealing food. This is a crime, so if you’re caught you get locked away.” (See Market fights hunger, Whangarei Leader, 7 Dec)

“Yet the far greater crime is going unpunished,” says Gunson. “Big global banks are fostering an orgy of speculation in world food prices.” (See Bank and Hedge Fund Speculation Causes Food Prices to Soar by Third World Resurgence, 22 Nov).

In 2007-2008, banks and other speculators fled mortgage markets and invested in basic food commodities, driving up prices that flowed through to New Zealanders paying more at the supermarket.

Mr Gunson says the speculators are at it again in 2010. Wheat prices jumped 60% in July because of a rush of speculative investment financed by the banks.

“While a global elite profit from food price speculation, grassroots people around the world are either going hungry or missing out on eating quality food. A massive crime against humanity is being perpetuated by the speculators,” says Gunson.

Statistics NZ recently released figures that show food prices went up 4.8 percent over the last year. While this is bad enough, analysts are predicting worse to come in 2011 as high food prices in commodity markets filter through to the checkout.

The Tax Justice campaign has a two pronged answer to rising food prices: remove GST from food and tax the speculators instead.

“It’s obscene that the government insists on maintaining this horrible tax on food when people are struggling to buy the food they need,” says Gunson.

“And New Zealand must join the global crusade against financial speculation. Introducing a tax on speculative money flows would go along way towards discouraging an economic activity that’s causing so much pain for grassroots people.”

This weekend Tax Justice campaigners are hitting the streets around the country as part of a pre-Xmas signature drive. The aim is to reach 30,000 signatures for the Tax Justice petition by the end of the year.

New Zealanders can sign the Tax Justice petition online at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/taxjustice/

For more information and comment, contact:

Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator
(09)433 8897
021-0415 082

Give speculators the boot!

Tax Justice media release
15 December 2010

“Financial speculators should be given the boot, not welcomed into the country with the promise of paying no tax,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator.

Mr Gunson says prime minister John Key’s plans to fast track a tax haven for the super-rich is the opposite of what the government should be doing. (See Key itching for quick action on financial hub, NZ Herald, 2 Dec)

“Big banks and financial traders have just caused the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Their financial games have caused a lot of New Zealanders to lose their jobs or get in trouble with the bank,” says Gunson.

“We shouldn’t be rewarding a tiny global elite and encouraging a financial activity that inevitably leads to bust.”

“The ballooning government deficit, made worse by National’s tax cuts for the rich, urgently requires new solutions to tax and the economy,” says Gunson.

The Tax Justice campaign wants a tax on financial speculation and the money flows of banks and big corporates. The introduction of a tax on financial transactions of 1 cent in every dollar would potentially net billions of dollars of tax revenue.

“If we taxed the speculators,” says Gunson, “we could afford to take GST off food and do the things the government must do to build an economy that works for people, such as fund public services properly, lift benefit levels, and create real jobs.”

“The support we’re getting on the street for our Tax Justice petition shows that people are unhappy at the inequities in our tax system and want change.”

A pre-Xmas signature drive for the Tax Justice petition will be taking place around the country on Saturday 18 December and Sunday 19 December.

“We expect to finish the year with over 30,000 signatures collected,” says Gunson. “We plan to present a lot more signatures to parliament in August next year.”

New Zealanders can sign the Tax Justice petition online at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/taxjustice/

For more information and comment on the campaign, contact:

Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator
(09)433 8897
021-0415 082

Thursday, 16 December 2010


We the undersigned citizens and permanent residents of New Zealand call upon the Government of New Zealand

• to cease negotiations on the Transpacific Partnership agreement; and

• to not sign this agreement; and

• to cease work on any other in-progress or proposed international trade and investment treaties containing clauses which limit or abrogate New Zealand’s sovereign and democratic right to make and enforce laws and regulations and provide services which differ from those of other states or transnational organisations.

The closing date for signatures is 4 July 2011.

To sign the Statement of Sovereignty online, click on http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/new-zealand-not-for-sale.html

For more information about the Trans Pacific Partnership and the New Zealand Not For Sale Campaign, visit our Website (address below).

Murray Horton,

New Zealand Not For Sale Campaign
Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand

Alliance Party says Hillside rail decision an attack on Dunedin and New Zealand workers

Alliance Party media release
16 December 2010

Alliance Party transport spokesperson Trevor Hanson says the decision by KiwiRail management to award the contract for 300 wagons to China's CNR rather than Hillside Workshops is an attack on jobs and local industry.

"KiwiRail management should not be allowed to get away with it. Nor should the John Key Government who must explain their abandonment of local jobs and industry.”

The John Key government's first priority must be to keep New Zealanders in work, says Mr Hanson.

Instead the Government has spent millions on the beneficiary bashing Welfare Working Party to make life harder for the unemployed, whose numbers have soared during its time in office.

At the same time National has allowed massive government funded contracts to be sent offshore instead of work being done by New Zealand workers.

The Alliance has backed calls to do “whatever is needed” to keep local jobs intact.

“We fully support any solidarity actions such as the support offered by the Maritime Union (MUNZ) to help Hillside workers in their fight to keep their workshop viable.”

The Alliance calls on other organizations and workers to do the same.  This is a fight that New Zealand workers cannot afford to lose.

The Alliance Party has actively supported Hillside workers and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) campaign, and organized a well attended public meeting in South Dunedin earlier this year to promote their cause.

For more information, contact Alliance Party Transport Spokesperson Trevor Hanson on 021390585

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Latest UNITY leaflet - GST OFF FOOD We can win it!

To download a copy of the latest UNITY leaflet click here. If you would like copies of the leaflet to distribute contact socialist-worker@pl.net

We can win it!

Taxing food is wrong. Full stop. The call to remove GST from food is popular. Politicians are being forced to listen.

GST, a horrible tax that impacts most on grassroots people, was under no threat until, in 2008, a broad campaign with leadership from broad-minded socialists connected with people’s concern at rising food costs.

Today, GST no longer has the aura of sanctity that both Labour and National tried so long to maintain. A pillar of the economic model that’s created NZ’s terrible income inequality has been destabilised. That’s an achievement.

Socialist Worker, an initiator of the current Tax Justice campaign, believes socialists and other “advocates of change” should unite around popular campaigns that raise alternatives to today’s “dog-eat-dog” economy.

We also think it’s time for a broad socialist network to be established in NZ. Such a network could support a range of good campaigns and work towards launching united campaigns that are strategically designed to achieve a broader coming together of activists and grassroots people. If you agree with this vision, contact us now. Email socialist-worker@pl.net

History of GST off food

• In mid-2008, RAM - Residents Action Movement launches its GST off food petition in response to a dramatic spike in food prices. Close to 30,000 people sign in a few months.
• The Maori Party supports the campaign, the only party in parliament to do so.
• Prior to the 2008 General Election the GST off food petition is presented to parliament.
• Rahui Katene, a Maori Party MP, drafts a private members bill to remove GST off healthy food.
• Parliament votes on the “GST off healthy food” bill in early 2010. The Greens and Labour back it, but the bill is voted down by John Key’s National government.
• Polls continue to show majority support for GST off food.
• In May 2010, Socialist Worker (whose members were drivers of RAM’s GST off food campaign in 2008) get together with the Alliance Party to launch the Tax Justice campaign.
• The Tax Justice petition to remove GST from food and tax financial speculation proves very popular (see over page).
• The National government increases GST to 15%.
• The Labour Party concedes to grassroots sentiment and announces a policy to take GST off fresh fruit and vegetables.
• 10,000 people sign the Tax Justice petition in a couple days in protest at GST going up on 1st October 2010.    

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Corrie: Soap that gave north’s working class a voice

As Coronation Street turns 50 Bob Light from British Socialist Worker looks back at the soap’s radical history

You will probably know that this week Coronation Street reaches 50 years of continuous broadcasting. ITV is celebrating the event with the razzamatazz it normally reserves for royal weddings and successful world cup bids (oh dear, cancel that one).

But what you might not know is that Coronation Street was once a cutting edge, even radical, programme.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Putting humans back into socialism

Review: The Socialist Alternative by Michael Lebowitz, Monthly Review Press, 2010

by Federico Fuentes 
from Green Left Weekly 

The onset of the global economic crisis in mid 2008, symbolised by the collapse of some of Wall Street’s most iconic companies, led to soaring sales of Karl Marx’s seminal work Das Kapital, as many sought explanations to the tumultuous events unfolding.

Although written more than 100 years ago, this devastating and insightful dissection of how capital functions is still a powerful tool for people looking to understand and change the world.

Marx’s aim was to provide a handbook for working-class activists that unravelled the logic of capital and its inherently exploitative nature. Marx said this was necessary because as long as workers did not understand that capital was the result of their exploitation, they would not be able to defeat their enemy.

Michael Lebowitz’s latest book, The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development says it is essential also to investigate the important insights Marx made regarding the alternative.

Video: The Rights of Pachamama

An emotional and inspiring video that was created as a joint project between five indigenous communities in Peru with the message: ‘We wish from out hearts that these rights we are proposing will be added to and that people across the world recover their harmony with our Mother Earth.’
Via Climate & Capitalism

Video: Capitalism is a doomsday machine

Derek Wall of the UK Green Party speaking at the Coalition of Resistance conference in London, November 27.
Via Climate & Capitalism

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Bolivia: Cancún must not be Can’t-cún

Against these powerful interests, Bolivia believes the only way forward for saving the Earth and its people is mass popular pressure

By Pablo Solon, Bolivian ambassador to the UN
Guardian, November 30, 2010
Via Climate & Capitalism

As climate talks start this week in Cancún, the common refrain that pervades the media and some negotiators is of “low expectations.” I wonder whose expectations they are talking about. Do they think the one million people in the Bolivian city El Alto, who face increasingly chronic water shortages from the disappearance of glaciers, have low expectations? Do they think Pacific islanders whose homelands will soon disappear beneath the rising sea have low expectations? I believe that the majority of humanity demands and has high expectations that our political leaders should act to stop runaway climate change.

The reality is that the talk of “low expectations” is a ploy by a small group of industrialised countries to obscure their obligations to act. They are playing politics with the planet’s future. If the Cancún talks set sail with no wind, then no-one will be angered when they stall. Sadly, rather than express moral outrage, much of the media and even some environmental organisations have subscribed to this cynicism of the powerful. Last year we had Hopenhagen and worldwide public outrage when the richest nations failed to act. This year will it be Can’t-cun and a whimper?

Visible evidence of climate change is all around us.It can be found almost daily on the TV screens of people in rich countries – Pakistan’s floods, Russia’s heatwave, the unprecedented Arctic snow melt – in Bolivia, we are struggling to cope everyday with limited resources and ever more unstable weather. This year a drought throughout Bolivia meant we had to provide emergency food aid to hundreds of thousands of people. As we see our high Andean mountains, revered as apus or spirits by our indigenous peoples, lose their white peaks, we feel a visceral loss of our culture and our history.

Every year we fail to act will only worsen an already serious crisis – and mean any measures we have to take must be even more radical. Yet in looking at how to break the logjam in Cancún, one constantly comes up against the US. Not only does the US have the largest historical responsibility for carbon emissions, its political leaders are also the least prepared to act. While developing countries like China are imposing electricity blackouts to meet climate targets, many in the US are still debating whether climate change exists.

Unfortunately the US responsibility goes further than just inaction; it effectively sabotaged international progress on climate change. At Copenhagen and in the year since, the US has been the prime instigator behind attempts to end the Kyoto protocol, the only binding mechanism on climate change. Instead they harangue, bully, and insist that any climate negotiations must be based on the non-binding Copenhagen accord which would take us backwards in the fight against climate change.
Analysis by the UN of the pledges made so far under the Copenhagen accord show that temperatures would rise by four degrees – a level that many scientists consider disastrous for human life and our ecosystems. Countries like mine that have refused to accept this death wish have had our climate funding withdrawn by the US.

It is important to remember that we have been in a similar situation before. In the negotiations for the Kyoto protocol in the 1990s, the EU proposed relatively ambitious targets of 15% emissions reductions by 2010, and argued rightly then that domestic action should be the main means of achieving emissions targets.

The US at first opposed any targets or timetables, then pushed for lowering overall targets for developed countries to 5% cuts by 2012, and insisted on allowing fraudulent carbon trading mechanisms to meet the targets. Their bullying prevailed, but it was all for nought, as the US Senate failed to ratify the protocol and in 2001 President Bush formally withdrew. The rest of the world bent over backwards to involve the US, and even then they failed to act.

We can’t allow this to happen again. It is wrong for a small handful of US senators to hold the rest of humanity hostage. If the US cannot do what is right, it must step aside. Meanwhile, developed country blocks, such as the EU, must stop hiding behind US intransigence. They must commit urgently to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% before 2017.

Earlier this year, Bolivia held a Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which brought together more than 30,000 people from 140 countries to advance effective proposals on climate change in the wake of the Copenhagen fiasco. It was inspiring because of the passion and commitment of the delegates, and because it was completely focused on tackling climate change and its root causes.

Too often, subjected to intense lobbying by big corporations, the UN conferences on climate change are more preoccupied with inventing new market mechanisms to make money rather than stopping climate change. Against these powerful interests, Bolivia believes the only way forward for saving the Earth and its people is mass popular pressure.

We must insist to our political leaders that we have the highest expectations from Cancún, because nothing less than the future of our grandchildren and our planet depends on it.

Wikileaks in Venezuela: Espionage, Propaganda, and Disinformation

By Eva Golinger
Venezuel Analysis

The first batch of recently released secret and confidencial US State Department documents obtained by Wikileaks include over a dozen dispatches from the US Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, evidencing espionage against the Chavez administration, use of opposition media and politicians as informants and insulting remarks about the country

The Wikileaks release last Sunday, November 28, of over a quarter million US State Department cables obtained illegally has caused scandals worldwide over the methods, perspectives and dirty manuevering of US foreign policy. Almost no country or goverment is exempt from mention in the thousands of secret and classified documents, which are being released over a period of months in order to appreciate the quality of the information, while also subjecting Washington to a type of prolonged torture.

Monday, 29 November 2010

US business profits outside of the financial sector are shrinking

by Pat O'Dea

For the capitalists the recession is officially over when growth, (profit) returns to the economy.

Big profits are being made from the continuing financialisation of the economy. (You know the thing that caused the huge speculative bubble that began the recession in the first place).

Unfortunately this huge profit taking in the financial sector is not being matched in the rest of the capitalist economy. Profits being made in the rest of the business world are shrinking as the data in the following blog article shows: http://blogs.hbr.org/fox/2010/11/the-real-story-behind-those-re.html

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Bomber Bradbury: The speech I would have given for a new left wing party

On his TUMEKE! blog,Martin ‘Bomber’ Bradbury says he would have given the following speech to welcome the launch of a new left wing party, the possible launch of which has been widely speculated on during Matt McCarten’s Mana campaign.

The passage quoted at the start of Bradbury’s post is from Chris Trotter’s latest column on Stuff.

Left’s utopia must have room for aspiration
[by Chris Trotter]
OPINION: Another Aotearoa Is Possible – that’s the hopeful title of a conference getting under way in Mangere tomorrow morning.

This grand political hui – featuring some of New Zealand’s leading leftists – was conceived with not one, but two agendas. Or, to employ the steely jargon of yesterday’s revolutionaries: a Maximum Programme and a Minimum Programme.

For the Maximum Programme to prevail, radical Unite Union leader Matt McCarten had to attract 5 to 10 per cent support in last Saturday’s Mana by-election. If he’d ended the evening with 1200 to 1500 votes, Te Wananga O Aotearoa’s Mangere campus – the conference venue - would almost certainly have witnessed the birth of a “New Left Party”.

Unfortunately for the conference organisers, Mr McCarten ended up attracting the support of just 3.6 per cent of Mana voters. This failure to surpass even the 5 per cent MMP threshold means that tomorrow’s conference agenda will default to its Minimum Programme: “A day of dialogue with activists against injustice and inequality”.

We live in extraordinary times. The current global economic crises is unlike anything since the 1929 stock market collapse which spawned the great depression. We face a crises ‘of’ capitalism as the unregulated neoliberal greed of corporations has been allowed to replace managed Keynesian economic theory. In the 1970s the real economy and the financial economy were evenly valued but 40 years of deregulation, low tax, free market dogma has seen the real economy valued annually at $8 trillion while the financial economy is valued at $330 trillion, that disconnect between reality and the inflated bubble world of finance has gone pop, we must reconsider the rules of the game because the unsustainable consumer culture of SUVs, plasma TVs and cosmetic surgery all on the credit card game is over.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Message of condolence to families of Pike River miners

Along with the many other New Zealanders and people from around the world who have sent messages of support, we would like to offer our heartfelt sympathy to the families, fellow miners, and all those communities on the Coast effected by the shocking disaster at the Pike River mine.

We have been deeply saddened at the terrible loss of 29 irreplaceable lives.

We have shared your frustration in the delays in attempting a rescue, hoping against hope for a joyful outcome, while fearing the terrible consequences we now know.

It should never be a condition of earning a living that workers, such as your staunch and courageous men, should have to put their lives at risk. Yet this is what they do daily, and have done for generations. It is these dangers which has bound mining communities together on the Coast into a resilient, tenacious and caring family.

Words are inadequate to express our sorrow. We know you will hang on to your memories of your loved ones.

Our thoughts are with you all. We hope your men are returned to you soon and that the cause of and responsibility for this disaster is soon established.

Yours in solidarity,

Socialist Worker central committee

If blood be the price of your cursed wealth, Good God! we have paid in full

From the Grey River Argus, January 8, 1920, page 2

The Grey River Argus, was a West Coast newspaper owned by mine workers. It printed the lyrics to the song above in 1920.

You can hear the late Utah Phillips give his rendition in the post below.
The song, with words attributed to an “unknown proletarian” was popularised by the Industrial Workers of the World or Wobblies in the USA.

The Wobbly’s message of “One Big Union” to organise workers to wage uncompromising struggle against the exploiting class found widespread support among West Coast miners and many other workers in Aotearoa, in the early years of last century.

The poem / song is a reworking of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Song of the Dead”, a 1893 tribute to the sailors sacrificed so the British Navy could rule the waves.

Utah Phillips sings ‘We Have Fed You All A Thousand Years’

Monday, 22 November 2010

Venezuelan workers march for more participation

Banners read, “Neither Bureaucracy nor Capitalism, Worker Control” and 
“Socialism is Won Fighting.” (Source: VA.com)

By Juan Reardon

Thousands of Venezuelan workers took to the streets of Caracas on Tuesday, November 9th, demanding greater participation in their country’s nascent socialist economy.

Carrying banners that read, “Neither Capital nor Bureaucrats – More Socialism and More Revolution,” thousands of workers, union representatives, members of leftist political parties and other popular organizations took their demands to the Ministry of Communes and Social Protection, the National Assembly and the offices of the Vice Presidency.

Venezuela’s National Workers’ Union (UNETE), the organizers of the demonstration, called for the immediate passing of a new and radical labor law, the resolution of pending collective labor contracts, and the empowerment of workers within their unions, especially at worksites that now belong to the network of recently nationalized industries.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Labour holds Mana, McCarten fourth

By David

Labour’s Kris Faafoi has won the Mana by-election with 10,397 (46%) of the 22,387 votes cast. However, National’s Hekia Parata was close behind, with 9,317 (42%).

Third place went to the Green Party’s Jan Logie with 1,493 (6.7%). With Matt McCarten, standing as an independent backed by his Unite union coming in forth with 816 (3.6%). Also on the left, Kelly Buchanan of the Alliance gained 37 votes, despite endorsing McCarten.

McCarten’s result was better than any of the radical left (Alliance, Workers Party or RAM) candidates achieved in the last general election. However these were poor results themselves and I think many will be disappointed with this result.

During the campaign, there has been much speculation about McCarten’s plans to launch a new left party. This result will not provide much of a boost for this idea.

On the positive side however, McCarten’s campaign has seen a large group of radical left activists working together, it has highlighted some significant social issues and fired the imagination of many of the left who, at least for the duration of the campaign are taking the idea of a new party more seriously.

Friday, 19 November 2010

A Futures Commission to forecast what the world's rich will do

In conclusion to his article Ruling on Behalf of Wall Street's "Super Rich": The Financial End Time has Arrived, US left-wing professor Michael Hudson writes:
What we need is a Futures Commission to forecast just what will the rich do with the victory they have won. As administered by President Obama and his designated appointees Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke, their policy is financially and fiscally unsustainable. Providing tax incentives for debt leveraging – for most of the population to go into debt to the rich, whose taxes are all but abolished – is shrinking the economy. This will lead to even deeper financial crises, employer defaults and fiscal insolvency at the state, local and federal levels. Future presidents will call for new bailouts, using a strategy much like going to military war. A financial war requires an emergency to rush through Congress, as occurred in 2008-09. Mr. Obama’s appointees are turning the U.S. economy into a Permanent Emergency, a Perpetual Ponzi Scheme requiring injections of more and more Quantitative Easing to to rescue “the economy” (Mr. Obama’s euphemism for creditors at the top of the economic pyramid) from being pushed into insolvency. Mr. Bernanke’s helicopter flies only over Wall Street. It does not drop monetary relief on the population at large.
The unsustainability of the US economy that Hudson writes about is leading many people, including Socialist Worker, to the conclusion that capitalism is entering its end time, however long that might last. The global response of socialists must be to lead a broad mass challenge to neo-liberalism right now and plan ahead for a seismic shift to a post-capitalist world.

To find out more about these ideas read Grant Morgan's compelling essay BEWARE! THE END IS NIGH - Why global capitalism is tipping towards collapse, and how we can act for a decent future’.

Death of Bert Allison

by Len Parker

We have just heard of the recent death in Palmerston North of long time socialist and working class fighter Bert Allison in his 88th year. Bert succumbed to cancer.

Bert had a lengthy history in the working class and never gave up his belief in a socialist alternative or in the role of the working class in achieving it.

He was recognized by his friends and associates as a staunch fighter; even as he became increasingly incapacitated with failing eyesight and ill health he held to his convictions.

He kept in touch with local and international events throughout his life as an avid reader of The People's Voice, Socialist Worker, UNITY and other left-wing journals and as a student of Marxism.

Bert started his working life as a grocery-boy before working as a miner in the Huntly coal mines during the Second World War, then as a Gold miner in the Waihi Martha mines.

He had a spell picking tobacco in the South Island with his brother Percy. They then worked for a period as surveyors on the West Coast. Percy went on to work at Mangakino and was involved in the strike there.

Bert was locked-out  during the historic 151 days of the 1951 Waterfront dispute when the government and bosses tried to break the workers by starving them back to work under draconian anti-working class Emergency Regulations.

When Bert could no longer read himself his daughter read to him so he could keep up with events.

We take this belated opportunity to extend our condolences to all Bert's family in the loss of this working class stalwart.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Video: Matt McCarten at the Alliance conference

Matt McCarten speaking at the 2010 Alliance Party conference.

This video is part one of three, to watch the rest go to Socialist Worker’s YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/SocialistWorkerNZ

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Video: Tax Justice talk at Alliance conference

Socialist Worker’s Vaughan Gunson spoke to the Alliance Party conference about the Tax Justice Campaign, which is jointly sponsored by Socialist Worker and the Alliance.

This video is part one of four, to watch the rest go to Socialist Worker’s YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/SocialistWorkerNZ

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Interview: Advancing solidarity with Gaza

Members of the latest Viva Palestina convoy celebrate after going through the Rafah crossing into Gaza
 Members of the latest Viva Palestina convoy celebrate after going through the Rafah crossing into Gaza
The fifth Viva Palestina convoy to break Israel’s siege of Gaza drove through the Rafah border crossing with 147 vehicles carrying 380 people from some 30 countries—and humanitarian aid worth some $5 million.
The convoy departed from London on September 18 and traveled 3,000 miles through France, Italy, Greece and Turkey before arriving in the Syrian port town of Latakia, where it was joined by two other convoys—one from Morocco and Algeria, and another that originated in Doha and came through the Gulf States and Jordan. After spending 16 days in Latakia while carrying out frustrating negotiations with Egyptian authorities, the convoys traveled on October 19 to the port city of El Arish, and from there drove into Gaza.
Kevin Ovenden, the director of the Viva Palestina convoy, spoke with Eric Ruder about the convoy’s significance for the Palestine solidarity movement. 

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Matt for Mana: against homelessness & empty housing

Matt McCarten’s Mana by-election campaign has taken up the issue of housing, identifying many empty state houses in the electorate, while families are homeless.
The following video outlines the problem:

 The report from TV3 gives there take on what happened when some of Matt’s supporters took action:

Four arrested in Mana by-election stunt
By Liz Puranam
3 News

Four supporters of a political candidate in the Mana by-election have been arrested tonight after they took over an empty state house.
The men were protesting against what they say is the uncaring nature of big government but is it little more than a political stunt?

Mana candidate Matt McCarten and his supporters arrived at the Porirua police station this evening after they had been told four campaigners were arrested and charged with being on a property without permission.

“People are saying they can't get any response, that they can't get houses but then what we have is one protest and suddenly the housing corporation swings into action within minutes and people cleaned off and stuck in jail,” Mr McCarten says.

The prominent unionist and his supporters took over the Porirua state house today, saying they wanted to fix it up so a couple who have been living in a garage can have a home.

“These places are empty. There are people who are living in garages; it's real,” he says.

Carolyn Harvey was to be the new unpaying tenant. She and her partner have been living in a nearby garage.

“I sit in here and I think, ‘when's it going to end, you know, when's it going to end’,” she says.

Mr McCarten's supporters say they have counted 27 vacant state houses in Porirua so they had no problems simply opening this one up to install Ms Harvey and her husband.

But another candidate in the Mana by-election says this is a political stunt; Carolyn Harvey and her husband are with their daughter this evening while the four men arrested are still at the Porirua police station.

Housing New Zealand issued a statement this afternoon saying Mr McCarten's action was illegal and unfair on others waiting for a house and anyone on the property would be served with a trespass notice.

They told 3 News tonight that police have taken their own action; going one step further and arresting them, which they say is entirely appropriate under the circumstances.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

‘NZ Not for Sale’ campaign to oppose trade agreement

Media release New Zealand Not For Sale Campaign

The New Zealand Not For Sale Campaign will be formally launched in Christchurch on November 11, in conjunction with the launch of Professor Jane Kelsey’s book on the Transpacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement.

The NZ Not For Sale Campaign has been set up to oppose the Transpacific Partnership because it is against New Zealand’s best economic, environmental and social interests.

“The trade agreements we already have are linked with high international debt, job losses, asset stripping, risky speculation, increasing sales of land to overseas owners, running down public assets and services, and loss of tino rangatiratanga and national sovereignty’’, says the Campaign Secretary, Dr Christine Dann.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Climate Activists to Dairy Summit: ‘Get a real job on a real farm’

Media Release: 9th November 2010

Camp for Climate Action Aotearoa invites the corporate farmers of the World Dairy Summit to get a real job on a real farm

In response to yesterday’s Federated Farmer’s press release telling protestors of the World Dairy Summit in Auckland to “Get a real job like farming” Camp for Climate Action Aotearoa suggests that Federated Farmer’s listen to their own advice.

Camp for Climate Action Aotearoa spokesperson Gary Cranston says “we support the actions of small scale farmers all over the world who are already living sustainably, feeding their communities and defending their climate-friendly farming practices from mega-scale agribusinesses.”

“As a stream of greenwash spews from the World Dairy Summit into our rivers small-scale farmer’s livelihoods are not only threatened by climate change, they’re also threatened by industrial agriculture itself and the kind of money-making false solutions that the world’s agribusiness giants are pedalling at the UN climate negotiations and through John Key’s Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases.”

Monday, 8 November 2010

PUBLIC MEETING: Tax Justice and Left Unity

Invitation to discuss:

Tax Justice & Left Unity

7pm, Thursday 11 November
@ Socialist Centre, 86 Princes Street, 
Onehunga, Auckland

Intro speaker: Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator
& Socialist Worker national chair

The meeting is hosted by Socialist Worker.
Light refreshments and hospitality will be served.

  • Grassroots people are struggling. Food prices are going through the roof. There's simmering anger at National's GST hike. Will GST off food be a cut-through political issue next year?
  • Can the demands of the Tax Justice campaign, to remove GST from food and tax financial speculation instead, be won? Would this put a significant dent in the neo-liberal economic model?
  • 20,000 signatures have been collected for the Tax Justice petition. How can we build on this and break the campaign into national consciousness?
  • What role can the Tax Justice campaign play in popularising an economic alternative to neo-liberalism?
  • Could a popular Tax Justice campaign be one element in helping to bring about the much needed unity of left forces in NZ?
These and other questions will be discussed after a short intro by Vaughan. The emphasis will be on open discussion and networking. The discussion won't be restricted to the demands and strategy of the Tax Justice campaign. Wider input on the challenges of building a left alternative to neo-liberalism, and what vehicles might best achieve this, are encouraged. Bring your two cents worth!

For more info contact,

Vaughan Gunson
021-0415 082

*Join the Tax Justice campaign Facebook group.

Tax Justice advisory to broad left

3 November 2010 

20,000 signatures collected for Tax Justice petition

The Tax Justice campaign has collected over 20,000 signatures for a parliamentary petition calling on GST to be removed from all food and a tax placed on financial speculation instead.

The petition’s demands are connecting with a broad range of people angry at the economic hardships they're being made to bear. The rising cost of food is for many New Zealanders a big issue, especially when real incomes levels for most people are either stagnant or falling. (See Council of Trade Unions media release Real incomes falling, 7 October.)

The factors behind the positive popular reception to the Tax Justice petition are going to intensify in the months ahead. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has predicted that food price inflation will hit 10 per cent by the end of the year. (See Rising prices to offset October tax cuts, 1 September.)

The stretched budgets of grassroots people, particularly when it comes to the most basic of life’s necessities, food, requires that progressive forces offer solutions, both immediate and longer term.

It’s the view of Tax Justice campaigners that the “common sense” demand to remove GST from food, coupled with a tax revenue replacement that targets the mega-rich, has the potential to become a cut-through political issue for the left.

Invitation to get behind the Tax Justice campaign

In the spirit of greater cooperation and unity amongst leftists, unionists and other supporters of justice for grassroots people, we’ll be approaching a number of organisations and groups over the coming weeks about getting behind the Tax Justice campaign.

The two groups who have initiated the campaign, Socialist Worker and the Alliance Party, are very interesting in discussing how we can collectively grow the campaign into a bigger political force, and what kind of organisational structures might be established to best achieve this.

Already the Tax Justice campaign has received solidarity from members of the Maori Party, Green Party, and the Labour Party, as well as from members of Grey Power and a number of trade unions. Increasing the level of broad and active support for Tax Justice will be essential if we're going to force a major change to neo-liberal tax policy, which is what removing GST from food and the introduction of Financial Transaction Tax would undoubtedly represent.

The potential to break the Tax Justice campaign into national public consciousness is there, it just needs a big enough pool of active supporters to make it happen.

If you would like to discuss with us the prospects for broadening the groups and organisations actively involved in the Tax Justice campaign, please contact Vaughan Gunson, campaign coordinator. Email svpl@xtra.co.nz or phone 021-0415 082.

Two upcoming public meetings

There are two upcoming public meetings where the way forward for the Tax Justice campaign, along with other issues relating to left unity, can be discussed. They are:

Tax Justice & Left Unity
7pm, Thursday 11 November
@ Socialist Centre, 86 Princes Street, Onehunga, Auckland

Intro speaker: Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice campaign coordinator. Discussion to follow.

For more details, contact Vaughan, svpl@xtra.co.nz or 021-0415 082.

There Is An Alternative - Progressive Economics for the 21st Century
3pm, Saturday 13 November
@ St Johns Church Hall, cnr of Willis & Dixon Street, Wellington

Speakers: Bill Rosenberg (CTU economist), Vaughan Gunson (Tax Justice campaign coordinator, Socialist Worker national chair). Chaired by Andrew McKenzie co-leader Alliance Party.

For more details, contact Kay Murray, ksimmondsmurray@xtra.co.nz.

Both these meetings are open to all leftist, unionists and supporters of justice for grassroots people.

Labour MP to present petition to parliament in 2011

Su’a William Sio, the Labour Party MP for Mangere, has offered to present the current Tax Justice petition to parliament sometime in 2011, most likely prior to the General Election.

Having a South Auckland MP present the petition to parliament will give it real political weight. We extend our thanks to Su’a for making this offer.

For further up-to-date information on the Tax Justice campaign go to our website www.nogstonfood.org The petition can be downloaded there.

And if you’re on Facebook join the ‘No GST on Food’ page. Over 5,500 people already have, making it one of New Zealand’s most popular grassroots political campaigns on Facebook.

Tax Justice campaigners will be working hard for the remainder of 2010 and into 2011. Help us make Tax Justice a big issue next year.

In solidarity,

Tax Justice executive committee:

Grant Brookes (Socialist Worker)
Kay Murray (Alliance Party)
Vaughan Gunson (Socialist Worker)
Victor Billot (Alliance Party)

How Obama got from hope to hopeless

In the U.S. Barack Obama’s Democratic party have suffered a big defeat in the mid-term elections, loosing control of the House of Representatives.

Alan Maass from the US Socialist Worker newspaper argues that when Obama swept to victory two years ago, the Democrats were handed a golden opportunity to transform U.S. politics for years to come—and they blew it.

President Obama during a meeting with Cabinet members (Pete Souza)

BARACK OBAMA thinks you really ought to be more patient.

“It took time to free the slaves,” he said in a speech at the end of September. “It took time for women to get the vote. It took time for workers to get the right to organize.”

Well...he’s certainly right about that. The struggles of the past that changed the world didn’t happen overnight.

But Obama wasn’t just making an observation about history. This was his excuse for how little the Democrats have done to meet the expectations of their supporters—they need more time.

The real question is: More time for what? The Democrats haven’t moved at even a snail’s pace on so many of the issues that motivated millions of people to support them in 2008—keeping people under threat of foreclosure in their homes, creating good-paying jobs, reducing the staggering inequality between rich and poor, reversing the shrill intolerance of the Christian Right, ending America’s wars and occupations around the globe.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

NDU’s Robert Reid at Fairness at Work rally

Robert Reid, General Secretary of the National Distribution Union, speaks at the cross union rally in Manukau on October 20th 2010, as part of the national day of action for fairness at work. More on the campaign here: http://fairness.org.nz/

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Hillary Clinton comes bearing poisoned chalice for NZ

By Murray Horton


As if 2,000 earthquakes haven’t been enough punishment for Christchurch, now we’re going to have Hillary Clinton visiting us (and Wellington) this week.

A major focus for her NZ visit  will be the negotiations which are well underway for the US and a number of other countries to join an expanded Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (currently comprising NZ, Chile, Brunei, and Singapore, and known as the P4 Agreement), with 2011 as the target to seal the deal. This will be used as the backdoor means to secure a US/NZ Free Trade Agreement.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Report on Tax Justice '10,000'

by Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator

18 October 2010

To protest GST going up to 15% on 1st October the Tax Justice campaign organised a nationwide push for signatures to the petition calling on parliament to remove GST from food and tax financial speculation.

As well as getting more signatures for the petition – at a time when resentment towards GST was going to be high – the aim was to expand the network of active campaign supporters and get national media coverage.

20,000 signatures collected to date

After our efforts Friday-Sunday (1-3 October) following the GST hike we’ve collected 20,000 signatures for the petition. That puts the Tax Justice campaign in the serious category.

The bulk of signatures were collected over the three days at organised petition stalls in Northland, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, with many more contributions coming in from individuals in other centres (still being reported). See the photo essays on www.nogstonfood.org

Getting close to an additional 10,000 signatures in a short space of time was a good effort by Alliance Party and Socialist Worker members, with the help of a small number of Tax Justice supporters.

The evidence on the streets was that the GST hike had created simmering resentment. A common sentiment expressed was that National’s tax cuts were “rubbish”. Many people were aware of the unfair nature of the income tax cuts, which have seen big tax cuts for the rich and virtually nothing for low and middle income earners once the GST increase is factored in.

For instance, someone earning $15 an hour will be $4.13 better off from the tax changes, while someone earning four times as much – $106,080 annually – will have $43.08 more in their pay packet. Your average CEO earning $265,200 will be richer by a whopping $153.92 a week (Source: Bill Rosenberg, Council of Trade Unions economist and policy director).

The tax changes have also come at a time of rising living costs and stagnant wages. This makes the GST hike particularly painful for people struggling to make ends meet. Inflation is resulting in declining real wages for workers and beneficiaries. (See Council of Trade Unions media release Real incomes falling, 7 October.)

It was the simmering resentment at the unfairness of National’s tax changes, combined with an outlet in the form of the Tax Justice petition, that saw people flocking to petition tables. Large numbers of signatures were often collected in a short space of time. The evidence is clear: the demands of the Tax Justice petition are connecting with grassroots people.

The factors behind the popularity of the Tax Justice petition are going to intensify in the months ahead. New Zealand Institute of Economic Research chief economist Shamubeel Eaqub predicts food price inflation in New Zealand to hit 10 per cent by the end of the year, which will wipe out National’s meager tax cuts for low and middle income earners. (See Rising prices to offset October tax cuts, 1 September.)

Grassroots people are going to be affected by this in a big way. The cost of food is already an issue that people feel very strongly about. The anger is going to intensify in the months ahead and into 2011. We need to be there with the solution that our twin Tax Justice demands provide.

Tax Justice in the media

As expected there was significant media attention focused on the 1st October tax changes and GST increase. A string of Tax Justice media releases tied to the promotion of the Double Day of nationwide signature collecting saw the campaign get some national media coverage. This included:

* Interview with Tax Justice media spokesperson Victor Billot on TVNZ Breakfast on 28 September (See http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/breakfast-tuesday-september-28-3804261/video?vid=3804333)

* Interview with Tax Justice campaign coordinator Vaughan Gunson that featured in a Newstalk ZB story on GST, which was played on radio stations throughout the country.

* NZPA article (30 September) which was widely published in newspaper and online news sites. (See http://www.nogstonfood.org/2010/09/29/petition-to-take-gst-off-food/)

* Two stories on the TV3 website: GST activists welcome Labour’s change of heart (27 September) and Govt accused of hypocrisy over GST exemptions (29 September).

* An interview with Vaughan Gunson for Radio NZ that was part of their coverage of the GST increase.

* Plus a number of short and longer articles in local community papers throughout the country.

These media breakthroughs were encouraging, but we’ll need significantly more coverage to really break the campaign into national consciousness. We must continue to explore options for getting the media’s attention, but there are no short cuts. The main thing we have to do is get heaps more signatures, so that the media will be forced to take notice.

Expanding the Tax Justice network

Any campaign which aims at achieving tangible success must seek to broaden the network of active supporters, as well as forming alliances with other organisations in pursuit of the goal. “Tax Justice 10,000” helped this process along.

In the course of promoting the Double Day of signature collecting we encountered more individuals who wanted to help. A few dozen people contacted us by email offering their support for the campaign or to enquire about the petition. New volunteers helped collect signatures in Kerikeri, Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.

In the days either side of 1st October there was a sharp increase in activity on the No GST on Food Facebook page. In the space of a week the number of people who “like” the page almost doubled to 5,000. (As a result of all the activity on the Facebook page there was a big increase in hits to our website, which peaked on 30 September with 310 views.)

Through the Facebook page dozens more people have volunteered to help collect signatures. We’re starting to receive completed signature sheets, boosting our signature total higher every day.

But if we’re going to chalk up some really good numbers for the Tax Justice petition for the rest of this year and into 2011, then we must continue to encourage more volunteers to get actively involved. And crucially, we need other organisations to join the campaign.

Leading up to and including the Double Day of signature collecting there were discussions about the Tax Justice campaign with individuals representing different political organisations.

A Green Party activist and council candidate helped collect signatures in Whangarei, and there were discussions with other Whangarei-based Green Party members about broadening the campaign. In Lower Hutt, a member of VAN (Valley Action Network) organised a petition stall at a local market. Members of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) in Dunedin helped collect signatures for the petition.

In Auckland, the Tax Justice campaign was invited by Labour Party MP for Mangere Su’a William Sio to attend a Labour Party organised event at the Mangere Mall. The petition proved very popular with grassroot Labour members and was circulated by local organisers of the Labour Party. At the event was Labour leader Phil Goff and Labour list MP Ashraf Choudhary. They both came over to the Tax Justice table and discussed the campaign with our team. Though Labour’s new policy is GST off fresh fruit and vegetables only, the two politicians expressed solidarity with our campaign and happily posed for a photo (see photo essay).

Labour MP to present Tax Justice petition to parliament

In conversations with our team in Mangere, Su’a William Sio offered to present the Tax Justice petition to parliament. We have accepted the offer from Su’a and will liaise with him to present the petition to parliament sometime in 2011.

Having a South Auckland Labour MP present the petition to parliament will give it real weight, and will potentially open doors with other organisations to come in behind the campaign.

The broadening out of people and organisations interested in supporting the campaign through active participation or through expressions of solidarity is very encouraging. In the first instance it reflects the popularity of the campaign – especially the demand to remove GST from food – amongst grassroots people. Nothing would be possible without this reality.

Broad cooperation to achieve our goal

It’s only through broad cooperation and alliances between different organisations and groups that we can hope to affect a major change to neo-liberal tax policy, which is what removing GST off food and the introduction of Financial Transaction Tax would undoubtedly represent.

Broad cooperation around the Tax Justice campaign is achievable. In the coming weeks we will contact some big organisations about supporting the Tax Justice campaign. Our focus in the first instance will be on getting support from Grey Power, trade unions and churches.

The twin demands of the Tax Justice petition have the potential to attract grassroots and institutional support in a big way. The challenge now is to keep the campaign moving forward by expanding our network of active Tax Justice campaigners and collecting more and more signatures, so that by the sheer weight of numbers we break into national consciousness.

In the weeks and months ahead the Tax Justice team will be announcing new initiatives to propel the campaign forward. If you’re already an active supporter of the campaign, a big thank you for your efforts so far. If you want to get active in the campaign then contact us straight away.

If you haven’t already done so please distribute the petition around your networks and print off copies for friends, family and workmates to sign. And send them back to us as soon as possible.

The Tax Justice campaigners will be working hard for the remainder of 2010 and into 2011. Help us make Tax Justice a big issue next year.

Thank you.

Vaughan Gunson
Tax Justice campaign coordinator
021-0415 082

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Mana Campaign Introduction by Matt McCarten

The Unite Union has announced its endorsement of its General Secretary Matt McCarten to contest the Mana by-Election. McCarten is required to contest the election as an independent.

The Unite Union has been at the forefront of campaigning for low income workers in New Zealand over several years.

This government over the last year has launched attacks on workers that include the right for any worker to be sacked without notice or reason on the whim of an employer. In addition they are restricting the rights of workers by restricting union access to their members. The sale of holiday entitlements is only the start of claw backs for vulnerable workers. The cravenness of John Key to the US owners of the Hobbit films to even change our employment laws says it all.

Unite launched a campaign over a year ago to win $15 an hour minimum for every worker. 200,000 New Zealanders have signed our petition. Unite intends to make raising wages a central issue for the by-Election and will seek the support of all the candidates.

This government has no economic plan and just hopes that somehow the international markets will come to our rescue. They won’t.

By-elections are democratic processes where not only will they elect a new MP but they have an opportunity to send a message to parliament. Unite intends to do that.

We have been supportive of Labour’s long overdue realisation that the new right agenda implemented by their party and carried on by National have been a disaster for New Zealand. But we have been disappointed at their timidity over what the alternatives could be.

My candidature will give the people of Mana strong alternatives that roll back the failed ideology of the past 25 years.

We intend to run on three main platforms and seek a mandate from the voters of Mana:

#1 $15ph Min Wage NOW. 
Raising wages is central to the campaign. The practical way to close the wage gap with Australia is by legislating for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. If I win we will see that as a mandate to have a Royal Commission set up to enquire into what income a worker on 40 hours would need to live with dignity. Once established then appropriate economic and employment policy would be needed to ensure this happens. During the next 3 weeks we will seek to have a majority of the people of Mana to sign our petition to raise the minimum wage to $15 immediately. The cabinet currently is reviewing the minimum wage and we want a strong message sent to them from the voters of Mana.

#2. Jobs. 
The free market won’t reduce unemployment. Government intervention is required to do that. Mana like every other electorate has about 3000 official unemployed. The dignity of meaningful work is an economic good in itself. To employ 3000 on $15 an hour in fulltime work costs less than $100m a year net. After giving over $1.6 billion of our money to South Canterbury Finance it’s clear it’s not about have we got the money, it’s about priorities. I want a strong message sent that no one gets the dole. The government will invest in jobs. In Mana we could put two teachers’ aides into very classrooms creating almost 1000 jobs. We could get the Wananga to train 500 young unemployed in basic building skills and set them up to repair and upgrade run down state houses. We can get another 500 into home help for senior citizens and the sick. It’s not science; it’s whether we have the will.

#3. Taxes. 
The burden of paying the bills has dramatically shifted to the from the asset wealthy and high incomes to the middle and low income New Zealanders. GST is one of those taxes. Labour weak response is disappointing. I will release an alternative tax policy in the campaign to start the discussion off. Frankly GST has to go and an alternative like the Financial Transaction Tax (now enjoying popular support overseas as the Robin Hood tax) is fairer and more efficient.

I will also release policy discussion papers during the campaign on economic planning that includes foreign investment and immigration; and workers’ rights to start a discussion for areas that are clearly failing.

I intend to run a strong aggressive campaign and put the two main candidates under some pressure to work for their votes and ask them to respond to the above three platforms. Whilst I will target National (as the villains of course) Labour also has to engage in meaningful debate rather than generalisations.

The Other Candidates: All the candidates are fine people and are to be congratulated for offering themselves. But this by election isn’t about them or me. It’s about the people of Mana and the rest of New Zealand. I intend to engage in serious debate and persuade the people of Mana to send a big message to parliament to elect me as their representative to parliament on the 20th of November.

McCarten contests Mana by-election

Matt for Mana! Its time for a New Left

by Joe Carolan
from Socialist Aotearoa

In a daring and audacious move, Matt McCarten, General Secretary of the Unite Union, announced his candidacy in the Mana By Election in Wellington earlier today. Matt has had a quarter of century's experience fighting for New Zealand's poorest workers, and was a founding member of both the New Labour Party and the Alliance. Now standing as a member of the Independent Left, he would make an excellent champion for the thousands of low paid and unemployed workers in Mana.

Support for Matt has come in from many members of other trade unions, as well as most of the organisations of the socialist left, who worked hard together in last year's Campaign for a Living Wage Referendum push. That Campaign got over 200,000 signatures of support to raise the minimum wage in New Zealand to $15ph NOW, and then two thirds of the average industrial wage subsequently. It was also successful in getting the independent left out into the housing estates, markets and workplaces, co operating in struggle together.

Labour has had this seat since the 1930s and has done little to alleviate the poverty there. The escalating attacks on the working class in New Zealand requires the serious left to look for political as well as industrial solutions. The Labour Party just won't cut it. Under the leadership of Phil Goof, they'll be lucky to clear 35% in next years election. In the War of the Hobbit, they can't even decide which side they're on. They're a centrist, liberal party who lost the last election because they ignored their working class base - the kind of people who live in Mana.

Socialists will campaign hard for Matt and for the people of Mana in the next month- for decent state housing, for affordable public transport, for a living wage, full employment and a planned economy. The Free Market economics that people like Phil Goof unleashed inthe 1980s have failed New Zealand. It's time for a New Left. Matt for Mana!

Monday, 25 October 2010

New-left rallies its forces to take on the new-right

By Matt McCarten
from Herald on Sunday

After two years it seemed the left was never going to get a break. I’m stoked to announce we have got it at last.

Two weekends ago we had our first good news when the mayoral front-runners in our five major cities lost. The wins were significant politically in Auckland and Wellington.

Who would have thought a small grey man called Brown could arouse so much enthusiasm? Mind you, if the right relies on a grey man called John Key to keep their party in the stratosphere I guess we can swoon for Brown.

And just when the left were still hugging each other in delight, the Labour Party for the first time since who knows when got excited about being left-wing again.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Kia Ora Gaza: The Big Day – entry into Gaza!

From Kia Ora Gaza

Day 34: 21 October 2010

Talal of Kuwait waits at Al-Arish wharf for the "go" signal to Gaza
  • Times: All times given are those of Egypt and Gaza. Their clock is 11 hours behind New Zealand time.
  • Messages: The contents of this bulletin are real time texts from our Kiwi volunteers on their way to Gaza. Texts have been edited for readability.
  • Writers: Roger Fowler and Chris van Ryn.
The boys from Canada about to set out from Al-Arish wharf to Gaza

12.25pm: Chris
Arrived at Al-Arish wharf compound. Very heavy security. Armed guards are everywhere, looking ominous. All running smoothly so far.

12.53pm: Roger
Met up with Hone off the ship. Got passports back. Preparing vehicles to move off wharf soon under watchful eyes of over 50 armed riot police. 

1.12pm: Roger
Vehicles are flying Palestinian flags and the flags of the 30 countries which have sent volunteers. Jubilation. This is it. We’re off. The first Kiwis out the wharf gate are Chris and Hone.

1.14pm: Chris
I’ve left the compound. We’re lining up on the roadside, waiting for others. About every 10 convoy van there’s an armed police vehicle.

1.56pm:  Roger
Pat and Julie’s van is out the gate. I’m right behind. We’re pulling up to wait for others so we go as one long convoy. There’s no room for Mousa in my van, so he’s going in a UK vehicle. The sun is scorching.

2.04pm:  Roger
We’re moving off in single file. Gaza, here we come!

A crew from Italy show their excitement as they get ready for the short drive from Al-Arish to Gaza

3.06pm:  Roger
We’ve got an armed military and police escort in Nissan utes. 10 kilometres to go to Rafah Gate.

3.34pm:  Chris
Convoyers are entering customs at Rafah Gate.

3.39pm:  Roger
A “farewell, come back soon” sign is over the entrance to Gaza. Armed personnel vehicles are parked on the roadside and in nearby barren fields. There’s lots of barbed wire. Two long queues are waiting to go through the gate.

3.48pm:  Roger
More truck loads of riot police are at the ready, carrying automatic shotguns, although there’s no tension. Some police wave to convoyers. TV crews are arriving.

The convoy queues up at Rafah Gate, the only land entrance into Gaza not controlled by the Israeli military

3.54pm:  Chris
We’re through the gate! We’re in Gaza! Our heartfelt thanks to all our supporters back home in Aotearoa! Without you all we would not be here.

3.58pm:  Roger
Red Cresent youths arrive and pose for photos alongside convoy vehicles. A relaxed atmosphere.

4pm:  Chris
We’ve parked our vehicles just past the border, and are being guided to seats for a media rally.

4.23pm:  Chris
There’s a festival mood. Everyone is hugging each other, and there’s lots of joyful tears.

Convoyers mix with Gazans just over the border from Egypt

4.38pm:  Chris
Viva Palestina director Kevin Ovenden is giving a speech. We come from 30 different countries with $7 million worth of aid, he says. It’s the biggest convoy so far. In a first for any land convoy, we have entered Gaza in broad daylight. Politically the siege of Gaza is breaking down, but it’s not yet broken. If the wall of the prison is breaking, we must all push it down, Kevin declares. “I promise you that we will come back again and again and again, until all Palestinians can go home in peace and dignity.” He thanks the people of France, Turkey, Syria and across the Arab world who helped the convoy. Palestine is now an international issue. 

Huge bursts of applause from the large crowd punctuates Kevin’s speech. About 15 TV crews are filming the event.

Flags from many countries fly inside Gaza, showing the broad international support for a free Palestine

5.24pm:  Chris
I’ve just met a young man whose pregnant sister died in 2007 because she couldn’t get medical attention for ten days.We’re soon heading off to Gaza City where I’ve been told crowds are waiting for us.

5.32pm:  Chris
This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, to shake hands with people on the streets of Gaza. But I’m still on hold until we hand over our aid. Then I can relax and say, “Job done!”

5.35pm:  Chris
It’s evening and the light is dimming. There’s flashing lights and sirens all around me as we move off to Gaza City. What a sight. What a noise.

5.47pm:  Chris
As we head to the city, Hone is sitting on top of the ambulance roof. He’s waving a Palestinian flag. Emotions are running high. One convoyer was in tears, and has now swapped her driving role and is resting in her vehicle. It’s all a bit much.

Inside Gaza: the emotion of the moment

6.19pm:  Chris
As we head slowly to Gaza City, the wall is around me. In front of the wall is a fence. It feels like I’m going into prison. It’s a shock. The bastards!

7.03pm:  Chris
Thousands of people cram the streets of Gaza City. They are ecstatic. “Welcome! Welcome!” they shout. Kids are pushing forward onto the road. I have to drive carefully to avoid hitting anyone in the crush. People on motorbikes are yelling, “Thank you! Thank you for coming to Gaza!” Everyone wants to touch me.

Now the crowd is chanting and clapping. They’re in a frenzy. We’re driving at a crawling pace. There’s too many people to go any faster. I must be careful, have to stop txting for a while.

8.46pm:  Chris
We’re driving through a narrow corridor of cheering people. They often jump in front of us. Some kids are banging drums. Soldiers are everywhere, we’re very well protected. I just saw a bombed out building.

The convoy heads into Gaza City

10.33pm:  Roger
I’ve just done an interview with Radio New Zealand. It’s been crazy here. We were mobbed all the way in Gaza City. Now going to our hotel by bus.

10.56:  Chris
We’re holed up for the night in a hotel. It’s pretty horrible, but a bed at least. Saw more bombed out buildings. I did a long interview, about 15 minutes, with Kim at Morning Report.

11.27:  Chris
Have just done an interview with Keith Slater of TV3.