Sunday, 28 February 2010

General strike shuts down Greece

By Matthew Cookson reporting from Athens for Socialist Worker UK The usually bustling pavements of central Athens are almost deserted today [Wednesday]. More than two million people have walked out on strike in Greece – from a total workforce of five million. The 24 hour general strike unites both public and private sector workers against the government’s austerity measures. All flights in and out of the country have been cancelled, and schools, council offices and ministries are closed. Few buses or trains are running, and those that are have mostly been approved by strikers to allow workers to join protests. More than 30,000 people joined two separate marches. They shattered the unusual quiet in central Athens with angry chants as they marched on parliament. Workers are furious at the centre-left Pasok government which won last year’s general election after it promised not to freeze wages. Marchers shouted, “No sacrifices! Make the rich pay for the crisis!” Yiannis Anastakis, who works at the Olympic Stadium, told me, “Before the election the government said completely different things. Now it wants to cut salaries, and they are already very low. Most people take home around 700 euros [NZ$ 1,360] a month. “The people who have money in Greece don’t pay taxes. But the government won’t take money from the rich—instead it looks to get more from the low paid.” Post and telecoms workers, engineers, unemployed people, electricity workers, students, council workers and other marched together. A large group of African and Bangladeshi migrants joined the protest, demanding citizenship rights and an end to police harassment. African migrant workers joined the protests Police fired tear gas and batoned protesters around Syntagma Square, near the parliament buildings. A group of demonstrators flung red paint at the police squads. The police attack split the demonstration in two, but demonstrators defied the police and the march continued. Public and private sector workers struck together against the government’s aim to make massive cuts that will severely hit workers’ living standards. The Greek government’s budget deficit currently stands at 12.7 percent of Greece’s annual gross domestic product. The government wants to slash it to 2.8 percent. Early this morning, I joined a picket by trade unionists and students at the Metika metal company offices in Athens. Panos from the engineers’ union said, “The government says it is against the crisis, but in reality it is attacking the rights of working people. “We are also here because Metika has fired three workers, who were active in the union, in its factory in Volos.” Banners across the company’s gates read, “Stop the stability programme. Ban the sackings” and “No sacrifice for their profits.” Yiannis said, “The EU complains that Greeks have a very good life in comparison with other countries. This is completely untrue. Many of us have to do two jobs to survive. Look at the people here. Tell me that they are all rich.” The general strike is not the end of the fight in Greece. Different groups are planning their own strikes, while there are plans for more national days of action in the near future. Workers on the street (All pictures Guy Smallman) Greek activists speak out ‘We have agreed on an all-out strike to stop the government measures from being passed. We believe that if they push the cuts through in our sector, all workers’ wages will be cut. And on top of that, the government is raising the retirement age. It’s unacceptable that the cost of living also goes up so we work until we’re 80 and die before we even touch our pensions. All across the EU the message from governments is that public spending and wages must be slashed but that capital’s profits don’t get touched.’
Makis Daskalopoulos, worker at the General Secretariat for Information Systems
‘We’re fighting back, despite the rain, the police special forces and the tear gas. The government says we must be patient so it can impose stability measures. We say disobedience! We won’t let them take back the rights we fought for with blood.’
Giorgos Panagakis, unemployed nurse
‘People are outraged. Their blood is boiling! Now there is a mood to escalate the strikes. We shouldn’t pay for the crisis, the ones who caused it should pay.’
Vagia Gouma, public sector worker at the ministry for the environment, physical planning and public works
For more background on the econic and social crisis agcross Europe, see this feature from Socialist Worker UK: Europe – the gathering economic storm

Friday, 26 February 2010

Histories of the four Internationals

Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez [right] has called for the formation of a Fifth International to unite socialists around the world. The previous internationals were places of debate and action, established to strengthen the international socialist movement. Dan Swain of the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has writen a breif history of each one, arguing that we “can learn an enormous amount by studying them”.
The First International was forged in struggle On 28 September 1864, delegations of workers from different countries met in London to form the International Working Men’s Association. This was later known as the First International. The Second International: From class war to imperialist slaughter Divisions over the question of revolution led to the break up of the First International. The same problem was also of decisive importance to the fate of the next attempt to unite socialists across borders. The Socialist International, known as the Second International, was established in 1889. The Third International: Revolutionary hope crushed by Stalinism When the parties of the Second International voted to support the First World War many socialists were left uncertain about what to do next. From the carnage of the war, however, came a beacon of hope that inspired millions across the world. A revolution in Russia put workers in control in October 1917. The success of the revolution inspired the creation of Communist Parties across Europe. The Fourth International: Keeping the flame alive Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Russian revolution, opposed Joseph Stalin’s increasing stranglehold on the Soviet Union and the Third International. As a result he was exiled from Russia. In 1938 he gathered together a small number of his supporters to form the Fourth International. You can read the full articles here on UNITYblog.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

North Island Climate Camp planning hui, this weekend

The Climate Camp movement is holding its first major get together since the first Climate Camp Aotearoa, which was held in Wellington last December. What: North Island Climate Camp planning hui When: Saturday 26th Feb [9.00am start] and Sunday 27th Feb Where: 135b Dey St Hamilton East Contact Louise to confirm attendance: (07) 8566857 or email Proposed agenda: 1. Camp debrief and the feedback form to look at and learn from. 2. Feedback from Jan 30 movement mapping climate conference in Wellington 3. Safer space, conflict resolution process revised 4. Possible name change eg. climate justice aotearoa or structure change?(having issues explaining ourselves as a ‘climate camp’ group while doing local project stuff…) 5. Helping set up new members / groups eg. hamilton, Dunedin 6. Funding Sources 7. The NZ Climate Movement / How we fit in [or not / or whatever] 8. Campaigning Opportunities [community / project opposition based] 9. Campaigning Opportunities [issue based] 10. Allies [existing / new groups] 11. Agriculture and Climate / Agriculture and Emissions Trading – our response 12. Researching for Climate Justice [and agriculture?] 13. Future actions/camps 14. Considering a climate justice speaking tour?

Robin Hood Tax video

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

John Minto:Drop GST – we need a financial transactions tax

By John Minto Stuff / Frontline It’s time to drop our goods and services tax and adopt a financial transactions tax. This was not an option proposed by the 13 comfortable men on the Government’s Tax Advisory Group but it’s an idea whose time has come. We all know GST disproportionately hurts those on low and middle incomes who work hard, live week to week and spend most of their income. An FTT, on the other hand, would impact most heavily on the likes of currency speculators and similar financial wheelers and dealers who gamble with wealth created by others. It’s an idea which is growing in popularity among developed countries in the northern hemisphere, with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown leading the charge. He hopes to progress the idea at the coming G20 meeting and a grassroots movement has begun to take shape to push the idea. The driving force in Europe has been the financial crisis whereby taxpayers spent thousands of billions bailing out their financial sectors. It’s not surprising that punishing corporate greed has been one driver popularising FTT in the north and there’s no reason New Zealand should be left behind. Some form of FTT already has support from the Alliance, the Maori Party and the Greens as well as support from some exporters. Two weeks ago the managing director of Sanford, Eric Barratt, told the company’s AGM the Government should start taxing those who speculate in New Zealand currency. He put it bluntly: “It is high time New Zealand as a country started earning some income from these currency traders that costs shareholders in Sanford and other trading companies many millions of dollars each year. “A tax on non-trade-related currency transactions could not only earn significant income for the Government it could also result in our exchange rate moving closer to its realistic value and thereby add significant value to the wealth of New Zealanders.” Barratt’s idea of a tax on currency transactions (without penalising trade in goods) is usually referred to as a Tobin tax. The Alliance, on the other hand, supports a broader financial transactions tax which would be simpler to administer and which would tax all financial transactions at a very low rate. In a media release last week Alliance Party spokesperson Victor Billot says the party supports such a tax on all withdrawals or purchases at a rate of just two cents per $100. He rightly says this would have no impact on ordinary people (2c or 3c on the grocery bill) but would raise large sums from financial transactions such as those associated with speculation on our dollar. It’s important to realise our dollar is consistently among the 10 most traded currencies in the world and each year it is swapped at volumes which dwarf our annual GDP. (Prime Minister John Key made his millions speculating against the value of currencies such as our dollar - I’m waiting for a reporter to ask him where he thinks his millions actually originated!) Exporters would benefit because speculative trade keeps the value of our dollar artificially high, which means less income from what we sell overseas. An FTT would lower the value of the dollar, increase returns from exports and increase the price of imports. Each of these brings value to our economy. There are those who say FTT will not be really effective unless it is applied internationally but such objections are red herrings from vested interests. FTT is not a panacea but its benefits would include: reducing the artificially high value of our dollar; helping exporters and local producers; taxing the parasitic activity of the unproductive financial sector as well as enabling a dramatic reduction in the iniquitous GST. FTT is a tax whose time has come.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

When Snow Melts: Vancouver’s Olympic Crackdown

By Dave Zirin Edge of Sports News Flash: Winter Olympic officials in tropical Vancouver have been forced to import snow – on the public dime – to make sure that the 2010 games proceed as planned. This use of tax-dollars is just the icing on the cake for increasingly angry Vancouver residents. And unlike the snow, the anger shows no signs of abating. As Olympic Resistance Network organizer Harsha Walia wrote in the Vancouver Sun, “With massive cost over-runs and Olympic project bailouts, it is not surprising that a November 2009 Angus Reid poll found that more than 30 per cent of [British Columbia] residents feel the Olympics will have a negative impact and almost 40 per cent support protesters. A January 2010 EKOS poll found that almost 70 per cent believe that too much is being spent on the Games.” 

Officials are feeling the anger, and the independent media, frighteningly, is paying the price. Just as Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman was held in November for trying to cross the border for reasons that had nothing to do with the Olympic Games, Martin Macias Jr., an independent media reporter from Chicago, was detained and held for seven hours by Canada Border Services agents before being put on a plane and sent to Seattle. Macias, who is 20 years old, is a media reform activist with community radio station Radio Arte where he serves as the host/producer of First Voice, a radio news zine.
I spoke to Martin Macias today and he described a chilling scene of detention and expulsion. “I was asked the same questions for three and a half hours in a small room. They told me I had no right to a lawyer. I went from frustrated and angry to scared. I didn’t know what the laws were or how the laws had been changed for the Olympics. I kept telling them I wasn’t going to Vancouver to protest but to cover the protests but for them that was one and the same. This is bigger than me. We need to ask who is exactly ordering this kind of repression. Is it the government? The IOC? Why the crackdown?”
Then insult on top of injury when they deported Macias and insisted he pay his own way out of the country. “They wanted me to buy a $1,300 plane ticket back to Chicago. I said ‘no way’ and now I’m in Seattle.”
Martin’s story is not unique. Two delegates aiming to attend an indigenous assembly taking place alongside the games were also detained and turned away.
For people with just a passing knowledge of our neighbors to the north, it must all seem quite shocking. When we think of human rights abuses and suppression of dissent, Canada is hardly the first place that comes to mind. But there actually is a long history in Canada of this kind of abuse of power. The latest chapter in that history has been written during the pre-Olympic crackdown of 2010. Now as protestors and independent, unembedded journalists gather for the February 10-15 anti-Olympic convergence, as tax dollars go toward importing snow, the need to silence dissent becomes an International Olympic Committee imperative.
As Chicago’s Bob Quellos, who entered Vancouver successfully after accompanying Macias, said to me,
“Walking the streets, residents here are very clear about who is responsible for the billions of dollars of Olympic debt they will be paying off for generations. They are outraged that the over $1 billion that is being spent on security has placed a cop on almost every corner of Downtown Vancouver. And they are outraged by the government’s priorities. For example, while Vancouver’s Downtown East Side struggles with poverty similar to third-world countries and social programs continue to be gutted, VANOC is spending an untold amount of money helicoptering in snow to the Olympic venue of Cypress Mountain that would otherwise be a mud hill due to the warm weather.” 

It’s not hard to deduce why the snow is melting: it’s the heat on the street.
[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at] See also: The Vancouver Olympic Blues

Friday, 19 February 2010

Michael Albert: Fifth International?!

By Michael Albert 

Znet January 21, 2010 
 To be a contender, “21st Century Socialist” vision needs elaboration, advocacy, and program. To improve focus and increase power, worldwide anti-capitalist organizations, projects, and movements need shared coherence and mutual solidarity. To fulfill these needs, Venezuela’s President Chavez recently announced to widespread support and also some critical response that a gathering in Caracas this April would establish a new International. [See Historic decision to form socialist Fifth International] But what might this new International look like? What might it accomplish? How might people, such as those reading this essay, and particularly people in grassroots movements around the world, relate to it?

Proposal for a Participatory Socialist International

From Znet
We, the undersigned, endorse the idea of a new International and urge that its creation include assessing, refining, augmenting, and then implementing as many of the following points as the International’s participants themselves, after due deliberation, decide mutually agreeable: 

1. A new International should be primarily concerned (at least) with: • economic production, consumption, and allocation, including class relations • kinship nurturance, socialization, house keeping, and procreation, including gender, sexuality, and age • cultural community relations including race, nationality, and religion • politics including relations of law and legislation • international relations including matters of mutual aid, exchange, and immigration • ecology including relations with the natural environment and other species And that the new International should address these concerns without elevating any one focus above the rest, since (a) all will critically affect the character of a new world, (b) unaddressed each could subvert efforts to reach a new world, and (c) the constituencies most affected by each would be intensely alienated if their prime concerns were relegated to secondary importance.

2. Our vision for a Participatory Socialist future should (at least) include that: • economic production, consumption, and allocation be classless - which includes equitable access for all to quality education, health care, food, water, sanitation, housing, meaningful and dignified work, and the instruments and conditions for personal fulfillment • gender/kinship, sexual, and family relations not privilege by age, sexual preference, or gender any one group above others - which includes ending all forms of oppression of women while providing day care, recreation, health care, etc. • culture and community relations among races, ethnic groups, religions, and other cultural communities protect the rights and identity of each community up to equally respecting those of all other communities - which includes an end to racist, ethnocentric, and otherwise bigoted structures while simultaneously securing the prosperity and rights of indigenous people • political decision making, adjudication of disputes, and implementation of shared programs deliver “people’s power” in ways that do not elevate any one sector or constituency above others - which includes participation and justice for all • international trade, communication, and other interactions attain peace and justice while dismantling all vestiges of colonialism and imperialism - which includes canceling the debt of nations of the global south and reconstructing international norms and relations to move toward an equitable and just community of equally endowed nations • ecological choices not only be sustainable, but care for the environment in accord with our highest aspirations for ourselves and our world - which includes climate justice and energy innovation
 3. The guiding values and principles informing internal strategic and programmatic deliberations of an International highlight at least the following values which includes implementing whatever structural steps prove essential to organizationally embody the values as well as possible in the present: • solidarity, to help align worldwide movements and projects into mutual aid and collective benefit • diversity, to spur creative innovation, respect dissent, and recognize that minority views thought to be crazy today can lead to what is brilliant tomorrow • equity, to seek wealth and income fairness • peace with justice, to realize international fairness and fulfillment • ecological sustainability and wisdom, to seek human survival and interconnection • “democracy” or perhaps even a more inspiring conception of “people’s power,” “participatory democracy,” or “self management,” to foster participation and equitable influence for all
 4. That a new International be the greatest sum of all its parts, including rejecting confining itself to a single line to capture all views in one narrow pattern. To achieve this the new International should: • include and celebrate “currents” to serve as vehicles for contending views, help ward off sectarianism, and aid constant growth 
 • establish that currents should respect the intentions of other currents, assume that differences over policy are about substance and not motive, and pursue substantive debate as a serious part of the whole project
 • afford each current means to openly engage with all other currents to try to advance new insights bearing on policy and program. 
 • guarantee that as long as any particular current accepts the basic tenets of the International and operates in accord with its norms and methods, its minority positions would be given space not only to argue, but, if they don’t prevail, to continue developing their views to establish their merit or discover their inadequacies
 5. Members of the new International would be political parties, movements, organizations, or even projects, where: • members, employees, staff, etc., of each new International member organization would in turn gain membership in the International
 • individuals who want to be members of the International but have no member group that they belong too, would have to join one
 • every member group would have its own agenda for its separate operations which would be inviolable 
 • at the same time, each member group would be strongly urged to make its own operations consistent with the norms, practices, and agendas of the International,establishing solidarity but also autonomy. 
 • member groups would have a wide range of sizes - but since the International’s decisions would not bind groups other than regarding the collective International agenda, a good way to arrive at decisions might be serious discussion and exploration, followed by polls of the whole International membership to see peoples’ leanings, followed by refinements of proposals to seek greater support and to allow dissidents to make their case, culminating in final votes of the membership 6. Programmatically, of course what a new International chooses to do will be contextual and a product of its members desires, but, for example: • a new International might call for international events and days of dissent, for support campaigns for existing struggles by member organizations, and for support of member organizations against repression, as well as undertake widespread debates and campaigns to advance related understanding and mutual knowledge... 
 • more ambitiously, an International might also undertake, for example, a massive international focus on immigration, on ending a war, on shortening the work week worldwide, and/or on averting climatic catastrophe, among other possibilities. It might prepare materials, undertake education, pursue actions, carry out boycotts, support local endeavors, etc.
 • general program would be up to member organizations to decide how to relate to, yet there would be considerable collective momentum for each member organization to participate and contribute as best it could in collective campaigns and projects since clearly one reason to have an International is to help organizations, movements, and projects worldwide escape single-issue loneliness by becoming part of a larger process encompassing diverse focuses and united by agreements to implement various shared endeavors. === To Endorse please: Click Here!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Major union support for minimum wage campaign

Picket outside Auckland Central National MP Nikki Kaye's office, 13 February
The $15 minimum wage campaign initiated by Unite Union has been given a boost with one of the country's biggest unions, the Engineering,Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) coming out in support of the CIR petition. The latest issue of Metal, the EPMU's journal, carries a front-page article on the campaign and a copy of the petition. According to the article, the EPMU’s national executive is "throwing the union’s weight behind" the campaign, and urges members to support it. The campaign has gained wide public support, particularly with the recent announcement that the National Government plans to raise GST to $15. So far, over 100,000 signatures have been collected, but around 300,000 are needed by May 7 to force a referendum. The support from the EPMU - hopefully to be followed by other major unions - gives the campaign a better chance of reaching its goal. To get copies of the petition, or to help the campaign, go to or call Joe Carolan on 029 445 5702.

Tamil refugees holding out for justice

By Jay Fletcher Green Left Weekly After four months, the conditions on a cargo vessel at Port Merak holding more than 240 Tamil refugees have become increasingly squalid. The refugees’ boat had been travelling towards Australia when the Australian government requested Indonesia intercept it. Almost half of those onboard are United Nations recognised refugees and all are fleeing persecution by the Sri Lankan government. Stuck at Merak, the refugees won’t leave the boat due to Indonesia’s poor treatment of asylum seekers. But Australia won’t help them either. Sara Nathan, a Tamil activist living in Sydney, and Pamela Curr, from Melbourne’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, along with Canadian activist Jessica Chandrashekar, visited Indonesia over January 25-29 to try to alleviate the dire situation.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

"$15ph not 15% GST" picket outside National MP's Whangarei office

by Vaughan Gunson

20 people joined a picket outside Whangarei National Party MP Phil Heatley's electoral office as part of nationwide pickets called by the Campaign for a Living Wage.

Linking the campaign to lift the minimum wage to $15ph with popular opposition to a GST hike resulted in a pretty good turn-out for a Whangarei action. And there were heaps of toots of support from passers-by.

The Green Party, Socialist Worker, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) and the Progressive Party were represented on the picket, along with other local activists and workers.

The picket had good media coverage, with a story in the local paper the night before, a radio story the day after, and a follow up photo in the local paper. The action has given a boost to the minimum wage campaign in Whangarei, as well as broad left cooperation in general.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Christchurch minimum wage protest

Up to 20 people joined Unite’s “National has no love for workers” protest outside list MP Nicky Wagner’s Christchurch office on Saturday February 13. The protest was part of a national day of action. The protest bought together many of those who have been actively supporting Unite’s petition to have the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour and pegged to two thirds of the average wage. Following the protest, half a dozen people collected signatures inside the nearby South City shopping mall. Then an informal planning meeting was held. With only a few months to go, and with 150,000 to 200,000 signatures still required, activists agreed to step-up their efforts, with greater coordination between the groups involved. Petition collectors will continue to target large public events, such as concerts, motor sports and sports events, as well as doing more to engage some of the many other groups who have expressed verbal support for the campaign.

Monday, 15 February 2010

COMRADES IN THE CAFE #1: Marxism & popular culture

Socialist Worker Auckland presents: * COMRADES IN THE CAFE *
An informal get-together for socialists, radicals, revolutionaries & troublemakers to relax & shoot the breeze.
Columbus Cafe cnr Onehunga Mall & Princes Street, Onehunga 3 pm, Sunday 21st February - 1st SESSION - Daphne Lawless will give her thoughts on what happens when Marxism collides with popular culture. You are invited to loudly but politely disagree. This (hopefully) is the first in a monthly series. RSVP or 027 220 9552.

Left groups supports Burmese workers struggle

Left groups in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, South Africa, Australia & New Zealand have expressed their support for striking workers in Burma. Workers at the Taiyi shoe factory and Opal 2 garment factory began a strike on Monday, 8 February 2010. They are demanding an increase in salary of 10.000 Kyat (US$ 10), a reduction of working hours and the provision of a clean space for meal. The strike started in the Mya Fashion garment factory in No. 3 Factory Zone of Rangoon’s Hlaing Thrayar Township. Now they are being blocked by riot police trucks. At least 50 trucks packed with riot police carrying assault rifles and shields were dispatched. They are prevented from leaving the factory zone and no one has been allowed to enter. Police securing roads surrounding the Hlaingtharyar Industrial Zone, about 11 km outside the biggest city, Yangon [also known as Rangoon]. Overall the working conditions in Burma are getting worse. The Burmese military regime is pro-foreign capital, and depends on cheap wages and deplorable working conditions to attract foreign investments. Like other democratic rights in Burma, the democratic rights of workers such as freedom to form trade unions is also being repressed. The rise of the working class is a good sign of the possibility of fundamental changes in Burma. The rise of the working class should be supported by all people’s movements in Burma and internationally. We the undersigned organizations and political parties support the struggle of Burma’s working class and demand: • The workers’ just demands must be fulfilled. • Reject any form of repression of workers. • Full democratic rights for the workers including the right to organize, build independent trade union and form political parties. We declare our fullest support to the people of Burma to build a democratic Burma. Because only with a democratic Burma can prosperity and justice be achieved. SIGNATORIES • Working Peoples Association (Indonesia) • Singapore Democratic Party • Socialist Party of Malaysia • Socialist Alternative (Australia) • Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance • Socialist Worker (New Zealand) • Socialist Alliance (Australia) • Young Democrats (Singapore) • Partido ng Manggangawa (Philippines) • Congress of South African Trade Unions • Partido Lakas ng Masa (Philippines) • World Federation of Trade Union (Asia Pacific Region) • Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (Philippine)

Filipino Progressive leaders to tour NZ late 2010

Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa appeals for funds
‘Justice and Liberation: The Road to Peace’ speaking tour by Coni Ledesma and Luis Jalandoni, representatives of Representative of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Luis Jalandoni is the International Representative of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF), a post that he has held since 1977, and since 1994 he has been the Chairperson of the NDF’s Negotiating Panel for peace talks with the Government of the Philippines. The NDF is the coalition of several underground groups, including the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army, which has been waging a war of liberation throughout the Philippines for more than 40 years, making it one of the longest running armed struggles in the world. The country desperately needs peace with justice and security, so resolving this people’s war is central to that. Luis (who previously toured New Zealand in 1987) has accepted our invitation to undertake a national speaking tour late in 2010 (November is the proposed month). His tour is being collectively organised and hosted by PSNA, Auckland Philippines Solidarity and Wellington Kiwi Pinoy. His topic will be: Justice And Liberation: The Road To Peace In The Philippines. We will put together a national network of people to organise and host him in several cities and towns in both islands. Luis will be accompanied by his wife Coni Ledesma, who will also be speaking. She is a member of the NDF Negotiating Panel for peace talks; and is the International Spokesperson of MAKIBAKA, a revolutionary women’s group which belongs to the NDF. This is the first time we’ve had two speakers together, let alone such high powered ones. Luis and Coni are both veteran leading figures in the Philippine revolutionary Left. He was a Catholic priest in the 1960s and she was a nun. Both were founders of Christians for National Liberation, a member group of the NDF. When Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, both went underground. They were both arrested and spent time as political prisoners. They left the clergy, and got married in 1974. They have lived in The Netherlands since 1976; they were the first Filipinos to apply for and receive political asylum there. They hold Dutch passports and travel extensively as NDF representatives. We are appealing for funds. PSNA will underwrite the tour, but we definitely need financial help because we are hosting two people. The amount needed is at least $10,000. Two international fares from Europe will be the biggest cost. We will keep their domestic travel costs as cheap as possible (all accommodation will be in private homes). Please make cheques to PSNA, Box 2450, Christchurch, with a note saying that it is for the Jalandoni tour. Or, we will supply our bank account details upon request. Luis Jalandoni’s tour presents a unique opportunity to hear firsthand about a four decades long war, and accompanying peace process, in our own backyard that is almost totally unknown to New Zealanders. Please help make this exciting tour possible. Contact Philippines Solidarity Network Aotearoa: Email: c/- Webpage: Post: PO Box 2450 Christchurch New Zealand

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Obama's Democrats are failing

By Lance Selfa
The Democrats’ failures to help ease the pain of the jobs crisis or promote real health care “reform” have created a political vacuum that the Republicans are trying to fill.
IN TWO consecutive national elections, in 2006 and 2008, voters handed the Democratic Party landslide victories. When Barack Obama took the oath of office for the presidency a little over one year ago, the Democrats held the strongest governing majority that either major party had had since the 1970s. One year later, in the wake of Republican Scott Brown’s victory in a special Senate election in Massachusetts on January 19, the Democratic Party is reeling.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Maori Party should not support Nat’s GST hike

Rahui Katene, Finance Spokesperson for the Maori Party, has hit out at National’s proposed rise in GST. In a speech to Parliament on Tuesday 9 February, she said:
It would appear that we are shifting the burden of taxation from the people who can pay it to those who can’t. For those at the top income level, there are ways and means of claiming the GST back – they can set up trusts, they can increase rents, they can make the end user pay. But for those at the bottom level, there is no other place they can claim the money back from.
Katene who is the sponsor for the Goods and Services Tax (Exemption of Healthy Food) Amendment Bill, repeated her party’s call for GST to be removed from healthy food. And for the first $25,000 of income to be tax free. She also expressed Maori Party support for “a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour”. Despite this, Katene and the other Maori Party MPs look likely to vote for the increase, as part of their “confidence and supply” agreement with National. The central issue appears to be the “compensation” the Government says it will pay to pensioners, beneficiaries and low income workers with children (through Working for Families), and the promise that low income workers will get tax cuts as well as the wealthy. However, such measures will provide short term relief at best. As prices continue to rise, compensation will be eaten away. A 2.5 percent increase in GST will continue taking money out of our pockets forever. Economic justice for the majority (e.g. the the 70 percent whose incomes are less that $40,000) means opposing a GST increase and tax cuts for the rich and all other moves that shift “the burden of taxation from the people who can pay it to those who can’t.” It means campaigning to take GST off food, to reduce taxes on the working poor and increase taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations – who’s ultimate source of wealth is the exploitation of workers and the natural environment. Through their support for taking GST off food, the Maori Party have made a stronger contribution to this campaign than any other party in Parliament. They should stand by this commitment and refuse to support National’s GST hike.
Above: Hone Harawira, Maori Party MP for Te Tai Tokerau, signing RAMs the GST-off-food petition at the Kaitaia Markets

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Rahui Katene: Shifting the burden of taxation to those who can’t pay

Rahui Katene
Finance Spokesperson for the Maori Party Prime Minister’s Debate Tuesday 9 February 2010
There was a statement that the Prime Minister made in his speech this afternoon that I am sure would be endorsed by every single member of the Maori Party – and I’m talking about the 23,000 members not just the five in this House. It was the recognition that he was “impressed and heartened by the resilience and optimism of New Zealanders and by their desire to do better for themselves, their families and their communities”. As I travel across Te Tai Tonga I am frequently in contact with people who are struggling to survive. The median family income for my constituents is $54,500 – some five thousand less than the median family income for New Zealand as a whole. Five thousand dollars that makes a difference at the petrol pump, at the supermarket checkout, at the pharmacy, at the bank. Today we are asking those same people to agree to a rise in GST to 15 percent. GST, of course, is an issue dear to my heart. Tomorrow, I will once again submit into the ballot my private members bill, the Goods and Services Tax (Exemption of Healthy Food) Amendment Bill. This is a bill which has directly responded to the situation for the people of Te Tai Tonga; the people of the Maori electorate, every day New Zealanders who are powerfully motivated by the desire to do better for themselves, their families and their communities. These every day New Zealanders have suffered from the impact of food prices which have risen more than twenty percent in the last three years, while real incomes have risen only very slightly. Within that, we know that increases for the staples of a nutritious diet – such as fruit, vegetables and milk – have been particularly high. In response to the long term impacts this could have on public health, organisations such as the Public Health Association of New Zealand Inc and the Heart Foundation of New Zealand, have called for goods and services tax to be removed from foods which constitute a healthy diet to make them more affordable. I repeat – their call is for GST to be removed – not to rocket up to 15%. I want to make it absolutely clear that the challenge faced by many of our families is of the harshest kind. It is our families who suffer from the reality that New Zealand’s after tax distribution is one of the most unequal in the OECD. It is our families, disproportionately, who are suffering from the unacceptable level of child poverty. Rates which are so dire that the 2008 Survey of Living Standards reported 19 percent of children are experiencing serious hardship and unacceptably severe restrictions on their living standards. Mr Speaker, these are the faces of the families that I take with me into this debate. We are pleased that our consistent call to remember these families has been reflected in the announcements made earlier today by the Prime Minister. We have welcomed the decision of the Government that any decrease in personal tax would be done across the board. If there are across the board personal tax cuts, then we will certainly be doing everything we can to ensure that our people will see some sort of benefit. We have certainly noted the statement of the Prime Minister that fairness is a very important consideration to this Government. And so we will be talking closely with the Government about finding a common context for what we mean by fair. Is it fair that 51% of beneficiary families with children are ranked as experiencing serious hardship? Is it fair that 28% of families with children had serious health problems for at least one child in the past year? Is it fair that for 22% of families keeping the house warm is described as a major problem, with another 17 percent saying that dampness or mould were major problems? The challenge we face as a Parliament, is to ensure that the current levels of inequality and poverty are not intensified by the tax package highlighted today. It would appear that we are shifting the burden of taxation from the people who can pay it to those who can’t. For those at the top income level, there are ways and means of claiming the GST back – they can set up trusts, they can increase rents, they can make the end user pay. But for those at the bottom level, there is no other place they can claim the money back from. And so we will be greatly interested in the discussions around fairness and equitable outcomes, particularly as they relate to the low income. The key thing for us is that there is an opportunity for dialogue; and within that we hope to put forward some of the key ideas that we have promoted from the Maori Party. And so I go back to that collective desire that I would hope we share across this House, to respond to the aspiration of the people to do better for themselves, their families and their communities. As a first start we must do something to unacceptable levels of serious hardship that compromise living standards. We must increase the minimum wage – and by more than 25 cents – we want to see a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour. We are greatly pleased that the benefits, superannuation and working for families policies will be increased to assist people on low incomes. Now if we were really to show a level of responsibility for those more vulnerable, we would put measures in place to ensure that the first $25,000 of income is tax free. We need leaders who see that small is the new big. We need visionaries who can create opportunities for a new economy, who are not mired in old thinking and tainted by the existing economy. We need more Grameen banks - we need community banks. Vision is what we need – not more of the same. And so as a Coalition Partner with the Government we expect to be involved in discussions concerning the nature of the income support provided to New Zealanders. We do support the goals of reducing dependency on benefits, but it is absolutely critical that at the same time we maintain an appropriate safety net for those in genuine need. We are really concerned about the vulnerability of sole parents to fluctuating income. Sudden change can often have a detrimental effect on the whole whanau. We know that far too easily families go further into debt just to meet the basic costs of food, rent and power. For too many of these families the opportunity to take up full time work is simply not available. While we are supportive of efforts to gain better entry of Maori into the workforce, we will not accept any proposals which threaten the capacity of whanau to be able to maintain a reasonable standard of living. We do not want to see our whanau in a worse off position through any of the ideas being floated. And in this regard, I am honour bound to remind the House that in the design of the Working for Families, the policy architects of that scheme effectively cut out the poorest 200,000 children who have been left, floundering, in increasing poverty. Finally I bring us back to a concept that resonates with tangata whenua – He aha te mea nui o te Ao, what is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is people, it is people, it is people.

Minimum wage protests Sat Feb 13

Photo from Socialist Aotearoa
No love for the workers The National Government have shown their contempt for low paid workers in New Zealand, by throwing 25 cents to those on the minimum wage. Half a million workers in NZ earn less than $15 an hour, and people simply can’t make ends meet on such low pay. The day before Valentine’s Day, join your fellow workers in nationwide pickets of your local National Party MPs offices. They have shown that they have no love for the workers
 – there is no quarter from National!

 Protests organised so far for Saturday February 13th: 

 Auckland Central – Nicky Kay’s Office 82 College Hill Freemans Bay at 12.30-2pm Kuemu – John Key’s office, (365 State Highway 16) at 3pm. Hamilton – Hamilton East National MP David Bennett 510 Grey Street, (Corner Grey and Bridge Streets) at 12 noon Whanganui – Assemble at Majestic Square at 11.30am Christchurch – 10 am to 12 noon, outside Nicky Wagner’s Christchurch Office at 189 Montreal St – opposite South City Mall. Oamaru – National MP for Otago Jacqui Dean’s office is 42 Thames St, Oamaru. See you there at 11.25-3.25.
 Check out the NO LOVE FOR WORKERS facebook page for updates.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Afghanistan: war without end

British soldier punished for speaking truth By Mark Steel Politicians and newspapers love to revere a war hero from Afghanistan. It’s strange, then, that they haven’t got round to Lance-Corporal Joe Glenton, the British soldier who has been arrested for addressing an anti-war protest in October. His crime was to conclude that the war was making matters worse, it was immoral to carry on fighting and to say this publicly. So they put him in a military jail, presumably to stop him doing it again. 

As a soldier, this must leave you in a state of confusion, as I doubt whether the initial briefing includes a section that goes: “Now then, men, during your tour of duty with the British Army, I implore you to remain vigilant and wary at all times of the wily foes known as the British Army.” 
More recent articles on Afghanistan and the 'war without end' • Anti-war soldier Joe Glenton’s charges dropped • Afghan war kills three kids a day • Bribe plan for the Taliban • Blackwater is operating in Pakistan • Guantanamo: Murder, lies and a cover-up • Blair: No regrets and I’d bomb Iran

Monday, 8 February 2010

Waitangi Day discussion: Sina Brown-Davis

Sina Brown-Davis Whenua Fenua Enua Vanua 1) After almost three decades of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, of “biculturalism” and “partnership” between Maori and the Crown, Maori remain at the bottom of all social statistics, such as income, employment and life expectancy. Why is this? And what can be done about it? The settlement regime is a neoliberal extinguishment of land & Treaty rights. Its purpose was twofold, to co-opt & contain & pacify a radical treaty protest/land rights movement within the state’s neoliberal agenda. Secondly, with Maori leadership focused on the settlement of historical grievances with the state, the vast majority of non tribal working class urbanized Maori were easy to be forgotten as the rubbish of structural adjustment. Working class Maori still haven’t recovered from the extremist economic “reforms” of the eighties when an entire generation of Maori & Pacific Island children and youth has suffered under the reforms launched by the Labour government of 1984-90. This is exactly what was intended way back when the treaty settlement process & fiscal envelope were touted and subsequently implemented. Maori have already been kicked in the guts from the recession; disproportionally we have already the highest percentage of recently unemployed. Treaty settlements distracted us from our struggle, when our grassroots whanau were going to the wall. The great majority of our flax roots, our workers, our youth, our gang members and all our whanau at the bottom of the heap struggling to survive. The most dispossessed in Aotearoa will have nothing to loose. The liberation of the great mass of our people will not come with more failed parliamentary reformism. If an economic structural adjustment put & kept our people on the bottom of the heap only a peoples’ structural adjustment (a revolution) will improve the negative social indicators & living standards of Maori. The Maori Party’s cooption within the National government is completely opposed to the interests of the majority of Maori who are working class. It seems foolish to try & enact a pro Maori agenda (albeit a conservative one) within an anti worker & anti environment government. The recent Maori Party endorsement of Nationals ETS [Emissions Trading Scheme], put the interests of the dairy industry and the tribal capitalists of Iwi Corporations, ahead of duty to care for our environment & the survival of Indigenous peoples in the Pacific . What to do? Working class Maori, our beneficiaries, our gang whanau, our youth need to educate themselves about their struggle & organise in their communities & workplaces. We can’t afford to think that any political party will represent our interests. Self Determination can come from below, Tino Rangatiratanga will only be meaningful & lasting if it comes from below. 2) A huge amount of land stolen from Maori is now in private hands, but Treaty settlements only involve Crown land. Despite this, both National and Labour MPs have condemned the on-going occupation of privately owned land by members of Ngati Kahu in Taipa, Northland. What are your views on this protest? Should privately owned land be part of Treaty settlements? The sacred cow, middle-class property rights. Ripe for the picking. Occupations should increase & intensify, not only against privately owned land, but land & resources taken by transnational corporations.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Waitangi Day discussion: Potaua Biasiny-Tule

Potaua Biasiny-Tule 1) After almost three decades of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, of “biculturalism” and “partnership” between Maori and the Crown, Maori remain at the bottom of all social statistics, such as income, employment and life expectancy. Why is this? And what can be done about it? Why? Because the system of European invasion and colonisation shifted the fundamental way of living for Maori and the continued occupation of Aotearoa by New Zealand means that many Maori will unduly carry the burdens of history at least until the day that some things are made right. Many do see the Settlement process as unfair and my experience within that system says that political expediency, legal over-extension and inter-tribal out-maneuvering errs dangerously on the side of continued grievances but the story must be told, the hurt expressed and some amount of sorrow let out. This is all a part of letting go of the pain and the hurt and then looking back, as a community and as a nation, to assess where things are today. Idiots like Michael Laws aside, there is a genuine want to bring compassion and understanding to the injustices of the past and like those who fell in the World Wars, there is usually a feeling to forgive and in some instance, not to forget. But this shouldn’t stop us from opening the past, today. The Waitangi Tribunal is one of the few places where the many sides do come together to air out our nations dirty laundry – what better place – so that all might help with the clean up. And we must remember – it is not just Maori at the bottom of our society. I have met many Pakeha, Samoan, South African and Indian families who just survive week to week. The cost of things in New Zealand are high, compared to the amount of money many of us earn. One emergency, like a family bout of flu, has the ability to knock everything out – the bills pile up, the red notices arrive, anxiety soars. This is a condition that all live with and everyone should be thinking more about. We are here in this land of plenty, this land of milk and honey, yet poverty still plagues hundreds and thousands of our communities. I don’;t know the answer and look forward to others suggesting what we can do to lift the entire level. As for the the relationship between Maori and the Crown. Many Maori flocked to catch a glimpse of Prince William recently; it seemed ironic that he was here to open the Supreme Court but the Royals still find followers in some Maori households. Hospitality aside, I think it is time for our own statement of autonomy and independence, positioning Aotearoa-New Zealand outside of the Crowns grasp and more responsive to the population who live here. There should be less and less old school, colonial defenses for the NZ Govt to hide behind and more reasons for a local Constitution to determine how we control ourselves and more importantly, how we can control our own Government. It does seem tyrannical to think that successive Governments can ignore their own Commissions and Legal Recommendations. Perhaps the campaign for binding citizens referendum should be picked up again? The Iwi Leaders Forum is attempting to match this National Government, especially on matters pertaining to the ownership of water (here in Rotorua, it is still strange to hear that Te Arawa own the lakes but not the water) but are catching criticism for channeling information arouind the review of the Seabed and Foreshore Act. Wasn’t the SB & FS Hikoi a response by whanau, hapu AND iwi to stop the Government from stealing Maori coastal lands and to ensure legal mechanisms for challenge remained open? I guess this is all a part of the criticism around iwi entities that utilise settlement money’s to control feedback and voice. My 5 cents worth is that Labour were wrong in passing the Act and a full repeal is required - start again rather than trying to fix a shonky ship. The future needs first to agree on language, as this Government/Crown dichotomy is false and perpetuates the framework many of us examine. 2) A huge amount of land stolen from Maori is now in private hands, but Treaty settlements only involve Crown land. Despite this, both National and Labour MPs have condemned the on-going occupation of privately owned land by members of Ngati Kahu in Taipa, Northland. What are your views on this protest? Should privately owned land be part of Treaty settlements? Tautoko. For me, stolen land is stolen land, no matter who lives on there now. This is tough as Maori desperately want to return home, to be reconnected with the land beneath our feet and to feel the sky upon our shoulders. It has been a tough 170 years, and for some, even longer. My people of Tuhoe lament the confiscation of our tribal lands everyday and to us, it does not matter that the Urewera National Park is a national treasure – first and foremost it was our home and was illegally and immorally stolen from our people. We treasure its place as a world heritage site but the world must respect the fact that these lands were dispossessed and it is these lands, not huge sums of money, that must be returned. It might not be comfortable but it is only right. I tautoko Ngati Kahu and all those hapu who are forced to noho whenua in the face of private property issues and historical ignorance. The minute we give up is the second FOR SALE signs go up across all Maori land. Many want us to sell or give up our rights as private property forms the basis of western capitalism. The property crash only highlighted that fact. We have to keep fioghting just to ensure our whanau continue to have a place to stand in this land. My view for Waitangi Day is always mixed – it is a day to celebrate, to openly come together and to show we can live up to the talk of tolerance, inclusiveness and living in this country as one, yet uniquely ourselves. What continues to piss me off is the inability to feel the change that so many of our leaders talk about. I want the past to be addressed and remembered for what it was but also want to imagine what a better tomorrow might look like. As a whanau, we want to be able to find work that is good for us and that we are good at, to earn what our whanau in Oz earn but with all the benefits of staying home in this beautifully clean and fresh land, We want to be able to swim in clean waters, to have access to affordable health care and to be respected when practicing my beliefs (which is about respecting nga atua). I’ve tried to say that this year I will spend more time with my wife and kids and will try to be positive, to keep my head up and remain focused. Sure, it’s a bit ideal but way better than being bitter and spiteful. Besides, we can still smile as we fight the good fight.

Waitangi Day discussion: Hone Harawira

Hone Harawira, Maori Party MP for Tai Tokerau
1) After almost three decades of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, of “biculturalism” and “partnership” between Maori and the Crown, Maori remain at the bottom of all social statistics, such as income, employment and life expectancy. Why is this? And what can be done about it? A few reasons why government(s) continue to triumph in the war against TINO RANGATIRATANGA are (1) they co-opt the phraseology and water it down or (2) they make out like they accept the idea, they include it in their “thinking”, and then they drown it in their bureaucratic cesspit and (3) they co-opt the people. A few reasons why we are losing the battle are (1) because it’s hard to fight a big government when you don’t have genuine unity (2) because Maori have become sooooo educated that we think the pakeha way is the only way and that when the pakeha government says something should be done a certain way we think a victory is when we’ve changed a few of their words and (3) all this IWI business has got too many Maori running around looking after only their own little patch, and forgetting the basic tenet that “no-one is free until everyone is free.” 2) A huge amount of land stolen from Maori is now in private hands, but Treaty settlements only involve Crown land. Despite this, both National and Labour MPs have condemned the on-going occupation of privately owned land by members of Ngati Kahu in Taipa, Northland. What are your views on this protest? Should privately owned land be part of Treaty settlements? I support the protest because justice isn’t served by simply returning one wheel of a stolen car (and to date, settlements are running at about 5% of the value of the claims). Where land was taken improperly and is now in private hands, government(s) should take steps to ensure either that land is returned, or suitable compensation is arranged. See the answers above for why we don’t get justice.

Friday, 5 February 2010

UNITYblog Waitangi Day discussion

Waitangi Day is supposed to celebrate the founding of the nation-state of New Zealand, but whereas Independence Day in the US (and many other former colonies) celebrates the end of colonial rule, Waitangi Day celebrates its beginning. Because the promises made to Maori in the Treaty have not been honoured, and because the Treaty marks the formal beginning not of a partnership between Maori and the Crown, but of the dispossession of Maori by the Crown, Waitangi Day has often been a day of protest. For me Waitangi Day will always be day to celebrate and reflect on Maori resistance to colonisation and the on-going struggle for tino rangatiratanga. With this in mind, UNITYblog asked a number of tino rangatiratanga activists to give their views on these two (or four) questions:
1) After almost three decades of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, of “biculturalism” and “partnership” between Maori and the Crown, Maori remain at the bottom of all social statistics, such as income, employment and life expectancy. Why is this? And what can be done about it? 2) A huge amount of land stolen from Maori is now in private hands, but Treaty settlements only involve Crown land. Despite this, both National and Labour MPs have condemned the on-going occupation of privately owned land by members of Ngati Kahu in Taipa, Northland. What are your views on this protest? Should privately owned land be part of Treaty settlements?
We’ll be posting responses from Saturday morning. If you’d like to contribute something to this discussion, you can either add a comment to this article, to the posts from other people, or email a contribution to the editor.
David UNITYblog editor

Video: ASB Exposed as lying Banksters (MR NEWS)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Waihopai Ploughshares ‘Domebusters’ go on trial, 8 March

At 6am on the morning of 30 April 2008, three members of a Christian Ploughshares team entered the Waihopai spy base and used sickles to deflate one of the two 30 metre domes covering satellite interception dishes. They then built a shrine and prayed for the victims of the war with no end – the so-called ‘war on terror’ led by the United States government which also controls the NZ taxpayer funded Waihopai base.
The trial of the Waihopai Ploughshares team has been set to begin in Wellington on 8 March 2010. More information about Waihopai Ploughshares is available at and ABC (Anti-Bases Campaign) hold protests at Waihopai most years. This year’s was the weekend before last. It generated more than the usual amount of publicity, because in that weekend’s Sunday Star Times was a story by researcher Nicky Harger – who first uncovered the spy base’s role in the US-run Echelon network – giving evidence about what the bases actually spy on. The collection of this evidence, by local residents and a consultant was made possible because of the bursting of the dome that covers one of the two spy dishes by the Ploughshares activists two years ago. According to Hager:
The Kiwi spy base was pointed at various times at regions occupied by Japanese, Chinese and Russian satellites. On one day in 2009 the target was one of two Asian telecommunications satellites, one Japanese and one Vietnamese, according to the surveyor's measurements.
You can read the full story here. Also well worth listening to is this ten minute interview with ABC organisaer Murray Horton on Christchurch’s Plains FM.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Should Climate Activists Support Limits on Immigration?

by Ian Angus and Simon Butler January 24, 2010 From Climate and Capitalism
Ian Angus Simon Butler
Immigrants to the developed world have frequently been blamed for unemployment, crime and other social ills. Attempts to reduce or block immigration have been justified as necessary measures to protect “our way of life” from alien influences. Today, some environmentalists go farther, arguing that sharp cuts in immigration are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change. However sincere and well-meaning such activists may be, their arguments are wrong and dangerous, and should be rejected by the climate emergency movement.

‘Occupation & Resistance – Photos from Palestine’ in Wellington

Exhibition Opening: Tuesday February 2, 6pm Then open Wednesday - Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-3pm, Thistle Hall, corner of Cuba and Arthur Streets, Wellington

Showcasing both the daily experience of Palestinians living under occupation and the joint Palestinian-Israeli non-violent resistance to the Israeli state and military, ‘Occupation & Resistance- Photos from Palestine’ features courageous images from the front line of the struggle for justice in Palestine.

These moving images are the work of the widely published group ‘ActiveStills’, a collective of photographers based in Israel, who believe in the power of photography as a tool for social justice.

Opening night will feature music by Don Franks and Albert Williams and include the New Zealand launch of the book ‘Gaza: Beneath the Bombs’ by Sharyn Lock of the Free Gaza Movement and Sarah Irving.

Sharyn who was in Gaza during the attack by Israel last year writes about her unique account of the reality of life, including her harrowing eyewitness accounts while volunteering with Palestinian ambulance medics. Sharyn’s blog can be found at

More info about the book:  

Film screening: Slingshot Hip Hop  
Thursday February 4, 
Thistle Hall, 6pm  
koha entry

Slingshot Hip Hop braids together the stories of young Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel as they discover Hip Hop and employ it as a tool to surmount divisions imposed by occupation and poverty. From internal checkpoints and Separation Walls to gender norms and generational differences, this is the story of young people crossing the borders that separate them. More info:  

Teach in: From Palestine to Wellington  
Saturday February 6, Thistle Hall, 2-6pm  
Light refreshments provided, 
koha entry

Featuring: Don Carson — on the history of Palestine from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire up to the current peace plans. Don is a journalist who first became interested in Palestinian issues in the 70s.  
Nicholas Boyack — on the Massacre of the Palestinian village of Surafend by soldiers of the ANZAC Mounted Division in 1918. Nicholas is a journalist and former historian, his interest in Bob Dylan and the Weather Underground led him to research the Surafend Massacre.
Hamid Abu Shanab — On the impact of the occupation on his family in the Hebron area of the West Bank. Hamid is a Palestinian living in Wellington.  

Kerem Blumberg — On peace and Palestine solidarity activism inside Israel, including Anarchists Against the Wall and opposition to the 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Kerem is an Israeli peace activist who became involved in the conscientious objectors’ movement in high school.  

Te Kupu — On the links between Palestinian and Maori experiences of colonization, oppression and racial discrimination and his 2008 visit to the West Bank. Te Kupu is a tino rangariratanga activist, filmmaker and MC.

For more info: Or contact:

Monday, 1 February 2010

Ensuring tax-payers money ends up in right hands

United States:
“It was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who insisted that the nationalized insurance company AIG pay its debts at 100 cents on dollar — which meant that tens of billions in US taxpayer money flowed through AIG into the coffers of big US and European banks. “AIG paid $12.9 billion of taxpayer money to Goldman Sachs — and now, Goldman is set to pay out around $22 billion in bonuses … “So far, the U.S. government has loaned or guaranteed up to $13 trillion to financial institutions and other businesses — a figure nearly the size of the entire annual economic output of the U.S.”
— January 19 US article, “Laughing all the way to the bank”. Britain:
“[In November, 2009] it was revealed that the Bank of England had advanced £61.6 billion of our money to two banks, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HBOS, last autumn. “Bank governor Mervyn King explained to a committee of MPs that it had been necessary to send out a convoy of dumper-trucks filled with £50 notes to refill the coffers of the two busted banks so as to ‘prevent a loss of confidence spreading through the financial system as a whole’.”
— November 26 Belfast Telegraph article by Eamonn McCann. After bail-out, profits soar
“Profit at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. nearly doubled to US$8.4 billion during the first nine months of 2009 from the previous year's level, and analysts expect its full year profits to top US$10 billion. “Goldman set aside US$16.71 billion from January through September for compensation, which includes salaries, bonuses and associated costs such as benefits and payroll taxes. That puts it on pace to meet the record US$20.2 billion in compensation costs it had for all of 2007.”
— January 21 article.

Bad banks — New Zealand’s black sheep

By Paola Harvey
from Green Left Weekly, Australia
30 January 2010

Although New Zealand, like Australia, has not been as badly affected by the global economic crisis as the US or Europe, workers are facing hardship.

Bronwen Beechey, an activist from Socialist Worker New Zealand (SWNZ), told Green Left Weekly: “There’ have been a lot of redundancies, places have been closed down.”

Beechey and SWNZ activist Peter Hughes were in Sydney to attend the January 3-6 Socialist Alliance national conference. They spoke to GLW about the SWNZ’s “bad banks” campaign, which takes aim at the cause of the global financial crisis — neoliberal capitalism.

“For people on low incomes life’s just been getting tougher because [they are] losing their jobs and food prices and rents and all of it have not come down substantially”, Beechey said.

“All the indicators, the social services, people asking for assistance, for food parcels, people losing their homes — they’ve all skyrocketed.”

Hughes said employers have used the crisis to justify attacking workers’ wages and conditions. “In the last 12 months, there have been no less than eight lockouts of workers.

“One of the most shameful examples was a service provider for the elderly that insisted that if the workers in that field did not accept the minimum wage [NZ$12.50 per hour] they’d be locked out.

“That’s quite a serious indication of how they [the bosses] see the crisis being resolved to their advantage and workers’ disadvantage.”

The New Zealand government’s response has been the same as capitalist governments around the world — bail out the banks and the big capitalists, and make the workers pay.

But they are not getting it all their own way. The government’s attempt to impose an unofficial wage freeze in the public service was recently challenged. Support staff in the education sector won a small wage rise.

That win will set the tone for the upcoming nurses’ and general education unions’ wage negotiations. “No less than that, will be the call, I’m sure”, said Hughes. “So that’s a good sign.

“I heard at the [Socialist Alliance] conference, that [Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd] said that the recovery’s going to be worse than the recession.

“I’m quite sure that’s their intention for us in New Zealand as well, working people will be made to pay for the recovery — if there’s going to be one.

“But our assessment is that there can be no real recovery in the current market economy, not in the foreseeable future. That’s going to lead to all sorts of crises for them, which they will try to push on us.

“We have to organise people to resist that.”

The discussion about neoliberalism at the NZ Council of Trade Unions’ 2009 conference has opened up more space on the left to fight back against these future crises.

At the conference, union activists talked about workers’ cooperatives, building and strengthening the union movement and not accepting the neoliberal capitalist model as the only option.

Beechey said: “It also talk[ed] about climate change and the need for an alternative economic strategy which is an implicit criticism of neoliberal capitalism.”

Hughes added: “While it’s not a policy position as such, it’s a discussion that’s been opened up within the trade union movement.

“It’s not an accepted policy, it could be watered down significantly and it’ll come down to how different unions interpret that for building a broader perspective in the membership.

“[But] when you think about how closely linked the trade union movement has been to the Labour Party … this is a departure.

“The fact that they’re daring to criticise publicly this position opens up a space on the left for us to work with trade union activists in a much more healthy and progressive way.”

Many people in New Zealand continue to struggle with little indication of their situation improving in the near future.

There has been an increase in the number of houses sold due to people defaulting on their home loans. A large proportion of these have been people with one home — not property speculators.

Hughes said the defaulters “simply cannot pay because they’ve lost their job, they’ve been made redundant and they have reduced incomes”.

“That’s pretty devastating for families and has shown no sign of abating at all.”

The actions of the banks have been completely shameful. Before the crisis, banks were advertising loans for 100% of the price of a house.

But after the crisis, their ruthless approach to lending has meant many people who were lured into the property market by these loans have had their home repossessed.

“Our campaign around ‘bad banks’ is trying to make them pay really”, said Hughes. “Because they’re the ones that have played a big role [in the crisis] and they’re plundering the profits of working people.”

The bad banks campaign is focusing on demystifying what the banks actually do and how they caused the financial crisis. It is also calling for a financial transaction tax, as opposed to a goods and services tax.

A GST is a regressive tax, that is it affects the poorest the most, because the poor are taxed the same as the rich for goods despite having less ability to pay.

A financial transaction tax, on the other hand, would be a progressive tax. It would affect banks, corporations and the wealthy the most, because they account for the vast majority of financial transactions.

“We see the bad banks campaign as striking right to the heart of neo-liberalism”, Hughes said. “These banks have got their fingers in the lives of every working class person, whether it’s controlling their mortgage, their credit card, or their bank charges.

“They’re bloody pillaging basically. Their pockets are huge, they’re not paying their taxes.

“They’re not very popular with workers at the moment.”