Tuesday, 31 August 2010

South Canterbury Finance: ‘A lot of bets in the casino paid off big time today.’

It’s popular both in the “blogosphere” and on the Left to pan the mainstream media (MSM) for their often crappy reporting, bias in favour of the rich and powerful and so on. And most of the time this is right and true.

At the same time, bloggers often depend on “real” reporters to dig out and even explain news that we wouldn’t otherwise know about. The following article from the Herald is a good example.

It’s these “bargain hunting” speculators that the Tax Justice campaign is targeting with our call to “Tax Financial Speculation”.

Thanks to Peter, for forwarding this. Here are his comments:

$1.3 billion of government money paid out today to the speculators for Hubbard’s worthless South Canterbury Finance shares and bonds. Break out the $900 bottles of bubbly! Great news for the parasites, too bad for everybody else who happens to need a pay rise such as those pesky radiographers and teachers.

This will also be paid for by all those unemployed people having their entitlements chiseled away and disabled people being hammered by the ACC and WINZ. Maier’s face says it all...

Speculators reap fat reward as finance firm fails

from NZ Herald

Bargain hunters who bet against South Canterbury Finance in the NZX debt market will be rubbing their hands with glee today with the guarantee covering the failed financier’s listed bonds plus interest.

The Timaru-based finance company called in the receivers today, triggering the government’s retail deposit guarantee which will pay out the face value for the firm’s debenture and bond holders.

Prices for the company’s listed bond maturing in 2012, after the extended guarantee, fell to a deep discount earlier this year, with the yield reaching 40 per cent in March.

That meant audacious punters could buy them cheap and get paid out in full if South Canterbury failed.

“There will be a lot of money made in the listed bonds with prices up to 20, 30 and 40 per cent, which was all paid today,” chief executive Sandy Maier said in a conference call.

“A lot of bets in the casino paid off big time today.”

Sandy Maier

The yield had abated in recent weeks, and was last at 24 per cent before trading in the security was suspended.

The government will have to pay-out $125 million on the bonds.

Maier said the guarantee, which many commentators claim distorts the market, gave him confidence to accept money from “widows and children” as he sought to save the company from collapse.

The failure of the finance sector has seen a number of low-ball offers for debenture stock, and prompted the Securities Commission to warn investors to make an informed decision before accepting bids significantly below face value.

Hubbard’s ‘bad bank’

By Jenny*

While National MPs claim there is no money to pay teachers or doctors, the government prepares to hand over, up to half a billion dollars to private investors who bet on a lemon.

The lie is, that this must be done for the good of the economy.

It didn’t make any difference in the US and it won’t make any difference here.

Sinking deeper and deeper into recession, the American example shows that the idea that private sector bailouts are good for the economy is pure unadulterated bull. The only ones to benefit from public bailouts of private investment companies and bad banks, were private investment companies and bad banks, their overpaid managers and fat cat shareholders.

The US government and the country at large were impoverished by multi- billion dollar bailouts of bad banks and investment companies.

While wealthy investors were looked after, tens of thousands of average Americans who had their jobs and homes taken from them, due to the malfeasance of these same finance companies and bad banks – were shown no such largesse.

Why can’t New Zealand learn from what has what happened overseas?

The truth is that saving the economy is not what private sector bail outs are all about.

Taking care of the well off, at the expense of everyone and everything else, including the economy, is what it, is all about.

Yesterday, Liam Dann the Herald’s business editor, described how the National government has deemed Alan Hubbard’s “Bad Bank” as a New Zealand’s version of “too big to fail”.

Liam Dann on Hubbard:
Put the probe into his personal financial entities to one side. The real story is South Canterbury Finance – the $900 million liability hanging around the taxpayer’s neck…..
Hubbard lost control of that company earlier this year after it had breached its trust deed.
He was removed from the board and given the sentimental title of President for Life
By that point the Government had already effectively decided the company was too big to fail.
The bad loan “bank” is up to its neck in $600 to $700 million of debt on assets that may yield as little as half of that when they are realised.
When it is euphemistically said that South Canterbury failed to “stick to its knitting” it is the bad bank that people are talking about.

For people on suffering the pain of minimum wages barely enough to pay the rent, without the luxury of spare savings to invest in high finance. It’s a bitter irony that wealthy and middle class investors should have their speculative losses made up by a government that viciously opposed raising the minimum wage. What do these people know about hardship?

While the government continues to do nothing about joblessness and low wages, the question is, how many more millions of dollars will they uselessly throw investors way, as the recession deepens and more finance companies go under?

*First published as a Guest Post on the Standard, submitted by the author to UNITYblog.
The debate on this and other posts on the Standard is worth checking out for those wanting to get their heads around this issue.

Rehabilitating utopia and saving the future

Socialism used to be a rallying point for idealists, utopians, dreamers and those who were simply hopeful. It carried an almost millenarian promise of redemption and salvation. More importantly, it allowed its advocates to exercise their imagination. If socialism was to democratically realise the wishes of the common working people, why should they be restrained in their wishes?

There are pitfalls in utopian imaginings. George Orwell once said that “ ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.” Inevitably, some utopian visions have been codified (and ossified) into cult dogma.

When the left banished utopia

But the 20th century left did not in the main succumb to utopian cults. Rather, it lost most of its creative imagination. The state socialist countries of the Eastern bloc as much as the social-democratic and labour movements in the West all succumbed to (or promoted) a grey economic reduction of the socialist vision.

Admittedly, even among the most authoritarian of the Stalinist parties, they never truly killed off creativity. The Communist Party of Australia had workers’ theatre. The USSR had Shostakovich and the Bolshoi Ballet and more. But the creative urge was de-coupled from the political project: it became a pressure relief valve for the masses. In the west, union campaigns for shorter work hours were probably the most creative movement, but the liberatory potential of freeing people from work was largely negated by the greater focus on wage rises and the related growth of consumerism.

The culture and dreams of working people have thus been privatised by the old, official “left”. State socialism and social democracy sought to out-compete the capitalists in economic growth and consumerism - without success. Clearly, if the aim was to enable working class people to be overweight, bored couch potatoes in front of a very big TV, capitalism won that competition.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Kia Ora Gaza fundraising gig






2 hours of Kiwi musicians performing for their sisters & brothers besieged in Gaza.

5.30pm – 7.30pm on Sunday, 5 September.
Dogs Bollix Bar, 2 Newton Rd, Central Auckland (near the corner with K’Rd).

Admission free. Donations collected for Kia Ora Gaza. Visit kiaoragaza.net.


Sunday, 29 August 2010

Trotsky’s socialism

Seventy years ago the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky was murdered.  
Esme Choonara looks at his life, ideas and his legacy
Leon Trotsky addresses Red Army troops in 1918
Leon Trotsky addresses Red Army troops in 1918

Seventy years ago this week an agent of Russian dictator Joseph Stalin murdered the exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky by smashing his skull with an ice pick. 

Trotsky was at his home in Mexico when the assassin came into his study and attacked him. This was not Stalin’s first attempt.

Only a few weeks earlier, a group of his Mexican followers had launched an armed attack on Trotsky’s household, killing a guard.

In fact, Stalin was so determined to crush Trotsky and his legacy that he had already murdered, or driven to suicide, most of Trotsky’s immediate family.

He forced Trotsky into exile in 1929 and slandered him as a fascist spy and enemy of the workers”.

An exhibition at a museum in St Petersburg last year exposed some of the ludicrous lengths the Russian regime went to wipe out any trace of Trotsky’s real legacy.

Among the exhibits was a teachers’ union scarf from 1925 bearing portraits of revolutionary leaders. The picture of Trotsky had been carefully cut out and replaced with blank cloth.

Hundreds of photographs from the revolutionary years were also doctored to remove Trotsky from his place in history.

Yet by the time he was killed Trotsky had been in exile for 11 years.

He had only a small handful of supporters scattered in different countries and no real influence on world events. His allies in Russia had either been killed or broken by Stalin’s terror.

So why did Stalin still see him as a threat?

Saturday, 28 August 2010

New Orleans five years after Hurricane Katrina

By Jonathan Neale

They call it “the storm” here, like there never was any other storm—but also like you don’t say the other word, just in case.

On 29 August 2005—five years ago this Sunday—Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The storm surge burst through the levees, flooding the city.

Five years on, I’m seeing how resilient the city is. The New Orleans Saints won the Superbowl this year. People still have that painted all over the cars. It’s how they know they came back.

The first game of the season is the week after the anniversary, and there’s going to be a huge party.
But the shadow of the hurricane still hangs over the city.

In working class neighbourhoods many houses are still boarded up—because people moved to Houston or elsewhere during the storm. They needed to get jobs, and have no guarantee of employment should they return.

Katrina wasn’t the worst climate change disaster ever, or even in the last few years. But it happened in the US, and it changed the face of American politics.

Friday, 27 August 2010

NZ–tax haven for the international rich

By Peter de Waal

The conservative UK Sunday Times newspaper recently published a survey of countries with a comfortable western standard of living wealthy tax-exiles could consider escaping to.

This article [only available online for a fee], published on July 11th 2010, described New Zealand’s 2010 budget as “the most radical change to taxation in 25 years.” Compare this to Key’s local attempts to downplay the importance and impact of the 2010 budget.

For a British boss or money speculator making £150,000 a year, Switzerland will take only £40,000 a year, yet “socialist” New Zealand is next cheapest tax shelter with just £50,000 of income taxes.

For this, the wealthy ex-pat gets access to a free world class health system, cheap housing conveniently out of reach for 90% of the population, anti-labour union laws such as the 90-day “fire at will” law that makes the setting up of a tax-loss generating “business” simple and relatively risk-free, and much more.

The cost of these gifts to the transient wealthy is a massive destruction of citizenship rights for Kiwis, with swingeing cuts to ACC entitlements, access to education, health rationing, the protection of union membership, GST rising to 15%, etc. Key’s austerity policies for the poor and working class are costing some their lives and making survival near-impossible for many families.

John Key sold himself to the electorate on the basis of tax cuts, but many didn’t realise that these cuts are biased towards the ultra-rich top 2% of the workforce. Key has transformed New Zealand into a tax-exile destination and articles such as this one in Bloomberg are here to sell the results of these decisions to the world’s rich.

‘Smiling assassin’ targets rich immigrants

By William Mellor 
Bloomberg via NZ Herald
Wednesday Aug 25, 2010

Business news agency Bloomberg takes an outsider’s look at where it thinks New Zealand and John Key are heading.

Prime Minister John Key promoted New Zealand on David Letterman's Late Show last year. Photo / AP

Prime Minister John Key promoted New Zealand on David Letterman’s Late Show last year. Photo / AP

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Burger Fuel picket Saturday September 4, 12–2pm

Help bring home our first 90-day victory!

Joanne Bartlett was fired on day 89 of her 90 day trial period at Mission Bay Burger Fuel. She was fired just after asking for more than one 10 minute break during her eight hour shift.

Joanne received high grades in the company’s training program, has culinary school qualifications and regularly worked extra shifts when asked.

No reason was given for her dismissal.

Activists picketed her store last Friday.

During the picket company chief executive Josef Roberts told TV3 that Burger Fuel franchises would use the 90 day bill again in the future. When the cameras stopped rolling, Roberts pleaded with the picketers to stop as the store had lost their entire lunch trade which would significantly impact on their tight margins.

This CEO told Unite that he would make an agreement with them if they stopped taking action. Burger fuel has since reneged on its agreement.

It’s time to send Burger Fuel a clear message. We need to picket as many stores as we can on the same day at the same time and drive the message home.

It is important for the workers movement that we get a concrete win at Burger Fuel. Not only do we need to send a strong message to other employers that we won’t stop until we win, we need to show activists that there is action that they can be involved in that works and is fun.

That’s why we are organising another round of protests on Saturday 4th of September from 12 noon – 2pm during Burger Fuel’s busiest lunch break.

The first action in Auckland was successful and Wellington activists were successful the following day. It will work again, but this time it will hurt them more.

We need unions and activist groups to commit to adopting/organising a store and to appoint a contact person to help organise others to attend.

Already Australian unionists have agreed to picket the two Sydney Burger Fuels.

We are currently developing flyers and other materials for the picket and we will get them to you before the action.

There are Burger Fuel stores in  Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo, New Plymouth, Napier, Palmerston North, Wellington and Sydney.

Please email simon.oosterman(at)ndu.org.nz or txt / phone him at 021 922 551 to say if:

a)      You can join a picket,

b)      The store you can picket and

c)      If you (or someone from your organisation) can commit to being a contact person and help organise the picket at that store.

In the areas with multiple stores we may meet up at a single store before the picket to see what numbers we have on the day to make sure we’ve got enough for each store.

CTU video 2: Interview of Florence Coen, sacked under 90 day fire at will law

Australian elections: ‘Greenslide’ a shift to left

By Peter Boyle
national convener of the Australian Socialist Alliance
August 24, 2010

By denying both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the the Liberal-National coalition an outright majority in primary votes and in House of Representatives seats, Australian electors voted “neither of the above” for the traditional parties of government.

This followed an election campaign in which the major parties conducted an ugly race to the right, most notoriously by scapegoating the few thousand desperate refugees who attempt to get to Australia on boats.

The effect of this race to the right was to promote racism, further breakdown community solidarity, and a bolster a range of other conservative prejudices on issues ranging from climate change to the economy to same-sex marriage rights. Important issues like Indigenous rights and Australia's participation in the imperialist war of occupation in Afghanistan were totally screened out.

However, there was also a reaction to this push to the right. The Greens, a party with a record of taking positions well left of the major parties on many critical issues enjoyed a 3.8% swing, taking most of its votes away from the ALP.

At the time of writing, the Greens had obtained 1,187,881 (11.4%) of the first preference votes for House of Representatives. Yet under the undemocratic system for lower house elections, the Greens only got one of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, that of Melbourne. There were a string of other once-safe ALP seats that came close to being taken by the Greens.

The contradiction between the size of the Green vote and their small representation in Parliament grows, suggests the need for a grassroots campaign for democratic reform of the electoral system. It is not democratic that the Nationals, who won a third the number of votes as the Greens, should get seven times their representation in parliament!

The power of corporate Australia to buy elections with massive donations and their domination of the media also has to be confronted.

The Greens won the seat of Melbourne with the open assistance of the Victorian Electrical Trade Union and many other militant trade unionists. This was an important break from the total domination of the labour movement by the pro-capitalist ALP.

At the time of writing, the Greens had won 1,266,521 first preference votes in the Senate election and socialist candidates, including the Socialist Alliance, a further 39,186 votes. The Greens look like raising their number of Senators from five to nine — giving them the balance of power in the Senate.

The progressive social movements, including the trade unions will be looking to these Greens Senators to offer strong support in the struggles ahead, no matter which major party eventually forms government.
The result after election night on August 21 was a hung parliament. The major parties are now desperately trying to negotiate agreements with three or four independents and the Greens MP to form a minority government, while the outcome in a number of seats remains uncertain. If a deal to form government cannot be made, the Governor-General has the power to call another election.

While the three independent MPs certain of a seat, Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott, are former members of the conservative rural-based National Party, all broke over strong objections to particular aspects of the neoliberal agenda that has been pursued by both Liberal-National coalition and ALP governments since the 1980s.

Further, they have consolidated the hold on their seats by taking “community-first” positions on issues directly affecting their electorates. So neither major party can be certain of their support.

Newly elected Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, indicated earlier in the campaign that he would support a hypothetical ALP minority government but since August 21, he's been reluctant to be so specific. He told ABC TV's 7.30 Report on August 22 that the Greens were entering discussions with various parties and independents and “there's nothing on or off the table”.

Progressive independent Andrew Wilkie, a former Greens candidate, has a chance of winning the Tasmanian seat of Denison away from the ALP. He laid out a position, on the August 22 7.30 Report on how he would be prepared to support a minority government:

“If I'm elected, the party I support will only be assured that I won't block supply, and that I won't support any reckless no confidence motion.

“Beyond that, it's all up for grabs. I will look at every piece of legislation, every issue and assess them on its merits. I think it's self evident what is reasonable ethical behaviour and what isn't. And any acts of lying and so on, I won't accept that and I won't support legislation in that regard.”

The Greens should make an offer to support a minority ALP government along similar lines because clearly a Liberal-National government would be a greater evil. However, entering or making any further commitments to a possible ALP government would trap the Greens in a conservative government that will be bad for the majority of people, bad for Indigenous communities, bad for refugees and bad for the environment.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Russia’s fires and Pakistan’s floods: A taste of what’s to come

By Simon Butler
from Green Left Weekly

If you are not at least a little bit scared about the Russian heatwave or the huge floods in Pakistan, then you really should be. Extreme and dangerous weather events will be far more common in a warmer world.

These devastating fires and floods are a taste of our future climate — unless we can force a political breakthrough on climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions sharply.

The disasters of the past few weeks sound an unmistakable warning: we’ve emitted so many greenhouse gases already that we are losing a safe climate.

Russia has not gone through a comparable heatwave in the past 1000 years, said the Russian Meteorological Centre on August 9.

The centre’s Alexander Frolov told newsagency RIA Novosti: “We have an 'archive’ of abnormal weather situations stretching over a thousand years. It is possible to say there was nothing similar to this on the territory of Russia during the last one thousand years in regard to the heat.”

Monday, 23 August 2010

Open letter to New Zealand unionists by Vaughan Gunson

To New Zealand unionists,

Kick up a fuss!

So says the headline of the latest UNITY leaflet produced by Socialist Worker. (Click here to download).

Kicking up a fuss is what the union movement needs to do in opposition to National's anti-worker laws. The rallies in Auckland, Wellington. Christchurch and Dunedin were the first round of a hopefully ongoing union campaign (more info at http://fairness.org.nz/). The Council of Trade Unions (CTU), which brings together most New Zealand unions, is playing a leading role in mobilising opposition to the law changes.

National's attacks on workers' rights are part and parcel with their commitment to neoliberal economic policies. Since the 1980s government efforts to weaken workers' collective power have gone hand-in-hand with privatisation, financial deregulation and changes to the tax system that have favoured the rich. The result: massive income inequality and generational poverty.


We desperately need a change of economic direction. And that’s what a new document drafted by the CTU potentially offers. The CTU's ‘Alternative Economic Strategy' is a fundamental rejection of neoliberal policies.

Because the strategy document has come from the leadership of a mass organisation like the CTU it has a chance of gaining traction in the real world, especially - as our UNITY leaflet argues - if it's linked to popular campaigns like defending workers’ rights and Tax Justice.


The Tax Justice campaign is an initiative of Socialist Worker and the Alliance Party. The campaign focus is a jointly sponsored petition that calls on parliament to:

1. Remove GST from food; and
2. Tax financial speculation.

Click here to download the petition.

The petition's demands cut to the heart of neoliberalism in the wake of the global financial crisis. The demands are also proving popular. Since the Tax Justice campaign was launched on 22 May over 7,000 signatures have been collected (in the middle of winter) by mainly Socialist Worker and Alliance members. 1,900+ people like the campaign's Facebook page. To join go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/No-GST-on-food/119541161411953?ref=ts

We want the campaign to take off in a big way. To do that we need to broaden the people and organisations actively involved. We are very interested in support from unions and unionists. This campaign could link up with the union mobilisations against National's attacks on workers. As we say in our leaflet: "[W]e have an opportunity to come at them from both sides. Combine the campaign for Tax Justice with mass action to defend workers’ rights and you’ve got the ingredients for a popular fightback."

That would certainly be kicking up a fuss, which is what the times demand.


Most serious economic commentators (from a variety of political perspectives) recognise that the world economy has entered a period of prolonged crisis which it might be impossible to stabilise. The world's resources are fast being depleted, which will send forth massive economic shock-waves. While the urgency of the climate change threat weighs heavily on us all. The extent of the threats facing humanity are analysed in 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 advertised in our leaflet.

The sobering realities of a world in crisis and transition requires us to organise collectively today to help secure a future. Socialist Worker believes popular campaigns targeting neo-liberalism, which are linked to the holistic economic alternative that is the essence of the CTU's strategy, presents us with a way forward.

We welcome feedback on the ideas raised in our UNITY leaflet. Please circulate it and the Tax Justice petition to your union contacts.

If you would like to give support to the Tax Justice campaign get in touch with me now.

In solidarity,

Vaughan Gunson
Socialist Worker national chair
& Tax Justice campaign coordinator
021-0415 082

Saturday, 21 August 2010

2000 in Wellington, but only 600 in Auckland, is this true?

Christchurch rally

 By David

TV3’s estimate of 400 in Christchurch is pretty accurate (I was going to say 500). But I hope their figure of 600 in Auckland is a serious miscount. 2000 in Wellington is respectable, but if these figures are accurate, why were the numbers in the bigger centres so low?

People at the rally I spoke to were clearly pissed off about the attacks, but I didn’t get much sense of a fighting spirit. Attempts to get the crowd chanting were half-hearted and didn’t take off.

The highlight came early, when two marches arrived in the square. They did have their chants sorted out. The traditionally conservative Pubic Service Association calling for “Fairness at Work”, while the slightly smaller radical fringe of the Workers Party and Beyond Resistance, declaring their intention to fight back against the “Class War” waged by the bosses. [I will post videos of both, when I can get it working.] I hope the next protest, on October 20 is a march, not just a rally.

Even double these numbers would not cause the Nats any concern. And it now seems unlikely that the mobilisations will grow big enough, quickly enough to stop the law from passing. Unfortunately, it's at this point that far too many campaigns admit defeat and give up.

The one bright spark is that unions are now naming and shaming the employers who have used the existing 90-day law to sack workers. The CTU’s videos, Unite’s Utu Squads, and the stories of the workers that have been mistreated, could tip the balance of public opinion. And if the Utu protests catch on, they could encourage more workers to come forward, and warn employers off the scheme.

As part of building for the next national day of action on October 20, all unions should get behind the name and shame campaign. You can play your part by forwarding the CTU’s video, or the TV3 link below, and asking around to see if anyone you know has been unfairly treated under this law.

iPhone 4: Capitalism, inbuilt obsolescence and ‘blood’ phones

The high demand for coltan is helping fuel the bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo as rival armies fight over reserves.

By Stuart Munckton
from Green Left Weekly via Links
August 1, 2010

“Yes, the notable features with iPhone 4 – both the device and the iOS4 – are mostly tweaks”, said a June 22 review on the popular site BoingBoing.net. “But what tweaks they are.”

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll admit I have no idea what “iOS4” means. But my eye was caught by the admission that the iPhone 4, launched in Australia on July 29, was almost the same as the iPhone 3.

Corporations use “inbuilt obsolescence” as part of artificially creating markets. This means the products they sell are deliberately made to break down — so we have to keep buying more.

Unite’s ‘Utu’ squad names and shames Mission Bay Burger Fuel

Photo: John Darroch, 

By Melissa Davies
3 News

The fat was in the fire when trade unionists turned up at an Auckland Burger Fuel outlet to support a sacked employee.

Joanne Bartlett was fired on the 89th day of her 90-day probationary period.

“They said they just didn't consider me to be someone who would be in the fast food industry for a long time,” says Bartlett.

Her former boss says she never said that.

“I didn't have to give her a reason and I'm not going to discuss that now,” Linda Garibobic, Burger Fuel Franchisee told 3 News.

but union members did want to discuss it and turned up outside the Mission Bay store.
Burger Fuel's Chief Executive, Joseph Roberts, was there to meet them.

“The first thing is .we employ hundreds of people through the burger fuel system - 700 or so, alright,” Mr Roberts told picketers. “It is our right as an employer to trial people, to test people.”

Bartlett says she may've been fired because she asked for a second paid ten minute break, but Burger Fuel denies this.

The Unite union has set up what's called the utu squad. They say their aim is to name and shame companies they deem to be bad employers.

This is their first outing but they promise there will be many more.

And Burger Fuel says there are likely to be more dismissals within the ninety day probationary period for as long as they're entitled to by law.

Workers Lead the Way in Venezuela

From Eirigi

In the latest sign of the increasing radicalism of the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuela’s National Union of Workers [UNETE] has published a series of policy proposals calling for more workers’ control of industry.

 Workers at a May Day rally in VenezuelaAmong the proposals are:
  • Full nationalisation of the banking and finance sectors
  • Nationalisation of foreign commerce related to essential foods
  • Readjustment of wages and prices to account for the cost of living and production
  • Creation of a ministry for workers’ control and social production, directed by workers’ councils
  • Introduction of a national maximum wage
  • Introduction of an industrial transformation law that will see idle companies and land transferred to workers’ or peasants’ councils
  • Demarcation of indigenous lands over the interests of transnational mining companies
UNETE is Venezuela’s primary union federation, having been formed in 2003 after the traditional federation CTV supported coup attempts against socialist president Hugo Chávez. Around 80 per cent of the country’s trade unions are affiliated to UNETE.

Early this month, president Chávez celebrated the first anniversary of the nationalisation of the Bank of Venezuela, which was bought over last year by the state and retained its entire workforce. It has also experienced tremendous growth since then.

Chávez said: “I don’t know if there has been any experience like it before in Venezuela of such growth. That means a lot of things. This throws out all of that information that is emitted from the laboratories of psychological warfare that global capitalism has set up in Venezuela… that manipulate and put fear in the minds of Venezuelans.”

Friday, 20 August 2010

David Rovics tour of New Zealand starts tonight

Radical singer song-writer David Rovics is back in Aotearoa again, playing the first gig of his tour in Christchurch tonight.

UNITYblog interviewed David last time he was here, a year ago.

Full tour details below.

Tax Justice campaign in Truth

The following article appeared in a recent edition of the weekly tabloid Truth:

On 1st October a long black cloud will descend on the lives of grassroots New Zealanders. GST will increase from 12.5% to 15%. Everything will be more expensive.

On the same day, the National government’s other tax changes will come into place, including cuts to income tax.

However, for low-to-middle income earners the small improvements to take-home pay will be mostly wiped out by the increased GST on food, clothing, electricity, rates, and other items that must be accounted for in weekly budgets. It’s the rich and wealthy corporates who’ll get by far the most from the tax cuts.

Prime minister John Key claims the tax changes will result in “a fairer tax system”. That won’t be the case.

It’s because we need to address imbalances in New Zealand’s tax system that the Tax Justice campaign was launched on 22 May. The focus of the campaign is a petition calling on parliament to:

1. Remove GST from food.
2. Tax financial speculation.

Taking GST off food would deliver a tax cut more substantial than what the majority of us are going to get from National’s tax changes.

And instead we’re saying tax the financial speculators, who currently pay no tax. Zilch.

Is it fair that we have to pay tax on one of life’s necessities, food, while something as destructive to the economy as financial speculation goes untaxed? I don’t think so Mr Key.

Introducing a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) would be the best way to make financial speculators pay tax at the point where their profits are accumulated.

A small percentage tax on financial transactions would net huge sums from mostly overseas speculators, but also local ones. It would be like GST for the rich.

In the last two months we’ve collected over 5,000 signatures for the Tax Justice petition. As more people find out about the campaign we’re confident it’s going to get bigger and bigger. We want to see that black cloud lifted.

To join the Tax Justice campaign, email svpl(at)xtra.co.nz or ph/txt 021-0415 082. 

Or visit our webpage www.nogstonfood.org

Thursday, 19 August 2010

No 90-day trial periods for Hutt City

Media release
VAN – Valley Action Network
19 August 2010

Union members and supporters will be taking action around the country this weekend in support of Fairness at Work. Candidates and supporters from VAN – Valley Action Network will be joining Saturday's rally in Wellington.

 “This is a major issue for voters in the upcoming local body elections”, said VAN spokesperson Grant Brookes, “especially in Lower Hutt.

 “The Hutt City Council elections are about what sort of city we want to create. The actions of the council set the tone for the whole community.

 “Hutt City Council has a responsibility to set a positive example in how it treats the many hard-working people providing its services – not just for the sake of council employees, but for all residents.

 “The government is planning more than a dozen law changes to undermine everyone’s rights at work, including 90-day ‘trial periods’ when all new workers can be sacked unfairly, and restrictions on the ability of union organisers to support union members on the job.

 “VAN supports Fairness at Work, and opposes the impact that the law changes will have on the grassroots residents of Lower Hutt.

 “Unfortunately, many of the current councillors privately support these changes. One Harbour Ward councillor even wrote an article in the Hutt News last year publicly supporting 90-day trials.

 “The good news is that some employers are giving commitments now that even if the laws are passed, they won’t be using 90 day trial periods and won’t stop unions from supporting their members at work. 

“If VAN candidates are elected, we pledge to make Hutt City Council a fair workplace and give these same positive commitments.”

See more at: www.huttvan.org.nz www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=128328787200169

Palestinian MP’s message to Israel: I’ll be back on the flotilla

by Tom Walker

from Socialist Worker UK

Haneen Zoabi [pictured right], the Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament who went on the flotilla to Gaza, vowed that she will do it again at a meeting in London last Wednesday.

She told an audience of hundreds: “Israel wanted to send a message. Now I must send them a message back.

“It’s now more important for me to participate in the next flotilla—I must do so. I am not afraid.”

Haneen is the first woman ever to be elected to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, from an Arab party. She was aboard the Mavi Marmara ship that was trying to deliver aid and break the siege of Gaza when Israel brutally attacked it in May.

When she tried to speak in the Knesset about her experiences, Israeli MPs physically attacked her.

The Knesset has now voted to remove her parliamentary privileges—and some members even want her to be stripped of Israeli citizenship.

Haneen told the London crowd, “Racism and discrimination against Palestinians in Israel is systematic.

“It is part of the Zionist ideology that says it was ‘a land without a people’. We are ghosts—phantoms.

“In Israel I have no identity. I have no history. I am told I am an ‘Israeli Arab’.”

She explained how Israel sees the fact that some Palestinians managed to remain inside Israel’s borders after 1948 and become citizens as its great historic mistake.

“The Zionist project said that in order to live with those who remain we must domesticate them,” she added.

“So I’m told I must swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state. But I am not a Jew.”

Haneen explained why she felt she had to go on the flotilla: “No one can support the siege of Gaza and call themselves a human being,” she said.

“I met a hostile response in the Knesset because I was a witness [to the flotilla massacre] and I started to talk.”

She ridiculed the idea that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. “If Israel wants to be a democracy it shouldn’t confiscate my land.

“When I say in the Knesset I am Palestinian they shout, ‘How can you say this?’ But I’m not an immigrant here. I am the indigenous people.

“I am just asking for equality. By using the word equality you must radically change the state in Israel.”

Haneen spoke at a meeting organised by Middle East Monitor and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

New UNITY leaflet links tax justice & workers’ rights

Click on image to download UNITY leaflet #4

“We’ve got to kick up a fuss,” said a woman who had just signed the Tax Justice petition.
Kicking up a fuss is what the Tax Justice campaign is all about (see petition over the page.) It’s what we’ve got to do right now.

But our right to “kick up a fuss” is under threat from the government.

National plans to introduce a raft of new laws that will hugely weaken our rights at work. They include extending the 90 day “fi re at will” law to all workers and making it very diffi cult for unions to properly recruit and support members.

What the Nats want is for workers to be under the bosses’ thumb.

Unions are gearing up to fi ght the law changes. That’s good news.

With the Nats also feeling the heat for their GST hike and tax cuts for the rich, we have an opportunity to come at them from both sides.

Combine the campaign for Tax Justice with mass action to defend workers’ rights and you’ve got the ingredients for a popular fightback. That’s kickin’ up a fuss alright!

To support the Tax Justice campaign contact Vaughan Gunson, svpl(at)xtra.co.nz or 021-0415 082. Get your workmates to sign the petition.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The 350 Global Work Working Bee on 10/10/10

10/10/10 — “The Global Work Working Bee” — is a day when thousands of communities across the globe will come together to celebrate climate solutions. These climate actions will raise awareness and demonstrate that another world is possible. With your help, 10/10/10 is going to be the biggest day of practical action to cut carbon that the world has ever seen.

Check out www.350.org.nz for more details on these ideas, or visit wiki.350.org/get+to+work to see suggestions added by people from all over the world.  As we all finalise our local actions there will be more & more detail coming up on the website over the next few weeks.

What’s 350 again?
350ppm (parts per million) of CO2 is the number that science shows is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.  It’s the number humanity needs to get back below as soon as possible to avoid setting off irreversible ‘tipping points’ in the climate.

We’re currently at 390ppm and rising by about 2ppm a year, but we’re getting to work to start turning that around.
350.org is a worldwide movement which has spread to over 180 countries. 350 Aotearoa is the New Zealand branch. 

More on the science at http://www.350.org.nz/about/why-350

Monday, 16 August 2010

Announcing Double Day of nationwide Tax Justice petition stalls, 1-2 October

On 22 May the Alliance Party and Socialist Worker jointly launched the Tax Justice campaign. The focus of the campaign is a petition calling on parliament to:

1. Remove GST from food; and
2. Tax financial speculation.

The reception to the campaign has been very encouraging. So far 7,000 signatures have been collected.

A growing list of supporters outside of Socialist Worker and the Alliance are offering to help with the campaign.

And 1,800+ people have joined the No GST on Food Facebook page.

The Tax Justice campaign is connecting with people angered by the hike in GST and the escalation of basic living costs, who are also worried by the economic situation following the world financial crisis and its impact on the New Zealand economy.

Download a copy of the petition from the right hand side bar of UNITYblog.

For more background, media releases and related stories, go to the No GST on Food website: http://www.nogstonfood.org

10,000 signatures in two days

On 1st October GST will increase from 12.5% to 15%. The GST hike is going to be a big issue in the media and for grassroots people. This will be an opportunity to promote a just solution to New Zealand’s unfair tax system.

The Tax Justice campaign is going to organise a Double Day of nationwide petition stalls on Friday 1st October and Saturday 2nd October. Our goal is to get 10,000 signatures in two days.

It’s hoped that through a heavily promoted Double Day of signature collecting we can reach more supporters and break into local and national media.

You can help

With your help we can reach our ambitious target of 10,000 signatures in two days. If you want to be part of the Tax Justice action on 1-2 October get in touch with us straight away. Contact campaign coordinator Vaughan Gunson, email svpl@xtra.co.nz or ph/txt 021-0415 082.

To take the campaign to another level we’re establishing a national Organisers Team. That team is open to anyone who wants to help. We want to cover the country with Tax Justice organisers.

The Tax Justice Organisers Team will communicate largely by email. If you want to be part of the team, contact Vaughan.

In solidarity,

Vaughan Gunson
Socialist Worker


Victor Billot
Alliance Party

Long protest road leads to Gaza

Roger Fowler at the Mangere East Community Learning Centre. Photo / NZH.

By Simon Collins
from NZ Herald

Almost 40 years after being knocked to the ground by a future New Zealand prime minister, Roger Fowler is about to take on two much tougher foes - the armed forces of Egypt and Israel.

Rob Muldoon was about as tough as Kiwi politicians get. As Mr Fowler tells it, the new National leader was “obviously under the influence of drink” as he and property developers Bob Jones and Pat Rippin emerged from a landlords’ meeting in Auckland’s Peter Pan Cabaret in August 1974 “pushing and shoving and thumping people” to get through a crowd of protesters.

“He came straight for me and threw a punch at me. We both ended up falling down in the middle of the street,” Mr Fowler said.

The Herald reported that Mr Muldoon turned back to the protesters when he reached his car and called out: “One at a time and you’re welcome!”

Mr Fowler, now aged 61 and with a Queen’s Service Medal to his name, was picked this week as leader of a six-person Kiwi unit, “Kia Ora Gaza”, to join an international convoy of 500 trucks carrying aid to Palestinians in Gaza next month.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Pro-Israel Herald advert sparks war of words

By Dan Satherley
from TV3 News

A pro-Israel opinion piece published in the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday has been dismissed as “propaganda” by the leader of a team of Kiwi activists planning to join a Gaza aid convoy in September.

Latin America & 21st Century Socialism

This is the forward to the July-August 2010 issue of US socialist journal Monthly Review. It provides a good summary of the origins of the Venezuelan revolution, and serves as an idroduction to the much longer essay “Latin America & Twenty-First Century Socialism: Inventing to Avoid Mistakes” by Venezuelan-based activists and author Marta Harnecker.

It’s important to be reminded that, to begin with, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution was not deliberately socialist, or even “anti-capitalist”, but certainly anti-neoliberal. Aiming to build, as Chavez put it, “an economic alternative to dehumanized capitalism”—to “humanize capitalism.”

This is similar to the stated aim of the recently released Council of Trade Unions Alternative Economic Strategy which states: “Capitalism is brutal but innovative and our aim is to retain and spread the benefits of innovation while policing its brutality.”

However, as John Bellamy Foster argues, “The main political thrust of the Bolivarian Revolution was, in fact, anti-capitalist in its underlying logic”, because it aimed to mobilise and empower the ordinary people.

That, rather than whether or not Chavez proclaimed himself for socialism or even against capitalism from the outset, appears to be the crucial factor.


By John Bellamy Foster
from Monthly Review

I’m certain that this process is irreversible. This movement of change, of restructuring, of revolution, will not be stopped.
Hugo Chávez, 20021

El Caracazo

In the eyes of much of the world, the year 1989 has come to stand for the fall of the Berlin Wall, the demise of Soviet-type societies, and the defeat of twentieth-century socialism. However, 1989 for many others, particularly in Spanish-speaking countries, is also associated with the beginning of the Latin American revolt against neoliberal shock therapy and the emergence in the years that followed of a “socialism for the 21st century.” This revolutionary turning point in Latin American (and world) history is known as the Caracazo or Sacudón (heavy riot), which erupted in Caracas, Venezuela on February 27, 1989, and quickly became “by far the most massive and severely repressed riot in the history of Latin America.”2

The Caracazo started in the early morning in the suburb of Guarenas in response to a 100 percent increase in transport fares. These transport hikes were part of a set of neoliberal shock policies introduced by the government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez. The object was to put Venezuela back in good standing with the IMF and international financial institutions, obtain their assistance in the servicing of its foreign debt, and provide “fresh money” for the oligarchy to rely on—all on the backs of millions of poor people. Outraged by the doubling of transport fares, the Caracas demonstrators hurled stones at the buses and overturned them. Motorcycle couriers joined in the protests, going from one part of the city to the other and spreading the message. Riots also broke out that same morning in nineteen other cities across the country.

By late afternoon in Caracas, public transport had come to a standstill. Hundreds of thousands of people were walking home and buses were burning. The protestors began to loot shops and supermarkets in order to obtain basic needs—food and clothing. That night, in what came to be known as “the day the poor came down from the hills,” the impoverished barrio-dwellers, joined in some instances by the police, engaged in a campaign of massive looting, first in the commercial center of Caracas and then in the privileged residential districts of the wealthy. From the standpoint of the majority of the Venezuelan poor, the looting was an act of social justice and retribution, an attempt to take back a little of what had been taken from them for decades—as they watched the oligarchy become ever richer, while they struggled to get enough merely to survive. (President Peréz’s ostentatious inauguration, only a few weeks before the announcement of the austerity program, was reported as “one of the grandest celebrations Latin America has ever known,” with a total of ten thousand invited guests attending, consuming 650,000 hors d’oeuvres, 209 sides of lamb, and twenty sides of beef—washing it all down with twelve hundred bottles of scotch, accompanied by immense quantities of champagne.)

In response to the widespread riot, President Pérez imposed martial law and a nighttime curfew. This was followed by a brutal repression of the population. Soldiers entered the barrios with orders to “reestablish order.” One soldier recounted that they were ordered to “shoot anything that moved, and shoot to kill.” One citizen recalled that the soldiers “didn’t say raise your arms or anything. But everything that appeared, they killed.” Hundreds, even thousands, of people were killed, with numbers of the dead ranging from 396 to 10,000, and with many thousands more wounded. The brutality of the retaliation stripped away any illusions about Venezuela’s fake democracy, and set in motion the struggle for a new society. As Richard Gott stated, it “marked the beginning of the end of Venezuela’s ancien régime.”3

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Pakistan: Labour Relief Campaign launches appeal for millions affected by floods

[Readers can also donate via the Australian trade unions’ aid agency APHEDA at http://www.apheda.org.au/news/1281331224_14992.html.] 
August 7, 2010 – More than 12 million people are suffering from floods in Pakistan. Please donate to the Labour Relief Campaign to help people of Pakistan facing the worst-ever floods in its history. Torrential rains have unleashed flash floods in different parts of the country in the last three weeks. Levies have broken, leaving the people exposed to flood water.

More than 650,000 houses have collapsed, mainly in villages. Thousands of hectares of crops have been destroyed due to flood water. Livestock, household goods, clothes, shoes and other items have been destroyed. Residents of villages are without drinkable water, food, shelter and in need of clothes.

In particular, the situation is dire for children and women in desperate need of food and clothing. Disease is spreading fast due to the lack of drinkable water. In particular, flu, fever, diarrhea and cholera have been noted and are spreading.

The Pakistan government’s response has made matters worse. It failed to act immediately, leaving tens of thousands of people without aid. Only after 24 hours did it arrive at the makeshift camps with paltry amounts of food distribute. The gap between the food being distributed and the large number of people desperate to eat has led to fighting breaking out, making matters even worse for these desperate people.

Despite very little coverage in the media, the fact remains that the situation in Baluchistan is just as bad as in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and western and southern Punjab. As usual, also, the people of Baluchistan are not at the top of the government’s priority list.

The situation is turning worse with heavy rains starting August 6 in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province.

The Labour Education Foundation, Labour Party of Pakistan, National Trade Union Federation, Women Workers’ Help Line and the Progressive Youth Front have set up Labour Flood Relief Camps in Lahore and so far have collected more than 300,000 rupees. Rs110,000 have already been sent to Baluchistan and more than Rs200,000 are on way to southern Punjab to help flood victims.

We appeal to our friends and organisations in Pakistan and abroad for donations of a monetary kind or in the form of drinking water, clothes (new), shoes and medicine.

For further information please contact:

Khalid Mahmood, director Labour Education Foundation, ground floor, 25-A Davis Road, Lahore, Pakistan. Email: khalid@lef.org.pk. Telephone: 0092 42 6303808, 0092 42 6315162. Fax: 0092 42 6271149. Mobile: 0092 321 9402322.

If you wish to transfer funds, the details of the account for sending money to the LRC are: Account: Labour Education Foundation; account number: 01801876; Route: Please advise and pay to Citi Bank, New York, USA Swift CITI US 33 for onward transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., KARACHI, PAKISTAN A/C No. 36087144 and for final transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., LDA PLAZA, KASHMIR ROAD, LAHORE, PAKISTAN Swift: ALFHPKKALDA for A/C No. 01801876 OF LABOUR EDUCATION FOUNDATION.

Australia readers can donate via the Australian trade unions aid agency APHEDA at http://www.apheda.org.au/news/1281331224_14992.html.

Bolivia’s UN ambassador: rich countries fail to cut greenhouse gases

from Democracy Now!
August 10, 2010 

Even as the world faces a series of extreme weather events that scientists warn is related to global warming, international climate negotiations are moving at a glacial pace. The latest round of climate talks in Bonn, Germany, ended last week, and diplomats have just one more short meeting in China in the coming months to hash out their differences before the critical high-level climate conference in Cancún, Mexico, at the end of the year.

At the meetings in Bonn, the negotiating text got a lot bigger, and a number of proposals from developing countries were added into the controversial agreement that came out of the divisive Copenhagen summit last year. Some fear the new text could slow down talks in Cancún, but others say the concerns of the majority of the world’s countries are finally represented in the text.

For more on what this means for a binding global agreement on climate change, I’m joined here in New York by ambassador Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s permanent representative to the United Nations. He was just in Bonn last week.

‘Occupation & Resistance – Photos from Palestine’ in Christchurch

A devastatingly courageous photo exhibition is opening at the Linwood Community Arts Centre in Christchurch on 15th August.

Showcasing the daily experience of Palestinians living under occupation, the exhibition features bold images from the front line of the struggle for justice in Palestine.

This exhibition is a rare opportunity for New Zealanders to see a different side of the conflict.

“We want to show the different ways in which Israel destroys people’s livelihoods, homes, land and hope” says Israeli peace activist and exhibition organiser Kerem Blumberg.

“But we also want to emphasise that Palestinians and Israelis continue to work together towards real peace and justice, through non-violent resistance to the Israeli state and military. Now that I am living in New Zealand, it feels like something that I can share,” continues Kerem.

“I have found other people here who have been witness to the occupation who wanted to make the exhibition happen”.

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. Formed in 2005, they have since held and participated in exhibitions in Munich, Olympia, Bil’in (West Bank), Tel Aviv, Toronto, Montreal, Malmo, Lund and Amsterdam.

Date of exhibition: 15 August- 22 August 2010, 12-4 pm.
Opening 5-7, 15 August 2010
Location: Linwood Community Arts Centre, 
Corner Stanmore Road and Worchester Street, Linwood.

Friday, 13 August 2010

CTU video: Interview of Heather Smith, sacked under 90 day fire at will law


This is the first in what promises to be a series of videos from the CTU revealing the real impact of the 90 day fire at will law.

These pesonal stories are exactly what's needed to counter the government's lies that making it easier to sack people will magicly produce jobs in the middle of a recession.

It would also be good to do some interviews with people who have benefitted from the union campaigns over the past few years, to show the positive work that unions do

Currently the law can be used only by businesses with fewer than 20 employees, but the government plans to give this abusive power to all employers.

Heather Smith - unfair dismissal story. 

Heather Smith tells the story of how she was unfairly dismissed under John Key's new 90 day law. www.fairness.org.nz

RALLY 21 & 22 August
Auckland * Wellington * Christchurch * Dunedin

1pm, Saturday 21st August
QE2 Square (bottom of Queen St, opposite Britomart)

1pm, Saturday 21st August
Civic Square

1pm, Saturday 21st August
Cathedral Square

11am, Sunday 22nd August
Assemble at Dental School, Great King Street
March to rally at the Octagon

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Robert Fisk: Israel has crept into the EU without anyone noticing

By Robert Fisk
from the Independant
Saturday, 31 July 2010

The death of five Israeli servicemen in a helicopter crash in Romania this week [July 26] raised scarcely a headline.

There was a Nato-Israeli exercise in progress. Well, that’s OK then. Now imagine the death of five Hamas fighters in a helicopter crash in Romania this week. We’d still be investigating this extraordinary phenomenon. Now mark you, I’m not comparing Israel and Hamas. Israel is the country that justifiably slaughtered more than 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza 19 months ago – more than 300 of them children – while the vicious, blood-sucking and terrorist Hamas killed 13 Israelis (three of them soldiers who actually shot each other by mistake).

Monday, 9 August 2010

Kia Ora Gaza Song

‘Kia Ora Gaza from Kiwiland’

Musicians & singers: Maia Fowler, Peter Parnham & Roger Fowler.

Audio production: Steve McGough.

Songwriter: Roger Fowler.

Apologies to Hank Snow: the tune was derived from his 1950s classic country hit I’m Movin’ On


Kia Ora Gaza from Kiwiland
We’re coming through to lend a hand;
We’re movin’ on, just a-rollin’ on,
We wont turn around, we’re freedom bound
We’re movin’ on. [CHORUS 1]

We’re heading for that Gaza strip
Put your pedal-to-the-metal & let her rip;
We’re movin’ on, we’re rollin’ on.
Coming down the line, get us there on time,
We’re movin’ on. [CHORUS 2]

From far away we heard the call
Now we’re gonna break right through that wall;

So let’s remember all those who died (pause)
And get this aid to the other side,

The ground will tremble, the dust will fly,
See those trucks go rumblin’ by,

We’re Kia Ora Gaza from Kiwiland
We’re coming through to make a stand

Father & son with Kiwi Team to Gaza

by Grant Morgan
Co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza
9 August 2010

A father and son will be among the six-person Kiwi Team heading for Gaza next month with an international aid convoy.

Roger Fowler, a 61-year-old Aucklander who holds the Queen’s Service Medal for community service, is the Team Captain. His 25-year-old son Hone, of Ngapuhi, Ngati Porou and Pakeha heritage, has also been selected for the humanitarian mission to Gaza.

The Kiwi Team, under the banner of Kia Ora Gaza, will join a land convoy leaving London on 18 September.

The London expedition will merge with two other land convoys, from Casablanca in Morocco and Doha in the Gulf, in a 500-vehicle convoy through Egypt into Gaza’s Rafah crossing. Simultaneously, a sea flotilla carrying aid will approach the shoreline of Gaza.

Thousands of volunteers from all continents will be involved in the world’s largest non-governmental aid mission.

The four other members of the Kiwi Team are:
  • Chris van Ryn, Vice Captain, a photo-journalist and campaigner for human rights with Amnesty International.
  • Julie Webb-Pullman, who delivered aid to poor children in the Pacific and served as a human rights observer in Latin America.
  • Pat O’Dea, a longtime trade union and social justice campaigner affectionately nicknamed “Protest Pat” by his workmates.
  • Mousa Taher, who has a Palestinian father and converted to Islam in 2006.
Detailed biographies of Kiwi Team members can be found on www.kiaoragaza.net.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The crisis of the American working class

From Lenin’s Tomb

Obama and the Democrats are in trouble. Barring some unforeseeable development on a par with Katrina in terms of scale, the GOP is going to romp the mid-terms on a much reduced turn-out. The capitalist media will say that this is because of the Tea Party 'movement', or because the president moved too far to the left in a centre-right nation. Left-wing anger, and the disillusionment of working class constituencies previously supportive of Obama, will be ignored.

Obama's dual constituency in the 2008 election comprised the majority of the working class, and the dominant fraction of big capital, particularly the finance, insurance and real estate industries (the rentiers in other words) who gave Obama $37.5m toward his campaign. In the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections, the signs are that much of the working class component of that electoral coalition will fail to mobilise for the Democrats. This has already been foreshadowed in the Massachusetts by-election, where the core working class vote collapsed - and, of course, the media blamed it on Obama's excessive radicalism over healthcare, despite Massachusetts favouring socialised medicine by a wider margin than most states.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

New Socialist Restaurants Bring Venezuelans Good Food at Fair Prices

By Edward Ellis
from Correo del Orinoco International
via Venezuela Analysis

Providing the Venezuelan population with good food at fair prices is the principle goal behind the inauguration of seven new socialist arepa restaurants in the country, confirmed Commerce Minister Richard Canan last Saturday.

During a tour of a recently opened government run restaurant in the neighborhood La Rinconada in Caracas, Canan highlighted how these new facilities are breaking with older models of doing business in Venezuela.

“The creation of these socialist arepa restaurants allows us to demonstrate to capitalist businesses that it is possible to have a venue where food can be sold at a fair price and not as a commodity, as it is under capitalist concepts”.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Hiroshima Day poem: No Ordinary Sun

by Hone Tuwhare
from www.honetuwhare.co.nz

No Ordinary Sun

Tree let your arms fall:

raise them not sharply in supplication
to the bright enhaloed cloud.

Let your arms lack toughness and

resilience for this is no mere axe
to blunt nor fire to smother.

Your sap shall not rise again
to the moon’s pull.

No more incline a deferential head
to the wind’s talk, or stir
to the tickle of coursing rain.

Your former shagginess shall not be
wreathed with the delightful flight

of birds nor shield

nor cool the ardour of unheeding
lovers from the monstrous sun.

Tree let your naked arms fall

nor extend vain entreaties to the radiant ball.

This is no gallant monsoon’s flash,

no dashing trade wind’s blast.

The fading green of your magic

emanations shall not make pure again
hese polluted skies . . . for this

is no ordinary sun.

O tree

in the shadowless mountains
the white plains and
the drab sea floor

your end at last is written.


As well as commemorating the atomic bombing of the Japanese city, this poem serves as a reminder of the long, successful struggle to declare New Zealand nuclear free and break the formal military alliance with US imperialism.

I hope it will also be the first of many more poems on UNITYblog.

– David

Thursday, 5 August 2010

NZ soldier killed, ‘Better ties’ with US ‘on cards’

By David

The first New Zealand soldier has been killed in Afghanistan.  

Labour leader Phil Goff (chief champion of this war), is reported to have said it was “not a day for politics”, which simply reflects the fact that on this, as with so many other issues, he has no political differences with the current government.

Green Party Defence Spokesman Keith Locke, once a prominent campaigner against New Zealand participation in this war, now claims to be “proud of the good peacekeeping and reconstruction work that our Provincial Reconstruction Team has done in Bamian Province, and we mourn the loss of one of its members.”

It’s an unfortunate time for Locke and the Greens to jump on the pro-war bandwagon. As UNITYblog posts over the last week have shown, support for the war is collapsing everywhere else. Over the last nine years the anti-war movement has been consistently correct in our predictions about what the results of this war would be.

Thousands of Afghanis have been killed, maimed and made homeless. And what for? They are not “liberated”, but subject to foreign occupation, corrupt central government and local war lords who are just as brutal and intolerant as the old Taliban. Many see the resistance grouped around the “new Taliban” as their only hope regaining national independence.

Osama Bin Laden (remember him?) has never been “bought to justice”, the US are no longer looking for him. Meanwhile, like Bin Laden, the war has crossed over in to Pakistan, killing hundreds and causing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

In the West the war has fed that cancerous growth of Islamophobic racism. Such racism goes hand-in-hand with imperialist war, based as it is on the assumption of the superior value of the life and culture of the “advanced” nations.

The right of the US (along with UK, Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the “coalition of the willing”) to invade other countries and rearrange them to the satisfaction of the corporate lobbyists at the State Department, bestowing the free market and puppet “democracy” is taken for granted.

Murdering 3000 people in the US on September 11, 2001 was a “crime against humanity”, but murdering many, many more people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Lebanon and elsewhere is merely “collateral damage” and hardly worth worrying about.

The death of one soldier (occupying someone elses country) is treated as a national tragedy, but how many Afghans have been killed by New Zealand troops in nine years of war?

Of course the role of the NZDF in Afghanistan is not primarily killing Afghans, it’s providing support and cover for those who do. Under the guise of a “UN mandate” and “Provincial Reconstruction”, “our leaders” have deployed their forces to lend credibility to US imperialism, in return for closer trade and military ties to the US, (and a boost for Helen Clark’s career at the UN).

In this, the combined effort of Labour and National (oh, and the soldiers too), appears to be paying off. “Better ties with NZ on US cards”, according to a report on Stuff today, “including a step-up in military training and exercises between the two countries.”


Also worth checking out is this post from Socialist Aotearoa, which links to articles by Gordon Campbell and Afghan womens rights activist Malalai Joya.