Saturday 28 June 2008

Zimbabwe: Vote Mugabe or else!

A one candidate presidential election was held in Zimbabwe on 27 June. Vote Mugabe or else was the non-alternative for people. Below is article from Ken Olende for British Socialist Worker written prior to the "election". See also Zimbabwe election not 'illegitimate', says UN Security Council from the NZ Herald (28 June). The Left in New Zealand needs to be thinking about how we can give practical support to the brave democracy fighters in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe cracks down on opposition by Ken Olende 24 June 2008 The situation in Zimbabwe continued to deteriorate as Socialist Worker went to press. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai had sought refuge in the Dutch embassy, while the government crackdown on opposition supporters continued. This followed the opposition’s withdrawal from the presidential run-off election, due to take place on Friday of this week, in the face of intimidation from Robert Mugabe’s governing Zanu-PF party. More than 80 MDC activists have been killed during the campaign. There have been arbitrary arrests of civic leaders.

Sports boycott of Zimbabwe deserves government support

Global Peace & Justice Auckland media release 25 June 2008 The New Zealand government must move on from condemnation of the brutal Mugabe regime to take some simple steps to put real pressure on the dictator. If we have learnt anything from the regime to date it is that Mugabe takes notice of actions – not words. It is encouraging to see international cricketers taking the lead. Governments must now take effective action to support work for the total sporting isolation of Zimbabwe. In New Zealand’s case it means ending the proposed black caps tour to Zimbabwe next year. More than anything else actions such as these can psychologically undermine those supporting tyrannical regimes far more effectively than finding new ways to describe the megalomaniac Mugabe. In 2005 New Zealand had the opportunity to put intense pressure on Mugabe by cancelling the New Zealand cricket tour to Zimbabwe. Despite appeals from democratic forces inside Zimbabwe and around the world, such as those from Zimbabwean cricketer Henry Olongo and human rights campaigner Judith Todd, the New Zealand cricketers toured Zimbabwe after the our government refused to even formally request the team to call off the tour. The bluff and bluster from the then Foreign Minister Phil Goff and Prime Minister Helen Clark let Mugabe off the hook and helped deepen the crisis for Zimbabwe’s people. Concerted action then could have increased international pressure and could well have ended the regime before now. Our government can take the initiative now to actively promote a total boycott of the regime through the Commonwealth and United Nations. A good place to start is cricket. John Minto Spokesperson Ph (09) 8463173 (09) 8469496

Zimbabwe ISO on the political crisis in their country

20 June 2008 Precarious security situation – Reign of Terror As the nation gears up for the presidential run off on June 27, the Mugabe regime has unleashed a reign of terror across the country. The levels of violence and political intimidation now far exceed those ahead of the 2000 elections. The economic collapse is severe and unprecedented. Gono’s floating of the dollar has led to its collapse to $1USA to ZW$6 billion and inflation is now over 2 million percent, with prices going up twice a week. The people are truly suffering.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

350 - new international initiative calls for global action to stop climate change

This animation has been made to coincide with the launch of 350, an international grouping of activists, climate scientists, environmental organisations and prominent people. James Hansen, a respected climate change scientist is one of the spokespeople. Ads for 350 have been placed in some of the world's major newspapers. 350 is the level of carbon dioxide in the air measured in parts per million (ppm) that's safe for human civilization. Currently the world is at 385ppm and rising. 350 is calling for global action for a global future. Visit the website There's a growing recognition that we need to build an international movement to bring about the urgent and drastic solutions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. That movement has to bring together mass mobilising organisations in individual countries like unions, churches, student organisations, environment groups, and grassroots political parties prepared to stand up against vested corporate interests. 350 could be a break through initiative that brings the international movement to another level. We should be looking very closely at 350 and considering how we can bring together mass mobilising organisations in New Zealand around some common initiatives linked to the global movement and consciousness. What do UNITYblog readers think of 350?

See also:

Leading climate change scientist says, "It is time to stop waffling".

James Hansen, a leading climate change scientist, has been calling for urgent and radical actions to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Here's a recent article from The Guardian about Hansen’s call for the oil companies to be put on the trial for spreading false information on climate change, the same way the big tobacco companies used to. Go to Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist See also:

Some commonly asked questions about the GST-off-food petition

RAM's "GST-off-food" petition has received upwards of 12,000 signatures at stalls like the one above. Some unions are also circulating the petition amongst their members.

Below are some commonly asked questions about removing GST from food for distribution in union and other social justice networks. Please feel free to copy and paste into an email to send to your own contacts. Or make up a quick leaflet to give to workmates and friends. Copies of RAM's "GST-off-food" petition is avaible from RAM's website.

Will sellers just lift their prices if GST is removed?

While sellers have a degree of flexibility in regard to managing their profit margins, they are not a law unto themselves. Customers ultimately dictate the course of a business, and New Zealand has a very competitive retail environment. If GST-off-food became a reality, Kiwis would not tolerate retailers or their suppliers not removing the 12.5% tax on their food items. There would be a mass exodus to sellers who didn't hike their prices, forcing the others to retreat. And remember, removing GST from food provides a PERMANENT benefit. Prices will always be cheaper by the amount of the GST than it would otherwise be if this 12.5% tax remained. In fact, as food prices rose over time in line with general inflationary trends, the amount of the benefit of removing GST would grow in value.

What about the loss in tax revenue?

The income tax cuts promised by Labour and National (which benefit the wealthy more than the rest) are significantly greater in terms of lost revenue than would be the removal of GST from food. And there is greatly increased GST revenue being generated as a result of record fuel prices and the rise in the cost of other goods and services. These rises will tend to offset the removal of GST from food. Anyway, New Zealand needs to move away from the GST flat tax, since it is so unfair to low-to-modest income Kiwis. The poorest person in the land pays exactly the same amount of GST on a litre of milk as the richest person. GST is the product of Rogernomics and the whole Business Roundtable agenda. We need to return to progressive tax systems where the rich pay a fairer share, possibly including a financial transactions tax which would capture greedy speculators in the tax net which they now escape under GST.

Should tax reform be part of a union's strategy?

Each union is working hard to improve the living conditions of its own members by campaigning for better collective agreements. And by campaigning for upwards adjustments to the politically legislated minimum wage, the union movement as a whole is trying to improve the well-being of every worker in the land. This combination of industrial and political campaigning has always been a feature of the NZ union movement, and long may it continue. The GST-off-food petition fits right into this union strategy. It is a political campaign supported by some unions and many union members that aims to improve the lives of low-to-modest income families struggling to pay the bills. Many are now simply unable to afford good food no matter how well they budget. This is a social justice issue. As one Maori woman worker said when signing the GST-off-food petition in Mangere: "Taxing food is like taxing the air we breathe." By supporting the GST-off-food petition, your union will earn the gratitude of all Kiwi battlers, which will pay off in terms of cross-solidarity in the future.

The SIS and Police: the job of inventing a terrorist threat

Reading (between) The Lines...
Why you will always find what you are looking for, or what the SIS and Police reports tell us

by October 15th Solidarity

Anyone who has worked in an academic research institute will be familiar with the annual problem of securing funding for the next year. On the one hand, the university finance committee, government department or whoever else is providing the money must get the impression that last year's funding was a good investment, while at the same time they must be convinced to continue. The annual report then usually indicates that the department is on the verge of a major discovery or has at least made huge progress, but to get really conclusive results, another year's worth of work, preferably with more staff and resources is required.

Sunday 22 June 2008

Israeli Attack On Iran: "Not a matter of if, but when"

by Stefan Steinberg
20 June, 2008

An Israeli military strike is not a matter of if, but when, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel. The latest edition of the news weekly carries a four-page article entitled “Plan to Attack” devoted to preparations currently underway in Israel for air strikes against Iran.

Now Labour decides to improve the rights of casual workers

The Labour-led government is moving to improve the rights of casual workers, who’ve been dreadfully treated over the last quarter-century in New Zealand. But why has it taken Helen Clark's government nine years to address this festering issue, which unions have been constantly agitating about? Are unions been thrown a bone with which to try and encourage low paid and casualised workers to vote Labour? It looks like a cynical move to try and shore up support from traditional Labour supporters whose commitment is weakening.
CTU MEDIA RELEASE 22 June 2008 Work rights getting better for casuals "The rights at work for casual workers are about to get better, and no party should stand it the way of this much needed law change," Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said today. The government today announced plans to beef up Employment Relations Act protections for temporary and casual workers, and run an awareness campaign to make sure casuals were aware of their rights. "There have been significant real improvements for workers in this country over the last 8 years but many of the new improvements have been denied to large numbers of workers because of the misuse by employers of casual employment relationships. That makes these changes extremely significant and important," Helen Kelly said. "There is an army of casual employees, often low paid workers, many of whom are totally insecure about their terms of employment, their hours of work, their entitlements to sick leave and holidays and their employment status in relation to any workplace problems." "The insecurity of their employment makes it difficult for them to assert their rights, and also effects many other aspects of their lives in areas like housing stability, access to loans and superannuation savings." "Of course there are instances of genuine casuals where the arrangements are necessary in normal business operations. However there are many workers who are classified as casuals when in fact they are expected to turn up to work on a regular basis and really are no different from a permanent workers." "The changes announced today will be a real help for casual and temporary workers to get the rights at work that the rest of the workforce have won. The CTU has been involved in this process and are pleased with the outcomes, and we acknowledge NZ First Deputy Leader Peter Brown’s strong advocacy for casual workers." "We expect all political parties that believe in fairness at work to support this move, or tell casual and temporary workers why they should go without their rights at work," Helen Kelly said.

Latest poll shows Labour's support is very shaky

The latest AC Nielsen poll shows that support for Labour is very shaky. National is polling at 54% of the party vote against Labour's 30%. Also 20% of people who currently support Labour might change their minds by election time. The poll confirms the anecdotal evidence that RAM activists have been accumulating on the street – Labour’s support amongst grassroots people is very soft and eroding. But many people are saying they don’t want to vote National either. They're looking for an alternative. See the Dominion Post article on the AC Nielsen poll

Friday 20 June 2008

Essential information on carbon trading

The Climate and Capitalism website has brought together a range of information on carbon trading from The Corner House, which they say is the best source of analysis and comment on global carbon trading. There's some good stuff here to help us understand emissions trading, just as the Labour government is trying to push through its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The arguments against emissions trading need to be made loudly and by mass organisations like unions and political parties, otherwise the corporates will succeed in framing the debate around market mechanisms rather than real public solutions like free and frequent public transport. See also Europe's ETS delivers windfall profits to polluters and The fine art of greenwashing From Climate and Capitalism (17 June 2008): (1) Carbon Trading: Solution or Obstacle? More and more commentators now recognize that carbon markets are not helping to address the climate crisis. But more discussion is needed of: how carbon markets damage more effective approaches; whether carbon markets could ever work at all; and why carbon trading has been successful in political terms despite failing in climatic terms.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

NZ troops in Afghanistan are supporting an imperialist takeover of the country

There are 64,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan - a strategic military occupation of another country by the US and its allies.

Around 200 New Zealand troops are part of the occupying force in Afghanistan. Labour government minister Phil Goff says there's a "strong likelihood" that the troops will stay until at least 2010.

The government's justification is that they're "helping to rebuild the country". The article below on the involvement of Canada's armed forces makes it clear that this is no "peace mission", but a naked imperialist enterprise to control a strategic area of the world - in the eyes the US and its allies. And at the same time support the corporate plunder of Afghanistan's mineral resources. While billions of dollars stand to be made by overseas companies the Afghanistan people continue to live in desperate poverty.

Labour's support for America's global war must end. Bring NZ troops back from Afghanistan.

Canadian workers demand immediate end to war in Afghanistan

by Michael Skinner
from LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal

On 29 May 2009, the delegates at the national convention of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), representing more than 3 million workers from every region of Canada and Quebec, voted overwhelmingly to demand that the government of Canada immediately end its participation in the illegal war in Afghanistan.

Bush meets NZ troops in Afghanistan

Laura Bush, wife of US president George W Bush, meets New Zealand troops in Afghanistan on Sunday 8 June 2008. NZ troops took over the US compound in Bamiyan in 2003.

Photo from the official White House website

Scottish Socialist Party: Free public transport

Free public transport has emerged as a key demand from the international movement demanding public solutions to global warming. Check out the Free Public Transport site hosted by the Scottish Socialist Party.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Nationalise big oil, enemy of people and planet

by Dick Nichols
The latest surge in the spot price of crude oil (to $US139 a barrel - 87.4 cents a litre) dramatises the urgent need for our society to wean itself off dependence on “black gold”. The longer we remain hooked the greater the devastation both to our environment and to the living standards of millions, especially the poorest peoples of the planet.

Monday 16 June 2008

GM will make global food crisis worse

Two competing scenarios are unfolding for the future of farming around the planet: organic & local versus industrialised & dependent on seed-varieties owned by multinational corporations. Linked into industrialised farming is the "bad science" of genetic modification (GM), which makes many crops dangerous to life as well as less productive. Our food security demands a return to local and organic farming.

Lecture by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho at the conference, TRADITIONAL SEEDS OUR NATIONAL TREASURE AND HERITAGE, 17 May 2008, Warsaw, Poland.

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho is the co-founder of The Institute of Science In Society The Brave New World of GM Science In 1994, I met some of the most remarkable leaders in the Third World: Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher (Institute of Sustainable Development, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), Martin Khor (Third World Network, Penang, Malaysia), and Vandana Shiva (Navdanya, New Delhi, India), who persuaded me to look into genetically modified organisms (GMOs), especially GM crops, which they rightly saw as a special threat to small family farmers. The biotech industry was promising miracle GM crops that would boost yield to feed the world, improve nutrition, and clean up and protect the environment. Monsanto's Flavr Savr tomato, the first GM crop, had just been commercialised, though it turned out to be a complete flop, and was withdrawn several years later.


Housing value crunch: a tipping point for politics in NZ

The home value crunch may well become a tipping point for politics in New Zealand. 

For a long time the stability of the two-party system (plus a few MMP add-ons) has been based in large part on the belief by a large section of the grassroots that they can work their way into their own home, which will then rise in value. This belief, which has been under siege for quite a while, may now start to collapse altogether for most people, including many in the middle class as well as the working class.  

When that happens, it's not just an economic crisis we're talking about. We're also talking an entrenched political crisis and an associated crisis in traditional hegemonic belief systems, such as "the market knows best" and "the market means democracy".  

This opens up space for a broad left party to connect with grassroots people and provide leadership that helps build mass-based resistance to the market's efforts to place the burdens of crisis on the shoulders of ordimary people, and to collectively project a human-centred alternative to an out-of-control market.

Sunday 15 June 2008

House price crash will see a wave of mortgagee sales and bankruptcies not seen since the 1930s

by Peter de Waal
15 June 2008

British commentators are advising of a 5 year slump and 50% loss in value in the UK housing market. I believe the effects will be far worse in NZ, on the periphery of the global market.
The Australian banks have had a sweetheart deal with the NZ government allowing them to loan $200 million for every $8 million they have on deposit for housing. This compares to ordinary business loans where they can only advance $100 million for each $8 million on deposit.
This amount of loan activity has inflated house prices and the banks' profits – up until now. With the global credit crunch banks can no longer find the foreign capital needed to make such huge loans for housing. With the bursting of the housing market bubble house prices in NZ will crash, perhaps down to 2-4 times the average wage ($80,000-160,000).
The New Zealand middle class has most of its money tied up in housing after being thoroughly fleeced by the share market crash of 1987. The loss of the "wealth effect" is going to be profound, much worse than after 1987.
There will be a wave of mortgagee sales and bankruptcies not seen since the 1930s.  

See the Herald on Sunday (15 June) article The boom has turned to bust  
Also see Peter de Waal’s UNITYblog article The 2008 banking crisis: Why the housing bubble? Why the crash?

Nicky Hagar: more evidence of state institutions spying on eco-activists

Nicky Hagar has written an article in the Sunday Star Times (15 June) about the private snoops, Thompson and Clark (TCIL), hired by Solid Energy and other government departments to spy on environmental activists. Hagar has got his hands on some of the reports by TCIL, written under the heading of “National Extremism”. Solid Energy had been paying $1000 a month for the reports. They “consist of unreferenced material from the internet and rough summaries of open sources, interspersed with sarcastic comments about the community groups”, writes Hagar. Quotes from the reports show that these not very clever spies have been relying on the blog of ACT Party vice president, Trevor Louden, who is fixated on the radical left, and is probably worried about reds under his own bed. Unsurprisingly the reports contain lots of warm praise for National and ACT. To read the article go to

Saturday 14 June 2008

New mass protests shake South Korea

by CJ Park in Seoul
from British Socialist Worker
14 June 2008
Up to a million people gathered across South Korea on Tuesday of this week to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the 1987 June Struggle.
The June Struggle was a milestone in the history of democracy in South Korea. It ended the military dictatorship and brought many democratic reforms.
Above all, it gave working people confidence that they have the power to stop oppression and exploitation. It inspired a generation of social and political activists.

A Hunger for Justice

by Health Unionist

So it’s happening already. Rising food prices in this country are “making people more prone to sickness”. That’s what food specialists say in a recent Dominion Post article Families' health hit as food costs soar.

The Wellington managing director of Foodstuffs (Pak’N’Save, New World and 4 Square supermarkets) rattles off the usual suspects behind the price rises. Poor harvests, high fuel costs, higher demand from Asia, biofuels. You have to dig a little deeper to get the full picture, which corporate managing directors can’t, and won’t tell you. Poor harvests are linked to climate change, which rolls on unabated thanks to corporate opposition to measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Oil prices are rising for the same reason. High oil prices, in turn, make it profitable for corporate agribusinesses to grow crops for biofuels instead of food. “Higher demand” from Asia is actually driven by the growth of a small, wealthy middle class, mainly in China, which has a taste for meat. Grain is now being diverted to animal feed, to produce meat for this lucrative new market. The corporate elite behind the food crisis, which is now growing here in New Zealand as the Dominion Post reports, have no answers. Neither do all the mainstream political parties which serve them. It’s an absolute disgrace that National, ACT, Labour and the Greens all reject such a simple, immediate step as scrapping GST on food. Ultimately, there is no global food shortage. There’s only a shortage of politicians willing to stand up to the corporate agenda. RAM (Residents Action Movement) has the answers that the corporate elite and all the mainstream politicians lack. RAM is building a grassroots movement that puts people and the environment before the almighty dollar – starting by scrapping GST tax on all our food.

Venezuela: Massive turnout for PSUV primaries

by Kiraz Janicke, Caracas
11 June 2008

In a massive show of support for the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) - established to unite the mass movement that supports the Bolivarian revolution led by President Hugo Chavez - on June 1 some 2.5 million PSUV members participated in an historic process of electing candidates for the upcoming regional elections in November.

Perhaps 60% of today’s oil price is pure speculation

by F. William Engdahl
from Global Research
May 2, 2008

The price of crude oil today is not made according to any traditional relation of supply to demand. It’s controlled by an elaborate financial market system as well as by the four major Anglo-American oil companies. As much as 60% of today’s crude oil price is pure speculation driven by large trader banks and hedge funds. It has nothing to do with the convenient myths of Peak Oil. It has to do with control of oil and its price. How?

Friday 13 June 2008

Electric rail in jeopardy because petrol prices too high!

by Ondine Green
After decades of sabotage and delay it's finally been agreed by all parties that Auckland's rail network needs to be electrified for the needs of people and planet. So it's absolutely stupid that the Auckland Regional Council has been forced to approve a budget without provision for buying electric trains in the coming year (see
The Labour government declared in 2007 that Auckland could have electric rail - but only if ordinary Aucklanders paid up to 5c extra per litre of petrol for it. Now the petrol tax is in political doubt because of skyrocketing oil prices. Yet Labour refuses to consider any other options for funding. So, in other words, Auckland's electric rail is in jeopardy because petrol prices are too high! This is of course the stupidest Catch-22 situation ever. It's precisely because oil is in short supply (and going to get shorter) that we need electric rail, and other sustainable transport, as soon as possible. Aucklanders might be wondering whether the Labour government actually wants Auckland to have electric rail. It's possible that windfall profits from petrol price gouging have blinded them. Perhaps they really don't care if Auckland chokes on its own congestion and pollution. A government with working people's interests at heart would immediately guarantee all the funding needed for Auckland to have an efficient, comprehensive electric rail system within five years. This should be paid for out of general funds, not by putting an extra tax burden on working people in Auckland, most of whom at the moment don't have a real choice but to use their cars to go to work. The nasty Nats aren't any better. Maurice Williamson says he wants electrified rail "somehow". "Somehow", in Maurice's book, always means what are euphemistically called "Public-Private Partnerships". Maurice wants the government to subsidise big business to build our rail network - and then to make a profit off it indefinitely. But the profit motive is exactly what got us into this mess. The reason we need electric rail is precisely because the corporate sector is infatuated with the car. All the experience of the 1990s - especially the debacle with our national rail network - shows that private enterprise just doesn't run public transport in an efficient or sustainable manner. Public transport must be owed by the nation as a whole, and run for ordinary people's needs, not the health of some balance sheet. Labour and National agree - Aucklanders being able to get about their city without having to burn expensive and polluting fossil fuels is not a priority for them. Isn't it time we had a better option?

Thursday 12 June 2008

Latest terms of trade confirms NZ is a wealthy country

NZ’s terms of trade, as reported in the NZ Herald, is the best for 34 years. The terms of trade, which measures export values versus imports, rose 4.1% over the last 3 months, and in the year previous to that 11.3%. The growth is mainly due to soaring prices for dairy products exported overseas, and increasing costs of imports due to rising oil prices.

As the NZ Herald put it “the increased purchasing power of the export dollar makes New Zealand a richer country”. Fundamentally NZ is a wealthy country. In 2007 national income rose 5.1%. There's been sustained economic growth since 2000. The wealth, however, has not been shared around. The rich have been gorging themselves while the relative wealth of middle to low income earners has stagnated or fallen. There are real signs that the economy is heading for problems, as a result of the global economic crisis and the bursting of NZ’s housing market bubble. The wealthy elites now want workers and other grassroots people to tighten their belts and be "realistic" about what the country can afford. This would be injustice heaped on injustice. There should be no poverty in NZ today, and we should be rushing to fund public solutions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions. Finding the $400 million a year needed to make tertiary education free should be no problem at all. That's why the demands being put forward by RAM are simply common sense:

  • Remove GST tax from all our food.
  • Mobilise for climate security, like public transport funded by road budget.
  • 2% interest state loan for a first home.
  • Lift minimum wage to $15 per hour & legalise workers’ stolen rights.
  • Free tertiary education & student living allowance to stop the ‘brain drain’.
Campaigning to achieve them will be taking it to the rich in this country and will be a step towards shifting the power balance.

Call for investigation of possible price gouging by oil companies

RAM - Residents Action Movement Media release 12 June 2008 Today's announcement by Caltex of a six cents rise in the price of standard petrol takes a litre to a sliver under $2.13. A company spokesperson blamed the latest price hike on rises in overseas oil prices. "I question Caltex's explanation for the price hike," says Roger Fowler, transport spokesperson for RAM - Residents Action Movement. "The price of a litre of standard petrol in New Zealand is 35% dearer than in the United States. Yet oil production in America is now a lower proportion of the country's total petrol needs than is the case in New Zealand. So how can NZ petrol be priced so much higher than over there?" "This throws grave doubt on Caltex putting all the blame on offshore price fluctuations. It does leave Caltex in New Zealand open to the charge that they are price gouging Kiwi drivers," said Roger Fowler. "I am writing to the Commerce Commission to ask them to investigate recent rises in NZ petrol prices and see if multinational oil companies are indeed price gouging us in New Zealand." "I will also be asking why oil extracted from NZ territorial waters is exported as crude, while more expensive oil is imported for the Whangarei refinery. On the surface, this appears to be a profit-making strategy for the oil companies which exposes New Zealand to serious oil security risks." "There does seem to be compelling reasons for an independent investigation of the whole operation of the oil industry in New Zealand. That investigation should have the power to make any recommendations that seem appropriate, including nationalisation of the oil industry if the multinationals are found to be price gouging and blocking development of the Whangarei refinery and they refuse to change their ways." "I will be raising issues like these as I campaign for RAM in the Manukau East electorate, where Kiwi battlers are struggling to fill up their cars and suffer from some of the region's worst bus services," said Roger Fowler. BACKGROUNDER: 1 gallon of petrol in the US = US$4 (see UK Guardian 11.6.08). 1 US gallon = 3.78541178 litres. This morning's exchange rate = US$1 for NZ$1.32 (see Yahoo currency exchange). For more information, contact: Roger Fowler RAM transport spokesperson & Manukau East candidate 021 2999 491

NZers call for US to release Cuban 5

Dozens of New Zealand supporters of civil rights have added their names to a letter being delivered to the US consulate in Auckland at 4pm today demanding the release of five Cubans jailed in the USA.

“Their so-called crime was to gather information about terrorist groups that operate on US soil and carry out attacks in Cuba,” said Mike Treen on behalf of the NZ Cuba Friendship Society.

“Their actions helped prevent terrorist actions and protected innocent civilians. It is a travesty of justice for them to remain in jail for so long.”

The three decisive social forces that can stop climate change

An editorial in the British Socialist Resistance publication calls for ecosocialists to focus on these tasks: " immerse ourselves in the emerging social movement on climate in order to actively build each and every protest; to weld together the diverse and multifaceted strands of this movement into a single powerful force; and to develop, through a wide ranging process of discussion and debate, the strategies that are needed to win. "And there are three social forces that will be decisive in all of these tasks: the indigenous peoples of the South; the organized working class of all countries; and the youth." The rest of the editorial can be read at the excellent Climate and Capitalism website. Go to

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Can the US empire strike back?

by Alex Callinicos from British Socialist Worker 10 June 2008 Imagine, in a galaxy far, far away, an empire in decline. A disastrous military adventure and the rise of new powers have exposed its weakness. To cap it all, the emperor himself is generally despised as a provincial clod. But now his successor has to be chosen. What better way to rehabilitate the empire in the eyes of others than to select as emperor an eloquent, dynamic, relatively young man – a man who, while being utterly safe, not only belongs to the group of imperial subjects who are victims of its greatest historical injustice, but whose father comes from a foreign country and who himself spent some of his childhood in another?


Federal Reserve and ECB are in no mood to save us from the consequences of our debt

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from The Telegraph 10 June 2008 Fetch your tin helmets once again. The European Central Bank is opting for a monetary purge. So too is the US Federal Reserve, now ruled from Dallas.Über-hawks and Cromwellians have gained the upper hand at the great fortress banks. Whether or not they admit it, both are embarked on policies that must lead to retrenchment across the Atlantic world.

Venezuela: Big stakes in November elections

by Kiraz Janicke & Federico Fuentes
4 June 2008

Following the December 2 constitutional reform referendum defeat — the first for the forces of the Bolivarian revolution since the election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 1998 — and facing popular discontent at the problems holding back the advance of the process of change, the pro-revolution forces face a big challenge in securing an overwhelming victory in the November regional elections in order not to lose ground to the US-backed opposition.

Monday 9 June 2008

Europe's ETS delivers windfall profits to polluters

As NZ's Labour government tries to push through its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) it's timely to consider the European Union's emissions market. Because of the high caps put in place when the scheme was set up in 2005 many polluting companies in Europe have been handed windfall profits. Perversely, this even includes oil companies, with BP profiting by an extra 17 million pounds in 2005. It's predicted that Europe's electricity companies (including some that burn fossil fuel) will make up to 71 billion euros in windfall profits from now until 2012. The scheme, unsurprisingly, is having little impact on emissions levels, with carbon emissions rising 0.68% across all participating companies - a long way from the 90% reductions urgently needed.

Destroying African Agriculture

A yound protestor in Jakarta, Indonesia, calling for the World Bank to be shutdown. All round the globe the World Bank and IMF have been responsible for destroying local food economies.

by Walden Bello
07 June, 2008

Biofuel production is certainly one of the culprits in the current global food crisis. But while the diversion of corn from food to biofuel feedstock has been a factor in food prices shooting up, the more primordial problem has been the conversion of economies that are largely food-self-sufficient into chronic food importers. Here the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) figure as much more important villains.

Saturday 7 June 2008

Pakistan: Thousands demonstrate against price rises

by Tariq Mehmood Over 3,000 supporters of Labour Party Pakistan took part in a rally at Lahore against the ongoing neo-liberal policies of the present Pakistan People's Party government. They chanted slogans against price hikes, American imperialism and demanded an immediate end of policies dictated by imperialist companies and financial institutions. There were similar demonstration in 30 other cities of Pakistan including Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad, Multan, Moro, Dault Pur and Layya. Labour Party Pakistan organized the demonstration and rallies with support from trade unions, social movements and peasant organizations as a day of national action against price hikes. They also demanded an immediate restoration of top judges and the resignation of general Musharaf. The Peshawar demonstration by LPP was broadcasted live by private television channel ARY World. Over 400 participated in the demonstration, including over 100 women. At Karachi, over 250 activists demonstrated at Regal Chouck. They were shouting slogans against American imperialism and its policies towards the colonial countries. At Islamabad, over 150 demonstrated at Aab Para Chouck against price hikes and demanded a living wage of at least 12,000 Rupees for all the workers. They demanded action against bosses who are attacking workers forming trade unions in different parts of the country. At Lahore, over 1,000 women participants led the demonstration, including the main leadership of Women Workers Help Line, a working class women's organization. The main Mall Road was blocked for over two hours as the rally passed thought his most busy and prestigious road. Thousands on both sides of the road cheered the demonstrators. This was the largest demonstration against price hikes so far in Pakistan by any political party. Mall Road was red with all the waving red flags for a long, long time. The demonstraters raised slogans in favour of Socialism, saying that Socialism is the only answer to the problems facing the working class. "Capitalism has failed in solving the basic problems of the masses. It is a message of consistent price hikes and unemployment. We have to change the system and develop a party able to prepare a Socialist revolution," declared Farooq Tariq while addressing the public rally at Lahore. "We demand a minimum wage of 12,000 rupees with an introduction of an unemployment benefit for all adult unemployed. We want an end to privatization and cancellation of the foreign debts. Reduce military expenditures and spent it on the people," Farooq Tariq said. He demanded action against the owner of New Khan private bus company who have sacked 80 workers for forming the first trade union in the company. Several trade union leaders including Moeen Nawaz Punno, Muhammed Yousaf Baluch, Bushra Khaliq, Azra Shad and Mehmood Butt also spoke at the occasion. Leaders of the lawyer's movement also addressed the rally, while activists of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party participated in the demonstration. There were many slogans directed against general Musharaf. All the main print and electronic media were present to record events. Labour Party Pakistan has announced a further demonstration this month along the same lines, and is taking an active part in the long march planned by the lawyers movement starting 10th June from Sukhar in Sind. Labor Party Pakistan

Labour’s Human Rights Nightmare: The New Immigration Bill

by Gordon Campbell June 5th, 2008 Few Labour voters may realise the full extent of what the Clark government has in mind - or has allowed to get out of hand - with its rewrite of the 1987 Immigration Act. To date, the parties on the centre right (National, Act, United Future) have also shown little interest in the Immigration Bill’s sweeping extensions of state power, while the anti-immigrant crew within New Zealand First must be thinking all their Christmasses have come at once. Continue at

Washington demands permanent bases to repress Iraqis, launch new Middle East wars

by Bill Van Auken from World Socialist Web Site 6 June 2008 The United States is demanding that Iraq grant it the authority to establish 50 permanent military bases scattered across the country, as well as other sweeping powers that would extend the present US military occupation indefinitely and formalize the country’s status as an American semi-colony.

Thursday 5 June 2008

Green Party leaders have muffed it again

The NZ Green Party's election posters. Are the Greens making the mistake of putting image before substance? Have they lost their radical edge?

by Ondine Green

The Greens had their chance to put some real excitement into the election campaign at their annual conference at Queen's Birthday weekend. And they muffed it.

Rumour had it leading up to the conference that the Greens were going to call for price controls on milk for domestic consumption. While this would not have had nearly as much of an impact on working people's skyrocketing food bills as – say – RAM's proposal to remove GST from food, it would have been at least a small step. Plus, it would have fired a warning shot across the bows of big agribusiness, easily New Zealand's number 1 producer of greenhouse emissions.

And what did Green leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons finally announce in her speech? That she was going to (get this) ask Fonterra nicely to bring milk prices down.

This is exactly why the Green Party has reached the limits of its claim to be any sort of radical alternative to the two-party duopoly. Even a tiny and easily achievable goal has to be trashed if it gives the appearance of bucking the almighty free market in any way. The Rubicon was crossed on this issue when they endorsed Labour's plan for “emissions trading” - also known as bribing big business not to wreck the planet quite so quickly.

Of course, the Greens are behind the eight-ball in this campaign anyway. They've traded off most of their distinctiveness and radical image (let alone any radical policies) to become “acceptable coalition partners for Labour”. Those with long memories might remember what happened when the Alliance did that ten years ago. Why exactly should struggling families vote for the Greens if it's just Labour policies with extra political correctness?

And this has happened with the Green's so-called “social justice” wing (represented by such high fliers as co-leader Russel Norman and MP Sue Bradford) in ascendancy. If the “blue-green” wing (represented by people like ex-MP Mike Ward, who did his best to stop Russel Norman taking over Nandor Tanczos's seat in Parliament) had their way, it would be even worse, and we might be seeing the Greens emulate their German cousins and hooking up with the right.

The Green leadership have been inside the bubble of Parliament for twelve years now – long enough to “go native” and forget that there's a real world of real working people with real hardships out there. Only that can explain why Jeanette Fitzsimmon's speech went out of its way to tick off who they seem to think are their real enemies – Parliamentary journalists like Guyon Espiner. Certainly those people don't particularly like the Greens, but then the Parliamentary media are in the entertainment business above all and the Greens aren't nearly as “fun” for them as Winston Peters. Which is, of course, why his political career keeps rising from the dead.

The Green's weak campaign gimmick - “Some things are bigger than politics” - shows all the signs that they've decided to play for the attention of media moguls and political journalists, not ordinary people. It's all icing and no cake. Only a party which puts concrete, achievable proposals for making ordinary people's lives better – no matter what the spin doctors and boardroom boys thinks – has any hope of motivating working people to the polls this October, and stopping a nasty Nat victory.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

What Would a Liveable City Look Like?

by Dave Holmes from Green Left Weekly 30 May 2008 (abridged)
When one sees a modern city from the air, especially at night, it is a truly awe-inspiring spectacle. The immensity of the project is a testimony to the power and creativity of human beings. However, on the ground and actually living and working in this wonder, things are quite different: the social and ecological problems crowd in and fill your view. The truth is that our cities have always been dominated by the rich and powerful, and built and operated to serve their needs rather than those of the mass of working people who live and toil in them.

John Pilger - The Substance Of Obama's Liberalism

by John Pilger
02 June, 2008
In this season of 1968 nostalgia, one anniversary illuminates today. It is the rise and fall of Robert Kennedy, who would have been elected president of the United States had he not been assassinated in June 1968.
Having traveled with Kennedy up to the moment of his shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, I heard The Speech many times. He would "return government to the people" and bestow "dignity and justice" on the oppressed. "As Bernard Shaw once said," he would say, "'most men look at things as they are and wonder why. I dream of things that never were and ask: Why not?'" That was the signal to run back to the bus. It was fun until a hail of bullets passed over our shoulders.
Kennedy's campaign is a model for Barack Obama. Like Obama, he was a senator with no achievements to his name. Like Obama, he raised the expectations of young people and minorities. Like Obama, he promised to end an unpopular war, not because he opposed the war's conquest of other people's land and resources, but because it was "unwinnable."
Should Obama beat John McCain to the White House in November, it will be liberalism's last fling. In the United States and Britain, liberalism as a war-making, divisive ideology is once again being used to destroy liberalism as a reality. A great many people understand this, as the hatred of Blair and New Labour attest, but many are disoriented and eager for "leadership" and basic social democracy. In the U.S., where unrelenting propaganda about American democratic uniqueness disguises a corporate system based on extremes of wealth and privilege, liberalism as expressed through the Democratic Party has played a crucial, compliant role.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Sky-rocketing oil and food prices - the latest investment bubble?

Are sky-rocketing food and oil prices due to global shortages, or the result of a speculative rush of billions of dollars into commodities trading? According to many economic commentators it's the latter. The sickness of the system that we live under is that a "speculative boom" in commodity prices is seeing poor people starve, and is causing enormous stress to cash-strapped working people across the world. The latest investment bubble has been created by the largely unregulated trade in what's known as commodity futures. How this works is explained by Petrino DiLeo, in an article

Gambling with the Futures from US Socialist Worker.
DiLeo writes: "Futures are [...] traded by individual investors and financial institutions, based on a gamble as to whether the price of the goods will rise or fall. Today, traders of exchange-traded funds, hedge funds and other speculators far outstrip the actual buyers and sellers of commodities. As a result, these speculators have generated a big demand for futures contracts, therefore helping send the prices of underlying commodities upward." Mike Whitney in a recent article titled
The Great Oil Swindle: How much did the Fed really know? also argues that it's unregulated futures trading that's sending the price of oil (and food) upwards. And that a lot of this investment is coming from US banks who've been bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars by the US Federal Reserve after the collapse of the housing and sub-prime mortgage markets. These big banks, argues Whitney, are trying to speculate their way out of the financial crisis through investing in oil and food futures. Not only are these banks the recipients of corporate welfare of truly historic proportions, but what they're doing with that money is inflicting pain and suffering on the majority of the world's population. Whitney claims the rising cost of oil "is a hoax cooked up by the investment banks and hedge funds who are trying to dig their way out of the trillion dollar mortgage-backed securities (MBS) mess that they created by turning garbage loans into securities." He quotes another financial analyst who calculates that at least 60% of the current price of oil comes from futures speculation by hedge funds, banks and financial groups, who are using unregulated futures exchanges to avoid public scrutiny. While perhaps overly dismissive of the current and future impact of Peak Oil, Whitney's analysis is compelling. The bigger picture is that trillions of dollars circulate the globe daily looking to be invested in shares, property, currency, commodities, and phony markets created to gamble on price or interest rate fluctuations, which points to the fact that the real economy - the one where goods or services are produced and purchased for actual use - is not delivering the profitable returns the capitalists want. This underlying economic crisis could not be avoided forever, and is now impacting on the global economy in a big way. What's important for us to realise is that this economic crisis is rapidly intensifying a global political struggle, where the naked self-preservation of the rich elites comes up against the rising anger of grassroots people. Like any war - which is what this indeed will be - it will be decided by superior organisation, strategy and will. Our side needs to build the political structures within individual countries and internationally to mobilise the world's grassroots majority in this historic struggle.  

UNITYblog directs readers to articles presented on the right-hand sidebar under the heading 'Building a broad left party' as a contribution to how we can organise.

Sunday 1 June 2008

ClimAction, free buses, and building a climate change movement - Rotorua activists talk to UNITYblog

Grant Rogers and Bernie Hornfeck are ClimAction and RAM activists in Rotorua. UNITYblog asked them some questions about what they’ve been doing locally and about the Rotorua District Council’s decision to run fare-free buses on 5 June, which is World Environment Day. What are the aims of ClimAction in Rotorua? Grant: We’ve been showing radical environmental films in schools and Marae to raise community consciousness. We’re now promoting ideas to encourage a critical conversation about how the social and environmental needs of people should be met by government. The provision of food, health, education and housing should be part of the sustainable development of human living. We are generating a great deal of collective support. We now have a profile in the community where we feel confident we can promote an educational campaign based on ecological socialism. In short, all generations must unite together to tackle higher costs of living and climate change, which is why we’re publicising land to be used for growing vegetables and fruit as community market gardens. Bernie: To inform and mobilise the people of Rotorua to take action around the issue of climate change and global warming, and leading up to the general election to put pressure on the corporates, government, local bodies and individuals to take urgent steps to reduce carbon emissions. Continue

Venezuela: Struggle in the PSUV - 'If the people don't stand firm, the right will screw it up!'

Elected delegates to the PSUV's founding congress earlier this year

by Stuart Munckton
from LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal
27 May, 2008

The two articles below, by Kiraz Janicke (a member of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau and journalist), give a feel for the increasingly intense struggle that is taking place within the Chavista camp.

"Venezuela gets ready to choose candidates for regional elections"

"Controversy erupts over nominations for PSUV candidacies in Venezuela"
http://www.venezuelanalysis. com/news/3494

In fact, as articles from the GLW Caracas bureau among a fair few others have pointed out in recent times, the key struggles in Venezuela are occurring within the Chavista camp — and the outcome of this struggle will play a major role in determining the fate of the Venezuelan revolution.