Wednesday 28 October 2009

US ratchets up pressure on Russia amidst shifting imperial relativities

by Grant Morgan 27 October 2009 During October 2009, Washington suddenly ratcheted up its pressure on Russia. We are starting to see a slide back to a Cold War chill between the world’s two big nuclear powers. Acting on orders from US president Barack Obama, his vice-president Joe Biden toured Eastern Europe where he called for revolutions against authoritarian rule in Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Biden specifically named these six countries, which all happen to border Russia. Revolutions against authoritarian rule is, of course, code for pro-US revolutions. Likewise, Biden’s talk about spheres of influence being an outdated 19th century concept is code for Washington’s drive to undermine Moscow’s influence over bordering countries in order to defend US global influence. The US private intelligence agency Stratfor has analysed Washington’s renewed pressure on Moscow and its likely downstream implications. See the essay “Russia, Iran and the Biden Speech” on the Stratfor webpage. Washington’s renewed sabre rattling against Moscow grows out of the relative decline of American imperial power in the face of the economic, political and military rise of China, which is allying with Russia. The 20th century’s two World Wars grew out of Great Power moves to redivide an already divided world at a time of shifting imperial relativities. Now we are beginning to experience something similar with the upturn in Washington’s belligerence towards Moscow as a consequence of America’s relative decline, especially in relation to China. This frightening scenario contains the germs of new wars, possibly on a global scale and including nuclear exchanges. The shifting imperial relativities of the early 21st century both spring from and intersect with the quartet of contradictions driving late capitalism towards global collapse. The profitability crisis, the ecological crisis, the resource crisis and the legitimacy crisis are accelerating and coalescing worldwide. While the existential impacts of this quartet of contradictions may be slowed by intelligent government actions, they cannot be halted. Indeed, they are more likely to be hastened by stupid government actions flowing from the imperatives of competitive profiteering and imperial rivalries. The world is entering very dangerous times as social collapse contradictions become interwoven with shifting imperial relativities. Nearly a century ago, the Marxist Rosa Luxemburg predicted our future in her famous phrase “Socialism or Barbarism”. Given today’s perils of climate warming, nuclear warfare and resource depletion, we possibly need to upgrade her warning to “Socialism or Extinction”. Some of the feedback I get from good people runs along these lines: “We hate and fear what’s happening in the world. But socialism as a global force appears to be dead. There doesn’t seem to be any believable alternative to capitalism.” While I understand these sentiments, I don’t share them. Why? Because the intensification of social contradictions and imperial tensions mean that global capitalism is on a slide towards collapse and revolution. The real question arising within a historically short time period will be: “Capitalism is dying, so what will replace it?” During that interregnum the world will experience turbulent conflicts between opposing social forces. A new global order that’s better, not worse, than capitalism will grow from struggles for practical gains that strengthen the grassroots and weaken the elites. This is the living terrain of a powerful socialist rebirth. This is a process already underway in every country. This is where hope can realistically be found. If you liked this story, forward it to your friends. Feel free to contact the author at Full address of the Stratfor article:

The ‘collapse’ of global capitalism

by Grant Morgan 22 October 2009 Something molecular is changing in the DNA of capitalism. Look at these three recent quotes:
  • “The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic system as we know it today.”
  • “Capitalism is near the tipping point, unprepared for a catastrophe, set up for collapse and rapid decline.”
  • “There is a high probability of a crisis and collapse by 2012. The ‘Great Depression 2’ is dead ahead. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to hide from this unfolding reality or prevent the rush of the historical imperative.”
What’s particularly important about these quotes is who made them. Not socialists. No, they were made by ardent, intelligent and reputable defenders of capitalism. For more information, read the MarketWatch essay “20 reasons America has lost its soul and collapse is inevitable” at (reprinted below). Each of the three quotes includes the word “collapse” in the sense of a collapse of global capitalism, rather than merely a crisis in a particular part of the world system (such as cracks in the financial architecture or deflations of housing and share bubbles). What we are starting to see is collapsing confidence among the defenders of capitalism. While far from universal, it is becoming a common phenomenon among the more insightful ideologues of the global marketplace. History is crystal clear on this point: a crisis of confidence among the ruling elites of any social system is both a symptom and a catalyst of impending social disintegration (and, after a turbulent interregnum, the rise of another type of social system). Increasingly common talk among our “betters” about the possibility or probability of capitalist collapse is tightly intertwined with the crisis of legitimacy, one of the quartet of contradictions which are besieging late capitalism. The other three contradictions are the profitability crisis, the resource crisis and the ecological crisis. Corporate profitability is in overall longterm decline despite late capitalism’s frantic efforts to compensate via the ultimately self-destructive mechanism of financialisation. The system is reaching peak oil, peak water and peak farmland as the scramble for dwindling resources sparks new imperial wars. Capitalism’s predatory exploitation of the environment has unleashed the revenge of nature, facing humanity with the catastrophic dangers of climate warming. The mounting fury of this quartet of contradictions points towards only one possible outcome: the collapse of capitalism on a global scale within a historically short time span. When a country’s rulers become so isolated that they block even the “normal” evolution of capitalism, they can be ousted by a grassroots revolt without fatal consequences to the system as a whole. That’s what we have seen in Russia (1917), Spain (1935), China (1949), Cuba (1959), Czechoslovakia (1968), Nicaragua (1979), Venezuela (1999) and Nepal (2007). And so often the world system has rolled back the people’s gains as isolation gutted the revolution. The structures of a social order spanning the entire planet will be weakened to the point of collapse only by an elemental conjunction and intensification of worldwide contradictions. The quartet of contradictions eating away at global capitalism’s profit rates, natural resources, ecological stability and popular legitimacy may be slowed by intelligent policy options, but they cannot be halted. Indeed, they are more likely to be hastened by stupid policy options driven by the dynamics of competitive profiteering. That brings us full circle to the despair expressed at the outset of this story by defenders of capitalism. They feel that the financial institutions which increasingly drive not only investment strategies but also government policy have “lost all sense of fiduciary duty, ethical responsibility and public obligation”, to quote the words of US financial guru Paul Farrell. Their short-run thinking, he says, will inevitably generate “bigger, more frequent bubble/bust cycles” and the “rapid decline” of global capitalism. Self-doubt and cynicism have now taken such a hold of capitalism’s intellectuals that it is becoming commonplace for them to parody the stupidity and greed of big banks. The website of the Financial Times, that once-magestic propagandist of the corporate marketplace, hosts a side-splitting video send-up of banking practices, political economy and how everything yet nothing has changed in the last year. It features a bumptious banker saying, “Show me a stupid risk, and we’ll take it”, because governments will always shovel more money into his bank vaults. This must-watch spoof can be seen at (also below). While tapping into a deep vein of public disquiet, the criticisms of bankers made by capitalism’s intellectuals seldom offer real alternatives because of the mental chains and social bonds constraining the critics. Socialists need to tap into the same vein, but with different objectives. That’s why Socialist Worker recently initiated a Bad Banks campaign in New Zealand. By joining the dots between big banks, which most people love to hate, and the entire workings of a world system sliding into existential crisis, the campaign aims to prepare people for life after capitalism. Different campaigns on different issues in different countries are organising resistance to global capitalism’s mistreatment of people and nature. All these campaigns are necessary, and all deserve support. Since the Bad Banks campaign in New Zealand is just one campaign among many, it does not claim any special status. And yet, in one way, this campaign is special. It targets a key driver of early social collapse: the grotesque financialisation of global capitalism. We must be prepared for that early collapse, and we must prepare others. We must propose socialist alternatives now so that we prepare the ground for the green shoots of popular recovery. If you want to be part of the Bad Banks campaign in New Zealand, or spread it to other countries, visit and email campaign manager Vaughan Gunson at If you liked this story, forward it to your friends. It all helps to spread the word and make the links. And reply with your feedback to the author at

20 reasons America has lost its soul and collapse is inevitable

by Paul B. Farrell
20 October 2009

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) – Jack Bogle published “The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism” four years ago. The battle’s over. The sequel should be titled: “Capitalism Died a Lost Soul.” Worse, we’ve lost “America’s Soul.” And worldwide the consequences will be catastrophic.

That’s why a man like Hong Kong’s contrarian economist Marc Faber warns in his Doom, Boom & Gloom Report: “The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic system as we know it today.”

OK, deny it. But I’ll bet you have a nagging feeling maybe he’s right, the end may be near. I have for a long time: I wrote a column back in 1997: “Battling for the Soul of Wall Street.” My interest in “The Soul” -- what Jung called the “collective unconscious” -- dates back to my Ph.D. dissertation: “Modern Man in Search of His Soul,” a title borrowed from Jung’s 1933 book, “Modern Man in Search of a Soul.” This battle has been on my mind since my days at Morgan Stanley 30 years ago, witnessing the decline. No, not just another meltdown, another bear market recession like the one recently triggered by Wall Street’s “too-greedy-to-fail” banks. Faber is warning that the entire system of capitalism will collapse. Get it? The engine driving the great “American Economic Empire” for 233 years will collapse, a total disaster, a destiny we created.

Has capitalism lost its soul? Guys like Bogle and Faber sense it. Read more about the soul in physicist Gary Zukav’s “The Seat of the Soul,” Thomas Moore’s “Care of the Soul” and sacred texts.

But for Wall Street and American capitalism, use your gut. You know something’s very wrong: A year ago “too-greedy-to-fail” banks were insolvent, in a near-death experience. Now, magically they’re back to business as usual, arrogant, pocketing outrageous bonuses while Main Street sacrifices, and unemployment and foreclosures continue rising as tight credit, inflation and skyrocketing Federal debt are killing taxpayers.

Show Me a Stupid Risk, and We’ll Take It

Very funny Bird & Fortune video conversation on the Financial Times website about banking practices, political economy and how everything yet nothing has changed in the last year. Length: 10 minutes. [Unfortunately I can’t figure out how to embed this video, but if you click on the image it should take you to it. Otherwise the address is below.]

Tuesday 27 October 2009

John Pilger: Britain’s postal srtike is the war at home

by John Pilger London 23 October 2009 The struggle of striking British postal workers against privatisation plans is as vital for democracy as any national event in recent years. The campaign against them is part of a historic shift from the last vestiges of political democracy in Britain to a corporate world of insecurity and war. If the privateers running the Post Office are allowed to win, the regression that now touches all lives bar the wealthy will quicken its pace. A third of British children now live in low-income or impoverished families. One in five young people are denied hope of a decent job or education. And now, Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government is to mount a “fire sale” of public assets and services worth £16 billion. Unmatched since former PM Margaret Thatcher’s transfer of public wealth to a new gross elite, the sale, or theft, will include the Channel Tunnel rail link, bridges, the student loan bank, school playing fields, libraries and public housing estates. The plunder of the National Health Service and public education is already under way. The common thread is adherence to the demands of an opulent, sub-criminal minority exposed by the 2008 collapse of Wall Street and of the City of London, now rescued with hundreds of billions in public money and still unregulated with a single stringent condition imposed by the government. Goldman Sachs, which enjoys a personal connection with the PM, is to give employees record average individual pay and bonus packages of £500,000. The London Financial Times now offers a service called How to Spend It. None of this is accountable to the public, whose view was expressed at the last election in 2005: New Labour won with the support of barely a fifth of the British adult population. For every five people who voted Labour, eight did not vote at all. This was not apathy, as the media pretend, but a strike by the public — like the postal workers are today on strike. The issues are broadly the same: the bullying and hypocrisy of contagious, undemocratic power. Since coming to office, New Labour has done its best to destroy the Post Office as a highly productive public institution valued with affection by the British people. Not long ago, you posted a letter anywhere in the country and it reached its destination the following morning. There were two deliveries a day, and collections on Sundays. The best of Britain, which is ordinary life premised on a sense of community, could be found at a local post office, from the Highlands to the Pennines to the inner cities, where pensions, income support, child benefit and incapacity benefit were drawn, and the elderly, the awkward, the inarticulate and the harried were treated humanely. At my local post office in south London, if an elderly person failed to turn up on pension day, he or she would get a visit from the postmistress, Smita Patel, often with groceries. She did this for almost 20 years until the government closed down this “lifeline of human contact”, as the local Labour MP called it, along with more than 150 other local London branches. The Post Office executives who faced the anger of our community at a local church — unknown to us, the decision had already been taken — were not even aware that branch run by the Patels made a profit. What mattered was ideology; the branch had to go. Mention of public service brought puzzlement to their faces. The postal workers, having this year doubled annual profits to £321 million, have had to listen to specious lectures from secretary of state Peter Mandelson, a twice-disgraced figure risen from the murk of New Labour, about “urgent modernisation”. The truth is, the Royal Mail offers a quality service at half the price of its privatised rivals Deutsche Post and TNT. In dealing with new technology, postal workers have sought only consultation about their working lives and the right not to be abused — like the postal worker who was spat upon by her manager, then sacked while he was promoted. Or the postal worker with 17 years’ service and not a single complaint to his name who was sacked on the spot for failing to wear his cycle helmet. Watch the near frenzy with which your postie now delivers. A middle-aged man has to run much of his route in order to keep to a preordained and unrealistic time. If he fails, he is disciplined and kept in his place by the fear that thousands of jobs are at the whim of managers. Communication Workers Union negotiators describe intransigent executives with a hidden agenda — just as the National Coal Board masked Thatcher’s strictly political goal of destroying the miners’ union. The collaborative journalists’ role is unchanged, too. Mark Lawson, who pontificates about middlebrow cultural matters for the BBC and the Guardian, and receives many times the remuneration of a postal worker, dispensed a Sun-style diatribe on October 10. Waffling about the triumph of email and how the postal service was a “bystander” to the internet when, in fact, it has proven itself a commercial beneficiary, Lawson wrote: “The outcome [of the strike] will decide whether Billy Hayes of the CWU will, like [Arthur] Scargill, be remembered as someone who presided over the destruction of the industry he was meant to represent.” The record is clear that, 25 years ago, the miners and their union head Scargill were fighting against the wholesale destruction of an industry that was long planned for ideological reasons. The miners’ enemies included the most subversive, brutal and sinister forces of the British state, aided by journalists — as Lawson’s Guardian colleague Seumas Milne documents in his landmark work, The Enemy Within. Postal workers deserve the support of all honest, decent people, who are reminded that they may be next on the list if they remain silent. From Hat tip Green Left Weekly

Friday 23 October 2009

SOCIALIST WORKER FORUM: Pollution Market & Bad Banks



Socialist Worker-New Zealand

7.30pm on Thursday, 5th November

Socialist Centre, 86 Princes Street, Onehunga, Auckland

This educational forum explores why the so-called "Emissions Trading Scheme" should be more properly called the Pollution Market, and exactly how it will make our environmental problems worse. This is closely linked to the political agenda of big banks, investment drivers of the global economy and, therefore, of the politics of late capitalism. All greens and leftists welcome.

For more information, contact Bronwen or phone the Socialist Centre (09) 634 3984.

BAD BANKS leaflet #3: 'Their Pollution Market Stinks!'

Bad Banks leaflet #3 is available now. It addresses the link between global banking power and the ecological crisis, specifically focusing on the banking class's prosposed "solution" to climate change, pollution markets (or as they're calling them, emission trading schemes).

This leaflet has contributions on the back page from David Parker (writer for, Mike Treen (Unite Union National Director), Omar Hamed (Unite Union organiser & Rainforest Action co-ordinator), and Roger Fowler (editor of

Climate Activists to Expose Carbon Trading Scam for “350” Global Day of Action

From: Rising Tide North America Date: Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 8:13 PM Subject: Spread the word! 350 reasons to launch Oct 24! For Immediate Release October 21, 2009 Contact: Hilary Moore: 916.802.4984 Media Advisory Climate Activists to Expose Carbon Trading Scam for “350” Global Day of Action What: An online video report exploring 350 reasons why “carbon trading” will not work, as well as printed literature distributed at dozens of “350” events around the world. The video will be available for download at on October 24th. A teaser zine with 35 of the full 350 list is available now. The activities are part of the “350”, an international day of climate action expected to be one of largest days of global political action in history, with over 300 simultaneous events in more than 170 countries. (More information on the international day of action at Who: The reports are produced by Rising Tide North America, Carbon Trade Watch, the Camp for Climate Action, the Mobilization for Climate Justice West. Submissions to the 350 reasons came from nearly 100 people on 5 continents. Why: Domestic and international climate policy arenas are failing to protect people and planet by opting for carbon trading schemes proposed by major industrial polluters. Instead of taking scientific, tangible and democratic measures to reduce industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and many of the wealthiest countries in the world are instead choosing to mitigate impacts to corporate profits and carbon-intensive industrial growth through the marketing and offsetting of emissions. This markets-driven approach only exacerbates current levels of climate pollution, while making it impossible for the most impacted communities to be relieved of their burden of toxic pollutants, and to receive the trillions of dollars of reparations owed them for decades of illness, exploitation and death. In order to stabilize the global climate before billions of people around the world suffer the consequences, we need to: a. Immediately start reducing the carbon emissions of major corporate polluters b. Prioritize just transition and local renewable energy strategies that are democratically determined by the most impacted communities and workers c. Stop carbon-trading regimes from swindling our economies. Website: Email:

Thursday 22 October 2009

Saturday, October 24 is an International Day of Climate Action

This Saturday, October 24 is an International Day of Climate Action called by the worldwide 350 movement. Actions are happening around the country, under the umbrella of 350 Aotearoa. There is probably an event near you, follow this link for details. The movement is called “350” because: “Scientists say that an atmospheric carbon dioxide of 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit for humanity.” The 350 movement aims to put pressure on world leaders to reach an agreement on reducing green house gas emissions at the Copenhagen conference in December. It is calling for an agreement that includes strong reduction targets for developed countries, while recognising the right of poorer countries to continue to develop their economies. Unfortunately the leadership of 350 international seem to have fallen into the trap of believing that a pollution market (which is what the Copenhagen talks aim to establish) can reduce green house gas emissions. So all though they rightly point out that “current plans for the treaty are much too weak to get us back to safety”, they then argue that, “This treaty needs to put a high enough price on carbon that we stop using so much.” 350 aren’t the only ones who have accepted the pollution market approach, the Green Party backed the first version of the emissions trading scheme when it pushed through by Labour before last year’s election. Greenpeace too have decided to focus their campaign on the target of 40% reduction by 2020, while ignoring all the evidence that shows this target will never be met through a pollution market approach. Support for a pollution market among mainstream environmental groups is a big problem, but it should stop those of us who know the pollution market model is no good from going the movement. The fact is at this stage, most of thousands of people in this country (and the millions worldwide) who will be taking part in the 350 International Day of Climate Action aren’t aware of what a pollution market really means. It’s our job to tell them. Around the world the climate justice and ecosocialist activists are organising and educating against false solutions to climate change, such as pollution markets / carbon trading, and putting forward real positive solutions that will save the climate and build a better world for all. • The new Bad Banks leaflet from Socialist Worker, also announces the launch of the Ecosocialist Aotearoa Facebook group. • Climate Justice actavists are organising a climate camp in Wellington from 16 to 21 December 2009.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Don't dam the Hurunui River

A thousand people joined a lunch time march in Christchurch on Friday October 16, to oppose an irrigation dam on North Canterbury’s Hurunui River.The march was the biggest ever public demonstration of opposition to the environmental damage done by industrial dairy farming and intensive irrigation on the Canterbury Plains. For more information on the campaign to stop the dam here.

Monday 19 October 2009

Western Australia: Socialist wins council seat

by Alex Bainbridge Perth 17 October 2009 from Green Left Weekly Socialist Alliance WA co-convenor Sam Wainwright was elected from the Hilton Ward to the Fremantle Council in the October 17 poll.
Wainwright polled over 33% (438 out of 1310 valid votes). His nearest competitor, an ALP member, polled 337 votes (25.7%). Under the new, undemocratic first-past-the-post local government electoral laws in WA, Wainwright was elected as the candidate with the most votes. In the mayoral poll of six candidates, Greens member Brad Pettit triumphed with over 45% of the vote, well in front of two fellow Greens Michael Martin and Jon Strachan. Both Pettit and Strachan were endorsed by the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce. Of the six new councillors elected there is one ALP member, two Greens, two independents and one Socialist Alliance. However under WA electoral law local government candidates can not formally run for political parties and Wainwright was the only candidate to declare his political affiliations in his campaign material. Issues Wainwright campaigned on included: making Fremantle a “fight climate change” council; better public transport, including linking Fremantle to Beaconsfield, Hilton and Samson with CAT buses; for council and community workers’ rights; maintaining the areas beaches, parks and green spaces for everyone; for rates based on ability to pay, not just house value; and council democracy. For more details of Wainwright’s campaign, visit

Sunday 18 October 2009

UNITY magazine call for submissions: ‘Bad Banks – the Alternative’

UNITY journal, New Zealand’s Marxist journal for broad-left activsts, is seeking articles and shorter submissions for its December issue, on “Bad Banks – the Alternative”. The Bad Banks campaign is an initiative to connect the mass mood that something is drastically wrong with our financial system with an analysis which points clearly towards a post-market alternative. But what might this alternative look like? Green dollar schemes? Non-profit credit unions? A change in what “money” means altogether? How does this tie in with the broader capitalist system? And how can we get there from here? Articles of up to 3000 words are invited on the theme of “Bad Banks - the Alternative”. We are especially interested in articles on the experiences of bank employees (all care will be taken not to reveal the identity of any existing employees). Also, submissions of less than 1000 words on any topic are welcome for our “Feedback” pages. Please send all submission to daphne(a) Daphne Lawless Editor, UNITY journal

NT walk-off: Indigenous community defies racist intervention

by Peter Robson & Emma Murphy 10 October 2009 From Green Left Weekly In early October, Green Left Weekly visited the Alyawarr people’s walk-off camp, three hours north-east of Alice Springs. A statement from the protest camp reads: “On July 14 we, Elders from the Ampilatwatja Aboriginal community, three hours north-east of Alice Springs, walked out of our houses and set up camp in the bush. “We are fed up with the federal government’s Northern Territory intervention, controls and measures, visions and goals forced onto us from outside. We felt [like] we were outcast and isolated from all decision-making — there has been no meaningful consultation. “We therefore have no intention of going back there. We intend to stay here until our demands are met.” The NT [Northern Territory] intervention was launched in June 2007 by the then-federal Coalition government. Its policies, which continue today under Labor, were supposedly designed to mitigate instances of child abuse and neglect in remote NT communities. In fact, the laws making up the intervention were so racially discriminatory they required exemption from the Racial Discrimination Act to be passed. They included the takeover of Aboriginal land under compulsory five-year leases, widespread pornography and alcohol bans, increased police powers and the implementation of “welfare quarantining”. Community-based elected councils were dismissed in favour of broader shires, administered by non-Aboriginal people in regional centres. “Welfare quarantining” transferred half of all payments made to Aboriginal welfare recipients into a “Basics” card, which could only be used in certain stores, and only on food, clothing and medical supplies. Ampilatwatja, part of around 300 square kilometres handed back to the Alyawarra people in 1976, is one of the communities compulsorily acquired under the intervention. Elders at the walk-off camp told GLW they felt shame and anger at the discriminatory measures of the intervention. The previously community-run housing, now the responsibility of Territory Housing, had fallen into such disrepair since it was taken over, that sewage from burst pipes ran in the streets. They decided to leave, and set up camp on an area of their homeland not covered by the government-imposed five-year lease. For the last three months, they have maintained a 30 to 40-person strong presence in the protest camp, despite high temperatures, scarce water and fierce dust storms. Donald Thompson, an elder at the camp, told GLW: “We won’t go back. The government can take [Ampilatwatja] and we’ll keep this one.” He lifted a handful of the red dust of the camp and let it run through his fingers. The elders of Ampilatwatja are not strangers to this sort of protest. Thompson and his colleague, Banjo Morton, said they where involved in strikes, sit-downs and walk-offs from as early as World War II. Morton and Thompson worked as drovers and station hands since they were teenagers, part of the vast and largely unpaid Aboriginal workforce that cleared much of central Australia for white settlements and cattle stations. The Alyawarr people were driven from their traditional lands in 1910. The men were employed as drovers and station hands, working for rations and sent to whatever cattle station required the cheap labour. Women and children lived on the outskirts of the large stations, working as domestic help — again in exchange for rations. For many of the old people, the intervention’s Basics card is a direct reminder of the ration days. “Just like that welfare card, they’re making us go backward, back to the welfare days”, Morton said. “We’re staying here til everything comes good, might be good news from government, something like that … There’s no work for my mob. Things were working good before the shire [and the five-year lease] came in there.” The Basics card is particularly galling for the two men who had spent their entire working lives opening up the country, paving the way for the incredibly lucrative pastoral industry. They told GLW that around the time of WWII they were involved in a sit-down strike for £2 a week on top of the rations they received. A sympathetic police officer agreed to drive the workers back to their traditional lands. Scared to lose his captive workers, the station-owner gave in and paid them. The Lake Nash walk-off was among the first of many such struggles waged by Aboriginal workers in the NT. Thompson was working in Tennant Creek at the time of the historic 1966 Gurintji walk-off, which started as a struggle for wages but went on to become a campaign for the Gurintji people’s right to live on their traditional lands. By the time Ampilatwatja and surrounding country was handed back to the Alyawarra people by the Whitlam government, work on cattle stations had dried up, as station owners sacked Aboriginal people rather than pay them the new wages they were entitled to under the equal wages decision of 1968. “[Pastoralists] are rich now, nothing for Aboriginal people”, said Thompson. “We got a new government and they just follow John Howard’s laws.” The people of Ampilatwatja hope their action will inspire other communities affected by the intervention to follow suit. They are planning a meeting of different language groups to discuss the potential for other communities to walk off. Meanwhile, the Alyawarr elders have no intention of going back. No government representatives have met them on their own terms. Aboriginal affairs minister Jenny Macklin has confirmed that Ampilatwatja will not receive any new housing. They plan to establish a more permanent base than the basic, un-irrigated bush camp in which they now live. They hope to build a new community based entirely on donations from supporters, free from government help. To build support across the country, especially among unions, they have sent their spokesperson, Richard Downs, to eastern states, to profile their struggle in the cities. Downs’ packed schedule includes meeting unions and community groups and speaking at public meetings. Downs was particularly happy with the response from unions so far. After a meeting with the Maritime Union of Australia in Sydney, he told GLW: “They go way back with our mob. Back to the Lake Nash walk-off, Gurintji. They said they’d stand alongside us in this campaign, and tell all their members about it.” In Sydney on October 7, he addressed a packed lecture theatre at the University of Technology Sydney, along with Harry Nelson from Yuendumu and National Indigenous Times editor Chris Graham. Downs spoke of the importance of building support for his people: their struggle wasn’t against white Australia, but the government. He also spoke of an issue affecting us all: climate change. He said in establishing the new camp, his people planned to use renewable technology and permaculture, and become an example of a sustainable community. Reflecting on the fact that, three months after walking out, the protest camp continues, Graham said: “The government might just have underestimated their resilience. This could be the start of something big.” [For details of Downs’ tour, to make donations or for more information, visit]

Saturday 17 October 2009

October 15 solidarity in Otautahi / Christchurch

Twenty five Tūhoe and supporters in Otautahi / Christchurch marched from Te Whare Roimata community centre to Cathedral Square on Thursday October 15, to mark the second anniversary of the police terror raids. As well as a protest against the police raids on the Tūhoe community of Ruatoki and houses around the country, the hikoi was a also a celebration of Tūhoe’s long and proud history of resistance. Small protests in that big Square often feel a bit gloomy, but not this time. With colourful banners and beautiful waitata Tūhoe showed how to protest in style.
For more information on the October 15th 2007 raids, check out October 15th Solidarity, and the UNITYblog archives for October, November and December 2007.

Friday 16 October 2009

Elsie Locke: biography launched

Looking for Answers: A life of Elsie Locke by Maureen Birchfield was launched in Christchurch on Wednesday last week (October 7). There have also been launches in Auckland and Wellington. Elsie Locke was, as the press release from the University of Canterbury Press puts it, “an influential writer and activist”. A member of the Communist Party (CPNZ)* from 1933 until 1956, Elsie was also a member of the CP’s National Committee and a columnist in it’s various newspapers. She was editor of the CP’s Working Women magazine (1935–36), which was wound-up in order to launch Woman Today, a broader feminist magazine which continued until 1939. Elsie was also a founder of what became the Family Planning Association. Elsie was one of several leading communists who resigned from the CP, in protest at the party’s support for Russia’s crushing of the Hungarian Uprising – others included Connie and Albert Birchfield, parents of Elsie’s biographer, and Sid and Nellie Scott. However, unlike the Birchfields and the Scotts, Elsie’s husband Jack Locke remained a member of the CP and its successors until his death in 1996. It’s fair to say that it was Elsie’s achievements after leaving the CP that earned her most recognition. The fact that she was an ex-communist also made her more acceptable to establishment liberals who have honoured her with an with Elsie Locke Park in 1997, and this year a bronze bust as one of 12 Christchurch “Local Heroes”. From the 1950s, Elsie was a leading figure in the peace and anti-nuclear movements. And while Jack worked at the Belfast freezing works, Elsie worked at home, being a not so traditional house wife and mother, while writing children’s stories for the School Journal and a series of historical novels for children. The first being the much loved classic The Runaway Settlers (1965), based on the true story of a single mother who flees domestic violence in Australia and settles in Lyttleton Harbour. As many readers will know, among Elsie’s four children are Green Party MP Keith Locke (who, in the 1970s was a leader of the Trotskyist Socialist Action League) and Maire Leadbeater who is also a prominent peace activist, a former Auckland City Councillor, and campaigner for human rights in East Timor and Indonesia. Until their deaths Elsie and Jack (who died in 1996) lived at their small grapevine covered cottage it what is known as the Avon Loop on the banks of the Avon river in the eastern side of inner city Christchurch. From 1972 they were founding members of a remarkable community organisation called the Avon Loop Protection / Planning Association. Following Elsie’s death on April 8 2001, Maureen Birchfield, who’d recently published a biography of her mother, Elsie’s friend and comrade Connie Birchfield, was asked by the Locke family to write their mother’s story. The result is a big book (560 large pages) for a big life. Although I’m only half way through I can already recommend it as a interesting and entertaining read. *The CPNZ was the forerunner of Socialist Worker, publishers of UNITYblog.
Above: Jack and Elsei Locke on the front step of their home in the 1980s. This and the Working Woman cover were scanned from the book.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Council of Trade Unions turning towards class struggle?

Could a column by Helen Kelly in last Monday's Dominion Post (below) signal a turning point for the union movement?
There's no doubt that the opinion piece by the Council of Trade Unions president is significant – both for what it says, and for what it doesn't say.
First of all, Helen Kelly's column connects three separate attacks on groups of workers and explains them in terms of wider economic and political forces.
Her analysis is correct. Of course the disputes at Telecom, at Open Country Cheese and on the Auckland buses are related.
But for decades now, it's been rare to hear union leaders to treat disputes this way.
Fundamentally, what Helen Kelly is talking about is a common cause shared by different groups of workers – and a common mindset among employers. She's talking, in other words, about a class struggle.
As she acknowledges, this is a shift in perspective from the leaders of the union movement. 
And yet, after announcing this shift in bold terms her concluding paragraph seems oddly out of place. It's an appeal for the employers (and the National-led government) to start "working cooperatively" with unions again.
The jarring inconsistency is because of what the column does not say. Having explained the forces leading employers to use bully boy tactics – forces which are not about to go away – the CTU president says nothing on what unions are going to do about it.
This much has not changed. For many years, the CTU has focused its energies on appeals to the government to solve the union movement's problems, rather than organising independent working class action to achieve the movement's goals through its own collective strength.
It might be argued that the business pages of a daily newspaper are not the place to lay out the strategy of the union movement, and that behind the scenes the CTU is doing a lot to organise opposition to bullying employers like Telecom, Open Country and NZ Bus.
But you can't rally workers, and the broader public, around a banner that's kept hidden behind the scenes. Class struggle demands mass organisation, which takes place out in the open.
Somewhere, sometime soon, union leaders will have to lead. The analysis contained in Helen Kelly's column calls for a strategy of coordinated, mass resistance by the union movement as a whole.
Employers quick to use bully tactics
Helen Kelly
INDUSTRIAL relations in New Zealand seem to have taken a turn for the worse in recent months. Bus drivers and dairy workers find themselves locked out by their employers and Telecom engineers have been made redundant en masse and are refusing to buy back their jobs while the network rapidly crumbles.
Until recently the reaction to the global downturn in New Zealand was characterised by a willingness on the part of workers, unions and employers to work together to mitigate the worst effects of the recession.
The jobs summit and the nine day fortnight are examples of that. Is there some reason why it has all gone sour?
Each of these disputes has different origins. Only one is straightforward, about pay and conditions. Another is about every worker's right to bargain collectively, and the last is about an attempt to shift cost and risk on to a workforce at the expense of their job security, livelihoods and bargaining power under the cloak of "contracting out" through a third party.
On the face of it the global crisis has nothing to do with any of these disputes. Significantly, none of the three employers – Telecom, Talley's and NZ Bus – is in any way struggling financially. But there is little doubt that the recession is a factor in the way they are handling the disputes.
Although redundancies are not being forced on any of these employers, there is an implication that workers should feel damned lucky to have a job in the current economic climate and should accept whatever wages and conditions are tossed their way.
There's a recession on, don't you know? Belts must be tightened.
I don't know how many holes Telecom boss Paul Reynolds has on his $5 million belt but I don't see much tightening going on there.
That's not boardroom bonus jealousy. I think it's legitimate to ask why these companies are taking such a hard line against the workers who are delivering their respectable profits in tough times.
The truth is that they are looking at the unemployment figures and thinking that now would be a good time to stamp on wages, hours, and workers' bargaining power. Workers will not put up a fight, they think, while fear of the lengthening dole queues prevails.
Unfortunately, the employers got it wrong. Workers are perfectly capable of understanding the situation of their employer and acting accordingly. Hence the many settlements that have been reached in recent months where unions have acted reasonably and responsibly and employers have offered fair and realistic terms.
Unemployment is a real fear for many New Zealanders. But there are plenty who know that their companies are doing well enough, and they are not about to bow down to employers who throw their toys out of the pram at the first sign of resistance to their plans. Both of the current lockouts are gross over-reactions.
The actions of Talley's-owned Open Country Cheese in particular, where a wholly disproportionate and illegal six-week lockout has been accompanied by intimidation of union members, use of strike breaking outside labour and misinformation, are reminiscent of the bad old days of industrial strife.
All this in response to the employees simply exercising their legal right to union representation and to bargain collectively. Someone is living in the past here, and it is not the Dairy Workers' Union.
The union has worked harmoniously with employers and has not been engaged in any serious industrial action for more than 20 years. It is sad and so unnecessary and you have to wonder why Open Country acted with such unwarranted ferocity.
Could last year's change of government be an influence? The Government wasted little time when it carne into office before forcing through its removal of unfair dismissal rights from new employees in small firms in the first 90 days of their contracts. There was no good economic reason for this move, but it immediately set a tone for its attitude to workers' rights. Cuts to public sector payrolls, moves to make the fourth week of annual leave sellable and other policies that have negative impacts on working people seem to confirm the impression of an administration more behind the cause of the employer than the employee.
None of these moves would have any positive effect on the country's productivity, its ability to pull out of recession or the length of the dole queues.
The Jobs Summit and support for the nine-day fortnight present a different face of the Government, albeit one which has had limited effect. We would all be better off if employers took their lead from this approach. What will be positive is employers dealing honestly and openly with unions and employees, working cooperatively in the best interests of each enterprise and not reaching for the factory keys as a negotiating tool.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Aussie tax dodging robber banks make bank robbers look like amateurs

by Murray Horton Secretary/ Organiser CAFCA The Australian-owned banks have been congratulating themselves on what a good recession they’ve been having and how it was all down to their prudence in not getting involved in any exotic financial transactions. Quite right, there’s nothing exotic about good old fashioned tax dodging, even if it was done via deliberately complicated structured financial transactions. So that’s how they rode out the recession, by not paying nuisance costs such as taxes. Not an option for the rest of us mugs, though. So far the courts have ruled that two of the Aussie banks (BNZ and Westpac) avoided taxes totaling more than $1.5 billion. The IRD’s cases pending against the ANZ and National Bank, if successful, could push that well over $2 billion. This is theft from the NZ taxpayer on a truly monumental scale, particularly at a time when the Government is cutting back public spending. This huge shortfall in tax could be used for health and education. NZ taxpayers are the guarantors of the deposits of these banks. Yet we get no say in their running, let alone ownership. Massive tax dodging can be added to the list of recidivist corporate crimes committed by these robber banks who make bank robbers look like rank amateurs. How come we never hear from the Sensible Sentencing Trust about locking up these criminals and throwing away the keys? Where are the judges who sermonise about beneficiaries stealing from the taxpayer? The taxpayer needs to be directly represented on the boards of each one of these Aussie banks that we’re underwriting with our money. And, if that doesn’t do the trick, nationalise them. And why is the Government still using Westpac as its bank? As Bill English would say, “it’s not a good look”. Too right, Bill, and you’d know all about that. How about only using a bank that actually pays its taxes, just like everybody else has to? CAFCA Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand

Friday 9 October 2009

Gumboot power: Bridgeman Concrete workers beat lockout

By Pat O’Dea
Workers locked-out for nine days by Bridgeman Concrete in South Auckland, hardened their picket last week and actively impeded two concrete trucks from leaving the depo, costing the company $3,000 in ruined concrete.

The company responded by caving in, and lifted the lock-out.

Although lockouts are legal, effective picketing – actually stopping scabs, vehicles or goods crossing the picket line – is not. 

Because of the illegal nature of effective picketing, the picture above is the only photo released by the NDU of this militant action. As well as lifting their lockout Bridgeman also conceded to workers’ demands for a fairer redundancy agreement that does not allow them to discriminate against union members (the original cause of the dispute). The company has also agreed, for the first time, to redundancy payments and full consultation with the NDU if planning redundancies. 

In a comical footnote; Bridgeman Concrete has sent the bill for the ruined concrete to the union. I wonder if they will try to Baycorp them? Bridgeman Concrete just might find that the last laugh will be on them, because Baycorp has recently been unionised by the Unite union, who are very close allies of the NDU. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if all the paperwork accidentally slipped down a crack behind some desks. All power to the gumboot.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Interview with Sue Bradford

UNITYblog editor David C spoke with Green Party MP Sue Bradford on Monday, September 28, three days after she announced her resignation from parliament and return to grassroots activism.
DC: Why are you resigning from parliament?
SB: My decision to resign is a delayed but direct outcome of the result of the co-leadership contest which happened earlier this year. Since then I’ve done some serious thinking about what the next steps in my life should be.
[The contest was between Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei. Turei was elected female co-leader of the Green Party.]
The Green Party made a clear and democratic decision about the style and direction of the leadership, and I accept totally the democratic decision of the party. But it left me in a difficult position. After much thought, and discussing the issue with key friends and allies, I decided the best thing would be to make a clear break from parliament, and to look for opportunities back in the real world.
Politically I intend to be fully engaged. I feel like I’m going back to where I came from, to community and union activism. But quite how that expresses itself, you never know until you’re out there doing it.
DC: What did you feel that the leadership contest was about? Where you and Metiria Turei presenting two different visions for the party, or just two different styles or personalities?
SB: It was both. Obviously we’re very different people – different ages, ethnicities, experiences. I’m a lot older than Metiria, and there’s pros and cons on the whole issue of age. It was also about slightly different ideas about where the party could and should go.
When we came into parliament in 1999 – with Nandor Tanczos and myself and Rod Donald and others – we were very fresh and new and challenging. We presented a radical image and a radical reality. We were challenging the existing grey old parties. We had a lot of great policy and new ideas and some big issues to campaign on, both on the social and economic area and in the environmental area.
In the ten years since then, I feel we’ve become a little bogged down in parliamentary routine and the detail, and perhaps we have lost some of that fresh radical edge. Radicalism is not about age, it’s about a state of mind, about always being open to change, and about trying to be out on the edge of the politics that we believe in.
In losing some of that freshness and that willingness to be out there and radical and risk-taking politically, we’ve to some extent lost our point of difference with the older parties.
DC: What are some of things about being in parliament that bogs you down?
SB: Or bogs the party down?
DC: Or individual MPs?
SB: There’s a huge amount of detail to deal with on any piece of legislation, in select committee and in the House. All the legislation we deal with is very detailed and we do have to engage with it and do a really good job on it. Sometimes that can become a little overwhelming and become the primary focus – the detail, rather than the broader picture.
One example of that, where I think that we’ve become a bit bogged, is in the area of climate change, which has to be one of the key issues of our day. But I think that we have tended to get bogged in technicalities, rather than accepting and understanding that it is an economic issue and must be treated as such. We should be presenting a radical analysis of climate change and the solutions to it.
If I had become leader I would have liked us to have been engaging in a really lively dialogue with the young climate justice activists – who have what I think is a cutting edge analysis about climate change – rather than just seeing it as a question of how to compromise on emissions trading schemes.
DC: Obviously the emissions trading scheme being introduced now is terrible, but do you think emissions trading schemes can solve the climate crisis?
SB: No, not at all, I think that emissions trading schemes are just another capitalist game, using a failed market model. There’s not even any accurate way of measuring emissions.
The key thing about climate change is that all countries and all governments around the world have to cut emissions. That comes down to having the political will to do the things that are necessary. While technical issues are important, that’s not the main thing, it’s a question of political will.
And behind that is the issue of in whose interests do we cut emissions? Do we do it in a way where the low income and ordinary people in our society can survive? Or do we do it in a way where it just exacerbates the growing gap between rich and poor?
That plays out internationally where so far it’s the poorest nations that have already copped it the worst in terms of the impacts of climate change, and if we’re not careful that will continue to get worse. So there’s a kind of neo-colonialist thing going on with the response to climate change.
DC: The Green Party prides itself on working in a different way from the other parties in parliament, but one thing where it does seem to be following the model of the dominant parties is that the MPs seem to be the dominant force in the party and the party seems to be largely an electoral machine, would that be fair?
SB: I don’t think so actually. I think there’s always going to be a tendency for any party that has elected MPs for the caucus to be powerful and dominant. The Green Party has always worked very hard to try and maintain as much as a balance of power as possible.
We have quite a complex structure. We have the caucus and we also have two other parts of the party that are supposed to balance that, which are the party executive and the party’s own leadership – our co-convenors – and then the policy network, which is a policy-making and approval wing of the party. So there’s three branches. The other two branches are really there to try to counter-balance the MPs.
I’m not saying that it works perfectly, but our people are strong on having their voice heard, and if MPs do something that annoys them, they tend to make a pretty loud noise about it. And they do hold the MPs to account if they think they’re going crook.
DC: You gained a reputation – which I think surprised a lot of people – of being someone who could put together deals across party lines, particularly around Section 59, the private members bill that gave children the same legal protection from assault as adults.
Coming into parliament, your opinion say of National Party MPs probably wasn’t all that high, I just wonder, how you found it working alongside the people responsible for Rogernomics and the benefit cuts in the 1990s, and all those things that you’d fought against? Obviously you have to be civil to them... Was that a hard thing to do? Did it change you opinion of those people?
SB: It was certainly a very rapid learning curve during my first days in parliament. Within a few weeks I’d been placed on the special select committee dealing with the Employment Relations Bill and the re-nationalisation of ACC. This was in very early 2000, and that was the ideological battleground of that time. So I found myself sitting on a select committee with people like Max Bradford and Lockwood Smith and Richard Prebble and other key architects of right-wing economics in this country. I had to learn very fast how to operate in that context. As well as being lobbied by major insurance companies, the Business Roundtable and people I’d always just seen automatically as the enemy.
It’s part of the job, learning how to work with MPs from across the House and with lobbyists from wherever. And I came to feel very strongly that even though some of the lobbyists – not just on those bills, but on many others of course – are diametrically opposed politically to where I come from, and from where the Green Party comes from, I still felt an obligation to listen to them, and to be civil and respectful and to try and pick up any points that might be good. The same with submitters. Because if I was expecting the National Party to be civil and listen well to a worker from a Tokoroa timber mill making a submission on the Employment Relations Bill, then I had the same obligation to be respectful when I heard someone from the Employers and Manufacturers Association.
It’s part of democracy to take all the opinions and ideas and experiences on board, and then come to your political conclusion about what you do about that piece of legislation. And I’ve enjoyed, and actually it’s been a privilege, to have that experience of working with people across political lines. Many of whom, in the past, would not have given me the time of day. I think that’s good in a democracy, because I still believe that it’s better that we do our politics with words and legislation, rather than machetes and guns, as happens in some countries in the world. Of course our democracy’s not perfect, but I’ve certainly done my best to try and make it work.
DC: Is there any one highlight of your ten years in parliament?
SB: The highlight was getting three private members bills through in the last parliament. Not just the repeal of Section 59, but the one that lifted the wages for young workers aged 16 to 17 – which has not been rolled back, thank goodness – as well as my bill extending the time some mothers can keep their babies with them in prison. So there were the legislative highlights.
One of the most important things for me has been the ability, because of being an MP, to give a voice to unemployed people and beneficiaries and low paid workers, in a way that I don’t think has happened in parliament for some time. I think it probably happened back in the 1930s or earlier, when the early Labour Party came in, when there was that raw voice of what’s actually happening for real people, with poverty and unemployment.
I’ve tried to give that voice expression in parliament for the whole ten years. And also other voices too, like that of people with mental illness and their families, people with disabilities, children and young people. I’ve really tried to give a voice to the most vulnerable and exploited in our society, to the extent that I could. It’s never enough. I mean I feel bad that I’ve never been able to do enough, but I’ve done what I could.
DC: Are there any regrets? Anything you feel you’ve missed out on because of your time in parliament? Or anything you couldn’t do or couldn’t speak up on?
There have probably been times when I’ve been held back a little bit, in what I could say. But that’s part of being part of the Green Party caucus, with collective caucus responsibility. When you’re part of a political party, there’s a commitment to being part of the group and representing the group, rather than yourself. That’s important to me, I don’t believe in individualism in politics. That’s added to by the fact that you’re a member of parliament and very visible, so at times I guess I would have been a little held back, but not much.
DC: You’ve said in one of your recent statements that you’re still a radical.
SB: Yes.
DC: Are you still a socialist?
SB: Yes.
DC: Did you find it difficult to retain your radical politics in parliament?
SB: No, I haven’t found it difficult at all.
I’ve found it hard, in recent decades, to identify myself with a label. When I was young it was easy, we all called ourselves labels. As you keep maturing in political life, it’s harder. But if anything I think I’d call myself an ecosocialist and a feminist.
The fact that I’ve got a clear structural understanding of our economy and our society – and have had since I was pretty young, even though it keeps evolving and I keep learning – this is a strength in parliament. Because it means you don’t get lost in the detail. No matter what the issue was, even issues that seem quite tangential, like prostitution reform or gambling or racing, issues that aren’t right at the heart of things. I suppose you could almost call Section 59 that. But I’ve always had an analysis behind what I’m doing, and I’m always clear whose side I’m on in any political debate. And I don’t think I’ve ever sold out.
DC: What does a term like ecosocialism mean to you, both in terms with what’s wrong with capitalism and the sort of changes you’d like to see?
SB: That’s a huge question, you could write a book on that.
I came originally from a communist and socialist background, from when I was pretty young. I kept learning through that. The big thing that traditional communism and socialism missed was what we humans were and are, doing to the earth and the physical environment around us – we just weren’t aware of it. Although I’ve come to realise that Marx actually did have some understanding about it.
[Karl Marx was one of the founders of communism and socialism.]
So in the early ’70s, when the Values Party [forerunner of the Green Party] and some of the Green movements around the world started to raise and talk about it, I began to realise that there’s no way that we can leave the environment out of the equation.
We have to understand that the economy is basically a subsidiary of the environment, and that we humans can’t survive without the planet on which we depend for our existence. That means that environmental and social and economic justice issues have to be brought together into the same basket.
That’s what the Green Party policy and charter are about – caring for earth, caring for people. That’s why I joined the Green Party and stood for parliament, because the kaupapa [philosophy] is one that I support.
We have to do everything we can to redress the damage that we’ve done to the life of this planet, and try and nurture the life that’s on it. To do that well we also have to create a society in which everyone has a chance, and in which the gap between those who have and those who have not is diminished – and that’s the social and economic justice side of the Green kaupapa.
From my frame of reference that’s ecosocialism, but of course to other people in the Green Party they wouldn’t see it within that frame at all. Ecosocialism is just one means, feminism is another. Trying to live as responsible Treaty partners is another frame of reference which the Green Party attempts to live by. So we try to do all these things and Green Party members and MPs tend to have quite diverse lenses through which we see our Green kaupapa, but I see mine through this particular lens.
DC: I know in the Green Party of England and Wales there’s a group called Green Left, who describe themselves as “an anti-capitalist, eco-socialist current within the Green Party”. Would something like that fit in with the way the Green Party operates here?
SB: I’ve been interested in how they do that do that in the UK. But I think that we have a strong culture in the Green Party of Aotearoa not to form factions. Right through the time I’ve been active, since ’98, there’s been a real strong commitment from people not to form either closed or open factions. It’s a big no no, people wouldn’t like it. Beyond that, it may be that our party is too small to sustain that kind of open and clear factionalism that characterises other Green Parties and parties like the Labour Party here. I don’t know what might happen in the future. But it certainly not a direction I’m looking at taking.
DC: Now that you’re going back to the grassroots, what’s the first campaign that you think you’ll get involved in?
SB: It’s too soon to say. I’m very conscious that things change all the time. There are different campaigns happening at the moment and new ones arising. I will build on my current union and community base and probably start going to more demonstrations and more meetings, and just work my way into it. There’s so much work to be done, but to be any use one has to focus. And I’m not ready to make those kinds of decisions yet.
DC: One of the campaigns that’s going on is the Bad Bank’s campaign, and you’re speaking at a public meeting on Thursday night. Why did you agree to speak at that meeting? Why do you think the banks and their behaviour is an important issue?
SB: For the last 30 to 40 years we’ve seen the world economy run to meet the needs of the banks and financial institutions of capital, rather than in the interests of everyone else in society. The role of banks and the financial sector is a key issue, both locally and internationally. It’s important that we analyse what the banks and financial institutions have done and are doing. It’s really important to expose what they’re doing, but also to come up with some solutions, because we still need money as a means of exchange. So I welcomed the opportunity to speak at the meeting and to see what’s going on with that campaign.
DC: One last question. Will the SIS be re-opening your file?
SB: Quite possibly.