Tuesday 21 December 2010

Christmas Peace Labyrinth shines light on Bethlehem

By David

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 18 December 2010

Speculation in food prices is the real crime

Tax Justice media release
17 December 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information and comment, contact:

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

Give speculators the boot!

Tax Justice media release
15 December 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information and comment on the campaign, contact:

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

Thursday 16 December 2010


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

• to cease negotiations on the Transpacific Partnership agreement; and

• to not sign this agreement; and

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

The closing date for signatures is 4 July 2011.

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

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

Murray Horton,

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

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

Alliance Party media release
16 December 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 14 December 2010

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

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

We can win it!

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

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

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

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

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

History of GST off food

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

Sunday 12 December 2010

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

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

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

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

Monday 6 December 2010

Putting humans back into socialism

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

by Federico Fuentes 
from Green Left Weekly 

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

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

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

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

Video: The Rights of Pachamama

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

Video: Capitalism is a doomsday machine

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

Saturday 4 December 2010

Bolivia: Cancún must not be Can’t-cún

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikileaks in Venezuela: Espionage, Propaganda, and Disinformation

By Eva Golinger
Venezuel Analysis

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

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