Friday, August 29, 2008

DROP THE CHARGES! Pictures from Todays march to defend the Urewewa 20






Socialist Aotearoa member and arrestee Omar Hamed speaks

Strike leader and SkyCity union delegate Lianne Henry with the Unions for Tino banner

Comrade Cam from Indy tells it like it is

Tuhoe flags fly proud in Auckland's Queen Street

On a cold and miserable day, the cries of "No More Police State!" echoed through Central Auckland's Queen Street as over 200 Maori, trade unionists and left wingers joined a rally to defend the Urewewa 20, and remember the State Terror Raids of October 15th last year.

The movement has previously been successful in forcing the State to drop the charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act, and now begins the campaign to drop all charges against the accused. The vocal launch of the campaign today brought many cheers and claps of support from Saturday shoppers on CBD streets, and signals the fact that the upcoming trials will be fought with a strident political campaign on the streets, and will unite people from many of Aotearoa's causes and communities.

There were banners and contingents from Tuhoe, Unite, Socialist Aotearoa, the Workers Party, and Auckland's Anarcha-Feminist collective, with individuals from the NDU, Green Party and Maoridom. Keith Locke spoke about how angry he was that Tame Iti was being treated by the Labour Party as a terrorist and not as a leader of the Tuhoe people. Roger Fowler from RAM sang a song about Pastor Neimoller, and how all our civil rights are under attack when a State begins picking us off minority by minority. Omar Hamed, an arrestee will known and loved by the Auckland Left, told people of the events planned to build the campaign over the next week, including the forum this Tuesday Sept 2nd addressed by Tino activist
Sina Brown-Davis, co-hosted by Socialist Aotearoa and the Auckland Anarchist Network.

People left in high spirits, with the movement that began last October 15th re-ignited and ready to fight. Kia kaha!



Thursday, August 28, 2008

Protest Last Year's Terror Raids- End the Colonisation of Ngai Tuhoe!






AUCKLAND RALLY POSTER: http://indymedia.org.nz/usermedia/application/10/aug30.pdf

End the criminalisation of dissent;
End the colonisation of Ngai Tuhoe;
End the global wars of Terror

12 NOON, SAT, AUGUST 30TH -
PROTEST LAST YEAR’S STATE TERROR RAIDS.
RALLY IN AOTEA SQUARE

This protest is part of an international day of action focusing on the raids which resulted in 17 activists arrested in a dramatic exercise of state power. Two days later the activists will appear in court for a depositions hearing on the charges. The outcome threatens the right to dissent and the civil liberties of all New Zealanders. The police failed in their attempt to lay terror charges against the activists but they are continuing to press arms charges. The nature of the police evidence is such that if their evidence holds up then any breaches would be technical and would normally have resulted in a warning without prosecution. GPJA has called for all the charges to be dropped.
http://www.october15thsolidarity.info/

SEPTEMBER 1ST GPJA SEPTEMBER FORUM:
WHAT THE POLICE TERROR RAIDS MEAN FOR DISSENT IN NEW ZEALAND.
Monday 1st September, 7.30pm, Trades Hall, 147 Great North Road, Grey Lynn.

Speakers include:
Jane Kelsey, Professor of Law, Auckland University;
Valerie Morse, defendent and author of Against Freedom: The War on Terrorism in Everyday New Zealand Life;
John Minto, spokesperson Global Peace and Justice Auckland

Monday, September 1, 9.15am-10.30am, Auckland District Court, Cnr Kingston & Albert StSOLIDARITY DEMO OUTSIDE COURT –

Deposition hearings for the arrestees of the October 15th "anti-terror" raids last year begins on September the 1st. The October 15th Solidarity group in Tamaki-Makaurau are calling for a morning picket to show support and solidarity for the arrestees. We have not forgotten the state surveillance, repression, and imprisonment of Maori sovereignty activists and anarchists. We have not forgotten the racist harassment of the residents of Ruatoki. We have not forgotten the long history of colonisation, violence, and confiscation. Nor have we forgotten the indigenous struggle for self-determination and resistance to the colonial state that continues to this day. Come show your support for Tino Rangatiratanga and Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe. Stand in solidarity with the arrestees. Please bring banners, placards and flags. Food will be provided at lunchtime. Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake ake ake!

George Bush is the real loser in the latest Caucasus war


Commentary: Alex Callinicos

Now that the dust is beginning to settle, what are the long term consequences of the war between Russia and Georgia?

The Russian army has systematically dismantled the military infrastructure that Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili had built up with the support of George Bush. Now the Russians are withdrawing – but to positions that will let it dominate Georgia.

Saakashvili is the loser in the Caucasus – but on a global scale, it is the US. Behind the headlines, the Bush administration is getting an enormous amount of flak from expert opinion for policy towards Russia that it inherited from its predecessor under Bill Clinton. This aimed to exploit Russia's weakness after the end of the Cold War by seeking to extend Nato right up to Russia's borders.

Last week the New York Times quoted James Collins, former US ambassador to Moscow, as saying, "We have probably failed to understand that the Russians are really quite serious when they say, 'We have interests and we're going to defend them'."

Added to this arrogance was recklessness. A former senior intelligence analyst told the New York Times, "We were training Saakashvili's army, and he was getting at least a corps of highly trained individuals which he could use for adventures. The feeling in the intelligence community was that this was a very high risk endeavour."

So the Georgia crisis has exposed the Bush gang's incompetence yet again. But much more damagingly, it has also highlighted the limits of US power. The problem isn't simply that the Pentagon is too tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan to have been able to intervene in the Caucasus.

Armageddon

Even had the US had more of its military capabilities to spare, the dispatch of troops to the Caucasus would have risked a general war with Russia. Even Bush and Cheney aren't stupid enough to unleash a nuclear Armageddon.

The US's weakness is more tellingly exposed when it comes to how it will fulfil its repeated threats to punish Russia. Nato foreign ministers met last week to denounce Russia and champion Georgia – but decided on nothing concrete. The Russian ambassador to Nato jeered that "the mountain gave birth to a mouse".

The measures that the US has threatened to take against Russia – kicking it out of the G8 and blocking its entry to the World Trade Organisation – are largely symbolic.

They also have the inconvenience of underlining to rising powers such as China and India that these bodies aren't genuine international institutions, but are rather instruments of Western domination.

Moreover, the US needs Russia. Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Centre told the New York Times that "there's a lot more" that the US needed from Russia than the other way around. She cited efforts to secure old Soviet nuclear arms, to support the war effort in Afghanistan and to force Iran and North Korea to give up their nuclear programmes. "Hence Russia has all the leverage," she concluded.

The European Union is also increasingly dependent on Russia for energy supplies. Yet it is on the economic front that Russia is probably the most vulnerable. Russian stock markets have dropped 25 percent in the last couple of months.

The week the war with Georgia broke out, Russia's foreign exchange reserves dropped by $16.4 billion. This capital flight needs to be put into perspective however. Russia's reserves have been swelled by high prices for oil and natural gas. They stand at $581 billion – the third highest in the world.

Russia's confidence and resources are underpinned by the energy boom, and it is likely to hang tough. The most dangerous flashpoint will probably be Ukraine, whose president Victor Yushchenko wants, like Saakashvili, to join Nato.

Ukraine is almost equally split between pro‑Western and pro-Russian political forces. It also controls Crimea, still home to Russia's Black Sea fleet. During last month's war, Yushchenko threatened to stop Russian vessels involved in operations against Georgia from returning to the Crimean base of Sevastopol.

But, like other threats, this has yet to be implemented. For the moment Russia seems to hold most of the cards.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Photo Essay- You Dirty Rat! SkyCity picketed by 50 foot high flesh eating mutant management!

Luke and Gabriella with Ratzilla!

Central Auckland lies in ruins today after a fifty foot high, flesh eating mutant rat representing SkyCity Casino management devoured a picket line of striking workers, before scaling the tower and going on a Cloverfield style rampage throughout the CBD. Or maybe not ;)


Heather and the Scarlet Banner


Support from SoRa, Korean student






ON the Picket Line!

STAND STRONG!

Looking up as the gigantic Rat scales Skytower ;)

Skycity Unite union has a strong Maori leadership


On Strike!



TIME FOR A PAY REVOLT!


Unions, Strikes and Socialism
Socialist Aotearoa Workshop

Huge price increases in food and petrol.
Dark clouds of recession on the horizon.
High tax and low wages.
Corporate greed and useless political parties.

Come meet union organisers, delegates and ordinary workers who are sick of this state of affairs. There's been a flurry of strikes in recent weeks in all sorts of places that have got organised and decided to do something about it. There's also many new kinds of job being organised who need your support.

INvite your friends and workmates to this workshop organised by Socialist Aotearoa.
Txt Joe at 021 186 1450 if you need directions or more info! Email solidarityjoe@yahoo.com


TIME FOR A PAY REVOLT!
Unions, Strikes and Socialism

with speakers from recent strikes and union drives in
Casinos, Cinemas, Call Centres,
Banks and Language Schools
  • Algie Lecture Theatre (Rm 801-209), Faculty of Law
  • UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND
  • Thursday Aug 28 2008 7:30-9.00pm



For a Rank and File network within the Trade Union movement.

The working class movement is the force we believe will change the world. As demonstrated by countless general strikes and revolutions throughout the decades, it has the power to shut down the system and replace it with a better world based on sharing and direct democracy. As such, Socialist Aotearoa members are active in our unions as volunteers, members, delegates and organisers.

We are with the Union leaders when they fight, but believe that union bureaucracy acts as a negotiating layer between the workers and the bosses. IN order to counteract the influence of the Labour Party's union bosses , rank and file union members and delegates must organise a cross-union, cross-industry network of solidarity and struggle.

ratified by the Socialist Aotearoa Foundation Hui,
May 10th 2008

ANZ National- Stop Horsin' Around!- Bank Workers Strike in Central Auckland

National Bank picketed in Newmarket

Solidarity from Unite Delegate and Socialist Aotearoa editor, Joe C

FINSEC delegate and Socialist Aotearoa activist Danielle with comrade!

On the Picket Line, Queen Street

Bankers shut down by workers action


People before Profit!

Today ANZ and National Bank staff picketed at 3 major sites across Auckland. This is after stop work meetings where the majority of members voted to reject the 4% pay rise offer and hold a strike. After weeks of negotiations between Finsec and ANZ National the workers had decided enough is enough and nothing less than a 5% pay rise is a fair deal.

Customer services representative and union delegate Danielle was present at the stop work meeting and two of today's pickets.

*Why was a strike necessary today?

Negotiations between Finsec and the bank have broken down. ANZ National are unwilling to come to the table and offer a fair deal in good faith. We are fed up with the way ANZ National are treating workers. The payrise we've been offered is not enough to cover the rising cost of living. We don't feel that the company respects its staff.

*That's a strong statement. Why do you feel that ANZ National don't respect their workers?

Our workloads are increasing and we have received no reward for this. Also, jobs are being sent offshore and so job security is an issue among many staff. The sales targets are high and the low pay offer is a sign of the lack of respect for the workers.

*You were at both the Newmarket and Queen St pickets. What was the general feeling among your co-workers?

I think we had about 80 members at the Newmarket picket. Everyone was enthusiastic about striking and making a public statement. Union members are very angry at the way they've been treated and many of us feel that this action is the only way to create change. We decided to take the picket to Queen Street and there was a real sense of unity among us. We're all willing to take further action if necessary.

*What was the public's reaction to the pickets?

Generally people were supportive. Times are hard for a lot of people - so I think they would relate to the issues facing the working class. We handed out lots of leaflets and also collected many signatures supporting our position. The support we recevied from the public today was encouraging, it really boosted our morale.

*What next after today for ANZ National Workers?

Members votes on the offer haven't been officially collated across the whole country as yet. We should have results on this next week. If the banks 4% offer is rejected we will most likely have to look at further industrial action.

*What can people do to support the cause?

Union membership is vital in helping all workers win a fair deal. Obviously people should join a union if they're not in one. We have a postcard campaign on - so please sign and send (it's freepost!) if you receive one. Families and friends support is important to workers too as if we do take further industrial action the loss of pay makes things difficult.

*So far this year we have seen many lay offs and other strikes. What's your thoughts about this trend?

We're clearly seeing the result of a weak economy in NZ. Everyone is feeling the pressure of high living costs, increasing interest rates and very little pay. Money doesn't disappear in an economic downturn, it's just that big businesses are hoarding it all. The government doesn't seem to be doing anything in real terms to help the working class so it's obvious we need a real alternative to the Labour Party.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ANZ National staff to go on strike from 8.30am Friday 22 August


Finsec union members across ANZ National bank will be holding strike meetings tomorrow, Friday August 22, to determine the next steps in their campaign for wage justice and fairer sales targets.

“Despite making over a billion dollars profit the bank has reneged on its pledge to offer above inflation wage increases and is burying its head in the sand over targets. Staff and customers don’t want unethical sales targets and the banks refusal to even look into this matter is a slap in the face to both groups,” said ANZ National worker representative Cathie Lendrum.

“Union members say it is time ANZ National behaved like any decent business and showed appropriate respect for its staff and customers. I think New Zealanders expect more from our largest corporate citizens,” said Lendrum.

“These strike meetings are an opportunity for union members to determine what it will take to achieve a fair deal from the bank given that it is refusing to budge at all from its offer of a 4% pay rise which is less than the rate of inflation,” said Andrew Campbell, Finsec Campaigns Director.

“There is a significant personal and financial cost to union members whenever they seek justice for customers and themselves. These meetings will determine how far we can push to get a fair offer,” said
Campbell.

“I guess it shows ANZ National really is putting profit ahead of its staff and customers,” said
Campbell.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Forum: anti-capitalism and anti-colonial struggles in Australia and the Pacific





"Australia and NZ remained unrepentant for their brutal suppression of indigenous independence movements in the Pacific. They rationalized such behavior as enhancing the welfare of the Islands and the human development of their people – just as they justified similar behavior towards indigenous peoples in their own countries"- more HERE

Sina Brown-Davis, Melbourne-based Maori, Tongan & Samoan anti-globalisation and solidarity activist will be giving a public talk on revolutionary struggle and activism in Australia and the Pacific.

Sina works closely with Aboriginal Australians in a number of anti-racist and anti-colonial projects and campaigns. She runs uriohau.blogspot.com a news service for activists and revolutionaries throughout the Pacific.

Sina was one of two-dozen activists arrested in the wake of riots at the G20 neo-liberal economic summit held in Melbourne in 2006. Sina will be discussing her experiences in and perspectives on anti-capitalist and anti-colonial struggles in Australia and the Pacific.

Sina is visiting Aotearoa to build solidarity and support between indigenous and radical activists who on both sides of the Tasman are being targeted by state repression.

6pm - Tuesday September 2nd
@ Clubspace, above the Auckland University Quad, corner Princes and Alfred Streets.
(By Maidment Theatre)

Co-Hosts:
Auckland Anarchist Network and Socialist Aotearoa



Date:
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Time:
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location:
Clubspace, above the Auckland University Quad.
Street:
Corner Princes and Alfred Streets (By Maidment Theatre).

Auckland, New Zealand



Phone:
0212306783
Email:

Monday, August 18, 2008

After the Terror Raids- Global Day of Action 30 August


Global Day of Action 30 August

Demonstrations and protests are being planned around the world for the global day of action to ‘Drop the Charges’ against the 20 people arrested in the nationwide State Terror Raids of 15 October 2007.

Why have a day of action?
The day of action is a chance to educate and inform people about what is happening with the case. Many people believe that since the Terrorism charges were not successfully laid by Police, that everything is fine. We need to let people know that the case is on-going. It also is an opportunity to re-ignite involvement in the issues of Tino Rangatiratanga, Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe and repealing of the Terrorism Suppression Act. People can come along to express their rage, anger and sadness at the raids, and their on-going commitment to the solidarity work.

What is happening?
There are demonstrations and actions being planned around the globe. In Wellington, there will be an action starting at 12 noon at 128 Abel Smith Street. People should come along prepared for a demonstration and protest. It might include a tour of the places that were raided and a visit to the local police station. Bring along your signs, banners, placards, do some street theatre and make some noise for justice and freedom!

You can find out what is happening in your community by checking out the www.October15thSolidarity.info website. If you are organising in your community, please let us know about your event so that we can publicise it, email Info@October15thSolidarity.info.

If nothing is organised in your community, you could do something with your friends, family and local networks. The October 15th Solidarity group in Wellington can help you with resources including posters, leaflets and information.


Sign onto the Solidarity Statement!

Support the international day of action and the on-going solidarity work by signing onto our statement below and getting active in your community. The solidarity statement below is for both individuals and organisations. If you would like to sign onto the statement, please use this form or email us at info@october15thsolidarity.info with your name and/or organisation and we will include you. The international day of action is scheduled for Saturday 30 August (this is just before the start of the Depositions Hearings in Auckland on 1 September and set down for a month). If you are interested in organising an event in your community, we can send posters and leaflets, just let us know what you need. Mobilising people on the street is the best action we can take!

Statement of support: October 15th Solidarity
We demand the unconditional freedom of the people who are facing charges as a result of the state terror raids on 15 October 2007.

Attempts by the Police to lay charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act (TSA) failed but people are still facing politically motivated
charges under the Arms Act. These charges are the result of a racist operation.

Police used the Terrorism Suppression Act and over $8 million to harass and punish political activists who they saw as supporting Tino
Rangatiratanga.

The Police have arrested a few people but we're all targeted. The arrests of 15 October are aimed at intimidating and frightening all
of our communities and cannot be tolerated.

We therefore call on everyone to stand up against this attack on our communities. We support the global day of action on 30 August 2008 and are mobilising to demand the unconditional freedom of the people facing charges as a result of the state terror raids.

Supporting organisations (11th August 2008)

$990 to find out if your children will have a world worth living in!



Emissions Trading, Carbon capture and storage, Clean Coal, green certification schemes, carbon positive investments, compliant carbon markets, and voluntary carbon offsetting... what the hell is all this!?, who's planning it and what has this got to do with me? Well, if you turned up to the 4th Australia-New Zealand Climate & Business conference today without a NZ$990 ticket to get inside you would have been none the wiser as to what New Zealand and Australia's biggest Climate polluters are planning on doing in response to the most alarming social crisis the world has ever faced.

However, despite our lack of funding; a few of us from 'Climaction' [an Auckland based group of climate activists] decided to go along to the conference anyway and one individual managed to sneak inside when security weren't watching as the rest of us gave out flyers warning passers that they were entering a deadly greenwash contaminated zone. Our friend inside had the pleasure of listening to some green-industry reps talk about what they're planning to do to save us all and in between the schmoozing, the business card exchanges and auderves Joanna Silver informed "us" about how TZ1 Market (a subsidiary of the New Zealand stock exchange) can facilitate our company's trading in carbon credits which will boost our company's green image and assure our customers the planet is safe as long as they keep on buying our stuff. Joanna also let us know that the price of carbon credits won't reach a level that will actually encourage New Zealand's polluting companies to reduce their own emissions until around 2030. So it looks like business as usual with a silvery green lining for the foreseeable future. Hooray for marketing!!

If you've changed your lightbulbs recently or decided to get yourself one of those reusable green bags from Foodtown then good on you, but you may want to consider that although New Zealand has one of the highest carbon footprints per person in the entire world, the vast majority of our greenhouse gases are created by massive companies like Fonterra, Comalco / Rio Tinto, Solid Energy and Genesis Energy who have more influence over the New Zealand climate protection policy than you can shake a lightbulb at. So should we be concerned that these mega-polluting giants are the ones who get to tell Helen Clarke, Kevin Rudd and the rest of us whats good for the climate? We certainly think so and would like to invite everyone else who agrees to join us this Wednesday for the final day of the conference.

What? Protest at the 4th Australia-New Zealand Climate Change & Business Conference Wednesday 5pm - 7pm at Sky City. Come tell the policy-makers and corporations that you are more interested in stopping dangerous climate chaos than making money out of it.


Who? Climaction is a radical climate change coalition that advocates system change, not climate change and looks forward to a time when real people are involved in the decision making that affects us all. visit http://climaction.blogspot.com/


Why? The real culprits of climate chaos are the very corporations that sponsor and organise these conferences. Asking these people to look after our world is a bit like asking a monkey to mind a banana.

Pasifika podcasting launch




Three years ago Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga began with a vision: to bring together more than 5,000 indigenous groups around the world into a dialogue that would support the growth of first nations in the academy. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Scholarship was founded. This Friday, at the Fale Pasifika, we celebrate the release of the fifth issue by returning our focus to the Pacific, profiling our rich heritage through the use of podcasting technology.

The fifth issue centres on the issue of what it means to be 'Pacific'. 'Critiquing Pacific Education' brings together a range of prominent Pacific scholars who debate the issues surrounding being grouped together under a geographic banner and the benefits of further incorporating indigenous world-views in contemporary education.

The launch also platforms the release of a series of podcasts that aim to increase the participation of indigenous peoples in shaping the direction of research into their communities by ensuring ground-breaking research is available in an easily accessible format. Released once a month, each podcast profiles the views and perspectives of a leading indigenous scholar or community member and is downloadable from the internet. The goal is to add to the depth and breadth of public archives of indigenous knowledge, engaging traditional knowledges in new ways to build for the future. This month's podcast features an interview with Linitā Manu'atu, a Senior Lecturer in Pacific Studies at the Auckland University of Technology.

This event is open to anyone with an interest in the intersection between indigenous research and technology.

Speakers:
Tui O'Sullivan, Auckland University of Technology
Sione Tuitahi, Massey University (Albany)
Dr. Chris Tooley, Managing Editor, AlterNative, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga/ Department of Political Studies, University of Auckland
Phoebe Fletcher, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga/ Department of Film, Television and Media Studies, University of Auckland

ALL WELCOME, LIGHT REFRESHMENTS SERVED

Date: Friday 22 August 2008
Time: 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Venue: Fale Pasifika, Wynyard Street, The University of Auckland

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cash from Chaos- Casino Crippled!




This weekend, Socialist Aotearoa activists in the Unite Union joined organisers and comrades walking the floor of Auckland's Skycity Casino, calling out random gambling tables on strike in a guerrilla campaign of chaos.

Over one thousand Skycity workers are members of Unite, and a further 300 are with the SFWU. The casino at Auckland's heart makes millions of dollars profits every year, and for every winner, generates hundreds of losers, creating misery and poverty for thousands of working class gambling addicts. Its ruthless management cares little about this, and even less for its staff, who it offers the minimum wage.

The chips are down

The hypnotic lights and chimes of the main gambling floor were punctured by the bellow of Unite President, Matt McCarten, who called out random tables on strike, and gave management only minutes to close the table and secure their chips. The guerrilla strikes ensure maximum disruption to management schedules and planning- they never know which game or table will be disrupted, and thus have to hire more workers or keep tables in reserve. The actions are leading to a further campaign of disruption in surveillance, security, catering and entertainment- if there is no cash for workers, then there will be chaos for bosses. And union membership is increasing as a result!

The battle with Skycity management is now on- anyone who wants to volunteer their help or lend their solidarity to the picket lines, please contact Unite Organiser Tom Buckley at 029 4455 703

Venezuela- "The alliance with the employers is putting brakes on the march towards socialism"


Interview

Stalin Peres Borges


On June 11, President Chavez, accompanied by several of his principal ministers, met in the hotel ALBA in Caracas with the 500 most important employers in Venezuela. Among them were those who manage the Polar and Mendoza groups and the country’s big bankers. During this meeting, entitled “Re-launch production” (“Reimpulso Productivo”), president Chavez announced a series of measures which favour the financial sector and the big employers who are linked to the multinationals. He called there for “national unity”, an “alliance with the national productive sectors” and tried to convince the entrepreneurs that socialism would do them no harm. The socialist journal Marea Socialista asked Stalin Perez Borges to evaluate this meeting in the present Venezuelan context.

How do you evaluate the meeting of President Chavez with the employers?

Stalin Pérez Borges: Scarcely a few months ago, the president reaffirmed that his government was a “workers’” government. He also nationalized the iron and steel company SIDOR, although he did it by repurchasing it, whereas, in our opinion, it is this multinational which should have paid the Venezuelan state for non-respect of its laws and for punishable acts against the country. Despite everything, we cannot deny that it was a very progressive measure, asked for, demanded and conquered by the struggle of the workers. This reaffirmation of the definition of a “workers’ government”, as well as the dismissal of one of the most anti-working class Ministers of Labour that you can imagine, were steps in the right direction: in the direction of measures that we have been demanding since December 2 (the date of the defeat of the referendum on the constitutional reform).

At the time, we affirmed that the revision, the rectification and the re-launch of the revolutionary process should be centred on the resolution of the problems of the popular sectors. But this June 11, this meeting with the employers, the economic measures announced and especially the political proposal that president Chavez made to them represent a step backwards in relation to the orientation conquered by the workers of SIDOR and by the people for the Bolivarian Revolution.

The proposal of the president, his call for an “alliance” with employers described by him as “national”, with the “national” bourgeoisie, all that is taking place at the same time as the putting forward of an alliance with the workers and the people. On the very eve of his meeting with the employers, Chavez had signed the incorporation of the first 900 sub-contracting workers into the official workforce of SIDOR. However, these measures are contradictory; they are by no means complementary: one excludes the other.

All the historical experiences of alliances with the aforementioned “national bourgeoisie” show that this road has led to the failure of the popular processes, of processes of national independence, of socialist processes. They lead only to the strengthening of the bourgeoisie and of imperialism and to the victory of the counter-revolutionary sectors. At the moment when we are commemorating the centenary of the birth of Salvador Allende, it would be good to remember why the Chilean road to socialism was broken. In our opinion, it was because they did not want to confront in a consistent way the Chilean bourgeoisie, allied to the “Yankees”, and that this bourgeoisie was able to organize the destabilization, the economic boycott and the weakening of the government of Popular Unity, which opened the way to and facilitated the coup d’etat (of September 11, 1973). We have already experienced such a situation here but, thanks to the revolutionary action of the masses, the coup d’etat was defeated on April 13 (2002).

Many comrades think that what is involved is a tactic of the president with a view to the next elections (regional and local elections in November), in order precisely to avoid economic destabilization and to slow down inflation…

I want first of all and above all to insist on the political, strategic problem of the Bolivarian Revolution. It is on this level that we can explain why the measures that were announced will not obtain the results that are claimed to be sought. The measures necessary to obtain these results are of a quite different order, they must really express the “workers’” term with which the government defines itself.

The political problem is the most important one because the president is talking to the wrong people if he wants to stop inflation and re-launch production. It is not these employers, it is not, in general, the big bosses, the Mendozas, who want to or who can stop inflation. Those who were present at this meeting work closely with the multinationals and their companies are sometimes themselves multinationals. The case of the private banks is illuminating; all of those in Venezuela are multinationals which only play to the rules of neo-liberalism. Moreover, they receive in deposit most of the financial resources of the state and do business with this public money without any control. They are by no means worried about whether the use of these funds causes inflation or not.

It is a mistake to think, precisely at the moment when the banking system in the United States and internationally is collapsing, where big banks are collapsing and where the neo-liberal states have to rush to their aid with the money of the people, that these bosses of finance will act in a different way in Venezuela. They do nothing but obey the orders of the financial institutions that control them, they are in no way interested in any “alliance” with the state, unless this alliance makes it possible for their enterprises to make bigger profits, which will in any event be dispatched out of the country.

That is the reality. You cannot speak to these employers from the heart, with a project of national independence, even less with a socialist project, because their very existence depends on the maintenance of a system of neo-colonial relations with imperialism. These people would have acted at the time in the same way as the oligarchy behaved with Bolivar. You cannot make these bankers and the big economic groups recognise the need for national unity, they represent on the contrary a real threat for the revolution.

The president also invited the employers of the building industry to collaborate with the Brazilian and Argentinean multinationals. He invited the importers, producers and processors of food to collaborate with the Brazilian and Argentinean multinationals. He opened a fund of a billion dollars, to be shared between the local employers and the multinationals. But when we speak about Brazilian and Argentinean multinationals, it would be more exact to speak about North-American, European and Asian multinationals because the majority of their financial capital comes from companies and banks in these regions. Like the Ternium enterprise (which controlled 60 per cent of the SIDOR iron and steel plant that was nationalised), the allegedly Argentinean multinational, whose capital is Brazilian, Mexican, Italian and American.

To appeal to these firms in the name of national unity while following the path of Bolivarian socialism reveals great confusion on the part of the president. None of the 500 owners present at the meeting will answer this appeal. They want to hear only one thing: the appeal of profit at any price. It is they who create precarious employment, who sub-contract, who lay off workers, who harass the trade-union organizations when they cannot buy off or corrupt their leaders.

But let us return to the political problem. Mendoza and its group of companies are among those principally responsible for the shortage of and the speculation on food. Why would it change its attitude today? The president is bathing in illusions if he thinks that by granting the privileges claimed by the employers, they will no longer constitute a factor of destabilization. The electoral agenda matters little to the employers, their only agenda is profit and for that they will use the electoral conjuncture if necessary. Either the president is mistaken, or he knows what he is doing and in that case he is promoting a capitalist model which will never win independence because these economic groups have no sense of the fatherland or of independence. They are only junior partners of imperialism and they only aspire to remain that.

To ask them to repatriate the billion dollars that they have hidden abroad constitutes another demonstration of naivety. They could indeed do it, but only with the guarantee that they will make even more money than they currently make and with the assurance that they will never be expropriated. And the only thing that can give them such confidence is that the (presidential) palace of Miraflores is occupied by a president who, as in the time of the Fourth Republic (1948-1999), does exactly what they want.

So the problem with which we are confronted is political, it is a question of choosing between two models. It is necessary to choose between the model suggested by the president on June 11 with the employers and that of the workers of SIDOR, of a consistent consequent fight against the multinationals.

Some people claim that it would be a question of a kind of “NEP”, the economic policy followed by Lenin after the civil war. In order to solve the problems of supply and the productive crisis, he loosened controls on the market and gave certain advantages to the small capitalists. What do you think about that?

The Leninist NEP was a policy intended to solve the brutal crisis in which Russia had become enmeshed after the disasters of the First World War and the Civil War. This policy caused serious distortions; the well-off peasants quickly grew rich. In Venezuela, there cannot be an NEP, in the first place because we do not have a state of transition towards socialism, the bourgeois state has not been dismantled. We still have a bourgeois state with all its structures intact and with elements of state capitalism. To put forward such a comparison only serves to sow confusion.

Moreover, the launching of the NEP in Russia was done after the expropriation of the great majority of the factories and the policy of “War Communism” during the Civil War. It was a policy that was made necessary by the state of the country after years of war and the failure of the revolution in Germany. So it was a defensive policy of Leninism, not an offensive one. To talk about the NEP in the Venezuelan process constitutes a falsification intended to occult the fact that what they call the “re-launch of production” is nothing other than a policy of incentives, subsidies and privileges granted to the big bosses of whom the majority are putschists, destabilizers and saboteurs.

What measures do you propose to achieve the goals defined by the president?

In the first place, there is a political objective. We reject this “alliance of national unity” because it is counter-productive if we really want to advance towards socialism. It will even be reactionary if it is carried out, because it will weaken the revolutionary process. We propose on the contrary an alliance of popular power, of the workers and the exploited and oppressed sectors of society, in order to resolve the question of state power. In the second place, we need measures of economic policy that are consistent with the discourse on the building of socialism and the working-class nature of the government, measures which must respond to the real problems and needs of working people.

Let us take the example of foreign trade. If there is an area in which the state must have a monopoly of purchases and imports it is certainly that of food. The nationalization of foreign trade and particularly of the food sector is a fundamental tool for controlling inflation.

Next, there is the question of wages. You cannot on the one hand spend millions of dollars on incentives and subsidies to the employers, without any control by the workers, while on the other hand workers are affected every day by price increases. We must install a periodic, monthly or quarterly indexation of wages in line with inflation. Collective bargaining agreements concluded every two years cannot respond to the situation.

One of the main issues whose gravity should be understood is that of the control of finances, the banks and credit. The crisis of the international economy will continue to deepen, just like the crisis of the banking sector. In this context, it is not acceptable that there does not exist any control on deposits in our country. We think that the system of credit is a strategic sector just like basic industries, oil, food, communications, etc. This sector cannot remain in the hands of the private sector and even less of the multinationals. At the very least, deposits would have to be nationalized. Or else, the central bank should control and manage all the money which is in the banking system. It would also be necessary to directly abolish VAT and to progressively increase taxes on company profits. That means, concretely: those who earn more pay more.

Those are some of the ideas and proposals which we want to put up for discussion among workers. But what remains fundamental is the question of knowing whether we are working with the perspective of an alliance with the supposedly national bourgeoisie, which would represent a retreat on the road to socialism. The president must know that each of the possible choices excludes the other: either you are with the workers and the people or you are with the big economic groups and the multinationals. A genuine workers’ government cannot choose an alliance with the bourgeoisie because that would mean the retreat of the revolution, and in saying that we are not falling into any kind of “ultraleftism”.

This interview was conducted by Marea Socialista
and published on the site www.aporrea.org on June 30, 2008.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What sort of society can save the planet?


A sustainable future requires a radical break with capitalism,
argues Martin Empson


There is no doubt that capitalism is bad for the planet. Multinationals exploit natural resources in the interest of profit, pumping their waste into our rivers, oceans and atmosphere.

Vast regions of the world are stripped bare in the search for coal and other minerals. Entire ecosystems are destroyed in the hunt for profits. And the problem of climate change threatens the planet as a whole.

Capitalism isn’t the first economic system to exploit the natural resources of the planet. However it is the first to do so on an industrial scale, using advanced technologies to maximise profits. This relentless drive to make money out of the world’s resources means there is no chance for the planet’s ecosystems to recover naturally.

In the past natural mechanisms would break down greenhouse gases before they would even approach a level that could trigger climate change. But ever since we started systematically burning fossil fuels, the amount of these gases pumped into the air has increased dramatically.

We now produce more greenhouse gases, and as their concentrations increase, they threaten to destabilise the world’s environmental systems to such an extent that life as we know it may be endangered.

Wasteful

What is true of climate change is also true of many other aspects of the environment. Capitalism’s short term interests are incompatible with the preservation of the natural world upon which society rests.

Capitalism is also tremendously wasteful. It is more profitable for companies to manufacture single-use packaging than reusable materials. Colossal amounts of money and resources are wasted on advertising. Bureaucrats and managers waste their lives working on jobs that have little social benefit. Inefficiency is built into the system.

And meanwhile we see the obscenity of massive overproduction of goods existing side by side with people starving because they don’t have the money to access the basic necessities of life. Capitalism is an unsustainable and unjust economic system.

Karl Marx described a “irreparable rift” between the natural world and humanity under capitalism. He argued that this relationship could only be restored through the rational organisation of society in the interests of people today and of future generations:

“Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together are not owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations.”

But what would a sustainable society look like? If capitalism cannot exist in balance with nature, how would we organise an alternative society that could?

Some aspects of what such a society would look like are quite straightforward. Instead of relying on fossil fuels, a sustainable society would generate the bulk of its energy from renewable sources. Such a society would need to use dramatically less energy in total.

Houses and offices would be properly insulated. Wasteful industries would either be made more efficient or be eliminated altogether.

Combined plants would produce both heat and power. Instead of venting waste heat into the sky, as they do today, this energy could be used to heat local buildings. Such a scheme at Battersea power station heated homes for 11,000 people at the end of the Second World War.

Collective

A sustainable city would have massively improved public transport systems. We would reduce reliance on cars, which are inefficient, dangerous and polluting, with better provision for cyclists and pedestrians. Over time we would redesign our towns and cities to ensure that the era of the long commute was over.

Longer distance transport would be shifted towards fast, efficient and cheap railways. Current airport expansion plans are thoroughly unsustainable – but this shouldn’t be a barrier to travel abroad.

Finally, a sustainable society would be one where collective social institutions, such as creches and laundrettes, would be much more common.

It’s not impossible to imagine many of these changes taking place under capitalism. But the problem is that production under capitalism is organised in the interests of profit, irrespective of the interests of people or the planet.

Indeed capitalist production often runs directly against the needs of society as a whole. In recent years, vast tracts of agricultural land have been shifted to the hugely profitable business of the growing of biofuels, rather than being used to produce food that could feed the starving.

In contrast, a sustainable society would be one where production is rationally and democratically organised. Every aspect of production, from the goods manufactured in factories to the design of computer software, needs to be collectively planned.

For many people, the idea of a planned economy brings to mind the bureaucratic command structures of the former Soviet Union, where a few unelected and unaccountable individuals made all the decisions.

Rather than produce for people’s needs, this system usually led to inefficiency, pollution and, at worst, terrible environmental disasters such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

The socialist vision of a planned economy is entirely different. Genuine planning can only occur in the context of informed debate over every aspect of production.

Production decisions at each workplace would be made in conjunction with overall strategies on a city-wide, national and even international level.

Under capitalism each country tends to organise its own production in its own interest. But a more rational society would recognise the unequal distribution of natural resources and ensure that every region of the world had access to the materials it needed.

If we want to seriously deal with the problem of climate change and its consequences, then we need this kind of planning on an international scale. While the United Nations might come up with targets for carbon emissions today, there is no mechanism for implementing or enforcing these.

A rationally organised world would be able to decide what reductions were required and then ask every industry, city and workplace to come up with strategies for reducing emissions.

Every individual would be involved in deciding how to implement the required changes. Planning would eliminate overproduction and concentrate resources on developing better goods rather than chasing profits.

Planning requires social ownership – but the logic of capitalism is to divide the world into private property.

The people who own and control the factories and workplaces, the mines, forests and farms, won’t give them up easily. They will want to hold on to their wealth and power.

Mass movement

So this ruling class will have to be challenged by a mass movement determined to redistribute the land and the factories – a movement for the revolutionary transformation of society.

People have challenged the existing system in the past, and in those attempts we can see the potential for a new, rational society that is organised and run by the mass of people who create all the wealth in society.

From the 1871 Paris Commune to the 1917 Russian Revolution, and in many struggles since, working men and women have invented organisations that have helped them take control of their own lives.

In the midst of revolution, bodies such as workers’ councils have sprung up to organise strikes and demonstrations. But these bodies have also organised production to look after the distribution of essentials to ensure that people don’t starve and are kept informed of all the latest news.

For a brief period of time after the Russian Revolution, before its isolation and defeat in the 1920s, workers ran their own factories and workplaces in the interest of the collective.

But the overthrow of capitalism won’t create a sustainable society overnight. Marx predicted that after a successful revolution, a “new society will have emerged from capitalist society, which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges”.

The productive apparatus of today has been created and designed in the interest of generating profits. It would have to be radically altered and rethought. Some industries are incompatible with a vision of a long-term sustainable society – the nuclear or the arms industries, for instance.

There would be much work to be done to create this new society.

We would need to ensure it is run in the interests of the majority of people and the future of the planet. But it is only after we have removed capitalism that we can fully explore this potential to create a sustainable future.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bloody cost of the new world order


by Lindsey German, convenor of the British Stop The War Coalition (pc)

The outbreak of war in the Caucasus over the past week has stunned the world. More fighting, more bombing, thousands dead and tens of thousands of refugees are the daily scenes on our television screens.

This is not just a “little local difficulty” between Russia and Georgia. It is part of a drive to war across the globe that has characterised the eight years of George Bush’s US presidency.

And it is intricately connected to the US-led “war on terror” which is raging in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia – and which now threatens Iran.

The hypocrisy involved in statements from George Bush and Dick Cheney beggars belief. “Russia has invaded a sovereign neighbouring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people,” says Bush. “Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century.”

Yet Bush and Cheney are the architects of a series of disastrous wars being waged around the world today. The US ignored the wishes of millions around the world in its drive to war across the Middle East.

Russia has its own imperialist ambitions. And it is still effectively run by its prime minister, Vladimir Putin, the former KGB colonel and the butcher of Chechnya. But Putin can teach the US little when it comes to invasion and war.

The US has waged its “war on terror”, not to bring peace and democracy, but to impose its power and control over increasing parts of the world.

The break up of the former Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago led to an era of new imperialism. The US intervened against Iraq in 1991, then in the Balkans in the late 1990s, and since 2001 through the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the process, it has aimed to win new allies from among the former Eastern Bloc states as a means of putting pressure on its weaker rival Russia. It has used Nato to extend its influence. The Kosovo war of 1999 took place under a Nato umbrella, as does the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan today.

This military alliance lost its original role at the end of the Cold War – but it has reinvented itself as an instrument of US policy in lands distant from its original remit of the North Atlantic.

Georgia is ruled by one of the most pro-Western regimes among the former Soviet states. It has feverishly been trying to join Nato, which has already extended to a number of eastern European countries.

Georgia has been encouraged in its ambitions by the US and its allies. It is likely to have been given the green light from the US for its attack on South Ossetia.

This strategic realignment is underpinned by concern over the region’s resources. Oil and gas pipelines are routed through Georgia to Turkey, another key Western ally.

So the war between Georgia and Russia – supposedly about the future of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – is the latest development in the rivalry between imperial powers.

Gordon Brown has backed the US and its policies.

The anti-war movement needs to campaign against this escalation of a war in which those who suffer are the peoples of the region.

The following should be read alongside this article:
» War is result of imperial game
» Scramble for resources is destabilising the world
» Deepening unease with US strategy
» Ossetia - a history of division and war

Neither Washington Nor Moscow




The conflict in Georgia is spiralling out of control. The Western media is portraying the conflict as an invasion by Russian forces, yet the Georgian Army has been killing the people of South Ossetia with impunity, and there is no right to self determination for regions that do not want to belong to Georgia. South Ossetia’s capital Tshkinvali lies in ruins, while over 2,000 civilians have lost their lives.

Russian forces are using the same overwhelming firepower that they have used for over a decade in Chechnya. If South Ossetia has a right to cede from Georgia, then Chechnya has a right to its independence from Russia.

The current conflict has been exacerbated by the USA, in its bid to extend NATO into former republics of the old USSR. They have been arming, equipping and training Georgian forces for many years along with 1,000 Israeli military advisers provided by Israeli security companies. Georgia sent 2,500 troops to Iraq, the single biggest contingent in the occupying forces after the U.S. and Britain. The USA has airlifted Georgian troops back from Iraq to take part in the fighting, and George Bush lectures the Russians that invasions have no place in the 21st century. This from the man who has the blood of over one million Iraqis on his hands.

Demands from US, British and other western leaders to Russia to respect countries' territorial integrity are simply not credible after the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the bombing of Somalia and the constant threats against Iran.

Socialist Aotearoa is opposed to all imperialist wars, and supports the rights of small nations to independence from their oppressors. We oppose any calls for intervention by the US or NATO. IN the current conflict, we side with neither military force.

Neither Washington Nor Moscow.


COMMENTARY-
Plucky little Georgia? No, the cold war reading won't wash


Written by Mark Almond
Monday, 11 August 2008

For many people the sight of Russian tanks streaming across a border in August has uncanny echoes of Prague 1968. That cold war reflex is natural enough, but after two decades of Russian retreat from those bastions it is misleading. Not every development in the former Soviet Union is a replay of Soviet history.

The clash between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia, which escalated dramatically yesterday, in truth has more in common with the Falklands war of 1982 than it does with a cold war crisis. When the Argentine junta was basking in public approval for its bloodless recovery of Las Malvinas, Henry Kissinger anticipated Britain's widely unexpected military response with the comment: "No great power retreats for ever." Maybe today Russia has stopped the long retreat to Moscow which started under Gorbachev.

Back in the late 1980s, as the USSR waned, the red army withdrew from countries in eastern Europe which plainly resented its presence as the guarantor of unpopular communist regimes. That theme continued throughout the new republics of the deceased Soviet Union, and on into the premiership of Putin, under whom Russian forces were evacuated even from the country's bases in Georgia.

To many Russians this vast geopolitical retreat from places which were part of Russia long before the dawn of communist rule brought no bonus in relations with the west. The more Russia drew in its horns, the more Washington and its allies denounced the Kremlin for its imperial ambitions.

Unlike in eastern Europe, for instance, today in breakaway states such as South Ossetia or Abkhazia, Russian troops are popular. Vladimir Putin's picture is more widely displayed than that of the South Ossetian president, the former Soviet wrestling champion Eduard Kokoity. The Russians are seen as protectors against a repeat of ethnic cleansing by Georgians.

In 1992, the west backed Eduard Shevardnadze's attempts to reassert Georgia's control over these regions. The then Georgian president's war was a disaster for his nation. It left 300,000 or more refugees "cleansed" by the rebel regions, but for Ossetians and Abkhazians the brutal plundering of the Georgian troops is the most indelible memory.

Georgians have nursed their humiliation ever since. Although Mikheil Saakashvili has done little for the refugees since he came to power early in 2004 - apart from move them out of their hostels in central Tbilisi to make way for property development - he has spent 70% of the Georgian budget on his military. At the start of the week he decided to flex his muscles.

Devoted to achieving Nato entry for Georgia, Saakashvili has sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan - and so clearly felt he had American backing. The streets of the Georgian capital are plastered with posters of George W Bush alongside his Georgian protege. George W Bush avenue leads to Tbilisi airport. But he has ignored Kissinger's dictum: "Great powers don't commit suicide for their allies." Perhaps his neoconservative allies in Washington have forgotten it, too. Let's hope not.

Like Galtieri in 1982, Saakashvili faces a domestic economic crisis and public disillusionment. In the years since the so-called Rose revolution, the cronyism and poverty that characterised the Shevardnadze era have not gone away. Allegations of corruption and favouritism towards his mother's clan, together with claims of election fraud, led to mass demonstrations against Saakashvili last November. His ruthless security forces - trained, equipped and subsidised by the west - thrashed the protesters. Lashing out at the Georgians' common enemy in South Ossetia would certainly rally them around the president, at least in the short term.

Last September, President Saakashvili suddenly turned on his closest ally in the Rose revolution, defence minister Irakli Okruashvili. Each man accused his former blood brother of mafia links and profiting from contraband. Whatever the truth, the fact that the men seen by the west as the heroes of a post-Shevardnadze clean-up accused each other of vile crimes should warn us against picking a local hero in Caucasian politics.

Western geopolitical commentators stick to cold war simplicities about Russia bullying plucky little Georgia. However, anyone familiar with the Caucasus knows that the state bleating about its victim status at the hands of a bigger neighbour can be just as nasty to its smaller subjects. Small nationalisms are rarely sweet-natured.

Worse still, western backing for "equip and train" programmes in Russia's backyard don't contribute to peace and stability if bombastic local leaders such as Saakashvili see them as a guarantee of support even in a crisis provoked by his own actions. He seems to have thought that the valuable oil pipeline passing through his territory, together with the Nato advisers intermingled with his troops, would prevent Russia reacting militarily to an incursion into South Ossetia. That calculation has proved disastrously wrong.

The question now is whether the conflict can be contained, or whether the west will be drawn in, raising the stakes to desperate levels. To date the west has operated radically different approaches to secession in the Balkans, where pro-western microstates get embassies, and the Caucasus, where the Caucasian boundaries drawn up by Stalin, are deemed sacrosanct.

In the Balkans, the west promoted the disintegration of multiethnic Yugoslavia, climaxing with their recognition of Kosovo's independence in February. If a mafia-dominated microstate like Montenegro can get western recognition, why shouldn't flawed, pro-Russian, unrecognised states aspire to independence, too?

Given its extraordinary ethnic complexity, Georgia is a post-Soviet Union in miniature. If westerners readily conceded non-Russian republics' right to secede from the USSR in 1991, what is the logic of insisting that non-Georgians must remain inside a microempire which happens to be pro-western?

Other people's nationalisms are like other people's love affairs, or, indeed, like dog fights. These are things wise people don't get involved in. A war in the Caucasus is never a straightforward moral crusade - but then, how many wars are?