World and NZ economy: as good as it gets under capitalism

John Edmundson and Philip Ferguson

In late 2006. IMF chief economist Raghuram Rajan declared, “The global economic expansion has been stronger in this period than at any time since the early 1970s.” Yet barely a year later, media reports are regularly speculating about upcoming economic disasters.

Recent economic woes in the United States have impacted on the global economy, as the US remains by far the largest economy in the world. However, problems in the United States – of which the state of subprime mortgages is a classic case (see below) – indicate deeper problems in the world economy.

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Afghanistan, East Timor and the failure of “humanitarian” military intervention

Tim Bowron

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

-Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)

Since Labour took office in 1999, New Zealand military forces have been deployed overseas on a scale not seen since the time of the Vietnam War. Unusually, though, this renewed outburst of militarism has been greeted by many sections of the New Zealand left not with protest and bitter denunciation but instead with widespread approval.

Unlike the conflicts in Vietnam or Korea, we are told that the current Western military interventions in countries such as Afghanistan and East Timor are not missions of imperial aggrandisement and aggression, but instead are all about “humanitarian reconstruction” and multilateral action in accordance with international law.

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The first Black president? Barack Obama: The talk and the walk

Don Franks

“The presidential nomination of the Republican Party is up for grabs among a motley collection of mean-spirited law-and-order fanatics, anti-immigrant bigots and warmongers,” commented the US Socialist Worker of January 11. “This is the consequence of the crisis of the Bush administration – mired in Iraq, distrusted for its shredding of the Constitution and responsible for the steadily worsening mess of an economy.”

Socialist Worker argued that ” voters’ desire to see political change has become the undisputed theme of the 2008 US presidential elections”.

As this article is being written, the frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination and possibly the US presidency is black Illinois senator Barack Obama.

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Women’s liberation: time for a new movement?

To mark the 100th International Working Women’s Day (March 8), a women’s liberation activist of the 70s, Jill Brasell, reflects on progress since then.

Ask a young woman today what she thinks about women’s liberation, and she’s likely to say either “What’s that?” or “We don’t need that any more – we’re liberated now.”

She wouldn’t be alone in thinking that having a woman prime minister, and several other women in high positions, proves that there are no longer any barriers holding women back, in New Zealand anyway.

But let’s go back for a minute to the early days of the women’s liberation movement, the “second wave” of feminism that had such a huge impact on society throughout the western world in the early 70s. The goals of the movement seemed clear enough, and achievable.

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March industrial news roundup

In this month’s roundup:

Brackenridge workers step up their action

ASTE members to strike again 

AA workers reject offer 

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Could the Maori Party and National do a deal?

Most on the left struggle to see how the Maori and National parties could ever coalesce, or even how the Maori Party could help National into power. Surely the two parties are mortal enemies?

In this article political science lecturer and blogger Bryce Edwards argues that this view fails to understand the political nature of both parties. These two nationalist parties have much more in common than most realise:

Despite the illusions of many on the left, repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act would be a right-wing law change, which is why National and Act could be comfortable with it. (The fact that it would also involve the Maori Party and the Greens says much about their ideological confusion and centrism).

Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act was progressive in terms of nationalising the beaches so that they could continue to be used by all.

Those arguing for its repeal – including the Maori Party, Act, and the Greens – are essentially falling into line with a right-wing approach to property rights, in fact private-business property rights. In this sense it was always rather inconsistent – but highly pragmatic – of the National Party to support Labour’s F&S Act in the first place.

Could the Maori Party survive putting National into power?

The Maori Party MPs have already made much of their willingness to go with whatever major party offers them the best policy concessions for Maori.

As recently as Waitangi Day, Maori Party MPs were talking up their own relevance by proclaiming that they will hold the balance after this year’s election. Obviously a strategy that involves holding the balance of power logically requires that the party be genuinely willing to negotiate with both Labour and National.

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Another brick in the wall: cops in schools

Don Franks

Police officers are being stationed inside ten South Auckland schools.

From March, five officers will each spend 30 hours a week in the secondary schools, and another five staff will join them later.

Manukau City Councilor Daniel Newman says the aim is to cut crime outside of school, to draw children away from gangs, and to gather information on suspects.

Minister of Police Annette King claims the project will help young people regain confidence in the police. The Minister has yet to win the confidence of the professionals currently responsible for those young people.

Auckland Post Primary Principals’ Association regional chair Gerald van Waardenberg teaches at Otahuhu college, one of the schools which will have a police officer. He said there has been no consultation, and was surprised at the news.

“It’s in no way clear what kind of a role the police will have within the school, whether they’ll be approaching students directly, what the police will actually be doing.”

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Different kinds of money

 Editorial from this month’s issue of The Spark:

Labour’s biggest donor, billionaire Owen Glenn, recently embarrassed Prime Minister Helen Clark by skiting that she wanted him in cabinet, and by angling for a diplomatic post in Monaco.

Then, more strife came when Labour “forgot” to mention a $100,000 interest-free loan that Glen had given Labour in December 2006.

Has Labour finally lost touch with its working-class origins?

Labour’s always been right in the pocket of the rich. A major supporter of the very first 1935 Labour Government was brewing magnate Ernest Davis, at that time New Zealand’s richest man. Davis’s support was rewarded when Labour knighted him in 1937.

In 1946 Labour knighted construction boss James Fletcher, a central figure in Labour’s repressive WW2 administration.

Like National, Labour seeks office to serve the political system of capitalism.

That mission necessitates constant kowtowing to the biggest private property owners, at the expense of the rest of us whose work creates the wealth of the few.

The Spark and the Workers Party membership who produce it are in total opposition to capitalist bosses and capitalist political parties. Our aim is a socialist political system, where workers run society.

Workers Party finance comes from a steady trickle of small regular donations made by our readers. These contributions come with no strings attached. Together they keep a socialist alternative alive and growing. Much appreciated – please keep them coming.

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