Book Review “Whakapohane”

By Te Ringa Mangu (Dun) Mihaka & Diane Patricia Prince

Ruatara Publications, 1984

Reviewed by Mike Kay, Workers Party Auckland and The Spark editorial board. This article first appeared in the April issue of The Spark.

As the media ramps up the hype around the Royal Wedding on April 29, now seems like a good time to revisit a period in New Zealand history when there was a republican movement willing to take militant action against the Monarchy.

During the 1983 Royal Tour of New Zealand by Prince Charles, Diana Princess of Wales and their infant son William, Dun Mihaka achieved international notoriety by performing a “whakapohane i te tou” (baring of the buttocks) in front of the Royal limousine as it exited Wellington Airport. He was immediately arrested following his protest. The brutality of the arrest (two police officers forced him to the ground) provoked his confidante and wife, Diane Prince, to attack the police, and she herself was taken into custody. This book is essentially the story of the resulting trial. The authors have left us with a superb example of how to present a political trial; they effectively put the whole system – police, courts, media, politicians and the Monarchy itself – on trial. [Read more...]

Workers taking action in tough industrial relations environment

The following article by Jared Phillips will shortly be published in the April issue of The Spark.

March 19, First Security workers and thier supporters confront lockout

On April 1 the new anti-worker laws were introduced. The three main changes are increased restriction on the ability of union organisers to access workplaces, the introduction of 90-day probationary employment periods, and the ability for the employer to require a medical certificate for only one day’s sickness.

The fact that service sector employers (casino and security) have been so quick to lock out workers is evidence that the employing class is currently acting with a great deal of confidence.

In this environment of attacks on workers and their unions it is positive to see that some groups of workers have been taking the initiative to fight the employers.

[Read more...]

Wellington: May Day march

Torchlit march, 7pm, Friday, April 29th 2011
March on parliament starting Cuba Mall bucket fountain

Unite starts Facebook campaign against unfair sacking

Bring Back Pat

Unite has launched a Facebook campaign for Pat Bidois, a union delegate at St Georges Language School who was unfairly dismissed. The page reads:

Management have been trying to get rid of Pat for years as she is an effective and passionate defender of workers rights on her site.

[Read more...]

Earthquake results in disaster for Japanese people

Rebecca Broad, Workers Party National Organiser

A magnitude nine earthquake and consequent 23 ft tidal wave, occurring 70km off the northeast coast of Japan March 11, has caused severe and extensive damage to that country. The three prefectures or states of Miyagi, Fukushima, and Iwate have sustained the most damage and loss of life. Multiple coastal towns have been completely destroyed by the tsunami. The Japanese military is heading up the recovery operation with 100,000 troops mobilised. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that 2.5 million households could be affected, and 1.6 million houses over 11 prefectures have no access to clean water. The number of estimated deaths and officially missing on March 21 was respectively 18,000 and 9,200, according to the National Police Agency. However both of those amounts are expected to continue rising. Nearly 500,000 people are living in emergency shelters and around 22,000 people have been saved by rescuers so far.

[Read more...]

Play review: Mates and Lovers

Adapted by Ronald Trifero Nelson from a script by Chris Brickell, review by Workers Party member James Froch

Having significantly evolved since it last showed at Bats in 2009, a new production of Mates and Lovers is back in Wellington as part of the second Asia-Pacific Out Games.  This celebration of the modern gay identity is Ronald Nelson’s second adaptation of Chris Brickell’s well- known catalogue of men’s sometimes platonic and sometimes sexual relationships with other men.

Having cut, extended and added some scenes—particularly enjoyable was the addition of the young Chris Brickell’s personal experiences during homosexual law reform –this production was more successful than its predecessor at transforming desperate individual stories separated by centuries, geography, ethnicity and class into a single narrative.

Much credit for the easy physical transitions between scenes is due to Taiaroa Royal’s clever choreography.  Particularly creative was the transformation of the two lone actors (Paora Taurima and Simon Leary) into chorus girls, and their shirts into halter tops, during the musical numbers often used to move into a new scene.  The playful gender transgressions added yet another layer of gaiety to the already quite gay piece of theatre. [Read more...]

Industrial Tasks and Perspectives December 2010 / Industrial Report

The following article is an edited version of a report submitted to the Workers Party internal conference in January 2011 by its National Industrial officer Mike Kay.

General Outlook

The unemployment rate in the September 2010 year was virtually unchanged since the previous year, at 6.4%. Employment had increased by 1.8%, economic growth had been sluggish,and wage growth generally slow. (Although interestingly enough, the annual survey of CEAs by the Industrial Relations Centre at Victoria University found that for those agreements for which they could calculate an increase from June 2009 to June 2010, adult minimum wages in collectives went up by an “annualised” rate of 4.2 percent – the largest they have ever reported. This has been explained by pay rises kicking in for longer-term agreements negotiated prior to the recession.)

The Department of Labour’s Union Membership Report of March 2009 found a 3.9% increase in union membership on the previous year. Unions represented 17.9% of the total employed labour force, and 21.5% of wage/salary earners for that period. More women (59.9%) than men were union members. The most unionised sector was Health and Community Services, followed by Education; Government Administration and Defence; and Manufacturing.

There was a modest increase in work stoppages in the June 2010 year, compared to 2009’s historic low point. Twenty-nine work stoppages ended in the June 2010 year, with the estimated loss in wages and salaries $3.1 million. The number of employees involved (13,829) and the person-days of work lost (17,989) were both significantly up on the previous year. The greatest participation came from two sectors: Public administration and safety; and Health care and social assistance. The year was notable for strikes amongst white collar workers such as radiographers, secondary school teachers and staff in the Ministry of Justice.

[Read more...]

Revisiting socialism and women’s liberation

This article is by Kassie Hartendorp, organiser of the Wellington branch of the Workers Party. The article will be printed in three parts, in the new Women’s Liberation section of The Spark.

Historically, one of the most controversial topics within Marxist theory is ‘the woman question’ which continues to create debate and disagreement within socialist politics. August Bebel defines the woman question as dealing “with the position that woman should hold in our social organism, and seeks to determine how she can best develop her powers and her abilities, in order to become a useful member of human society, endowed with equal rights and serving society according to her best capacity.” Because the demand for women’s rights is often seen to conflict with the priority of class struggle, some Marxists have refrained from tackling this topic, as it has not been uncommon for groups to split over disagreements on how to end women’s oppression. In this article we will review four writers; Frederick Engels, August Bebel, Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai and analyse what they have put forward in regards to women’s suffrage, marriage and the family, motherhood and love, and sexuality. This is only a small selection of the plethora of issues within the woman question, but due to word restraints, I will be just discussing these four areas. We choose here to use the term ‘women’s oppression’ rather than the more recently used ‘gender inequality’. While the terms are similar, the former is the historically specific description of the oppression and exploitation of women within the longer trajectory of capitalism. [Read more...]

Workers’ Power 2011: National conference of the Workers Party

Click on schedule to enlarge


Major decisions of internal conference

Originally published in the March 2011 issue of The Spark.

At the end of January the Workers Party held its major internal meetings in Christchurch to guide the future strategy of the organisation.

Party structure changes

In terms of changing and developing party structures we did the following:

• Altered the leadership body and renamed it ‘Representative Committee’.

• Combined The Spark production team and the website committee.

• Combined the positions of national organiser and national secretary.

• Elected a discipline and disputes committee.

• Endorsed a new national recruitment officer position within the leadership body.

• Held membership criteria discussion. Membership categories to be fully decided by end of June 6, 2011.

• Held dues/finance discussion. National dues structure to be fully decided by end of June 6, 2011. [Read more...]

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