A cup of tea

Don Franks, Workers Party candidate for Wellington Central opening 5 minute address to Aro Valley candidates forum August 9th 2008:

I’d like to try and be constructive and see if there’s some stuff we all have in common.

Something we all probably have in common is enjoying a cup of tea. On many occasions, there’s nothing better to pick you up or settle you down. First thing in the morning, or after putting in some hours on the job, or later on at night. What’s that old saying ­ “the cup that cheers but not inebriates”. Well, of course a bit of inebriation is definitely called for sometimes.

However, when you feel like a little something, but need to keep going with a clear head and a steady hand it’s hard to beat a nice cup of tea. A cup of tea is such an ordinary routine part of our lives that we don’t think there’s anything all that special about it when we make one. But actually it’s quite a big deal.

We’re quite unable to enjoy a cup of tea without a considerable effort from the international working class. Countless labourers, farm workers, scientists, drivers, wharfies, shop assistants, designers, receptionists, admin staff, cleaners, pilots and innumerable other toilers are required to do their stuff so that we can have a cup of tea at the end of it.

That social labour concept is often spelled out in children’s books, which show pictures of all the various people at work, collectively creating and distributing life’s necessities.

The one thing the children’s books always leave out is the unpleasant part of the social relationship. The fact that the international working class is robbed of the greater part of the value it creates. Today, capitalism and therefore wage labour dominates the planet.

Workers in all countries do not get anything like the value of their labour power, but instead, a wage, just sufficient to keep and reproduce the next generation of producers.

Capitalism, or production for profit, has other bad consequences. Production for profit means the pursuit of maximum profit always comes first, before jobs, environmental considerations, all round education, health, housing and, especially, peace. The drive for profit is at the heart of modern imperialist conflict and the principal victims of such conflict are invariably members of the working class and the peasantry.

Even in a relatively prosperous country like New Zealand, capitalism casts a pall over the possibility of a decent life. For example, after nine years of a self styled “worker friendly” government we have one child in 5 living in poverty. Hundreds of thousands of workers are on or just above the minimum wage. As one of those workers I can tell you that the minimum wage is not a sufficient income. Capitalism is only good for a small minority. The majority suffer growing unemployment, casualisation, overwork and consequent social tension. We get less security and more prisons.

Fortunately, the unjust, uncivilised and essentially inhuman capitalist system is only a blip in the history of humankind. Capitalism has only existed for a very short historical period and will not last forever. With the combined efforts of the international working class capitalism can be overthrown and replaced by a cooperative socialist system. A system where the majority can develop their life to full potential.

When that has been achieved we will be able to enjoy a cup of tea untainted by exploitation of the international working class. Helping build a movement to bring that day forward a little quicker is my motivation for standing in this general election.

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