All things bright and beautiful

(Wellington Central WP candidate Don Franks’ opening 5 minute address to Karori community election meeting 24/09/08)

Good evening folks, thanks for inviting me to your election meeting here in the pleasant surroundings of Karori. I was brought up in a similar nice suburb on the other side of Wellington, over in Eastbourne. There, at Sunday school, I used to love singing the children’s hymn “All things bright and beautiful”. I still recall all the words, including the closing verse: The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, He made them high and lowly and ordered their estate. I now realise that the song wasn’t really a cute child’s fancy, but a self-serving reactionary political statement.

It suggests that privilege and class distinctions are valid, ordained and for all time. It also suggests that the poor are unproductive, hanging around gates awaiting handouts. Well, of course, we can see, can’t we, when we have a look around, that those assertions are the most arrant nonsense. The capitalist system has not been around for all time, but is relatively historically recent. Like other systems before it, capitalism will outlive its use-by date and pass. It is also nonsense to dismiss the poor as unproductive.

The poor these days are increasingly made up not of beggars or beneficiaries, but working people. For the month of June this year the New Zealand Federation of Family budgeting Services reported 5864 wage and salary earners asking for help as well as the 14,454 beneficiaries. There are thousands on or close to the minimum wage, and that means trouble. On the minimum wage you can’t live decently, or give your kids any sort of chance at a future. Yet our society is full of underpaid people doing essential work for the good of all.

The problem is, most of our value is legally stolen from us. For example, at my factory job, I’ve nearly completed machining a run of ten thousand plumbing components. The three operations required to transform the raw material take in total less than 50 seconds per unit. The unit retails at $2.00. My share of the $20,000.00 is $12.85 per hour. Even when you take off material costs, wear and tear on the machine and legitimate business administration requirements, the difference between the value I produce and what I receive is vast.

This sort of injustice is repeated by capitalism daily and hourly all over town, all over the country and across most of the world.

Some candidates this election will tell you that this state of affairs is perfectly alright and that the solution is to become a boss yourself. Others, with a little more humanity argue that the system can be made to work fairly and is gradually getting better. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. In my working life I’ve seen award conditions disappear, safety standards worsen, casualisation grow and children’s health and education opportunities restricted.

As an internationalist socialist party, the Workers Party believes revolutionary change is desirable, necessary and possible.

Our basic platform is

1. Opposition to imperialism

2. Secure jobs for all with a living wage and a shorter working week.

3. For the unrestricted rights for workers to organise, strike, speak and publish.

4. Full equality for women, Maori and other ethnic minorities, migrant workers and people of all sexual orientations and identities; open borders.

5. For a working peoples’ republic.

Put to music it sounds like this:

All things bright and beautiful in every shopping mall

All the goods and services- the workers made them all

We sell our labour power for a bare subsistence wage

While bosses loll in luxury ­ its time to turn the page!

Workers of all countries ­ in lands both great and small

This earth and all we’ve made of it ­ let us reclaim it all


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