May 2014 issue of Fightback now online

may 2014 fightback cover

This issue of Fightback magazine comes out in preparation for our Capitalism: Not Our Future conference, to be held in Wellington over the first weekend of June 2014. Please check out the programme here.

 

If capitalism is not our future, what is? The bureaucratic states of Eastern Europe were a far cry from the endless possibilities of a post-capitalist future. But “the collapse of communism” means that it’s almost impossible for the average person to envisage any kind of future which doesn’t entail production for private profit, mindless consumption, and the steady erosion of both human civilisation and the ecosystem itself.

 

The Marxist answer is that the answer can’t be known in advance – it can only come about through the struggle of the working people. And this forms the centrepiece of this month’s issue. Auckland writer Dean Parker takes us through the history of May Day, the international working people’s holiday. Fightback’s own Ben Petersen discusses why we still need worker organisations today, while our comrades from the Committee for a Worker’s International (CWI) give a perspective on where the New Zealand union movement can go from here.

 

If there’s any part of modern society which shows clearly the truth of Marx’s insight that forces of production outrun relations of production, we can see it in the “digital economy”, where the increasing sophistication and speed of the Internet has meant a crisis of existence for the music and video industries. Fightback’s Byron Clark looks at why Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party resonates for so many people – even those who “can’t afford a computer”.

 

The “utopian” side of Marxism is further explored in the notes from a recent talk by Wellington Fightback member Joel Cosgrove on the nature of socialism. “Democracy, freedom and imagination” are not words that most people would have associated with the old Warsaw Pact nations. But they’re words which capitalism has taken and twisted, turning dreams of self-realisation into alienation and the massive accumulation of useless commodities. Socialists will have to re-learn this language to appeal to the digital outlaws and precarious workers of the 21st century.

 

Finally, we have a couple of snapshots of how hard the struggle for this better world is in the here-and-now. In Venezuela, a revolutionary government struggles against all odds to peaceably move to a post-market future, despite right-wing uprisings and corruption within the state. Meanwhile, China continues to push forward to becoming the dominant capitalist power on the globe – with its attendant costs in human misery and environmental catastrophe – while still claiming to promote “socialism”.

 

The fight for a post-capitalist future is therefore, in large part, a fight to determine what “socialism” means in the 21st century. If you’re interested in making that happen in the coming months and years, join us in Wellington on Queen’s Birthday weekend.

 

2014 May Fightback V3

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April 2014 issue of Fightback now online

Welcome to the April 2014 issue of Fightback (Aotearoa/NZ). Fightback stands for struggle, solidarity and socialism.

In the last issue, Fightback covered the formation of the Internet Party. This party is more or less a front for millionaire Kim Dotcom, who has faced repression for breaching copyright law with his online service Megaupload. The Internet Party’s politics are extremely vague and no candidates have yet been revealed. Fightback concluded that “while progressives may share some common ground with the Internet Party, there is no sign that it represents a progressive force.”

Since that article went to print, the MANA movement – of which Fightback are members and supporters – entered talks on possible co-operation with the Internet Party. Kim Dotcom spoke to MANA’s AGM, which broadly supported the continuation of these talks.

Commentators in mainstream and social media quickly portrayed a potential alliance between MANA and the Internet Party as a done deal. However, MANA leadership has made no definitive statements, instead saying any deal would have to be approved by the membership.

Fightback participates in the MANA Movement, as a movement seeking rangatiratanga for the poor, the powerless and dispossessed.We believe that Dotcom does not have these interests at heart. He has supported right-wing politicians including John Banks, and he told the MANA AGM that he opposed MANA’s tax policies which would lift some of the burden on working people.

While we might have unity with Dotcom around some policy areas, Fightback opposes any close ties between the Internet Party and the MANA Movement. Fightback also opposes MANA entering a coalition government with pro-capitalist parties (p6-7).

However, whatever MANA decides on this issue, Fightback will continue to belong to and support the movement, as long as policies and principles are not sacrificed.

If MANA can hold firm to its principles, while also building a base for the party vote and Maori seats, it can play an important oppositional role both inside and outside of parliament. This oppositional role is necessary to forming a long-term movement that can imagine and build a new society, based on principles of self-determination.

2014 April Fightback

February issue of Fightback online

Fightback February 2014 cover - mandela

Welcome to the February 2014 issue of Fightback, monthly magazine of Fightback (Aotearoa/NZ).

Established in February 2013, Fightback is now entering its second year. While the group may seem modest, we believe that a combination of community and working-class forces is necessary to overturning this system. With our publication, and with our wider work, we aim to play a critical role in these struggles.

Mike Treen, Unite Union General Secretary, argued in a special feature on the Daily Blog (now Aotearoa/NZ’s most read left-wing blog) that “inequality will be the key issue for 2014” (reprinted p21-24). Treen argues, “there can be no lasting attack on inequality without also attacking its source,” an exploitative capitalist system. While also conducting education, debate and reflection, Fightback will continue to play an active role in class struggle over the next year.

Over a protracted capitalist crisis, in the wake of global upsurges in Europe, North America and the Arab world, with even many capitalist thinkers reflecting on the failure of economic orthodoxy, and with a Pope emphasising the social justice aspects of Catholic doctrine, (p18-20) the ground may be shifting for revolutionary socialists and others who want to see an egalitarian world.

Inequality is inseparable from struggles against oppression, and for liberation, generally; feminist struggles, queer struggles, the struggle for self-determination. Nelson Mandela, a leader and symbol of the struggle against apartheid, died late last year. Fightback covers his complex and contradictory legacy from p13-17.

In Aotearoa/NZ, 2014 is an election year. Fightback has no illusions that we can simply vote socialism in, or that going into coalition with capitalist governments will provide a short-cut for socialists. However, by bringing wider community struggles to parliament, we aim to play an oppositional role that can point the way to a democratic socialist world.

Fightback will be supporting the MANA Movement in the general elections. MANA has a proven leadership, both in community struggles and in democratically bringing the voice of the movement to parliament. We aim to take every opportunity in 2014 to advance the struggle for a new, just society.

2014 February Fightback pdf

December-January issue of Fightback online

december-january fightback cover wei

Welcome to the final issue of Fightback for 2013.

Fightback does not take money from the state or big business, and sustaining a monthly anti-capitalist publication during this period is no easy feat. For these reasons we thank our buyers, subscribers, and everyone who has contributed to Fightback over the last year.

In November, Aotearoa/NZ saw a nationwide day of action against rape culture, which Fightback supported because we see the struggle for gender liberation as essential to the struggle for socialism. Thousands gathered in Auckland and Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Palmerston North and Hamilton to voice their opposition to both sexual violence, and the system that enables it/

In the lead-up to the rape culture rallies, the self-titled ‘Roastbusters,’ teenage boys who carried out a series of sexual assaults and then boasted about it on Facebook, had found mainstream media attention. Crucially, it transpired that not only had the police known about the boys for two years, and received four complaints, they did nothing to investigate the case; one of the boys was an officer’s son.

While the state and other reactionary forces used this opportunity to call for greater surveillance power, feminist, socialist and progressive forces highlighted how this was not an isolated incident. Rather, the police cover-up illuminated the wider problem of ‘rape culture,’ an ingrained system which justifies and denies sexual violence.

Sexual violence exists throughout society, even in nominally progressive organisations. Challenging this violence is necessary to human liberation. Fightback covers perspectives on rape culture, gendered violence and the Roastbusters case from pages 4-11.

Meanwhile in the USA, Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant was the first openly socialist candidate to win a Seattle City Council seat in decades. While this is a modest victory, it shows both a shift in consciousness in an environment historically hostile to socialist politics, and the benefits of sustained work in the community.

In her council position Sawant will have little power to implement her policies such as a $15 minimum wage, however she is using the platform to promote socialist politics. At her election night party, Sawant took the opportunity to call for workers’ control of factories owned by Boeing, which is the biggest employer in the state, currently threatening to move jobs out of the region. Fightback reprints more detailed coverage of Sawant’s campaign from pages 12-14.

We’ll be back next year.

Solidarity.

2013 December Fightback

November issue of Fightback online

2013 November Fightback Cover (Russell Brand)

Welcome to the November 2013 issue of Fightback.

In mid-October, the Walk Free Foundation released the first Global Slavery Report. Drawing data from UNICEF and the US State Department, the report estimated that around 30 million people are enslaved world-wide.

No report is unbiased, and it is worth noting that the Walk Free Foundation was founded by Andrew Forest, an Australian mining magnate who has made billions through exploitation and ecological degradation. The report defines slavery as “the condition of treating another person as if they were property — something to be bought, sold, traded or even destroyed,” and also includes forced labour defined as “work taken without consent, by threats or coercion.” Arguably the threat of poverty and starvation works as a coercive measure even in cases of legal wage labour, as practiced by Forest in the mining industry.

However, just as no source is unbiased, it’s important to draw from a range of sources. The report is illuminating from a socialist perspective.

The highest-ranked nations were majority-world nations, exploited by the minority world. India, China, and Pakistan are the highest-ranked in absolute terms. Contrary to narratives of abolition and progress, the United States has as many as 67,000 slaves.

Aotearoa/NZ also entered the spotlight for slavery at sea, with foreign ships (contracted to local companies) using slavery and forced labour. This approach by employers ultimately works undermines conditions for all workers, and can only be overcome by demanding full rights for all workers; including local and migrant workers.

With 30 million enslaved worldwide by the Walk Free Foundation’s definition, and the majority of the world’s population enslaved by a revolutionary socialist definition, the global situation looks pretty dark. It’s worth noting the irony of one glimmer of light in late October, celebrity Russell Brand calling for revolution on a widely circulated Jeremy Paxman interview (available on YouTube).

Critics have noted Brand’s record of sexist behaviour, (discussed further on P8-14) and sexism must be opposed along with all forms of oppression. However the significance of Brand’s challenge is in its resonance with thousands of people; over 10,500 people liked the Facebook page “I Support Russell Brand’s Call for Revolution” within a couple of days.

A Facebook page is not a revolution, but it captures a social moment. Capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction, and Fightback aims to play a part in that creative destruction.

2013 November Fightback

October 2013 issue of Fightback now online

2013 October Fightback cover

Welcome to the October 2013 issue of Fightback.

In September, Unite defeated an effort by fast food giant KFC to sack its disabled workers. This came after a more compromised win in the battle for improved pay and conditions at McDonald’s.

There are some important observations to draw from these partial victories. The first observation is fundamental to what Fightback stands for; collective organisation, collective struggle, are needed to improve our conditions.

Secondly, workers and progressives must stand against all forms of oppression. Disabled workers are often portrayed as having basic mental or physical conditions, impairments that define them as people. In reality, capitalism disables bodies, by structuring society in such a way that only certain kinds of bodies can gain access, by ranking people, setting up a competition best summarised as a ‘race to the bottom.’

Finally, these victories were partial. While unionised McDonald’s workers gained in security of hours, the gain in wages was minimal. Both corporations continue to exploit workers and degrade the environment. This underlines the importance of having a long-term strategy, an aim to eventually out-maneouver and smash the McDonald’s of the world, a collective memory of previous victories and losses. This is why socialist groups like Fightback exist.

2013 October Fightback

June issue of Fightback online

june 2013 fightback cover

Welcome to the June 2013 issue of Fightback, publication of Fightback (Aotearoa/NZ). Fightback is a socialist organisation with branches in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.

On Queens’ Birthday Weekend, 31st May-2nd June, Fightback held its annual public conference in Wellington. In this issue we include the text of two presentations given during the conference, Grant Brookes’ “Workers, Unions and Class Struggle Today” (page 10) and Daphne Lawless’ “Green is Red: The case for eco-Marxist politics (page 20).

An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory, and Fightback actively supports workers in struggle. From pages 10-15 we cover the struggles of unionised McDonald’s’ workers for improved pay and conditions in Aotearoa/NZ. This includes an overview of the campaign, a response to homophobic bullying by management, reports on a Wellington strike and a report on a Fightback action supporting the campaign. The struggle against capital is international. Therefore we also reprint a report from a union campaign against McDonald’s in Detroit, USA.

In May we highlighted the role of mainstream political racism in fostering working-class racism. In an article originally printed in an Australian paper The Socialist, Jared Phillips reports on the appointment of Susan Devoy as Race Relations Commissioner for Aotearoa/NZ, and argues the need for solidarity in overcoming racism.

Fightback member Polly Peek suggests mental health advocacy and radical politics can be mutually complimentary.

Finally, we cover local government issues in Auckland (page 23) and the need for workers’ action to overcome the failings of the Health & Safety system (page 24).

2013 June Fightback

 

Final issue of ‘The Spark’

red-starThe Spark February 2013 (PDF)

The Spark has been the magazine of the Workers Party for a number of years. The Workers Party has decided to change its name to Fightback and as of next month The Spark will be replaced by a new paper which will share the new name of the organisation. On page 18 we report more fully on these changes.

This issue of The Spark puts some focus on the struggles confronting teachers. Teachers in Christchurch are set to take a firm stand against the government’s plans for schools in that city. The teachers can win that fight. They are also fighting against the introduction of charter schools. We also give a perspective on that in this issue.The issues of growing unemployment are examined as is the KiwiBuild policy.

Socialists are internationalists and the magazine overviews the formation of a new trade-union based party being formed in Fiji, and then points to two international examples in which double oppression is being challenged. First is an interview with Puerto Rican activist Carlos Rivera, he has led a campaign against homophobic TV programming.  Then there is an article on a new movement for indigenous rights in Canada which is being echoed around the world.

A further international article touches on the New Zealand government’s hypocritical economic policies in regard to smaller poorer countries in the pacific region. Then we look at the connection between the Australian bush fires and climate change.

After the report on the internal conference of the former Workers Party, now Fightback, we publish a letter from former Socialist Worker members to other ex-members, including very experienced militants and activists, inviting them to join Fightback.

The final issue of The Spark includes some analysis of the recent turmoil within a British Socialist organisation. Fightback is not connected to that organisation but we publish the article to show that socialist organisations, while fighting sexism, must also be prepared to maintain a healthy non-sexist culture within their own structures to become successful organisations.

We thank all who have been involved in purchasing, donating, or making guest contributions to The Spark and look forward to producing our new monthly magazine Fightback.

December-January issue of the Spark online

Editorial

In what came as a surprise to John Key and probably no one else, New Zealand’s unemployment rate has hit a 13 year high; 7.3%. Concurrently the underemployed who work part-time but want to work more hours rose to 113,300 from 109,500. The same day the new unemployment rate was announced Christchurch based manufacturer Dynamic Controls announced it would be closing its contract manufacturing business with the loss of between forty and sixty jobs.

In was at Dynamic Controls where some of the technology hailed as examples of New Zealand entrepreneurialism- such as devices made by Humanware and Navman- were built by workers whose names will never be as well-known as the brands. That is over course, until cheaper overseas manufacturers were found.

It was also the place I got my first manufacturing job, at nineteen years old in 2005, a time when getting a job seemed as easy as owning a pair of steel capped boots. Of course this was no economic golden age, getting a job required registering with a temp agency and taking an ‘assignment’ with no job security and typically low pay.

While at that time the factory was taking on a huge number of staff (the temp agencies offered incentives for recruiting our friends, and I helped two co-workers from my previous job get work there) the company was preparing to move the manufacturing of their own product to their new factory in China, keeping the Christchurch plant for mostly contract manufacturing. A few months later I was gone, along with a number of other temps, and in the years since many permanent workers have been made redundant as well.

Other electronics manufacturers have also shed staff, meaning those in the pool of redundant workers with years of experience are competing for the few manufacturing jobs left. Today, there is no easy way in for a 19 year old, even with their own steel cap boots. This is part of the reason youth unemployment is over five points higher than the national average; at 13.4%.

As the government attacks the unemployed the young will become a demonised group, castigated for not trying hard enough to get a job, not spending enough time in education, not looking the part at job interviews or just plain being lazy. The reality is the young are just another group that capitalism has thrown on the scrap heap.

Spark December 2012

November issue of the Spark online

By now a number of readers may have seen a letter that originally appeared in Northern Outlook, a small North Canterbury paper. In the letter Jasmine H, a 14 year old home-schooler, articulates her view that the legalisation of equal marriage, and with it a greater acceptance of homosexuality, will lead to ducks overtaking humans on the evolutionary ladder- not that she believes in evolution. The letter, humorous in its absurdity ended up onNew Zealand blogs Kiwiblog and Bipolar Bear and then spread to US based blogs including IO9 and The Huffington Post.  Coming full circle the letters international notoriety was then covered in The Press.

Unfortunately for the parents of home schooled children, the letter hardly paints the practice in a positive light, what good is home schooling if children learn to believe things that are demonstrably false? Of course, not all home schooled children are taught creationism and homophobia. Besides, whatever one’s views on home schooling, welfare reforms that will require beneficiaries to have their children in school and early childhood education should be opposed on the basis that they unfairly target one section of society- these education requirements are not being placed on parents who obtain income though any other means. Barbra Smith of the Home Education Foundation examines this in more depth in an article we have printed in this issue of The Spark.

We also look at the colossal failure of computer security at the ministry of social development, examining what went wrong and why it matters, as well as how one beneficiary activist has reacted to the news. We print a talk given in Wellington by Kassie Hartendorp on the topic ‘Women Class and Revolution’ and ask the question, do we need a rethink on how we view domestic labour? On top of all this, we bring you the past months industrial news (including the possible reintroduction of youth rates) and an article critiquing charity as a solution to child poverty.

Spark November 2012