Fightback 2014 summer conference (report)

On the 3rd to the 5th of January in Christchurch, Fightback held our 2014 summer conference. Over the weekend comrades participated in education and decision-making, that will inform our practice over the coming year.

In the 2014 General Elections, Fightback will be supporting the MANA Movement as a progressive, democratic oppositional force, maintaining the link between indigenous sovereignty and the struggle for an egalitarian society.

Fightback resolved to oppose any entry by MANA into a government with Labour. Instead we argue for the formation of a new workers’ organisation fusing MANA with community forces. Fightback also resolved to conduct a wider discussion on the class nature of the Labour Party.

Fightback participates in the global struggle against imperialism. At the 2014 summer conference, Fightback endorsed the global call for boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) on Israel, in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

Fightback also developed our industrial perspectives for the coming period. Service-sector unions such as Unite and FIRST Union have waged offensive campaigns against already existing casualisation and flexibilisation. The struggles at the ports and in the meatworks are defensive struggles against casualisation and flexibilisation which the bosses have sought to impose. We believe that to unify the working class in struggle over the next period, fighting unions should adopt a three-pronged slogan along the lines of ‘Secure Work, Secure Hours, Living Wage.’

Fightback endorsed eco-socialism, as defined in the 2008 Belem declaration:

[eco-socialism] aims to stop and to reverse the disastrous process of global warming in particular and of capitalist ecocide in general, and to construct a radical and practical alternative to the capitalist system. Ecosocialism is grounded in a transformed economy founded on the non-monetary values of social justice and ecological balance. It criticizes both capitalist “market ecology” and productivist socialism, which ignored the earth’s equilibrium and limits. It redefines the path and goal of socialism within an ecological and democratic framework.

Fightback is working to challenge rape culture and establish safer spaces on the left, as part of a broader struggle for gender and women’s liberation. To that end we are developing safer spaces guidelines within Fightback, and electing safer spaces contacts at a branch level.

Fightback also resolved to establish a website for publishing discussion documents, which are used to democratically develop perspectives within Fightback.

Fightback maintains our website and monthly publication, to counter capitalist propaganda & propagate our perspectives within wider struggles. In addition to that, Fightback resolved to publish new pamphlets reflecting our revised perspectives, beginning with Mike Kyriazopoulos’ The Treaty, the Foreshore and Seabed and Tino Rangatiratanga.

Finally, Fightback noted the absence and congratulated the work of comrade Mike Kyriazopoulos.

The missing piece: The far-left in the workplace

Reprinted from Rabble (Canada). David Bush is a community and labour activist based primarily on the East Coast.

As the Canadian labour movement stumbles from defeat to defeat in this crisis period it is worth asking why this is the case. What accounts for the trade union movement’s inability to mount an effective political resistance to austerity? Is it the poor and unimaginative leadership? Maybe it is the ossified and inward-looking culture of trade unions? Is it the poor objective conditions of the crisis? Or perhaps it is the culture of docility and defeatism amongst rank and file members resulting from the regular drubbing the working class has taken over past two decades that explains the current state of labour?

While all these explanations contain a kernel of truth, I think they miss a key element in explaining why the trade union movement has become a paper tiger. The objective conditions for the left and the labour movement in Canada are far from ideal. Over the last 30 years governments and employers have become increasingly emboldened in their anti-union tactics. The neoliberal assault on working people has seen the rollback of social benefits and the power of unions. The changing nature of work in Canada and the restructuring of the global economy has put labour on the back foot — one need only to look at the fall off in strike activity to confirm this. Add to this the depreciation of the U.S. labour movement and this goes a long way in explaining the weakness of the Canadian labour movement.

However, we should be very careful about subscribing to an explanation of labour’s current predicament as primarily a function of unfavourable objective conditions. This view can too often be used as an excuse by labour leaders and other leftists to make peace with the status quo through various forms of collaboration or resignation from struggle. Yet, we cannot just hunker down and simply weather the storm of the crisis waiting for things to magically get better. That is a fantasy.

The truth is that the explanation for labour’s weakness is much more complicated. Yes, labour leaders share some of the responsibility for labour’s recent defeats. Yes, the bureaucratic structures of unions have been more than problematic in stifling creative and strident rank and file activity. But simply locating the problem at the level of bureaucracy is in effect mirroring the explanation put forth by some of the most regressive labour leaders; it is the bad economy, it is external conditions. We should not expect structural reforms and rank and file radicalism to benevolently flow downwards. There is a real danger in having a persecuted mentality if we simple think that the problems facing trade unions are the result of corrupt labour leaders and bad economic conditions. Undoubtedly there is a lot of truth in that analysis, but it more often than not serves as a deflection

The problem with the objective conditions explanation is that it only goes so far. The labour movement in North America was in many ways facing a much worse set of problems in the early 1930s. Unionization rates were minuscule and unions were primarily organized along craft lines, making them fairly conservative. The Great Depression created seemingly impossible conditions for workers to organize and push for gains in their workplace. However, over time, workers did organize industries that were previously impervious to unions, such as auto, and small unit service industries with multiple employees, such as trucking.

This was made possible by the growth of active rank and file networks within workplaces. Successful and strategic organizing drives in key industries such as trucking, rubber, shipping and auto were built from the shop floor up. An active rank and file using creative tactics on the shop floor and in the broader community was what made working class gains possible. It was the rank and file pushing up against the existing labour movement that drove labour leaders and the union movement to adopt a more militant and effective stance.

The question we should be asking is what accounts for vibrant rank and file networks and movements? The conditions of struggle were certainly different in the 1930s than they are today (though not as much as we would like to think). For instance, the working class was less fragmented geographically within cities themselves. But explanations such as this miss the most important factor: the activity and orientation of the left.

Far-left militants, communists, trotskyists and fellow travellers, were the key driving force in building and sustaining rank and file organization that achieved substantial gains for the working class. This was not something that was unique to the old left of the 1930s and 1940s, but can also be seen in the rising workers militancy in the 1970s and early 1980s in Canada.

The far-left, for a variety of reasons has largely abandoned a practical orientation towards workers’ movements in Canada over the past twenty years. Largely this is a capacity question, membership in far-left organizations has dwindled and thus there is an organizational inability to carry out a concerted strategy within workers movements. Implicating oneself in workers’ movements is hard, unsexy work that requires time, resources, and patience. It is the type of work that only really produces results in the long-term and thus only groups with a long-term sense of struggle can engage in it.

The Canadian far-left since the mid-nineties has largely shifted away from organizing long-term strategic struggles. This shift, when coupled with the sustained attack on working people in the neoliberal era, has resulted in ossified unions, weak rank and file movements, concessionary contracts and emboldened state action in support of employers.

Of course, rank and file networks continue to exist and organize. For instance, in Nova Scotia the paramedics in the Local 727 of the International Union of Operating Engineers rejected three contract offers from their employer, EHS. Two of those were in defiance of their own union’s recommendation. This was done through a loose rank and file network that extends across the province. Rank and file paramedics, many of whom were shop stewards, also self-organized pickets across the province to protest the NDP’s stance and EHS’ inability to move at the bargaining table. While the paramedics have had their right to strike taken away, they continue to organize which may result in industrial action if they see no results through arbitration.

In Ontario, the Rank and file Education Workers of Toronto (REWT) were active in organizing the fightback against the Liberal government’s Bill 115. REWT and informal networks that have yet to be consciously-organized, were key in pushing the OSSTF to not just passively accept Bill 115. While REWT was Toronto-based it reflected broader sentiments that existed in the OSSTF outside Toronto. A number of OSSTF districts were critical of Ken Coran’s leadership during the Bill 115 fight, rejecting tentative contracts against Coran’s wishes and forcing the union to follow ETFO’s lead in escalating its tactics. OSSTF districts and members even organized to help humiliate Coran’s election bid as a Liberal in the London West provincial by-election. REWT is currently looking to expand its network across the province and link up with the networks of dissidents across the province and across union lines.

There is a role for the left to play in this current moment of rank and file reconstitution. Left wing organizations should be offering their energies, capacities and analysis while also humbly recognizing and understanding it is a learning process for the far left. This does not mean whole-hearted agreement with every step, but it does mean making engagement with rank and file movements a strategic priority. It also means we need to encourage, facilitate and organize rank and file activity where it does not exist.

It is important for left-wing activists to have a nuanced understanding of the problems facing the labour movement. It is not a matter of simply railing against labour leaders or writing off the union movement’s weakness as a product of the bad economic conditions. We must understand our own responsibilities. If we are serious about challenging capitalism and injustice in Canada and winning real gains for working people the left must organize itself in manner that can orient itself to building and enriching rank and file movements. This means we must build organizations capable of sustained political struggle that connects anti-capitalist and left militants within the workplace.

While this may seem like a herculean task, it only takes a few successful and well-organized rank and file movements to change the mood of large sections of the working class. Confidence is infectious.

WHAT IS MARXISM?

A talk by Don Franks, Marxism 2010 conference, Wellington 5 June  2010

This is obviously a big subject, which could be approached in a number of ways.  In the small time we have this morning, my aim will be to introduce basic points and hopefully arouse some ongoing interest.

There are various contending definitions of ‘Marxism”. The one I’m tempted to offer today is that Marxism is a set of sharp political tools, which New Zealand leftists tend to leave in the box. Later on in this talk I’ll consider why that has been so frequently the case.

As a more general definition to introduce Marxism, I’ll add that it’s a theory named for its main architect and can be understood as the theory of dialectical materialism based on communist practice. The expression ‘dialectical materialism’ has a forbidding sound and is not common currency in the day-to-day life of most people. Here I see a huge contradiction, because dialectical materialism is a thoroughly practical method of understanding human society and the universe in which we’re placed. Dialectical materialism is also a philosophy which by its nature takes sides with the oppressed. [Read more…]

India – Stop Operation Green Hunt

PROTEST 12 midday Thursday 29 April

High Commission of India, 180 Molesworth Street, Wellington

India is at war. The government calls it ‘Operation Green Hunt’, and has sent tens of thousands of armed police and paramilitary troops to the vast forest region of Dandakaranya.

Arundhati Roy speaking with Maoists

There are two Indias – one is the new high tech economy; the other is the 800 million people who still live in poverty. The poorest of the poor are tribal people in the forests. Over the last thirty years they have joined India’s revolutionary Maoists and set up democratic organisations and a People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA). The territory they are active in has been dubbed ‘the Red Corridor’. [Read more…]

Indian government starting 5-year military offensive against revolutionary forces

The Spark November 2009
Jared Phillips

 The revolutionary movement in India, under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), has expanded its base over the last three to four years through regroupment of the movement and also through consolidation of its support in urban centers. Consequently, the Indian state has extended its ban on the party. Previously the political ban was imposed on the party in several states mainly in the east of the country. Now there is an ‘all-India’ ban on the CPI(M). The party has established peoples’ committees in three states, and has done so in-part in other states. [Read more…]

Communist Party of the Philippines’ 40th anniversary

The Workers Party of New Zealand sends warm greetings to the Communist Party of the Philippines, on its 40th anniversary.

The CPP has led the struggle against feudalism, capitalism and imperialism in the Philippines for four decades. Having withstood the Marcos dictatorship through to the current brutal regime of Arroyo, the CPP has been sustained through its deep roots among the masses. When many other communist parties around the world collapsed in the 1990s, the CPP carried on the struggle, constantly reassessing itself and further developing its strengths.

 The CPP’s commitment to internationalism has given confidence to many organisations and individuals in the struggle for world revolution.

 We hope that 2009 will bring much success to the comrades in the Philippines.

 In solidarity
Workers Party of New Zealand

A far left reply to Chris Trotter

– Don Franks, Workers Party candidate for Wellington Central 2008

The Dominion Post warns of a malicious workers’ enemy currently lurking in New Zealand.

What “it” supposedly “wants to see (on workers tables) are scraps of stale bread and cups of cold water.” Along with “the power and the phone cut off, holes in the roof, and the car up on blocks in the front yard.”

“Nothing delights it more than the sight of padlocked factory gates, and the sobbing of laid-off workers is music to its ears.”

According to Dominion Post columnist Chris Trotter, this inhumanity embodies none other than the revolutionary component of the political left.  He specifically cites the Workers Party as an example.

According to Trotter:

“The more the National Party cuts back and hacks away at the workers’ economic and social rights the better the revolutionaries like it.

“The far Left is always at its unhappiest when Labour is in power. In no time at all they’ve got the power and the phone reconnected, filled up the fridge, got a bit of a fire going in the grate, slipped a couple of pizzas in the oven, and cracked open a few cool ones.” (From The Left, Dominion Post 12/12/2008)

Chris may have forgotten that it was under Labour that Mrs Folole Muliaga tragically lost her life when her power was cut off.

[Read more…]

For an open and honest debate

Click here to read our Second Open Letter to Socialist Aotearoa responding to their concerns about our article “Much of the left crying wolf over the Nats” and arguing that revolutionaries should be open and upfront about debating their differences.

Crisis in Thailand – a Marxist view

police_at_pad_protest1

Thailand is currently in crisis, with a deformed expression of class struggle occurring between one side that wears yellow shirts and another that wears red. How can we make sense of this situation, and what is the way forward for those of us interested in the interests of the poor and working class? John Moore, formerly a resident in Thailand, and now a Workers Party activist, argues that the Thai working class is a mass force that has yet to roar, but that the small radical element amongst them shouldn’t ‘give up the bullet for the ballot’ to reform Thai society through the Thai capitalist state.

[Read more…]

Nepal ­ A Revolution in Progress

-Alastair Reith
The Spark
December 2008-January 2009

Ever since the destruction of the Soviet Union, the capitalist class has told us that communism is dead. We are expected to believe that this is as good as it gets, that the inequality and oppression inherent within the capitalist system will be with us forever and there will be no more revolutions. The ruling class declared the end of history. Unfortunately for them, the people of Nepal have decided not to listen.

The red flag flies from Mt Everest

A communist revolution is unfolding in Nepal, a small Himalayan country just to the North of India. Led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the workers and peasants of Nepal are rising up and challenging the feudal oppression they face in their daily lives, and the neo-colonial domination they face as a nation.

The last time the Spark published news of the revolution in Nepal, the results of the Constituent Assembly elections had just come in. Despite the corporate media predictions that the Maoists would come in a dismal third place, the Maoists shocked the world by winning a landslide victory, taking 220 out of 575 seats, making them by far the largest party in the Assembly, with more seats than the next two largest parties combined! The elections revealed the level of mass support the Maoists have amongst the people.

[Read more…]