Venezuela: Orinoco steel industry nationalised

April 11, 2008

By Community Reporters of Merida for Aporrea.org

(see original report in Spanish here)

Translated by Tim Bowron for The Spark

9/4/08

MERIDA, Venezuela. Steel workers and the trade union Sutiss have won their fight for the nationalisation of the steel industry firm Ternium-Sidor after months of strikes, confrontations and repression by the National Guard. This morning, at 1.22am, vice-president Ramón Carrizales, the envoy of the National Executive, finally opened a way forward to a solution in the conflict between the trade union alliance and the trans-national corporation’s management. During this conflict the workers had denounced before the Minister of Labour the multiple contractual irregularities and the prevailing conditions of capitalist exploitation, but in spite of all this they were not listened to by the Minister.

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NZ Police propping up Tongan monarchy

April 10, 2008

- Alastair Reith

The Kingdom of Tonga has announced that it will be appointing a New Zealand policeman to be its new Police Commander. The news was made public on April 2, with the Ministry of Police, Prisons and Fire Services stating that none of the seven Tongan candidates were “suitable”.

Tonga is a repressive feudal monarchy, where almost all wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of a small layer of nobles and the capitalists linked to them.

Only 9 of the 34 members of its House of Representatives are democratically elected, with 16 being appointed directly by the King and another 9 representing “the noble families of the realm”. The Tongan political system has very few differences from that of mediaeval Europe!

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Cracking down on user rights: NZ’s new copyright laws

April 10, 2008

- Byron Clark

The Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Bill was passed into law earlier this week, the following is a slightly edited version of an article published in The Spark in Feburary 2007 after the bill passed its first reading.

On April 7 the Copyright (New Technologies and Performers Rights) Amendment Bill was passed into law by a 111 to 10 majority. The bills aim was to bring New Zealand’s terribly outdated 1994 copyright act into the 21st century, and makes some progress in that it decriminalises the increasingly common practice of copying your CD collection to a portable MP3 player (however it fails to to extend these same rights to other media such as DVDs).

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New Workers Party Poll

April 9, 2008

This week Helen Clark flew to Beijing to sign an “historic” free trade agreement with China. Reaction to the deal has ranged from euphoria among the business community to moral outrage from groups such as Free Tibet and the Green Party.

Let us know what you think by voting here in our special online poll.


“Crimes against the working class”

April 9, 2008

- A talk presented by Don Franks at a recent Wellington public meeting in solidarity with those arrested during the so-called “anti-terror” raids in October 2007.

Mass media treatment of politics these days is largely soundbites, titillation and trivia.

The present structure of society is not subject to serious examination or question. Capitalism is accepted as the most natural form of human cohabitation; quantitatively improvable in some areas, but essentially unchangeable.

That position suits those who are well placed in today’s society.
Capitalism’s prosperity and survival depends on mass belief that the present private property system is “as good as it gets.”

I was asked to speak this evening about the nature of the Labour party.

Workers Party members are sometimes asked why we’re so critical of Labour. Why not attack the main enemy, we’re told. Labout is not perfect but National is worse.

In fact, the “National worse” argument is a myth.

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Should socialists opppose free trade? A response to an Alliance activist

April 9, 2008

With the signing of the recent FTA with China, the debate over the issue of free trade has been reignited among workers and left-wing political activists in New Zealand.

Many left union officials and members of political parties such as the Alliance have argued that immigration controls and tariffs must be retained to protect NZ jobs and businesses from being undercut by foreign competition.

By contrast the Workers Party strongly believes that this kind of economic protectionism is a poison which only serves to divide the international working class and encourages illusions in the “progressive” nature of local capitalists. We argue that the solution to NZ companies closing down production and laying off workers is not protectionism, but instead a militant union-led campaign to occupy all those businesses threatened with closure and keep them running under workers’ control.

Below we reprint an interview from 2004, in which Workers Party and Spark editorial board member Don Franks responds to a series of questions from an Alliance Party activist on the question of free trade and the approach that the left should take towards it:

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Spark Audio: The Electoral Finance Act

April 2, 2008

The following talks from a Workers Party forum in Christchurch are now available for download.

John Edmundson - Background to the Electoral Finance Act

Tim Bowron - Left Opposition to the Electoral Finance Act


Tibet protests grab the headlines

April 2, 2008

- Daphna Whitmore

Recent protests in Tibet have thrown the spotlight on one of the world’s most remote regions. Led by Tibetan monks, protesters attacked Han Chinese and Hui Muslim immigrants. Tibetans say the Chinese authorities favour the new migrants while treating the locals as second-class citizens.

As the government clamped down on demonstrators. reports have come in of dozens of deaths and hundreds of arrests. With the Beijing Olympics just six months away, the protests may stay centre-stage.

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What future for peace in Palestine?

April 2, 2008

John Edmundson

Despite the victory of the radical Hamas movement in the 2006 elections to the Palestinian Authority, Israel still refuses recognise the Hamas government in Gaza, which it labels a “terrorist organisation”. Instead, it will only deal the United States-backed regime of Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party, which despite losing the election continues to cling to power in the West Bank territories.

In the meantime, Israel continues with its economic blockade and armed attacks against the 1.4 million people living in the Gaza Strip. With the Red Cross now reporting that 167 Palestinians have been killed in the first two months of 2008 alone, can there really still be any realistic prospects for a just and lasting peace in Palestine?

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Modern New Zealand unions - “fighting blindfold”?

April 2, 2008

Philip Ferguson

It’s not often that leading trade union officials in New Zealand speak openly about the exploitation of the working class, let alone about the surplus-value created by workers and expropriated by employers. Therefore, when such speeches are made, it’s useful to analyse what is being said, why, and what the political implications are for trade union activism.

Last November, Robert Reid, the national president of the National Distribution Union, one of the few left-leaning unions, made such a speech at a gathering organised by the Trade Union History Project to commemorate the life of the late Rona Bailey, a longtime New Zealand communist.

In the speech, Reid recalled being part of Marxist study groups with Rona Bailey and learning about surplus-value. Reid then rightly noted that “without an appreciation of Marxist economics or political economy, we have no understanding of how wealth is created and expropriated in the 21st century. This leaves, in many cases, the modern trade union movement fighting blindfolded.”

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