People vote for change in Tonga, Zimbabwe and Nepal

June 6, 2008

- Alastair Reith

In the past month or so, elections took place in three very different countries, far away from one another, with distinctly different languages, cultures and histories. These countries did have some things in common. All were all poor, third-world countries, whose people live in poverty and oppression, and they all voted against the regimes and systems they currently live under.

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Imperialism and the Burmese Cyclone

June 4, 2008

It’s a quandary for the western left: the same countries that have invaded Iraq and visited much suffering on many other poor countries now want to do good in Cyclone-ravaged Myanmar/Burma. Has US and British imperialism suddenly become a force for good? Don’t be fooled, says John Moore, who argues that we need to question the motives of those countries now offering aid. What they really want is to open Burma up to western investment and political control.

The disastrous cyclone that hit Burma in early May has once again placed the concerns of this county on the international stage. In New Zealand political organisations ranging from the Labour Party through to the Greens and the far-left have made statements condemning the brutal military regime’s appalling handling of the crisis, tied with calls for tightened sanctions and/or New Zealand disinvestment. The military regime’s handling of the cyclone disaster should be condemned. Its incompetence, coupled with unconcern for the victims, will merely strengthen the majority of the population’s hatred for the ruling junta. However, leftists who want to support the people of Myanmar/Burma should cast a critical eye on increasing calls by Western leaders for some form of “humanitarian” intervention and the continued imposition of sanctions. Leftist groups who continue to call for some form of economic boycott and don’t pose the dangers of Western “humanitarian” intervention risk the danger of acting as a leftist/liberal fig leaf for imperialist manoeuvrings in this troubled area.

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A handful of rice

June 3, 2008

Japan is about to send 20,000 tonnes of rice to five African countries, according to a report in the May 23rd Dominion Post. This contribution to help ease the global food crisis sounds generous. In fact, Japan’s present stockpile of surplus rice amounts to 2.23 million tonnes. Japan’s donation to Africa is less than one percent of their surplus.As the feature article in the June issue of the Spark, “Lies and truth about Food Prices” makes clear, there is no global food shortage. There is only a shortage of political will to fix the problem.

Capitalist countries fear that rebellion from desperate starving people will disrupt their profit making. That’s why they’ve been driven to toss a few crumbs in the direction of those in want. But those few crumbs are as far as capitalism will go. The history of the capitalist system is a history of starvation in the midst of plenty. During the potatoe famine, Ireland exported food. During the great depression, mountains of fruit were destroyed while American sharecroppers went hungry. As long as the capitalist system operates, profit will be put before every human need, including the need of poor people to eat.

The Spark is produced as a part of the international struggle to destroy the inhuman system of capitalism and replace it with a planed democratic society run by working people.

The budget - funded by workers, controlled by the bosses

June 3, 2008

Jared Phillips reviews some aspects of the 2008 budget and the response to it from a Marxist perspective

The qualification threshold for the top tax bracket has changed from $60,000 to $80,000, which provides some relief for the middle class,which is where Labour draws its support from. The media has seized on the fact that this might help prevent middle-New Zealand’s political migration to National. Those earning an annual $80,000 will have a weekly after-tax increase of $28 in Ocotber. For working people the tax cuts provide little relief. For those earning an annual $20,000- $30,000, after-tax weekly income will increase by $12 in October. Social Issues reporter Simon Collins has noted that in terms of percentage changes, lower income earners are in fact receiving bigger cuts with a 5.7 percent cut at 20,000, a 3.3 percent cut at 50,000, and a 3.6 percent at $80,000. While this percentaging won’t provide any comfort for those living on the hardest incomes and receiving lower dollar-amount tax cuts, it does help illustrate that increased incomes and wages, not tax cuts, have more relevance for the restoration of real incomes, and that this budget has done nothing to lift the abysmal income of beneficiaries.

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