Capitalism: not our future!

July 1, 2008

- John Edmundson

One thing we’re supposed to value about living in the capitalist West is “choice”. We can choose our representatives, we can choose where to work, we can choose how to spend our money.

Socialists, including myself, often argue that those choices are an illusion for most people. Under capitalism, real choice exists only for capitalists. So it’s interesting to think about how quickly the capitalists hide behind lack of choice. Margaret Thatcher famously announced “there is no alternative” to ruthless neo-liberal restructuring, the slashing of jobs and wages, and the gutting of British industry. Successive Labour and National governments here have parroted the same line.

This month two of the poor suffering oil companies, Caltex and BP, complained that they had no choice but to put up petrol prices by a second six-cent hike in the space of two days. The first six-cent increase of the week involved all the oil companies. Blaming market forces beyond their control, they announced that the market robbed the oil companies of choice. Shell held out for a few hours before raising its price by four cents. The others quickly followed suit.

Recent discoveries by oil exploration companies off the southern coast of New Zealand means that within a few years New Zealand could be self-sufficient in oil. Will this mean cheaper oil for us? Well, no, actually. The oil will be sold at market prices. The oil companies have no choice.

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Westfield bans union organiser from mall

July 1, 2008

Auckland Unite Union organiser and Workers Party member Jared Phillips talks to The Spark.

What’s the background to this trespass?

Unite union has begun a campaign to get a new set of union agreements in the cinema chains, and to continue re-unionising that industry. The offer from Skycity Cinemas, which is a large chain, was appalling. If we agreed with the company offer, the supervisors, projectionists and gold class staff would dramatically lose their wage relativity against the minimum wage. Of equal importance, the cinema attendants, who are the majority of staff, would get no service pay and no improvements to their security of work.

A trespass order was issued against me during the St. Lukes strike, which was the second strike in the campaign. The trespass was issued by Westfield St. Lukes, which is the firm that operates that mall and many malls in which Skycity Cinemas operates complexes.

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Workers Party talks to union officials

July 1, 2008

Workers Party Wellington Central candidate Don Franks reports on his recent meeting with NZ Council of Trade Unions representatives.

When the local CTU organiser emailed around to say the Local Affiliates Council was going to discuss General Election strategy, I called back and asked for a few minutes to put our case at one of their monthly meetings. They stalled for weeks and wanted more information in writing before they finally gave me a hearing, at the local AGM.

I explained that the Workers Party is standing several electorate candidates this election and we’re also running on the party list. So, for the first time in New Zealand’s political history, every worker will have the option of voting for a socialist candidate.

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A damning report - and a cowardly response

July 1, 2008

- Don Franks

Activist and author Anne Else was the keynote speaker at a public meeting of the Campaign Against Rising Prices held on Saturday June 7 in the Wellington suburb of Newtown.

Anne spoke as a member of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), a non-profit group formed in 1994. CPAG believes that “New Zealand’s high rate of child poverty is not the result of economic necessity, but is due to policy neglect and a flawed ideological emphasis on economic incentives”.

Anne told the meeting about CPAG’s case against the government currently being heard by the Human Rights Review Tribunal. CPAG contends that Labour’s in-work tax credit breaches New Zealand’s human rights legislation by discriminating against children of beneficiaries.

“Current policies ensure that people are trapped in poverty,” Anne said. “The damage done by poverty in childhood never goes away. People are precluded from having a decent life.”

She argued that it is “totally unjust and discriminatory” not to help beneficiaries: “Unpaid work is still work. Bringing up children is work. And it now takes a much bigger investment to produce a child for modern life.”

Anne’s talk inspired this reporter to find out more about the work of the Child Poverty Action Group. Below are some quotes from the CPAG’s legal case against government discrimination of beneficiaries at the Human Right Review Tribunal.

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