Paperback books will be the death of us, or how “industry” always finds new technology threatening

September 25, 2012

If a book is any good, the cheaper the better

-George Bernard Shaw

E-books are a new thing, the idea of a “digital book” is something that has been scoffed at, but within the past few years, the e-book has steadily gained ground on the more traditional form. Barnes and Noble claim they sell three times as many e-books compared to all forms of physical books and Amazon claim that since the start of the year they are selling 114 e-books for every 100 physical books. It was George Santayana who said “Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it” and so for any discussion of the latest developments in technology and social relations, we need to start with an understanding of what has gone before.

George Orwell is quoted as saying “If other publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them” in relation to paperback books, specifically Penguin books. Orwell was writing in response to the potential lowering of royalties that writers could expect to receive in the paperback form as opposed to hardback.

It was Allen Lane who saw the huge gap in the market in which he could exploit and profit hugely from. Inexpensive paperbacks had existed from the 19th century onwards, whether as pamphlets, airport/train novels or the wider genre of pulp fiction. Lane didn’t invent the paperback, but he upped the quality in both production and design alongside the low cost, revolutionising the format (much like Apple with the iPhone and iPad) suddenly making literature available on a mass-scale, moving away from its earlier perception as a sophisticated and expensive commodity to a mass-based medium, available to all. Like the printing press before it and digitial technology after it, paperback publishing revolutionised the way the book was seen and consumed. Read the rest of this entry »

Wellington event: Women, Class & Revolution

September 22, 2012

A facilitated discussion led by Kassie Hartendorp.

6pm October 9th, 19 Tory St.

Chicago teachers: A victory for solidarity and struggle

September 21, 2012

Elizabeth Schulte reports on the proud conclusion of the Chicago teachers’ strike. Mario Cardenas, Trish Kahle and Eric Ruder contributed to this article, originally published on Socialist Worker.

CHICAGO TEACHERS are returning to work after a nine-day strike-standing proud after driving back Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attack on their jobs, their union and their schools.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly in favor of suspending their strike and going back to work on Wednesday. The tentative agreement that the CTU reached with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) now goes to members for a ratification vote over the next two weeks.

“I’m excited, and most teachers echo this sentiment,” said Lawrence Balark, a teacher at Moos Elementary on the city’s West Side. “We are going back to work, and standing strong in solidarity in doing so. It was definitely a victory. So many other unions have had to accept merit pay, but I’m proud to say that we held that off.” Read the rest of this entry »

September issue of the Spark online

September 20, 2012

At the end of last month the death of Neil Armstrong was announced. He was the first person to walk on the surface of the moon. Armstrong’s death serves to remind us of an era in global politics which is now well and truly over. US president Barak Obama described Armstrong as “among the greatest of American heroes - not just of his time, but of all time.” Indeed July 20, 1969, the day an American flag was planted on the lunar surface could be looked at the day America was at its zenith. It was a symbolic checkmate in the space race that the USSR had began with the launch of the sputnik satellite in 1957.

But American power seemed to start a slow decline soon after that point. In the 1970s the post-WWII economic boom was coming to an end, intensified by the 1973 oil crisis. Then in 1975 the USA withdrew from the war in Vietnam as the Vietnamese People’s Liberation Army captured key installations in Saigon. The world’s most powerful superpower had been no match for a well organised guerrilla movement.

By the early 1980s Ronald Reagan had come to power and his administration was implementing neo-liberal reforms that meant average American families would no longer enjoy the prosperity they did during the time they watched broadcasts of the moon landing some thirteen years earlier. Then in 1991 the USSR collapsed and the cold war that had spurred the rush for space exploration was no more.

A decade after the fall of the USSR an attack took place on the key economic and military symbols of the world’s only superpower, now brought to its knees by box-cutter wielding hijackers. The American response was to start a war in Afghanistan, a war that looks even less winnable than the war in Vietnam. There is good reason that part of the world is referred to as ‘the graveyard of empires’.

How much longer can the United States claim superpower status? It’s expected to be eclipsed by China in just four years time. Interestingly China is spending a significant amount of its GDP on the space program. There hasn’t been a human on the moon since the Apollo 17 mission of 1972. The next human to walk on the moon might come across Neil Armstrong’s footprints next to an American flag and find themselves looking at relics of a distant past.

online here

Why is the US government so afraid of Jacob Appelbaum?

September 18, 2012

Julian Assange was set to speak at the The Next Hope hacker conference, New York in 2010:

“Hello to all my friends and fans in domestic and international surveillance” he began “I am here today because I believe we can make a better world. Julian, unfortunately, can’t make it, because we don’t live in that better world right now, because we haven’t yet made it. I wanted to make a little declaration for the federal agents that are standing in the back of the room and the ones that are standing in the front of the room, and to be very clear about this: I have, on me, in my pocket, some money, the Bill of Rights and a driver’s license, and that’s it. I have no computer system, I have no telephone, I have no keys, no access to anything. There’s absolutely no reason that you should arrest me or bother me. And just in case you were wondering, I’m an American, born and raised, who’s unhappy. I’m unhappy with how things are going.”

This is how Jacob Appelbaum introduced himself to the world. Appelbaum’s life is now defined by his defence of anonymity and for privacy in a social environment that is rapidly becoming more interconnected and less private. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy Christchurch Womyn’s group

September 14, 2012

In recent months a new space has opened up for radical women in Christchurch to hold discussions and organise around social issues.

The Occupy Christchurch Womyn’s group first met several months ago when Occupy Christchurch remained active, but general assemblies had become tense and the safer spaces policy overlooked.

Over the course of the movement, Occupy became a difficult space for many activists to work in with its increasing inward focus, disorganised and poorly attended meetings and individuals dominating the discussion with their own agendas, often unsupported by the group.

For women in the movement, the atmosphere of Occupy Christchurch was discouraging and, at times, openly confrontational.

Though these dynamics were not limited to the movement in Christchurch and were noted by womyn around the country (see  Why Have Women Left the Occupy Movement in the April 2012 issue of The Spark or online at, Christchurch activists have worked to create a welcoming space alongside the wider Occupy group to discuss issues specifically impacting on womyn in our communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: Right to sympathy strikes

September 11, 2012

In its platform, the Workers Party (NZ) calls for the unrestricted right to strike. Here Ian Anderson, a writer for The Spark, interviews socialist and union delegate Andrew Tait, on a recent resolution supporting the right to sympathy strikes.

The Spark: Can you talk a little about the Engineers, Printers and Manufacturers Union (EPMU) itself, and how you got involved?

AT: I’ve been keen on unions since I was a kid, back in 1991 when the Nats tried to smash unions. I love the idea that we can work together to make a better world. I’ve also been a socialist since I was a teenager. I joined the International Socialists Organisation in 1994, and have always joined the union at uni or at work. In about 2007 I joined Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union when I started work at the newspaper in Dunedin, and after about four years became a delegate for my floor. The EPMU is the biggest private-sector union and one of the most diverse. It covers posties, airline workers, and timber workers as well as engineers, printers and manufacturing workers. The EPMU is a major supporter of the Labour Party. It’s the biggest private sector union because in the 1990s it merged with a whole lot of unions but it has been hit pretty hard by redundancies, especially in manufacturing. The big loss in Dunedin recently was the closure of Fisher & Paykel.

The Spark: You had a resolution passed on the right to strike. What does this resolution mean?

AT: The resolution was that the union lobby for the introduction of the right to conduct secondary (sympathy) strikes. The immediate inspiration for it was the Ports of Auckland dispute, where Rail and Maritime Union workers were forced to supply the ports when they were run by scab labour. If this resolution became law, the RMTU workers could refuse to supply the port and not be penalised. It would massively increase the industrial effectiveness of strikes. Read the rest of this entry »

Australian teachers show how to fight

September 8, 2012

By GRANT BROOKES, in Melbourne

20,000 striking teachers marched to the Victorian state parliament in Melbourne on September 5. Outside the capital, 20,000 more stopped work in regional centres. It was the biggest teachers strike in Victoria’s history.

They were protesting over very similar issues facing teachers and support staff in Aotearoa, including a below-inflation pay offer and “performance pay”, based on scores from “national standards” testing. Their action shows how to respond.

For the first time, teachers from Victoria’s independent and private schools took action alongside their public sector colleagues. This was in defiance of a ruling which said the strike by the Independent Education Union members might be illegal.

Another first was united action by all of the public school staff in the Australian Education Union (AEU) – teachers, principals and education support staff, together. Read the rest of this entry »

Marxist day school for Auckland contacts and supporters, Saturday September 8

September 6, 2012

Auckland WP contacts and supporters will be holding a day school this Saturday, September 8, in Grey Lynn.

Existing members and contacts will be meeting from 11am till 4pm.

This will be the first of a new series of monthly day schools being held each month until the end of the year.

The first day school will be focussed around a study of Lenin’s Three sources and three component parts of Marxism which can be viewed here:

This will be followed by a study of James Cannon’s The Revolutionary Party and its role in the struggle for socialism which can be viewed at : 

We welcome new contacts to attend. For anyone interested in attending please contact Rebecca on 022-671-9656 for venue details or to see if transport assistance is available.

NZ Labour Party: The Man on the Roof

September 6, 2012

This article on the Labour Party, by Giovanni Tiso, was originally printed on his blog Bat Bean Beam. It will be reprinted in the upcoming issue of the Spark.

It’s as if he had forgotten he was the leader of the Labour party. It’s as if a Tory mole had swapped the speech he was going to give but he went ahead and read it anyway.

How many times might you have played this little game? This is a familiar story because it happens everywhere, all the time. It is the story of a great and continuing political shift, of centre-left parties buying into conservative orthodoxy throughout the Western liberal democratic universe. Adopting the language, the strategies, the tics of their traditional opponents. Losing the ability to decline social-democratic ideals except as a ritualistic preamble, or to huffily reaffirm that of course theirs is the party of the working people, the oppressed minorities, the welfare state. Or, in the most extreme cases, reimagining neoliberalism as the condition for socialism: a new equality based on the removal of safety nets and of all barriers to the circulation and accumulation of capital.

Douglas, Blair, Clinton: they were the first generation, brash and self-assured. Now, twenty years later: the exhausted groans of third-way politics. Read the rest of this entry »


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