Rethinking ‘Domestic Purposes’: Do we need a new approach?

November 10, 2012

Byron Clark

As the government ramps up attacks on welfare recipients defensive actions have happened across the country as those on welfare and their supporters advocate for their right to dignity and a living income (not that benefits can really be called that). The status quo we are defending, however, is a much less than ideal situation, what we need is to change the way our society defines and values ‘work’.

The Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB), which is one of several to be merged into a new ‘job seeker benefit’, was  formed through the Social Security Amendment Act in 1973 with the first payments starting in May of 1974. It was originally set at a level that would enable single mothers to care for their children as a full time job without having to enter the work-force. A year before the Social Security Amendment Act, American feminist Selma James launched the wages for house work campaign, arguing that the work done in the home should be financially compensated.

While the DPB only applies to single parents, New Zealand must have looked somewhat progressive in the early 70s. Several decades later however, there is an enormous stigma in being a ‘DPB mum’. Back in 2002, six years before he would become prime minister, John Key described women receiving the DPB as “breeding for a business”. Work done outside of the wage-labour system- and being a parent is a huge amount of work- is not recognised by the likes of Key as having value. Even from a purely economic perspective, the reproduction of the next generation of the workforce is a service capitalism is getting on the cheap.

One nation has taken steps to ensure that this work is valued. In 2006 Venezuela began paying the nation’s poorest housewives 80% of the minimum wage for work done in the home. “The world is beginning to recognise and value women’s hidden contribution to society but Venezuela goes further” wrote James at the time. “This is finally a wage for housework, something we have demanded since 1972!”  Read the rest of this entry »

Women, class and revolution

November 9, 2012


A presentation given by Wellington Branch Member, Kassie Hartendorp on October 9th, 2012.

The general view circulating the Western world is that women have it all. Women’s oppression is a relic of the past; we have independence, freedom and lions (see picture) We forged our way out of the kitchen, paved our path up the career ladder and scaled the ivory tower. There’s no doubt that we’ve made tremendous gains, on the shoulders of our courageous forebears, yet something still doesn’t seem quite right. Maybe it’s that glass ceiling that we find ourselves bumping our heads on in the workplace, it could be the harassment we encounter as we walk through our supposedly reclaimed streets, or the double shift we bear when we come home from work just to start our second unpaid job in the home. Maybe, your life seems pretty swell as an identified, independent woman; free of all of these pesky problems - I can’t speak for each of us individually. But I can point to a wider system of oppression, which continues to exist on a structural level despite our gains, our wins, our slow, but significant triumphs.

What does women’s oppression look like?

So what does the oppression of women look like in 2012? How does it manifest itself? Let me give a bit of background into the larger picture.

While women in the Western world are entering higher education in their droves, education is still an issue for a large number of women worldwide. On a global level, women account for two thirds of the world’s 774 million adult illiterates, with this being unchanged over the past two decades. Women have historically been actively barred from education, with major changes only happening within the past half a century. Even among those in higher education, women are still underrepresented in disciplines that offer the highest paying and highest status jobs.

In terms of work, women now make up a large percentage of the paid labour force in most countries. However, they are notably overrepresented in the lowest paying jobs, with men holding the most wealth, status, power and authority in their occupations. Horizontal and vertical job segregation has contributed to a global gender pay gap, which while is closing in some countries, still remains the same if not worse in others.

While women have increased in their participation in the paid workforce, they are still doing twice the amount of unpaid work as men are in all regions in the United Nations; resulting in a double burden of both paid work and family responsibilities.

According to UN gender reports women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of its food and earn a whopping 10% of its income. And they own just 1 percent of the world’s property.

Women still have little official influence and power when it comes to decision-making. In national parliaments, women make up only 17 percent of the total seats; only 7 of 150 elected Heads of State in the world are women, and 11 of the 192 Heads of Government.

In the private sector, women are beginning to make gains, but still, of the 500 largest corporations in the world, only 13 have a female CEO with many experiencing the glass ceiling that acts as a barrier to women wanting to rise through the ranks.

Statistics also indicate that universally, women are still subjected to violence, on a physical, sexual, psychological, and economic level. Many regions of the world still adhere to customs that beat, mutilate and kill women in ways that are dissimilar to how men are treated. Women are subjected to intimate violence in every single region of the world. In Aotearoa, 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence at the hand of a partner in their lifetime, while the Government continues to provide a lack of funding to offer support to survivors. Rape culture is still a rampant force that acts to blame the victim, rather than the perpetrator, thus refusing to acknowledge the true issue of sexual violence.

According to the UN, “Poor infrastructure and housing conditions as well as natural hazards disproportionately affect women from the less developed regions in terms of unpaid work, health and survival.” More than half of rural households and about a quarter of urban households in sub-Saharan Africa lack easy access to drinking water, with women taking on this burden. In these cases, as Angela Davis says, clean water is literally a feminist issue.

In less developed regions, poverty is often a burden that affects women and girls the hardest, with women having lower proportions of cash income than men. Existing laws still restrict women’s access to land and other types of property in most countries in Africa and about half the countries in Asia.

While Beyonce’s singing that we all run the world, women have next to no control in terms of economic resources. In fact, we don’t even have control over our own bodies most of the time. Access to quality healthcare, abortion and contraception are still a major issue in many regions of the world. The right to abortion on request only exists in 29 percent of the world’s countries, and even among those, there are still rigid requirements for what a woman chooses to do with her body

This is just a snapshot of women’s status in the world today. This probably isn’t news to most of you here, but when we lay it out like this, we can stop thinking of our problems, however ‘first world’ they may seem, as isolated and individual phenomena, but rather underlying threads of a wider structural issue that permeates the far reaches of the globe, albeit in different ways.  Read the rest of this entry »

Workers Party day school - Auckland, Saturday November 17

November 8, 2012

On Saturday November 17 Workers Party members, contacts, and supporters in Auckland will be holding the third monthly day school in a series of three.
In the previous day schools we examined why we need a revolutionary party and studied Lenin’s pamphlet on Imperialism.
This month the topic will be how socialists relate to the union movement. The day school is being held at Trades Hall, 147 Great North Road, Auckland.

Full Agenda

10.30 -11am Meet and greet, refreshments

11.00am -12.15pm Study: “Transitional and democratic slogans as bridges to socialist revolution”, by Joseph Hansen

12.15-1.30pm Study “Teamster Power”, Chapter 3 “A class struggle policy” by Farrell Dobbs

1.30-2.30pm Lunch Break

2.30-4pm Discussion “Organising a workers’ fight back in Aotearoa in 2013: Tasks and Perspectives”

Please confirm attendance in advance so that we can provide adequate handouts on the day. For further enquiries, if you wish to attend, or if you want the readings emailed out please contact Mike Kay on  021-288-5601 or email

Housing protest videos (Wellington, Aotearoa/NZ)

November 8, 2012

Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: Socialist Party candidate re-elected in Yarra, Melbourne

November 6, 2012

In the recent local elections of Victoria, Australia, socialist candidates won seats in Yarra and Moreland (covered by Grant Brookes here: Yarra Socialist Party councillor Stephen Jolly won his seat for the third time.  Writer for The Spark Ian Anderson interviewed Socialist Party member Mel Gregson.

The Spark: So the Socialist Party retained its council seat for Stephen Jolly, and lost its council seat for Anthony Main. Can you break that down a bit more?

MG: The campaign in Yarra was very successful with almost 1 in 5 voters across the city voting for us. We stood a team of five candidates, including current councillors Stephen Jolly and Anthony Main.

Our vote increased across all three wards, with Stephen Jolly topping the polls with 34.24% (the quota to be elected outright is 25%). Anthony Main stood in a different ward to which he was a councillor, where residents are being overrun by inappropriate development. There we increased our vote from 2.13% to 11.74%, with Anthony just missing out on re-election by a very small margin. In the other ward we almost doubled our vote to 10.81%.

The Spark: What is your political purpose in running electoral campaigns?

MG: The primary reason the Socialist Party stand in elections is to raise socialist ideas as an alternative to the pro-capitalist, neo-liberal policies of the main political parties. With class struggle at historic lows in Australia the level of political debate is also at a low, we believe that engaging with people at election time through standing candidates, debating the other parties and distributing political material can play a role in developing the level of political discussion.

In Yarra we have been able to take this to the next level by having some of our candidates elected to council. Through our work in Yarra over the last eight years we’ve been able to demonstrate socialist ideas in action. In this area we have been able to redefine the term ‘socialist’ from what many believed to be a stale, failed ideology into a positive term that people associate with the best class fighters and community campaigners in the area. Read the rest of this entry »

A small victory in the battle for Glen Innes

November 6, 2012

In mid-October, for the first week in several months there were no state houses removed from Glen Innes . House removal companies and police backed off after intense protest activity which culminated in the arrest of seven protestors including MANA movement Leader Hone Harawira. “This is a small victory in the battle of Glen Innes” said MANA Vice President John Minto in a press release.

“It’s also an opportunity for the Minister of Housing to intervene and agree to a moratorium on further removals so the community can be engaged in discussion about the proposed redevelopments. We are pleased that along with MANA, Labour and the Greens also agree to this approach. It’s common sense given that even National list MP and former Glen Innes pastor Alfred Ngaro agrees no proper process of consultation with the community was carried out before the first state houses were removed.”

“The government wants to ‘redevelop’ Glen Innes, not for the people who live there but for wealthier families from other areas, the poor are to be shifted out to South Auckland or into high rise state housing in GI which on past experience will look like a slum in five years” said Minto.
The protests are being led by the Tamaki Housing Action Group and supported by MANA, who will also be supporting the Housing Crisis National Day of Action tomorrow which will include a march on parliament and a petition demanding affordable housing for all people

Pike River fine “shockingly low” – EPMU

November 5, 2012

Flames coming out of a ventilation shaft at Pike River

An Australian contractor that lost three staff members in the Pike River Mine explosion two years ago has been fined $46,800 in the Greymouth District Court after admitting three breaches of the Health and Safety Act. The union representing miners says the figure is too low.

“The EPMU shares the concerns of the Pike River families over the low level of the fine. This sends the wrong message to companies looking to cut corners on health and safety and is particularly concerning given the loss of life at the mine.” Said EPMU Director of Organising Alan Clarence.

“The Government needs to ensure this kind of employment practice is not allowed again. It can do this by introducing worker-elected check inspectors to ensure safety checks are being done, and by strengthening the law to ensure companies cannot contract out of their health and safety

VLI, a subsidiary of Sydney-based Valley Longwall International had been facing a potential fine of up to $750,000. They had employed explosion victims Josh Ufer, 25, Ben Rockhouse, 21, and Joseph Dunbar, 17.

Socialists gain in Melbourne elections

November 4, 2012

Socialist Party candidate Anthony Main speaks at an election night party.

Grant Brookes, in Melbourne

Elections for local councils across the Australian state of Victoria took place on October 27. Socialist candidates scored major gains.

The Socialist Party, standing in all three wards in the inner-Melbourne City of Yarra, won its highest ever vote – up 58 percent on 2008. SP councillor Stephen Jolly was re-elected under the Single-Transferrable Vote (STV) system, topping the poll with more first preference votes than any other candidate.

Socialist Alliance candidates, running in the northern Melbourne suburbs of Moreland and in the regional city of Geelong, scored the party’s best results in Victoria. Sue Bolton came third highest in the tally of first preference votes, out of 24 candidates. And under STV she was elected to Moreland City Council as the most preferred candidate overall for her ward. In Geelong, Sue Bull won over 10,000 first preference votes (8 percent of the total) in the mayoral election.

Yet in a country where voting is compulsory, around a quarter of registered electors didn’t cast a vote. Commenting on the low turnout, Monash senior politics lecturer Nick Economou observed, “If people do not believe the system is relevant to them, they won’t turn up, even if there is a threat of a fine”.

Institute of Public Affairs spokesperson James Paterson called for voluntary voting, adding, “We don’t believe people should be compelled to cast a vote for a party they don’t agree with”.

The largest socialist group in Melbourne maintains that elections shouldn’t be a focus for activists, and may even be a distraction from the “real” struggle. Sadly, their abstention meant that voters only had the option of supporting socialist candidates, campaigning to radically transform the system, in three out of Victoria’s 79 council areas.

But the strong results for the SP and SA show the opportunity – and the need – for activists to connect with community members through elections. Read the rest of this entry »

FIRST Union delegates meet for conference

November 3, 2012

FIRST Union ConferenceDelegates from FIRST Union, which formed a year ago when FinSec and the National Distribution Union (NDU) merged, attended the union’s biennial conference in Auckland last month.

Secretary Robert Reid describes the union’s agenda as “Decent Work Decent Life” which covers four main areas: jobs for all, a living wage, secure work and safe work. Regarding the living wage Reid says the union will be “promoting not only the concept but to get some real wins on the board in coming years.”

“We are committing to campaign against the most insidious form of employment being labour hire or agency employment, spreading like cancer through all of our industries, and in particular for our union, in transport, logistics and wood. We have achieved recent wins in reducing the use of casual work on jobs, and this issue will remain on our bargaining agenda, as will employment practices that exist across all of our industries where targets programmes are being used to make the life of our members miserable.” Read the rest of this entry »

“Nazi-Free Zone” : Anti-Semitism in the 99%

November 1, 2012

Ian Anderson

Many readers will have heard about the fascist vandalism at Symonds Street Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Auckland. Swastikas, 88 signs, and the slogan Fuck Israel[1] were scrawled across the gravestones of people who died before Israel was founded as a state. This was not the first time fascists in this country have vandalised Jewish gravestones; similar attacks occurred in 2004.

The weekend after the Symonds Street vandalism, members of the community gathered in the cemetery to state their opposition to fascism and anti-Semitism. Some associated with the Aotearoa not for Sale campaign played a role in organising this event. Placards bore the slogan, “Nazi-Free Zone.”

The following week, three men were arrested in connection with the crimes. One of the accused, Nathan Symington, spoke to the press denying his guilt, stating “I’ve got all my alibis worked out.” For some, the next shock came when it turned out Symington had slept at Occupy Auckland and marched in the Auckland stretch of the Aotearoa is Not For Sale hikoi.

Symington’s Facebook profile features swastikas, pictures of him performing a Nazi salute, and racist status updates. Whether or not Symington is a vandal, he is a fascist and an anti-Semite. When he attended the Aotearoa is Not For Sale march, he bore a skateboard with swastikas chalked on to it; on Facebook he captioned this, “nationalism is the key.” Read the rest of this entry »


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