THE EDGE OF RAGE

History is pressing...

While it is self evident that global capitalism is in a protracted crisis that, in itself, does not lay down conditions that will lead to its collapse.

It is clear that bourgeois economists are incapable of explaining or resolving the capitalist crisis but Leon Trotsky, many decades ago, also made that same observation in his essay 'Marxism In Our Time' when he wrote that 'official political economy is dead.'

He went on to observe that the basic error of classical economics was its view of capitalism as humanity's normal existence for all time, instead of just one historical stage in the development of society.

But, equally, Trotsky warned that there is no inevitable ' final crisis of capitalism', which was a restatement of Marx's own position.

In a similar vein, it was Lenin who wryly observed that capitalism can survive anything as long as workers pay the price for its survival.

This is evident today. Throughout the advanced capitalist societies , including New Zealand, workers are the victims of vicious austerity drives. In order for capitalism to survive workers are being forced to carry the economic burden. Jobs are being lost. Wages, welfare benefits and pensions are being cut. Public assets are being sold off.

Meanwhile the banks and the financiers, on the back of huge taxpayer bailouts, are announcing record profits and giving each other massive bonuses.

Here in New Zealand John Key, fresh from giving large tax cuts to the wealthy and announcing further privatisation plans , has announced that the economy is fine - its just the welfare state that 'is broken'. A fresh attack on what remains of the welfare state will occur if John Key and his cronies are re-elected.

In recent months I've had conversations with people in my local community who are profoundly disillusioned by the sporadic and negligible level of resistance to the capitalist offensive and, frankly, don't see things getting any better anytime soon. They, of course, don't put it in such explicit terms but when they declare that 'New Zealanders are apathetic' and 'Phil Goff is useless', it is what they mean.

Personally I draw some encouragement and inspiration from the huge anti-austerity demonstrations that have - and are - occurring in western Europe, not to mention the struggles occurring in the Middle East, but, at the same time, the worsening of economic conditions does not automatically lead to a level of prolonged political resistance. 'A' does not automatically lead to 'B' in a linear and mechanical fashion. You don't necessarily pass 'Go' and pick up a card marked 'Revolution'. It can equally lead to another trade union 'leader' selling out another working class struggle.

While the few remaining social democratic reformists, who draw comfort from the likes of Eduard Bernstein, may believe in the 'progress of history', they are deluded souls seeking some half-baked validation for their meek surrender to the demands of capitalism.

Marx emphasised that consciousness always lags behind the course of history. There is always a 'lag' before there is a political response to immediate economic conditions. History is the product of class struggles but there is always an uneven development of these class struggles.

In a very interesting article in the Financial Times historian Simon Schama recently observed:

Far be it for me to make a dicey situation dicier but you can’t smell the sulphur in the air right now and not think we might be on the threshold of an age of rage. The Spanish unions have postponed a general strike; the bloody barricades and the red shirts might have been in Bangkok not Berlin; and, for the moment, the British coalition leaders sit side by side on the front bench like honeymooners canoodling on the porch; but in Europe and America there is a distinct possibility of a long hot summer of social umbrage. Historians will tell you there is often a time-lag between the onset of economic disaster and the accumulation of social fury. In act one, the shock of a crisis initially triggers fearful disorientation; the rush for political saviours; instinctive responses of self-protection, but not the organised mobilisation of outrage. Whether in 1789 or now, an incoming regime riding the storm gets a fleeting moment to try to contain calamity. If it is seen to be straining every muscle to put things right it can, for a while, generate provisional legitimacy.

Act two is trickier. Objectively, economic conditions might be improving, but perceptions are everything and a breathing space gives room for a dangerously alienated public to take stock of the brutal interruption of their rising expectations. What happened to the march of income, the acquisition of property, the truism that the next generation will live better than the last? The full impact of the overthrow of these assumptions sinks in and engenders a sense of grievance that “Someone Else” must have engineered the common misfortune. The stock epithet the French Revolution gave to the financiers who were blamed for disaster was “rich egoists”. Our own plutocrats may not be headed for the tumbrils but the fact that financial catastrophe, with its effect on the “real” economy, came about through obscure transactions designed to do nothing except produce short-term profit aggravates a sense of social betrayal.

The 'Explosion' may have been delayed but it will come nonetheless.

The other problem that we are confronted with is the failure of traditional workers organisations to act decisively in this time of crisis.

Here in New Zealand, as elsewhere, we have had to endure the unedifying sight of reformist leaders trying to prop up a failed economic system and maintain the status quo. That has been the role of the Labour Party and its allies in the trade union bureaucracy. It is little wonder that more and more workers no longer have any faith in these organisations to defend their interests? Is it little wonder that Phil Goff can gain no political traction when he tells workers there is 'no alternative' to the free market and neoliberalism?

However when social consciousness catches up with history, when there is no longer 'a time-lag between the onset of economic disaster and the accumulation of social fury.' then these discredited and dismal leaders will be swept aside by people demanding leadership that genuinely represents their needs and their aspirations.

The capitalist class has had lots of assistance from the 'leaders' of the workers organizations both in keeping the system afloat and suppressing any sustained resistance, but history is pressing and that situation will inevitably change and possibly when we least expect it.

A NATION IS SAVED

Good news. Scott Dixon didn't win the Indianapolis 500.

It was a close-run thing, but this morning the nation was saved from ugly scenes of media hysterics and chauvinistic nationalistic tubthumping (say that when you are drunk) when Scott Dixon spoiled the media's party by failing to win the Indianapolis 500.

For those of you who don't know and don't really care, the Indianapolis 500 involves a lot of big cars, wasting lots of fuel, going around an oval track 200 times. Whoever is in the front at the end is the winner.

Dixon managed to win back in 2008 which was the catalyst for an orgy of media hysteria and general nonsense. His win was apparently so important that it was the lead story on both the TV1 and TV3 six o'clock news bulletins as well as being front page news in the morning newspapers the following day.

Fortunately this year we have been spared a whole load of media cheerleading because Dixon only got sixth (I think).

So you won't have to put up with the gormless celebratory smiles of Petrie, Barry and co and endure another Mark Sainsbury exercise in bootlicking masquerading as an 'interview.'

Perhaps they might find some time to tell us about the demonstrations in Spain and the new demonstrations breaking out in France...

GIL SCOTT HERON 1949-2011



Rapper, poet and political actvist Gil Scott Heron died yesterday at the age of 62.

He was probably best known for 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' but my favourite is 'B Movie'. I did have a 12'' vinyl copy of it but it has long since disappeared...

JOHN LOVES CHRISTINE

John Key says he's 'super impressed' with French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and the woman likely to be next head of the International Monetary Fund. The 'super impressive' Lagarde is demanding severe austerity cuts and massive privatisation programmes in the crisis-ridden economies of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. She says that some European Government's are not implementing the IMF's austerity measures quick enough.

There's been much discussion in the corporate media about who will replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has now thrown her hat into the ring and, as she has the support of the European political elites, she must be regarded as the frontrunner to win the post.

This won't please Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa who want to see a non-European replace Strauss-Kahn,

Brazil's IMF representative has commented: 'We feel it is outrageous to have the post reserved for a European.'

But that's the way it has always been for over sixty years and since the IMF have been desperately try to shore up collapsing European economies it'll be a European - and probably Christine Lagarde - who will be elected come August if not sooner.

But as writer Nomi Prins has pointed out the election of a new head won't bring a change in direction for the IMF.

It'll be business as usual which means bailing out various economies in return for sweeping austerity measures - what the IMF euphemistically refer to as 'structured adjustment programmes'.

Writes Prins:

... any concerns about the IMF altering its method of swapping loans for austerity measures just because its chief is facing felony charges, were alleviated the day he was denied bail. On Monday, Portugal, the third European country in the past year to get a bailout, was approved for a 78-billion-euro rescue package. The price? Public spending cuts. The benefactors? The private Portuguese banks that turned around to raise cash backed by bailout-guarantees a moment later.

In Ireland, where a swish of hot money entered the country during the years leading up to the 2008 crisis, the $113 billion IMF/EU bailout did nothing to bring down the 14.7 percent unemployment rate, even as $23 billion of pension money was requested as a condition of the loan.


So whoever takes over at the IMF its method of operation will remain the same - which is to make ordinary people pay the price for the mistakes of the banks and the financiers who continue to the be the benefactors of an unjust economic system.

Christine Lagarde certainly has no problems with the IMF's operational methods. She is another neoliberal zealot who thinks the working classes of the world should carry the burden of an economic crisis they weren't responsible for.

Take Greece for instance.

The IMF has forced the Greek Government to enact severe austerity measures which have included job losses and wages and pension cuts. In return for the IMF'S 'help' the Greek Government must also sell off state assets such as its electricity companies

Lagarde thinks this is just fine. In fact she is demanding that Greece 'do better in handling its debt problem'. She is particularly concerned that the Greek Government has been slow to privatise its public assets.

Last week she said that IMF 'aid' for the bankrupt Portuguese economy would involve a commitment 'to set public finances right'—a massive privatisation programme and 'structural reforms'.

John Key has come out in support of Lagarde's bid for the IMF'S top job and has described her as 'super impressive'.

He commented on Monday: 'I actually met her when I went over on my trip to Paris a couple of weeks ago. She's super impressive I've got to say.'

Perhaps he got some tips from her about how to go about privatising what's left of New Zealand's public assets.

THE 'WISDOM' OF TONY MARRYATT

Unlike Sideshow Bob, a former Hamilton mayor is no fan of Christchurch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt.

One of the persistent criticisms of Christchurch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt is that he operates as an unelected councillor, interfering in areas that are outside his job description. In tandem with Sideshow Bob he has, on many occasions, deliberately kept the Council out of the decision making loop. Several councillors are known to be concerned about Marryatt's activities.

The most recent example of Marryatt's secretive ways is the decision by the SuperShed directors to move the recycling store from the east side of the city to the west side. As a director of SuperShed and as CEO of the Christchurch City Council, Marryatt was instrumental in depriving the hard hit Eastside of a valuable community resource.

Yet the Council was entirely unaware of what Marryatt was up to, despite the fact that SuperShed's own Statement of Intent obligated the directors to inform the Council of any major proposals.

This is not the first time Marryatt has been involved in sidestepping Council. It was, for example, he and Sideshow Bob who secretly cooked up the deal to buy the five Dave Henderson properties at a cost of $17 million. That was a winner wasn't it?

It was also 'Bob and Tony' who thought it would be great idea to put Council rents up a massive 24 percent. Marryatt claimed it was all entirely legal and above board. The High Court disagreed and struck out the increase.

Before he arrived in Christchurch nearly fours ago, Marryatt was CEO of the Hamilton City Council.

In a book published in 2008, former Hamilton mayor David Braithwaite has some uncomplimentary things to say about his CEO.

In Making A Stand Braithwaite writes that Marryatt came to his house the day after his 2001 mayoral election win with a note outlining which councillors should hold positions of power.

He says : 'I was elected on a Saturday and on the following day I was visited by Tony Marryatt at my home.

He presented me with a hand-written paper on which he outlined who should hold positions of responsibility on the incoming council, who the deputy mayor should be and that councillor Dave Macpherson should hold no positions of responsibility at all.'

Dave Macpherson was an active member of the Alliance Party.

According to Marryatt he was just giving the mayor his 'professional wisdom' after the election.

Braithwaite also says in his book that his immediate concern on taking the mayoral reins 'was the attitude of chief executive Tony Marryatt.'

'My mayoralty began with what was essentially a threat from him, and a clear warning that he thought the mayoralty and its smooth functioning were in his gift and not in the gift of the electors of the city."

Braithwaite also writes that Mr Marryatt 'never lost an opportunity to tell me how powerful and important he was'.

'He was, he said, the best chief executive officer in New Zealand. Clearly in Tony Marryatt's view, he was the city's king-maker and infinitely more important than people who had merely been elected to their positions by the public. Council employees were at his direction, so why not the mayor and council as well?'

Kind of makes you think that Marryatt has transferred his elitist and undemocratic philosophy to Christchurch...

RAPTURE!

MORE AUSTERITY

Bill English's Budget has deliverered nothing but more proposed austerity cuts and a empty promise of 'economic growth'. But Labour has little to offer ordinary people either.

Because you didn't ask for it, Bill English wants to deliver more spending cuts and more job losses. And - wait there's more - he wants to privatise some of the few remaining state assets that haven't yet been ransacked and pillaged.

We are expected to believe that another round of spending cuts -more austerity - will lead to strong economic growth (over 4 percent over the nest two years or so) and - wait for it - 170,000 new jobs!

This nonsense is based entirely on Treasury projections.

In May 2008, Treasury forecast growth rates for the next three years of 1.5 per cent, 2.3 per cent and 3.2 per cent. Instead, we got -1.1 per cent, -0.4 per cent and -0.1 per cent.

So the New Zealand working class is expected to continue to carry the burden of an economic crisis on the basis that there, eventually, will be an 'economic recovery' This is the same 'economic recovery' that was confidently predicted in 2008. In 2009. In 2010. In 2011.

The New Zealand economy, like other capitalist economies, remains in deep and intractable crisis. This crisis is such that it will never respond to the neoliberal policy settings that have prevailed for nearly three decades.

Looking at the April figures that are available on the internet, the advanced western economies appear to be sinking into a deeper economic hole. In the first quarter of the year, the US economy grew by a mere half a per cent, while the UK managed a derisory 0.4 per cent.

These kind of figures just go to prove that talk of economic growth of 4 percent in this country is fairytale stuff.

In response to the global economic crisis, vicious austerity drives have been unleashed. In country after country governments have, among other things, cut public spending and jobs , frozen and cut pensions, cut welfare programs, lowered welfare benefits and sold off state assets.

We are being forced down the same disastrous road in this country. John Key and co think they can get away with it -and get re-elected to boot - because they face little opposition from both the Labour Party and the Labour-aligned trade union leadership.

While Phil Goff and co have roundly condemned this Budget, the fact remains both Labour and the CTU accept the need for austerity policies and for the working class to carry the economic burden.

This is what Labour finance spokesperson David Cunliffe meant when he commented this week:

'The fiscal situation facing New Zealand is serious and tough decisions needed to be made to address that. We will not oppose prudent fiscal measures just because they involve cutting spending'

The trade union leadership stands condemned for refusing to mount any meaningful resistance to the Government's austerity policies. It has cooperated with the implementation of those policies as part of its 'new unionism' agenda of a 'social partnership' with employers and the government.

The CTU merely seeks to channel public opposition and anger into a vote for Labour in November. This is the road to nowhere.

The crucial problem in this country, as in the other advanced western economies, is that the reactionary leaderships of the labour movement, both parliamentary and industrial, remain committed to a economic system that simply cannot deliver for ordinary people.

A KICK IN THE GUTS FOR THE EASTSIDE

The CEO of the Christchurch City Council,Tony Marryatt, has delivered a blow to the quake hit eastern suburbs of Christchurch but he didn't bother to tell the Council about what he was up to. Or did he keep Mayor Sideshow Bob 'fully briefed' and Bob kept the information to himself?

These are not great days for the quake-hit eastern suburbs of Christchurch and the Eastside has just suffered another blow. And the CEO of the Christchurch City Council, Tony Marryatt, has helped to deliver that blow.

Supershed is a council-owned recycling depot in Aranui. It sells unwanted goods, that would otherwise end up in the landfill, at cheap prices. It provides a much needed service for the more economically disadvantaged communities of the Eastside.

The directors of Supershed have however decided to move Supershed to the west side of the city, namely Blenheim Road in Riccarton.

Christchurch East Labour MP Lianne Dalziel has attacked the decision. She has rightly observed that the new facility would be out of reach for those who needed it most.

'I just think this is arrogant decision-making, with no consultation with the people who are affected by that decision. It displays a complete lack of understanding of the community that has been the host of this facility since it opened.'

Aranui Community Trust manager Rachael Fonotia told The Press the depot was 'a good asset' for the community.

'It's good, cheap shopping, and a lot of people frequent it,' she said. 'Once you take something out of a community, and it's not as easy to get to, people don't go.'

Jim McKay, a regular SuperShed customer, said the depot was vital to the area and couldn't understand what the Council was up to.

'I'm not sure why they're doing this, particularly as those who frequent and purchase from the SuperShed are those who live on the east side of the city. Realistically, they are the ones who can't afford to commute to the west side of town.'

City Councillor Yani Johanson has said that shifting the SuperShed from the east was totally unacceptable.

'I just think it's a crazy idea to move it to the other side of town. People are used to it being in the east, and that community deserves all the support it can get.'

He also said that he was 'shocked' councillors' input had not been sought.

Johanson has every right to be shocked - and angry - because the Supershed directors have effectively gone behind the back of the Christchurch City Council.

Last year Supershed's Statement of Intent was passed by the Council and no mention was made of any plans to move the recycling depot.

The Statement of Intent says that:

The company will operate on a “no surprises” basis in respect of significant Shareholder related matters, to the extent possible in the context of commercial sensitivity and confidentiality obligations.

So the directors have completely disregarded Supershed's Statement of Intent and their obligations to the Council.

What makes this all the more surprising, and all the more unacceptable, is that one of the directors of Supershed is the CEO of the Christchurch City Council.

Tony Marryatt has got a lot of explaining to do and, given that he is Sideshow Bob's faithful right hand man, we are entitled to know just what Bob knew about Marryatt's secret plans for SuperShed.

THE JOKE IS ON US!

The Budget will deliver more hardship and misery for ordinary New Zealanders. But the wealthy and the corporates will be laughing all the way to the bank.

My local Anglican church, of which my mother was an active member, used to put on free meals for the local community every second Friday night. The church had been doing this for eighteen years

They were obviously very popular but in recent times the demand became overwhelming. The church saw more and more people from other areas of the city arriving for meals. Eventually it had to reluctantly confine the meal evenings to people in the local neighbourhood because it simply couldn't cope with the number of people wanting to be fed.

The free meals have had to be put 'on hold' because the church was damaged in the February quake although I think efforts are being made to find an alternative venue. And the church is still running other programmes like supplying free weekly bread to about fifty families in my neighbourhood.

Not quite 'Godzone' is it? Not quite the 'country to bring up children' is it?

The demand for food has, like elsewhere in the country, continued to escalate in Christchurch.

While the demand on food banks has reached an untenable level, public donations of food have dropped with people simply trying to cope with the sharply rising cost of living. Folk who normally donated food are now themselves barely managing to survive on inadequate wage and benefit levels.

Timothy Weir, a food bank coordinator in Christchurch, recently commented: 'Increasing food costs before the quakes were already seeing more people depend on food banks but now.. .the sting is seeing families cut back the food budget to pay the basics and put a roof over their heads.'

In early April a study by the University of Otago found that psychological distress caused by the lack of access to nutritious and affordable food was on the rise in New Zealand.

The study broadly classified people as food insecure if in the last year they used food banks or grants, had to buy cheaper food to pay for other things, or often went without fresh fruit and vegetables

One of the authors of the report, Dr Kristie Carter, commented 'The results of this study add further impetus to reducing food insecurity in New Zealand by implementing policies that enhance food security for thousands of at-risk households, particularly in light of rising household and fuel costs.'

The chances of seeing such socially liberating policies being announced in tomorrow's Budget are zero.

In fact we can expect further attacks on social spending.

While this Government indulges the wealthy and the corporates with substantial tax cuts, more and more people are being driven into poverty while the future offers them nothing more than , if they are lucky, an insecure minimum wage job.



I won't be watching the television coverage of the Budget because it will just irritate the hell out of me. I will confine myself to the internet.

I can't stand watching well fed and complacent media commentators, economists, academics and various other 'experts' sitting around politely talking about the 'positives' and 'negatives' of the Budget and speculating about how it will be 'received' by 'the markets' and blah blah blah. Frankly, and pardon the language, its a gigantic wankfest.

No one challenges the assumptions of neoliberalism. Somewhere in the distance, the crisis-ridden capitalist system grinds on and our commentators snooze on. They are like diary cows in a field, grazing contentedly on the pasture.

I want someone, like Howard Beale in Network, to stand up that in that television studio and shout:'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!!'

But nobody will.

THE $3000 A NIGHT MAN

Lifestyles of the rich and famous..

It was interesting to note that IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was staying in a $3000 (US) night New York hotel suite when he was arrested for alleged sexual assault.

He drives a Porsche Panamera which would cost you most of $300,000.

There's not much evidence here of a man making the kind of 'economic sacrifices' he has demanded of ordinary people throughout the world - including little old New Zealand.

When the Irish economy was bailed out the IMF, via the Irish Government, cut back public expenditure on welfare, sacked over 20,000 people in the public sector and made wage and pension cuts. Unemployment rocketed.

The Irish economy remains in crisis.

Strauss-Kahn, perhaps having another glass of champagne at the time, said; '...people will have to make sacrifices for the sake of the budget'.

Strauss-Kahn has overseen the imposition of austerity programmes throughout Europe and elsewhere but, ironically, is often described in the corporate media as 'politically progressive'.

Tomorrow we will experience our own Strauss-Kahn's telling us how 'we' will 'all' have to make sacrifices for the sake of the economy..

INTELLIGIENT TELEVISION

A news and current affairs show with no celebrity stories? Can it be true?

If you are looking for an news and current shows that doesn't insult you're intelligence, then do yourself a favour and take a look at The Alyona Show on RT (Sky 96) An added bonus is that the show takes a progressive view, in stark contrast to the ho-hum blandness and conservatism that passes for news and current affairs in the corporate media.

In a New Zealand context, this show would be regarded as downright 'unbalanced' but, personally, it restores my faith that a vibrant and interesting news and current affairs show can be made without resorting to salacious crime stories, celebrity profiles and the like which have become a standard feature of shows like Close Up and 60 Minutes.

This show, I think, deliberately avoids the same old talking heads (giving the same old opinions) that we see all the time and instead focuses on actvists, bloggers, writers for news websites, academics. - people who are largely ignored by the mainstream media. Gosh, this show has even featured - shock, horror - socialists!

Hosted by the engaging Alyona Minkovski, the show broadcasts out of Washington and is aimed squarely at an American audience but, even so, since so much of what happens in the United States impacts on the rest of the world, there's much to interest the non-American viewer.

The show has, for example, done some brilliant pieces on the increasing level of poverty in the United States and the show has consistently exposed the machinations of the fat cats on Wall Street.

One piece I recently saw exposed the methods being used by debt collection agencies against ordinary Americans - including threats of violence.

This kind of material just doesn't make it on to New Zealand television screens.

The Alyona Show also follows the adventures of the United States military in faraway lands.

A recent show included an interesting interview with Scott Heron, a contributing to Harpers magazine, on efforts to effectively put the United States on a permanent 'war footing'. In the so-called 'war on terror', the United States would be giving itself the right to use military force anywhere it wanted. Horton describes this as 'terrorism creep'.

On the same show Democrat congressman Dennis Kucinich tells Alyona that, purely on financial grounds, the 'war on terror' is simply 'unsustainable'. He points out while ordinary Americans are suffering job losses and cutbacks, the Obama administration is pouring $10 billion a month into Afghanistan.

For me, this interview underlined again the pointlessness of New Zealand troops being involved in a war that is simply unwinnable.

The Alyona Show is intelligent, bright and literate and, I'm afraid to say, a million miles better than anything being produced by TVNZ and TV3. The only drawback is that it screens at 3pm (Tuesday to Saturday) but, hey, you can always record it. Or you can watch the show on its YouTube channel.

THE FAKE LEFT

The New Zealand political blogophere is largely anti-left wing. What is paraded as 'left wing' is usually little more than a different flavour of neoliberalism.

Before I started blogging around four years ago (has it been that long?) I assumed that the local blogosphere provided a vibrant alternative to the dull conformity of a corporate media that provided a discourse purely within a neoliberal framework and where left wing concerns and ideas rarely got a look in.

I think I had this romantic vision of independent and gutsy bloggers, not chained to the demands of the capitalist media and unencumbered by anti-socialist prejudice, offering radical and thought provoking critiques of New Zealand politics and society. I imagined that I would be greeted with informed opinion and commentary that had a radical edge.

I was mostly wrong. I was mostly wrong because there are few New Zealand blogs that offer consistent left wing and socialist perspectives. I have to confess that for the kind of discourse I am interested in, I mostly have to seek out overseas blogs where Marxism and socialism aren't regarded as doggy doo to wipe off the sole of the shoe as soon as possible.

There are a few local bloggers around that are worth reading - some are included in my links in the sidebar - but the stark fact is that the New Zealand blogosphere is largely unsympathetic - and often hostile- to left wing views. Anything that steps outside the cosy neoliberal consensus is systematically written out of the political conversation and very often deliberately.

Anyone who embraces explicitly left and socialist views is variously pigeon-holed as 'extreme', 'eccentric', 'anarchist', 'Trotskyist' or even 'Marxist-Leninist' - although I doubt there are any card-carrying Stalinists left in this country. Whatever the label, the message is the same - we are political lepers who must not be engaged with. Unclean!

The local blogosphere cooperates with the corporate media to present a 'acceptable left' that is not left wing at all. The representatives of this 'fake left' pop up in the corporate media on a regular basis. Some of them get paid for these appearances. Secure in their own middle class comfort, they actually don't offer a left wing critique of the neoliberal consensus but manage to sound vaguely 'progressive'.

The fake left, not surprisingly, gravitates around the Labour Party and, like its leader, believes that the best way to 'solve' the crisis of capitalism is to construct a 'better' capitalism. Because they are hostile to anti-capitalist politics, its all they've got to offer.

The unofficial president of the Fake Left Club is the smug Russell Brown of Public Address. He was one of Helen Clark's 'media darlings' and likes to think that he is 'progressive'.

At the moment he is getting all agitated about Hone Harawira and the Mana Party. Here is a genuinely left wing party and, crucially, its opposed to neoliberalism. But the 'progressive' Brown can't abide it. It's enough to make him knock over his glass of chardonnay!

He's been trying to smear Harawira as a supporter of Osama bin Laden and, like the New Zealand Herald, has stooped to misquoting him to justify his odious claim.

He has even extended that smear to a Mana Party supporter Martyn Bradbury who is the principal contributor to the Tumeke blog.

Bradbury has responded: 'Twisting Hone's words AND mine into some sort of support for a mass murderer is the sort of shit throwing one expects from the right, but not so often from those pretending to be left.'

Bradbury may finally be waking up to the fact that people he thought were his political allies are nothing of the sort.

Another prominent member of the Fake Left Club is Chris Trotter. He is often described by the corporate media as 'New Zealand's leading left wing commentator' despite the fact that he isn't actually left wing. At best, he's a right wing social democrat.

Anyone who has read any of the interchanges I have had with Trotter will know he is hostile to socialist politics although he likes to quote from OUR texts. He quotes Marx when it suits him but is anti-Marx the rest of the time. He is dismissive of the actual, historical, socialist left.

Because he remains loyal to the Labour Party he is not sympathetic to the Mana Party. Instead of using his media position to help build Mana his reaction to it has swung from lukewarm to critical.

This would be okay (sort of) if he had something better to offer but he hasn't.

Yes, 'New Zealand's leading left wing commentator' doesn't support a genuine left wing party. Ah well, it'll keep him in The Press and on The Nation won't it? Trotter's alternative flavour of neoliberalism, via the Labour Party, is acceptable to the likes of Fairfax Media but adds exactly nothing to the development of a new left wing current in New Zealand.

For nearly three decades ordinary New Zealanders, have been victims of a vicious neoliberal offensive orchestrated by both Labour and National. A Labour-aligned trade union bureaucracy has not only not defended workers it has been an active participant in the neoliberal offensive.

After thee decades of neoliberal economic policies we are living in a country where a Government celebrates low wages as 'an incentive to international investors' and does nothing as the price of living continues to escalate. We are living in a country of mass unemployment and a shrinking welfare state and where workers have to 'prove' themselves to merely keep minimum wage jobs.

And, despite appearances to the contrary, the local political blogosphere continues to support the very neoliberal consensus that has contributed to this state of affairs - while ensuring that any genuine left wing alternative is prevented from gaining any wider currency.

MIKE SMITH TALKS RUBBISH (AGAIN)

I was surprised to see former Labour President Mike Williams described as 'a voice of the left' on The Standard.

He was a loyal supporter of Labour's neoliberal economic policies while it was in Government so former businessman Williams is about as 'left wing' as Phil Goff, the man who tells us that there is 'no alternative' to the free market.

While The Standard is Labour's unofficial cheerleader, I would of thought that even it wouldn't have been as stupid as to describe Williams as 'left wing'. This really suggests that the writer left his brain in neutral while tapping out this nonsense.

And who wrote this nonsense? Why, it was none other then Mike Williams old mate Mike Smith.

Smith, of course, was the general secretary of the Labour Party during the Helen Clark reign. And like his buddy Mike Williams, he enthusiastically supported the neoliberal policies of the Clark Government. He still supports those policies although he won't front up and admit it.

Last time I had the misfortune to read something by Smith, he was giving a Fabian society seminar 'the big tick' - but neglected to mention that, as chairperson of the Fabian Society, he organised the seminar.

Smith likes praising himself and his Labour pals so its no surprise he's given Kelvin Davis his 'big tick'.

Smith claims that Kelvin Davis, Labour's candidate in Tai Tokerua 'represents the future for Maoridom. Hone and the Maori Party represent the past.'

I'm sure Kelvin must be overjoyed that Smith has given him 'a vote of confidence'.

TIME FOR REAL CHANGE

Since he launched the Mana Party last Saturday his political enemies have been hurling abuse and insults at Hone Harawira . Given that he himself has admitted he can fly off the handle much too easily, he has been remarkably restrained in the face of what has amounted to a campaign of personal vilification and downright character assassination.

He hasn't quite become 'a face of evil' but the political establishment are definitely working on it.

He has, among other things, been described as a 'racist', 'untrustworthy', 'extreme', and a ' Osama bin Laden supporter'.

On his Radio Live show yesterday the right wing Michael Laws flatly described Harawira as 'stupid'. Clearly oblivious to his own hypocrisy he then castigated Harawira for describing neoliberal zealot Don Brash as a 'fascist'.

It seems that his political enemies can call Hone anything they like but if he dares to fire a few criticisms back he's, once again, 'that nasty Maori who hates whites'.

The suggestion that Harawira is a defender of bin Laden's terrorist campaign is particularly odious but demonstrates the level that Mana's enemies will stoop to to marginalise the Mana Party and silence its political message.

As far as I can ascertain, only Martyn Bradbury on Tumeke! has actually reported what Harawira said in an interview which was:

'...they [bin laden's family] mourn for a man who fought for the rights, the land and the freedom of his people..'


Bradbury has also pointed out, which I'm sure will be ignored by the corporate media, that the New Zealand Herald deliberately misquoted Harawira and published that he personally 'celebrated Bin Laden's life'

The corporate media have also chosen to ignore the fact that for much of his life Osama was regarded as a 'freedom fighter' by the west and funded his military campaign against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden was a creation of the United States

I suspect that some of the same people who are now accusing Harawira of supporting Al Qaeda would also have once described Nelson Mandela as a 'terrorist'.

Before anyone accuses me of wearing rose tinted glasses as regards to Harawira I will point out that I am not a supporter of bourgeois Maori nationalism but, equally, I am not going to stay silent when a campaign has been mounted to take out the messenger rather than honestly debate with the message. Especially when that messenger has some good things to say.

And its not just the usual suspects who are trying to take out the Mana Party but also the bankrupt leaderships of the Labour Party and the Green's (one of them at least).

Both Labour and the Green Party, thanks to a corporate media that have connived to support the charade, have been able to pass themselves off as 'centre left' and even 'left wing'.

But, boy, look what happens when a real left wing party arrives on the scene. The new boy on the block is instantly set upon. Suddenly the 'old boys club' is in danger of being outflanked.

Goff, the man who tells us there is 'no alternative' to the free market and neoliberalism, says that neither he or the Labour Party will work with the Mana Party because its values and core policy have been shaped by Hone Harawira.

Putting aside the fact that its untrue that Harawira has decreed Mana's core policy, what policies and values is Goff so upset about. What 'extremism' should we all be worried about? This is from the Mana website:

Mana is also seen as the natural home to a growing number of ordinary Kiwis cast adrift by this National government, and despairing of Labour’s inability to provide a viable alternative.

Government is giving tax breaks to the rich, bailing out failed finance companies, selling off our natural resources, turning prisons into private profit ventures, and spending $36 million on a yacht race on the other side of the world, while ordinary New Zealanders are starving, workers are being forced into slavery by the 90-day bill, and Maori rights are being drowned in the Raukumara Basin.

In the land of milk and honey, those massive inequalities are unacceptable.


To me, this philosophy seems to be the basis of a left social democratic manifesto that the Labour Party once aspired to before Roger Douglas and friends (including Phil Goff) arrived on the scene, quoting Milton Friedman.

Similarly little Russel Norman, a former socialist, thinks its 'old hat' to try to build a left wing political movement in this country that represents ordinary New Zealanders rather than the wealthy and the corporates.

Norman, of course, subscribes to neoliberalism and believes in the 'power of the market' (his words). His failed neoliberal policies, of course, have their origins in the late 18th century.

Dr Norman - people are looking for something progressive and forward-looking that actually is oriented to the current century rather than the eighteenth century.

The attacks on Hone Harawira and Mana have been intensely hostile because a potential political force has emerged that is not prepared to buy into the cosy neoliberal consensus that has existed in this country for nearly three decades.

The Mana Party says its time for real change - not the kind of 'change' that sees Tweedledee taking over from Tweedledum every few years.

MORE CASH FOR GREEDY COUNCILLORS

Times are tough for too many people in quake hit Christchurch but the elected 'representatives' of the good people of this fair city are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Christchurch's city councillors are in line to receive a $2000 wage increase which would take their basic salary to nearly $89,000.

The increase would come at a time when many of the Council's powers have been transferred to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).

But we're talking basic council salaries here. There are also the 'add ons' that many councillors receive.

Four councillors in particular are rolling around in a big vat of cash while the queues at the local food banks continue to grow longer.

Councillors Barry Corbett, Sue Wells, Philip Carter and Mayor Sideshow Bob are also merrily double dipping. They receive another $35,000 as directors of Christchurch City Holdings (CCHL).

It's estimated that CCHL work - basically attending meetings and reading a few papers - takes no more than 12-15 hours a month. Let's say fours a week. And for that four hours the financially bloated councillors pocket an additional $670 a week.

This means that Wells, Corbett and Carter are receiving in the region of $124,000. Sideshow Bob's basic mayoral salary is approximately $169,000 and the fees he receives as a CCHL director brings his total salary to over $200,000. He however won't be receiving any salary increase.

Despite receiving an exorbitant $124,000 a year, both Barry Corbett and Sue Wells have found time in their 'busy' schedules to do non council jobs. Corbett has been heard voicing radio commercials while Wells has been doing the in-house commercials for the local New World supermarkets.

Jim Anderton MP had plans to derail the CCHL gravy train but unfortunately he lost the mayoral election last year to an earthquake and a orange safety jacket.

Not all councillors are happy about the proposed wage increase though.

Glen Livingstone says he is not happy with taking extra money when 'so many people have lost their jobs'

Yani Johanson is concerned about further funding cuts to community boards and says he is also uncomfortable about accepting a pay rise.

HUMANISM ISN'T ENOUGH

While Osama Bin Laden has been personified as 'the face of evil' the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain have been pardoned by a United States Government that has encouraged jingoistic patriotism, writes Trish Kahle.

Many people were shocked last night when hundreds of people poured into the streets of Washington D.C. to celebrate the assassination of Osama bin Laden in what can only be described as the most sickening, reviling act of jingoistic patriotism I have ever seen. Even a few people I know who are progressive on many issues joined the melee. One said, "This night, I'm being a fascist pig or whatever you'll call me while wearing a Garth Brooks-style American flag shirt and jamming out to Springsteen."

Besides the fact that I think Bruce Springsteen might (I hope) take issue with "Born in the USA" being used this way (again), it demonstrates exactly how well the previous and current administrations have been able to characterize bin Laden as "the face of evil." And it completely, as many commentators on the left have pointed out, ignores the entire history of imperialism creating terrorism. It also suggests that bin Laden's murder of several thousands of people is somehow worse than the state-sponsored murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Afghanistan, worse than the more than 1 million killed by US sanctions against Iraq. Osama is "the personification of evil," but the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain are essentially pardoned by the US government.

Yet, despite all the images that make me want to puke, despite the jingoistic chants and all of it, there have been a significant number of people who were able to step back and say: "WHOA." (But not Brian Williams.)

Unfortunately, many of these "Whoas" are not infused with political arguments. Instead they rely on vague notions of "humanism." Pamela Geroff--who, I'll be honest, I'd never heard of before--asked on the Huffington Post, "Have you so little decency?" She claimed the responses of college students chanting "USA! USA! USA!" were a "violation of human dignity," which they are. "To celebrate the killing of a life, any life, is a failure to honour life's inherent sanctity," she continued.

But she also legitimised the responses despite her intention by suggesting that the need for closure after 9/11 could be met by the assassination of a person by American troops in the sovereign country of Pakistan. And little in the last decade has been so devastating to human life as the wave of terror unleashed by the US government against the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Pakistan, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has now suggested that "more work is needed," which, when combined with the demeaning and blatantly racist rhetoric being espoused about the Pakistani government's alleged hiding of bin Laden, lays the groundwork for further incursion by the US against Pakistani sovereignty.

Herein lies the reason that arguments like Gerloff's won't work to end terrorism or halt the disgusting displays that continue after erupting last night. And it's same reason Reza Aslan's "Befriend a Muslim" plan to end Islamophobia won't work either.

WHERE'S THE POLITICS?
Just as terrorism doesn't erupt from a murky psychological sphere where reality and dreams can get mixed up, neither does the jingoism displayed by thousands across the country in the last 24 hours. Understanding that bin Laden is human isn't going to help us prevent more terrorist attacks, just like getting a person who has been labelled a "terrorist" (since terrorism is always a label and not a self-description) to see the humanity of his or her victims isn't going to change the circumstances that drove them to their actions in the first place.

If you want to get a plant out of your garden, you don't try and pick off individual seeds, you pull it up by the root and don't plant it again.

In the same way, if you want to end terrorism, killing individual terrorists through invasive assassination plots that undermine the right of a nation and its people to self-determination is pretty much the worst thing you could do. A better approach would be to halt all imperialist policies and pay reparations to the people you have wronged. For the US, this would mean--as a beginning step--removing troops from all countries and offshore bases and beginning to pay reparations to a list of countries and people so long I'm not even going to try and list them.

If the US started on that program, displays like those we are seeing would become not only unnecessary, but ludicrous, since jingoistic fervour has long been cultivated (and does not grow organically) to justify imperialism and xenophobia. Besides that, it serves no real purpose. Attacking the people partying over an assassination, however appealing it may sound, is a lot going after bin Laden to destroy terrorism, and ultimately, it will be ineffective.

It seems that I'm always saying to go after people at the top. There's a reason for that. Our crisis is manufactured by the elite. The top 1% are the world's biggest war mongers. They cultivate racism through rhetoric, propaganda, and straight up hate. COUGH--Donald Trump--COUGH. The reason to "go after them" is because they are, quite frankly, the problem. They'd like us to buy into the humanist ideas--like those presented by Gerloff--precisely because they involve no criticism of the structure of power, the distribution of wealth, and the sickness of capitalist society.

This article was first published on Trish's blog, I Can't Believe We Still Have To Protest This Shit.

BOB IS ONE BIG DISASTER

Remember the Christchurch 'campervan park'?

The Government spent over one million dollars on setting up 350 campervans to provide accommodation for Christchurch people without adequate accommodation.

More than 10,000 homes will have to demolished over the coming months.

These campervans were placed in the middle of a field (Canterbury Agricultural Park) and the Government expected people to put up with living in these campervans during the harsh months of winter.

But Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee also demanded that folk, already under considerable financial pressure, to pay market rents for the 'privilege ' of living in cramped accommodation in a field that would quickly turn to mud once the wet weather set in.

The whole project was ludicrous and, not surprisingly, the camper van 'village' has crashed and burned. Only one person wanted to live in a crappy camper van - but only put up with it for a few days.

Despite Christchurch's urgent need for temporary homes, Sideshow Bob has kept his mouth shut about this latest Brownlee blunder. Bob is the Government's little lapdog and he won't say or do anything that risks embarrassing his mate Gerry. Expect Sideshow to be suitably rewarded for his loyalty in the New Years Honours list.

But another housing disaster is unfolding as we speak

The Government's intention is to build just 2.500 modular homes but they won't be all be available until September at the earliest.

In stark contrast Japan started building temporary home two weeks after its quake.

Three hundred portable homes are supposed to go up this month. Although some parks have been earmarked for homes it is expected that most of them will go on people's own damaged properties - who will have to pay the installation costs.

It took Gerry Brownlee over two months to announce the contractors for Christchurch's modular homes.

Having learnt nothing from the campervan fiasco, Brownlee expects financially struggling families to pay rent. So, rather than alleviating the financial problems that many people are grappling with,Brownlee is actually adding to their financial woes.

Portable home rental costs are $190 per week for two people, $271 per week for four people and $337 per week for six people.

In Japan families have been given rent free use of the accommodation for two years.

But, once again, Sideshow Bob is nowhere to be seen.

As I said in April about the campervan farce:

While Mayor Sideshow Bob has had a lot to say about the people of Christchurch facing a grim winter and enormous financial difficulties he has, once again, shown that he is little more then the Government's tame poodle.

Instead of speaking out against Brownlee's appalling decision to impose market rents on folk with little money and no homes , he has said nothing.


Sideshow Bob is again failing the people of Christchurch. We deserve better than this.

THE 'WAR ON TERROR' GOES ON

The killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan wasn't about justice but it was about vengeance.

President Obama simply said that 'after a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden'. Which was, of course, the intention. I doubt that the Obama administration wanted to capture him alive so he could tell all at his trial about his dealings with the CIA, the United States' murky relationship with Saudi Arabia and so on.

Reuters reports that the US commandos were given orders for 'a kill operation' in which bin Laden would have been taken alive only if he 'clearly' surrendered. There is a lot of flexibility in that word 'clearly'. We will never actually know whether bin Laden refused to surrender.

While no one will shed a tear for the man who orchestrated such violence and suffering, its less than edifying to see politicians and the corporate media gloat over his death while ignoring that an extra judicial killing took place and that Pakistan had its national sovereignty violated in the process.

I've also not enjoyed the triumphalism I've seen demonstrated in the last day or so. The fist pumping of Geraldo Rivera on Fox News was ugly. But that's Fox News for you.

George Bush's jingoistic response was predictable. He basically declared that 'they' had got the bastard and that validated the whole so-called 'war on terror' and the enormous loss of lives in Afghanistan, Iraq and now, Libya.

I expected very little from Bush 3 and he delivered as much in his White House speech.

Barack Obama could have brought down the curtain on the United States' chauvinistic and imperialist adventures in faraway lands. He could have taken the opportunity to announce that the 'war on terror' was over. He could have announced that he was finally going to keep his election promise to close down the Guantamano prison camp.

He could have signalled a progressive change in American foreign policy, one that didn't involve the United States acting as the self-appointed 'Big Daddy' for the rest of the world.

But he didn't. Instead the killings and mayhem will continue in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The United States will continue to trample on other countries whenever its feels its interests are threatened.

I have friends in the United States who are very angry with Obama's speech. Admittedly they share similar political views to myself but I suspect that even some American liberals would have been uncomfortable with Obama's deliberate association of 'the war on terror' with the 'struggle for equality for all our citizens.'

According to Obama fighting a futile war in Afghanistan is comparable to, say, Martin Luther King and the historic struggle of the civil rights movement.

This is the sort of nonsense that we expect from the likes of George Bush and Fox News, and it demonstrated again just how reactionary Obama has proven to be.

While Glen Beck of Fox News got hauled over the coals by American liberals for trying to attach the liberating message of Martin Luther King to his right wing agenda, the silence is deafening when Barack Obama does exactly the same thing.

Personally I'm more than irritated that Obama could talk about 'equality for all our citizens' when he has spent the last several years bailing out corporate America and Wall Street while plunging more and more ordinary Americans into poverty. Not much 'equality' going on here, Mr President.

MAY DAY



It's May Day so why not 'The Internationale'?

This acoustic folk rendition is by Alistair Hulett with Jimmy Gregory on backup vocals.

Sadly Alistair Hulett died of cancer in January last year in Glasgow, where he was born. He was 58 years old.

He has a New Zealand connection as he and his family moved to New Zealand - and to Christchurch - in 1968 and, although still only in his teens, he quickly becaame a 'hit' on the local folk circuit.

According to this Guardian obituary:

He initially regarded Christchurch as a cultural backwater, and was furious at being forced to wear a uniform at Christchurch Boys' High School, though he soon became something of a sensation at the Christchurch folk club because of his extensive knowledge of British folk music.


He told one friend that Christchurch was 'filled with proper English ladies wearing white gloves.'

He spent some years in Australia and formed the Sydney-based band Roaring Jack, who were seen as Australia's answer to the Pogues, with a line-up of electric guitar, drums and accordion. Roaring Jack were a determinedly socialist band and, in their music, highlighted issues of concern to Australian workers.

Said Hulett: 'We took the very hard-edged political tone that was characteristic of punk at that time.'

He was a revolutionary socialist and his politics were forged during the two years he spent in India. According to his sister he was greatly affected by the huge divide he saw between India's poor and its wealthy elite.

For Hulett the choice was clear - either the overthrow of capitalism or a world reduced to barbarism.

In 1997 he returned to Glasgow and continued to perform and record his music. He also regularly toured North America, Australia and New Zealand.

You can download this song at beemp3.com

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