Wednesday, 24 October 2012

An updated, improved website

We have updated and improved our website, and, over the rest of the year, will be merging our blog pieces into this new site:

Please go to this site for regular political analysis and commentary from the International Socialist Organisation.

We will be closing this blog towards the end of the year. All the material from here will be available at the new site.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Southland women need access to abortion services

To Invercargill Abortion Clinic Staff,

This is a letter of support for the essential service that you provide.  We were disgusted to find out about the threats you have received. These abhorrent messages as well as the protests against the clinic are the acts of cowards and bigots.

We fully support the opening and running of abortion clinics. We understand the necessity of such a service for women’s reproductive health and general well-being.

Such services should be made more accessible by establishing clinics in all areas, not just major cities and by making the service free for all women.

Our struggle against anti-choice bigotry must start to extend beyond defensive acts. Abortion needs to come out of the Crimes Act. For even though women in New Zealand now can get access to abortion services, the hoops which have to be jumped through and the stigma placed on women by society is not even close to acceptable.

We say no guilt, no shame for those who get abortion and those who provide the service. Your work is important.

In Solidarity

Rowan McArthur 
(International Socialist Organisation)

[Find out more about the campaign to defend abortion services in Southland by going to the Abortion Law Reform Association website. Alison McCulloch from ALRANZ debated an anti-choice spokesperson on television earlier this week.]

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Film Review: American Radical: the Trials of Norman Finkelstein

Film review by Andrew Tait

"Every single member of my family on both sides was exterminated. Both of my parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. And it is precisely and exactly because of the lessons my parents taught me and my two siblings that I will not be silent when Israel commits its crimes against the Palestinians."

It is a tragedy to be born out of your time, when keeping faith with your past means breaking radically with the present. This documentary about radical Jewish American academic Norman Finkelstein is more gripping and tragic than any documentary about an academic should be.

If Israel had a public enemy list for intellectuals, Norman Finkelstein would be number one. He is a figure held up for derision and hate for Zionists for two reasons: He is the foremost and most fearless critic of the Israel's racist theory and increasingly barbaric practice and worse, he is a Jew whose parents survived Hitler's concentration camps. This last is the worst crime in a critic of Israel. For a state based on Jewish identity Finkestein's Jewishness is galling but his direct link with survivors of Hitler's attempted genocide is unforgivable.

His parents loom large in this documentary.

They are ever-present points of reference for Finkelstein, who grew up in the long shadows cast by the watchtowers of Auschwitz.

He says of his mother that she was always reflecting on the camps, on the smallest events as if they revealed the secret of human nature.

His father, who became a factory worker in New York after the war, spoke little of the camps, or anything else.

The horrors of the Holocaust meant the Finkelsteins were unusual parents. When they said the simplest things, like share your things or don't waste food, simple lessons that all parents pass on to their children, Norman's parents were deadly serious because in the camps the basics of human decency were not a luxury but the only thing left to cling to give life any meaning at all.

On war, specifically the American war in Vietnam, Finkelstein's mother was almost hysterical in her opposition, he said - “why would people do such things? How could they?”

Finkelstein was animated from his high school days by a horror of injustice and cruelty, so anyway said a former classmate who now lives in Tel Aviv. Everyone was against the war in Vietnam but Norman was serious about it. He was passionate.

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Norman's opposition to war collided with the increasingly brutal trajectory of the “Jewish” state.

Israel bases its right to existence on the supposed eternal hostility of non-Jews to the Jewish people, who depend on the security a nation state brings. Israel bases its right to mete out violence and destruction on the enormous violence meted out to European Jews by the Nazis. How can the bombing of Lebanon and Gaza be compared to the death camps, to the annihilation Hitler sought to bring upon the Jews? The Holocaust Industry (the title of one of Finkelstein's books) exists, he argues, to use the legacy of that time to justify the state of Israel. The Holocaust is like an inexhaustible bank account of horrors that Israel can draw on – in a more moderate, “democratic” way, more in sorrow than anger – and pay forward to the Palestinian people.

Finkelstein is a real problem, not just because of the strength of his arguments or the depth of his historical knowledge (which is great) but because as a child of the Holocaust he is in a way a trustee of that legacy of genocide.

His arguments and his knowledge are deeply significant though. Isolated though he might appear to be now – Finkelstein was driven out of his teaching positions at two US universities and has been detained and deported from Israel – if you were to survey Jewish intellectuals of the last 100 years it would be the Zionists, not Finkelstein, who would be in the minority. Socialism in one form or another was the mainstream political ideology of European Jews up until the Holocaust.

Finkelstein's mentor, Noam Chomsky, is a great example of this progressive anti-capitalist tradition that Finkelstein also represents.

Nonetheless, the times are against him and he is a lonely figure. In some ways, this is self-inflicted. Finkelstein could have kept his radical politics and his condemnation of Israel as a sideline to, say, rebutting the Holocaust denier David Irving or US imperialism. Instead he has chosen the more difficult path, to make what is closest to his heart his life's work. He is a passionate public intellectual. He is a prophet.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A wave of anti-US protests in Okinawa

[This article by Khury Petersen-Smith first appeared in Socialist Worker US]

THE DECISION by the U.S. and Japanese governments to deploy the Osprey MV-22 military warplane to Okinawa, a Japanese island south of the mainland and north and east of China and Taiwan, has sparked a wave of mass protest.
The largest demonstrations to date took place in a simultaneous mobilization on September 9 when 100,000 people gathered in Okinawa, thousands of people surrounded the Diet (Japanese legislature) in Tokyo, and protests were held on Ishigaki and Miyako Islands as well as the city of Iwakuni on the mainland, where Osprey aircraft are currently stationed.
The Osprey has tilting rotors that allow it to take off and land like a helicopter, but it also has fixed wings so it can fly like an airplane. These qualities, along with the fact that it can fly four times further than the helicopters that it is replacing, give the Osprey appeal as a tactical vehicle for the U.S. military. However, the Osprey is prone to crashing--there have been two Osprey crashes so far this year, in Morocco and Florida.
The deployment of the Osprey to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in the densely populated city of Ginowan on Okinawa, comes with obvious risk to the civilian population.
"We refuse to accept a deployment of Osprey that has already proven so dangerous," said Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima at the September 9 protest, according to the English-language news site Japan Update. "Who is going to take responsibility if they crash onto a populated neighborhood?" In 2004, a U.S. military helicopter did crash into a building at Okinawa International University.
Kazuhisa Kawamura, principal of Ginowan's Futenma No. 2 Elementary School--which is located just 200 yards from the Marine air station--is worried about an accident involving the Osprey. "The aircraft fly right over our school every day," he said in a recent report by National Public Radio (NPR). "It's frightening."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE CURRENT wave of demonstrations is only the latest in a history of Okinawan protest against the U.S. and Japanese governments following the Second World War--and the deployment of the Ospreys is only the latest injustice in a bitter history of crimes against the Okinawan people.
While August 1945 is generally understood in the U.S. to be the end point of the Second World War, the war did not end for Japan until April 1952 when the U.S. occupation formally ended. And when the Treaty of San Francisco re-established Japan as a sovereign country, exception was made for the southern prefecture of Okinawa, which remained formally occupied by the U.S. until 1972.
The deal under which Japan allowed Okinawa to remain under U.S. military rule is considered one of many betrayals in which Okinawa has been sacrificed by the Japanese state for Tokyo's--and now Washington's--strategic aims. Today, Okinawa bears the burden of more than half of the U.S. troop presence of 50,000 soldiers, and three-fourths of Washington's military bases in Japan. The Okinawa prefecture (similar to a state) comprises only 0.6 percent of Japan's total land area--fully 20 percent of the prefecture belongs to Washington's bases.
Okinawa's tropical climate and location have made it ideal for training and stationing of U.S. troops there. U.S. bases in Okinawa were central to the U.S. war in Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s, played a critical role in the 1991 and 2003 invasions of Iraq and the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The Pentagon continues to regard the Okinawa bases as strategically invaluable.
But the cost to the prefecture has been heavy. According to, a website run by a coalition of peace groups called the Network for Okinawa, there were 1,434 incidents and accidents related to training exercises by U.S. forces between the end of the formal occupation and 2008. During the same period, there were 5,584 cases of U.S. military personnel committing crimes against Okinawans.
Sexual crimes, in particular, have been a disturbing and constant feature of the U.S. military presence in Okinawa. In the recent movement against the Osprey's deployment, many commentators referenced the last great wave of Okinawan protests against the U.S. military in 1995, sparked by the rape of an elementary school girl by three U.S. Marines.
This past is impossible to separate from the current protests. In the words of anti-base activist and professor at the University of the Ryukus Kosozu Abe, "Without Okinawa's history, our opposition to the Osprey wouldn't have materialized. This forced deployment is symbolic of what we have experienced in the past."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE OTHER factor that can't be ignored in the deployment of the Ospreys is Washington's new strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Obama administration has coined the term "pivot to Asia" to describe a whole set of steps that the U.S. government is taking to militarize the region in preparation for growing conflicts with China.
This includes deploying a majority of the U.S. Navy's fleet to the Pacific Ocean (it had been previously split evenly between the Atlantic and Pacific); stationing more U.S. troops in the region; increasing the already large U.S. military presence in Hawaii and Guam; greater military cooperation with partner states, including Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia and Japan; and the introduction of more weapons.
The U.S. deployment is designed to help ensure that Washington shapes the economics and politics of Asia for the foreseeable future. In a November 2011 article in Foreign Policy magazine, titled "America's Pacific Century," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote, "From opening new markets for American businesses to curbing nuclear proliferation to keeping the sea lanes free for commerce and navigation, our work [in Asia] holds the key to our prosperity and security at home."
U.S. officials are very explicit about preparing for a military conflict with China in the future. The U.S. is anticipating this confrontation because of China's rise as a world power, but it is also ensuring it by threatening China with its escalation of weapons and forces to the region.
The horrible prospect of a future war with China, however, shouldn't stop us from seeing the violence of Washington's "pivot" as it is unfolding right now. The deployment of Ospreys and the more forceful U.S. presence in Japan have already had negative consequences for ordinary Japanese.
For example, when a U.S. serviceman stationed at the Atsugi Naval Air Facility in Kanagawa Prefecture raped a local Japanese woman in July, police were prevented from arresting him by the Japanese government. According to the magazine Shukan Bunshun, supervisors at the local police station were told: "Because of the problems with deployment of the Ospreys, an incident involving the U.S. military might have repercussions, and is undesirable"--and therefore, they weren't allowed to issue a warrant for the serviceman's arrest.
With this latest chapter of Washington's violent history in Japan unfolding, the outpouring of Okinawan protest is very hopeful.
The movement has been building for some time throughout the prefecture. In the Yanbaru Jungle, home of the largest base in Okinawa--the Pentagon's Jungle Warfare Training Center--residents have sustained a five-year long sit-in to stop the construction of new helipads, which is where the Ospreys would land if they are ever built.
Opposition to the Ospreys is uniting Okinawan society, including peace groups, trade unions and elected officials from across the political spectrum. As Australian Okinawa solidarity scholar and activist Gavin McCormack wrote in a September op-ed in Ryuku Shimpo, "This is no longer an opposition movement, but a prefecture in resistance, saying 'No.' Japanese history has no precedent for this."
Takeshi Onaga, the mayor of Okinawa's capital, Naha and member of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, described the situation this way in the New York Times: "Anger has been building up like hot magma beneath the surface, and the Osprey could be what finally causes an eruption. If they force the Osprey onto us, this could lead to a collapse of the U.S.-Japan alliance."
On October 9, Okinawa's governor Hirokazu Nakaima and Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima met with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to urge the removal of the Ospreys.
As more plans for the Osprey come to light, the demonstrations are spreading. While the U.S. and Japanese governments have kept the routes for the Ospreys' training flights a secret, an Osprey sighting last week revealed that the routes extend over cities in Kochi Prefecture, leading to protests there.
Elsewhere in Asia, Korean peace activists in Gangjeong Village are waging an heroic struggle against the construction of a base on Jeju Island. The base, which South Korea's government insists is for Korean purposes only and won't be used by the U.S. is nevertheless understood by activists as another local aspect of the U.S. plan in the region. But the Korean, Japanese, and U.S. governments are vulnerable to these social movements, which represent an alternative to another century of war in Asia.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

"Overpopulation" is not to blame for the ecological crisis

Overpopulation is a common theme when discussing the ecological crisis. It’s undoubtedly true that since the 1960s an ecological crisis has emerged causing loss of biodiversity, plunging fish stocks, deforestation, and dangerous climate change.. Coincidentally since this time the global population has doubled.  It might seem logical therefore to link the two.

The idea that 'overpopulation' is to blame for present destruction of the natural world is ridiculous when we understand that capitalism destroys the environment, whilst creating poverty and starvation.                                                     

As John Bellamy Foster notes “it is not the areas of the world that have the highest rate of population growth, but the areas of the world which have the highest accumulation of capital, where economic  and ecological waste has become a way of life that constitute the greatest danger''. Consequently, the richest 7% of the world’s population are responsible for 50% of global carbon emissions, whilst the poorest 50% are responsible for 7%.

The rate of global population growth peaked in the 1960s and has declined ever since. Population levels, rather than permanently growing, will rise slowly during this century, peaking at 9 billion by 2050. Declining fertility rates could mean that populations could level off as low as 7.5 billion by 2040.

Enough food is produced currently to meet the needs of everyone on the planet. In 2008 when the global food crisis once again raised fears of too few resources to too many people, enough food was produced to feed every human with 2,800 calories per day.  By 2030 the estimated population will be 8.3 billion and enough food will be produced to feed everyone with 3050 calories per day according to the UN.

The origins of the overpopulation argument lie with that of 18th century thinker Thomas Malthus. Malthus's argument was that food production would grow arithmetically at a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. rate, whist population would expand geometrically at a 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 rate. Malthus came to his conclusions with very little in the way of scientific data and present food production has outgrown population size. Worse still, Malthus's argued to cut all social services to the poor for fear that they would encourage them to breed faster. Checks to population such as starvation, disease, low wages and the tightening of England's poor laws were recommended to ensure a 'stable' working population!
Unsurprisingly Marx criticized Malthus in Grundrisse. To quote Marx, Malthus picked the idea that the earth can support a set number of humans ''out of thin air'' whilst arguing that overpopulation ''is likewise a historically determined relation, in no way determined by abstract numbers or by the absolute limit of productivity of the necessaries of life, but the rather specific conditions of small did the numbers which meant overpopulation for the Athenian's appear to us”.

We must reject the argument that environmental destruction can be blamed on ordinary people. Instead the blame must be placed on a system where enough food is produced to feed all, and yet a billion starve and a billion more survive on less than $2 a day.

Even within an ecologically sustainable system of organic agriculture more than enough food could be produced to meet human need.  It’s clear that if we ended the system based of profit, the environmental footprint on a planet with 9 billion could be far less than one with 7 billion.   

Being a Marxist means fighting alongside millions of workers around the world against a system responsible for the destruction of nature and the condemnation of millions to starvation. This means fighting for a fair and equal distribution of nature’s bounty to all regardless of population limits!

Johnny Fersterer-Gawith

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Rena Disaster: One Year On

Friday the 5th of October marked one year since the container ship MV Rena struck an artificial reef off the coast of Tauranga as it headed into port, triggering New Zealand’s worst ever environmental disaster. The clean-up that followed took months, and is still not complete: the Rena remains grounded on the Astrolabe Reef and oil from the ship still occasionally washes up on Bay of Plenty beaches.  Media attention for much of the past year has vilified the ship's captains and whipped up racism aimed at the Filipino crew.  

Such scapegoating only serves to obscure the real causes of the disastrous "accident".  

A combination of lax environmental, labour and maritime regulation combined to produce the perfect conditions for the grounding.  In accordance with New Zealand maritime law, the crew of the Libyan flagged Rena were not allocated the same rights as other workers in Aotearoa.  They worked long periods at sea for little pay.  In court, the Rena's captain was described as being "obsessed with reaching port by 3 am", leading him to take unnecessary risk. But that's little wonder he was due for a period of shore leave and hadn't been home to see his family in one and a half years. Meanwhile, the company responsible for the Rena is under no obligation to pay for the clean-up.  Under New Zealand's flagship environmental law the Resource Management Act, liability is limited to only $600,000. Maritime laws also put limits on the ship owners' liability. Meanwhile the estimated cost of the disaster is as much as $47 million.  Without adequate regulation and penalties that amount to a mere slap on the wrist, an environment was created where corporations run rampant with little regard for the consequences of their actions.

In spite of having to foot for as much as a $20 million shortfall in funds for the clean-up, the National government has no plans to do anything about the situation.  For National, the interests of business trump the interests of the environment.  "As a country that significantly requires shipping into our ports, for our economy to survive, we just have to wear this one" Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee told the media on Tuesday the 2nd of October. In other words, penalties that could hit importers in the pocket are out of the question. Furthermore, even the limited provisions of the RMA are under attack as the government seeks exemptions for industrial projects of "local significance" in addition to the many exemptions already in place. 

But they haven't got everything their own way. The tactics of protest and direct action that made New Zealand nuclear free in the 1980s are being resurrected. Protests by Te-Whanau-a-Apanui in the Rakamura Basin succeeded in forcing out oil prospectors. They've shown what can be achieved.  We must organise to defend the environment.

Cory Anderson

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Review: The Significance of the 1912 Waihi Strike

Review: The Significance of the 1912 Waihi Strike
Martin Gregory
International Socialist Organisation, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-473-22214-7

Reviewed by Andrew Cooper

On Monday a force of thugs and scabs attacked the union hall under the gaze of the police with a hail of missiles. A plug of gelignite was thrown, exploding just outside the hall entrance. The windows were smashed. The attackers broke in to besiege a group of unionists in the committee room. After a while the police called the violence off and the unionists made their escape, only one being caught and beaten up. On Black Tuesday… the police and scabs attacked. The unionists were not able to bolt the door in time. There were gun shots as thugs and police broke in and the unionists fled through the back way. The scabs and a notorious thug fell upon the stricken union man (pp. 33-4).

These events didn’t happen in some far-off country but in the small town of Waihi one hundred years ago. The victim was Frederick Evans. His death was the first of a New Zealand worker on the picket line (and the only one until Christine Clarke was killed in 1999).

In this lively pamphlet, Martin Gregory provides not only a fascinating description of this pivotal event in NZ radical history, but crucially draws out its key political lesson:

The defeat of the goldfield strike initiated a turning point of such immense political significance that its effects echoed for decades after. The lessons to be drawn from the strike are profound and are still vitally relevant to the working class movement today… Setbacks are an unavoidable part of the working class’s experience, and there is no escaping the fact that Waihi was a crushing defeat. The significance of the Waihi Strike lies in the conclusions that were drawn from the intervention of the state. They were to greatly affect the future course of working class organisation and the history of New Zealand. The strike marks a real turning point (pp. 4, 35).

In 1894 the Liberal Party Government had passed the Arbitration Act, giving registered unions official recognition but also binding them to the Arbitration Court’s decisions as well as forcing workers to fight employers in the courts where the employers and state were at their strongest. Strikes were outlawed.

Arbitration was initially popular with workers as it led to improvements in pay and conditions, but inevitably over the long term it favoured employers. The first serious challenge to Arbitration came with the successful Blackball minersstrike in 1908, leading to the formation of the Federation of Mineworkers, the forerunner of the “Red” Federation of Labour or FOL.

The Waihi miners worked under a competitive contract system that set miner against fellow miner. It was said that a miner had a useful working life of about fifteen years - but it was a hugely profitable life for the mine owners.

In early 1911, the powerful Waihi Workers’ Union (WWU) achieved the absolute majority it needed to escape Compulsory Arbitration by cancelling its registration under the system. As a direct result the miners’ working conditions greatly improved - but these gains could all be lost if a rival union was registered under the Arbitration system: If just fifteen members could be found it would become the officially recognised union - and the Arbitration Court’s decisions would be binding on all 1,200 Waihi miners. On May 11, 1912, the mining companies succeeded in doing just that. The following day the WWU executive made the momentous decision to send an ultimatum to the mining companies demanding that they disband the new union.

Many of the miners’ leaders were influenced by “syndicalist“ ideas, particularly those of the American Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW or “Wobblies”). Syndicalism emphasised the key role of the strike and a “whole class” outlook as opposed to that of the narrower craft unions.

The FOL was closely linked to the supposedly revolutionary NZ Socialist Party. As Martin correctly points out in his pamphlet, understanding the politics of this organisation is key to understanding the politics and tactics of the strike itself - and its outcome.

The party was split into several political currents, expressing a range of both revolutionary and reformist positions - though in practice it was the parliamentary arena to which the Socialist Party’s leaders devoted most attention. This factionalism led to increasing dissatisfaction within the party, with some leaving to join the Wobblies. Although the Socialist Party’s leaders espoused revolutionary socialist positions, in practice they avoided strikes where possible, seeing them as a threat to the party’s growth. During 1912 the party was unable to offer revolutionary leadership and its members would instead look to the IWW for leadership and ideas.

Along with the NZ Socialist Party there was also the United Labour Party, constituting the formally more moderate wing of the labour movement at the time.

Meanwhile the Federation of Labour leadership equivocated in its support for the Waihi miners. After they failed in negotiations with the mining companies, pressure from members led to a new constitution modelled on the IWW’s being adopted: “including the rhetorical gesture that was the splendid revolutionary syndicalist IWW preamble“ (p. 23).

With the militants’ call for a general strike defeated and the leadership majority’s position essentially one of inaction, the Federation merely agreed to a 10% weekly levy on members’ wages to support the strikers:

Both the majority position of inaction and the IWW fetishist demand for an immediate general strike were faulty. The working class is not a stage army. A general strike cannot be conjured up without a broad-based head of steam for action. The call for an immediate general strike from the Federation conference was unrealistic even for Federation unions, let alone the unaffiliated (p. 24).

The Federation had missed an opportunity to broaden the strike beginning with other mine workers, and while the mining companies had no intention of letting legal niceties get in the way of defeating the miners, there was uneven support for the mine workers, with the “moderate” ULP actively opposing the strike and even helping to organise scab labour. As Socialist Party member and future Labour leader Harry Holland put it: “Thus the Federation of Labour was fighting directly the Gold-mine Owners’ Association and the Employers’ Federation, and secondly the scabs, the press, ruling class law and its Massey Government, and the United Labour Party” (p. 27).

Between the strike’s beginning in May 1912 and August that year, attempts to alternately starve then divide the workers had failed. In August the companies began recruiting strikebreakers and the following month police stepped up confrontation with the miners. Strikers were jailed, gaining more widespread working class support. A scab union was formed with the intention of forcibly reopening the mine. The editor of the United Labour Party’s newspaper went to Waihi to help organise the scab union.

On the back foot, the Federation of Labour called a general strike in October. It failed to win support beyond the miners due to the FOL’s inept handling of earlier disputes. By early November there were over a hundred strikebreakers working the Waihi mines, and police violence against the strikers increased. The author gives a vivid account of the events of Black Tuesday and their aftermath. Nine thousand would attend Evans’ funeral in Auckland.

Strike leaders were run out of town. The strike was now effectively over, though not officially called off until the end of November. By the end of the year the competitive contract system was reinstated.

Violence against the strikers and the government’s failure to hold an official inquiry caused outrage amongst the working class. Much of the ULP membership shifted to the left, repudiating strikebreaking. However the main lesson drawn by the Federation of Labour’s executive was that the government had to be fought politically (i.e. through elections) rather than by direct action.

The events of 1912 and the following year’s Great Strike would ruthlessly expose the IWW’s weaknesses too. Its “fetishisation” of the general strike ignored the role of the capitalist state: the idea that industrial action alone could force parliament to enact reforms ignored the fact that the ruling class could also use force in the form of its army and police forces:

The real tragedy of the Waihi Strike is that a generation of revolutionary socialists rebounded from the industrial defeat to retreat into reformism. The significance of the eclipse of the Socialist Party is incalculable for what might have been. What is certain is that reformist politics was strengthened immensely by the liquidation of its revolutionary rival. Reformism gained a cohort of activists with enormous authority within the working class and the standing of the leftist leaders would grow. These and other former revolutionaries became leaders of the Labour Party. Compared to today’s Labour careerists they were giants, but they became shadows of their former revolutionary selves, Red Feds, once feared by the capitalist class (pp. 43-4).

The reformists’ fear of “scaring off” supporters by being “too militant”, and their focus on parliamentary elections rather than direct struggle will no doubt sound familiar to any activist today. The negative lessons drawn by reformist union and political leaders - that workers couldn’t win against the superior repressive powers of the state and its police force, that militancy would scare away most workers and supporters, and most of all that elections and parliament are the most effective arenas to bring about change - had a disastrous impact on the subsequent development of NZ radical politics.

What might have been had subsequent struggles been led by a workers’ organisation with clear revolutionary politics? What if the Stalinist leadership of the CTU (who gave up the struggle against the Employment Contracts Act before it had begun) had been seriously challenged from below in 1991?

Or if the struggles around university fees and the loans scheme during the 1990s had been led by activists with revolutionary politics rather than career-minded reformist student officials (who for most of that decade told us to put our faith in university management and vote for an “education-friendly” government).

Much the same criticism could be made about reformist leadership in dozens of other struggles over the last century.

This pamphlet is precisely what we need: more in-depth analyses of our hidden radical history, more writing on current politics from the International Socialist perspective. As well as producing work like this, we should be encouraging student members and supporters to think about writing their theses on similar topics.

On the centenary of the Waihi strike, this pamphlet ensures that our working class history is a little less “hidden from history”. But unfortunately as so much of NZ’s radical past is hidden from history, readers lacking a detailed knowledge of this period are likely to struggle a little with the plethora of acronyms: IWW, NZSP, FOL, ULP, WWU, SDP, UFL, etc. A helpful addition to this pamphlet might have been a glossary of these acronyms along with a brief description of their respective organisations.

Martin provides a useful list of further reading at the end of the pamphlet, and rightly singles out Harry Holland’s The Tragic Story of the Waihi Strike as the key early resource. First published in 1913, it is now in the public domain and is available in several free electronic versions, including PDF, epub and Kindle (here and here) along with at least two new print editions.

How to purchase

If you’d like to order this pamphlet send a cheque for $5 per copy made out to “ISO Wellington” to:
PO Box 6157
Dunedin North
Dunedin 9059

Please make sure you include your address.

Alternatively you can make a direct credit payment to our BNZ bank account: 02-0536-0456903-00, then email us: internationalsocialistsnz [at] -  to confirm payment and your address details.

Image Credits

Rogers, R fl 1912. Miners outside their union hall, during the Waihi strike. Nash, Walter :Postcards associated with Walter Nash. Ref: PAColl-5792-05. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Waihi Arts Centre and Museum. Striking Waihi miners leaving the union hall after a mass meeting. Waihi Arts Centre : Photographs and lantern slides of Waihi. Ref: 1/2-116691-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.