New Zealand

The dramatic events that have been witnessed on the world stage; whether it be the marvellous beginnings of the Arab revolution, the upswing in the class struggle in Europe due to the euro crisis or the re-awakening of the class struggle in the United States have been seen by most New Zealanders, until recently, as being very distant affairs.

In a major victory for the Maritime Union of New Zealand, the Employment Court ruled on March 21st, 2012, that Port of Auckland were no longer permitted to continue with redundancy proceedings against union workers and they were no longer permitted to advertise for contract workers or hire contract workers from Drake Personnel Limited or Allied Workforce Limited. The Employment Court ruled that the workers who lost their jobs had to be reinstated and their wages backdated to the time strike action began.

The Port of Auckland announced on March 7th, 2012, that it was making the 300 striking workers at the Port of Auckland redundant and contracting out their jobs to scabs (contract workers).

The Maritime Union Of New Zealand  (MUNZ) is involved in a bitter dispute with Ports of Auckland (POAL) management. At the centre of the dispute is an attempt by the POAL management to bust the union and casualise the workforce, as part of a drive towards privatisation. If the POAL management succeed in busting the union it will have serious implications for all workers in New Zealand. 

For the Labour Party the 2011 general election defeat was the worst since 1928. The main factor for this was the historic low turnout as many workers stayed at home and were not enthused enough by the right-wing leadership of the Labour Party to go out and vote. The turn out was down from (what was considered then a low turnout) 79.46% at the 2008 general election to 73.83%. This was the lowest turnout since 1878!

General Elections can be an indicator of many things within a country. As Marxists, it is necessary to view the result of any election within the overall balance of forces between the classes. So after the tremendous defeat of the Labour Party and victory of the conservative National Party in New Zealand, what is the situation of the working classes there and where does the Labour Party go from here?

The grounding of the 236m MV Rena on the Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty exposes the lack of maritime regulation and unpreparedness of the government to respond to such a disaster.  This is New Zealand's worst environmental disaster with oil washing up on once pristine beaches destroying both wildlife  and important ecosystems. 

As the 2011 Rugby World Cup opens up in New Zealand we publish an interesting comment by Miles Lacey on the sharp class divide that was revealed during the 1981 (South African) Springbok Tour of the country. This was at a time when the Apartheid regime was still in power in South Africa. Wherever the – all white – South African team went it faced protests by angry workers and youth, and also the full force of the New Zealand police.

This year’s New Zealand perspectives document has just been produced, which should be read in conjunction with previous perspective documents as they are a continuation from them. In addition they should be read together with the latest World Perspective analysis and associated material from the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) and Socialist Appeal NZ.

Sixty years ago, on 14th February 1951, the New Zealand Waterside Workers Union implemented an overtime ban in support of their wage claim against the cartel of British shipping companies who controlled the most of New Zealand's wharves.

Socialist Appeal sends its deepest sympathies and stands in solidarity with the families of the 29 miners who died in the recent Pike River disaster, and the West Coast communities .

The recent earthquake that hit Christchurch in New Zealand, reveals on the one hand how a quake of the same strength as that that hit Haiti can have very different effects, depending on the level of economic development and the local infrastructure. No one was killed in New Zealand! In spite of this, problems remain, and as always it is the workers who are on the bottom rung of the ladder.

A taste of what may come in other countries is being provided by the conservative National Party government of New Zealand. It includes “fire at will” legislation and stringent tax increases. Workers have been protesting, but the unions must use all their muscle and prepare for a general strike, if they seriously want to stop these attacks.

New Zealand is affected by the same crisis that we see in other parts of the world, with sluggish growth, growing unemployment and austerity measures being introduced. This document looks at the particular crisis of New Zealand capitalism and underlines the tasks of the Marxists.

The recent national conference of the New Zealand Labour Party – held after their recent defeat in the elections – produced some interesting controversy around the question of what Labour should do if it gets back into office. The ideas of Marxism were present in the debate.