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Robson-on-Politics - 17 June 2008

Robson-on-Politics - 17 June 2008

Don't Talk About the (Class) War

I have decided in this issue of ROPS to discuss the issue of class and private ownership of resources. This is the factor that is ignored by political parties and commentators with the wailing and gnashing of teeth that is going on with the deepening economic crisis, the escalating cost of living and the shocking crimes that are being committed almost daily. I wish to bring into this discussion the American presidential race and the refusal to talk about class in those campaigns.

The Economic Crisis

The collapse of banks in Europe and the United States, of financial institutions elsewhere and in New Zealand, the steep decline in the housing markets and the equally steep rise in mortgage sales point to a crisis that emanates from what London School of Economics professor Robert Wade calls a financial crisis that has its origins deep in the architecture of the global financial system. Economist Brian Easton has pointed to Wade's views to show the seriousness of the present crisis in the world-wide capitalist system and also a gloomy statement from the Bank of International Settlements that years of loose monetary policy have fuelled a global credit bubble, leaving us vulnerable to another 1930's slump.

Where does class come into the global credit crisis, Barack Obama et al and the Manurewa shooting?

It is time to start discussing the fact that the goods and services of the world are produced socially, that is by all of us together, and yet the gains are appropriated privately. A commodity like oil is produced by a world wide effort and is necessary for the survival of the human race. But it is owned and controlled by powerful oil conglomerates and by corrupt and reactionary regimes such as the Saudis and the world is held to ransom by these interests and the speculators who sit like vultures waiting for the prices to soar.

The vision of the early socialist pioneers that producers the world over needed to cooperate to use the resources of the world for the benefit of all and not allow ourselves to be divided by race, religion or nationality is worth discussing on an urgent basis and to start organising for. This used to be a prime issue for the union movement in New Zealand and internationally. It has slipped off the agenda as union officials concern themselves with their airpoint miles, selection as MPs or appointments to government bodies.

It is time that unions took up the issues of bringing a rational and social approach to control of the world's resources and production and to rebuilding an international force that will operate internationally to promote policies of trade, investment and publicly owned bodies for the benefit of the producers.

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain

It will be a big step forward in terms of overcoming the history of subordination of African Americans if Barack Obama is elected as the first black president of the United States. However, in an interesting article in Le Monde Diplomatique (June 2008) it has been pointed out that the Democratic and Republican candidates deliberately ignore the issue of class. And yet years of implementing policies to end racism and sexism, progressive causes, have not dented the basic economic inequality and the misery that rises from that:

In 1947, the top 20% of the US population made 43% of all the money the nation earned. In 2006 after years of struggle against racism, sexism and heterosexism, the top 20% make 50.5%. The rich are richer. If what you want is a more diverse elite, electing a black president is about as good as it gets. Electing a woman president would be a close second. But if you want to address the inequalities we have, instead of the inequalities we like to think we have (inequalities produced by inherited wealth and poverty); if you want a political programme designed to address the inequalities, produced not by racism and sexism, which are only sorting devices but by neoliberalism, which is doing the sorting, neither the black man nor the white woman have much to offer.

And Now to Manurewa and class in New Zealand

It is good that Helen Clark has recognised the link between the promotion of alcohol and crime. She wants to revisit the 1989 Sale of Liquor Act (and its amendments) which allowed for the alcohol industry to push its product virtually without limitation 24/7 in ever community and particularly with the young. Her advice from the police is that violent crime, including the brutal murder of Mr. Singh, is related to the prevalence of liquor outlets.

Taking serious steps to end the free market approach to the sale of alcohol will be a progressive (pun intended) step supported by the Progressive Party.

But what is needed is a serious programmatic assault on the causes of crime which means an assault on the inequality that is embedded, just as in the United States and world-wide, in systems of deep structural inequality which stem from the class society that we live in. This means implementing policies that will make the richest and most privileged of New Zealanders uncomfortable.

What should that Programme Be?

More next week

Invitation to July 5 Evening

Join Jim Anderton and Matt Robson at the Chaska Restaurant 380 Manukau Road Epsom at 7.00p.m on Saturday July 5 to launch the Progressive Campaign in Auckland.


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