Review: 'Remains to be Seen: Tracing Joe Hills Ashes in New Zealand' Jared Davidson, Rebel Press

When Swedish born union organiser and radical song writer Joe Hill was executed in the United States in 1916, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) sent packets of his ashes all over the world- to every state in the US (except Utah where he died), Asia, Europe, every country in South America, Australia and supposedly, New Zealand. But were his ashes actually sent here? And if they were, what happened to them? Why is there so little historical record of their fate?
These are the questions that Jared Davidson sets out to answer in Remains to be Seen. After extensive research drawing on archival material, much of it previously unpublished, he concluded that while there is no “concrete evidence” of Joe Hill’s ashes arriving in New Zealand – or even being sent here in the first place – it is highly likely they were. While the IWW in New Zealand was on the decline in the later half on the 1910s (a result of state repression) there were many members who were still agitating and maintaining contact with the US IWW.
Ashes did arrive in Australia (though they were destroyed by police soon afterward in a raid on the Sydney IWW offices). At the time Australia and New Zealand shared the same postal shipping route which went to Sydney via Auckland so if the ashes were indeed sent here, chances are they arrived. The mostly likely scenario is that they were intercepted and destroyed by state censors.
Continue reading “Review: 'Remains to be Seen: Tracing Joe Hills Ashes in New Zealand' Jared Davidson, Rebel Press”

Review – No ordinary deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement

No Ordinary Deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement
Jane Kelsey (ed.)
Bridget Williams Books, 2010
Reviewed by Mike Kay, Auckland member of Workers Party and member of The Spark editorial board
This collection of essays brings together a number of different perspectives on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently being negotiated behind closed doors between Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and the United States. The policy framework is still largely neo-liberal, despite that economic model’s credibility taking a knock since the Global Financial Crisis.
Recent US-brokered trade deals, such as its December 2005 agreement with Peru, contain clauses to prohibit “expropriation and measures ‘tantamount to expropriation’, with the exception of a ‘public purpose’ (which carries a right to full compensation), and provides investors with due process protection and the right to receive a fair market value for property in the event of expropriation.” (p.74) This could have far-reaching consequences for any future socialist or progressive government.
But will the TPPA lead to a more liberal immigration policy with respect to the US’s TPP partners?  Lori Wallach and Todd Tucker comment: “on a bipartisan basis, leaders of the congressional committee that sets immigration policy… have repeatedly insisted that no future trade pacts provisions may contain visa or other immigration policies. A TPPA with immigration provision would be dead on arrival in Congress.” (p.67) Continue reading “Review – No ordinary deal: Unmasking the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement”

Book review: Privatising Parts

Privatising parts
Richard Meros
Lawrence and Gibson 2011
Reviewed by Joel Cosgrove, Workers Party Wellington Branch
“Who better than students to teach teachers what students ought to be taught?”, so asks Richard Meros in his new fiction Privatising Parts. Quite simply this is a beautifully crafted piece of satire. On the surface this is a stinging critique of the far-right dwellers floating far out in the political stratosphere, think Muriel Newman, Roger Kerr etc. But this is not just a lampooning of the free-market logic taken to its extreme, it’s a satire of the underlying free-market logic itself.
For those unfamiliar with the work of Meros, he is the author of a number of independently produced books (so independent, that he takes part in the printing and binding himself). On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover, and Beggars and Choosers: The Complete Written Correspondence between Creative New Zealand and Richard Meros volume one are amongst a slew of self-published titles. Continue reading “Book review: Privatising Parts”

Book Review: For the Win

Cory Doctorow, Tor and, 2010
The Spark December 2010 – January 2011
Byron Clark
‘For The Win’ is possibly one of 2010’s best works of fiction, at least for those readers who enjoy books that deal with big issues. Paraphrasing other writers in the genre, author Cory Doctorow has said that “good science fiction predicts the present” and part of what makes the novel so enjoyable is that this story could be taking place next year. While his last novel, Little Brother, explored issues around civil liberties and state power in the post-9/11 USA, For The Win shows that Doctorow’s unashamedly left-wing worldview extends to many other issues; globalisation, inequality, labour rights and the farcical nature of finance capitalism are all explored in the space of 375 pages.
The story revolves around “gold farming” the practice of amassing virtual wealth in an online multi-player video game, and then selling it for real-world currency. Typically, that virtual wealth is collected by people in the developing world, and sold to players in the developed world who want to avoid the work required to advance in the game. For the gold farmers, the income is comparable to what they could earn working in other available jobs. Of course, most of these gold farmers don’t own the computers and internet connections required to be a gold farmer (the means of production-albeit production of virtual commodities) and work for bosses who expropriate most of the wealth they create. Looking to remedy this situation is Big Sister Nor, a former garment factory worker in Malaysia who became a gold farmer after a strike caused the owners to move the factory to Indonesia. Nor has founded the “Industrial Workers of the World Wide Web” or “Webblies” (a homage to the Industrial Workers of the World (also known as Wobblies), the syndicalist union that had its heyday a century ago) and is organising gold farmers across borders in the virtual worlds they work in. Continue reading “Book Review: For the Win”

Book review "The Laughing Policeman – my brilliant career in the New Zealand Police"

by Glenn Wood ( Shoal Bay Press)
reviewed by Don Franks
I noticed this book in an op shop. Its back cover blurbed: ” the hilarious account of Glenn’s adventures as a police cadet…a warm and funny book that will appeal to all New Zealanders”.
Harrumph I thought, but  the first sentence – “I always wanted to be a marine biologist” – hooked me in, and the price was just a dollar. Any cop literature has got to be a risk, this time I  got my dollar’s worth. Continue reading “Book review "The Laughing Policeman – my brilliant career in the New Zealand Police"”

DVD Review: Looking For Eric (Dir: Ken Loach, 2009)

Mike Kay

“It all began with a beautiful pass from Eric Cantona.” So begins the latest film from socialist film maker Ken Loach.

From the movie’s outset, it is clear that Eric the postie is languishing in life’s relegation zone: estranged from his wife, unable to handle his teenage tearaway stepsons and contemplating suicide. In desperation, he raids his stepson’s marijuana stash, and after a couple of crafty tokes, he is astonished to discover that footballing legend Eric Cantona has appeared in his Manchester United-adorned bedroom. Cantona then proceeds to dispense considerate advice along with soupçons of his Gallic philosophy. Continue reading “DVD Review: Looking For Eric (Dir: Ken Loach, 2009)”

Safer Communities Together’ Blues (2009) Don Franks

Reviewed by Marika Pratley   The Spark Dec 2009/ Jan 2010
In the album ‘Safer Communities Together’ Blues Don Franks has successfully interwoven politically revolutionary words with his compositional abilities. Recorded in a student flat in Aro Valley, Wellington, ‘Safer Communities’ is comprised – musically – of a wide range of instruments which Don plays, including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, and blues harp. There are also contributions by many other Wellington artists (bass, backing vocals, lead guitar, drums).

Don picks up from the tradition of political folk, but his work is distinctive because it discusses contemporary issues directly relevant to people in New Zealand today. It is an important historical catalogue of not only the recent Labour government, but the transition into the new National government which took over in 2008, and the various struggles that activists, workers, and unions have had to fight in that time period. Some songs are written for specific pickets or issues (such as One more Thursday in Black) whereas some are more general in their detest of both Labour and National (I hate the Labour Government, and Fuck John Key). Many of his songs have hints of tongue-and-cheek humour, such as the wedding march riff at the beginning of Talking Civil Union, making it a very entertaining album to listen to. Continue reading “Safer Communities Together’ Blues (2009) Don Franks”

The Ballad of Bantam Billy

The Ballad of Bantam Billy: The political life and times of Bill Perkins Jack Perkins

Review by Don Franks The Spark Dec 2009  – Jan 2010

My most entertaining and memorable read this year has been a self published family account titled “The Ballad of Bantam Billy”. The author is Jack Perkins, Bill Perkins’ son. “Bantam Billy” was the nickname Lancashire coal miners gave to a short statured young workmate who became – and remained for life- an uncompromising fighter for socialism. “ If dad sensed any challenge or disrespect for his beliefs he was instantly and fearlessly outspoken. There were never any beg-your-pardons in his outbursts. I remember a bus trip when some unsuspecting passenger slighted the Soviet Union. Dad’s volcanic response turned heads, including the driver’s who brought the crowded vehicle to a temporary halt while things calmed down.” Continue reading “The Ballad of Bantam Billy”

Film Review: Watchmen

2009, Directed by Zack Snyder

Based on the highly acclaimed graphic novel by Alan Moore, Watchmen is a story made to show superheroes be in the real world. Superheroes have been a constant target of Moore’s satire and venom. Influenced by Anarchism, Moore sees the superheroes as combinations of lonely, pathetic, psychotic, paternalistic, self-indulgent and fascist. These consistently brilliant comic’s are not just an attack on a pernicious form of culture, but an insightful metaphor about those that would claim to lead us within the current capitalist system. Politicians, generals, priests, media moguls and union bureaucrats can all be read into the cast of powerful characters that Moore has created over the years. The Watchmen graphic novel stands at the apex of this important body of work.

Continue reading “Film Review: Watchmen”