All is not gold that glitters… New Zealand unions rebel over Hobbit film

It may sound like light-hearted news from the ‘human interest’ section of the newspapers, but for the unions and film industry in New Zealand it is a serious affair: the struggle over the unionization and contractual terms of the workers who are to work on the new Hobbit movies for fabled ‘Kiwi’ filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson. For a long time the movie plans were dormant due to the bankruptcy of would-be producer Metro Goldwyn Mayer, leading among other things to the prospective film director Guillermo Del Toro giving up on it, but Jackson himself has taken on the film production project and the whole thing seems to have been given the green light. Now, however, a full-blown industrial and legislative dispute has arisen over the plans by Sir Peter Jackson to employ most of the technical workers as well as minor actors as freelance contractors rather than full employees, meaning they would not be entitled to sick leave and similar workers’ rights. Due to the nature of film production, with cycles of little activity followed by period of intense and long work days to get shooting, prop and technical work done on time, the common ‘worker bees’ in the film industry are already subject to relatively harsh conditions compared to most skilled labor in Western countries. Continue reading “All is not gold that glitters… New Zealand unions rebel over Hobbit film”

Israel’s fascist turn speeds up

Although by this point it is difficult to believe such a thing is possible, recent months have seen a further worsening of Israeli politics and policies both within the country and vis-á-vis the Arab population. A proposal by the fascistoid Yisrael Beitenu to implement a ‘loyalty oath’ for Israel citizens was rejected by the Netanyahu cabinet as recently as May last year(1), but now has actually been approved as a new law for those seeking to be naturalized to Israeli citizenship. Although this affects only a small number of people each year, it shows how slowly, step by step, Israel further and further moves the Overton window of political possibility towards an outright warlike fascism.(2) Prime Minister Netanyahu himself explicitly supported the proposal, adding:

As the cabinet began its deliberations Sunday, Netanyahu reiterated his support for the amendment. “The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish people and it is a democratic state for all its citizenship,” he said. “Jews and non-Jews enjoy equality and full rights.”

“Unfortunately, there are many today who tried to blur not only the unique connection of the Jewish people to its homeland, but also the connection of the Jewish people to its state,” Netanyahu added.


This indeed is the clue: the connection of the Jewish people to ‘its state’ and ‘its homeland’. As we have described before, it is in the nature of settler states, set up against the will of a hostile local population, to rally around ethnic-racial standards and to pursue a policy of aggression and ultimately so-called ‘ethnic cleansing’ against that original population, since these methods are the only ones which can ensure that the settler state can exist qua settler state. Israel calls itself the “only democracy in the Middle East”, a refrain endlessly repeated ad lib. by its politicians of the ‘left’ and right – but it is a democracy that refuses to extend its citizenship to the hundreds of thousands it has driven out out of their land since its creation and their descendants, none of whom are even allowed anywhere near its hallowed lands. The falsehood of the idea of a ‘Jewish connection to the land’ is revealed when Israeli law allows any Jew according to its regulations to settle freely anywhere within Israel and obtain its citizenship, regardless of whether they and their ancestors have lived in Australia or Germany or Canada for generations on end, yet the Palestinians who still have the keys to the houses they were driven out of are not allowed to approach the border. Continue reading “Israel’s fascist turn speeds up”

Rebellion mounts against ‘democratic’ India

Despite all the violent efforts of the Indian armies and the government death squads known as the ‘Salwa Judum’, the Naxalite rebellion in India is far from suppressed. The Indian government recently claimed victory in forcing the Naxalites out of the poor state Andhra Pradesh, but current reports on the ground contradict the idea that the Naxal militias have actually been driven off. What’s more, the Indian state has hardly gained the propaganda war in the state either: a recent poll in the ‘Naxal-affected areas’ of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra indicated that among the group aged 25-50 (basically the young and middle aged workers, the basic constituent group for either side in terms of support) in the lower income categories B and C on the socio-economic scale indicated that 58% felt the Maoist movement had actually done the area good. Another one-third said the movement had the right intentions but used the wrong means to go about it, with just 15% being willing to describe them as bandits (‘goondas’).(1) For a movement repeatedly described by government and major media in India alike as “India’s biggest security threat”, this is a revealing figure. Continue reading “Rebellion mounts against ‘democratic’ India”

A New Winter of Discontent?

It seems there will still be no end to the resistance movements against the depredations of capital that have sprung up in the wake of the economic crisis. Things are coming to a head in France, where hundreds of thousands have gone on strikes and demonstrations against the attempts of the Sarkozy government to raise the pension age across the board. In a brilliant move reminiscent of the powerful miners’ strikes in Britain in the 1970s, the majority of which were won by the unions, the demonstrators are now blockading petrol depots and stations in addition to gathering for protests. The French government has already been forced to admit that it only has a couple days’ worth of stockpiles to supply Charles de Gaulle airport and other major transport hubs with petrol, and it is seeking to prevent panic buying which would further diminish the flow of this lifeblood for industrialized economies.(1) If the protests do succeed at blockading the government’s access to the coal equivalent of the contemporary world, prospects of victory look good: repeated conflicts with the miners in Britain forced governments of both the Conservatives (Heath and Thatcher in ’82) and Labour (Wilson and Callaghan) to cede to the workers’ demands. Continue reading “A New Winter of Discontent?”

A Critique of ‘Human Capital’ theory

One of the staples of contemporary neoclassical theory is the use of the concept of ‘human capital’, by which it broadly means all investment into skills and education as applied to individuals or an entire population. In particular in popular neoclassical growth theories, such as those developed by Robert Solow and refined by the likes of Elhanan Helpman, human capital plays a key role. It often appears as an essential component in those theories because they tend to see growth as reliant primarily on increases in productivity, which in turn are based on the interaction between the quantities of the ‘factors of production’ (capital, land and labor, though usually just capital and labor) and the state of technology. The virtue of human capital as a concept within these theories is that they allow the technological level to be determined endogenously to a greater or lesser degree, that is, that they enable the theory to take non-given and non-constant levels of technological increase into account, and model variations in technological improvement between countries. Continue reading “A Critique of ‘Human Capital’ theory”