GPJA Special September Forum: 7pm, Friday 2nd September, Unite Office, 6A Western Springs Road, Kingsland
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
GPJA Special September Forum: 7pm, Friday 2nd September, Unite Office, 6A Western Springs Road, Kingsland
Many companies offer services such as free internet for customers, this new law will threaten these free services as the companies are held responsible. This law will not hold the downloader as the crim but the person who provides the internet to them. This will mean many of these companies such as cafes, schools, hotels may need to shut down these free services. Unitech have been quoted that they may be forced to pull all internet access from their campus if they are held responsible for other uses actions. This was highlighted by Gareth Hughes on the 11th of August when he question the speaker and Minister of Commerce about what would happen if Parliament were accused of file sharing. No answer was given. I feel that this is a tell tale sign of parliament not understanding the underling workings of the internet, and being ignorant of the implications.
I feel that this is because the law was foreced through parliament, in a time when the people’s eyes were averted to national and international disasters. I think we all feel that this was the wrong time to do such a thing and was ill-conceived and ill thought out decision. During the horrific chch earthquakes parliament decided to push though this law, in order to get to the Canterbury earthquake legislation. The passing of the law was under pressure from America Government as they had been lobbied by copyright holders such as The International Registry of Artists and Artwork, and Motion Picture Association of America. As these will be the main two companies that will benefit from this law passing, with a perceived increase of sales revenue and enforcing their image of the good guys. Our government did not understand the far reaching ramifications many of which are still to surface. This can be seen in the poor legislation.
A law very similar to this law was passed in France in 2009, where accused are guilty until proven innocent, this law was also dubbed HADOPI, its a French acronym. 2 warnings and a fine, internet suspension will follow. Most of these points I have brought up have also been the main down fall for the French law. The funny thing is that the first person that was prosecuted under this law was found not guilty after an appeal. This highlights the inaccuracies and inconsistencies and undemocratic nature of these laws.
If piracy runs in your blood, this law is not aimed at you. Veteran Pirates have been hardened by the lack of product in New Zealand; we need to wait for an extended period of time before any product is available in New Zealand, if available at all. Many Pirates have had enough of the high prices of media in New Zealand. This has forced many people with the know how to source media elsewhere, thus informing people around them how to follow. People who have been involved in Piracy will always find new ways to circumvent any laws, to obtain the legal or illegal product they desire. Thus the people who will be targeted are the casual uses or the innocent. Inexperienced users will be the majority on the receiving end of this law.
So all in all we have legislation that has not only proven to be ineffective, but will also target the innocent. Our government was under pressure from the American government to amend our law, as they want to appease the companies who feel they have been cheated out of money, while stealing from the artists. The underlying punishment of this new law is a complete abuse of our historical democratic rights. The implementation of this law and the outcome of such by the courts is still an unknown quantity.
The government is trying to dictate how students organise on campus, with so-called 'Voluntary Student Membership' set to become law in the next month.
Universities are under attack from their own management, withlecturers being sacked and research shut down at Victoria University in Wellington, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Pat Walsh. Students at Victoria University are calling for Pat to be sacked.
Auckland University management, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon, is attempting to remove key academic freedoms from lecturers, calling into question the whole idea of the university as a community of scholars. University management is already cutting papers that encourage students studying business to think critically, things will only get worse. Students at Auckland University are calling for Stuart to be sacked.
We are calling for high school students, university students, and everyone else (after all, we are al students really) to organise and prepare for a Nationwide Day of Student Action on Wednesday September 14!
For more information on what's going on at Victoria University go here: http://www.facebook.com/SackPatWalsh
For more information about what's going on at the University of Auckland go here:
To help organise in Wellington go here:
To help organise in Auckland go here:
Victoria University students are calling for the resignation of vice-chancellor Pat Walsh following his proposals to change the international relations and political science courses.
A group of Victoria University students has organised a "Sack Pat Walsh" Facebook campaign.
The Facebook site has drawn about 50 "likes". Campaigners have used the site for other initiatives, such as the National Day of Action on September 14 and to co-ordinate a pamphlet drop during the Victoria University open day last Friday.
Abruptly and spectacularly, out of icy winter skies, the first real social movement Britain has seen since the early 1990s exploded in the dying weeks of 2010. It took the student protests – largely organised outside any official structures – to expose the deep fractures in a Conservative-Liberal coalition that had previously carried all before it.
What has given the student movement its power has been the coming together of university students, with long-standing traditions of protest and considerable organisational resources, with a much more elemental rebellion by school, sixth-form college and further education students. On 9 December, the class rage of working-class teenagers "from the London slums", as one of them told the BBC, exploded as they saw themselves shut out of any educational opportunity.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Cities are the only way to square the circle between humanity's demand for equality and a decent standard of living in a sustainable planet. The substitute for ever going intensified private or individual consumption is the public luxury of the city. – Mike Davis
If Auckland had a dress size it would be 4-10-20. As in, ranked 4th best city for quality of life; and 10th and 20th most liveable city according to the Economist and Monocle respectively. Not bad for that last, loveliest loneliest citadel in the antipodes.
If Len Brown and his centre-left council win the future with their Auckland Plan, a kaleidoscopic vision of Auckland in 2041 then the city of a thousand lovers will climb ever higher in those rankings.
From the preview the Herald’s element magazine published Monday, the vision expressed in the Auckland Plan is to be boldly co-operative, jarringly public, social and sustainable. More light rail, pedestrian boulevards, dockside pools, urban villages, green roofs on commercial buildings, a cycle and walking link on the harbour bridge, tree corridors linking parks, the exile of the car and a 40% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2041.
The language of Auckland Unleashed: The Auckland Plan discussion document appears to put people before profits. Better participation in early childhood education, affordable rents, safer communities are all vaguely promised. The influence of centre-leftists Mike Lee and Cathy Casey is clearly visible. The metropolitan conversation will continue on September 20 when the Plan is released to the public for consultation. The animating spirit of the new Auckland Council, to make New Zealand the ‘world’s most liveable city’ is progressive and populist. Whether you’re a forklift driver in Papatoetoe or a network engineer from Takapuna the city will be for you. The city will even reduce the carbon footprint and set a global example. Aspirational goals that may just enrich the partnership between city hall and the rest of us. Mike Davis, urban geographer, historian and apocalyptic Marxist, has spent much of the last decade deciphering the social, environmental and economic flows that transform the urban. In an interview with some London anarchists he said, “In essence, the city is the economy of scale: it produces the most sufficient relationship between humans and nature. It produces a public or social wealth comprising not only a substitute for private consumption or private wealth, but is also the basis for needs that cannot exist or be fulfilled under capitalism.” If Len and his team can produce utopia anywhere, it will be in Auckland.But a stubborn public transport advocate battling a right-wing government for adequate funding is a story Auckland has heard before. Dove “Robbie” Myer-Robinson in his day kept the vision of a sustainable city alive- dreaming of electric rail and bringing in hyper-modern sewage systems. Before him, in 1946, the Ministry of Works published plans for electric railways, large-scale public housing and interdependent commercial hubs through the Auckland region. But as Chris Trotter points out in No Left Turn, ‘As [Frankfurt school theorist Erich] Fromm had foreseen, what people had built inside their skulls inevitably came to shape what they built outside them. And what they constructed in New Zealand’s largest city was an urban environment geared to the satisfaction not of collective needs, but of individual wants. Creeping to work along gridlocked roads in their precious automobiles, Aucklanders bear unwitting testimony to the Right’s 60-year triumph over the plans of the Left. The dream of Auckland-as-it –might-have-been overwhelmed by the deformation Auckland-as-it-is inflicts every day upon the human spirit.’
The failure in the twentieth century to create a socialist paradise in Auckland is not reducible to the outmanoeuvring of the left in council or national politics. The question of control of the city is inseparable from the fundamental question of control of the means of production. As Mike Davis puts it; ‘There is absolutely no reformist government anywhere in the world that can deal with the serious and major issues of urban inequality, because it will not take on property values, land inflation etc. Until you start talking about confiscating the incriminating land value or socialising land or systems of limited equity in land, you cannot control the city, you cannot achieve any real equality in it.’
The fundamental struggle over the city is not between council and developer, between Town Hall and the Beehive but between two great classes struggling for power in the city of sails. The working class of Auckland and the ruling class daily wage a fierce battle that has existed since settlement. 1890, 1913, 1951, 1984, 1991 – all years when class war burst out of the workplace and into the community and the contours of power relations in the epoch to come decided in decisive and often violent battles. Low intensity warfare has taken place over control over Auckland’s resources for much of the last two decades. Ownership of the ports secured by radio talkback-led activism. Water rights defended with reconnection. Privatisation of state housing resisted through occupations. Bulk funding of schools sabotaged by wildcat strikes. Mining of Great Barrier Island derailed by mega-marches. Industrial disputes in Auckland are often confrontational, sometimes violent. This is the city where the builders union was bankrupted by a civil liberty case against an official calling a scab a scab. Where the drivers’ union secretary was jailed in Mt. Eden prison for heeding a call from the Waiheke ferry workers for solidarity action.
Class tension in volcano city never ceases. The rich and powerful will greatly resent the utopian aspirations of the Auckland Plan, especially that provision calling for more council housing. This is always the first mistake of reformists. To believe that they can gradually create an accomodation between social values and the capitalist economics. That they can ameliorate the worst elements of capitalism away without a struggle. As David Harvey sums up his latest book, The Enigma of Capital, “Capitalism will never fall on its own. It will have to be pushed. The accumulation of capital will never cease. It will have to be stopped. The capitalist class will never willingly surrender its power. It will have to be dispossessed.”
The utopian aspirations of the Auckland Plan, are built on the sinking sands of a city where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting screwed. The city’s unemployment rate is 7.6%. Green MP Catherine Delahunty asked a forum of unionists how long it would be under a National Government before Oxfam ran campaigns in areas such as South Auckland and Northland asking donors to "adopt a child"? Auckland City Mission food parcel numbers have nearly doubled in the last three years. A city where TV reports children in South Auckland were arriving at school needing to have a nap in the sick bay because it was too cold to sleep at home. University researchers report that rheumatic fever is on the rise because of overcrowding and poor access to healthcare.
Secondly the Auckland Council fails to realise that turbo-capitalism and planet earth are mutually exclusive in three ways.
Who will then be able to enjoy the world’s most liveable city? Not the poor if current trends continue. Economic exile will claim thousands of Aucklanders as Australian award rates of pay draw off a significant chunk of our reserve army of labour. New Zealand in the long recession of the 1880s suffered much the same problem as ‘marvellous Melbourne’ boomed. In 1888 10,000 more people left New Zealand than arrived. Those who remain will continue on as before subsisting on wages whose value falls daily and a social welfare system that finds itself under sustained erosion from the National Party. The absence of the trade union movement or Labour Party as mobilising, fighting, crusading forces for the working poor marks this recession as qualitatively politically different from the depression of the 1930s. The working class must forge new vehicles of struggle against the system.
Number one, capitalism is based on constant expansion--whatever it's producing today has to be exceeded tomorrow. The inner logic of competition and profit-driven growth dictates that if any part of the world economy is not growing at 2 to 3 percent a year, what happens? Well, we are seeing it today.
The whole economy goes into a spiral of layoffs, unemployment and cuts to social services. So built into the way the system operates is this expansion, which means that energy use, waste streams and material inputs all have to keep increasing too.
Then the fact that it is based on profit means that they don't just make things that we might need. They make things based on what will make the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time. So that means we get all kinds of useless crap produced that we don't really need. But they convince us that we do need it--through huge and extremely wasteful advertising and marketing budgets.
I think the third thing is that the time horizons of decision-making under capitalism are inherently short term--because they need to compete against each other on a daily basis by lowering their costs, by paying their workers less, by disregarding the environment. It's impossible to have a long-term outlook, which is exactly the outlook that we need right now.
In many ways we have come back around to those dark days before 1890. The sounds of class war in Europe haunted our local ruling class. Energised by the 1889 London Dockers’ strike, seen as the “first move of the Revolution”, the most militant sections of New Zealand's growing labour movement formed the formidable Maritime Council as the doctrine of class conscious, militant ‘New Unionism’ took hold. Bert Roth estimates unionism spread from just 50 unions representing 3,000 workers in 1888 to more than 200 unions representing, unionists claimed, 63,000 workers in 1890. Although “undoubtedly an exaggeration”, the numbers of unionists undoubtedly rose astronomically. Correspondingly strikes began to break out across the country, as unionists sought first recognition, then improved wages and conditions, and finally job control and security. Undoubtedly the strike wave consolidated the gains of the early years of the labour movement, creating a social consensus that workers receive a living wage and not be required to work in unsafe or unhealthy working conditions. Although the strike wave was crushed in the pivotal Maritime Strike of 1890, the working class had set a vague limit to the power of capital. When the Liberal-Labour Government took power in 1891 the unionists and socialists were able to usher in significant social and economic reforms for the working class. Mike Davis’s analysis of how working class struggle shapes the shape of capitalism to come is relevant here; “Each major cycle of class struggle, economic crisis, and social restructuring in American history has finally been resolved through epochal tests of strength between capital and labor. The results of these historical collisions have been new structural forms that regulated the objective conditions for accumulation in the next period as well as the subjective capacities for class organisation and consciousness.” The employers may in the end have crushed the strikers, but in so doing they lit a political fire that would never stop smouldering. In 1890 Auckland stood at the crossroads as working people demanded a decent standard of living. They were ruthlessly crushed. If we fail to remember that capitalists will not concede improvements in working class living standards at their own expense then we will naively believe that we can improve the lot of the majority of Aucklanders without cataclysmic, class conflict.
Monday, August 29, 2011
When: Tuesday 6 September · 7.30pm
Where: MacLaurin Chapel, 18 Princes St Auckland (corner of Princes Street and Waterloo Quadrant) | University of Auckland
Dr John Ondawame: West Papua People’s Representative Office in Vanuatu
Rex Rumakiek: Secretary-General West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPCNL)
Paula Makabory Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights (IPAHR): Australia and ELSHAM West Papua (One of the 1000 peace women nominated for the Nobel Prize in 2005)
The Pacific Islands Forum meets in Auckland 6-9 September at Sky City in Auckland. Forum leaders must not overlook West Papua which is experiencing an unimaginable human rights tragedy: 'slow genocide'.
Contact Indonesia Human Rights Committee, Box 68-419 Auckland 1125 or email@example.com
The first Vanuatu Prime Minister, Walter Lini, once said "so long as any Pacific Islands remain colonised, none of us is free". Last year Vanuatu's Parliament unanimously resolved to raise the issue of West Papua's political status at the UN General Assembly. Vanuatu wants to get the matter referred to the International Court of Justice.
In West Papua there is also a proposal for a peaceful dialogue with Jakarta. Independence would not be on the dialogue agenda but even so Jakarta has not yet agreed.
How can the Pacific Islands forum say that it promotes regional stability while overlooking the deadliest conflict in its patch?
Between 1984 and 1993 New Zealand underwent reconstruction as a powerful coalition of politicians and merchant bankers fought to create a dreamworld of neo-liberalism in the south Pacific.
Aotearoa/New Zealand was once thought of as a country of hope and justice and set an example to the world. Samuel Parnell and his band of carpenters in Wellington could look on their new land with pride in 1840 as the home of the eight-hour workday. In 1893 Kate Sheppard could smile at a polling booth clerk on general election day, elated that she and the suffragettes had made world history as New Zealand women went to vote for the first time. Rua Kenana built a new Jerusalem in the high hills of the Ureweras, a community free from the acrid horror of the Great War and the grinding poverty of New Zealand’s colonial cities and towns. Norm Kirk, standing on the wharf at Devonport as a frigate departed in 1973 to Muroroa to protest nuclear testing would say, “We may only be a small nation but we send a message to the world by this act.”
After 1984 these dreams of a land of prosperity, equality and independence were smothered by the new right whose names- Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson, Michael Fay, David Richwhite are now synonymous with greed and right wing political barbarism. The neo-liberal finance ministers Douglas in Lange’s Government, and Richardson in Bolger’s Government, along with the Treasury Department hijacked the state and instituted the world’s largest privatisation programme, the deregulation of the labour market, demolition of trade and industry protection and the abandonment of fiscal policy guided by social goals of full employment.
The workers and farmers of Manurewa and Mahia reaped the whirlwind begun in Wellington. The removal of price stabilisation for farm products and the 1987 stock market crash meant many undercapitalised farmers went bust and were foreclosed. In some areas farmers groups stopped mortgagee sales with direct action. Tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs as the removal of tariffs left a trail of destruction in suburbia. Factories relocated to sweatshop countries, communities dislocated into ghettos.
Ruth Richardson, under the banner of ‘The decent society’ promoted by Bolger at the 1990 election undertook a brutal offensive against a working-class that was disoriented by Rogernomics, disorganised by bureaucracy and disciplined by a series of brutal industrial confrontations such as the Pulp and Paper lock out and the breaking up of the national awards.
Richardson’s blitz against the welfare state came in 1992 against a number of immovable obstacles. The most unpopular of Richardson’s reforms was the hospital user charge of $35-50 per night that was sunk by a massive boycott campaign, similar to the anti-Poll tax fight that sunk Thatcher. 20,000 New Zealanders refused to pay the bills. Other reforms that sparked widespread conflict were bulk funding in schools, user pays tertiary education and the market rents for state houses.
Perhaps the most poignant symbol from this time is the line of small fishing vessels strung across the channel of Whangarei harbour in protest against more market reforms of fishing catch allocation. Against the tide of neo-liberalism.
The priest wore no clothes- in 1991 a Baptist Minister stripped to his undies in Auckland’s council chambers against the sale of council houses; he ‘likened his undies to the last vestige of dignity council tenants would lose if the council sold their homes’. Chris Trotter’s No Left Turn, is easily the best historical account of how MMP came into being. The gods may just have been smiling on Aotearoa when Rod Donald’s Electoral Reform Coalition defeated the anti-proportional Coalition for Better Government, fronted by the former Chairman of Telecom, in the 1993 referendum on MMP.53.9% voted for MMP, a staggering victory for the grassroots Electoral Reform Coalition, which spent nine times less than the big business Coalition for Better Government. New Zealanders voted for revolution. The neo-liberals would never again have the same power. Bolger was forced to sack Richardson as finance minister. The victory of MMP in the 1993 referendum ensured that no party could push through unpopular and cruel policies like the hospital bed charge ever again.
The 1993 election was a staggering blow to the neo-liberals. The National Party’s vote went from 47.82% to 35.05%. The Alliance took 18.21% of the vote and New Zealand First took 8.4%. The massacre was so severe that National only had a majority from 1993-96 because Labour supplied the speaker of the house. Yet between 1993-6 the structural adjustment programme of the National Party did continue in housing, education and health. It was the last time however that a Government could rule with only 35.05% of the vote.
The sneering editorial in the Listener this week decries that governments are often hostage to a public unwilling to put up with 'unpopular' policies. This is how it should be in a democracy. The Listener’s editorialists have no doubt forgotten the days when commercially driven public hospitals lavished private consultants with exorbitant fees but couldn’t afford helicopter flights to save lives. We should never forget the gloomy years when doctors and nurses blamed National Health Minister Simon Upton for patient deaths because he was forcing through unpopular reforms. MMP was for just this, so politicians couldn't force through what the people did not want or need. When parliamentary democracy stops working for the elite, when the media's hegemony breaks down, the ruling class will always resort to the use of state terror and intimidation of opponents to push through unpopular reforms. This was the situation in New Zealand in the early 1990s.
Verna Smith of the scare Campaign for First Past the Post in 1992 said, “We have the right to paint the worst case scenario. The onus is on the Electoral Reform Coalition to prove it’s wrong.” What is the worst case scenario had FPP been retained in 1993? The structural adjustment programme of Richardson and Douglas would have continued for another half decade. Douglas and Richardson have made their unfinished business clear:
• Abolish the minimum wage
• Cut all benefits
• Privatise superannuation
• Sell of public hospitals and bring in a US health insurance system
• Sell TVNZ, abolish Pharmac, all public transport, etc
• Sell schools into private ownership and bring in voucher schools
• Flat taxes
• Remove rights to collective bargaining
• Privatise prisons and allow prison slave labour
• Protect corporations rights to pollute without restriction
The country they desire and tried to create in New Zealand is a barbarous neo-liberal paradise. A dream world for merchant bankers who got rich through privatisations (we used to have a decent rail system) and bailouts (the original bailouts, BNZ style) then blew the money on yacht races and private islands. And of poverty and prison for the poor. Their influence lives on in the real ambitions of politicians like Key, Joyce and English, who in private will admit their intention to drop wages and privatise Kiwibank.
In 1993 the high camp, New Zealand made, operatic Desperate Remedies was an official selection at Cannes. In a 19th century colonial town called Hope, the hero, a lesbian dressmaker wrestles with a world corrupted by drug addiction and financial turbulence. She, her lover and a mysterious radical from overseas are able to vanquish the corrupt, war profiteering MP who craves her business and her marriage and is able to depart the port of Hope in search of a brighter future.
MMP was the desperate remedy sought by people who did not give up hope on the idea of a really existing decent society in New Zealand. The sickness of neo-liberalism, the plague of unrestrained capitalism and the cancer of corporate power required an anti-dote. MMP proved that mysterious radical from overseas. It slowed, then halted, then allowed the reversal of significant parts of Rogernomics & Ruthenasia. Those who seek to return New Zealand to the days of FPP also crave to continue the course of neo-liberalism. s the global economic crisis deepens, the ecological meltdown continues and the spirit level drops the fight against neo-liberalism continues. A former currency trader runs a ‘smash and grab’ Government that does nothing about the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders unemployed and on low wages, but loots the public purse to shower the super-rich with banquets. With three months until the election all those who remember the horror of the 1990s and vowed never again must campaign for MMP against National’s dark dystopia of private prisons, stagnant wages and benefit cuts.
Friday, August 26, 2011
200 people rallied in Aotea Square as part of a day of action against the Copyright Amendment Act.
Melissa Lee's K-Pop Mixtape Vol.2 - Mass autographing
Time: Thursday 1st September, 4pm to 5pm
Location: Melissa Lee's Electorate office, 779 New North Road, Mt. Albert
On the 1st of January 1994, the Zapatista (EZLN) uprising began on the same day that the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect. Demanding justice for the indigenous Mayan people who lived in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, it was to become a beacon of hope to a generation that was told history was over. Armed with rifles, they occupied several towns in the province, including the capital San Cristóbal de las Casas, and shouted to the world “Ya Basta!”- Enough!
The Zapatistas were an army of the poorest people in North America, “the people of the colour of the earth” who were conquered by Spanish colonialism 500 years previously. Although their province produced half of Mexico’s hydro-electricity, had huge cattle ranches, exported the most coffee and was the second largest produce of oil in Mexico, the indigenous people were pushed off their lands by ranchers. Now NAFTA was to give multinational corporations more control over their resources whilst they lived in grinding poverty.
The spokesperson for the CCNI, the Indigenous People's Coordinating Committee, made explicit that this rebellion was part of a larger global resistance against neo-liberalism. In one of his many poetic communiqués from the Lacandon Jungle (when asked his real identity behind his balaclava and pipe), Subcommandante Marcos declared that
“We are you- Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian on the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the streets of the metro at 10pm, a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student.”Over 150 people died during the short rising, before the Zapatistas withdrew to the jungles. They were surrounded by the Mexican Army and bombed from the air, but by that stage their rebellion had captured the imagination of Mexico and the world. In solidarity, hundreds of thousands demonstrated in the Zocalo, the central square of Mexico City, forcing the government to abandon a crushing final offensive. Since 1994, an uneasy truce has existed, with the Zapatistas controlling 30 odd autonomous zones, encircled by thousands of troops.
Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, was herself inspired by this uprising, claiming that the Zapatistas and Marcos were the,
“…theorists of a new movement, another way to think about power, resistance and globalisation. Zapatistas aren’t interested in overthrowing the state or naming their leader, Marcos, as president. If anything, they want less state power in their lives. The goal is not to win control but to seize and build autonomous spaces where democracy,Peoples Global Action and the Rise of the Autonomists
liberty and justice can thrive. Free spaces, born of reclaimed land, communal
agriculture, resistance to privatisation, will eventually create counter-powers to
the state simply by existing as alternatives”.
Communicating with the outside world through the new medium of the internet, Marcos and the Zapatistas represented for many a new form of politics, a Post-Stalinist uprising that rejected the quest for state power. In January 1996, they invited ‘rebels from all continents’ to their jungle bases for an ‘encounter’, the ‘International Encuentro for Humanity against Neo-liberalism’- 3,000 people came.
This Encuentro was to found the basis for what was later to become the People’s Global Action, a loose federation of international groups inspired by the autonomous philosophy Zapatismo, which rejected state power and all traditional left wing parties in favour of ‘decentralised, anti-hierarchical horizontal’ networks. PGA formulated itself in Geneva in 1998, agreeing on five hallmarks for international affiliates. These were laid out on its website,
1. A very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism; all tradeWithin the movement, they became known as the autonomists; consciously anti-party activists who ranged from groups with their roots in the ecological anti road struggles of the 1990s such as Reclaim the Streets to Italian post-Marxist groups such as Ya Basta! This current was also joined by many different shades of the anarchist, libertarian and syndicalist traditions.
agreements, institutions and governments that promote destructive globalisation;
2. We reject all forms and systems of domination and discrimination including,
but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all
creeds. We embrace the full dignity of all human beings.
3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a
major impact in such biased and undemocratic organisations, in which
transnational capital is the only real policy-maker;
4. A call to direct action and civil disobedience, support for social movements'
struggles, advocating forms of resistance which maximize respect for life and
oppressed peoples' rights, as well as the construction of local alternatives to
5.An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation and autonomy.
In some European countries, Autonomism as a political tradition had preceded the Zapatista uprising. George Katsiaficas details these groups in his book, in particular the German autonomen and the Italian autonomia, declaring that "Autonomy is the political form appropriate to post-modern societies"
Autonomists reject the modern nation state and also reject the need to organise in parties. Some call for an anarchistic revolution, some instead try to create autonomous zones ‘in the here and now’. They claim that any strategy that seeks to contest state power will lead to authoritarian hierarchy. They also reject the Marxist strategy of overthrowing the capitalist state and replacing it with a worker’s one, claiming that this will lead to Stalinist dictatorship. The philosophy is best summed up by the title of a book by British autonomist John Holloway- Change the World without taking power- the Meaning of Revolution Today. However, this strategy of refusing to take power has led to some real problems for the movement.
The Zapatista rebellion was forced by circumstance to begin negotiations with the powerful Mexican state- about 30 “autonomous zones” are still surrounded by the Mexican army. They are increasingly reliant on support from progressive NGOs and international solidarity groups, as documented by Kingsnorth (2003) in the chapter ‘A Crack in History’. However, in the rest of the country, the struggle of the Zapatistas has inspired hundreds of thousands of people. In 2001 they led a march on Mexico City, the Zapatour, which saw huge crowds support them in every town and city along the way. However, they refused to lead a movement against the Mexican state, with Marcos claiming that each group must find their own way. Interviewed by the New Left Review, he explains that during the Zapatour, “in every town square we told people: ‘We have not come to lead you, we have not come to tell you what to do, but to ask for your help’
There was verbal support but no national political co-ordination with other struggles, such as those of strikers in the maquiladoras in the Northern Provinces or the year long occupation of the UNAM University in Mexico City, involving at its height a quarter of a million students. Eschewing any ‘centralised’ decision making, each group was left to “do their own thing”, autonomously and independently. In subsequent negotiations with the Mexican state, the Zapatista uprising seemed to become less of a global struggle against capitalism than an attempt to enshrine certain rights (the San Andres accords agreed in 1996) for Mexico’s indigenous minorities. These are still to be granted.
In Argentina, the huge wave of factory occupations and popular neighbourhood assemblies against IMF austerity plans that began in December 2001 was outmaneuvered by politicians of the old political order- they called an election in 2003. Naomi Klein notes “that some autonomists turned not having a plan into its own religion: so wary were they of cooptation that any proposal to move from protest to policy was immediately suspect.” As the election process gained momentum, she later notes that the refusal to contest the political arena led to a deflation of the mass movement from below,
“People weren't able to vote for the sentiment behind December 19 and 20, either by casting a ballot or boycotting but demanding deeper democratic reforms, since no concrete platform or political structure emerged from those early, heady discussions. They thus left the legitimacy of the elections dangerously uncontested, and the dream of a new kind of democracy utterly unrepresented.”The Tyranny of Structurelessness
Many critics of autonomism point to what radical feminist Jo Freeman called the ‘tyranny of structurelessness’- the domination of supposed horizontal non-leadership groups by informal cliques and charismatic, movement ‘stars’.
Autonomism claims that all political parties are undemocratic and elitist. However, the alternative loose and spontaneous structures the autonomists propose do not have internal elected leaderships or democratic procedures that vote on agreed positions. Often, decision-making is not made by a collective majority vote, but on a consensual basis. Although this is supposed to guarantee the rights of minority positions, it also gives them great power to water down controversial demands or obfuscate around important political choices indefinitely. Responsibility to implement these ‘consensual’ decisions is then often blurred in the absence of accountable, elected positions (which is essentially what is meant by leadership by most political parties).
Instead, the autonomous groups are dominated by informal cliques of friends or
in-groups, where those who speak best (or loudest) carry the arguments. Oftentimes those who most loudly denounce the role of political parties can support a sectarian and domineering anti-political culture, which can inhibit rather than develop the wider movement.
Freeman observed these processes at work in the radical feminist milieu in the late 60s and early 70s.
“To strive for a 'structureless' group is as useful and as deceptive, as to aim at an 'objective' news story, 'value-free' social science or a 'free' economy. A 'laissez-faire' group is about as realistic as a 'laissez-faire' society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. This hegemony can easily be established because the idea of 'structurelessness' does not prevent the formation of informal structures, but only formal ones… An unstructured group always has an informal, or covert, structure. It is this informal structure, particularly in unstructured groups, which forms the basis for elites.”Freeman deduces that this tyranny of structureless does not negate power and leadership within autonomist groups but cloaks it. She draws an interesting parallel with some of the workings of early liberal economic theory,
Similarly, 'laissez-faire' philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing control over wages, prices and distribution of goods; it only prevented the government from doing so. Thus 'structurelessness' becomes a way of masking power, and within the [women's] movement it is usually most strongly advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not). The rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is curtailed by those who know the rules, as long as the structure of the group is informal.Social Movements and Leadership
In the introduction to Leadership and Social Movements, a compilation of essays that examine the tensions between political organisations and movements, Colin Barker observes that
Into libertarianism were woven two parallel strands: a suspicion of ‘leadership’ and a celebration of ‘spontaneity’… Leadership has been identified, for example, with monopolisation of decision making in groups, or with domination over a group (Weber’s Herrschaft). In response, some activists reject the very notion of leadership entirely. Yet they leave unresolved paradoxes- to say we don’t need leaders is itself to offer a lead.Many autonomist ‘thought leaders’ present the idea of political leadership within the movement as structurally bureaucratic, an authoritarian Leninist or reformist vanguard in waiting. Instead, supposed non-hierarchical, ‘spontaneous’ grassroots structures are the organisational principle, although as Barker points out, this
… ignores Gramsci’s observation (1971: 196) that pure spontaneity never exists, for there are always leaders and initiators, even if many remain nameless figures who leave few traces in historical records.Barker defends the Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci’s conception of activists as ‘organic intellectuals’ within movements, who learn to give a lead by trial and error. He sees them as ‘technicians or artists of protest’, who have the crucial function of proposing appropriate action at key moments of decision. Organising is comparable to a craft, with a host of practical skills that are ‘transmissible by apprenticeship’, such as writing, public speaking, mobilising networks, designing posters, leaflets and websites. Organisers must judge how to allocate scarce resources, how to form alliances with other groups, how to maintain morale and commitment within a group in times of difficulty. Tactically, they must learn to recognise their opponent’s weak points and succeed in winning tangible victories or demands. It is a combination of these skills that make up what Barker refers to as leadership within a movement, that answers the eternal question famously posed by Lenin- ‘What is to be done?”. He concludes,
For collective images and ideas, projects, forms of action and organisation to emerge, someone must propose them. It is here that the issue of leadership arises. Leadership in movements consists in proposing to these differentiated entities how they should and can identify themselves and act together. Without such proposals, and any assent they receive, movements do not exist, collective identity is not formed, collective action does not occur. The terms ‘leadership’ and ‘social movement’ are inseparably interconnected.Dual Power- The Paradox of Autonomism
The strategic problems of modern Autonomism in Argentina and Chiapas find historical parallels in the events of the Spanish Civil War. In 1936, in response to Franco’s attempt to overthrow the Republic with a fascist army, workers set up their own collectives, militias and councils- the city of Barcelona and the surrounding province were largely under workers control, portrayed memorably in George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. The main force in this region was the syndicalist union, the CNT, which was the biggest anarchist movement in the world.
Marxists argue that the crises of the system have historically produced the possibilities for revolution such as Russia in 1917, Spain in 1936, and to a lesser extent, Argentina’s IMF crisis. For a brief time, there is a situation of dual power, where new popular forms of democracy such as workers councils challenge the hegemony of the state and of the capitalist economy. History has proven that nation states will not tolerate the autonomous independence of these organs of dual power for long, and will crush them region by region. It is here that Marxists claim that a centralised co-ordinating national network- a revolutionary party- is needed to challenge the capitalist state and replace it with a new democracy, a ‘socialism from below’ based on the popular assemblies and councils in the community and workplace. Socialist strategy within the movement asks important questions about the agency of change (class or multitude), the need for alternative parties to the Social Liberalism of the reformists, and has a vision of a democratically, planned economy in opposition to capitalism.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Corporate interests have increasingly been attempting to completely subvert, as with the U.S internet 2.0 initiative, or control the freedom of expression online. In February Burger King attempted to unjustly fire an employee for posting her personal opinion. Corporations have traditionally controlled information through geography and the medium information is stored on. The internet heralded the arrival of uncensored, free flowing information. The Copyright infringement law is an extension of this corporate action to control not only content but opinion and thought.
The new law is disadvantageous to everyone who has an internet connection. According to the new law, any complaint of copyright infringement means, you are guilty unless proven innocent and you yourself must prove yourself innocent, in which you will need money, time and the knowledge of how to fight it. On top of that, the accuser does not have to have any proof that you have downloaded their product illegally. There is also no penalty for those of who accuse and get proven wrong. Nor any limit to who they may accuse or the number of accusations they may make against individuals, groups or society as a whole.
Punishment for downloading music, movies and books takes away our human rights, rights that have even been acknowledged by the bureaucratic behemoth of the United Nations, jeopardises and sets a disturbing precedent for our legal system. It also counts towards the three strikes policy of which jail time is handed out if convicted 3 times of any crime. Alleged breaches by people totally ignorant, naive or incapable of legal concepts, such as children, could end in a conviction for their parents. This is a complete attack on many principles which underpin not only society but accepted morality. The abusers and beneficiaries of this bill will not be struggling New Zealand artists, but Multinational corporations bludgeoning Kiwis into their ideal of copyright compliance.
The new copyright laws will also jeopardise our free use of computers and internet at schools as the account holder will be held responsible for any claimed breach. Thus whole educational institutions, spheres of government, companies or political organisations may have internet disconnected for real or imagined infractions caused by a complex multitude of users, disadvantaging the poor who cannot afford internet at home and attacking our rights to a free, fair and equitable education. Already Auckland’s UNITEC has advised they may no longer be able to supply the use of their free internet due to the danger of a law suit/ being fined.
Legally the onus is placed firmly on the defendant, creating a disturbing parody of the natural justice we are entitled to receive. There is no need for the plaintiff to provide any proof of a breach on the part of the alleged defendant. Guilt is wholly assumed, the plaintiff need not even prove that they legally hold the copyright. This may clearly result in blatant abuse of the law, used to suppress political rivals or attack the communications of NGO’s. Overseas experience has also shown that “legal teams” are created responsible for disseminating threatening emails. Demanding settlement of alleged breaches through payment or lopsided legal action will pursue. This boils down to government endorsed extortion rackets to line corporate pockets.
Indeed New Zealanders have been wholly misled as to the source and implications of this bill. There has been, through Wikileaks, leaked diplomatic releases, a clear attempt by the American government to bribe and pressure the New Zealand government while marginalising the voice of New Zealand citizens, its own constituency! The law was rushed through under emergency provisions for the Christchurch earthquake which has shown a blatant abuse of power by a government that knew it was passing vastly unpopular legislation. Most politicians didn’t even know what they were voting for as seen by the slip up made by Melissa Lee.
The question must be asked what action can be taken, how can such a repugnant attack on society be repulsed? The answer is clearly not to be found in parliament the New Zealand government has folded, thrown up its arms and declared, what is to be done! Their hand must be forced, and so it falls to us, the masses of the people to give them the motivation to resist. To show that such erosive legislation is intolerable, that our fight, our drive for freedom and equality is not spent at the ballot box, but fills our lives and our streets.
To this end, a protest has been organised on the 27th August 12-3pm in Aotea square. This is our chance to show we won’t stand for such a predatory law.
Sharing should be free. Stand with us to fight for it.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The new law signals a new attack on the rights of people to share and consume culture on the information highway, but the facts of the new law are little known.
On Thursday 25 August at Unite Union come hear two speakers discuss the implications of the new law and how we can fight it.
Speakers: Alex Manson, internet freedom activist/IT specialist & Nick Merrington, Socialist Aotearoa
Read more: Govt could fall victim to Skynet law | 13 reasons to oppose the anti-sharing law | Understand the basics of the 3 strike law | No one's safe from Skynet law -Expert
Where: Unite Union office, 6a Western Springs Rd, Kingsland.
When: 7pm 25 August 2011
Socialist Aotearoa branch meeting and forum. Our fortnightly meeting to discuss political issues and organise activism. All welcome.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Adidas exploits workers in repressive, third world countries. Socialist Aotearoa's Joe Carolan explains why workers in New Zealand are burning its logo in this video.
All Black protest against Adidas at Eden Park tomorrow
Over the past weeks public outrage has grown at the $220 price Adidas has set for the sale of All Black shirts and the sweatshop wages being paid in Adidas factories in Asia.
Anti-capitalist action group Socialist Aotearoa is calling for Aucklanders to rally outside of Eden Park’s front gate Saturday 13 August at 1pm. The three stripes of the Adidas logo will be burnt in protest against the Adidas corporation.
“It is simply unacceptable for Adidas to simultaneously rip off rugby fans, its own workforce and to corrupt the Rugby World Cup with misplaced consumerism,” said Socialist Aotearoa spokesperson Joe Carolan.
“We’re calling on Adidas to immediately raise the wages of all its garment workers in Asia to industry standards, to drop the price of the rugby jerseys to an affordable level and to apologise to New Zealand for its arrogance,” continued Mr. Carolan.
“Aucklanders should dress in all black clothes tomorrow and join us in protest at Eden Park to protest Adidas exploitation and consumerism”
“If Adidas think that they will make good publicity out of the RWC while their workers in the developing world get paid a pittance they can think again. Outrage at Adidas’s sweatshops and exploitation will not go away,” concluded Mr. Carolan.
Three Stripes Your Out.
1. Sweatshop wages to garment workers. Oxfam and the NZ Herald have revealed that despite a high sale price, Adidas pays its garment workers as little as 60 cents an hour.
2. Charging people exorbitant prices for All Black jerseys.
3. The ongoing commodification of sports. Sports are a place of inclusion, community and co-operation- corporations such as Adidas are creating a culture of elitism and profiteering around sporting events.
Joe Carolan is available for comment on 029 445 5702 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, August 11, 2011
(1) exploiting third world labour,
(2) charging exorbitant prices and
(3) commodifying sport.
Three stripes and you're out.
Anti-capitalist group Socialist Aotearoa is organising an All Black Block this Saturday at 1pm at the front gate of Eden Park, where we will burn the Adidas corporate logo in protest.
more info- txt Joe at 029 44 55 702.
NZH: Oxfam says AB jersey workers getting 60cents ph
Non-profit organisations such as Oxfam have highlighted the fact that many factories used by Adidas pay their workers poverty wages while making huge profits.
Oxfam, Play Fair and China Labor Watch say wages at Adidas factories in Asia are as low as 60c an hour.
The Rugby World Cup-branded jerseys are made in Thailand, and the non-tournament All Blacks jerseys are made in China, where Adidas has come under scrutiny for poor wages.
Adidas's response last year to concerns about low wages at its factory in Indonesia was that the company promoted "improved wage-setting mechanisms" to ensure fair payment.
It did not set industry wages, which were closely linked to the minimum wage.
Oxfam New Zealand executive director Barry Coates said wages had remained at the bare minimum, although the worst abuses in sporting brands' sweatshop had waned in recent years because of publicity.
"It seems rather obscene that all of the value is being captured by the rugby union and Adidas and none of the value is being captured by the workers who are at minimum wage or close to it," Mr Coates said.
"That's not fair. The fair way to do it is to share the value up the supply chain because people can understand that if you can sell things for higher prices, then surely people who make them should have a share of the higher price."
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
'There’s uprisings everywhere - the whole world. Everyone’s fed up’
Eyewitness reports from the frontline of the wave of rage sweeping the streets
Riots of the poor and dispossessed spread through Britain this week. The police struggled to crush an uprising against their own racist brutality and poverty.
The riots reveal the deep-seated social tensions at the heart of Tory Britain.
The streets weren’t the police’s any more—they belonged to the angry, disenfranchised and the poor.
A young African-Carribean man pointing to the police told Socialist Worker, “These people are supposed to protect us—when I see them at night I run the other way. How can any of us feel safe when they’re shooting people?”
The spark that ignited the flames was the gunning down of Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham on Thursday of last week.
A peaceful protest vigil had marched to the police station on Saturday evening. People were furious that the police hadn’t even contacted the parents of the dead man.
Later, at a standoff, a 16-year old girl was beaten by a number of police officers. That’s when the rioting started.
One Tottenham resident said, “Police need to stop shooting first and asking questions later.
“This is not the first time something like this has happened. There was Cynthia Jarrett back in the 1980s and Jean Charles de Menezes, now this guy in a cab.
“If those situations hadn’t happened then my high street wouldn’t be mashed up like it is now. These buildings can be rebuilt. That man’s life has gone and he’s not coming back.”
Then on Sunday night Enfield, Brixton and Chingford Mount in Waltham Forest rose up. The next night running battles continued for hours across London and other inner cities.
This is the biggest urban uprising in Britain for decades. Years of burning anger poured out. The police surrendered the streets across London. When they advanced they were met with missiles.
Adam, a college student, said, “This isn’t about race, it’s about class.” One teenager in the riots added, “I’m black and I have loads of white friends. But we are all the same colour.
“We are fed up with the police. They think they are higher than us, but they should be lower.”
A white man, around 50, said, “The government don’t give a fuck about us. Look around—it’s not just black people taking part, but everyone.”
In Hackney the riot lasted for hours on Monday. Hundreds of young people were running from the police but a bus was blocking their way. They surrounded it and suddenly realised the driver was still inside.
Two young rioters knocked on the door and beckoned for her to get off.
When she left the bus everyone clapped. Only then did they trash it.
Two African-Carribean pensioners were watching from the street. One said, “It’s not just this country, there’s uprisings everywhere. It’s the whole world. Everyone’s fed up, no one has anything.”
The media and the political establishment have responded with blatant class prejudice.
Every riot contains contradictory elements, precisely because it is spontaneous.
They emerge suddenly—but they are part of a wider revolt against an arrogant elite who live a life of privilege and have disdain for the poor.
People did steal. In some cases they stole necessities, in others luxuries—the ones we are bombarded with the idea that we will be unfulfilled unless we own.
One witness said, “This is about as empowered as many of these lads will ever feel. That’s the real tragedy.”
The summer was supposed to be politics-free—a time for us all to forget about phone hacking, police corruption and the government’s attacks on the poor. But instead the riots have plunged the government into yet another crisis.
It has terrified the establishment, who have come scuttling back from holiday villas in order to condemn thuggery.
“We’re all going through hard times and all the politicians are on holiday,” said one onlooker. “They think we’re all shit. The Tories mugged us to get in.”
There were signs that this was coming. The removal of the EMA education allowance led to the militancy of the student protests last year.
The cuts are biting and the rhetoric of “we’re all into together” sounds hollower by the day.
Even Nick Clegg predicted “Greek style unrest” if there were attacks on this scale.
One man told Socialist Worker, “We tried to stop this government with the student riots and they beat them up.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they brought in the army and imposed martial law.”
At the time of writing the police have not gained control. When they do they will want their retribution.
And they tried during the disturbances. One worker told Socialist Worker, “I’m surprised it’s taken this long to happen. The police think they can get away with anything.
“A dozen of them caught one young guy coming out of a smashed shop. They handcuffed him and they battered him, they were bouncing off him. We need to do something about the system.”
It is only when people have fought back against police racism and inequality that anyone in power has been forced to acknowledge it.
This was a revolt of the poor. As a bus burned in Peckham in south London, Primark, Iceland and Clarks were looted. In Walworth Road, south London, the pawnshops and Argos were gutted.
One bus driver told Socialist Worker, “It’s not just the police, it’s Cameron. No one has anything, no one has pensions or anything to look forward to.
“They shouldn’t just be fighting the police. They should be fighting the government.”
Thanks to Tash Shifrin, Jonny Jones, Ali Alizadeh, Steve Henshall and Sam Bogg for reports
“It is understandable why young people are so angry. This hatred isn’t coming from nowhere.
Young people are sick of the police and sick of the lack of opportunity. And this frustration is going to come out.”
Winston Silcott, one of three men wrongly accused of the murder of PC Blakelock during the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham
The following should be read alongside this article: