Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 - A street fighting year


2012 is the year that should go down in history as the year the radical left helped hold the National Government's neo-liberal agenda at bay on the streets of Aotearoa.

National was re-elected in November 2011 with an increased majority pledging to begin asset sales, cut workers' rights and sell off state housing. By early January employers were taking the initiative and seeking to break the meat workers' union in sheds across the country. As January went so did the rest of the year. If it was not one union being attacked it was another, if it wasn't one Ministry announcing cuts to funding or benefits it was another. 

So National might have expected 2012 to be a cakewalk but in the end almost every major policy battle has seen them left with a bloody nose. 2012 showed that when you fight, you can win. The lesson is that what parliament does, the streets can undo. The radical left, the Mana Movement, the activist trade unions and Socialist Aotearoa all helped play an important role in ensuring that John Key and Bill English's attacks on working people did not succeed. 

Asset sales. The Government's asset sales programme lies in political tatters. Originally they planned to have floated Mighty River Power by September. Now it's been delayed till next year and the Government still has to neutralise the Maori Council in the High Court and push past a united Maori opposition to the privatisation of water rights in the new year. 

The Aotearoa is Not for Sale movement from its inception at Waitangi Day outside Te Tii Marae through to the concluding 'Big Push' on December 7 has seen the return of street protests around Aotearoa of a scale not seen since in half a decade. From the Hikoi which saw 8000 march in Auckland, 500 in Rotorua and 5000 in Wellington to the national day of action which saw four thousand people march on Queen Street, a thousand in Christchurch, 200 in Wellington, 70 in Dunedin and in ten other centers around the country marches and rallies were held against asset sales. Timaru to Raglan, Napier to New Plymouth it was a wintery blast of protest that swept the country. Dunedin saw a thousand person march against asset sales and when 500 marched in Nelson former soldier Gareth Palmer was cheered when he said that in his eyes, ''John Key is a traitor''.

Aotearoa is Not for Sale united Labour, the Greens, Mana, NZF, the union movement and a range of the Government's enemies from Grey Power to anti-oil drilling protesters on the streets in a wave of protests which helped destabilise the Government and strengthen the legal and political challenge against asset sales. In 2013 winning the referendum which Labour, the Greens and others have worked tirelessly to gather signatures for will be a key fight. It'll show the country that John Key can be defeated at the ballot for the first time.

Education. The Government may have got through its cuts to student allowances although one of Auckland's largest mass arrests took place as a result, as students outfought kettles, blocked intersections and occupied the casino in a cat and mouse street protest which lasted six hours. But the Government buckled under the pressure of a teachers' revolt against increases to class sizes and now is set to face off against a wildcat teachers' strike in Christchurch against school closures early next year. With teachers' unions gearing up for a fight over wages as well, it may be that in 2013 education proves to be National's Achilles heel again.

There have been plenty of other victories as well. Those residents in Glen Innes who have refused to move, like Mrs. Temata, will spend this Christmas in their community, Local 13 has been bloodied in their fight against casualisation but is unbowed, Petrobras gave up trying to drill for oil off the beautiful East Cape, MidCentral DHB was forced to retain maternity services at Whanganui Hospital after protests, Burger King workers overcame a vicious anti-union campaign which exploited vulnerable migrant workers, AFFCO workers won a partial victory after the intervention of iwi leaders, anti-union law changes Key told us about have yet to be introduced to Parliament, and the John Banks-Kim Dotcom saga turned into the gift that kept giving - exposing the cavalier, Keystone cops at the heart of our intelligence services and police force.

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The radical left saw four seasons of protest this year. The first was Occupied Summer which saw the struggle against the eviction of Occupy Auckland and a housing occupation in Glen Innes which ignited a broader struggle against National's housing policies. This quickly became an Angry Autumn as under the brilliant red and yellow leaves of the big trees of Symonds Street students took to the streets to Blockade the Budget not once but twice. On these Autumn nights in Glen Innes hundreds of residents and activists began confronting long lines of police escorting house removal trucks in pitched street battles. The Ports of Auckland dispute erupted with a massive five thousand strong march on the port and a picket line that stretched from Mechanics Bay to Port Chalmers and Botany Bay. As the days shortened the Angry Autumn became a Winter of Dissent that stretched from a National Day of Action against asset sales through more student protests to the Socialist Aotearoa national conference at the beginning of Spring. During the Auckland Spring we saw for the first time in ages a slate of the radical left elected to the AUSA executive, solidarity with Palestine endorsed at a mass meeting of students, Hone Harawira arrested in Glen Innes, radical street parties on K'Road and Symonds Street, and ended with massive protests in solidarity with Palestine where the Palestinian flag was raised above the US consulate. Now we've seen a Rebellious Summer break out with fire on the streets of Auckland against the TPPA. 

Though various movements like ANFS, the students, the GI struggle, the workers' strikes, and Occupy have had their ebbs and flows throughout the year - Socialist Aotearoa has grown significantly, holding our first conference, formally affiliating with the International Socialist Tendency and being recognised by right-wing commentators as Aotearoa's 'most vigorous' and and 'most militant Marxist group'. Our activists have been at the heart of every major struggle this year arguing tactics and explaining politics. On the front lines being arrested and also working in support and logistics. We enter 2013 with an elected executive and a growing membership prepared to take on whatever the class struggle throws up. While Nazi's marched unchecked this year on the streets of Wellington and Christchurch when anti-Semitism raised its ugly head at the K'Road's Jewish cemetery Socialist Aotearoa led a strong and unequivocal response that in Auckland there is no room for racism. It was the same message we'd delivered to Paul Holmes for his racist tirade in the Herald earlier this year. When miners were massacred at Marikana in South Africa we made sure the South African consulate in Auckland dripped with blood and when the Urewera 4 were sentenced we marched outside Mt Eden prison in solidarity. We argued with the union officials for more militant action on the waterfront and in the freezing works and for a united struggle against the Nats job losses but our calls for blockades and rallies fell on deaf ears. As a result from the mines of Greymouth to the rail workshops of Hillside and the manufacturing heart of Auckland we are seeing the continuing destruction of the old industrial economy and the working class which works there. We argued against bureaucracy and abstentionism towards AUSA in student politics and our work payed off with an SFO complaint being laid against embedded corruption. We were there for the Maori, South African miners, the Jews, the Palestinians, the students, the tenants and the wharfies when plenty were not. We are proud of our role in the struggle and the immense amounts of work our comrades put in to ensuring we held the line.

2012 was a street fighting year from the eviction of Occupy Auckland to the TPPA protests last Saturday. On the streets of Aotearoa we held the line against National's attacks on the working class. It saw the 'return of the street', and as a result the radical left will enter 2013 in a much stronger position than it entered 2012. Bouquets to all our supporters. Brickbats to all our class enemies. 

The critical test for the radical left in 2013 will be maintaining the struggle in the streets against the Nats, raising Mana's profile in the local government elections and ensuring that socialist ideas and Marxist theory continue to grow in popularity.

Let's see what the New Year brings...

-Socialist Aotearoa

The year in images




































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