Thursday, September 20, 2012

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement?

TPPA - Neoliberalism without borders
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is shaping up to make the NZ government's proposed asset sales programme look like a mosquito to its great white shark. Judging by his superficial press releases, Trade Minister Tim Groser thinks he can convince us that it won't hurt a bit, or at least not much, and that bleeding the country in this way will cure its economic ills. But convincing us isn't high on the agenda, apparently, judging by the almost complete absence of publicly available information on the negotiations. It's actually part of the agreement that the details of the negotiations will remain sealed until four years after it is finalised. The only reason we know anything about the TPP negotiations is through leaked documents the negotiators didn't want us to see, including Article 12 of the Agreement (dealing with Investment).

Groser, New Zealand's negotiator to the Agreement, insists that “excessive sovereignty” is a big problem for the New Zealnd economy because it allows obstacles such as trade tariffs in countries that want to protect their workers' rights, to hinder “outstanding growth opportunities” for New Zealand.

The TPPA is designed to remove obstacles to economic globalisation – Profiteers Sans Frontieres. To do this, it has drafted provisions that will allow corporations to sue governments for loss of profit caused by pesky things like health and safety regulations, labour laws, minimum wage laws, food laws, environmental protection laws, trade tariffs, privacy laws, the Treaty of Waitangi, etc. Um, did we learn nothing from the neoliberal economic reforms of the 1980s and 90s?

The TPPA poses a clear threat to workers' pay and conditions, access to affordable medicine, internet freedom, local media content, our sovereignty over natural resources, our ability to hold private companies accountable for environmental destruction. This amnesty applies mainly to foreign multi-nationals – local investors would still be subject to the laws of their own country. Go figure.

Needless to say, this will affect the citizens of every country in the Partnership, as well as those not part of the deal (who will lose out by being forced to compete with the 'streamlined' economies of TPP countries).

Dubbed 'NAFTA on steroids', the TPP will be the most expansive 'free trade' agreement in history, if it is allowed to go ahead, which at this point seems imminent. The Partnership includes New Zealand, Australia, USA, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Malaysia and now Mexico and Canada.

The lack of transparency is in itself cause for concern. The news media have been disturbingly (if predictably) quiet on the subject, knowing which side their bread is buttered on. The beneficent, smiling public face of the negotiations is skin-deep. The TPPA will be a gross violation of international law – or rather, a drasic rewrite of international trade law, drafted by lobbyists for international capital. Elected politicians, journalists, non-profit groups and the public have been almost entirely excluded from negotiations (except for a few necessary Trade Ministers), whereas representatives of corporate interests, numbering in the hundreds and named as 'official trade advisors', have been setting the agenda.

New Zealand's opposition parties have taken a less-than-united stance on the TPPA. Mana have announced their policy to terminate negotiations completely. The Greens, in a joint statement with the Green parties of Australia and Canada, are calling for transparency and “to open these negotiations to public input and comment”. Although they haven't denounced the Agreement outright, they have expressed concerns that it will prevent governments from “performing effectively”. The Labour Party have cautiously skirted around the issue of secrecy, and merely touched on a few specifics of the Agreement, such as the implications for local tobacco laws and our international image in regard to ties with China. They are not voicing any concerns about the big-picture implications of signing over our national sovereignty in favour of big business. After all it was the Labour-led government that in 2007 initiated the TPP negotiations.

Straight from the horse's mouth (the US Trade Representative Office): the TPPA will introduce new measures "making the regulatory systems of TPP countries more compatible so U.S. companies can operate more seamlessly in TPP markets".

An added benefit to the US is the softening up of China's neighbours in the Pacific so they have allied territories on which to place their big guns if China 'misbehaves'. Hugh White, former Australian Defence Adviser, shed some light in an interview on Radio NZ: "[the TPP] is aimed by the United States as being part of its approach to contesting China's growing influence in Asia and trying to reassert American influence...To the extent that New Zealand supports it and for that matter to the extent that Australia supports it... I think it will contribute to a sense that we're lining up with the United States against China". On this issue, Groser announced “there is no ambiguity around this... TPP is not anti-China”. Why America thinks it has more right to assert its influence in Asia than China does is baffling, but that's another matter.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in Auckland on 3–12 December, providing a perfect opportunity to get out in vast numbers and embarrass our roughshod government when they are trying to look all shiny and agreeable to international capital! Watch this space.

-Sian R.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Who was Rosa Luxemburg?


You might be forgiven for thinking that a bushy beard was an essential requirement for all socialist thinkers in the 19th century. However an exception had to be made in the case of one socialisms greatest thinkers, Rosa Luxemburg.

Rosa Luxemburg was born in Zamość, Russia of Polish-Jewish parents in 1871. The city of Zamość was a significant Jewish centre, first established in 1580 by Sephardic Jews coming from Italy and Spain. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Jewish Enlightenment or Haskalah (השכלה‎) brought a flowering of Jewish intellectualism and integration with the secular world. This in turn lead to the creation of a number of Jewish political movements during the struggle for the Jewish Emancipation. It was this Jewish civil rights movement which lead thousands of Jews throughout Europe, including Rosa Luxemburg to become involved in the broader socialist and humanist movements that began with the Chartist Revolts and the publication of the Communist Manifesto.

It is hard to appreciate now what a beacon Teutonic culture was in the 19th century, but for Jews especially, nascent Germany represented progress. Heavily influenced by Marxist thought and the worker's struggles there, Rosa began working toward sparking a Polish revolution as a very young woman. She cut her teeth at age 17 as a member of the left-wing Proletarian Party in Poland, helping to organise a General Strike. For this, four members of her party received the death penalty. With the authorities closing in, Rosa eventually fled to Zurich, Switzerland, where she studied political economics and the humanities.

In Poland, Rosa founded “The Worker's Cause”, a newspaper in opposition to the Polish Socialist Party, which had fallen into nationalistic policies. Nationalism would be the bane of Rosa's existence, as throughout Europe in the 1890's, the bourgeoisie embarked on a renewed program of nation-building and industrial development, in conflict with the new internationalism of the rising working class.

It was this conflict which in part prompted Rosa to write so prolifically. In the course of addressing what she saw as the co-option of socialism by nationalism, Rosa was compelled to dig deep into Marxist philosophy, and develop a cogent theory to explain and reveal plainly how the intrusions of many seemingly innocent “revisions” of Marxism could lead inexorably to the destruction of the Revolution.

Two of her greatest works illustrate this; her attack on the reformer Eduard Bernstein, “Social Reform or Revolution” in 1899, and “The Accumulation of Capital” in 1913. It is these two works for which Rosa is best remembered.

“Social Reform or Revolution” challenged the notion that the object of the socialist revolution could be achieved not by the violent overthrow of capitalism, as originally posited by Marx and Engels, but by a progressive series of fundamental social reforms. Eduard Bernstein's ideas were seized upon by the bourgeoisie and many liberal thinkers as a means of warding off the threat of revolution that was breaking out in the late 19th century. In the crudest terms, the bourgeoisie could simply buy off the working classes with reforms, in a kind of fighting retreat. Luxemburg argued however that while reforms were welcome, and indeed essential, no series of reforms, no matter how profound could substitute for the elimination of capitalism itself. For unless it was eliminated completely, capitalism would inevitably rise again and reverse all of these well-meaning reforms while the working classes slept.

Bernstein's policy turned out to be highly effective, and Rosa's arguments against it were prescient. The revolutions in Europe were successfully defused. The results for Europe were, as predicted, terrible in the extreme, because with the domestication of socialism, conditions were ameliorated, but the cause of the social conflict, capitalism, remained. The simmering tensions continued to smoulder, until the Great Depression, when capitalism once again fell into crisis, and Europe turned to fascism for easy answers. Once the socialists and communists were overcome, Europe slid into what Winston Churchill would later call “The Thirty Years War.”

Rosa Luxemburg's other famous work, also eventually forgotten was “The Accumulation of Capital”. It contained a relentless attack on colonialism, which Luxemburg explained not as a manifestation of nationalism, as some believed, but as an inevitable consequence of the growing power of the banking system. She systematically analysed the history of Britain's involvement in the dismantling of its colony Egypt. Through a serious of large “development loans” beginning in the 1860's, the British created a new source of cheap cotton as a replacement for Confederate cotton during the American Civil War. When the war ended, Egyptian cotton prices collapsed. The original debts of course could not be repaid. Consequently, the British lenders embarked on a disastrous series of bailout loans, each worse than the one before it, trying to “help” the Egyptians “recover” from the previous failed “development” program. The end result was the complete collapse of the Egyptian economy, culminating in a military invasion of Egypt. Luxemburg rightly identified war not as a consequence of nationalist fervour, but as the sledgehammer of the imperialist state employed in the service of the capitalists, as debt collectors.

Luxemburg's contributions to Marxist theory were a constant thorn in the side of those who hoped to divert revolutionary energies to party political ends. The history of her intellectual struggles against the male-dominated establishment make fascinating reading. But Rosa was always as fervently active in street actions and in organising as she was in the intellectual sphere. It is in fact her refusal to stop agitating which lead to her brutal murder on January 15, 1919, during the ill-fated German Revolution.

Rosa's political influence waned in the years following her death, but for a time, she represented a significant body of opinion in socialist thought. Rosa's most important contribution lies perhaps in her assertion that the revolution could not be dictated from above, but had to be discovered in a democratic manner, as the workers organised themselves and learned for themselves how best to prosecute their own liberation. This did not necessarily have to involve violence at all, as Marx and Engels both seemed to imply. It could occur peacefully. It is for this distinction that Rosa Luxemburg is best remembered by Socialist Aotearoa, in its support for “Socialism from below”. We conclude with her own words;
"The masses are in reality their own leaders, dialectically creating their own development process. The more that Social Democracy develops, grows, and becomes stronger, the more the enlightened masses of workers will take their own destinies, the leadership of their movement, and the determination of its direction into their own hands."
- Linda M.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Drug Addiction is Not a Crime


"Drug addiction is the compulsive use of a substance, despite its negative or dangerous effects." -
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Our prisons are full of people suffering from the disease of addiction. An illness that if left untreated will likely kill them. Approximately 80% of crime in New Zealand occurs under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Yet, it is still very difficult to persuade courts to mandate offenders into rehabilitation programs and even harder for those in prison to access treatment for their addictions. Over 50% of those released from prison are back inside within five years and for those under the age of 20, more than 70% go back.

New Zealand has the second highest rate of imprisonment in the Western world. We spend obscene amounts of money on prisons, with very little success in turning our captives' lives around. Maybe we just like the idea of locking people up. Our blind support for the "War on Drugs" is not only expenisve and stupid, but it can only lead us to where the USA finds itself today: the world's highest levels of both drug abuse and prison incarceration in the world.

However all is not lost, Portugal is here to save the day. For years the Portugese have astounded the world by creating irresistable seafood dishes and professional footballers faster than John Key can invent excuses for child poverty. Now they can add another accomplishment to their résumé; how to reduce drug abuse.

On July 21st, 2001, Portugal decriminalised all drugs, from cannabis, to cocaine, to heroin. Over a decade has passed since the Portugese authorities decided that drug users are in fact not criminals. The government now offers treatment with no threat of legal punishment. The results are staggering. Portugese drug policy is undeniable proof that treating people with empathy and respect is better than stigmatising and locking them up.

In a little over ten years, the number of people suffering from drug addiction has been cut in half. Portugal's drug usage rates are now amoung the lowest in the EU and as a result, drug related diseases including STDs and overdoses have been reduced even more than usage rates.

Our government and justice system continue to stick their heads in the sand like some sort of puritanical ostrich with shares in the private prison industry. It is up to our communities and local healthcare providers to protest against a system that perpetuates both addiction and the criminal activity necessary to fund it.

- Shane M.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Auckland students vote overwhelmingly to censure AUSA President over trip to Israel



Auckland University students voted overwhelmingly on September 12 at Student Forum to censure the President of AUSA for a trip to Israel paid for and hosted by the Israeli government.

Read More: SJP - You went to occupied Palestine | Anthony Lowenstein - Zionist lobby targets Aussie students

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Shut it down

Martin Henderson as an environmental activist in Battle in Seattle.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations are coming to Auckland between 3 and 15 December this year.

The TPP is a free trade agreement being negotiated in secret between the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Mexico and Canada will join the negotiations in Auckland.

As the NGO TPPWatch describe the TPP, 'Trade is only a minor part of the agreement. That’s just a clever branding exercise. A TPPA would be an agreement that guarantees special rights to foreign investors. If these negotiations succeed they will create a mega-treaty across 9 countries that will put a straight jacket around what policies and laws our governments can adopt for the next century – think GM labelling, foreign investment laws, price of medicines, regulating dodgy finance firms, NZ content on TV …'

Actor Martin Henderson who starred in the film Battle in Seattle, supports the campaign against the TPP, 'Spending time away has made me understand how fortunate we are to have everything that makes being a Kiwi so unique and special. A Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would put at risk the best of New Zealand to give more power to foreign corporations. We have so much to lose with this shonky deal: control of our land and natural resources, affordable medicine, cultural diversity.'

In just a few days the internet campaign website Avazz has collected 627,000 signatures opposing the deal.

Law Professor and anti-corporate activist Jane Kelsey has set out the threat of the TPP to democracy,
Most discussion of constraints on the government's right to regulate has centred on tobacco controls. But a raft of other policies could also prompt investor complaints. Imposing a capital gains tax. Slashing Sky City's pokie numbers, especially if National guarantees more in a Convention Centre contract. More stringent mine safety laws, a ban on fracking, iwi approval for drilling in wahi tapu, or tighter regulation of mining by companies the government has invited to tender. Capping electricity price increases. Tighter alcohol retail laws. Reversing ACC privatisation, as Labour did before. Stronger finance sector regulation, such as capping a bank's market share or banning crossover retail, investment and insurance activity.
The TPP must be stopped, it can be stopped.  In 1999 tens of thousands of union, environmental and student protesters shut down the talks of the World Trade Organisation to create a global TPP style agreement known as the Global agreement on Trade in Services or Gats. The date of the protest November 30 is still remembered as a historic victory for people power. The protests helped stop a global corporate power grab and ignited what became known as the anti-globalisation movement.

As National prepares to host the TPP negotiations in Auckland this December we have a unique opportunity to show the world that Aotearoa is not for sale and to shut down the TPP. Massive protests could disrupt the talks, derail the negotiations and shine a spotlight on this secret attack on democracy.

-SA

Understanding the Eurozone crisis


'The whole problem in Europe, the whole reason why you are seeing these countries like Spain, like Greece and right through southern Europe in the sort of mess they are is that they have huge levels of government debt. So the answer to New Zealand is not coming up with a make work scheme funded off taxpayers' taxes. It comes from New Zealand having a competitive industry, flexible labour markets, investing in things that will make the economy grow faster...' - John Key, Q + A, 16/09/12

John Key when he explains the global economic outlook and the prospects for economic growth avoids the real issues. Three simple but wrong assumptions he makes about the economic crisis and possible recovery are explained here.

1. Why do southern European governments have such high levels of debt in the first place?

'After the introduction of the euro, banks and other investors flooded the “periphery” countries of the eurozone with cheap credit. They weren’t trying to improve workers’ living standards. They were trying to make a profit by encouraging spending with money that didn’t exist. This cheap credit benefited the rich, who profited massively and are experts at avoiding tax. But the level of debt in countries like Greece grew. And the cost of living in Greece rose by more than 35 percent between 2000 and 2008.The influx of cheap credit encouraged countries to rely on debt to get by. When the economic crisis hit and access to credit dried up, the poorest countries suffered the most. So the crisis is rooted in bosses trying to protect their profits.' - David Sewell, Socialistworker.co.uk

2. Will flexible labour markets lead to growth or union busting?

Demands for labour market flexibility is ruling class code for reducing the wages and conditions of workers by destroying trade unions. The recent Ports of Auckland dispute is one example. The employer was demanding the complete casualisation of work done on the port, but it was more about de-unionising the workforce. As CTU President Helen Kelly explained, 'In the end this dispute is about two things - whether the workers for the Port of Auckland will be dismissed to be replaced by a casualised workforce (along the same lines as Tauranga where there have been three deaths in 15 months) and whether Auckland ratepayers are losing the value of their port by stealth to those who simply want to make more and more profit out of our assets through privatisation.'

The new laws making it easier to fire workers and harder for unions to negotiate being passed around the world from Wisconsin to Spain do nothing to support economic growth but effectively reduce wages. As the economist John Maynard Keynes described the effect, 'Although reducing money wages could boost a single firm, in the whole economy the effect would be to depress demand for consumer goods, as workers had less money to spend. Workers typically spend more of their income than bosses do, so redistributing income away from workers was likely to further decrease effective demand.'

3. Should the government create jobs and support industry?

John Key does not believe the Government should intervene to assist the railway workers at Hillside, smelter workers at Tiwai Point, miners at Spring Creek or the paper workers of Kawerau. But he was happy for $1.8 billion in taxpayer money to go towards bailing out South Canterbury Finance and for $100 million in tax breaks to go to Warner Brothers over the Hobbit. He links job creation schemes with the imploding economies of southern Europe but they are not doing any job creation.

However in France the new centre-left government has begun a timid programme of raising taxes on the wealthy and  creating 150,000 jobs. It's not much but it is an alternative do the do-nothing policies of Key and the National Party. The Mana Movement has an Employment policy that would create full employment and abolish the dole. Mana would also have a national economic strategy that supported industry in New Zealand and was environmentally sustainable. This is the type of thing the government should be doing to reduce unemployment.

-SA

Operation National Party - The 'usual hard core'?

To police officers, children marching for better schools are the 'usual hard core'.
On the 21st of July some 300 students and teachers marched on the National Party's conference at SkyCity to protest National's cuts to postgraduate education, early childhood education and charter schools. Anyone watching the protest would have seen a lot of students, union flags from the various education unions and an unusual amount of children for a demonstration.

The last post looked at the most interesting aspect of police operational orders released under the Official Information Act concerning a recent student protest. Another set of orders, that concerning the protests around the National Party conference has also been released - Operation National Party Conference. 

Part of the summary for officers reads - 'Protest groups will be the usual hard core groups who have already made their feelings felt recently in Auckland city. However it can be expected that some members of the general public not aligned to any protest group could be well motivated to also lend their weight to these protests.'

This statement reveals the police's perspective - protest groups like unions, student groups or the Quality Public Education Coalition are 'the usual hard core' whose possible scenarios (blacked out) need to be dealt with.

The media tells us that the 'police exist to protect everyone equally and keep us safe from crime. In reality their role is to protect the ruling class—by any means necessary.'

In reality police officers are conditioned by their commanders at each and every protest to view dissidents - striking teachers or protesting students - and mass political action as a threat to law and order. In the minds of the police, the teachers, students and children protesting on July 21 were 'hard core' elements one step away from disrupting John Key and his cronies celebrating their renewed beneficiary bashing.

This is why the police are not our friends, this is why we cannot win them over to our side - 'In periods of relative social peace, police violence is limited and the illusion that they are above the class struggle can be maintained. But in periods of crisis and heightened class conflict the real role of the police becomes clearer to millions of people. The only solution is to abolish the police entirely—and the only way to do that is to fight for a socialist society.'

-Socialist Aotearoa


An excerpt from police operational orders.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Operation Flick: Who set the trap?


The police operation orders for Operation Flick, the police operation to clear student protesters on 1 June from Symonds Street, have been released under the Official Information Act and contain a nasty surprise.

It was the University of Auckland itself which called the police on their own students. Not only this, the University security and the Auckland Council collaborated with the police operation which left 43 students arrested in a day of massive and unprovoked police violence against student demonstrators.

In a complaint to the Police, student group 'Blockade the Budget says police dragged students by the neck and throat, punched and trampled them and held students against the ground when they weren't resisting.'

Fifty five seconds into this video you can clearly see a police officer punch a seated protester. The kettling and arresting of students came after the police promised student leader Jai Bentley-Paine that the police were present to facilitate the demonstration. Operation Flick was clearly a police operation designed to destroy the student protest movement with extreme violence.

One question raised by the release of the Operation Flick orders is how much did the University know about the intentions of the police on June 1?

Another question is: did the police design this operation or did the University administration itself organise to set the trap? The evidence suggests the University.

-Socialist Aotearoa


MANA setting the agenda


This week confirms that the MANA Movement continues to set the agenda on the left in politics. It is the intellectual and activist powerhouse that is driving forward pro-worker, pro-poor and pro-Maori politics in Aotearoa.

Firstly, Labour's leader David Shearer this week adopted the 'feed the kids' policy of MANA in the 2011 election to bring healthy meals into working class schools in communities that have been savaged as a result of decades of low wages, high unemployment and five years of economic recession. Labour's move comes the week after Hone Harawira lodged a private members bill to provide free lunches and breakfasts in decile 1 and 2 schools. Hone has neatly replied to the critics, "And as for people who believe that feeding children is a responsibility of the parents, why should our children suffer because some parents either don’t receive enough money to feed their kids or because a small minority make bad parenting choices?" Even the Herald is swinging somewhat in behind the principle with their editorial, Breakfast is not too much to ask. As a side note: those involved in early MANA policy discussions, will remember that some of the inspiration for this policy came from the Oakland ghetto. Shearer may be an unlikely candidate for membership of the Black Panther Party but his adoption this week of 'feed the kids' is confirmation of the revolutionary potential of the thought and deeds of Huey P Newton and the Black Panthers. Radical movements, revolutionary upsurges come and go - the best ideas survive.

He came, he swore, he conquered. Hone Harawira's comments about John Key treating his Maori MPs like 'house niggers' may have won him no friends in the the National Party but it certainly worked - coaxing Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples into attending and thus acknowledging the absolute need for a united Maori approach to water rights. Over and over again we have heard the refrain that the Maori Party get more from being in the Government than being opposed to it. But Key a month ago was ready to ignore the Waitangi Tribunal and push ahead with asset sales over iwi rights. Now he is being forced to delay asset sales, recognise water rights and negotiate with Maoridom.  This came because of a fightback in the courts, in the streets and in the media led by MANA Movement leaders like Hone and Annette Sykes. Hone's letter to Key in the Herald yesterday was an erudite rebuttal of the Government's current position and his and Annette Sykes' proposals to the Turangawaewae Hui have set the agenda within Maoridom.

Annette's speech at the 1000 strong-hui was an eloquent call for the need for unity. As ex-Green MP Nandor Tanczos described the speech, "Just spent the day at Turangawaewae listening to the korero about water and catching up with friends. Annette Sykes, as usual, rocked the mike. She can always be counted on to say the things that need to be said, regardless of who it might make uncomfortable. For well-informed, intelligent, and courageous comment, you can't beat her." If one person can be counted upon to help deliver a crippling blow to the Government in the High Court if Key and co press ahead with asset sales without consulting iwi and hapu it is Annette. Her critique of the Maori elite and steadfast advocacy for women and the poor makes her the key link in the chain between Maori fighting for guardianship over water and all of us fighting against asset sales. The right's racist agenda hopes to stem the alliance of non-elite Maori and Pakeha  in movements like Aotearoa is Not for Sale by stirring up resentment over the cost of Treaty settlements. But thus far the championing of the interests of Maori and workers by MANA and its total opposition to any iwi co-operation with  asset sales make it a harder proposition for the right.

Some in the struggle and the movements favour an abstenionist position towards Parliamentary parties- from some Maori activists who believe all politicians are corruped by the colonial Parliament to anarchists who think 'if voting changed anything it would be made illegal'. The wins of Mana this week in helping bring Maori  to a united position against the commercialisation of water and in raising the need for meals in lowdecile schools confirm the importance of building the Mana Movement for all those who want to stop asset sales and child poverty.

In Quebec, Canada provincial elections have seen centre-right Liberal Party ejected from office and the centre-left Parti Quebecois take power promising to repeal the hated fee rise for university students and the emergency laws that criminalised dissent. The anti-capitalist, anti-colonial Quebec Solidaire (QS) won 6% of the popular vote and went from one to two Members of Quebec's National Assembly. The success of QS was as a result of their integration with the Quebec student strike. As the Canadian International Socialists described it, 'QS officially supported the student strikes from the very beginning, taking up student demands for free, accessible post-secondary education, joining citizen pot-clanging marches (les cassaroles) and still proudly wearing the red square.'

Building parties like MANA or Quebec Solidaire are important to the social movements and street protests against neo-liberalism - as one Canadian activist blogged, 'QS helped build the Quebec spring and was in turn shaped by it, with many students joining its ranks, and is in a stronger position to continue giving voice to the movements in the future.' MANA too is shaping and in turn being shaped by the struggles against neo-liberalism in Aotearoa. As it too grows from the water rights movement it will become a stronger voice in the struggles against austerity and neo-colonialism to come.

-Socialist Aotearoa

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Broken cameras, unbroken struggles

Five Broken Cameras: Five years in the life of a Palestinian child.

Three recent documentary films reviewed by Sian R.

 Palestine, Ireland, New Zealand - each country has a brutal and much-glossed-over history of oppression and dispossession. I went to three films in this year's film festival, and realised afterwards that they all dealt with the same theme – peoples' struggles against violent displacement – and were all quite uplifting and cathartic in their own way, despite some pretty tragic subject matter.

Five Broken Cameras is a patchwork story told by Ehad Burnat, an amateur cameraman and farmer in the small village of Bil'in in Palestine's West Bank. It spans the first five years of his youngest son's life, coinciding with the beginning of Bil'in's resistance to the construction of the Israeli separation barrier. It is shot through five different cameras, each of which in turn got trampled, smashed or shot at by Israeli soldiers. Israeli editor and co-director, Guy Davidi, has neatly woven the pieces together. Burnat narrates scenes of everyday village life, giving background and context to the colourful characters that make up this humble but poignant story of cameraderie, conflict, family life, violence and tragedy.

The film is both heartwarming and provoking – seen candidly through the eyes of a father committed to the integrity of his community and family, contrasted with violent military attacks on peaceful protests and the consequences on the Palestinians' morale. Bil'in has attracted significant attention, with many international activists and supporters joining the locals in their weekly resistance to the encroaching Israeli settlements and the construction of the separation barrier with its barbed wire and arduous checkpoints. As with every film about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, critics are hasty to call it 'one-sided' and 'lacking in context'. It's true – if you know nothing about the subject, this film won't give you a broad understanding. It is also one-sided – how can such a personal account be anything else? If you want the other side, go watch a different film.

Bernadette - Notes on a Political Journey follows the political life of Irish activist, revolutionary socialist and parliamentarian, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. As well as being an indomitable champion of the civil rights movement in Ireland, an impassioned speaker and a daring activist, she was the youngest member of parliament in 1969, was imprisoned for supposedly inciting a riot the same year, was critically injured in an assassination attempt in 1981, and banned from entering America in 2003.

She's also known for wearing a miniskirt in parliament and slapping the Home Secretary for suggesting the British army only acted in self-defence in the 'Bloody Sunday' massacre of 13 unarmed protesters. Director Lelia Doolan has unearthed plenty of vibrant original footage of public speeches and street activism, interspersed with recent interviews with the subject, whose wry determination and idealism have not faded with time. The film is as entertaining as it is informative, and McAliskey's fierce sense of justice and compassion are infectious.

Tatarakihi - The Children of Parihaka is the newest work of director Paora Joseph. It documents the pilgrimmage of the decendants of Parihaka. In the 1870s and 80s the Maori inhabitants of Parihaka sustained a campaign of non-violent resistance against the confiscation and occupation of their land by European settlers, led by Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, in response to the bloody land wars that ravaged Aotearoa for several decades following the signing of the Treaty. Hundreds of Parihaka residents were arrested and jailed in the South Island.

The school children's hikoi around New Zealand takes them to the places built by and prisons inhabited by the men who were stolen from their families between 1869 and 1893, incarcerated and forced into slave labour. It's gruelling to see the evidence of the conditions these men had to endure. The film uses partially animated still photographs from the period, and scenes and interviews with the children and their families as they travel from one site to the next to acknowledge the heartache and hardship their tupuna had to endure, and 'never to forget'.

--

One of these struggles for self-determination, in Palestine, is very current (though it has been going on for several decades). The other two are often considered relics of history; these two films bring back into the spotlight not only the atrocities that were committed in the name of the Crown, but also the fact that to a large extent the illegal confiscations of Maori land have to this day not been rectified, and Irish workers' rights are still in the mud, as are those of the English working class in whose name the invading armies shed innocent blood.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Making America Safe from Democracy


The Presidential elections now loom large in the thoughts not only of Americans, but of the world. The pageantry and splendour of the respective party conventions, with their cheering crowds and glittering venues give every appearance that American Democracy is alive and well. But as Chris Hedges has pointed out in “Death of the Liberal Class,” politics has been reduced to spectacle. People hold up professionally printed signs, or wear Styrofoam boater hats sporting cockades, oblivious to their Revolutionary symbolism. No authentic voices will be heard. Gone forever are the Minute Men and the blue-coated Citizen-Soldiers in breeches, with their tri-corner hats and muskets ready, gently reminding the people to be vigilant against Tyranny. All the scruffy activists and Occupiers are safely caged in their “Free Speech Zones”, guarded by an overwhelming militarised police presence. The streets are clean. All the homeless were bussed out of town days ago.

The candidates are no longer flesh and blood men in this spectacle. They are as flat in real life as they are on the big monitors. They are carefully crafted abstractions, polished to a high lustre. They appear to represent opposing ideologies, but even that is an illusion. “Engagement” and “issues” are as unwelcome here as free speech. Journalists cover the event like some Hollywood awards night, attempting to inject some drama into the proceedings, even though everyone already knows who will win. Mistakes and bloopers are eagerly seized upon and dissected, to see if the candidate might reveal some hint of human foible, or divulge some secret deviancy. They are inevitably disappointed. The show stays on script all the way to the third act. A “liberal” is ritually sacrificed to appease the corporate sponsors. The ceremonies conclude when heroic celebrities announce that once again, popular culture has triumphed over the dangerous and brooding masses.

Obama: "The war in Afghanistan continues, Iraq is
still occupied, the Great Recession grinds on. "
Whoever wins, when the last voter votes, and the last curtain in the last voting booth falls, the elites will have their man regardless. Promises are for the gullible. Obama, who campaigned on “Hope” in 2008 did almost none of what he promised, betraying half the country; Guantanamo Bay remains open, the Patriot Act has been renewed and expanded, the war in Afghanistan continues, Iraq is still occupied, the Great Recession grinds on. Millions of Americans rely on foodstamps, while Wall Street and the Military-Industrial Complex have transcended all accountability. The Department of Justice considers there is no case to answer for the near-destruction of the US economy, or for CIA officers accused of torture. Billionaires boast how a paltry million dollars is all it takes to buy a seat in Congress. This is America's brain on the drug of corporate money.

If the incumbent candidate, Barack Obama is elected, he will probably have to work with another Republican Congress, meaning he will be hamstrung, unable to push any serious policy agendas. The next four years will be a repeat of the last four; long-term stagnation, continued structural decay, continued erosion of the purchasing-power and the liberties of the bulk of American society, uninterrupted asset-stripping on a massive scale, accompanied by the rapid militarisation of domestic law enforcement for the purposes of repression. Longer kill-lists, more drones, more lies, more secrecy, and more dissembling. This is the Democratic Agenda as evidenced by the actions of the Democratic President.

Romney: "Policies that would roll back all of the social progress
made in the last 70 years, and establish the Great Recession as
 a permanent condition for the bottom 57%."
Mitt Romney, for his part, is an unembarrassed Neo-Liberal who makes no secret of the fact that he will serve the interests of the rich to the best of his ability. Wealthy in his own right, he is a true member of the 1%, a genuine 21st Century international capitalist. He mouths patriotic distortions of traditional American values; homilies about fighting for freedom are used to attack trade unions, and “Democracy” is held up as a talisman against medical social security. But he is betrayed by his own actions; by his avoidance of military service, by his record as an enemy of the American worker, and by his insistence on moving his personal fortune out of the United States to avoid paying tax.

Were Romney to win, he would likely walk into the White House with a Republican Congress solidly behind him. He would have a mandate most leaders could only dream about. He would go to work immediately, paying off his campaign debts, implementing policies that would roll back all of the social progress made in the last 70 years, and establish the Great Recession as a permanent condition for the bottom 57% of the population. This is the Republican Agenda in practical effect.

Mitt Romney is the real-life analogue of Gordon Gecko. As head of Bain Capital, he loaded up some of America's most successful companies with debt in order to asset-strip them, workers be damned. Faced with the current financial crisis, his natural instinct as President would be to do the same to the United States, lumbering the country with even more debt, selling its assets, dumping a small army of government workers onto the street, privatising government services, slashing taxes for the rich, shipping American jobs overseas, gutting social welfare programs needed by millions just to survive, and possibly steering the US into another military disaster.

That such a thing is even possible, that such a man as Mitt Romney could even make it this far, speaks volumes about the cynicism of the elites, and the complete inversion of civic virtue which has taken place in American politics in the last thirty years. The citizenry are no longer considered to be a credible threat to the powerful interests which profit from the political process. The democratic institutions of the United States no longer function for the benefit of the “People”. The war is won; America has been made safe from democracy.

-Linda M, SA

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Jayson Gardiner - What is tino rangatiratanga?



Mana Party and Socialist Aotearoa activist Jayson Gardiner discusses what is tino rangatiratanga.

Land wars to water wars


Divide and rule was the main aim of the Government's planned 'consultation hui' with iwi on rivers connected to the hydro-power schemes of SOEs floated for privatisation.

This plan is now in ruins in the wake of Maori King Tuheitia call for a national hui at Turangawaewae marae on the banks of the Waikato River.

Taken on its own, the decision by the Maori King to call a national hui is a serious blow to the asset sales agenda. Together with the six month delay announced on Monday the two defeats critically undermine National's attempt to go around Maori resistance to asset sales by just talking to some iwi leaders.

Morgan Godfrey has explained some of the political ramifications, 'Will the Kingitanga pressure Waikato-Tainui negotiators to refuse a deal that excludes a national solution? The answer: yes.'

If Maoridom come united out of the hui on September 13 in a rejection of asset sales, National will have a choice. Give up on asset sales or crush all resistance.

When the British first invaded the Waikato to crush the King Movement in 1863 they needed 12,000 imperial troops and only 'won' after 10 months of fierce fighting. Tribal divisions left Maori to weak to win the land wars of the nineteenth century. Pan-Maori resistance now will strengthen the struggle against asset sales and for tino rangatiratanga.

-Socialist Aotearoa

Hone X


Monday, September 03, 2012

We know we will die - West Papua under attack

OPM: Some guerrilla of West Papua are fighting Indonesian special forces with bows and arrows.
In the Indonesian occupied province of West Papua 22 freedom fighters with the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) were arrested yesterday.

The arrests come in a year of extreme repression directed by Indonesia at crushing the independence movement that has seen activists murdered by the Indonesian army and special forces burning tribal villages in the highlands.

Yet the underground fight for freedom continues. Chairman of the West Papuan National Committee, Victor Yeimo summed up the spirit of the resistance movement to an undercover Australian reporter recently,
We know that we will die, we will shot by them. It's not a new thing, it's not a new story, we have been killed by them - many of our elder have already been killed by Indonesia.But we will struggle for freedom because if not me, who? There's no way - we will struggle, we will fight or we will be lost from this country. We know it.
Since 1969 over 100,000 people in West Papua have died as a result of Indonesian police and military violence.

The United States, Australia and New Zealand are all complicit in this violence. The US and Australia arm and train the Indonesian military and police forces. America is set to sell Indonesia eight state of the art Apache attack helicopters. These helicopters will be used in operations like one last year,
Last winter, the Army and police concluded Operation Annihilate Matoa, a massive joint offensive in the remote central highlands. According to reports by West Papua Media, an independent outlet headquartered in Australia that draws from a network of trained West Papuan journalists, Indonesian troops in search of Free Papua Movement (OPM) commander Jhon Yogi forcibly evacuated more than 130 villages, torched countless homes and killed dozens of civilians.
The operation also involved crude helicopter attacks. Using commercial helicopters borrowed from an Australian gold mining company, troops perched in the sky threw tear gas and grenades, poured fuel onto the hamlets below, and strafed them with machine-gun fire.
Australia's governing Labor Party are currently under fire as revelations emerge that an Indonesian special forces unit trained and supplied by the Australian Federal Police is acting as a death squad against activists.

New Zealand's Indonesia Human Rights Committee in June broke a story of an Indonesian special forces officer being trained by the New Zealand Defence Force. The officer is from the same unit responsible for torturing West Papuans and murdering the New Zealand journalist Gary Cunningham in Balibo, East Timor in 1975.

Lush cosmetics recently began selling a Smell of Freedom perfume in stores to raise money for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee (IHRC). The IHRC recently called on the New Zealand and Australian governments and other Pacific states to support a regional fact finding mission to the West Papuan province. It is the very least our government could do to end the genocide in slow motion in West Papua.

-Socialist Aotearoa

Behind the suicide spike - unemployment, child poverty, racism

Suicides are always political.
Suicide statistics have been released for the year to 30 June 2012 and show a 40% surge in suicides of 15-19 year olds killing themselves. The tragic spike in youth suicides mirrors the rise in children living in poverty to 21%.

The unemployed make up 28% of the 547 suicides in the last year. It's no secret unemployment is linked with suicide, 'One Oxford university study shows that a 3 percent rise in unemployment is linked to a rise of 2.4 percent in suicides in people under the age of 64.'

A recent paper in the British Medical Journal concluded, 'More than 1,000 people in the UK may have killed themselves because of the impact on their lives of the economic recession.'

Maori are overrepresented in suicide and numbers are rising. Suicide among Maori rose from 101 to 142 from 2010/2011 to 2011/2012. A 2006 study that compared a group of Maori who had attempted suicide to a control group found, 'Higher numbers among the attempted-suicide group were not connected to things Maori.'

The researcher who wrote the report concluded, 'Maori who lost contact with Maoritanga - things like their whakapapa, marae and Maori language - "lack a sense of belonging to a place". Rebuilding these connections, like learning the language, could help to reduce the risk of Maori suicide.'

Ending the scourge of suicide means ending unemployment and poverty. It also means fighting for more support for iwi and hapu to reconnect young Maori with their culture and language.

The suicide statistics show that Maori, children and the unemployed are paying dearly for the economic crisis. One suicide in Tunisia was enough to spark the Arab Spring - a fight for freedom, human rights and social welfare. Over 2700 suicides in the last five years in Aotearoa should spark a fight against the National Party's attacks on Maori, the unemployed and beneficiaries and workers' rights.

-Socialist Aotearoa




Revolution conference - Spring in our step


The first days of Spring saw Socialist Aotearoa's Revolution conference held over the weekend at Auckland Trades Hall.

Matt McCarten, Darien Fenton,
Joe Carolan and Nicola Owen.
Debating the future of the left on Saturday afternoon, Matt McCarten from Unite union told the conference that Socialist Aotearoa is a small but serious part of the left, respected for its interventions in union disputes and political campaigns and 'Punched above its weight.' Labour MP Darien Fenton also spoke at the closing session, calling for unity on the left to fight the Government. And Joe Carolan from Socialist Aotearoa discussed the situation of the radical left internationally and the success of parties of the radical left such as Die Linke in Germany and Syriza in Greece and the need for a radical left alternative.

Over sixty activists attended through the weekend and important sessions were held on union struggles, the new fights against oppression, the Arab Spring and Marxism today.

A good crowd turned out on Friday night to hear speeches from Miriam Pieard of Aotearoa is Not for Sale, Jai Bentley Paine, from Blockade the Budget, Jimmy O'Dea from the Tamaki Housing Group, Mike Treen from Unite and Joe Carolan from Socialist Aotearoa.

Saturday morning opened with a session on the relevance of Marxist theory followed by a session on the struggles of oppressed peoples. Socialist Aotearoa activist Paul Brown spoke about disabled people fighting against the system of 'Cure, containment and control' and systematic discrimination. "We need to say enough is enough and join disabled people in the fightback.'

Jayson Gardiner.
Nicola Owen discussed women's oppression and the view of socialists, "Some of the debates that go around the left about do all men benefit from women's oppression. I think it can be quite simply summed up. Your male partner if you are a woman doesn't benefit from you being paid less. Doesn't benefit from not having access to childcare. The question is the question of class and the question of how we unite men and women together to overthrow capitalism."

Jayson Gardiner, gave a powerful speech on class struggle and tino rangatiratanga, "Not all Maori want the same thing. Rich Maori don't care about poor Maori. Same as rich Pakeha and rich Asians don't care about the poor Pakeha or poor Asian. Maori are not united. The only thing we have that we can relate to is the working class struggle, working class Maori, working class Europeans, working class people across the board."

Russel Mayn.
A union session on Saturday afternoon heard from Russell Mayn, Secretary of MUNZ Local 13 on the war still being waged on wharfies by Ports of Auckland. Russell described the constant harrasment and victimisation of union members on the site and the grinding court disputes over rosters and privacy rights. "The attacks on our union are part of an agenda - privatisation by stealth."

Meredydd Barrar, Vice President of NZEI teachers' union West Auckland branch, told the session, "New Zealand's teachers are the lowest paid teachers in the OECD and they work the longest hours." Omar Hamed from Socialist Aotearoa spoke of the need for the union movement to fight attacks on workers rights and push for pay increases together, 'We need to push union leaders to renew their commitment to fight the government.'

The conference acknowledged the need for Socialist Aotearoa members to continue the work in Aotearoa is Not for Sale, in Glen Innes, in the education sector and the union movement to fight the government. Socialist Aoteroa also reaffirmed its alignment with the International Socialist Tendency. Socialist Aotearoa welcomes all those new members who joined over the weekend and looks forward to the new year of struggle ahead.

-Socialist Aotearoa

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The numbers behind John Key’s Brighter Future


3 – the percent fall in New Zealand’s median household income between 2010 and 2011.

10 – number of New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2010.

21 – the percent of children growing up in poverty in New Zealand in 2011.

40 – the percent rise in youth suicide in the last year. Eighty 15-19 year olds have killed themselves, up from 56 the year before.

53,900 – the numbers of New Zealanders who have moved to Australia in the year to July. The figure is a record and the population equivalent of New Plymouth, the country’s 11th largest city.

162,000 – the number of unemployed people in New Zealand. Over 10,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in a quarter.

4,700,000,000 – the $ increase in the size of government debt in the last four years, from $8bn in 2008 to $55bn now.

Right to water and the right to electricity


John Key was forced today to bow to the Waitangi Tribunal's ruling on water rights and delay the first privatisation for six months.

It is a win for the Maori Council, it is a win for the Aotearoa is Not for Sale movement and a win for the Keep Our Assets coalition. Annette Sykes, MANA Party President and leading lawyer in the claim for water rights describes it as a 'Titanic win for hapu water rights.'

As National Party blogger David Farrar acknowledges, 'This is a significant decision. While MRP will still be floated, the chance of having all five sales before the 2014 election is diminished.'

When Key seeks to sell off Mighty River Power in March 2013 he'll be forced to contend with a citizens' initiated referendum and no doubt the continuing Eurozone debt crisis. Already National has been forced to admit Solid Energy is unsaleable right now. Now the electricity companies sell off is bogged down. We can expect a sharpened debate within Maoridom now, between the pro-capitalist Iwi Leaders Group and working class Maori.

Some iwi leaders will be looking for a slice of the assets, but the majority of working class Maori won't benefit from iwi leaders accepting share parcels. As Hone Harawira said on Native Affairs, 'People are running dams all over the world and nobody's doing anything special. So the productivity isn't going to increase and the only way you are going to get that profit is price increases. And its going to be Maori, poor Maori from every tribe in the country, that get hurt.' If, as the Waitangi Tribunal recommends, a national hui of Maori is held in Waiwhetu in Lower Hutt on water rights over Summer this division is going to come to the fore.

Iwi and hapu should reject any compromise with John Key over water rights and not negotiate share parcels as compensation. Hone Harawira and MANA have called instead for, 'Full and open discussion within Maoridom to clarify exactly what those rights and responsibilities might be, and we call on iwi leaders to support that process by not entering into private negotiations with the Crown until their own people have been given the right to participate in one of the biggest decisions they may ever have to make.' If 88% of Maori oppose asset sales, then a slice of asset ownership is hardly fair compensation.

Socialist Aotearoa supports Maori water rights but we also support Maori and working class rights to electricity. The Dominion Post recently ran a story about a family who do not earn enough money to pay for electricity for a refrigerator. The elderly cannot afford to heat their homes. Remember Folole Muliaga, who died because her family could not afford the electricity needed for her home oxygen machine. Privatised companies charge power prices 12% or $265 higher than state owned companies.

The right to electricity is the right to warm homes, lighting, run fridges, radios and computers. Electricity is not a luxury good, it is needed in order to achieve basic human rights - a healthy standard of living, right to education, right to cultural involvement. Fuel poverty affects tens of thousands of New Zealanders and of course many Maori. It will become worse as the electricity companies are privatised.

In 2011, 30,000 New Zealanders had their power cut off. Lower Hutt couple Howard and Kahu were among these. "Several times Howard turned off the power at the mains when they were down to their last few dollars. Dinner for the couple's children was cooked on a barbecue. Kahu, who is dependent on a nebuliser, was admitted to hospital on one occasion when they ran out of electricity."

The Government has been forced to admit that Maori have water rights. The struggle ahead is to stop asset sales, higher power prices and ensure all New Zealanders, Maori, Pakeha, working class, have a right to electricity.

-Socialist Aotearoa

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The case for a socialist media

Stall: During the last Aotearoa is Not for Sale march we sold over $100 worth of socialist pamphlets.
The battle against capitalism is intellectual as well as activist.
I doubt many people will disagree when I say the NZ Herald, the television news and the corporate radio stations are not up to the task of providing us working people with enough news, analysis and information to change the world.

If you read or watch corporate media you’ll see the love life of Kim Kardashian and family given more coverage than recent massacres of Syrian civilians in Aleppo or Damascus. You’ll see the lies of big business and the National Party being regurgitated unchallenged. Remember the story about wharfies earning $92,000 a year? You’ll see space given to racists and bigots like Paul Holmes and until we organised to stop him Paul Henry, to slur Maori, women, immigrants and queer people. You’ll hear from embedded journalists about the wonderful aid work NZ soldiers are doing in Afghanistan while the country falls apart under the strain of occupation. We shouldn’t complain about media bias although it exists – but about media manipulation – of public opinion and thus of public action.

The left, unions and political movements are often targets of this manipulation. Remember the NZHerald’s campaign against Hone Harawira in the 2011 by-election? Listen to the carefully crafted words in this editorial by the Herald during the election, “To the extent that his Mana Party has any policies, they have been borrowed from the far left. Maori should beware - the far left is a zone of political philosophy that wants to submerge cultural distinctions in the interests of class solidarity. An indigenous minority has much greater aspirations available.” Hardly neutral, the tone is clear. Maori should stay away from Mana and stay away from the left. And this of course was one among no less than four Herald editorials which slurred Hone during the by-election.

Or take the Dominion Post editorial during the Hobbit dispute,
“ Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The full stupidity of the Actors' Equity members who arranged an international boycott of The Hobbit is now apparent... it was lunacy for them to target The Hobbit to press their claims. In case they have not noticed, this is not the only country with hills and atmospheric forests. It is also not the only place in which actors are available for employment.”
Stupidity and lunacy being of course the key words. Or remember the TV1 evening news story which aired the day after 43 were arrested on Symonds Street. In it the reporter said, “Some say they’re going too far.” Before interviewing three students who all gave negative reactions to the protest. “Pretty extreme to be honest for just a little bit of money” said one. Another said, “I know a lot of people who aren’t really keen on participating in it.” A further told the protesters to go and door knock in ‘lower socio-economic areas’ to get them to vote. The clip then proceeded to ask ‘They’re are questions being raised about just who is behind the group.’ Followed by images of SA activists and then Chris Glen from Occupy. More students with Remuera accents then appeared on camera to say of the protest of clearly hundreds of students, ‘I think there were only four students in it. I Swear’ The corporate media is no friend of the left, no ally to unions and no help to political movements.

Thankfully there are alternatives. In the far north there are iwi and hapu radio stations that gives Hone access to thousands of Te tai tokerau residents. Unions too have their own media, newspapers, journals, newsletters and websites that reach hundreds of thousands of homes. Political movements like blockade the budget use facebook, twitter, Craccum and youtube. One student made video of the arrests on Symonds street has been viewed over 9000 times. Another nearly 4000.

Using and creating our own media is critically important. For Socialist Aotearoa its critically important as well. We use facebook and youtube, print and distribute the Anti-capitalist newsletter, sell pamphlets full of our ideas and run the SA blog. In June we were the 31st most read blog. We have 1700 facebook likes and our posts are seen by 9000 people each week. Our audience is growing. The quality and quantity of our blog coverage is growing. Slowly but surely.

Our coverage of left-wing events and politics in Auckland – video, commentary and analysis is the best. We’ve been able to break important stories like video of police brutality in Glen Innes or photos from the inside of occupied universities.

Our analysis is agenda setting on the left. Whether it is of what next for the ANFS movement or what union tactics are appropriate or of how to break police kettles with accompanying video. We were the only media that called on the CTU to rally against the 90 day bill. When Hone spoke out against the Maori Party agreement with the Nats we called for a new left movement to be built around him. We were the first to call on our blog for the left and unions to rally around and support locked out Marton meatworkers in November 2011, before the CTU stepped in and when the MWU bureaucracy was trying to push the workers back to work. When the Rena grounded off Tauranga we were the first to pin the blame on the maritime free market and offer an explanation of Port of Convenience shipping. We were the first to call for Mana and Occupy to support the Glen Innes fight against evictions and published that in our anti-capitalist. We distributed thousands of leaflets calling for a blockade of the Ports of Auckland during the big public march. Two days later the ports were blockaded.

When our media is working at its best, it helps us spread the struggle against capitalism, educates our comrades on issues of national and international importance and inspires new people to join Socialist Aotearoa. It is our agitator, our educator and our organiser. Our writing contains the memories of our struggles and explains our ideas to thousands of people who want a socialist alternative to capitalism.

But more can and should be done. In every city and town, in every workplace and campus around this country there are people with similar ideas to ours. People who know capitalism is not working and agree with most of what we say. Fight asset sales, fight for workers’ rights and protect the environment. The problem is finding these people, showing each one of them that there are a thousand other people who agree with them and pull them together into a critical mass who feel confident enough to stand and fight. Writing, distributing and selling socialist literature is key to that. It’s a way to locate people who agree or who half agree with what we are saying. Not just online but in the real world. On campuses during Orientation week. At workplaces during strikes and pickets. On protest marches and at political events.

Most workers want change. They want more equality, better wages, cleaner environment and jobs for all. But most expect change to come from the Labour or Green parties, or for the million people who didn’t vote at the last election – they expect change not to come at all. We might meet people who are angry but haven’t thought through the complexities of trying to change the world. Our media, our literature gives us that tool to argue and to educate with. From this layer our organisation will grow and come out stronger. Stronger in the battles over asset sales, fee increases in the university and wage stagnation in the workplaces.

Not every revolutionary will be a Noam Chomsky or John Pilger. Every revolutionary should however write at least once a week for the blog. It could be something small, a movie, music or book review from a revolutionary perspective. It could be a three line interview with a striking worker. It could be a report from a protest or event you attended. Practice makes perfect. The more you do, the quicker you will get.

Every time we share our analysis, our experience we get better at writing, at making our arguments, at understanding our own ideas. Writing is a discipline, it forces us to struggle with ideas, weigh up opinions and decide on emphasis - what we should do as revolutionaries, how we should fight. Writing is absolutely key to our struggle.

The success of Socialist Aotearoa and the radical left in Aotearoa is tied up with the growth of a media that supports the radical left, unions and the movements we fight in. It won’t be the current corporate media. It will have to be built by us, written by us and distributed by us. We need more people to write good socialist analysis of events here in Auckland, report on the daily lives of workers and to write articles that inspire collective action –strikes, protests and direct action. The more we write, the more readers we have, the larger the audience for our politics and potential to engage these people with our activism.

A socialist media can be built. It must be built. To explain the world. And to change the world. Either we continue to grow our media. Or it’s back to the drivel, back to Paul Holmes, back to Kim Kardashian.

-Omar, SA