‘I pay in blood, but not my own’, runs a recent Bob Dylan lyric. It could well be the theme song to National’s foreign policy. From the smiling mediocrity boasting about the ‘price of the club’ and the benefits of spying alliances to the shouty, ranting mediocrity bellowing about evil and infidels in the House last week, Key’s various, and variously incoherent, postures convey one consistent theme: it’s the blood of the Iraqi people that will pay the ‘price of the club’ for New Zealand’s ongoing alliance with US imperialism. It’s war once again.
Amidst all the patriotic furor this centenary, the real history of the war is all too easily forgotten. The government and the opposition alike cry crocodile tears for the fallen and mouth “Never again!”, while daisy cutters are dropped on Afghanistan and the history books are (re)re-written.
In high-school classrooms and history-books, we are taught a version of the war in which a well-fed, well-bred (and mostly white) nation proudly sacrifices its sons for the lofty ideals of “God, King and Country”. The little mention made of wartime dissent is limited to a few footnotes about ‘conscientious objectors’ who are presented as a tiny minority of isolated idealists, and perhaps a few comments on the rising cost of living.
This version of history was written by the ruling class, for the working class, to create a placid and pliant society that allows the prosecution of future wars. The real history of the war is somewhat different. In New Zealand, there was a great movement against the continued prosecution of the war, and for peace. It wasn’t a minority, and it wasn’t isolated. Hundreds were jailed, and thousands condemned the war in public meetings, in their workplaces, and on the streets. This article tells just part of that story, the fight against conscription. [Read more…]
On Anzac Day 1967, at the height of New Zealand involvement in the ‘American War’ in Vietnam, with New Zealand troops taking part in the suppression of the Vietnamese struggle for national liberation, members of the Progressive Youth Movement in Christchurch tried to lay a wreath following the dawn service in memory of those killed by imperialism in Vietnam. They were arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour. Feminists a decade later faced down a media-driven public outcry when they laid wreaths to the victims of sexual violence during war.
Lest we forget? It’s more like lest we remember. Anzac Day serves as a carnival of nationalist reaction, a day of public ritual aimed at promoting forgetting: forgetting the real legacy of New Zealand imperialism and militarism in favour of a sentimental nationalism, an anti-political celebration of national unity. [Read more…]
Sixty years ago, on the 17th of August 1953, Hector Larsen, the resident commissioner of Niue, was murdered. Larsen’s rule over the people of Niue – he had been commissioner for a decade at his death – was “by most accounts,” as a Radio New Zealand documentary from 2009 puts it, “not just paternalistic but brutal.” The radical historian Dick Scott wrote a book about the incident – Would a Good Man Die?- and depicts Larsen’s death as a symbol of New Zealand-Niuean relations. The three young Niueans responsible for Larsen’s death felt “they were ridding their land of a tyrant.”
This might seem like old history, a misunderstanding from a past era. But the involvement of New Zealand imperialism, alongside Australia, in meddling with, dominating, and interfering with the peoples of the Pacific continues. [Read more…]
Between 200 – 300 people marched in Auckland yesterday against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the latest ‘free’ trade agreement designed to give maximum gains to New Zealand business and pain to workers globally. The negotiations – conducted in secret conditions making a mockery of democracy, as Jane Kelsey points out – were going on at SkyCity’s convention centre: if there wasn’t any democracy inside, we were determined to remind the government of the democracy of the streets.
The TPPA began life as a proposal for a free-trade pact between four Pacific nations that are relatively insignificant on the world stage: Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand. The entry of the United States and Australia into the negotiations in 2008, along with other nations transformed the TPPA from a small, regional deal to one of substantial geo-political and economic importance.
There was a flurry of news recently about the US and NZ building “better relations” as Leon Panetta, the US secretary of Defence, visited the country. There hasn’t been such a visit since NZ was suspended from the ANZUS military agreement because of the ban on nuclear warships docking in NZ ports. Panetta wants to station US troops in NZ.
Whenever there is discussion about ‘better military relations’ we must wonder who will these relations be better for? Will closer military relations benefit working people or will it benefit the wealthy?
The coup in Fiji is the latest sign of serious instability in the Pacific. From Timor Leste to Tonga, poverty has gone hand in hand with mounting political crises. New Zealand politicians talk about development and democracy but the bottom line is economic control.
Tonga, once a sleepy island kingdom sunk in tradition and religion, was rocked by riots on Thursday 16 November 2006, as frustration with the royal government hit boiling point. Almost overnight, Australian and New Zealand troops appeared on the scene patrolling the scarred streets of the capital Nuku’alofa and controlling its airport.
Australian and New Zealand troops and police moved into the Solomons in July, 2003, supposedly to “restore law and order” and “end the conflict.” In reality, our rulers care about helping the Solomon Islanders about as much as George W. Bush and Tony Blair care about helping Iraqis. The Solomons are now effectively an Australian and New Zealand colony.