Foreigners are not to blame: nationalism and the elections

Love NZWhile the fall-out from Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics is the standout feature of the general election campaign, some of the foremost policy questions have been around the interrelated issues of housing, land ownership, and immigration. Labour, Green and Internet Mana have taken a nationalist, anti-foreigner stand alongside New Zealand First, who claim this territory as their own. The Maori Party and Conservative Party have taken up the same tune. This has left the doctrinaire free-market ACT and National parties being able to pose as above resorting to low-down foreigner-blaming for social problems.

That the reformist left has taken up nationalist policies is no surprise. No other question better illustrates the yawning gulf between reformism and revolutionary socialism. Capitalism is a world system and revolutionary socialism can’t survive in one country, it has to be an international movement. For that reason revolutionaries are implacably opposed to nationalism, which ties working people to our rulers and divides us from working people in other countries.

Yet the revolutionary socialists, not having the forces to mount their own election campaign, prefer reformists over right-wing parties in this election. Socialists do not abstain from elections. We want to defeat National.

The International Socialist Organisation calls for a party vote for Internet Mana, which has the best policies for working class people, and an electorate vote for Labour or the Greens, where there is no Mana candidate. We do this despite the left nationalism of all these parties, which is abhorrent to our socialist viewpoint. [Read more...]

Are the Greens a Left Alternative?

Love NZBrian S. Roper takes an in-depth look at the policies and politics of the Greens.

 

Introduction

As indicated by the major polls, support for the Green Party ranged from around 11% to 13% throughout 2014. The Green Party received 11% of the vote and 14 MPs at the 2011 general election, compared to Labour’s 27.5% and 34 seats. Yet despite having 20 fewer MPs than Labour and only six more than NZ First (6.6% of the vote and 8 seats), it has been much more effective as an opposition party within parliament than Labour. Indeed, on virtually every major issue during the Key Government’s second term, including asset sales, mining in national parks, the corruption and ‘crony capitalism’ of the Key Government, and the GCSB legislation, it has done a better job than Labour of criticizing the Government and, more importantly, has done a lot more than Labour to mobilize its members on the streets.

 

Whereas Labour is almost entirely an electoralist party, the Green Party attempts to combine a focus on winning elections with encouraging its members to get involved in flax roots activism. Many Green Party members are experienced and respected activists who have established a laudable track record of working in a non-sectarian and co-operative manner in progressive struggles and campaigns with others on the left, including the International Socialist Organisation (ISO).

[Read more...]

World War One: the Fight against Conscription

Maoriland WorkerAmidst 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...]

Con Devitt: One the Bosses Hated

Con Devitt

 

Con Devitt, an outstanding trade union militant, socialist and organizer, has died at the age of 86. Devitt, a long-time leader of the Boilermakers’ Union in Wellington, made an enormous contribution to the class struggle and the workers’ movement, especially in his important periods of leadership in the 1970s and 1980s.

From a working-class home in Glasgow, Devitt was part of the wave of post-war migration from Britain to New Zealand. Many of these migrants brought with them traditions of union solidarity and class struggle from Britain: John Findlay was another Clydeside boilermaker turned New Zealand union leader. It’s for this reason that the media and the right-wing cultivated the stereotype of the “whingeing Pom” and the outside agitator. Whatever his accent, however, Devitt spoke in a language workers – whether migrant or local – could understand. His message was to stand up for your rights and to trust in your own strength.

Boilermakers worked over 60-hour weeks at one stage, with many men leaving the industry with permanent hearing loss and little support. There was plenty for unions to fight over.

For this commitment, Devitt and his comrades in the Boilermakers’ Union earned the hatred and scorn of the ruling class, the political establishment – Labour and National – and the Wellington and national media. A 1977 commission of enquiry into the heavy engineering industry blamed closures on the unions and talked up “disruptive tactics and restrictive practices imposed by certain sections of the Auckland and Wellington boilermaker unions.” A concerted campaign of slanders against Wellington and Kawerau boilermakers led to their unions being deregistered. National Prime Minister Robert Muldoon ranted against him. The Dominion and the Evening Post editorialised against his tactics and outlook. We should take all of this as a sign he knew how to do a good job standing up for his members. [Read more...]

Should socialists support the Internet-Mana alliance? A Reply

[The ISO recently published an article 'Should Socialists Support the Internet-Mana Alliance?', the product of discussion within our organisation. This is a response and a contribution to the debate from Martin Gregory, a member of our Poneke branch.]

The publication of ‘Should socialists support the Internet-Mana alliance?’ on 18 June on this website marks, in my opinion, a new low-point in the trajectory of the International Socialist Organisation. The article was sanctioned by the ISO’s national committee. A continuation along this track will spell the end of the organisation’s prospects of becoming the nucleus of a revolutionary worker’s party. Theoretical clarity is essential, and we are losing it. [Read more...]

Victory! Patricia Grace Stops the Government Taking Maori Land

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The government has been defeated by the author Patricia Grace in the Environment Court and, seeing the writing on the wall, the government will not appeal.

Patricia Grace owns part of a block of Maori Freehold Land in Waikanae that was once in a Maori village and is full of significance. The government tried to take some of this land under the Public Works Act for its Roads of National Significance programme; specifically the Wellington Northern Corridor. Much of this road scheme will be completely new sections of road running parallel with State Highway 1, causing swathes of environmental destruction. At a time when National keep telling us that government must cut spending, they are throwing billions of dollars of our money to the roading contractors for roads that we do not need. And, it seems, little matters such as pieces of Maori land full of historic significance must not stand in the way of this travesty.

One of Patricia Grace’s ancestors, her great-great-grandfather, was Wiremu Parata Te Kakakura (as known as Wi Parata). Te Kakakura donated land for the railway to run through the area. He also donated land for a government school. In the 1870s, he entered Parliament as the member for Western Maori. In 1877 he famously took legal proceedings against the Bishop of Wellington. The Anglican Church had reneged on an agreement to open a school that Ngati Toa children could attend. He lost, of course, the Treaty of Waitangi being declared a “nullity” by the Chief Justice. [Read more...]

Peace, Power & Politics at Dunedin’s Readers’ and Writers’ Festival

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Maire Leadbeater, peace activist and historian, spoke about her recently published book Peace, Power and Politics: How New Zealand became nuclear free (OUP 2013).

Although the talk was one of just two politically oriented events of the festival, it was well attended and inspired a thoughtful series of questions and comments.

Maire Leadbeater is an experienced activist who is able to offer considerable insight into the history of the peace movement during the eventful years between 1975  and 2000. The most dramatic and significant period of this struggle were the years 1983 – 1985, which involved massive protests. The culmination of the struggle was the introduction of New Zealand’s nuclear free legislation in 1987. David Lange is often credited with the honour of this principled piece of legislation, Leadbeater argues that the credit really belongs to the thousands of grassroots activists and ordinary people who marched in the streets, blocked warships with tiny protest boats and declared ‘nuclear free zones’ throughout the country. She also related the peace activism of the 1980s to contemporary issues such as surveillance and joint military exercises with the US . Even though the nuclear free struggle resulted in success, we should not become complacent. [Read more...]

Anzac Day: Against the Carnival of Reaction

mobiliseagainstthewarOn 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...]

Marching Against the TPPA

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TPPA, No Way! We’re going to fight it all the way! Chants like this were booming nationwide against the government’s commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – a secret agreement between 12 countries that will be so “beneficial” that the government has not disclosed a single iota of what will negotiated.

Today organizations and groups like the Greens, Mana Party, Greenpeace, members of the Labour Party, Oxfam and more, including us in the International Socialists, came out to protest against the government’s trade deals.

[Read more...]

Millionaires, Mana, and the Poverty of Politics

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What the hell was Mana party boss Gerard Hehir thinking? When German millionaire Kim Dotcom picked up his Swarovsky crystal cellphone and dialled Hone Harawira, why didn’t Hone just hang up?

If Mana aims to represent the poor, is a deal with a millionaire going to build the “brand”? Mana struggles to be taken seriously in the media: is a rapping, super-rich videogamer really going to help?

[Read more...]

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