Marching Against the TPPA

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.

While it was heartening to see the opposition to John Key and the National Government, the rhetoric of left nationalism prevalent in this campaign is something that needs to be opposed. Speaker after speaker railed against the dangers of foreign corporations in the US or China that would override New Zealand’s sovereignty and threaten the government through lawsuits against any anti-corporate legislation such as plain packaging for cigarettes.

It’s not as if we have any control of New Zealand corporations like Fonterra or that they act in a way that benefits working-class people in this country. New Zealander and film director Peter Jackson is a case in point. He undermined workers’ rights for people in the film industry by stitching up a deal with the National government to change employment laws so that a full-time worker would be considered a contractor so that Jackson would not have to give the same protections and guarantees that a full-time worker is entitled.

The left nationalism of this campaign implies that we’re all in the same boat together. We’re not. Key and his cronies have an interest in the TPPA not because they want to be lapdogs for the US but because they have their own stake in it themselves. We don’t do any favours for our side by being blind to the real benefits that New Zealand capitalists will gain from signing up with the TPPA.

But the overall message from Saturday was positive: hundreds took to the streets, National’s commitment to secret deals in the interests of business was opposed, and Labour’s half-hearted response – with David Cunliffe refusing on the Auckland protest to rule out supporting the deal – came under some pressure.

The same day saw NZEI-led rallies for a Living Wage in education. Two rallies on the same day! A good sign for the kind of resistance we’ll need through this election year.