Vale Dick Scott

Obituaries for Dick Scott, who died on New Year’s Day, have emphasized his importance as a figure changing how New Zealand history was written about, taught, and imagined, especially by Pākehā. He deserves those accolades, but we should remember too that his early, pioneering histories were written as part of a project to change the world, not just to understand it differently. Scott’s radicalism was forged in the clashes and struggles around the Depression and its legacy, the Second World War and, most importantly, the post-war labour battles that came to a climax in the 1951 Watersiders’ Lockout and supporting strikes. He left the Communist Party in his late 20s, but his early formation in class struggle politics helped shape his attention to injustices done to Māori, the bloody history of colonialism in New Zealand and the Pacific, and his determination to write popular, accessible history.

 

Scott’s two classics, 151 Days and Ask That Mountain, are essential reading for every socialist. The former told the story, in detail and for the first time, of the heroic Waterfront Workers’ Lockout in 1951, their battle against both a National Government determined to offer up the destruction of their militant, democratic union as a warning to other workers in Cold War New Zealand and the class-collaborationist politics of the trade union movement leadership. Scott was active in the Lockout as a journalist, reporter, inventor of solidarity schemes, and Communist activist. The watersiders recognized him as one of their own, and his account buzzes with the reality of the battle. The latter, a development of his 1950s work The Parihaka Story, told the story of the Crown’s attacks in Taranaki and the visionary resistance leadership of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. Scott’s early interest on Parihaka grew out of anti-racist reporting he had done for the Communist Party, and appeared at a time when few Pākehā, even on the socialist left, were familiar with the details of this history.

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A looming world recession?

At the ISO’s annual conference over the weekend 7-8 December a session on the international situation was led off with this introduction by Martin Gregory.

 

An assessment of capitalism internationally, both in its political domination and the state of its economy, is essential for forming a view of what might lie ahead for us in New Zealand. To state the obvious, New Zealand capitalism does not exist in a vacuum but is part of an international web of production, trade and imperialist political alliances. Ever since 1848, that year of revolutions, events in one country have synchronised with events in others. Therefore, an estimate of the global situation is the framework under which our expectations for NZ can be anticipated.

 

The 2008-2009 global financial crisis is still a useful reference point to start talking about the world economy. Under the cyclical theory of capitalism, crashes are supposed to be followed by booms, but a boom did not happen after the GFC. Governments intervened with bank bail-outs and spending schemes to boost their own economies. China helped out the world system with a stupendous spending and lending spree that stimulated a rapid recovery world-wide. But while there was a recovery there has not been an economic boom. No boom because the conditions for boom – increased rates of profit, and consequentially increased investments in the productive economy – were not created.

 

The creation of boom conditions would have required drastic courses of action by political leaderships of capitalist states. Here are three examples of drastic action that might be taken in a recession to create in a new lease of life for capitalism.

 

  1. Non-intervention by governments to allow more companies to go to the wall, leaving fewer competitors with greater global market share. This was the policy of Reagan and Thatcher in response to the 1982 crash. Mass unemployment is created.
  2. Repression of trade unions in order to drive down workers’ pay and working conditions to extract greater surplus value from their labour.
  3. War to destroy capital and competitors.

 

Because drastic actions like these did not happen following the 2008-09 financial crisis, or did not happen sufficiently, increased rates of profit and boom-level investment in the productive economy did not follow. Basically, the 2008-2009 crisis solved nothing. Shattering confrontations between states and/or between classes were postponed. Consequently, the long-term trend of the rate of profit to fall before the GFC has continued to trend down since.

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Labour’s Housing Policy: What does it mean for Porirua?

By Martin Gregory

 

 

It did not take long for Labour’s flagship KiwiBuild housing policy to come to grief; and if ever there was a minister likely to embarrass the Ardern government it was that rightwinger Phil Twyford. It was he who in 2015 infamously blamed Chinese for Auckland’s high house prices. The failure to get anywhere near Labour’s target of 10,000 KiwiBuild houses a year for ten years forced Ardern to execute a ministerial reshuffle in June. Twyford was dropped as housing minister and demoted to minister for urban development answerable to new housing minister Megan Woods. Kris Faafoi picked up responsibility for public housing, also answerable to Woods. On 4 September Woods announced the abandonment of KiwiBuild targets altogether.

 

Nevertheless, the toned-down KiwiBuild remains the government’s central housing policy. Under KiwiBuild private developers do the building and the profit making, underwritten by public money. All that the developers are required to do is to include some “affordable” units in their developments. The meaning of affordable price has been ridiculously stretched to mean up to $650,000 in Auckland and Queenstown, $550,000 in Wellington and $500,000 elsewhere. These capped-price units are reserved for qualifying buyers. The whole scheme is predicated on the private development industry and private ownership being the solution to the housing crisis. What has held back the construction of KiwiBuild units so far is the developers holding out for super-profits. In addition to guaranteeing the sale of KiwiBuild units, the industry wants the government to provide easy-to-develop land, to pick up the tab for infrastructure costs and to be allowed higher density under relaxed consenting conditions.

 

KiwiBuild has nothing to offer low-income working class people. What is really needed is a programme of building state housing. There is a massive demand for state homes to get people out of the clutches of private landlords or out of overcrowded homes and into independent living. As of June there were 12,311 applications for state homes on the Housing Register. Only the state, or local council, can be made accountable through the democratic process, especially when well-organised tenants associations bring pressure to bear on elected politicians. At its best, state housing can provide secure high-quality homes at a low rent. It spares tenants the costs of repairs, updates, rates and insurance. Through the transfer system state housing can be flexible to meet the needs of growing or shrinking families.

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Chile: The beginning of the end of neoliberalism?

Samuel F, a former member of the ISO now active in Chile, offers these reflections.

 

After more than 40 days of almost non-stop demonstrations things are on the surface somewhat quieter on the streets of Chilean cities. Quieter does not mean “normal” in any sense of the word – the streets are filled with political graffiti, today we were sent home early from work, and shops are boarded up to repel looters; on the other hand at least one can go about life without constantly worrying about getting tear gassed. It is common to hear people discussing politics in the streets – something rarely heard before, and hatred of the police is a more or less universal phenomena. The recent viral hit “Un violador en tu camino“ not only attacks rape culture, but also targets state violence quoting in irony the hymn of the national police force, Carabineros. On a personal level, most people are utterly exhausted both physically and emotionally, and according to news reports demand for psychological consultations has gone off the scale since the start of the crisis.

Politically, the president Piñera is doing all that he can to remain in office, and at the same time being politically isolated including by his own party. His strategy can be described as both a war of attrition against the protestors, and an attempt to divert the movement against the government by pushing a law and order agenda. The law and order agenda appears to be faltering a little, not least because a city council representative from his own right-wing party was recently arrested for organizing the looting of a shopping mall. The fizzle of the law and order strategy is promising, because by reducing the call for a crackdown amongst certain sectors, in particular small business – the short term risks of further violence and economic deterioration have receded somewhat. [Read more…]

Land is the Price: colonialism then…and now

Nothing to “celebrate” in Tuia 250 – Cook is a symbol of ongoing colonial violence

By Josh O’Sullivan

Throughout history capitalists has searched the world for profitable exploitation. To create a paradise for capital, lands were sought, claimed and the people that lived there forced off their communal property. Those commoners then became the pool of labour that the industrial revolution was built on. From the enclosing of the commons in Britain to the colonisation projects the world over, this pattern was repeated. The robbery of land, and the subsequent creation of wage labour, is found throughout histories of colonisation.

The means by which this accumulation is first gathered has its roots in slavery, alienation, pauperism and genocide. As Marx stated “Capitalism comes into the world dripping from head to foot, from every pore with blood and dirt.”

Plotting an empire

The economic crisis and wars in Europe during the 1830’s drove the push for colonial expansion. There was not only the unemployed labour but also unemployed capital which could not be invested at a profit in Britain. This situation was driving down the rate of profit of capital already invested. Not only did the Empire need a place to send its “unwashed”, unemployed masses, it also needed new markets to sell in, new profitable investment opportunities and, most importantly, to accumulate natural capital.

Edward Wakefield was one of the most ardent British politicians to argue for capitalist expansion and accumulation in the colonies, particularly in Aotearoa. Wakefield deplored the fact that in the American colonies men acquired land easily, supported themselves by their own labour. This made it difficult to accumulate capital for there was little unemployed labour to put to work. He attributed this ability of some working men to acquire land and develop self-sufficiency as a direct cause of the American Revolution.

Wakefield was fixated on how to replicate British class society where, instead of each man having his own plot of land, some would have to work for others and accumulate wealth for their employers and not for themselves. Previously slavery had been used to generate a reserve supply of labour. For later colonies slavery was no longer an option as it had been abolished in 1833.

The convict method in Australia was the next evolution of the colonial endeavour. Vagrancy laws were introduced in Britain to round up the poor and dispossessed who were suffering from the effects of the economic crisis. Prison ships, “hulks”, were used at first then the poor were shipped to Australia. Because of their convict status, Australian workers were unable to accumulate capital themselves but made their employers rich. Convicts from Britain, however, were not enough. After clearing the numerous Aboriginal lands in Australia through genocidal policies, the new colony found itself with thousands of acres and too little “free” labour to do the work. [Read more…]

Ihumātao: a Struggle for Justice

Protectors march for Ihumātao

By Josh O’Sullivan and Lozza Kiff

 

The fight for land rights in Aotearoa is the essential question for radical social change for both mana whenua and tau iwi. To resolve this question requires challenging some of the most fundamental aspects of capitalism in New Zealand – the rule of private property. Property held purely for profit, for factories, for land farming and for speculation. This struggle is crystallised in battle over Ihumātao.

Ihumātao is considered to be the oldest settlement in Auckland, and holds cultural and historical significance as an archaeologically rich landscape. It holds evidence of early Māori agricultural activities and is one of the last remaining sites of stone field crop propagation, for which it has been recognised as an at risk site on the United Nations International Council on Monuments and Sites. The whenua tells us stories of the origins of Tāmaki Makaurau. It is the only place in Auckland where pre-colonial stone structures can be found, all other stone garden complexes in Auckland have been destroyed, and it contains the oldest example of pre-colonial architecture in the remains of the Whare. Ihumātao is Waahi Tapu, a sacred place to Tangata Whenua.

Ihumātao was stolen from Māori in 1863 during the Waikato Invasion, along with 1.2 million hectares across the North Island. The Waikato invasion was a premeditated war of conquest directed against the Kingitanga. Their land expropriated and military conquest birthed what we now call Hamilton. The Crown did this under the New Zealand Settlements Act, a parliamentary act that confiscated land owned by anyone deemed to be rebels. In the government’s eyes anyone who associated with the Kingitanga movement were rebels. The Mana whenua of Ihumātao went from feeding and protecting the fledgling town of Auckland, to being accused by the Crown of plotting to massacre those very same pākehā. A desperate lie by the Crown to fuel greed of land speculators, who expropriated all of South Auckland, forcing the Māori to become refugees in their own land.

The land remained in private hands for over 130 years until in 1999, as historian Vincent O’Malley writes, “Manukau City Council, Auckland Regional Council, the Department of Conservation and the Lottery Grants Board jointly purchased a 100-hectare site from several owners and two years later officially opened the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve”.

The treaty settlement with one of the iwi, Te Kawerau a Maki, was completed in 2014.  The land however was not returned. Originally, the Manukau City Council tried to make the land an open public space, but after the merger into the Supercity, legal action forced the council to rezone the land. As a result Ihumātao was designated a Special Housing Area (SHA), and was sold from the Wallace family in 2016 to Fletcher Residential. It was at this point that SOUL was formed. Since that point SOUL has occupied the land and laid challenge after challenge in every possible legal avenue, through the environment court, the Land court, the Waitangi tribunal, and even the UN. [Read more…]

Questioning The Terrorism Suppression Bill

2007 Auckland protest against “terror law” attacks on Māori and peace activists. Photo credit: Joseph Barratt / Scoop

By Serah Allison

On the 16th October 2019, Labour government Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill to Parliament. Media suggest this Bill is targeted at one man, New Zealander Mark Taylor, who travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State, and who has been more recently held captive by Kurdish forces. With the withdrawal of the United States military from Syria and the possibility of Turkish incursions into Kurdish-held territories, it appears that Andrew Little perceives the possibility of the release of prisoners such as Mark Taylor, and their return to New Zealand.

 The proposed Bill will allow the New Zealand Police to request the New Zealand Court to impose a control order on an individual “to protect the public from terrorism.” The need for a control order will be decided by the Court on “balance of probabilities” – that is, a lower standard of proof than the “beyond reasonable doubt” level required to convict people of a crime. The default is for the identity of the relevant person to be suppressed, but the affected person can overturn that if they wish. When originally proposed, accusations of terrorism by overseas authorities could be considered evidence, and evidence could be withheld from the relevant person and their legal counsel. In Andrew Little’s words on 16/10/2019: “It would limit where people could go; it could require them to for example go to the Police station once or twice or more times a week; it could restrict them from having access to the Internet; it could provide a level of curfew but not a 24 hour curfew. So, restrictions from quite severe to quite relaxed.” As Radio New Zealand host Lisa Owen said during that interview: “And it’s going to be done behind closed doors isn’t it, because it’s going to be prohibited to report on these cases unless expressly given permission by the judge. So you’re going to make what you’ve described as perhaps draconian measures behind closed doors in the absence of the person you’re making the order against and with a lesser level of proof.”

 This legislation would sit alongside existing legislation that addresses terrorist activities. The Crimes Act 1961 section 7A allows New Zealanders to be charged for certain crimes committed overseas, including acts of terror. The Terrorist Suppression Act 2002 section 6A allows imprisonment of a person who commits a terrorist act for up to life, while section 13 allows imprisonment of a person who participates in a terrorist group for up to 14 years. Section 5(2) includes the following definition of a terrorist act: “[an act which is] carried out for the purpose of advancing an ideological, political, or religious cause, and with the [… intention …] to unduly compel or to force a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act.” Section 20 gives the Prime Minister power to designate any entity as a terrorist organisation if they have “good cause”. This very broad definition makes me wonder whether a person peacefully participating in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (Rojava), a person participating in a Peace Flotilla to highlight the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, a person present in Hong Kong or Chile during protest activities, or a person participating in protest activities in New Zealand, might be at risk of having these same laws applied to them in the future. [Read more…]

State ‘care’ and stolen generations

By Romany Tasker-Poland

Poster advertising the rallies from this winter

 

“Oranga Tamariki told me I had five minutes to say goodbye to my baby and then they were going to take it… I hung onto my baby but I was worried they were going to hurt me and the baby.” These are the words of a young mother who in May resisted multiple attempts by Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry “dedicated to supporting any child in New Zealand whose wellbeing is at significant risk of harm now, or in the future,” to take her newborn baby from her hospital room in Hawkes Bay. During the standoff, whānau and midwives were shut out of the hospital. The grounds on which the Family Court ordered the “without-notice custody order” have since been called into question. University of Auckland law professor Mark Henaghan has told the media that it was “doubtful” that the custody order used by Oranga Tamariki should have been granted in the first place.

Two midwives, Ripeka Orsmby and Jean Te Huia, of Māori Midwives Aotearoa, were there at the Hastings Hospital, and tried to prevent the baby from being taken. Te Huia described to Newsroom how at one point the mother was left on her own:

 

the police stationed outside her room and a hostile case worker in her room. Her mother and her Māori midwife spent the night outside in the hospital car park. The DHB locked everyone out. This is a 19 year old girl enduring day three of Oranga Tamariki trying to rip a baby from her, alone.

 

Footage of the incident was shared by the media in June. The media coverage, along the resistance from the baby’s whānau, midwives, and iwi leaders, resulted in Oranga Tamariki abandoning at least 3 attempts to take the baby from the mother. Instead, she was allowed to go with her baby to a care facility, ahead of a new Family Court hearing.

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Battling for Abortion Rights

ALRANZ President Terry Bellamak addresses a Wellington pro-choice rally in July (image credit: NewsHub)

By Andrew Raba

 

Anti-abortion politics have taken centre stage in the media following the passing of “fetal-heartbeat” laws this year in several US states: Ohio, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky. The new laws ban abortion beyond six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant. Alabama has passed an even more restrictive law that bans abortion at any stage of pregnancy. None of these restrictive laws are in effect because they are under legal challenges.

 

The real target of these state-level laws is the 1973 Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade that established the right for all American women to obtain an abortion. Alabama state Representative Terri Collins, who sponsored her state’s anti-abortion law, said “What I’m trying to do here is get this case in front of the Supreme Court so Roe v. Wade can be overturned.” These moves follow Trump’s appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to give it a 5 to 4 conservative majority.

 

So where did these new state-level laws come from? The attacks in the US are a backlash against the gains of the women’s movement won out of the battles of the 1960s and 1970s amidst the general rise in the class struggle. The American conservative right would dearly love to turn the clock back but it is countered by lasting mass support for reproductive rights. Abortion has become a central issues in US politics. According to a poll taken on behalf of the pro-choice organisation NARAL, 85 percent of voters believe that abortion should be legal. [Read more…]

Support the Climate Strikes!

There’s a climate crisis, and Labour and the Greens are failing to act.

The climate crisis is upon us, but on some more than others, as more frequent, more extreme weather events take place. In March this year Cyclone Idai affected three million people in Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Malawi, including over 1,000 dead, over 2,000 missing and over 2,400 injured. Yet these Black African victims did not cause the rulers and carbon emitters of the Global North to lose any sleep. Even when the United States was violently affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 the American ruling class displayed heartless indifference to the mainly Black low-lying neighbourhoods around New Orleans and were not jogged into action on global warming.

Human victims of climate change-induced catastrophes are more likely to be in equatorial latitudes where the pre-change climate was already very wet. It is not only a matter of geography. The unequal world market, which has been determined by the whole history of imperialist capitalism, puts people in harm’s way. This capitalist world order of economic inequality between nations and between social classes has condemned millions of people in the tropical latitudes to live in dangerous locations in poverty. Millions of people living in river deltas, low-lying coastal littorals, or in river valleys below deforested hills, are already vulnerable to inundations, mudslides and extreme heat. Poverty-struck states in vulnerable regions that have emerged from under imperial subjection, such as Mozambique, lack the infrastructure that could be used to rescue victims of extreme weather events or mitigate effects. In these circumstances Cyclone Idlai brought cholera in its wake.

If catastrophes threatening people living in such places as Pacific atolls or the deltas of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) and Mekong are more immediate, catastrophe for everyone, and for many animal and plant species on the planet, is set in train. Extinctions are underway, ecosystems are collapsing. Disaster for humankind looms at frightening speed. Yet at governmental levels worldwide there is deadening complacency.

Regarding sea level rise, in May this year the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) published a report that predicts a global sea level rise of over 2 metres by 2100, double the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate.

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