Racism in New Zealand

by Romany Tasker-Poland

The rise of the far-right globally is a frightening development. In the U.S. and Brazil, far-right politicians are the heads of state. Far-right parties have swept to power in Eastern Europe and have gained footholds in Western Europe too, promoting a return to “traditional” family roles, attacks on sexual diversity, antisemitism and islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment and extreme nationalism. Violence against migrants is increasing the world over, from Trump’s border wall to the Australian refugee camps.

The hideous attack in Christchurch is one example of the influence of the global far-right reaching New Zealand. The terrorist responsible used the insidious meme-rhetoric of the online Alt Right—a movement whose ideas have been promoted around the world by a variety of public intellectuals with connections to the far-right. When some of these figures—Stefan Molyneux, Lauren Southern, Jordan Peterson—visited New Zealand, they were given excessive airtime, fawned over by right-wing pundits, and even had “free speech” coalitions formed to defend them.

New Zealand politicians have also promoted far-right talking points. Last year ACT party candidate Stephen Berry addressed a rally in Auckland opposing “Sharia Law.” Hamilton Councillor James Casson has labelled Arab refugees “scum.” And in the aftermath of the attack, the National Party shamefacedly removed a petition against the UN Migration Pact, the subject of racist conspiracies stoked by the far-right.

It is not surprising that far-right ideas and violent racism can flourish in New Zealand when so much of the mainstream political discourse validates it. During the 2017 election, NZ First and Labour participated in anti-immigrant scaremongering. Labour blamed the housing crisis on “foreign speculators” and the Greens argued for immigration caps. While National tried to pose as the pro-immigrant party, they had been introducing anti-immigrant policies for years. [Read more…]

Where does real change come from?

In 1974 an Auckland shipowner, Leo Dromgoole, went to court to get an injunction against the Seamen’s Union and Northern Drivers Union. The Seamen had a dispute with Dromgoole over his Waiheke Island commuter ship, and the Drivers had been refusing to deliver oil in solidarity their fellow unionists. The Court sided with Dromgoole and ordered the union to stop “interfering”. The unionists ignored the order and so on 1 July their leader, Bill Andersen, was sent to Mt Eden prison. What happened next shocked everyone: thousands of workers – drivers and seafarers, but also factory and construction workers – downed tools when they learned of Andersen’s imprisonment and walked off the job. Thousands of workers marched down Queen Street to Andersen’s hearing the next day. Within 24 hours their action had forced results: Anderson was released, the injunction was a dead letter, and a compromise had been hurried through.

If this seems a world away from 2019, it tells us something important about where real power lies in society. When workers were organised and confident of their strength they could crush an unjust court ruling – and the jailing of one of their leaders – by demonstrating their power. Future attempts to use injunctions against the Northern Drivers Union, in 1979, came to nothing when they were again ignored. Fast-forward forty years, and we see the same principle applied in reverse: no matter how many protections and guaranteed conditions exist in employment law, they mean little in reality to workers without written contracts or the confidence union coverage gives to insist on your rights.

Labour and the Greens claim to be committed to what Jacinda Ardern calls “transformative and compassionate government”. And they ask workers, students and the oppressed to vote for them and then sit tight and wait for that transformation to happen. Be patient, the message goes. As Ardern told The Spinoff last year: “transformation does take time.”

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Greater Spy Powers no Solution to Right-Wing Extremism

By Cory Anderson

Since the March 15 terror attacks, calls have slowly been increasing to grant New Zealand’s spy agencies greater powers and resources in the name of fighting right-wing extremism. A royal commission of inquiry has been established to probe intelligence failings and recommend future “improvements” and the National Party has gone on the offensive, suggesting the GCSB and SIS need more powers of mass surveillance. Socialists however, should be cautious about joining such calls. Intelligence agencies worldwide have done much to promote the very Islamophobia the far right feeds upon and rather than adding to their powers, we should be returning civil liberties that have been stolen from Muslims and ending racism everywhere it is found.

The violence right-wing extremists are just one element of a wider culture of Islamophobia, fueled and stoked by the capitalist elite. Politicians and the media have set the tone. ACT Party candidate Stephen Berry wrote in a 2013 post about the “Islamic poison spreading across Europe” and NewsTalk ZB’s Christchurch host wrote a 2017 column questioning “Does Islam have a place in public swimming pools.” Winston Peters is well known for his anti-immigration and Islamophobic tirades, delivering a speech in 2005 entitled “The end of tolerance,” which he still refuses to apologize for. After a brief pause following the Christchurch attacks politicians and media commentators have resumed business as usual, the Weekend Herald publishing a column by talkback host Leighton Smith connecting “Neo-Marxism” and supposed favoritism towards Islam with a global “war on Christianity”. [Read more…]

History for a new generation

Dawn Raid, by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith, Scholastic New Zealand Limited, 2018.

Reviewed by Shomi Yoon

Meet Sophia Savea, a 13-year-old who lives in Cannons Creek, Porirua during the 1970s.  It’s when the minimum wage was $1.95, when milk was delivered every day, when disco music reigned supreme, and when there was the National government headed by hated ‘Piggy’ Robert Muldoon.

This is all captured earnestly in Sophia’s diary, who is drawn into orbit of the Pacific Panthers through her older brother Lenny. We experience Sophia trying to understand the inequities of society; “Dad works in a factory. I don’t think it’s fair that the government is calling Islanders a ‘drain on society’. My Dad works really hard and he’s an Islander, and all his mates work really hard too. On my gosh, I wonder if Dad has a permit thingy”. Through Sophia, we see her growing political awakening as her family, and other Pacific peoples are targeted in “Operation Pot Black” or as it was known the ‘Dawn Raids’, because police were breaking into Pacific Islanders’ houses in the middle of the night in search of ‘overstayers’, immigrants who did not have the correct documentation to stay in New Zealand.

With the downturn in the economy, the Government promptly used the age-old trick of ‘blame the immigrants’. In the 1970s this rhetoric was against Pacific Islanders, who were brought over when the economy was doing well. “The government was happy to have them [Pacific Islanders] when they wanted cheap labour,” explains family friend Rawiri to Sophia, “but now there’s an economic crisis… Islanders are getting the blame for being a drain on society.” Despite the fact that the most number of overstayers were from Australia and the UK , the Muldoon Government wanted to stoke up racial tension and divisions as a way to divert pressure from them.

This novel also prominently features Lenny, Sophia’s brother, who is drawn into the Polynesian Panthers through his school friend Rawiri. Their friendship embodies the power of solidarity and unity across oppressed groups. “How would you feel,” Lenny asks in the regional speech competition, “if someone took something of yours without asking?”. He gives a compelling speech supporting the Land March in front of the whole school assembly. The ‘dawn raids’ affected Māori too, with some tangata whenua being harassed by police to produce a “passport or identification papers”. Sophia recounts an incident discussed between Lenny and Rawiri about Uncle Pipiri responding to a police officer, “How about you show us your papers first? I’m Māori and I was born here.” [Read more…]

Socialism from Below

by Andy Raba

Mass protests in Algeria now show the power of ordinary people.

Following the financial crash of 2007-08 the world has seen an explosion of interest in socialism. There is a growing consciousness among millions of people that the capitalist system is unstable, inhumane and environmentally disastrous. As a result, for the first time in decades people are looking for a socialist alternative. In the UK, the leftward surge has been expressed in the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, a socialist politician with a background in activism, anti-war protest and class struggle. In the 2016 US elections, self-described socialist Bernie Sanders launched a serious challenge for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. In 2018, democratic socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez beat the incumbent Democrat Congressman Joe Crowley in a New York district primary and went on to easily win the seat in Congress: a remarkable feat for a country with a history of anti-socialist persecution. In 2015, online dictionary Merriam-Webster reported that socialism was its most searched-for word; and new publications, such as Jacobin magazine, have helped a global revival of socialist ideas.

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The Diary of a Scottish Muslim Woman After the Christchurch Massacre

By Smina Akhtar

[This article was written following last week’s attack. We have edited it lightly to remove the accused’s name, following the wishes expressed by leaders in the Muslim community in this country. It first appeared on the website of the Marxist network in Britain rs21.]

Today I feel broken. I woke up around 7am and checked my phone as normal and discovered that a white supremacist, a fascist had shot and killed 50 people at two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand. This massacre happened thousands of miles away from Glasgow but I cried and I’ve been crying for most of the day. I generally don’t cry a lot. I was horrified at what had happened but not surprised, this was waiting to happen in a world where anti-Muslim racism is now the dominant form of racism practised by the state, the media and the far-right not just in New Zealand but in Europe, America and of course Britain.

I still couldn’t stop the irrational thoughts and questions, questions that I already knew the answers to, such as, how did we get to a point where Muslims like me are hated so much? I attended the evening vigil called by the Muslim Council of Scotland in Glasgow city centre, it was an extremely cold evening which worked in my favour because I could tell people that my eyes were watering when in fact, I just couldn’t hold back the tears. It was some time afterwards that I felt the overwhelming urge to express my fury and tears in words.

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Stand with Muslims – No to Islamophobia! Down with White Supremacy!

International Socialist Organisation National Committee Statement

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It is almost beyond comprehension. Fifty people are dead. Another fifty are injured. Hundreds, probably thousands, of people face grief, unimaginable loss. This was an attack on Muslims as Muslims, targeted at their holy places, carried out on their holy day. It was an act of terror. Our starting point is solidarity: with those hurt and killed, with their families and loved ones, and with all Muslims and migrants in these islands. This terrorist violence – a race massacre – aimed to divide us. We unite with those hurting.

The barbarity of this act defies belief, but it has a political logic. This was an act of calculated terrorism, drawing on fascism and Islamophobia. There is no great mystery here, and Muslims leaders have been speaking out for years about the normalization and mainstreaming of Islamophobic hate. Every politician, every columnist and talkshow host, every intellectual and media celebrity who has played a role in normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry bears some responsibility for this tragedy. Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ and the War on Terror globally have set the scene, but local figures have contributed their part. Stuff and New Zealand Herald columnists lined up last year to defend the ‘rights’ of fascists Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern. Jordan Peterson, who has called Islamophobia a ‘propagandistic’ word, received widespread coverage earlier this year. At one event, Peterson was seen smiling alongside a fan wearing a “Proud Islamophobe” t-shirt. Simon Bridges, Judith Collins and the National Party have flirted with alt-right and far-right rhetoric around the UN. It is socially and politically acceptable in mainstream circles to talk about Islam and Muslims as a problem or an issue to be dealt with. Hundreds rallied in Auckland last year against “Sharia law”, and ACT’s Stephen Berry was there to support them. Fascist groups in Christchurch disrupted election meetings in 2011, and Muslims, Jews and other visible minorities have reported graffiti, harassment and abuse at their gathering places across the country for years. All this while most commentators would have us believe that “identity politics” and the decline of free speech are the issues of the day. This is the context that grew fascist violence. [Read more…]

Why is Labour starving NZ Post?

1544652765193By Andrew Tait and Martin Gregory

 

New Zealand Post has raised the cost of sending a letter, again – to $1.30 from July. Last year, they increased the postage from $1.00 to $1.20. In July 2016 it went up from 80 cents. They are raising prices, they say, because of the drop in volume.

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Who gains from Capital Gains?

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Simon Bridges is prepared for the working class to make every necessary sacrifice to defend his Kiwi way of life.

by Guy McCallum

The Tax Working Group, set up by the Labour-led government in 2018, has released its first volume of findings. This is where the government’s proposed capital gains tax is beginning to take shape, and a useful analysis underpinning the work of this group is important to understanding the broader political narratives arising from the working groups’ recommendations.

But first, what is a capital gains tax (CGT)?

Capital gains are the profits produced from selling an asset at a higher price than it was worth when it was first purchased. Thus a capital gains tax is levied on the value that was produced by doing nothing other than selling the asset when the time was right to make a profit.

Despite National’s hyperbole about the CGT being a ‘raid’ on landed wealth, the potential revenue of a capital gains tax has been estimated to be around $6 billion annually but it will take ten years to get to that level of return. Just under half of that revenue will be from residential investment, the rest will come from commercial, industrial or rural sales (which are typically much higher than residential sales). [Read more…]

Beating Budget Responsibility Rules Restraint

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Resident doctors striking outside Wellington Hospital, with solidarity from NZNO members, February 2019.

By Martin Gregory

 

Public health and public education, for countries that have them, make the two great calls on government expenditures, and for that reason they are at the core of the central contradiction in the character of the Ardern government. The boost in spending on these services that Labour seemed to offer in 2017 is confounded by the Budget Responsibility Rules policy that the Labour and Green parties concocted, carried through into government and have since held as an article of faith. The effect of the Rules, broadly, is that government spending is kept within the parameters inherited from the former National government. Government expenditure is pegged as a proportion of GDP and paying down government debt is prioritised over spending. The Budget Responsibility Rules are a declaration of Labour’s fealty to capitalism. As a result of spending restraint, health and education have been the flashpoints of much of the industrial action by expectant, but frustrated, workers that occurred last year and continues this year unabated.

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