Criminal Injustice: Racist Cruelty

10000 too many

Protest and campaigning inside and out has put the justice system under the spotlight.

Nine years of National rule has left a cruel and brutalising legacy in New Zealand’s criminal justice system. Last year the prison population reached 10,100, an all-time high. The number of people incarcerated has increased by 364 percent in the last 30 years, according to researcher Roger Brooking. The system is racist. Over half of the prison population is Māori, and Māori are more likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and given custodial sentences than non-Māori. National’s changes to the bail laws in 2013 made it much more difficult for those facing trial to get bail, leading to still more people spending time in prison. The situation is stark. According to OECD statistics, as of May 2018 New Zealand has 220 prisoners per 100,000 people, the fifth highest incarceration rate in the developed world.

Two things have got us into this sorry situation. Decades of bipartisan support for neoliberalism resulted in alienation as poverty grew and housing conditions deteriorated. The conditions that drive crime worsened.  Secondly, National and Labour, and the mass media giving publicity to the cranks of Garth McVicar’s Sensible Sentencing Trust, indulged in the crudest penal populism until a vicious “tough on crime” rhetoric was normalised. Crimes rates began to drop in the 1990s, but four new prisons were built in the 2000s as the number of people imprisoned continued to rise. The rate for Māori women is especially awful, as Moana Jackson has shown, growing from around 20 percent of the female prison population in the 1980s to 60 percent today. The prisons are overcrowded, humiliating, a source of loneliness and misery to those inside and their families outside, and they generate ongoing social costs, not least more crime. [Read more…]

Blame the bosses – not migrants!

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Indian students fight deportation in Auckland. Migrant workers are part of the struggle – not victims to be pitied.

by Dougal McNeill

So this month saw the end of Planet Key. Bill English’s ascension gives us an opportunity to survey political possibilities for our movement. There is plenty for workers to feel angry about, and plenty about which the Government has nothing but the feeble excuses. From the housing situation in Auckland to the recent embarrassing back down in the face of union opposition to further education ‘reforms’, the last year has not gone all the government’s way. What has been missing, as usual, is any sort of concentrated opposition. There is the grounds to organise a credible opposition to National – just look at the inequality, poverty, and job insecurity that is the norm in New Zealand at the moment. But, shamefully, Labour have decided to pursue an anti-immigrant line. This is not helping them electorally, with September registering some of the worst poll results for Labour in a long time, and, more dangerously, it threatens to pull the whole 2017 election in a racist direction. This will be a disaster for working people. Instead of rejecting Labour’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, too many leaders in the trade union movement have accepted its logic.

 

Immigrants are not to blame for workers’ problems, and that we need to focus our political fire where it belongs – at the capitalist class and the National government.

[Read more…]

Green vomit and statistical nonsense: lies about immigration and housing

shaw-turei

It’s a laugh a minute in the funny world of anti-immigrant ‘progressive’ politics

by Tim Leadbeater

A few days ago the Labour party announced a new policy of increasing police numbers by 1000. I groaned at this news but it didn’t really surprise me. Then yesterday I heard of the new Greens policy on immigration, with James Shaw calling for a drastic reduction in numbers. Is New Zealand First calling the shots here, aided and encouraged by a compliant and uncritical media happy to jump on the anti-immigrant bandwagon? The Greens and Labour will almost certainly need the support of NZF to form a government next year, and Winston really just hates those hippy-dippy lentil munching do gooders. James Shaw knows this, yet needs to send a very clear signal to Peters that the Greens are willing to compromise. Immigration is a hot topic, and Shaw can easily frame the issue in terms of “sustainablitity” and “infrastructure”. No need for racist dog-whistles or Chinese sounding surnames, this is Sensible and Practical Greens policy, easily digested by sensitive liberals turned off by the crude nationalistic appeals of NZF. [Read more…]

Resisting the pro-police backlash after Dallas

Marching in San Francisco after the police murders of Philandro Castile and Alton Stirling (Josh On | SW)by Nicole Colson

THE POLICE KILLING of two Black men–Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, a suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota–last week horrified people around the world and brought protesters into the streets in large numbers across the country to proclaim that Black Lives Matter.

Yet just as quickly, in Dallas, a man who shot and killed police officers as BLM supporters were demonstrating–killing five officers and wounding several more before being killed himself by police–provided the means for the media and law enforcement to shift the spotlight away from the epidemic of police violence and blame those who have risen up to protest. [Read more…]

The Cruel Irony of Pride

No Pride in Prisons

Image credit: No Pride in Prisons

By Marc Inzon

I sat down to talk with a couple of No Pride In Prison (NPIP) members as they tried to get a respite from their scrum with the police. One of them tells me “pride has historically been a protest and to deny protest for the rights of queer and trans people where it began in New Zealand is ridiculous.” Behind us, we hear more chants of ‘The police are violent, we won’t be silenced.’ Another round of pushing shoving with the police had begun while the pride parade carried on.  [Read more…]

Making the Zika threat worse

20160109zikamosquito0658a1452886866.sm_aby Rebekah Ward and Nicole Colson

IMAGES OF Black and Brown people suffering an epidemic viral disease are flooding television screens yet again. This time, however, it isn’t Ebola but the Zika virus that is the culprit.

The current outbreak of the Zika virus evokes similar racist fears to those surrounding the 2014 Ebola epidemic–but more than that, the explosion in Zika cases has a special impact on reproductive freedoms and speaks to the rotten core of a system that puts profit above human needs.

The Zika virus, first reported in humans in 1952 in Africa, is related to the West Nile, Yellow Fever and Dengue viruses, and is carried in mosquitos from host to host. Since it was first reported, it has spread across Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, mutating and therefore changing its potential interaction with human hosts along the way. While most people are never aware that they have contracted the virus, the estimated 20 percent of those infected who experience symptoms report joint pain, fever, rash and conjunctivitis (red eyes). [Read more…]

When Black Workers Organized Against Jim Crow

hammer and hoeHammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression by Robin Kelley.

Reviewed by Martin Gregory

 

A twenty-fifth anniversary edition of this wonderful classic work of workers’ history was published last year. Robin Kelley has magnificently brought to light the little known struggles of communist party-supporting workers and sharecroppers, the majority of whom were black, under ferocious conditions of repression in Alabama, USA. This chronicle takes place against the background of the 1930’s depression, Communist Party politics and the segregationist regime in the Deep South where black resistance ran the risk of lynchings. Communist advocates of “social equality” were liable to beatings, arrests and jail-time.

It was not until 1929, the year of the Wall Street Crash, when the American Communist Party (CP) attempted to organise in the south. The Party sent a couple of organisers to Birmingham, Alabama, an industrial city on the fringe of the cotton-growing black belt. After their first public meeting the home of one of the Communists’ speakers was fire-bombed. [Read more…]

Nationalist poison no medicine against the TPPA

TPPA 1by Dougal McNeill

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose the TPPA. It’s part of U.S. imperialism’s strategy against China in the Asia-Pacific, working in the economic sphere as the ‘tilt to Asia’ does in the military. It gives greater powers to capitalists, and will be used to water down labour rights and environmental protections. It threatens public health provisions.

These threats are international, and face workers in all the countries that are set to sign up. So our opposition needs to be international, and internationalist. Pala Molisa’s excellent speech at the end of today’s rally in Wellington stressed just this kind of connection.

[Read more…]

The Poison of Nationalism

By Shomi Yoon

Anti-Asian racism - such as this 'Truth' cartoon from 1907 - disfigured much of the twentieth-century labour movement. Let's not let it infect the twenty-first's.

Anti-Asian racism – such as this ‘Truth’ cartoon from 1907 – disfigured much of the twentieth-century labour movement. Let’s not let it infect the twenty-first’s.

“What we need is an outright ban on foreigners owning land or houses in New Zealand.”

“This 3rd great [Chinese] colonisation could finally be a bridge building event between Pakeha and Maori.”

You’d be forgiven if you thought these quotes are from a National Front website.  Building a bridge for a coming race war? Foreigners out? New Zealand for the New Zealanders? This has the same tone and paranoia of the Yellow Peril rhetoric that comes out of the racist Right.

These quotes are actually from veteran activist John Minto and union-funded blogger Martyn Bradbury. Far from attacking Labour’s race-baiting of Chinese foreigners based on shonky statistics, they’re both in agreement with this anti-Chinese, anti-foreigner rhetoric.

[Read more…]

Chinese are not to blame – a New Zealand Housing Crisis

Cartoon by Vincent Konrad

Cartoon by Vincent Konrad

By Joshua O’Sullivan

Auckland and Christchurch are in severe housing crises due to a lack of supply among other things. In Auckland, according to Fiona Rotheram in The Listener, the average house price is now $776,729 as of February and is at its highest since before the global financial crisis. An Auckland house now worth $1,000,000, earned $2200 a week last year just from rising prices. The average increase in valuations of housing in Auckland rose 13% last year.

If these numbers seem ludicrous it’s because they are. Out-of-control house prices have massive effects throughout the economy and for working class lives. Auckland and Christchurch are anomalies; the rest of the country has had mild to low growth in prices. Christchurch real estate is buoyed by a lack of supply due to the earthquake destroying the housing stock. Auckland is another story. Auckland‘s supply issue is due to a combination of factors: property speculation and lack of central planning. [Read more…]