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…]

Reform and Reaction in Australia: The Story of the Whitlam Labor Government

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Whitlam addresses protesting supporters in Canberra following the dismissal

By Cory Anderson

 

The Australian government of 1972-75 stands out as one of the most successful reforming governments in history, comparable perhaps to the first Labour government here in Aotearoa or Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ in the United States. Led by Gough Whitlam, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) introduced significant reforms, including free tertiary education, increased pensions and healthcare funding, brought troops home from Vietnam and ended the racist ‘White Australia’ policy. Part-way through its second term however, it was thrown out by the Governor-General and the Liberal Party in what can only be called a legal coup.

 

Immediately after entering office, the Whitlam government set about business. They ended the draft after just 30 minutes in government, intervened to support equal pay for women, dropped sales tax on contraceptives, banned sports teams from apartheid South Africa and took steps to support Aboriginal land rights and culture.

 

But in spite of heading perhaps the most progressive Labor government in Australia’s history, Gough Whitlam came not from the left but the right-wing of the ALP. He cut his teeth campaigning for “modernisation” of the party and a reduction in the influence of unions. He wanted a more respectable, middle-class party with a media friendly image: more suits and less socialism. Under his leadership the party tacked to the right on Vietnam and he intervened to remove the left-wing leadership of the ALP’s Victorian branch.

[Read more…]

Fascism: then and now

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Mass mobilization of workers, socialists, communists and Jewish workers groups beat back fascists in London in the 1930s

Josh O’Sullivan gave this talk to the Auckland branch of the International Socialists in September.

 

This talk is both a reflection and a call to arms. Political movements around the world are growing and although people are clamouring more and more for an alternative to capitalism, so to are people looking to the most backward elements of society to prevent any challenge to the status quo – to even thrust society backwards to darker times.

The political and institutional framework that has regulated and stabilized capitalism since the end of World War Two is facing concerted challenges that threaten to tear it apart. In much of Eastern Europe, far right parties have swept into government and gained a heavy foothold in Western European countries. Russia, under the authoritarian rule of Vladimir Putin, has begun to reassert itself as a reactionary force on the world stage. Then there is the dramatic rise of China,wWith now possibly lifetime President Xi Jinping. Most dramatically, the U.S., still the world’s most powerful state, is headed by a president who openly champions fascists and ultranationalists and is attempting to tear apart the liberal play book.

This is the context in which we find ourselves in, capitalist society in a continuing recession with no answers, resulting in a deepening polarisation between the left and right, with radicalisation on both sides. Socialist organisations, anti-capitalist movement and trade unions have swelled with the realisation that capitalism can offer no answers to our plight. But at the same time fascist organisations and sympathisers are growing, developing international links, supported by the racist rhetoric by those in power and emboldened by the growing support they have received.

In the wake of the emboldening of the far right globally, far right speakers have now made it to Aotearoa. This makes it all the more important to learn from the lessons of history and the links between the far right, fascism and its relation to capitalism.

[Read more…]

The struggle for Ihumātao

SOUL Protest

SOUL Protest, 2017. Image credit: Waatea News.

By Tania Te Hira-Mathie

 

 

Located in Māngere, South Auckland, Ihumātao is Auckland’s oldest settlement and one of New Zealand’s most important historic archaeological sites. This site, northwest of Auckland airport, has been part of a long struggle to save Māori land. Ihumātao is the largest remaining intact gardening site found in New Zealand. “Ihumātao is the beginning of Auckland”, explains archeologist Dave Veart in a Radio New Zealand interview, “with the descendants of the first residents of Tāmaki Makaurau living a kilometre down the road. Compared to other archaeological sites it shows how people lived in a way that’s remarkably easy to understand.”

The land also has significance as an unsettled land dispute. Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL), the campaign group involving mana whenua and other community groups, attest that Ihumātao is land that was confiscated by the State in 1863, as punishment for local iwi refusing to swear allegiance to the Crown.

[Read more…]

Capitalism is killing the planet

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By Joshua O’Sullivan

 

It is hard to write an article about climate change without being accused of scaremongering, because of the size and scale of the truly existential crisis that lies before us. The challenge is immense and the effects of it are starting to hit hard across the planet. 2017 has been another record-breaking year to follow multiple record-breaking years. In the U.S. alone in the first 9 months of 2017 has been hit by 15 different natural disasters that together caused more than $1bn damage, including record-breaking rainfall from Hurricane Harvey and the strongest-recorded intensity making landfall Hurricane Irma. This does not include the state of California which at the beginning of the U.S. winter is now aflame in some of the largest wildfires in the state’s history.

 

In New Zealand as a result of the La Niňa phenomena, temperatures this December are reaching 6 -7 degrees Celsius above normal for this time of year, resulting in the spectre of drought for nearly all of the country. This heatwave is likely to continue throughout the summer and already we have water restrictions and crises in Wellington, Hawke’s Bay and Christchurch. Climate change is no longer some spectre haunting our future but rather hitting us right now.

[Read more…]

Our ‘work ethic’ is not the problem

unnamedBy Andrew Tait

John Key came out this week and said it: New Zealanders are just too lazy or drug-addled to work, so we have to bring in migrants to “do a fabulous job” harvesting fruit and veges.

It’s a meme that has done the rounds on the media, slyly suggested by employers, farmers and politicians but never before as baldly stated by anyone as prominent as the Prime Minister. The truth is employers in agriculture are so addicted to profit they refuse to pay their workers a living wage. [Read more…]

Introducing Gramsci

GramsciBy Josh Parsons

Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Marxist, active in the 1910s and 20s before his imprisonment by the Italian state under Mussolini. It was while he was imprisoned that Gramsci made his most well-known contributions to Marxist theory, including the key concept of hegemony.

Gramsci’s contributions are valuable not only theoretically, but for the many practical lessons that can be drawn from his life and writings.

Hegemony, the most well-known of Gramsci’s contributions, is at its essence the idea that the ruling classes are dominant in more than a purely economic sense. Not only do the classes at the top control vast amounts of wealth and the power of the state, but the ideas, theories, and values that come to be accepted by all as ‘common sense’ and ‘normal’. Through everyday life in the capitalist system – working for a wage, paying for one’s necessities, competing with fellow workers or businesses – and through the constant barrage of capitalist economics and theories in our schools and media, the capitalist system becomes naturalised. It is assumed that competition, individualism and economism are values shared by all, and that this is simply the way things are. This, in short, is the capitalist hegemony. [Read more…]

Demanding better disability stories

 

Disability Stories 1.jpgby Daniel Simpson Beck

“Rights, not tragedy!”

“Assistance to live, not assistance to die!”

These were some of the chants of around 30 disability rights protesters outside the Embassy’s preview screening of Me Before You on Wednesday night. The rally was one of many around the world calling for a boycott of the Hollywood romance, a film that plays on the tired trope that disabled people lead tragic lives and are burdens on society. Protest organisers Esther Woodbury and Paula Booth call it as it is, “offensive, clichéd bullshit, which has denied disabled people the opportunity to tell their own stories to mainstream audiences”. This repetitive stigmatising of disability by the media is incredibly damaging. It helps to reinforce the view that disability should be avoided at all costs, and the abhorrent idea that disabled people are better off being killed. Internationally, many disabled people are furious at the release of yet another stereotypical, offensive, ableist story. As Robyn Hunt of Arts Access Advocates puts it, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. On Wednesday night in Wellington, some of that anger was expressed. Protesters held placards and a banner with slogans such as:

“Demand Better Disability Stories. #survivethemovie #getlaid #notyourinspirationporn”

“#Spoiler. Hollywood kills Will because he is disabled; Will doesn’t get laid.” [Read more…]

Workers can run the world

NUW workers in Australia occupying a Dandenong factory, 2015

NUW workers in Australia occupying a Dandenong factory, 2015

Gowan Ditchburn gave this talk to the Auckland branch of the International Socialists in May.

Let us examine on of my favourite things on Earth, Democracy. No, not that silly parliamentary kind where you vote every few years. I mean real democracy. Control by the people. Actual control not sending people to parliament to argue like children for three years and pass a few laws which change very little. I mean getting to decide how everything is done. From the Economy and the distribution of goods and resources, to the planning of our cities. All this placed in the hands of the people. My aim is to bring you an interesting look at a different, better and much more democratic way of doing things. [Read more…]

Greece and the international situation

Greek journalist chant anti-austerity slogans during a protest in central Athens, on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. Greek journalists have walked off the job ahead of a general strike set to disrupt services across the country to protest pension reforms that are part of the country's third international bailout. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Greek journalist chant anti-austerity slogans during a protest in central Athens, on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. Greek journalists have walked off the job ahead of a general strike set to disrupt services across the country to protest pension reforms that are part of the country’s third international bailout. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The following was presented at the ISO national conference in November 2015

By Andrew Tait

We are living in historic times. As if in the blink of an eye we have seen revolutions sweep the Middle East, only to descend into bloody civil war, the devastation of the Greek economy and the emergence in Greece, within five years, from obscurity to power of the most far-left political party since the 1970s – and now its apparent capitulation to the Diktats of the EU and the banks. We have seen the movement of refugees, already enormous, grow a hundredfold in Europe, where they have been met, yes, with barbed wire but also, by others, with open arms. Closer to home, the hell holes designed by Howard to hide “boat people” from human rights have now also become home to New Zealanders awaiting deportation from the Lucky Country. Legal norms are stripped away by the war on terror, and overarching all this looms the possibility of catastrophic climate change.

Why study the international situation? My workmate told me what no doubt many people feel, that she could not bear to know too much about the horrors of the world that lie beyond her control. We on the contrary, understand that however weak we are, history is made by people but not in conditions of our choosing. In this talk I aim to outline the shape of the world, and draw out some practical conclusions for our work. [Read more…]