Solidarity with Grant Brookes

Grant Brookes is the democratically elected President of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. The NZNO last year went through a major industrial struggle to win much-needed pay increases. This included strike action, the first such action in almost three decades. Many thousands of health workers were energised by this process, and the campaign, naturally, involved heated debate, discussion, and controversy. Nurses acted together. And they acted for themselves, voting down bad deal after bad deal.

Not everyone was happy with this flowering of member participation, however. For many years the top leadership of the NZNO have emphasized collaboration with the bosses and have treated rank-and-file activity as a threat to their control. Nurses are being punished for their rebellion last year, and Brookes is being targeted. He was elected, as one public letter of NZNO members puts it, as someone who “has openly championed a modernized, democratic, transparent union which fights for positive change and decent pay increases for its members.”

If the Board of Directors get their way, however, he will be removed in the middle of his term. Why? “Misconduct”. Sounds serious, but what are the details? That, over a year ago, Brookes sent this text late-night text to NZNO’s industrial head Cee Payne: “So you hitched yourself to the wrong wagon? Everyone forgives a single mistake. I’ll be in touch. We need you back.” This in the context of an ongoing industrial dispute, and after Payne had, as the public letter points out, cancelled the first DHB strike “without consulting members”.

For the Board to use this as an excuse to take legal advice and make these bureaucratic moves to oust Brookes is simply outrageous. Debate, open discussion and political accountability should be the norm in our union movement – and Brookes is accountable to the NZNO members who elected him. [Read more…]

Solidarity with Hong Kong from Auckland University

Hong Kong protests, July

By Tara Dalefield

Despite the cold and the scheduling in the middle of a weekday, around a hundred people gathered in Auckland University’s quad on 11am, August 6th to attend an information session concerning the protests in Hong Kong against the Chinese extradition bill. Journalists from Radio NZ and One News took recordings while Amnesty International members and Free Tibet protesters raised signs and banners of solidarity. Police and campus security also looked on, as the campus assault on a pro Hong Kong student by pro-state assailants was fresh on everyone’s minds.

Several videos explaining the history of the bill, the strikes and protests against it, and the police brutality and mob violence by pro-state gangs played on a screen. Beneath the screen, five students sat, facing the crowd, wearing gas masks and safety goggles similar to the ones seen on the videos. Included in the video line-up was a recording of Jacinda Ardern’s milquetoast response to a question about freedom of expression in Hong Kong. “Ultimately, for extradition for other countries, that’s a matter for them [other countries]”.

We in the ISO stand in solidarity with the rebellion in Hong Kong. It is a rebellion against oppression and, as Marx wrote, “whenever one form of freedom is rejected, freedom in general is rejected.” But we recognise too that the movement is drawing in mixed backers. David Seymour from ACT, for instance, spoke at this event.

The protest was interrupted by a man in the back holding up a sign in Chinese, saying “Hong Kong independence mob” according to Newshub. Thankfully there was no disruption that stopped the event proceeding.

The next day, it was reported on Newshub that an Auckland University Lennon wall in support of Hong Kong protesters had been vandalised. Such actions have a disturbing resemblance to anti-union violence, in which hitmen have been hired by companies to intimidate, assault and even murder workers for unionising and striking. But supporters are staying strong, and another solidarity event in Auckland will take place tonight.

Ihumātao: Interview with a Protector

In the wake of group arrests and galvanizing protests over securing mana whenua rights to one of Aotearoa’s oldest settlements, Socialist Review spoke to a young protector on her personal experience as part of the ongoing occupation on the land, and the socialist conclusion that must be drawn from this struggle.

The Occupation: A Personal and Political Struggle

The Indigenous land of Ihumātao is widely regarded as one of the first Māori settlements in Aotearoa, with deep religious and historical significance. The land was stolen from the local iwi by the Crown in 1863 and sold privately –a clear breach of the Treaty of Waitangi – meaning the land has never been able to be reclaimed as part of a treaty settlement. Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) have been active in trying to return the land to mana whenua since 2015. The government has ignored ongoing petitions signed by over 20,000 to re-buy the land for reservation, and even refused to follow up a report from the UN acknowledging that breach of their Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mandeno Martin, a Wellington-based student and Māori rights activist, travelled last week up to join the occupation on the Ihumātao land just outside of Auckland, with over 5,000 people now in attendance on the land. She describes to me how on the 10 hour drive up to Ihumātao, all the protectors travelling from Pōneke were sleeping on the bus, which was donated and driven by volunteers. However as they approached the sacred land, roads of full backed-up cars and lines of police appeared, Mandeno recalls an intense sense of sadness. The newly arrived protectors at the occupation shared a karakia, to ready their minds and souls for the upcoming struggle and to place peace and best intention at the front of their minds. [Read more…]

Power in union – teachers strike for education

By Shomi Yoon

 

Teachers from both secondary, primary, and area schools went on strike in their thousands yesterday to show their determination and frustration with the negotiations with the Ministry of Education and Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

 

Union strength and union pride rang out throughout Aotearoa. The combined strength of both unions was palpable. Teachers downed their whiteboard markers and schools nationwide had no choice but to close their doors. Some 300,000 school children stayed at home. In the rallies that happened across the motu, teachers shut down traffic and marched through the main streets demanding for better conditions and pay. The noise from chanting teachers at the biggest gathering of teachers in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland was “deafening”. With the combined membership of 50,000 between the secondary teachers’ PPTA and primary teachers’ NZEI, the relevance of unions, the power of unionism and strikes are indisputable.

 

Which side are you on?

[Read more…]

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…]

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…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]