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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Socialist Aotearoa – A new force on the left



Socialist Aotearoa – A new force on the left
Pre Conference Discussion Document no 3

by Socialist Aotearoa member Omar Hamed

Any new organisation of mostly Auckland anti-capitalists facing a catastrophic economic crisis and a Tory government exploiting it to attack working people, the ongoing collapse of the biosphere and the ongoing centralisation of ruling class power and wealth locally and internationally is in a good position to lead a fight back of New Zealanders against the ruling class. However small radical groups of activists like Socialist Aotearoa remain fairly modest sized organisations and its ability to punch above its weight and spark a generalised offensive to meet the capitalists blow for blow on issues like greenhouse gas emissions targets, neo-liberalism in education, downsizing public services, corporatizing Auckland democracy, poverty wages & unemployment, rests on its ability to leverage the main organisations of the New Zealand left- the unions, the student associations, the peace and human rights groups and the environmental movement. I believe more work should be done on planning and coordinating the lefts resistance to the Supercity and also on decolonisation however the areas of work I think should be prioritised by socialists are union campaigns, education struggles, resisting NZ involvement & collaboration in the oppression of people and worker overseas & in building community resistance to the carbon-capitalists.


Union movement & workplace organising

CTU needs urgent reform. The organisation, its goals and its methods are seriously fucked. Workers should be calling for a fighting CTU that starts to tackle the National-government head on poverty wages & precarious work, rising cost of living and the economic crisis/unemployment. Socialist Aotearoa should call for a meeting of worker militants to discuss the problems with the CTU and endorse draft programme of action we want the CTU to take up. This might call for community days of action and huge rallies like the ACTU engaged in against the Howard government in Australia. The union movement currently has no good leadership from the CTU or the largest unions which are stuck in a model of defensive workplace battles over redundancies and cost-of-living negotiations. What is needed is an offensive programme that will engage all union members in New Zealand around issues that affect all workers. All union members in New Zealand are paying for the CTU but how much good are we really getting out of it? Not much I would say. Lots of officials going on overseas jaunts and not a lot to show for it. Parallel to this we need active and engaging cross-sector, cross-union, pan-left campaign action groups formed across the country on the major issues. These groups should link active delegates, members and officials to take a lead on building the campaigns on a day-to-day basis on worksites and in communities. They could essentially become an alternative to the farcical CTU local affiliates meetings which has become a piss-up for union officials.



Concrete things to do:

1. Public meeting on the failure of the CTU and a chance for people to suggest an alternative and fighting strategy.
2. Set up a workers campaign action group in Auckland focused around the Unite petition for $15 an hour and direct action solidarity and agitating against rises in the cost of livings.
3. Call for a day of action against poverty wages and for freezes on day-to-day living costs in October.


Education fightback

The neo-liberal education reforms currently being imposed by the National government include, cutbacks to public school funding, to tertiary funding, the ransacking of night classes. SA can play a role on campuses through building an active and radical class reps movement and calling for a re-organisation of the student unions focusing on class reps alongside a mobilisation for a fee freeze, universal student allowance, open entry to universities and free public transport. This fightback should be in parallel with TEU and service worker campaigns on campus to maximise the power and potential of student occupations and worker strikes.


Concrete things to do:

1. Call for NZUSA to hold a national day of action in November against fee rises.
2. Organise a meeting on campus about neo-liberalism and education. Use it as a launching pad for a demonstration on fees.
3. Support the campaign for night classes.


Global solidarity

The continuing resource wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ongoing occupations of indigenous territories such as in Palestine and West Papua, the repression of popular democratic movements on every continent- Honduras, Iran, Burma are all dependent upon the support & collaboration of Western governments and corporations and the silence and ignorance of their citizens and workers. Not only is global peoples’ solidarity a value to be admired but a precursor to the victory of insurgent oppressed peoples in the poor world. New Zealand is currently facilitating the construction of a free trade area of the Pacific via an agreement known as PACER that will wreck the economic sovereignty of small Island states in favour for ANZAC capitalists. The New Zealand Government also plays a small but important role in the occupation of Afghanistan, diplomatic support for Israeli atrocities, legitimacy of South-East Asian butchers installed in Indonesia, Burma and the Philippines. Trans-national corporations involved in the pillaging of the poor world and indigenous territories, the arming of the imperial armies are often also selling their tainted products or building their weapons of mass destruction in Aotearoa. Our responsibility as socialists is much the same as the British dockworkers who early in the twentieth century raised funds for the Indian independence movement. It is to join in the struggle of the oppressed peoples of the world as it is also our struggle. Supporting the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel should be a top priority. As should ending Kwila imports and sales in solidarity with West Papuan tribes people resisting bio-colonialism, land enclosures and deforestation. The Burmese struggle should be supported through a call for our Government’s Superannuation Fund to divest from the French oil corporation Total Oil, busy supporting the Junta in Burma.

Concrete things to do:

1. Hold a public meeting on the increasingly successful global BDS movement in solidarity with Palestinian civil society resistance and call for a demonstration for the NZ Superfund to divest from $10 million invested in Israeli corporations including banks which provide mortgage loans for the construction of housing in West Bank settlements, and have several branches in the occupied territory and cement companies involved in the Apartheid wall.
2. Support the campaign against Kwila and Palm oil imports and sales.


Environmental movement

The climate change movement is gathering steam but the organisations involved are hopelessly mired in a style of campaigning that has little chance of success or drawing in sufficient numbers of working people to become truly powerful. Climate Camp Aotearoa, is the main radical group organising a December camp in Wellington of workshops and “direct action”. Greenpeace on the other hand is co-ordinating the Sign-On campaign and has enlisted celebrities to drum up an online petition of support calling for a 40% emissions cut by 2020. These are equally disempowering, activism and especially climate change activism should not be boiled down to a name on an online petition or attendance at a weekend protest on the other side of the country. Socialist Aotearoa should be pushing for and supporting local community resistance to climate change in Aotearoa. What does this mean in practice? It means empowering local activists to engage with their communities on emissions reductions and resisting the carbon-capitalists. The three major emitters of climate change inducing gases in Aoteaora are the carbon-capitalists in the agriculture sector, the transport sector and the energy sector. We should be supporting community resistance and alternatives to carbon-capitalists in these sectors as promoting community campaigning for better public transport, for community horticulture and control of food production and for energy sector regulation including the goal of 100% renewable energy, home insulation, regulation of household and corporate energy use.

Concrete things to do:

1. Support the anti-SH20 extension group and campaigns for better and free public transport in Auckland.
2. Support community gardening initiatives around the city.
3. Organise an Auckland climate action at the site of the SH20 as part of the Copenhagen demonstrations.

1 comment:

Don Franks said...

“CTU needs urgent reform. The organisation, its goals and its methods are seriously fucked.”
All that tells me is that the writer doesn’t like the CTU, or its goals and methods.
The reasons for this dislike are suggested in the demands which follow:

“Workers should be calling for a fighting CTU that starts to tackle the National-government head on poverty wages & precarious work, rising cost of living and the economic crisis/unemployment.”

The question is – why aren’t workers doing this?

Its suggested that, to rectify the situation:

“Socialist Aotearoa should call for a meeting of worker militants to discuss the problems with the CTU and endorse draft programme of action we want the CTU to take up.”

“This might call for community days of action and huge rallies like the ACTU engaged in against the Howard government in Australia.”

In my opinion, the ACTU, although bigger than the CTU and more prone to loud rhetoric, is not qualitatively more effective in terms of class struggle. Despite the big rallies,the ACTU effectively aquiessed to the Rudd government continuation and imposition of anti union laws.

It is argued: “The union movement currently has no good leadership from the CTU or the largest unions which are stuck in a model of defensive workplace battles over redundancies and cost-of-living negotiations.”

Labour unions under capitalism ARE essentially defensive organisations. Lenin put his finger on the heart of the problem when he observed that trade union politics are bourgeois politics. Recognition of that truth is does not mean abandoning the necessary continuation of union struggle. What’s also required is moving beyond easily grasped concepts of attacking National with more militant unionism. Workers liberation demands recognition of the need for revolutionary struggle to overthrow capitalism and the persistent propagation of that idea among the working class.