Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Video: Afghanistan war protest in Auckland

Video by Billy Hania from last Sunday's protest against NZ troops in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Revolution! Socialist Aotearoa conference starts Friday

Our 2012 conference begins this Friday and continues over the weekend. We look forward to seeing you over the weekend at what we hope will be the premier conference of the radical left in Auckland this year.

It's a chance to critically assess the key international and national struggles of the last year - the Auckland ports dispute, the education cuts, the Arab Spring, the challenge to asset sales; to examine contemporary political issues - new struggles against oppression, tino rangatiratanga today, Latin America at the crossroads, social media and social movements; and to refresh our theory - Marxism, women's liberation and socialist environmentalism.

For new members and supporters this will be a fantastic introduction to the politics of Socialist Aotearoa. We look forward to seeing you this weekend. If you have questions about the weekend get in touch with us.


Socialist Aotearoa's 2012 conference - Revolution! - Friday 31 August and Saturday 1 September
@ Auckland Trades Hall, 147 Great North Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland

With speakers including: Russel Mayn, Secretary of Maritime Union Local 13, Meredydd Barrar, Teacher and NZEI activist, Miriam Pieard, Aotearoa is Not for Sale, Steve Mustafa, Bahraini revolutionary, Jayson Gardiner, Mana Party candidate in Tauranga and NZ hip hop producer, Nicola Owen, anti-cuts activist, Mike Treen, Unite Union, Billy Hania, Palestinian activist, Paul Brown, socialist folk musician, Mohammed Hassan, Egyptian activist, Linda Miller, Occupy Auckland activist and many more.


Friday night: Auckland's Movement of Movements
7pm - 8.30pm Friday 31 August in the Downstairs Room
Join us Friday evening as we begin with speakers from the movements of the Winter of Dissent as they discuss the state of the struggle against National's neo-liberalism. Miriam Pierard from Aotearoa is Not for Sale, Jimmy O'Dea from Glen Innes, Jai Bentley Paine and Stacey Henderson from student movement, Joe Carolan from Socialist Aotearoa.

Saturday 1 September: Conference day
Downstairs Room
9am-10am: Registration and welcome
10-11am: Return of Marxism: Crisis Theory and the Communist Manifesto
11.15-12.45pm: Struggles Against Oppression: Disability, Women's liberation, Tino rangatiratanga
12.45-1.45pm: LUNCH
1.45-2.45pm Union struggles: MUNZ, Charter schools, Unite, Socialists in unions.
3-4pm Revolutionary Socialism: Revolution vs. reform, The Marxist tradition after Marx.
4.15-5.45pm: 2013 - Priorities for the radical left in the coming period

Upstairs Room
11.15-12pm: Latin American revolutionary struggles
12-12.45pm: Media & Technology: Social media and social movements, capitalism and the media, alternative media
12.45-1.45pm: LUNCH
1.45-2.45pm: Arab Spring: Palestine, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria
3-4pm: Environment: Fracking/mining, Climate Change

5.45-7.30pm: DINNER
7.30-9pm: Music of the Revolution: folk, punk and hiphop.
9-11pm: Socialist Aotearoa social.

A creche will be provided as will lunch, coffee and snacks over Saturday. Registration for conference is $10.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Battle for Do Abe

Coal miners in Bamiyan
Since the start of August five New Zealand soldiers have died in and around a small coal mining village in central Afghanistan whose name will enter the history books of this country, Do Abe.

Do Abe, is a town on the old Silk Road that led silk traders from China to the Middle East and back since 100BC. It is a town in the central Afghan province of Bamiyan.

Do Abe has a population of some 2000 or so residents, mostly ethnic Pashtuns in a province which is largely made up of the Afghan ethnic minority group Hazara. Its a place that has been fought over for centuries by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, The British Empire of the nineteenth century and Stalin’s Red Army in the 1980s. Now its the blood of New Zealanders staining the desert sands of these Afghan mountains.

When Dominion Post journalist Vernon Small visited the town in 2011 he noticed ‘centuries-old forts dot honeycombed sandstone hills like disused human termite nests. Each has a chilling reminder of the more recent 1979-89 invasions by the Russians; stones painted white to show the safe route and red where the mine fields have not been cleared. One, the Infidel Fort, overlooks the New Zealand forward base at the frontier coal town of Do Abe, one of the most important strategic links in the north-east.’

Small, visiting the NZ troops at the base noted that the Pashtun population ‘makes it one of the tensest towns under the Kiwis’ watch’. Afghan police overlook the base, ‘increasingly wealthy’ town it lies next to and the Chinese investments coming into the coal mines from the summits of mountains ringing the area.

Describing the town Small said, ‘Take away the cars and the satellite dishes and Do Abe's bazaar looks like Europe in the middle ages; grimy faces from the coalmining, a pot-holed dusty street, sack-covered roadside stalls and a wagon loaded with huge watermelons. The two-storey secret police headquarters sports a very modern crater from a rocket-propelled grenade.

On patrol with the troops, Small noted ‘the adult faces here (all men) are set somewhere between indifference and hostility. A couple of men spit on the ground as we pass...’

This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the Bamiyan province with its mostly Hazara population which sprawls over a rugged, mountainous and sparsely populated 17000 square kilometres.

It was in the roads near Do Abe where Lieutenant Timothy O’ Donnell was killed in his humvee and three others injured in August 2010 by a roadside bomb which weighed more than 20kg.

It was just south of Do Abe at the beginning of this month where NZ soldiers were ambushed in a village by Taliban and two soldiers killed Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone. Malone is the great, grandson of Lieutenant Colonel William Malone who commanded the Wellington Battalion on the Gallipoli Peninsula and who died on Chunuk Blair. Malone is remembered as an excellent soldier who detested the British officers who had sent the ANZACs to be massacred. He wrote in his diary of the ANZACs, ‘They were being sent to chaos and slaughter, nay murder.’

Two days after Mallone and Durrer were killed, at New Zealand’s forward operating base in Do Abe around 10 insurgents got within 50 to 100 metres of the base in the middle of the night and opened up with rifles and rockets for about an hour. Defence Force chief Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones said, "We estimate this attack was to show that despite the injuries and casualties we caused on their first insurgent group, this - a second insurgent group - launched this attack to show that they were still around in the area.

It was on the road to NZ’s Romero base north west of Do Abe where three soldiers Luke Tamatea, Jacinda Baker and Richard Harris (just 21) were annihilated in their humvee by a roadside bomb earlier this week on an Afghan summer morning.

These six deaths from ambushes, attacks and roadside bombs and the reporting of Vernon Small should be enough to convince us of two things. Firstly our Provincial Reconstruction Team, deployed ostensibly to rebuild Bamiyan, is now involved in a hostile imperialist occupation of the town of Do Abe, secondly the Taliban control the area around where our soldiers are located at night and are able to attack at will. It is only a matter of time before more soldiers are killed as the Taliban steps up its attacks in a bid to wrest control of the coal mines and strategic road of Do Abe from the occupying forces. It may be the Taliban merely wishes to control the coal from the town. In which case all we are doing is sending our soldiers to die to protect the economic interests of China.

The Taliban are also contesting for control of the road from Bamiyan to Kabul on which they set up checkpoints and behead Government workers and extort bribes. Some experts say the Taliban are approaching the town of Do Abe from the bordering province of Baghlan where Hungarian soldiers are based and now Key wants NZ soldiers to begin patrolling there as well. This makes little sense in operational terms, the bombmaker that Durrer and Malone were killed trying to arrest was living in a Bamiyan village. And in Baghlan there is little that NZ could do in a province which in 2010 was described by the New York Times as slipping into Taliban control as a result of local disillusionment with the corrupt and inefficient central government.

The SAS may be able to hunt down groups of Taliban who attack New Zealanders but this is just a tiny finger in the dam of a quickly growing anti-American, anti-government insurgency which already controls most of the country outside Kabul. The army hopes they can disrupt with more patrols insurgents travelling into the area around Do Abe with further roadside bombs. The fact that the insurgents can sneak to within 50 metres of a NZ army base during the night would indicate the NZers will not be able to prevent further insurgent attacks between now and Decembers winter snows which will end insurgent action until April, when NZ soldiers are due home as the deployment in Bamiyan ends.

The battle for Do Abe is as unwinnable as the broader occupation of Afghanistan which began in 2001 after George W. Bush launched an invasion as a response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Of course the invasion had little to do with al Qaeda whose hijackers were predominantly Saudi Arabian and the mastermind of the whole thing, Osama Bin Laden, was hiding in a Pakistani town. The occupation has everything to do with US control of central Asia and strategic oil pipelines to countries like Turkmenistan that bypass Iran, weaken Russian, and ensure US energy resource dominance over the world. The occupation is of course very bloody..
Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have died—we’ll never know exactly how many because the occupiers refuse to count. Some 200,000 people are internally displaced and three million have become refugees.
American unmanned drones piloted by bored Americans in front of computer screens in the Las Vegas desert have killed thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On 6 June 2012 18 people in a tiny Afghan village were blown to pieces while celebrating a wedding. The violence isn’t just by the Americans of course.

Just days ago Taliban suicide bombers in south west Afghanistan murdered 40 people in a packed bazaar where hospital workers heading home were buying food for dinner and the Eid celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan.

And atrocities are common, a British soldier drunk on vodka for no reason at all bayoneted a 10 year old Afghan boy who was collecting yogurt for his father in March 2010. NZ’s role in this war is just as shameful.

In 2011 journalist Jon Stephenson revealed that in May 2002 a New Zealand SAS raid on the village called Band-e-Timur left a six year old girl dead after she fled from the New Zealanders, fell into a well and drowned. The leader of the village was shot and many villagers were handed over to the Americans who abused and tortured them. No reason for their arrest and torture was needed.

On Christmas Eve, 2010 two Kabul security guards were murdered by NZ SAS soldiers during a botched raid. But what are we killing and being killed for in the dust under the Afghan sun?

As acclaimed Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk says, ‘This is not the democratic, peaceful, resurgent, "gender-sensitive" Afghanistan that the world promised to create after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. Outside the capital and the far north of the country, almost every woman wears the all-enshrouding burkha, while fighters are now joining the Taliban's ranks from Kashmir, Uzbekistan, Chechnya and even Turkey. More than 300 Turkish fighters are now believed to be in Afghanistan, many of them holding European passports.’

The Americans plan to bring home all combat troops in 2014 but will leave as many as 20,000 behind until 2024 – making this a 23 year long war. Even though 2/3rd of Americans and most Afghans want an immediate US troop withdrawal. NZ polls show similar results even though we remain highly dependent on heavily biased military sources for our news of what is happening in Afghanistan.

For example of 25 news stories on Afghanistan carried in early 2008 by Radio NZ, three of the stories relied on information from US officials, three stories relied on US government, two on the Afghan government, four on the Australian government, seven on the New Zealand Defence Force, and one on a non-governmental organisation that provides security to aid workers in Afghanistan. None carried the perspective or an interview of an ordinary Afghani.

 When Tim O’Donnell died back in 2010 Global Peace and Justice Auckland released a statement,
The death of a New Zealand soldier killed in Afghanistan today should be the catalyst for a withdrawal of all our troops from the country where they are part of a hated foreign occupation. The government must bear responsibility for this death because our soldiers should not be there and never should have joined the invasion in the first place. 
Nothing has changed since then. Gordon Cambell wrote at the time,
For some time, our presence there has been wasted effort, and an unnecessary risk that has now been manifested in the death of the New Zealand soldier. 
Nothing has changed. Wellington based peace group also issued a statement,
‘When the PRTs were first deployed, their stated mission was to extend the rule of the central government in Kabul – run by the corrupt US puppet Hamid Karzai. The NZDF is not conducting a mission of mercy for the people of Afghanistan but simply lending legitimacy and material support to an occupying army. It is the US government and its co-conspirators who are the real terrorists there.’ 
Nothing has changed. Afghan anti-war, feminist MP Malalai Joya sums up the situation in Afghanistan very clearly,
"What we have experienced in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq is that you cannot bring peace with war. The US is responsible for the Taliban, and created them before they became enemies after 9/11.My people do not support Karzai’s government, and there is no reason for these troops in Afghanistan. If all the aid had gone to the people we could have rebuilt the country twice. It will be the people who will defeat the warlords and terrorists. This is the only alternative for the bright future of Afghanistan." 
Veterans for Peace, an organisation of returned American soldiers against the occupation said when Wikileaks revealed the extent of civilian casualties,
Now that the rotten truth of the war has been dug out of government vaults and brought to light - the murder of civilians, the inexcusable deaths and injuries of our troops, the knife to the heart of every soldier's family member, the fact that "winning" in Afghanistan is meaningless, the outrage of our jobless and homeless as trillions are spent on war and bank bailouts - the most important question is, "what will we do about it?" 
In the wake of the deaths of five more NZ soldiers the answer is clear. Mobilise to stop the war, end the occupation and get the troops out now. NZ’s role in the imperialist war in Afghanistan is a continuation of our support and aid of imperialism around the world from our blood sacrifice of young men in Gallipoli for the British Empire, to the deployment of NZ troops to Vietnam and the current intelligence alliance we have with America which means intercepted communications from the Waihopai spybase are used to aid the US wars of terror. We are told we are doing to save the people of Afghanistan from Taleban just as we were told the Vietnam War was to the Vietnamese from being conquered by the Viet Cong.

But this war is not about fighting terror or humanitarianism, it is about US power in the world. Joe Glenton is a British soldier who served five months in prison for refusing to fight in Afghanistan. Glenton said, “Times change but the lies are still the same. I consider it a badge of honor to have resisted and to continue to resist. We can bring the politicians to heel—the wheels have fallen off the pro-war bandwagon.If you want to support the soldiers, then bring them back. If you want to help Afghanistan, then liberate it from Britain and the US.”

The Afghanistan war has been largely forgotten by the media, ignored by politicians except MANA and the Greens who oppose this war and most of the New Zealand public, although opposed to the war, find it a difficult thing to comprehend except when body bags containing young men and women are landing at Whenuapai airbase.

As John Minto said yesterday of the National Party’s refusal to withdraw, “John Key prefers to risk young New Zealanders lives rather than risk personal embarrassment to himself if our troops come home earlier than the US wants.”

And as James K Baxter might have written had he still been around,

 'And what I found in Bamiyan
Was mud and blood and fire,
With the Yanks and the Taliban taking turns
At murdering the poor.

 'And I saw the reason for it
 In an Afghan's blazing eyes
– We fought for the crops of kumara
And they are fighting for the poppies.

 'And go and tell John Key
 Sitting in Wellington,
However long he scrubs
 his hands He'll never get them clean.'

No more Afghans or New Zealanders should spill their blood on the old Silk Road, no more men and women should die in the chaos and slaughter of the battle for Do Abe. These troops are paid for by our taxes, deployed in our name, killing in our name and being killed in our name. In this sense the battle for Do Abe is our war. It is the part of the atrocious Afghan war we must take responsibility for. It is the war we must end.

- Omar , SA

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Gunners' Lament

A Maori gunner lay dying
In a poppyfield north of Bamiyan,
And he said to his pakeha cobber,
"I reckon I've had it, man!

'And if I could fly like a bird
To my old granny's whare
A truck and a winch would never drag
Me back to the Army.

'A coat and a cap and a well-paid job
Looked better than shovelling metal,
And they told me that Te Rauparaha
Would have fought in the Afghan battle.

'On my last leave the town swung round
Like a bucket full of eels.
The girls liked the uniform
And I liked the girls.

'Like a bullock to the abattoirs
In the name of liberty
They flew me with a hangover
Across the Tasman Sea,

'And what I found in Bamiyan
Was mud and blood and fire,
With the Yanks and the Taliban taking turns
At murdering the poor.

'And I saw the reason for it
In an Afghan's blazing eyes -
We fought for the crops of kumara
And they are fighting for the poppies.

'So go tell my sweetheart
To get another boy
Who'll cuddle her and marry her
And laugh when the bugles blow,

'And tell my youngest brother
He can have my shotgun
To fire at the ducks on the big lagoon,
But not to aim it at a man,

'And tell my granny to wear black
And carry a willow leaf,
Because the kid she kept from the cold
Has eaten a dead man's loaf.

'And go and tell John Key
Sitting in Wellington,
However long he scrubs his hands
He'll never get them clean.'

Original by James K Baxter, updated by Omar Hamed.

South African Consulate attacked in Auckland in solidarity with Marikana miners massacred.

The South African Consulate in Auckland, attacked by activists angry at the Marikana Miners Massacre.
See the 3 News coverage of the action HERE
Joe speaks on Class or Nationalism in South Africa on Willy Jackson's Radio Show HERE

Joe Carolan from Socialist Aotearoa, John Minto from Global Peace and Justice Auckland and Mike Treen from Unite Union speaking in solidarity with the families of the murdered South African miners. The ANC has blood on its hands, the Stalinist leadership of COSATU and the SACP have betrayed the workers movement. The South African revolution will rise again to fight its new enemies in the open.

Friday, August 17, 2012

AMANDLA! Solidarity with murdered South African workers

Protest at 2pm tomorrow (Saturday) at corner of Kimberly Road and Manukau Road Epsom

For the first time in 20 years New Zealanders will picket a South African government institution in Auckland tomorrow in protest at yesterday’s killing of striking mine-workers by South African police.

The appalling scenes where up to 18 workers were shot dead are reminiscent of the darkest days of apartheid – the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 and the murder of black school children in Soweto in June 1976 come immediately to mind.

The precise details of the killings are unclear but irrespective of this the blame lies squarely with the ANC government which has been in power for 18 years while conditions have become worse for most South Africans.

The mineworkers strike and the struggle for decent housing, health, incomes and education are the same struggles the ANC once supported but have turned their backs on since gaining power.

They have betrayed the core principles of the historic “Freedom Charter” and instead followed free-market economic policies which has meant little change in the lives of the poorest South Africans while a wealthy elite, which includes a few black faces now, has become obscenely rich.

Race-based apartheid has been replaced with economic apartheid.

New Zealanders didn’t protest on the streets to pave the way for a small number of black millionaires to be created at the expense of the majority.

Last year in a withering attack on the ANC Bishop Desmond Tutu said the ANC government was in some ways worse than the old apartheid regime and told South African President Jacob Zuma that the day would come when people would pray for the defeat of the ANC.

For many that day can’t come soon enough.

The picket will be held outside the new South African consulate in Auckland at 1 Kimberley Road, Epsom, Auckland from 2pm tomorrow, Saturday 18th August.

Included on the picket line will be some veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Reflections on a broken city

Two years have passed since the Canterbury Plains was struck by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Since that fateful night the city has suffered tens of thousands of aftershocks and dozens of earthquakes above 5 on the Richter Scale.

The anniversary offers an opportune time to reflect on the responses from the national media, the government and our local community.

By daybreak on September 4th the country was swamped in repeated images on television screens, news-bites from manicured news presenters came into our living rooms with information that was confused and conflicting. In the days that followed the country was left with the sense that all was surprisingly well and that the main focus should be on the businesses of the city. The truth was the media were no longer representing what was happening on the streets.

Images of the army and police force being deployed into the city failed to note that it was the CBD they were sent to protect - not the people. We were left to dig silt, share what little we had and console one another as best we could.

As the days passed communities in area’s largely unaffected by the quakes had house visits from the Red Cross Volunteers, local MP’s and councillors. Road cleaning teams were hitting the streets and hi-viz jackets became the new look for summer 2010. Those who braved the roads to ferry supplies into communities in the East of the city knew the same was not happening there. Many asked what the volunteers and councillors were doing in the largely affluent suburbs, the question was often met with a confused look and vain reassurance that those in the East were being looked after.

The opportunity for community organising and a collective response was dashed with the Council’s Community Forum programme. Held across the city the meetings were heavily orchestrated leaving any ability to voice concerns deliberately directed to isolated tables at the back of the venue. The idea was to line up quietly and take your turn talking to a representative of the water board, Power Company or insurance provider. My partner and I stormed out of our community meeting within minutes of realising what was taking place. The message was clear, ‘everything was in hand’ and ‘stay out of the way’.

Gerry Brownlee was appointed the Earthquake Recovery Minister and given extra- ordinary powers. Fletchers win the government contract to repair earthquake damaged homes below the $100,000 mark and the Earthquake recovery is put into full swing.

By December 2010 builders and tradespeople that had swarmed to the city to help were now leaving in their droves due to lack of work and inconsistency from the authorities. One of Fletchers first responsibilities was to ensure everyone on the urgent list had suitable heating in time for winter. We now know half on the urgent list did not get their promised heating, many 1000’s continue to live in homes open to the elements with no source of heat while many more are forced to pay astronomical power bills.

What has since transpired is the smallest repair jobs have been given priority while the large jobs have simply been put onto the ever growing waiting list. EQC continue to boast tens of thousands of repairs but the reality is that the vast majority have consisted of minor crack repair and cosmetics. The big stuff hasn’t even begun. There are still huge pockets of land that are yet to be designated and for those in the recently created TC3 zone it’s anyone’s guess when they may be allowed to move on with their lives.

As weeks turned into months we began to help organise public assemblies and rally’s to highlight the plight of entire communities. Our focus was on affording people the space to talk.

-Matt Jones, Christchurch

Part 1 of a series of posts on Christchurch two years after the earthquakes began. The next part will be reflections on the most recent community actions/events...

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Glen Innes Clearances

Pita Sharples is inferring that the people of Glen Innes who are having their houses stolen from them by this National government are afraid of their own community. He lied!

 On one hand he says those who are being evicted are scared to say that they want to leave because of the protests from residents when their homes are being removed. On the other hand he says that the community is being torn apart and people taken away are leaving behind not just their houses but their maraes, their kids schools their friends and whanau.

If you would believe Pita Sharples, his slanted version is: remove old housing, take it out, put in new housing there, make more houses available and move other people in amongst the suburb. He also says there is an acute housing shortage – why then are the houses being removed? They are soundly built houses that are in excellent condition.

 So do these people want to leave their beautiful solid state houses that they have loved and maintained for many years and sent to live in high rise housing in a distant suburb away from friends and community? No, they don’t! He lied!

The protests and public meetings in the community have been happening now for almost a year and the Housing Action Committee in Glen Innes have spoken and listened to those in their community. They have been pleading with Housing NZ to listen to the people.

It is the people of Glen Innes that have been spearheading the protests and the meetings and others have supported them from all around Auckland when they can. Yes there have been MPs from Mana and from Labour but never has Pita Sharples turned up to support the GI people when houses were being moved off the land. He lied.

 Lets talk about the land, the land is the real reason these houses are being moved, they have a view of the water and poor working class people don’t deserve a view do they?

Therefore the solution appears to be, move off the houses and sell them off, then sell the land to developers and build houses for the wealthy! After all, they will appreciate the view and pay for the privilege. The Glen Innes community are experiencing the asset sales first hand by losing their homes.

John Key has decreed state houses be sold and Pita Sharples is supporting the National Party agenda, the Glen Innes Clearances.

-Terri, SA Auckland