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Thursday, August 29, 2013

NZ support for chemical weapons


New Zealand has a long history of supporting chemical weapons in the Middle East through the Super Fund's investments in manufacturers of depleted uranium munitions.

The use of depleted uranium weaponry in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004 has resulted in birth abnormalities at a rate worse than post-1945 Hiroshima. The poisonous legacy is clearly explained by Al-Jazeera journalist Dahr Jamail in this interview with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now.
And going on to Fallujah, because I wrote about this a year ago, and then I returned to the city again this trip, we are seeing an absolute crisis of congenital malformations of newborn. There is one doctor, a pediatrician named Dr. Samira Alani, working on this crisis in the city. She’s the only person there registering cases. And she’s seeing horrific birth defects. I mean, these are extremely hard to look at. They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to, because of the amount of depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during both of their brutal attacks on the city of 2004, as well as other toxic munitions like white phosphorus, among other things.
One scientist recently described the situation in Fallujah as "the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied."

The New Zealand SuperFund has investments of $80,000 in GenCorp, the parent company of Aerojet which manufactures depleted uranium tipped weapons; and $1,967,381 in General Dynamics which manufactures depleted uranium weapons for the US military.

General Dynamics was very recently cleared for return to the SuperFund portfolio after ceasing making cluster munitions.

So if New Zealand wants to prevent the use of chemical weapons it needs to stop financing the manufacturers of depleted uranium.

-Omar, SA


PHOTOS: Auckland's Fairness at Work rally


 






All photos by Simon Oosterman. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MONDAY


All that glitters...


With David Shearer's departure Labour's game of thrones is in full swing as David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson go head to head for the top job in New Zealand social democracy.

Very quickly Cunliffe has emerged as the great new hope of the New Zealand left with everyone from John Minto and Martyn Bradbury to Chris Trotter and Gordon Campbell rushing to offer their endorsements. Both of the core centre-left blogs, The Standard and The Daily Blog have turned into permanent propaganda outlets for Cunliffes' campaign squad as he attempts to win over the party's rank and file and union affiliates over the next three weeks of the leadership selection.

One particularly babbling piece published on The Daily Blog endorsed Cunliffe on the grounds that he had bought the author a glass of wine at some inner-city wine den. Well it's lovely to see that the sweat covered fast-food workers, milk stained dairy workers and greased-up rail workers who finance The Daily Blog are getting their money's worth of astute political commentary.

No doubt that Grant Robertson is every bit the Wellington-beltway, opportunistic hack that he appears on television to be. Under his stewardship Labour can be expected to sink even lower in the polls as its MPs fumble around in the dark looking for whatever secret ingredient Helen Clark added to the party pack. But does Cunliffe really deserve the left's warm embrace?

Despite the radical rhetoric he has since adopted, Cunliffe was never a friend of working people while a minister in Clark's cabinet.

Way back in 2006 and 2007 while happily ensconced in his Herne Bay abode, Cunliffe left a half dozen Iranian Christian asylum seekers to rot away in the bowels of Auckland Central Remand Prison. The great Anglican socialist David Cunliffe even let one of this band -Ali Panah get to the 54th day of his hunger strike before setting him free. The repeated hospitalisations, the weekly protests outside Mt. Eden prison and the advocacy of Keith Locke couldn't warm Cunliffe's heart of stone then. It wasn't Cunliffe's sympathy but the arrival of the media circus outside Mt Eden prison in the wake of five protesters chaining themselves to the prison roof that finally set Panah free. Now he has the gall to lecture us about the dying light of hope in people's eyes.

When Cunliffe made an anti-National speech at Avondale markets in 2011 he made a staunch speech in which his accent slurred from time to time with some sort of faux-Pasifika tone. It's a reminder of what Cunliffe's radical rhetoric really is - an accent.

The fact that Cunliffe is better than Robertson or that he'll commit to raising taxes on the rich or workplace awards should not be enough to have the left commentariat gushing with rivers of praise. Labour under Shearer and Goff had similar policies. It no doubt will under Robertson as well.

Those serious about a radical transformation of Aotearoa must build new vehicles of struggle. The majority of Labour's layabout MPs, under whichever Labour leader, will remain missing in action when the going gets tough on the picket lines, during the state house evictions or when push comes to shove on condemning the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. In these struggles the real leaders of the labour movement emerge.

To paraphrase Karl Marx, the task of defeating John Key is the task of the working-class itself.

If the election of Barack Obama has taught us anything, it is, all that glitters is not gold.

-Omar, SA



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hone and Winston own Simon Bridges

Last week Hone Harawira owned Simon Bridges in Parliament. Like the boss he is, Harawira wiped Bridges off the floor and Winston came through to give little Simon a good kicking while he was down. Transcript below.

HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) to the Prime Minister: Will he, now that the bill has had its third reading, give us the names of the 88 New Zealanders that the GCSB reportedly spied on illegally; if not, why not?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) on behalf of the Prime Minister: I need to begin by saying that among the misinformation surrounding the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) legislation was a claim that 88 people were found to have been illegally spied on. That is not the case. The Kitteridge review found difficulties of interpretation in the law, and the issue was forwarded to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. The inspector-general found that there were arguably no breaches, but said that the law should be clarified. That has now happened. That having been said, I can say to the honourable member that the names of the 88 people have not been released publicly and will not be released. To do so would not be in the national interest.
Hone Harawira: Given that the SIS has already admitted to spying on people like Annette Sykes, Moana Jackson, Jane Kelsey, John Minto, Sue Bradford, union members, Greenpeace members, Amnesty International members, New Zealand residents of German extraction, and myself, does the passing of the GCSB legislation mean that that spying will now be widened to include such subversives and terrorist sympathisers as New Zealand journalists, law lecturers, New Zealanders of the Year, and Queen’s Counsel; if not, why not?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I cannot really comment on the first part of the question that starts with the word “Given” and ends with “myself,” but I can say that the passage of the GCSB legislation is not going to result in an expansion of surveillance. The member can rest easy in his bed each night.
Hone Harawira: Can the Prime Minister confirm that under the proviso that the GCSB is to contribute to the economic well-being of New Zealand—
Hon Simon Bridges: What’s all this honky talk?
Hone Harawira: —those iwi who, along with the New Zealand Māori Council, oppose the sale—mēnā e hiahia ana koutou kia whakamāoritia ōku pātai, ka pai tērā. Mēnā e kore, me kōrero Pākehā ahau. Kei a koe te tikanga. He aha tō whakautu? Horekau? E kore koe e mōhio ki tō tātou reo rangatira? Ka pai. [If you collectively want my questions translated into Māori, that is fine. If not, then I will speak in English. It is your decision. What is your response? You do have not any? Do you not know our chiefly language? Good.]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am going to invite the member to start his question again. Could he help the House by asking the question in either English or Te Reo.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was beginning to be a long question, but what Mr Harawira really said was: “Do you yourself speak Māori, or is that stupid look on your face the one you were born with?”.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

EYEWITNESS - A New Zealander in Gezi Park


Stephen Woodward is an Auckland based sculptor who in June found himself on the front line of the rebellion in Gezi Park, Istanbul. This is Stephen's report alongside his photography.

Montreal, where mass protests against a rise in tuition fees, government corruption and skewed mining deals made world news last year, is now calm, or, maybe only just simmering. I was in Montreal for family matters when yet another government’s violent response to a just and peaceful protest hit the news. This time it was in Istanbul, Turkey.

The socialist municipality of Cankaya (Ankara) had invited six artists, including myself, to take part in a sculpture symposium for two weeks in the second half of June 2013. Weeks earlier my plan had been to arrive in Istanbul a few days ahead of the symposium in Ankara to visit buildings I had studied decades ago at art school; Hajia Sophia, Suleymaniye Mosque and the Blue Mosque. Once in Istanbul I saw only the exteriors of these masterpieces of Byzantine, sultanate and Ottoman architecture as the historic events two kilometres away at Gezi Park in Taksim Square proved much too attractive.

I had the privilege to witness part of a great people’s ‘push back’, a spontaneous rising and rebuttal of a corrupt government which had for too long destroyed working-class and popular neighbourhoods replacing them with innumerable hideous towers in the name of state sponsored real estate speculation. This ‘modernising development’ of Istanbul has swallowed nearly all of the few green spaces available to the public. Ekumenopolis is a telling documentary film you can find on youtube. It gives a very telling background to the events in Taksim Square.

The last straw was the unannounced demolition and redevelopment of Gezi Park in the centre of European Istanbul. This park, a bit smaller than Albert Park in Auckland, has always been a much loved and very popular meeting place for the people of the densely populated surrounding Beyoglu neighbourhood. The re-construction of an Ottoman era military barracks, this time housing a shopping mall, was to replace it. One of the reasons Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP (Justice and Development party) gave for the replacement of Gezi Park was the anti-social alcohol fuelled behaviour of the young people who gathered there on weekends; it was a ‘dirty and immoral place’.



You see Tayyip and his crew have two agendas; firstly an unconditional commitment to the neo-liberal ethos of privatisation and speculation via Toki, the now totally capitalistic Housing Board of Istanbul. The strategy is to demolish unfashionable/poor neighbourhoods and push the people to distant new tower block suburbs hours away, then build luxurious housing on the cleared land close to central Istanbul (sound familiar?). Secondly the prime minister aims to gradually transform the secular state into a conservative state with fundamentalist Islamic law at its core. To enforce these agendas and to crush any resistance he zealously uses the full range of security tools at his disposal as well as panoply of illegal, dirty methods.

On May 26th in the early morning, city contractors arrived to Gezi park and started cutting down the trees. Environmental groups hurried to the park and began an occupation forcing a halt to the destruction. Riot police arrived soon after and the first skirmishes ensued. On the 28th an extremely brutal attack was made on the few hundred environmentalists occupying the park injuring more than half of them, dozens seriously. This was the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back; tens of thousands of people arrived from all corners of Istanbul in a spontaneous show of rage and disgust. They retook the park as well as large parts of surrounding Taksim Square and three weeks of rioting began which quickly spread to nearly eighty cities throughout Turkey. Two and a half million people took to the streets to express their rejection of Erdogan’s authoritarian methods.


Arriving in Taksim
I arrived in Istanbul early on the tenth of June and set up in a cheap hotel in Sultanahmet, a (long) stone’s throw from my beloved Hajia Sophia. There I met Julie, an American human rights lawyer who had just arrived to witness the events in Taksim and do research on the revolutionary happenings in Turkey. She had arrived from Egypt where she had spent the previous three months researching for a book on revolution, its methods of organization and communication in our technological world. At least this is what I understood. Immediately previous to Egypt she had also witnessed, for three months in each case, the struggles in South Sudan as well the Tuareg rebellion in the north of Mali. So chatting away about this and that we made our way out to Taksim.

Once in Taksim we tended to wander off in different directions or were separated by a rushing crowd or just the general confusion that was often the case especially in the vast open spaces of Taksim Square outside of Gezi Park. We both had Turkcell sim cards and so checked up on each other when shit happened. Sometimes we would walk out or be chased out of the Square into the surrounding narrow street where there were plenty of bars, cafes and shops of all description. When the riot squads pushed down these narrow streets it was often difficult to get much fleeing speed going so occasionally you had to ‘duck under a door’, meaning some of the shopkeepers would roll down their steel doors leaving just enough of a gap for the straggling protesters to dive under before the riot squad, gendarmes (paramilitary nuts) and AKP zealots got you. After about twenty minutes a brave individual amongst us would poke his or her head out at ground level to check where the inevitable posted cops would be and we would exit, scattering, zig-zagging in all directions so as to reduce the chances of being hit by rubber bullets, plastic bullets, tear gas canisters, live ammunition. Or worse still party thugs.

This type of skirmishing was always going on. The cops would retreat, the people re-group…followed by another brutal onslaught. The truth is the protests were peaceful to a very large extent. In my four and a half days in Taksim I only witnessed confrontations initiated by the security forces or by police plants amongst the protesters and there were many of these fellows.

Night times were full of tension and joy. A strange mix for sure. For example somehow the Taksim Solidarity Platform had managed to sneak in a grand piano and set it up on the main steps leading into Gezi Park. Musicians of all genres classical, pop, political as well as anyone wanting to have a go, would play to the hundreds of occupiers in their hard hats wearing gas-masks, goggles and waving banners and flags. This was truly beautiful. At the same time a hundred metres away stood hundreds upon hundreds of totally geared up police with the Toma trucks (water canons); Scorpions (little armed personnel vehicles with their gun mounted turrets) as well as the ubiquitous bunch of AKP thugs. Julie would appear and disappear as the days and nights went but we would always keep in phone contact.

Repression and resistance
On the 11th of June another extremely violent onslaught was launched on the barricades pushing the crowds into the park and the surrounding streets. The police forces managed to clear Taksim Square but were unsuccessful in dislodging the thousands of protesters camped in Gezi Park. Amongst the hundreds of wounded that day was a fourteen year old boy buying bread who was hit in the head by a gas canister aimed, as usual, horizontally. He was in a coma for nearly seven weeks before dying. His parents, family and neighbours protested demanding the policeman who shot him be brought to trial. This little protest was immediately met with tear-gas and baton charges.

On the afternoon of June 14th it was time for me to move on to Ankara for the sculpture symposium. The night of the 15th June we heard the police had finally launched their dreaded full attack on Gezi Park. I called Julie at about midnight. With a sound-scape background of bangs, screams, crashes and pops she screamed “I gotta bad feeling about this, fuck, I’ll try duck under a door and ring you from there” then hung up. Normally when either of us ducked under a door we’d make contact within an hour. She never did ring back. This was a worry in part because the government propaganda through the manipulated main press had been saying that all this turmoil was brought here, orchestrated and directed by foreign interests and their planted agents. We’d kind of stick out like dog’s balls.



I rang Julie an hour later leaving a message. Then again at about 3 am. This time it only rang. The next morning my phone had been cut. I asked a friend activist from the Ankara if I could use her phone to try again only to find Julie’s phone had been cut as well. So, being in the national capital of Turkey I rang the American Embassy to enquire if she had been arrested. The dweeb I spoke with was truly unhelpful and, by all audible indicators, unintelligent. He said the person to speak to about these matters would only be available at two and to ring back then. I rang back then. This new guy would only answer in the vaguest of fashions, always after a 5 second delay. Frustrated, I told him to fuck off and hung up. My friend, the local activist, suggested she ring the Ankara Human Rights Association as they had contacts that might be useful. They said they would ring back in half an hour with what they could find out. When they rang back they said two Americans had been arrested in all of Turkey, they were both men, and that one French woman with the surname Julie had been deported that morning. We then asked if they could make enquiries in the hospitals and clinics. They soon rang back saying that I should not make any more enquiries, that I had been ‘flagged’. So, in the end I don’t know what happened to Julie. Maybe, I hope, she just lost her phone in the tumult. I never knew her surname.

Protests continue
In Ankara the other artists and I went to have a gander at the modern art museum. To get there we had to walk through the Kizikay sector of downtown Ankara. The last skirmishes from day were still going on. Earlier there had been a sizable confrontation and the ground was still littered (like shattered glass) with spent gas canisters and empty cartridges. Broken glass, rocks and smouldering fires were everywhere. We picked up canisters and all of them came from Korea or Brazil with, in every case, a 2008 use by date. Mates rates would mean the cops had an endless supply of highly toxic gas. We walked through the now relatively safe area and made our way to the museum. After a mildly interesting time we returned to the downtown district. A few hundred metres from there we were accosted by an officer of the gendarmes who had overheard some of us speaking English. He started yelling that we were foreign infiltrators and barked that we were under arrest and that a van was coming. The two Turkish sculptors knew this had the potential to become shit on wheels so while one argued with the officer waving his arms and pleading the the other bundled the Mexican, Italian and the New Zealander into a passing taxi and we squealed off. Lucky.

The protests continued at varying degrees of intensity during my stay and continue to this day. The Taksim Solidarity Platform, umbrella group representing 118 organisations, is still together and active although continuously persecuted and attacked. The resistance continues still, in a more localised fashion and with ever changing tactics. In Istanbul the streets around Taksim Square are the new confrontation grounds. Meanwhile in twenty or so parks around this huge city nightly public forums are held. This is the case in most cities around the nation.

Hundreds are still imprisoned. Hundreds are still in hospital. Fifteen to twenty protesters are still missing. The press is still controlled by the AKP through corporate ties and laws are passed to legalise government access to social media.

One of the strange statements Prime Minister Erdogan made was that opponents both within Turkey and abroad had orchestrated the demonstrations, saying an "interest rate lobby" of speculators in financial markets had benefited from the unrest. He said this even though all involved knew that he represented the speculators and this rebellion was totally home grown and spontaneous. The prime minister, amongst many strange statements, said the Israeli financiers, the CIA, Wall street, Anarchists, infidels, dog walkers and many more foreign interests were behind the unrest. Well maybe not the dog walkers.



Notwithstanding the depressing level of control and brutality the AKP government possesses and uses to break this truly inspiring spontaneous popular rising there is still, and will be, a spirit, a will and a courage that Turkey has not seen for decades. The apathy we so often bemoan and which is common to so many countries may be coming to an end. We, from all over the world can hope again and learn from the actions of the people who finally stand and resist.

This is hope. This is also what is witnessed in Brazil, Spain, Chile, Greece, Iran, and Quebec. Maybe, just maybe, if the neo-liberal jockeys get a little more cocky it could be here too one day soon.



Turkey; some examples of humanity in chaos -

  • In the middle of the fog of tear gas mayhem volunteers equipped with lemons, milk solution atomisers and first aid kits were always there in the most dangerous situations to administer relief and evacuate the hurt and wounded. Selfless and courageous.
  • Anyone out on the periphery of an attack would immediately and gladly throw their own cartridge mask to a stranger in need.
  • Citizens from the surrounding neighbourhood would prepare food and deliver sustenance to occupiers of Gezi Park. Other citizens would buy and bring supplies of water.
  • Doctors and nurse volunteers set up emergency clinics close to resistance areas and provided top rate first aid around the clock.
  • Shop keepers on Istiklal (Istanbul) and other surrounding streets as well as in all cities in Turkey would keep their steel security roller doors open just enough for the straggling protesters to find safety as the security forces rushed forward.
  • Lawyers who represented, at great personal risk, arrested protesters would be arrested themselves, beaten but still return again and again to help as they could.

This is the spirit of community.



How to buy a house in New Zealand


So you live in New Zealand - a country that unlike many places such as Europe has a home ownership obsession that is cultural and all encompassing in its breadth, and perceived positive nature. You have finished your three years of Tertiary education and now you’re about thirty grand in debt, give or take a few more thousand depending on your programme. You’re one of the ‘lucky’ ones that has a job, but you did not study finance so you were unable to wrangle your way into the economically rewarding but socially destructive finance industry, and you don’t have rich parents who can afford to pay for your education and to set you up with a good loan to help fund your prospects of owning your own place.

You have been told from day one that property is your simplest and easiest investment, and that if you buy a house you are sitting on what is essentially a retirement fund in waiting. However, now new rules have been instituted so that you must have 20% of your deposit ready so that you can even think about buying a house. You do the sums. You’re making $40,000 a year, which funnily enough you remember is roughly what your Dad was making around the time you were born. You spend about $6000 of that on fuel alone to get to your job that pays for your fuel (since public transport is nonexistent or a complete joke), and you spend thousands a year on renting the un-insulated, leaky flat that you live in (because there is currently no rental WOF in New Zealand), all the while supplementing someone else’s retirement plans. You don’t even think about food costs, because then you start to think about how badly you eat. Considering that it’s far easier to pad out a loaf of store brand white bread and frozen oven chips compared to perhaps having some fresh fruit and vegetables which not only perish quickly, but are bloody costly, you know that your diet is probably contributing to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and you’re probably chewing down a considerable helping of carcinogens with every gulp of manufactured pulp that you eat.

Combined with the aforementioned debt that you already have from the education that you acquired so that you could get a job to pay off your education, it seems that short of some sort of economic miracle, that your future is looking pretty bleak. Having a government in power that is obsessed to the point of climax with slashing public spending while granting enormous tax breaks, and tax loopholes to multinational corporations doesn’t help either, because despite paying fairly considerable taxes considering the meagre income you are on, you still have to pay to visit a GP to get the anti-depressants you need to get through the day without turning to drinking every minute of every hour. And you sure as hell can’t get any assistance from the government to try and get ahead without being demonised as a moocher, and as a bludger by those around you that ironically are in the same boat as you, but have been told that they can be in the richest group of society if they just work hard enough – even though this is not possible.

So what can you really do? This is a country that is obsessed with private property, and with a populace that can’t see that the idea of private property itself is a bit of a myth, as it is only with public services protecting the status quo, and respecting the public laws, that anyone can even have any semblance of private property protection. So you look to your neo-liberal government full of Milton Friedman acolytes, populists, and capitalist cronies to come up with solutions that may help you, the humble worker, join the accepted strata of society, and maybe have a place to call home that hopefully you won’t lose in one of the inevitable market bubble bursts that will happen in the near future, and keep happening over and over again under this economic system.

Your government, led by a former investment banker comes up with a solution. They tell you that you can tap into your retirement fund. They don’t want to take a long term approach that would strengthen worker’s rights while increasing wages, and fixing a system that rewards those that don’t actually need help, at the expense of those who do need help, all while increasing the age of retirement, and reducing the already meagre state pension (that could easily be bolstered with Robin Hood rates and establishing a capital gains tax). This would require effort, reduce political expediency, and would not allow for short term growth at the expense of long term gain. Short term growth is the current modus operandi of the ruling class as long term planning doesn’t allow them to have the power and all the heady, albeit brief, levels of extreme wealth that an obsession with short term profit can accumulate.

No, they tell you that your Kiwisaver retirement fund is the way. When Kiwisaver was set up in the early 2000s, the point was to build a co-operative system between employees, employers, and the government where everybody would win. Rather than the sole focus being on property (which under our current financial system is alarmingly predictable and cyclical in its boom and bust patterns) people could actually slowly gather in the long term, some sort of financial security for when they are entitled to retire from a lifetime of working for somebody else, and making somebody else’s financial wet dreams come true. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but for a neo-liberal capitalist society, it wasn’t a bad attempt at trying something good. After decades of a small amount being put aside each week, people could have something to fall back on that they couldn’t touch until the future when undoubtedly the national pension will be non-existent, and in case their house price predictably crumbled like it was built entirely out of playing cards.

But that’s a stupid system. I mean it’s logical and it makes sense, but what’s the point of having equity that you can’t tap now? It’s better to get your hands on it now, and get that home that you always wanted. That way you’re a good consumer, the banks are making money off you, and the finance sector can add to that growing debt that you have started to accumulate at a young age. Also now all of your finances and security will be tied up in a highly illiquid investment that you can’t get out of without any major catastrophe and you are locked into staying in your role in society – that of the humble worker bee who doesn’t get to taste any of the honey that they produce.

So, you want a house? That’s no problem. I just suggest you take swimming lessons because you’re soon going to be drowning in debt, and I suggest you pick out a nice spot to be buried in your workplace. Because the simple fact of the matter is that if you’re young, and you work for a living, the chances are that under this system, you’re going to die working anyhow.

-Bevan M. SA

Monday, August 19, 2013

#GCSB Town Hall meeting playlist







The songs playing before the Auckland Town Hall public meeting against the GCSB.

Letter from the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt


        Author: Revolutionary Socialists
We publish here the latest letter from the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt to their supporters explaining the situation in Egypt as it stands.
Terrible massacres and violent repression, a huge escalation in attacks on Egyptian Christians and churches, the consolidation of the repressive military state continues apace. These are the momentous political developments we have experienced during the last few weeks.
They pose enormous challenges to the revolution, but they also contain opportunities to prepare for the coming waves of the revolution, which the Revolutionary Socialists can use effectively to build the movement, provided that we develop tactics capable of dealing with changing circumstances.
In order to build and develop our political tactics, the Political Bureau of the Revolutionary Socialists Movement presents this document to comrades in order to build a position for the movement around which we can unite, through a process of deep, collective and comradely discussion,and so that we can develop specific tactics for the coming period on the basis of this position.
Revolution or military coup?
After millions took to the streets to topple Mohamed Morsi and Al-Sisi made his declaration removing him from the presidency, there has been widespread debate about how to characterise these events. Was this a revolution of the masses, or a military coup aimed at removing the president in order to establish a military dictatorship? The answer to the question“revolution or coup?” lies in its importance to the development of a strategy for the months, and perhaps the years to come of the Egyptian revolution.
Whoever dismisses the intervention of the gigantic massmovement which launched the new wave of the Egyptian revolution is fleeing fromdealing with its inherent contradictions, and thus from both the new challengesin front of the Egyptian revolution, and the opportunities that the futureholds. Unsurprisingly, the revolutionaries who dismiss the value of theintervention of the masses – or at least consider the masses to be simply theobject of a counter-revolutionary game – are suffering today from deepfrustration as a result of what they call the retreat or end of the Egyptianrevolution, and their denial of the available opportunities.
Nor are they alone in dismissing the direct intervention of the masses in Morsi’s downfall, and the downfall of the legitimacy of the ballot box with him. Almost all the forces intervening in the political situation today, including the international forces, dismiss the role of the masses.
The exception here is the military establishment, which was burnt by the fire of the mass movement previously, and thus was unable to ignore or overlook it. Rather, the prospects and development of the mass movement are the principal factor determining its policies and interventions.The military establishment represents the mainstay of the ruling class, the regime and the state. It is the spearhead of the counter-revolution which imposes itself on the mass movement as a fait accompli, even while it sows panic about the possibility of the development of the mass movement and strives by every possible means to either contain it within a specific framework which does not threaten its class interests, or by direct repression as happened in the past.
The army certainly wants to contain the gigantic mass movement demanding Morsi’s downfall within the limits it sets and the steps it calculates. It wants to prevent the movement from escaping from the framework of Morsi’s downfall to become a deeper challenge to the regime in its entirety.The primary goal of the military was return of the millions who filled and controlled the streets to their homes in the shortest time possible, and to stop the movement at the limit of overthrowing the head of the regime and getting rid of him. This goal was compatible with the aspirations of the military after Morsi’s failure to abort the revolution in face of the confusion which had gripped the ruling class in the face of the revolution throughout his year in office.
For after Morsi’s rise to power last year, with the blessingof the US, the military establishment, and a large section of the business elite, he failed to achieve the objectives of the ruling class in aborting the Egyptian revolution. Morsi was initially a better option for the majority ofthe ruling class, as he adopted the neo-liberal project and aligned himself with the interests of business. He had no qualms about alliance with the US andwas careful not to disturb the Zionist state, in addition to being the firstelected president after the revolution. Most importantly, he had a base in the largest mass organisation in Egypt, an organisation which works on the ground with hundredsof thousands of members, sympathisers and supporters. They would be able toabsorb the anger of the people and convince the masses of the neo-liberalproject and the cruel plans for austerity which accompany it, sparing the ruling class the danger of a mass uprising during its attempts to deal with theeconomic crisis – or at least to mitigate its effects – at their expense.
Instead, the economic crisis and the failure of Morsi to implement the demands of the revolution (or more accurately his explicitchallenge to these demands and objectives) led to a decline in his popularity and the popularity of his organisation to the extent that the ruling class andits institutions could no longer rely on them in the face of the masses.
When it became clear that popular anger had risen enough to overthrow Morsi, it became necessary for the most powerful and cohesive institution in the ruling class – the military – to intervene quickly to contain the anger of the masses and implement their demand. It was necessary toget out of a losing bet on the head of the regime and to rearrange and unifythe ruling class around new leaders who would appear as heroes, carrying out the people’s demands and uniting with the people in “one rank”.
The army was really caught between two fires. The first was the fire of the mass movement, and the possibility of it breaking through its limits in the event of Morsi continuing in power. The second was the fire of the Brotherhood and the Islamists in the streets, and with the opening of complexfronts in Sinai to a greater extent and some areas of Upper Egypt to a lesserextent, in the event of Morsi’s overthrow. Not to mention the differences which would develop with the US administration and the threat of what they call “the democratic path”.
The Army chose to avoid the fire of the mass movement,despite the consequences. It decided to knock out Morsi, while absorbing the masses and stopping the development of their movement, and face the fire from the Brotherhood which was less threatening than that of the masses. As for the US administration, and the EU to a lesser extent, they have long-term strategic relations with the Egyptian military establishment which are capable of absorbing any tensions caused by the overthrow of Morsi. Thus the military panicked about the possibility about the development of the mass movement and its escape from its leash. The other option was fraught with danger, for if the army did not overthrow Morsi, and the movement developed in a more radical and deeper direction, the confidence of wide sections of the masses in the army – a confidence which was born out of the absence of any other alternative which could deal decisively with Morsi – would be shaken. This was a factor which could push the movement off its tracks.
In order to complete the work of containing the massmovement, the military appointed an interim president and a new government as acivilian face. The aim was to preserve firstly all its powers and privileges and its interventionist role in violent repression when necessary. Secondly, it aimed to complete the project of counter-revolution at both a political andeconomic level. This did not mean a retreat of the military from power, but rather the opposite. For in spite of the military’s retreat behind the civiliancloak of the new government, it still manages everything just as it did during the year and a half of the Military Council under the leadership of [Field-Marshal]Tantawi and [General] Anan.
So we have witnessed the mass wave of protest on 30 June and the few days which followed, and seen the military riding on the revolution after 3 July in order to cut the road to the development of the mass movement.The mass movement could have developed greater and more radical dimensions, in particular with the beginning of partial strikes in the Public Transport Authority, the railways, in Mahalla, and among the civil servants at the Cabinet Offices and many others. We are also seeing the return of the ruling class with its military symbols and old leaders in full force, after the expulsion of the Brotherhood from the state, in order for the military to lead the ruling class and the forces of counter-revolution to achieve what Morsi failed to do.That is, to abort the revolution and a hugely confident mass movement, which was however full of contradictions in consciousness and organisation. Inevitably,we have to deal with the movement including its contradictions and exploit the possibilities inherent in it to prepare for the stronger waves of the Egyptian revolution to come.
From this angle, 11 February does not exactly resemble 3 July 2013, and is in fact completely unlike it in many aspects. In the first case, the ruling class was forced to get rid of the head of state and open the door to greater confusion among its own ranks. The state was in a condition of much greater weakness than it appears today, after the collapse of the Interior Ministry and the extreme hostility to Mubarak’s cronies. In the second case, however,the ruling class got rid of the head of the regime in order to unite its own ranks, shuffle the cards in its hand, and mend the cracks in order to prepare for attacks on all revolutionary movements. But this does not mean that the political and economic crisis of the ruling class has ended.
In the face of Morsi’s overthrow, the Brotherhood and their Islamist allies sought to escalate their mobilisation on the ground with sit-ins and marches in order to restore the “legitimacy” overthrown by the masses along with their failed project hostile to the goals of the revolution. In the process they have committed heinous crimes which cannot be forgiven in many areas and provinces, as well as their sectarian rhetoric and their incitement against Christians, by pouring their anger out on them and attacking churches. As Revolutionary Socialists we must stand firmly against this aggression and any attack on the Christians of Egypt: this is a matter of principle for us.
We are well aware that for the Brotherhood this is a battle for survival and they will not easily surrender. In parallel to the Brotherhood’s attacks and crimes they themselves are facing violent repression at the hands of the military and the Interior Ministry, beginning with the massacre at the Republican Guards HQ, and ending with the barbaric breaking up of the protest camps in al-Nahda Square and Raba’a al-Adwiyya, not to mentionthe killing of three of their women members in Mansoura, and so on.
The crimes of the Brotherhood have led most factions of the left to take an extremely opportunistic stance and to ally themselves with the military and support the repressive state, even repeating the same lies of the bourgeois and feloul media, and completely abandoning any revolutionary or class position. This perspective is built on a catastrophic analysis which considers the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies to be the greatest danger to the Egyptian Revolution, while in reality, if the Brotherhood poses a danger to a certain extent, the institutions of the state which monopolize the means of violence represent a far greater danger to the revolution. This is manifested in the return of the repressive state in all its brutality, in the dictatorial Constitutional Declaration, in the appointments of provincial governors from military and police generals and the old regime and the attack on the Suez Steel strikers and so on.
In addition to the opportunistic and treacherous position of so-called liberals and leftists in support of the military (led by those who participated in Al-Sisi’s government), there are many who see the battle between the Brotherhood and the new/old regime as a battle which means nothing to the revolution and the revolution has no stake in its outcome. From this perspective, revolutionaries must take a neutral position, as if the two parties to the conflict are of equal strength and represent the same danger to the revolution. These views are extremely short-sighted. They do not see the real meaning of the current regime’s actions, and the grin on the military’s face in the face of the Islamists as they crush the sit-ins at Raba’aal-Adawiyya and al-Nahda. These massacres are a dress rehearsal for crushing the Egyptian Revolution, and will be repeated tomorrow against any genuine opposition force which appears on the scene, particularly the labour movement.This is what we saw a glimpse of in the attack on the Suez Steel strike. The massacres against the Islamists are only the first steps along the road map towards counter-revolution, and we must expose this in sharp and principled attacks on them.
Today we are exposed to a great deal of attacks on our position for condemning the violence of the institutions of repression against the Islamists, and for our attacks on Al-Sisi as the leader of the counter-revolution. But this will not lead us to dilute our position by creating a kind of “balance” in our attacks on the military and the Islamists as if there was equality between them in terms of the danger they represent to the revolution. We are in the process of a comprehensive and sweeping counter-revolution and the crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood’s sit-ins and protests is only the first step. We will not waver in our firm position against the military and its fierce repression. “Balance” between the two sides would only reflect hesitancy and indecision instead of taking clear and bold position against the repressive state. We cannot be silent about the military’s massacres which have killed dozens of Islamists and we cannot support the state in crushing their sit-ins. Nor can we stop recalling the military’s crimes, and warning about the Interior Ministry and demanding the prosecution of their criminals at every opportunity. Likewise we must warn of the return of Mubarak’s state and its repressive institutions in full force, and direct our attacks against it.
Nor must we be driven behind the attempts of the supporters of the old regime and their thugs to harass the Islamists and kill them in the streets. There is a vast difference between the self-defence of the masses –even if by violent means – in the face of attacks by the Brotherhood as we saw in Manial and Bayn al-Sayarat and Giza a few weeks ago, and the violence of the institutions of repression and the thugs of the old regime against the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter is not violence defending demonstrators and the revolution, but rather an attempt to stabilise things in the hands of the new regime without opposition from any quarter. The army, police and old regime elements did not intervene, not even once, during the last few weeks, to protect local people or protesters in any of the clashes. It is in this context that Tamarod “Rebel” movement and the left which is stuck to the military’s boots, is calling for popular committees to protect the state and the institutions of repression and to help them crush the Islamists. These are fascist calls and we cannot accept them or repeat them.
We must confront the lies the media which give political cover to pinning all the crimes of the military and the old regime on the Muslim Brotherhood. We must challenge the obnoxious narrative which seeks toerase the revolution of 25 January and replace it with the 30 June revolution,in which “all classes” participated, which was not about “burning policestations” and “attacking institutions”. This narrative presents the January Revolution as a pure conspiracy by the Brotherhood, which required a revolution against them and not a revolution against the ruling class and its state and repressive institutions. In addition, we hear hateful racist rhetoric against the Palestinians and the Syrians.
The state is mobilising almost all political forces and(formerly) revolutionary forces behind it, and large sections of the masses, in order to confront the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist alliance around them. In what they call the “war on terror”, they are whipping up a disgusting nationalistic atmosphere, claiming that “there is no sound louder than the sound of battle” in order to suppress and garble the demands of the revolution.
As for the talk of “exclusion” [from the political process] and “reconciliation”, the Revolutionary Socialists cannot build their position on this issue in isolation from the moods of the masses and their orientations– in spite of their strong internal contradictions. These masses will not accept reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. As one of the statements of our movement stated, “beating the drum for reconciliation suggests equality between murderer and victim, which is completely unacceptable, without bringing the killers of the martyrs, all the martyrs, and the instigators of violence,to a fair trial”. If the masses, under the influence of the media and bourgeois propaganda, want to exclude the Brotherhood, while ignoring the old regime elements and the military, we must also attack the return of the old regime supporters and the return of Mubarak’s state under Al-Sisi’s flag. All of the mare enemies of the Egyptian Revolution and its future prospects, and Al-Sisi is much more dangerous than [Muslim Brotherhood leader] Muhammed al-Beltagi by any measure.
In these circumstances, we must directly and boldly andclearly and without any hesitation raise the slogan “Down with military rule... no to the return of the feloul ... no to the return of the MuslimBrotherhood”.
Are we afraid of isolation?
There is no doubt that the tactics of Revolutionary Socialism depend fundamentally on determining the level of development of the consciousness of the masses and of the working class at their heart and their vanguard on the one hand, while assessing the possibilities and opportunities for the development and deepening of the mass movement during the course of the revolution, on the other.
The mass movement today suffers from great contradictions within it, and faces great challenges, and perhaps the greatest of these is the apparent reconciliation between a section of the masses with the institutions of the state, and particularly the military and the Interior Ministry - the head and heart of the counter revolution. Yet despite the massive frustration which affects large sections of revolutionaries who fought against the Military Council during a year and a half of the revolution, and who continued their struggle against Morsi’s regime, there is no other way to carry out a living role within a mass movement, except to deal with it as it is and to understandits contradictions without either overlooking or exaggerating its current potential.
The alliance of the old regime elements and liberal media,with the security services, military and Interior Ministry has succeeded to a large extent in swaying the masses by projecting a false image of the neutrality of the military and the Interior Ministry who they portray as beingaligned with the people against Morsi, the Brotherhood and their Islamist allies, in an attempt to also erase the crimes of the state in murder and torture from the memory of the masses. Many political forces, most notably the opportunistic National Salvation Front, the Tamarod campaign, and the PopularCurrent, have played the most opportunistic and dirty roles in burnishing this image through calls for “unity in the ranks”. They praise the national role of the army and the state institutions in meeting the demands of the people tofinish with the Brotherhood regime, which they considered to be the biggest and only danger to the Egyptian revolution. However, this perspective onlyrepresents a thin crust around the consciousness of the masses. True, it is a solid crust, and almost all parties are working to harden it further, but underneath lies a genuine consciousness of the demands of the revolution and its goals of bread, freedom and social justice.
We cannot lose sight of the fact that, in the midst of these contradictions in consciousness, large sections of the masses have great self-confidence, despite all the distractions and the fog of the “war on terror”. The masses have genuinely imposed their will and overthrown two presidents and four governments since the beginning of the revolution. This confidence which lies under the crust of contradictory consciousness, is what prompted the masses to rise up against Morsi in the first place, and it is thiswhich allows some to prepare gradually to complete the struggle against the newgovernment, as its economic and political policies opposed to the demands ofthe masses becomes progressively clear. This is despite the partial hope among some sectors of the masses that the government will meet the demands of the revolution.
At this stage we have to find every way possible to reach the genuine core of the poor and working masses’ consciousness, in whose fundamental interests it is to continue the revolution and implement its demands. We must continue to emphasize the giant capabilities that the masses exhibited in the wave of 30 June and the previous waves of the revolution by spreading the genuine demands of the Egyptian revolution, and mobilising for them in every province and every workplace. But this cannot and should not pushus to hide or delay some of our policies and principles in order to enjoy the temporary,close support of the masses behind our rhetoric and our slogans.
On the contrary, concealing some of our slogans or our policies in order to achieve short-term political goals will only lead to opportunism. This is not the way that the Revolutionary Socialists work, and we have completely avoided opportunism as we have built our organisational project in the midst of the masses and for the victory of the Egyptian revolution. For example, we cannot slacken in our attacks on the lies presented by the media of the old regime and the bourgeois liberals, or stop our attacks on the rehearsals for counter-revolution which the military and the Interior Ministry are carrying out today. We cannot stop recalling the criminal history of the Military Council and Mubarak’s cronies, and demanding that they be put on trial side-by-side with the Brotherhood’s leaders who have excelled during the last few weeks in incitement to violence and killing, and the unleashing of disgusting sectarianism. We cannot, in any event, slacken in directing political attacks against the old regime elements and the opportunists in Beblawi’s government, the clear liberal tendencies of this government, and the consolidation of the repressive state by the appointment of new provincial governors. We cannot relent in our attacks on the huge powers and privileges which the military enjoys according to the constitution, and its control ofaround 25 percent of the Egyptian economy, and on the continuation of thehumiliating Camp David agreement and so on. We have to deal with these things in a strictly principled manner.
Belittling the return of Mubarak’s state and the military repression is extremely dangerous. The state of Mubarak, which – it is true –did not disappear from the scene since the beginning of the revolution, returns today with its full powers, free of internal crises, and with the support of wide sections of the masses. It is this situation which forces us to go onto the attack, immediately against this state, and its symbols, which will not wait long before launching attacks on all who call for the demands of therevolution.
Our principled position may result in our temporary isolation in the midst of the masses. Our message will not generally find awide reception in the masses, despite all the efforts we will expend in workand activity in the workplaces, the university campuses and the local neighbourhoods. This isolation had already begun in reality before 30 June, asa result of our principled position against the military, the old regime and the Brotherhood. But we must not allow ourselves to give into any degree of frustration,for as long as contradictions continue in the consciousness and capacity of the masses to organise themselves, the mass movement will remain a vehicle which can be affected by many intersecting factors, which force it to proceed alongwinding roads and not constantly along a straight and rising path. The real content of the repressive regime now in power will be revealed before the eyes of the masses who will gradually will begin the struggle against it.
This does not mean complete isolation and separation from the masses, as there are tens of thousands of revolutionary youths who fought fiercely against military rule in the waves of the Egyptian revolution, and who completed the struggle against Morsi’s regime. Their memories are still rooted in revolutionary principles, they have fewer contradictions in their consciousness, and they are not betting on the institutions of the state,particularly not on the military, the backbone of the counter-revolution. These will find the principled position of the Revolutionary Socialists attractive,in the light of the wholesale drift of the political forces to the side of themilitary and the new government it has appointed. From this angle, the situation is better than it was after February 11 2011, when for months, only the Revolutionary Socialists and few individual activists would speak out against the Military Council.
In the weeks and months to come, we have the opportunity to attract and win some of these revolutionaries to strengthen our ranks, in orderplay a more vibrant and stable role in the coming waves of the revolution. But at the same time we also want to integrate workers and the poor who made the revolution and participated in the last wave of 30 June for the goals of the revolution which were never realised. Here it is of the utmost importance to revive the project of the Revolutionary Front with principled parties which do not drift into the arms of the state and the new government, neither are they allied with the Islamists against the state and which adopt a programme of the demands of the revolution and its goals.
Revolutionary Socialists Egypt 15 August 2013
- See more at: http://www.swp.ie/content/letter-egyptian-revolutionaries#sthash.rkJOy0HY.dpuf

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Time to abandon the 'Tall Poppy' notion


In this essay, Bevan M. demolishes the notion of 'Tall Poppy Syndrome', looks at the NZ Rich List and Most Trusted List and calls for a rethinking of the 'New Zealand identity'. Bevan argues that New Zealand does not have a 'Tall Poppy Syndrome', we just have all our priorities wrong.

It’s one of those painful clichés that we have all heard in High School, the news media, the tongues of politicians, and even from characters down at the pub. New Zealanders like to cut down ‘Tall Poppies’ and we have a severe case of ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. The idea is that we are some sort of faulted egalitarian society where as soon as someone stands out from the crowd, we do our best to savage them and bring them back down to our level. When we seek assistance from those who rise above us financially or socially, we don’t see it as asking them to contribute to the society that made their success possible by asking them to do the job that they alone are lucky enough to have the resources to do - we are told that we are a nation of petty flowers chopping at the stems of those who have sucked the nutrients from the soil that much harder, and absorbed the rain that much more efficiently on their own accord, to grow to such exuberant heights. .

The ‘Tall Poppy’ line is quite simply an immediate gut punch to those who like to see themselves as respectable, hard working, honest, and equal minded. It’s a low blow and a way of saying ‘jealousy’ with an artistic flourish for even the most simple minded. It brings about shame and a social stigma, so is quick to shut down any discussion of anything important. .

The most disgusting facet of this complete and utter lie is the way that it has been appropriated by capitalists to further their fictitious storytelling of just how hard the elites and wealthy have it in New Zealand today (despite being one of the most economically ‘free’ countries in the world). It has been bandied about by people worried that they may have to pay more tax (or any tax in some cases) and contribute fairly to society which they see as a complete and utter bitch slap to their overwhelming individualism based success (despite having attended public schools, using public roads, using public funds etc). In July the NBR unveiled their 2013 Rich List, and when there was criticism from the FIRST Union about the very nature of the Rich List and inequality in New Zealand, the Tall Poppy brigade came out firing with all guns blazing and we got to hear the same tired clichés repeated over and over. A perfect example of this mind numbingly simple discourse came early in the comments section where one particularly bright minded individual put: .
‘But surely this is nothing more than tall-poppy envy - because the vast majority of those on the Rich List will have achieved their success through hard work, initiative and risk taking’. 
This idea and this attitude is quite simply bullshit. Aside from the disingenuous correlation between hard work and financial reward (if working hard meant that you were guaranteed to be financially successful, then McDonalds workers would be able to work about five hours a week, and investment bankers would have broken backs), the idea of using calls of jealousy and spiteful envy to shut down legitimate discussions about a very real problem that is affecting everyone in this country (the rich included) is dangerous because it strangles crucial public discourse. Who wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen as petty and jealous? It’s insulting and humiliating and we all cringe if we’re accused of jealousy. .

But the most important reason why these assertions are bullshit is that they don’t reflect the reality which is that New Zealanders don’t hate rich people or successful people at all. We love rich people, and we love famous people. We tend to put them up on pedestals in fact. Look at our Prime Minister as an example. Despite making his vast fortune in the most dubious ways possible outside of organised crime, he has not only been elected to two straight terms as the leader of our government, but has during this time been one of the most popular PM’s ever elected (typing that sentence just made me throw up in my mouth a little bit). .

How about also Sir Michael Fay (note the Sir), Gareth Morgan (who has become the news media’s gospel on economic affairs), Sam Morgan (I love Trademe like everyone else and with good reason), Sir Stephen Tindall (again, Sir), Sir Peter Jackson (we changed laws for him), Sir Bob Jones (noticing a trend here with the Knighthoods), Eric Watson (who I have to admit is pretty awesome for punching Russell Crowe in the face), and of course the king himself Graeme Hart whose staggering wealth alone is indicative of a financial system and inequality run amok. .

And these are just a few of the mega wealthy in this country that are gushed over by the electorate, the government, and the news media. We haven’t even looked at the people who are just moderately wealthy, but have the value of being famous. Take a quick peek at our ‘Most Trusted’ list (whatever that means), and you’ll see a smorgasbord of athletes, war vets, celebrity chefs, newsreaders, entertainers, and even one of the Flight of the Conchords. This is our most trusted list. In New Zealand we ‘trust’ Sir John Kirwan (another Sir?) 17 places above our highest rank public official, Dame Susan Devoy – who ironically of course got her position by being an exceptional athlete. .

What is even sadder about our attitude is that not only do we worship the ground that wealth and celebrity graces, but we claim ownership of remarkable individual feats of growth and brilliance that stand head and shoulders above what most of us will ever achieve in our lifetime. There are truly special achievements undertaken by truly special New Zealanders that should not be just recalled with folklore or dewy eyed patriotism, but with actual substantial respect, discussion, and accurate education that is not tied in to mythological perceptions of the ‘New Zealand Identity’. .

How many times have you heard someone claim that ‘we were first on Everest’? Or how often have you heard the proclamation that ‘we were the first country to give women the vote’? What about ‘we fought bravely in the World Wars’, or ‘we created Social Welfare’. In my case it has been in the hundreds if not thousands over the course of my life. .

Yet here’s the thing. None of us did any of this. Sure we can name some of the protagonists from these historical chapters, and rattle off some pre constructed story that fits our ridiculous attempt to thread together a coherent narrative that encapsulates hundreds of years and millions of people. But neither you, nor I actually went on the front line for a woman’s right to vote, and chances are most of the people that claim the suffragettes courageous actions for their own glory, would have been against them at the time. Kate Sheppard and the suffragettes at the time were considered radicals which in this particularly conservative environment is anathema to most people. .

Aside from this little tidbit which alone would turn most Kiwis off today, the suffragettes were also strongly involved in the temperance movement; i.e. prohibiting alcohol. Can you imagine how well that would go down today if a woman campaigned for women’s rights, and the abolition of alcohol? We live in an environment where kids play rugby on fields that have corner flags emblazoned with Lion Red on them, and where 117 years after women earned the right to vote, they are still paid significantly less in the workplace for doing the same work. You couldn’t stop people from shouting ‘feminazi’ or ‘dyke’ quick enough, yet they’ll happily crow about New Zealand’s ‘non-existent’ sexism so they don’t have to think about the fact that their daughters and wives are second class citizens. .

The vast, vast majority of us sure as hell never have seen the horrors of war (thankfully), we haven’t even climbed Ruapehu let alone Everest, and currently there is an almost orgasmic fever across the country to rip apart what’s left of our social safety net (which is more like a social safety string) to stop the ‘bludgers’ who are ripping us off. And this is all at the same time that large sectors of the populace are absolutely sweet with there being no capital gains tax, and the proliferation of constant tax breaks and law breaks to multinational corporations who use our resources and don’t contribute anything back to our society. .

We take the actions of individuals and movements that campaigned for progressive, positive change against the conservatives of their day, and claim it as some sort of magical kinship with this wonderful progressive haven that is New Zealand, yet none of it is true. It is all just white noise that fits the same stories that can be used by the same privately run interests, to keep doing the same thing over and over again, while the people foolishly expect different results (to coin a cliché, the very definition of insanity). It’s a bizarre situation in New Zealand where avowed conservatives will claim allegiance and unity with the ideas of individuals who were radicals of their time, while these modern conservatives are constantly on the wrong side of the argument and are permanently looking for ways to stifle progressive change. .

Perhaps most tragically of all is that aside from claiming these individual feats that were unpopular at the time for ourselves, we have come up with a particularly gross way of keeping some of these special, radical individuals forever in our collective psyche, and assuring their place in history – by sticking them on our money. Sir Ed, Sir Apirana Ngata, Kate Sheppard – the best way that apparently we can honour them is to put their faces on what we now treasure most in this country, which is the almighty dollar.

We don’t have a ‘Tall Poppy’ syndrome in New Zealand; we just have our priorities all wrong. It’s time for this unenlightened, archaic, and bullshit cliché to go the way of the Moa, and for us as a people to have some intelligent discussions about the rise of inequality in this country, and why we feel we can define ourselves by the actions of others that came long before us. It’s not jealousy, it’s not pettiness, it’s called critical thinking, and it’s pretty bloody important – I’m sure those that made positive changes for our country against the tide of the conservatism of their day would agree.

PRISM collects, GCSB looks


To gain a full understanding of what the GCSB Bill will legalise requires a close watching of the Campbell Live interview with John Key a few times.

Hidden within the nuances of the conversation is the core of the whole debate. Where is the electronic information the Government Communications Security Bureau collects on New Zealanders coming from?

Key's assertion, that the GCSB will require a warrant to access the electronic data (from Google, Facebook and so on) of those it wishes to surveille, is probably factually true.

What seems clear, from Key's refusals of discussion and the Snowden National Security Agency (NSA) leaks is that this information is collected by the NSA and its Five Eye partners via two programs - PRISM and XKeyscore.

Indeed the central proposition of the whole GCSB versus privacy conflict hinges on the veiled point Key makes right at the end of the interview, "It doesn't matter whether I got here in a bus, I came here in a taxi or I came here in a Crown car, it matters that I got here. It doesn't matter what techniques GCSB use or don't use, what matters is it is legal."

What Key means is this: It doesn't matter whether the GCSB and our Five Eyes partners are collecting 1-2 billion phone and email records a day from human beings across the planet and storing them on computers run by the NSA. What matters is that a New Zealand police officer or SIS agent will only look at them if they have a warrant.

Many of us will disagree with Key and say, actually it does matter that the most powerful government on earth (that has killed, wounded or made homeless over 20 million people since 1962) should be able to harvest our online records, with the help of our own GCSB and Waihopai spybase.

Actually it does matter that the conversations we have online, our search histories, our banking records and phone calls are being collected and stored. It breaches our fundamental human rights to privacy and needs to stop. At the very least our government should stop participating in it.

Internet freedom is the right to relax online. This in the context of permanent mass surveillance ceases to have any meaning if the GCSB Bill legalises New Zealand's use of XKeystroke and PRISM. As the New Zealand Supreme Court decided in a 2011 judgement on the Urewera trial,
Covert surveillance by the police of people who do not know that they are being observed collides with values of freedom and dignity in the same way as search of their correspondence or interception of their conversations. The right to be "secure against unreasonable search" underscores a purpose in allowing citizens to relax vigilance and live their lives with freedom
...
Covert surveillance is a substantial breach of the right to be let alone. As is the case with interception of private communications, it is undermining of the values of dignity and personal freedom section 21 of the Bill or Rights Act.
If you agree with these words then help fill the Town Hall on Monday 19 August.

-Tim F. SA



Monday, August 12, 2013

Be there


The Anglers' Revolt


While most of the urban left have recently focused on mobilising opposition to the GCSB Bill an unlikely bunch of fishing folk are days away from scoring a resounding victory over the National Government.

This rebellion has sprung from the grassroots but has been focused by the community organisations of the angler community - the New Zealand Sports Fishing Council and its LegaSea action group. The various publications of the fishing community have played an important role as well, agitating in the angler community and helping organise publicity for the campaign.

The Ministry for Primary Industries had proposed cuts from nine to three to the snapper catch of the east coast of the North Island from Northland to the Bay of Plenty.

The reaction from recreational fishers has been clear. As Paul Barnes said on Deaker on Sport, "I think it's an outrage, it's a Ministry out of control trying to drive a privatisation agenda. It is trying to lock the recreational sector into a very small portion of the fishery so that the fishing industry and their exports will be protected."

The anglers quickly built an alliance with Labour's leader David Shearer and have threatened a legal challenge based on Moyle's promise. More than 200 people turned out to a protest in Auckland on a Wednesday at the end of July and LegaSea have gathered more than 17,000 submissions against the changes. To top it all off they've organised 10 public meetings in yacht and fishing clubs up and down the affected area to build the resistance.

The comments in the anglers Facebook pages demonstrate the rising tide of anti-corporate, anti-goverment hostility amongst the community. Julian said, "When I'm fishing there's only two fishermen, but we have 4 to feed, plus our neighbors who can't get out. 3 fish per person would not allow for sharing as would only last 2-3 meals. I agree a cut is needed, but maybe 6? Three is to drastic. Commercial fisherman also need to play their part in conservation of NZ fisheries, as they empty it the most."

Another fisher called Muzz said, "Go long lining ya prix! Government sux! By catch waste and reckless bottom reef destruction, up grading and book falsifying, foreign fishingboat favouring Aholes! Don't give a rats about fishing do ya! It's all about the money . Do the world a favour people and string a rope between a couple of buoys and drop it off in front of the next commercial boat you see using nets."

Many fishers have pointed out the cronyism in the law change. Dale said, "Of course it wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that National Party president Peter Goodfellow is a director of [major commercial fisher] Sanfords..."

In many ways John Key is wrong when he says New Zealanders care more about the snapper cuts than the GCSB but his comments should not be dismissed offhand - anglers have co-ordinated a strong rebellion, which although unseen by most urban lefties, has strong support from many working-class New Zealanders who are rightly pissed off with having their recreational rights to feed their family usurped by the capitalist fishing boats. 

They anglers with their backcountry rhetoric about 'Queen Street investors' and spraypainted banners might seem parochial but their revolt has shaken the Nats enough to have them on the verge for a backtrack. It'll be a win for the environment and all the fishers out there if the Nats back down. And if the anglers get a taste of their power then that's great - pushing back against the destructive practices of commercial trawlers in our local waters is vital to rebuilding our fishing stocks and saving the Maui's dolphins. All power to the anglers!

-Socialist Aotearoa

Thursday, August 08, 2013

For a world without spying


This is a copy of the speech given by Julia Espinoza to the rally against the GCSB Bill opposite Aotea Square on 29 July.

Kia ora, my name is Julia and I must start with expressing my gratitude and privilege at being able to share with you, some of my story, experiences and thoughts on the illegal spying and the GCSB bill before parliament.

I was born and raised in Aotearoa and I am the daughter of two political refugees which had to flee the political unrest in Chile.

Unfortunately, I too know, first hand, what it is like to be illegally spied upon.

My father was a political activist in Chile, fighting for democracy during Pinochet’s CIA and Chicago Boys-led military coup, where more than 3000 people were killed, 80,000 imprisoned and 30,000 tortured.

I will always remember that growing up, my family were under constant surveillance from the SIS. Our phones tapped, our house watched, direct threats were made against any political involvement here in NZ and endless harassment not only on us as a family, but to our workplaces, places of study and also to our extended family.

My family has never been involved in anything illegal. But for some reason, this government was feeling somewhat threatened. Threatened by our knowledge? Or perhaps our determination to stand up and fight for what is rightfully ours.

Intelligence gathered in NZ on Chilean activists fighting the regime, was being passed back to Pinochet’s secret policemen, who were then using it to further crackdown on the movements fighting for democracy.



The international solidarity campaign to isolate the murderous Pinochet regime, was absolutely crucial to the restoration of democracy. But NZ’s government surveillance of peaceful protesters against Chilean naval ships visits to Auckland and the NZ forestry investments in Chile, helped to create a climate of fear amongst the Chilean refugee community. Who knew what was being passed back, and if you were a prominent political activist, would your family back home be jailed? Be tortured? Be killed?

The GCSB Bill, if passed, will legalise the routine surveillance of NZ citizens fighting in solidarity with human rights and democracy movements around the world. That information won’t be staying in NZ. As we all know, it will be passed onto the NSA and CIA through the Five Eyes echelon alliance, and then given to who knows what repressive regime the US government is propping up in Latin America, or Asia, or the Middle East.

Yesterday in Santiago, Chile, young men and women organising for freedom, had to worry about the information being gathered by the secret police here in Auckland. Tomorrow it could be in Suva, it could be in Saudi Arabia, it could be in China.

Should we allow intelligence gathered by the GCSB in New Zealand to be passed to cut-throat criminals by our American allies? Hell no!!

I carry very close to me, my family's experience in Chile and everyday I am grateful for the opportunities Aotearoa and its people have given me and my loved ones. But this government get’s evermore embarrassing by the day.

Once our information is out there, it is very hard to get it back.

We need to defend our civil rights.

And let’s be very clear, what John Key and his government is trying to do IS a violation of our human rights! And we MUST keep fighting!

I have a dream! That governments all around the world, will stop spying on their citizens! That one day on the green hills of Aotearoa, Kim Dotcom, Edward Snowden, Tame Iti and Bradley Manning can sit and have a korero and know that Obama, that John Key, that some wannabe James Bond somewhere isn’t listening in to them. A world without spying. That’s what we are fighting for today.

Kia kaha.